Austin Smith at Mediashift talks about Why It’s Risky Business for Publishers to Build Their Own CMS.
Austin Smith at Mediashift talks about Why It’s Risky Business for Publishers to Build Their Own CMS.
If Apple Made Milk, and Other Super-Cool Imaginary Product Packaging, cool work by the artist Peddy Mergui. (Who uses WordPress.)
Open source projects often struggle with finding practical ways to recognize contributors. Although most contributors aren’t in it for the recognition, it’s nice for project leaders to have a way to showcase who is behind the work. The relative number of contributors on a project is often a good indicator of how many people are ultimately committed to its success.
The plugin’s shortcode is configurable, so you can set the owner (the user name or organization name for the repo), the repo name, and optionally add a header and limit the number of contributors to display.
[acknowledge_me owner="pods-framework" repo="pods" header_text="Pods Is Brought To You By:" total="50"]
The output will generally look the same, no matter what theme you have activated. However, you may need to tweak some of the CSS in the event that the yellow mousover overlay doesn’t line up. When hovering over individual contributors, the plugin displays the number of contributions and links to the user’s GitHub profile.
I tested the plugin with a sample repo and found that it works as advertised and also responds nicely to various screen sizes.
If the layout looks familiar, that’s because the Acknowledge Me plugin is based on the Underscores.me website, which showcases folks who have contributed to the starter theme. Underscores.me is a essentially a live demo of what this plugin does.
At the moment, you cannot show contributors for a specific version, as this isn’t something that the GitHub API supports in its responses for listing contributors. The default output lists contributors to a specified repository, sorted by the number of commits per contributor in descending order.
If you have a website dedicated to your project or you simply want to feature contributors in a blog post, the Acknowledge Me plugin gives you an easy way to do that. You can install it via WordPress.org.
Alain de Botton seems to be behind this fun series of videos that tries to apply philosophy to everyday life. This one I think is particularly important for founders, as I’ve seen many unhappy employees at startups because the founder was fundamentally unhappy because they were doing it for the wrong reasons.
Customers who have been following the Pressable Status blog received no reassurance this week regarding the current outage. The Pressable team is currently working around the clock to resolve the issues causing customer websites to go down. The status blog states: “We do not currently have and will not likely provide an ETA in this situation. The best thing to do is to keep checking the current status at the bottom of this post.”
The current outage comes on the heels of last week’s outage, for which CEO Vid Luther apologized on the company’s blog. Some customers reported 24+ hours of downtime. Pressable has been flooded with help desk requests, angry tweets, and emails. For the past two weeks the company has been hemorrhaging customers faster than it can repair the servers.
Recent communications on the Pressable blog have left customers confused about the root of the incidents. The status post cites a litany of compounding problems, i.e. issues with caching servers, internal bandwidth limitations on database servers, limitations on the rates at which servers can be added, an isolated cluster that was causing trouble for the others, etc.
I spoke with Vid Luther to get a better understanding of what is happening behind the scenes at Pressable. From the outside, it appears that the company has a lack of infrastructure to accommodate the current customer load, but Luther said it’s much more than that:
The answer to this is complicated, it depends on your understanding of technology, business, and the WordPress eco-system. We are not lacking in terms of hardware or network capacity; we are short on the number of employees we have in comparison to the number of customers we have. Our entire team consists of 5 people, most people are usually amazed to learn about what we’ve accomplished as such a small team. But, when you have such a disparity in terms of employee to customer ratio, communication in a time of crisis like this suffers.
Over the past several weeks, the company has had all hands on deck to fix the problems, but customers have commented on the lack of transparency and Luther’s silence during the incidents.
“I would like to apologize for not having a better communication strategy. Hopefully, others can learn from this, and plan for it accordingly,” Luther told the Tavern.
“But, having a great communication plan doesn’t work for very long, eventually, you have to fix the problem for good,” he said. “That is what we’ve been working on. Over the past 12 months, we’ve had issues, and we’re tired of apologizing. I thought it would be best for us to deliver the solution instead of saying sorry once again.”
