WP-SeedBank plugin: a mini user’s guide

With the recent release of version 0.3 of the WordPress SeedBank plugin, and following PermacultureNews’s feature article about the WP-SeedBank plugin, I’ve been getting a lot of the same questions from people who describe themselves as not very savvy with technology but who would nonetheless like to use the plugin on their WordPress-powered websites. Rather than responding to everyone individually, which is exhausting and frustrating, I’ve put together this miniature user’s guide.

Thanks to Carolyn Zezima at NYC Foodscape and Carrie Jones at Common Wealth Seed Library for their questions prompting me to write this.

The main thing you need to understand to make good use of the WP-SeedBank plugin is that, like any good tool, WP-SeedBank does one thing and only one thing, but it does it very well: it gives registered users of your WordPress website the ability to publish content that’s specially tailored for the purpose of exchanging seeds with one another. It uses as much of WordPress’s out-of-the-box functionality as possible to do that, which means it does not manage user accounts, content permissions, privacy settings, and so on. WordPress itself can do much of this on its own, and there’s an entire ecosystem of WordPress plugins you can use in conjunction with the WP-SeedBank plugin to customize how your seedbank or seed library website works. I encourage you to explore that ecosystem. :)

Quick Start Guide

The WP-SeedBank plugin ships with a README file that contains a “Quick Start Guide.” The WP-SeedBank Quick Start guide can also be found online at the WP-SeedBank download page from the WordPress Plugin Repository. The Quick Start Guide is written to help you get a basic community seedbank’s website up and running as quickly as possible.

At the time of this writing, the WP-SeedBank Quick Start Guide reads as follows:

Follow these steps to get your seed exchange website up and running quickly:

  1. Install WordPress on your website, if you haven’t already. (You can use WordPress’s Famous 5-Minute Install instructions.)
  2. Install the WP-Seedbank plugin. (You can use WordPress’s Automatic Plugin Installation instructions, or the WordPress Beginner “Step by Step Guide to Install a WordPress Plugin for Beginners” instructions.)
  3. Enable user registration from your WordPress General Settings screen by checking the box that reads “Anyone can register.” This allows the people in your community to make user accounts on your website and use the WP-Seedbank software.
    1. Set New User Default Role to Contributor. This enables the people in your community who have made user accounts to create seed exchange posts and submit them for your review to publish.
  4. Share the Web address (URL) of your website with your community and invite them to join.
  5. Periodically check your website for seed exchange posts created by members of your community, review, and publish them. (The same process that you use for reviewing and publishing regular posts applies here.)
  6. Optionally, you can promote members of your community who have created seed exchange posts in the past to the Author role, so that they no longer need your approval to publish seed exchange posts. Learn more about WordPress’s user roles and capabilities.

How WP-SeedBank works with WordPress

The WP-SeedBank plugin extends the functionality that WordPress’s core blogging features give you out of the box: it makes it easy to publish web pages. (That’s pretty much the core of what “blogging” is—it isn’t more complicated than that.) You can think of the WP-SeedBank plugin like a mini-WordPress specifically for seed exchanges inside your WordPress blog. This means just about everything that applies for publishing a regular WordPress blog post applies for publishing seed exchanges, too. So, just like regular WordPress content such as posts or pages, nothing will be displayed to visitors on your website if you don’t create any seed exchanges. I explain creating and using seed exchanges below.

Of course, no one is going to use your seedbank website if no one knows about it. To make a post announcing that you’ve got the WP-SeedBank running in your WordPress installation, write a regular blog post, send an email newsletter, or do whatever else you would for any other situation in which you wanted to publish some announcement. But first, let’s make sure you’re ready to help new members use your website!

The WP-SeedBank Quick Start Guide gives a brief description of how you could configure your WordPress installation so that other people in your community can use WP-SeedBank. The first thing you need to do is enable user registration so that they can create their own user accounts with which to use the software. Since WordPress gives you this functionality as part of its core feature set, once you’ve installed WordPress on your website (by completing steps 1 and 2 in the Quick Start Guide), you don’t even need to get another plugin. The Quick Start Guide says:

  1. Enable user registration from your WordPress General Settings screen by checking the box that reads “Anyone can register.” This allows the people in your community to make user accounts on your website and use the WP-Seedbank software.
    1. Set New User Default Role to Contributor. This enables the people in your community who have made user accounts to create seed exchange posts and submit them for your review to publish.