Customers have pointed out that while their websites have gone down, the Pressable site remains in tact. “This is because our website along with several thousand others, are already in our new infrastructure,” Luther explained.
“The new infrastructure has much better underpinnings, not just from a raw horse power perspective, but it’s been designed with situations like this in mind. I would say it’s probably one of the more advanced configurations out in the WordPress hosting market.”
In Luther’s post to the company blog regarding the previous outage, he mentions that the company anticipated this kind of problem last summer.
Fortunately, this is something that wasn’t completely unanticipated, we had identified this as a potential issue last summer, and had been working on upgrading our systems over the next two months.
What happened to halt the migration to the new infrastructure? Luther attributes it to an error in judgment.
The current situation is one of several scenarios we identified last summer, and then we ranked them in order of impact to customers, and probability of it actually happening. But, as you know Murphy’s law applies to all situations and people, and it applies here. We anticipated an event like this, and we designed a solution to address it, we were so busy building the new solution, we didn’t think about putting some safe guards on the old infrastructure. This was an error in judgement. I am to blame for it.
The root of the issue here is that our old infrastructure had a very large impact radius, and we didn’t migrate people fast enough after we had identified it.
Luther recognizes that the recent outages have had an impact on the business, as many customers are looking for alternative hosting solutions. He said that the team has ideas to help mitigate the losses once the situation is stable, but they aren’t ready to share those at this time.
“First we want to make the current system stable again, then we’ll work with the affected customers and do what’s right by them,” he said.
The five-person Pressable team is currently stretched thin and working overtime. Luther encourages customers to remember that there are human beings working tirelessly behind the servers and technology.
We’re exhausted, we’ve got pregnant wives, parents who’ve suffered multiple strokes, and some of us are still reeling from a divorce, we’re human, we’re juggling too many things at once, and we know we shouldn’t be, but we don’t know how to just stop. The tweets, the comments, and general treatment by customers and competitors has been a brutal reminder of what it is to be a human. Could we have done things diferently? Absolutely.
The hosting business and the technology and infrastructure behind it are complex. Last year, WP Engine, a much larger company that received $15 million in funding in 2014, had to address critics following a damaging exposé of its customer support. Eventually, every successful host will encounter the challenge of keeping pace with its own growth. Engineering customer happiness following unreliable service is an equally challenging endeavor.
Pressable is cooking up strategies for regaining consumer confidence following the recent incidents, but the first order of business is to resolve the issues surrounding the current outage. This morning the company opened up a room on its Hipchat account to add another line of communication. For now, customers have no choice but to ride out the storm and watch the Pressable Status blog for updates.
Earlier this week, WP Theming‘s Devin Price announced a partnership with French translation specialist Fx Benard on a new theme shop aimed at the French-speaking WordPress community. Hexagone is now open for business with four products available – two commercial themes and two free themes.
The duo plan to expand to offer more “products, support, content, and documentation in the language of Molière.” Price joined forces with Bernard after successfully working with him on translation workflows and French translations for DevPress themes. The shop’s name is derived from “l’Hexagone,” which is often used to describe France’s geographical shape.
Price and Bernard are aiming to make Hexagone the leading source for WordPress themes and tutorials in French. “There aren’t too many companies in this space yet, and we’re hoping a great company that’s devoted to the ideals of open-source can do well,” he said. “There’s 75 million native speakers of French and about 338 million total.”
While the vast majority of theme shops conduct business and support in English, the number of non-English speaking WordPress users is on the rise. Hexagone’s founders believe that the market is ripe for a theme shop that can provide French language-specific products, documentation, articles, and support. “If it takes off, we’d love to hire some writers and developers to work with us full-time,” Price said.
Hexagone published a detailed writeup of the technologies used to build the online storefront. The site is powered by Easy Digital Downloads, Stripe, Gravity Forms, and their Reunion theme. The article offers insight on the different types of plugins and technologies useful for selling digital products with WordPress.
If Hexagone is successful, it will demonstrate that there is room in the wide world of WordPress themes for more language-niche theme shops. WordPress’ continued international success depends on the ability for non-English speakers to be able to find documentation and support in their own native languages. Hexagone is setting out to prove that the French market is ready for it.
I always like reading Paul Ford’s writing, and this one about How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled Kim Kardashian’s back-end (SFW) is funny and accessible. I learned that people still use Movable Type. Also if PAPER used VIP, the story would be short and boring:
HeroPress is a new WordPress community initiative with a Kickstarter campaign, created by Topher DeRosia, a developer for XWP. Its mission is to “develop the WordPress heroes of the world by sharing the accumulated wisdom of the community.”
While looking for a way to give back to the WordPress community, DeRosia spoke with hundreds of people, many of whom live in different time zones around the world.
“I began to notice a common problem,” he said. “Many of them felt disconnected from the greater WordPress community – the Western WordPress community. For some it was a language issue, for others location, and still others simply not understanding culture.”
The initiative’s $60K AUD (~$48,000 USD) Kickstarter goal is intended to fund video production, branding, and marketing for DeRosia and his team to film six episodes, spotlighting WordPress developers.
“These presentations will share the wisdom these WordPress Heroes have acquired through their successes and failures with one goal in mind: to provide information, insight, and inspiration to WordPress developers all around the world that will help them become WordPress Heroes,” DeRosia writes in the campaign description.
Turning developers into “WordPress heroes” is a rather nebulous goal that may not easily catch on with the general community. However, the fact that international WordPress developers feel disconnected is a real issue that could use more attention.
Many WordPress professionals who would like to attend some of the larger community events are denied visas or unable to afford the expense. Cultural misunderstandings across borders are quite common in the community, which is growing fastest in the non-English speaking world.
This initiative recognizes a real problem, but the marketing and approach could use some additional refining. HeroPress has already received sharp criticism from one of WordPress’ lead developers for its male-only speaker lineup and use of the term “hero:”
@pippinsplugins unambiguous hero worship in an open source community (and of six males) doesn't seem like much of an achievement.
— Andrew Nacin (@nacin) January 22, 2015
DeRosia has a passion for mentoring people and hopes to encourage developers around the world by highlighting their work and expertise. It’s not yet clear whether video production to highlight “heroes” will resonate with the WordPress community, but the campaign has already received $8,565 AUD of its $60K goal. DeRosia has 24 days remaining to get HeroPress fully funded.
The PageLines and Platform drag-and-drop themes for WordPress have recently been patched for a privilege escalation vulnerability and a remote code execution issue discovered by Sucuri during a routine audit. Sucuri is classifying the vulnerabilities as high risk, with a DREAD score of 9/10, and recommends that users update their copies of the themes as soon as possible.
The privilege escalation vulnerability is present in both themes, where a WordPress AJAX hook is used to modify a set of options. “Because all wp_ajax_ hooks are usable by any logged-in users (no matter what privileges they have on the target site), a subscribed user could use this hook to overwrite any options located on WordPress options database table,” Sucuri explained in the advisory.
This makes it possible for an attacker to grant all new users the administrator role. However, a user’s site must be open for registration in order for this kind of attack to be successful.
The free versions of these themes have been downloaded from WordPress.org more than half a million times apiece, so there are likely to be thousands of WordPress users who could potentially be affected. Fortunately, a patch is already available. The WordPress Theme Review team worked quickly to fast-track the two patched versions of the themes, so anyone who has them installed will see an update notice in the WordPress admin. Users who purchased the commercial versions will also see an update available.
If you are currently unable or unwilling to update, a plugin is available that will block exploits for the legacy themes. You can download it from GitHub and install it like any other plugin if you need a quick fix to buy you time to update.