On an otherwise unmodified installation, we recommend using the Contributor role because that ensures you’re able to review any content users want to post to your website before it goes “live.” (Learn more about User Roles and Capabilities from the WordPress Codex.)

Once you’ve enabled user registration, anyone who wants to use your Seedbank website can make an account and log in. Exactly how people register is up to you, and you can customize the registration process using other plugins if you want. (The folks who run the Cleveland Seed Bank have done this; sign up for their website to see what I mean.) Regardless of whether you customize the registration process, you’ll need to direct people to your Seedbank website’s user registration form, which will probably be at a URL such as http://YOURWEBSITE.com/wp-login.php?action=register, where “YOURWEBSITE.com” is, of course, whatever your Seedbank website’s address is. (Note that if you go there now, before enabling user registration, you’ll see a message that says “User registration is currently not allowed.”)

If you’ve followed the Quick Start Guide, when I register, it will mean that I become a “Contributor” to your website, and that enables me (or whoever’s registering) to compose Seed Exchange Posts for you to review and publish if you approve of it.

The next instruction in the Quick Start Guide reads:

Share the Web address (URL) of your website with your community and invite them to join.

Or in other words, publish something (like a post or page on your blog) encouraging people to register for your Seedbank website. You may want to provide the registration link in whatever you write, itself. For example, the Taos Seed Exchange, which uses WP-SeedBank, has done this by publishing a top-level page on their website with a sign up link that sends people to the registration page.

In the simplest case, once you install WordPress itself, install the WP-SeedBank plugin, and enable user registration, people can register their user accounts and create Seed Exchange Posts. You’re technically done. If you want to learn more, the links in the Quick Start Guide go to articles where you can read about each step in more detail.

Creating and Using Seed Exchange Posts

Once you’ve installed the WP-SeedBank plugin, you can publish a new seed exchange post by logging in to your WordPress Dashboard and selecting “Seed Exchange” from the “+ New” menu item. That process is also described in the WordPress Codex.

Notice that the only difference from what the WordPress Codex describes is that instead of selecting “Post” from the “Add New” menu, you’re selecting “Seed Exchange.” This will take you to the Add New Seed Exchange screen, which looks very similar to the Add New Post screen in that it has a field for a seed exchange title and a seed exchange message (using the default WordPress WYSIWYG or “visual” editor). Unlike WordPress’s default “Add New Post” screen, the “Add New Seed Exchange” screen also provides you with a “Seed Exchange Details” box that has a fill-in-the-blank web form. This lets you enter details specific to seed exchanges, such as the kind of seed you’d like to exchange, the seed’s expiry date, and so on.

You can also click the “Help” button, usually located at the top-right of your WordPress screen, to get additional help about this screen. When you do, it’ll look something like this:

Screenshot of WP-SeedBank's "Adding a Seed Exchange" help tab.
Screenshot of WP-SeedBank’s “Adding a Seed Exchange” help tab.

Once you’ve composed and published a seed exchange post, it will be visible to anyone for whom your blog posts are normally visible. Unless you’ve customized your WordPress website to behave differently, that means your seed exchange post will be visible to anyone on the Internet by viewing the Seed Exchange Archives page of your website (which, if you’ve installed the WP-SeedBank plugin at http://YOURWEBSITE.com/, is probably going to be at http://YOURWEBSITE.com/?post_type=seedbank), as well as being visible for logged in users of your website at the “Manage Seed Exchanges” screen (which, again, will be at a URL that looks something like http://YOURWEBSITE.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=seedbank).

As you might have guessed by now, this is very much like how you would manage WordPress’s regular posts, except that the “posts” you’re managing are Seed Exchange Posts. That screen will look something like this, which I whipped up quickly to show you:

Screenshot of WP-SeedBank's "Manage Seed Exchanges" screen.
Screenshot of WP-SeedBank’s “Manage Seed Exchanges” screen.