“To clarify, this is ONLY in legacy version of these two PageLines products (Framework and Platform),” PageLines founder Andrew Powers commented on the advisory. “Since this was first reported to us three days ago, we’ve immediately patched those files and updated them on WordPress.org, GitHub and anywhere on PageLines servers.”
So far, Powers has no knowledge of the issue having been exploited. The fact that the danger is limited to sites with open registration should also cut down on the number of vulnerable sites. Now that the security issue is public, it’s imperative that users update immediately.
New Simplenote App Updates for iOS, Android, and Mac, some nice iterations.
WordPress 4.2 development officially kicked off today at the regularly scheduled core development meeting. Andrew Nacin announced that 10up engineer Drew Jaynes will be leading the release.
Jaynes, who has contributed to every major release since 3.3, recently led the initiative to create inline documentation for every hook in WordPress. He will be accompanied by Scott Taylor, who will help guide core feature plugin development for the media and image efforts that will be in motion throughout 2015.
The WordPress core team is planning three releases this year. “At the moment, that looks like one in April, one in August, and one in early December,” Nacin said. He anticipates that the WP REST API will see the light of day in 4.3 or 4.4, due later this year.
Jaynes opened the meeting with discussion on possible candidates for features in 4.2, which are likely to include Press This, Theme Switcher, and Shiny Updates (smoother installation and updating of plugins and themes). The merge deadline for feature plugins is approximately two weeks away.
“In addition to feature plugins, I’d like the general focus to be on polishing up some of our existing UIs in terms of mobile and accessibility wherever we can,” Jaynes said. “Seems like there’s tickets hanging out there we could get some wins on.”
A 4.1.1 maintenance release is on its way this week or possibly early next week. The 4.2 project schedule is now updated with tentative dates for the release. The team is targeting April 8th for the official release, with the first beta planned for the week of February 25th.
Codio is a cloud-based IDE that is primarily used in the education sector but is also available to developer professionals. The service provides instant coding environments with support for code editing and a large array of popular programming languages and software components.
By making the IDE available to users through the browser, Codio eliminates the hassle that educators experience when setting up development environments for students. Projects created in Codio are accessible both in the classroom and at home, which helps students continue their learning outside of the classroom.
Codio offers a free account that gives you 256 MB memory per project and 2 GB storage per project. Other pricing tiers cater to teachers, students, schools, universities, and professionals. However, the free account is perfect for creating a quick development site with WordPress, and you can set it up in under five minutes.
After creating an account with Codio, you’ll be greeted with a prompt to create a new project. Click through to get started with a new project that will contain your development environment.
You’ll now have the opportunity to choose from three different starting points: an empty project, a starter pack, or a GitHub import. Select “a starter pack.”
This will take you to a page that lists all of Codio’s certified starter packs, which help you easily get started with technologies like Angular, Node + Express, Drupal, Ruby on Rails, and more. There are a dozen starter packs that are certified and supported by the Codio team.
Fortunately, there’s a starter pack for WordPress that will automatically set up MySQL, Apache, and PHP. This makes the setup process quick and hassle-free, and you’ll be using the latest version of WordPress in just a couple minutes.
After you select the WordPress starter pack, you’ll be returned to the project page. Free accounts are limited to public visibility on projects, so you may need to upgrade to the Pro plan if you require private projects.
After you complete the project setup, you’ll be dumped out onto the readme file for your project where you’ll find instructions for configuring and installing WordPress. If you’re bothered by non-capital P’s in WordPress, steady your nerves and remember that someone made this for you to use for free.
Navigate to “Configure Project” in the top menu and then follow the instructions in the terminal to run the configuration script. When prompted for your password, press Enter. This is the only action you need to take during the process.
Once configuration is complete, navigate to “WordPress Login” in the top menu. This will take you through the normal installation process.
Now you should be able to log in at the following URL:
Once you’re in, the last required step is to go straight to plugins and activate the Permalink Fix & Disable Canonical Redirects Pack plugin, which you’ll find pre-installed. Visit the front end like you normally would and you’ll see your shiny new WordPress site.
The URL for your site will look something like this:
Within the Codio interface you can easily edit WordPress core, theme, and plugin files, as well as upload new files. If you have WordPress projects hosted on GitHub, you can easily import those into Codio to make changes and push those changes back to the repository.
The cloud-based IDE is very similar to using WordPress on Koding in many respects, and I found it equally easy to set up on both services. Both provide a quick way to do some testing, without having to set up a development environment on your local machine. If you decide to experiment and break everything, it’s safe and easy to start over. Codio’s friendly environment provides a great way to get your friends or children started with using WordPress.
I’m overjoyed to share this with you. The Membership Club is open, and on the site’s two-year anniverary to boot.
I can’t wait to share this journey with you.
The link above is a complete features page where you can see what you’ll get, as well as choose between a $99 Club Membership or $365 Patron Membership. Both memberships are annual. You pay once, and you get great stuff for a year.
This wouldn’t be possible without the terrific partners that are supporting me. Each of these twelve companies has invested hard-earned money into Post Status, and I’m so thankful.
They’ve all committed for a full year. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
For those of you that register, you’ll be able to create a Profile of your own. Though it might be a couple weeks before the submissions process is totally fleshed out.
Profiles and organizations will also be linked from future blog posts, making finding great content and information about those within the WordPress ecosystem easier than ever.
The Post Status Notes newsletter will begin Monday after PressNomics, where I’m headed today. I’ll be publishing there between now and then, but the email starts Monday. Those of you who buy a membership and login can of course see it immediately. The notes I published before today are still visible with direct links as well.
The resources section is coming soon. I couldn’t squeeze everything I wanted to do into the initial launch, but I am launching on time.
There’s a job board coming as well.
Finally, most of the partners have deals that they’re going to share with members. We’ll get those gathered up and in a central spot on the member side of the site real soon.
For companies that aren’t partners but want to be involved, consider the job board and the Patron memberships your opportunity to show support for the site.
Thank you, everyone, for your support and for making this site possible. This is definitely an alpha version of what I want Post Status to be, but I’m so proud of what I’ve been able to make live so far, and I’m thrilled that this gets to be what I do every day.
For those of you on the fence about whether this is a good value: I know what you mean. It’s a newsletter, some resources, and some deals. It’s $99. Not cheap (but not too expensive either).
I promise you this: I will work harder than ever to build out the available resources and offer you content and insight you can’t find anywhere else. That’s my pledge.
I’ve been writing about WordPress for coming on five years, and I am in it for the long haul. I hope you all will join me, so that we can grow together.
Now, go check out the Club page.
Within your heart keep one still, secret spot where dreams may go, and sheltered so, may thrive and grow where doubt and fear are not. Oh, keep a place within your heart, for little dreams to go.
— Louise Driscoll
WordPress plugin developer Frankie Jarrett has been on a roll this month, pumping out plugin releases on WordPress.org. Last year, Jarrett sold ChurchThemes.net to Lift co-founders Chris Wallace and Brad Miller. Since that time he has been focusing on product development for WP Stream, which has allowed him a few extra minutes to create some free extensions for WordPress.
At the end of December and in early January, he released five small but highly useful plugins:
Several of his latest creations are handy for membership sites and web applications. Archived Post Status caught my eye, because adds more flexibility for using WordPress as a CMS. The plugin adds a new post status that enables posts and pages to be archived. This effectively allows you to unpublish content without having to send it back to draft status.
WordPress’ default post statuses currently work very much like an on/off switch as far as a finished post is concerned. Of the eight default statuses, Published is the only one that is public, while all the rest remain behind the curtain in various states of unreadiness. None of the statuses, apart from Published, adequately indicate that a post is complete or finished.
Fortunately, WordPress makes it possible for developers to register their own custom post statuses, which is what Jarrett did with this plugin. He created it for sites where content is not always meant to be evergreen. It allows you to archive posts in the same way that you might archive email.