This screenshot shows you the three (example) seed exchanges I authored and published. As you can see, two of them are “Swap” exchanges, and one is a “Sell” exchange. You can learn about and even customize the meanings of the possible values for the Exchange Type column by clicking on “Exchange Types” in the WordPress Dashboard Menu (the black stripe over on the left in the screenshot above). The default installation of the WP-SeedBank software defines four Exchange Types, and writes a description for each type so you know what they are. The four default types and their descriptions are:

Exchanges requesting seeds of a variety not already listed.
Exchanges offering free seeds being given away.
Exchanges offering seeds for money.
Exchanges offering seeds for other seeds.

These are customizable in the same way WordPress tags are and, also like WordPress tags, each one creates an archive page that lists every seed exchange post of that type. You can think of each Exchange Type like a virtual folder in which you’ll store a seed exchange post as a way to help keep your seed exchange posts organized. This is useful for visitors to your website who are browsing (as opposed to searching), so they can also find what they’re looking for.

The Common Name, Seed Genusand Scientific Name, and Exchange Status columns work exactly the same way as the Exchange Type column.1 You’ll notice that they each have an entry in the WordPress Dashboard Menu (on the left) that lets you customize their possible values, too. There’s a great article explaining WordPress tags on the WordPress.com Support site that also applies to self-hosted WordPress installations (like those that support WP-SeedBank).

Just about everything explained on that page for WordPress tags applies the same way to WP-SeedBank’s Exchange Types, etc., too. The major exceptions are that you add an Exchange Type to a Seed Exchange Post using the “Seed Exchange Details” box (not the “Tag module”), and that you can not select multiple Exchange Types for a single post.

Controlling who can publish Seed Exchange Posts versus regular blog posts

Another question I’m often asked is if letting users make Seed Exchange Posts with WP-SeedBank means you also have to let them make regular posts to your blog. The short answer is no. The longer answer is “it depends on how you want to set up your website.”

With respect to “who has access to post what content on my website, and where,” the Quick Start guide suggests new user account registrations be assigned the “Contributor” role specifically to ensure that you can review any postings before they are “live.” When you first install it, WP-SeedBank currently uses the same permissions for Seed Exchange Posts as for your regular posts, which means that users who have been assigned the “Contributor” role can submit both Seed Exchange Posts and regular Posts for review, but cannot publish anything without approval.

If you don’t want anyone else to even be able to submit posts for review, you can use any of the WordPress capability manager plugins such as the popular “Members” plugin to define different permission schemes for regular posts independent of Seed Exchange Posts. Yet another option is to create a totally separate website whose primary or even sole purpose is to run the Seedbank (a true “Seedbank website”), and send people to the registration page for that website instead of the website for your company or organization’s main blog when you make your announcement.

In other words, the functionality to make any number of additional customizations exists in the diverse ecosystem of plugins that WordPress already provides. The solution that works best for your community is not necessarily the solution that works best for other people’s communities. That’s why the WP-SeedBank plugin focuses only on managing seedbank-related tasks and content, while leaving things like user management, content permissions, and so on, to other plugins that do those jobs better.

We try to be like nature: highly specialized, and highly diversified!

Have feedback? Found a bug?

If you have feedback about WP-Seedbank, or if you believe you’ve found a bug in the software, there are two places where you can go for support.

The first is the WP-SeedBank’s WordPress Plugin Support Forum. If you post your question or ask for help here, you might get an answer from anyone who uses the WP-SeedBank plugin. I recommend you try asking for help there first because more people are watching the conversations that go on there than anywhere else.

The second place to ask for help is the WP-SeedBank project page on GitHub. This is where myself and others who are helping with the actual development of the plugin code coordinate our work with one another. While we do our work in public and you’re more than welcome to look over our shoulders, we ask that you please use this forum primarily for feature requests (that is, asking us to build some functionality into the plugin that it doesn’t currently do) or bug reports (that is, alerting us of things that you’re certain is broken within the plugin). Before you write a bug report, please also be sure you know how to write a bug report. Hilton Lipschitz wrote a fantastic article called “How to write a good bug report” that I’d encourage you to read, and the article even links to a useful bug reporting template that you can use to make sure your bug reports are understood by the WP-SeedBank development team.