Archived Post Status is compatible with posts, pages, and custom post types, giving you a wide array of possible use cases:
While custom post types seem to be one of the most likely uses for this plugin, you may not want to have the archived status available to all post types. Jarrett includes a filter that allows you to exclude the Archived status from appearing on certain post types.
Some might be wondering why you wouldn’t use the Draft status, since the Archived post status essentially puts a post in the same state. To use drafts in this way would be to split its purpose into multiple uses, which are not clearly separated when sorting. If you are looking for previously published content that is complete, while hunting through all drafts in progress, you have to be fully knowledgeable of all the content on the site and use your memory to do the sorting. The archived status keeps everything nicely sorted for future use.
If you need a non-public archive of completed posts, this simple plugin will do the trick. I tested it and works exactly as advertised. Download Archived Post Status from WordPress.org.
In just one week since its release, the new Modern theme was downloaded nearly 2,700 times from WordPress.org. It was created by WebMan Design, a Slovakia-based company founded by Oliver Juhas. WebMan Design has been selling WordPress themes across multiple marketplaces since 2012 and recently began focusing on producing future-proof themes that meet WordPress.org standards.
Modern is the company’s second free theme on WordPress.org, following the Mustang Lite business theme released last year. It was designed for personal and small business portfolios.
Modern’s bold style incorporates a fullscreen header slideshow that is perfect for showcasing large images with header text. The homepage features your latest blog posts along with an optional sortable portfolio section. The header includes two menu locations for the primary navigation and the social links menu.
All of the customization options for the theme are built into WordPress’ native customizer, including the following:
Modern offers unique styles for each of WordPress’ default post formats. The demo’s style guide page shows that the theme author took many of the smaller details into consideration, including code formatting, blockquotes, lists, table styles, highlighted text style, image alignment, Jetpack Mosaic galleries and more.
The heart icons you see in the single post meta are powered by the free ZillaLikes plugin from ThemeZilla. Modern includes support for Jetpack to manage the portfolio posts, logo image, and uses its featured content module to power the homepage banner. It also includes support for Schema.org markup and Theme Hook Alliance action hooks.
WebMan Design developed the theme with performance in mind and links to Pingdom results of load tests for the demo site. The demo site takes 1.73s to load and gets a 94/100 performance grade.
Check out a live demo of the Modern theme in action. WebMan Design has created extensive documentation for the theme, its various styles, and available third-party plugin integrations. Modern is available for download from WordPress.org or via your admin themes browser.
The founder of WP Site Care, Ryan Sullivan, explains how a negative SEO campaign nearly took his business offline. Sullivan shares details behind the attack, how it affected the bottom line, and says it was someone in the WordPress community who orchestrated the attack.
Using some sophisticated techniques we were able to trace back to the source of the spam attack and unfortunately found out that the attack was started by someone within the WordPress community.
They did everything through a third-party, an internet hitman of sorts, to try to cover their tracks, but they weren’t quite careful enough and we were able to uncover where everything started.
Instead of naming the individual, Sullivan left a message aimed specifically at the person responsible, “The only reason I even mention it is so that hopefully, that person reads this, and knows that what they’re doing is impacting the livelihood’s of people and their families.” It’s this message which has me wondering, is it time to name and shame people in the WordPress community?
In my experience, the community rarely calls people out, even if they have routinely harassed others at a WordCamp. Instead, we usually find out about them through back channels. By calling people out, it warns others and makes everyone aware of the situation.
Naming and shaming creates the potential for libel and defamation lawsuits. The internet has a long memory and if a person changes for the better, it will be hard to forget mistakes made in the past. It could hurt future employment opportunities as employers do background checks using Google. There’s likely a lot of unintended consequences as well.
I doubt the community will start calling people out, as it creates anger, grief, and drama. Besides, who are we to act as judge and jury? However, it bothers me to know that an unnamed person is negatively impacting the livelihood of WordPress businesses and people.