And as usual, please remember that WP-SeedBank is a 100% volunteer project. There are no paid developers. There is no staff. There is also no budget. If you use this software, or like the idea, or just want to help sustain future development, donations to either The Hummingbird Project or donations to me (the plugin maintainer) personally are sincerely appreciated.

I hope this helps you set up your community’s seedbank or seed library. Thank you for your interest in WP-SeedBank and for the work you do helping us ensure sovereignty over our food supply!

  1. Some of these taxonomies have changed in the current version of WP-SeedBank. Please refer to your installation’s on-line help, which is usually a little tab at the top-right of your WordPress screen that reads “Help,” for more information about your version. []

5 replies on “WP-SeedBank plugin: a mini user’s guide”

  1. I was wondering if you could contact me concerning this plugin, i have a bunch of questions. Id like to do something different with this and was hoping the idea would spark an interest.
    Thank you!

  2. I’m wondering why you did not use categories for the seeds instead of tags. I’m finding I cannot do a lot to display a nice searchable, compact archives page w/o lots of hacks… the tags don’t even show up in the general posts > tags site of the site.

    I was going to mess around and convert the tags to categories and play with that but seems that the seedbank tags must be buried somewhere separate from the normal site tags? it’s as if they don’t exist as tags anywhere else.

    We have a small community on not very tech savvy folk so the way it’s set up would not work too well…

    I had the idea to just have someone interested in seeds post a comment and that way the author should receive an email notification and can complete the transaction via private email.

    would love your feedback!

  3. Brandon, feel free to email me at your leisure. My contact information is available from, well, all my websites. :)

    lunadauhnn, the seed exchange posts are a different WordPress post type, they are not “regular posts” and so “normal site tags” do not apply to them. This is how every WordPress custom post type and taxonomy works. Using “normal site tags” would mix regular blog content with seed exchange taxonomy systems, which is obviously a suboptimal solution.

    You can still get all the standard archive pages that you do with regular blog posts with seed exchange posts. If you’re not using WordPress’s “pretty permalinks” feature, then you can, for instance, get an archive page of all the seed exchange posts on your blog that are tagged with the “tomato” common name by going to a URL like http://yourblog.com/?seedbank_common_name=tomato (obviously replace “yourblog.com” with the address of your blog).

    If you want to customize how these archive pages look, you’ll need to create or customize a WordPress Theme that knows about the seedbank’s taxonomies. This is something I’d be happy to help out with once the the WP-SeedBank software itself is more feature complete.

    You can also read the WordPress Codex (or point your friendly neighborhood tech-y friend) for more information about creating custom WordPress Themes and working with custom taxonomies.

    Hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you have other questions, too.

  4. thanks so much!

    i will check out your suggestions.

    i’ve also seen folks using other apps linked with wordpress to handle seed exchanges. here’s an example: http://hilltownseeds.wordpress.com/ (video walkthrough shows you the screens so you don’t have to register.)

    i’m feeling a little uncertain about how to proceed but let me know if you want to come in and kick the tires…i thought perhaps the genesis/foodie parent/child themes could work with the plugin to render a nice, customized front end index of the items. here’s the site i’m working on:


    and here is the index i’m talking about used with categories for a recipe index on another site i am working on: http://www.cavewomancafe.com/recipe-index/

    except the drop downs would have common name, genus, search and underneath would be a compact table of the list in alpha order.

    anyway, help would be cool if you can and want to. btw, i previously worked with a number of software companies on the GUI and wireframes and documentation and also marketing…

    so who knows. perhaps we can take it to the next level? i can offer seeds and medicinal plants/remedies (legal ones, LOL.) and full credit, of course.

    i can try hacking this stuff but i’d rather not. it’s not my favorite thing to do.

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