On one hand, I want to see the individual dealt with in the public sphere and turned into an example. On the other, I feel it’s probably not the best way to go about it. Maybe the system already in place is the best way to handle these types of situations? Write a post, raise awareness, and tell others who to watch out for in the back channel. What do you think?
I know I’m like a year late on Sam Smith, but his voice on this is so amazing and haunting, it’s a perfect song.
Whether it’s businesses participating in charity work or individuals who need financial assistance, the WordPress community has repeatedly shown how generous it is. Here’s at look at some WordPress businesses that participate in philanthropy and individuals who experienced the community’s generosity first hand.
Matt Mullenweg is a strong believer in providing easy access to clean drinking water to regions of the world who need it most. He works with several charities and organizations including:
To celebrate his 30th birthday, Mullenweg requested that donations be made to his Charity water campaign in lieu of gifts. The goal was $30K, but the campaign raised over $44K.
Mitch Canter runs Studionashvegas, a full service WordPress development agency. Canter has attended two mission trips with a group called Justice and Mercy International. The group’s mission is to make justice personal for the poor, the orphaned, and the forgotten. He’s also traveled to Chisinau, Moldova and Prague, Czech Republic to help assess long-term needs and provide any necessary supplies for the short-term as well as interact with local children.
Canter and his wife also sponsor Veronica, a Moldovan orphan, through Justice and Mercy International. The couple routinely writes letters to Veronica and plans to see her the next time they visit the country. They also serve in their local church and volunteer with the local food bank, One Gen Away, to provide meals to families who are in need.
Since 2013, Syed Balkhi and WPBeginner have helped build at least three new schools in Guatemala through the Pencils of Promise charity. Pencils of Promise is a for-purpose organization that builds schools, trains teachers, and funds scholarships. In 2014, WPBeginner celebrated its 5th birthday by hosting a huge giveaway and launching a $50K campaign to fund two new schools. The campaign was successful and Balkhi says the goal for this year is to build three new schools.
PressNomics is an annual conference dedicated to the business side of WordPress. Each year, the event donates a portion of its proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Pagely Co-founder, Joshua Strebel, says the decision to donate to St. Jude was made long before he and his wife had kids, “St Jude has been our charity of choice for many years. Even before Sally and I had kids, we were touched by those commercials that showed the kids fighting cancer. I’ve always had a soft spot for kids, coming from a large family. Of all the charities you could give to, St. Jude is a no brainer.”
Since 2012, the event has donated over $11K to St. Jude Hospital and Strebel says funding from PressNomics 3 this year will allow them to donate over $10K to a charity yet to be named. “After PressNomics 1, we donated a little over $5K and there was an anonymous matching donation. After PressNomics 2, we donated a little over $6K. This year the budget has allowed us to donate just over $10K.”
When I reached out to the community to figure out who gives to charities, I discovered a number of people who use DonorsChoose. DonorsChoose is an organization that makes it easy to help classrooms in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests, which range from pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria-organization.
Eric Mann, who contributes to the organization, had a lot of friends in college who majored in education and went on to become teachers. He discovered that many of them worked in schools with small budgets and limited supplies. He explains why he uses DonorsChoose.org.
I use DonorsChoose.org to help fund the purchase of books for classroom lessons, field trips to museums and science exhibits, and modern laptop computers for technical education. Many of the teachers I sponsor are working in low-income areas with at-risk youth and don’t have the tools available to make much of a difference without community sponsorship.
Mann believes investing in education is one of the best long-term investments you can make, “It’s easy to spend money on this Kickstarter or that IndieGoGo when you get a tangible (or digital) return on the investment. Spending money to help protect and shepherd the education of today’s youth, though, returns an investment in better educated leaders, educators, and technologists for tomorrow.”
I asked WP Site Care founder, Ryan Sullivan, why he chooses to give back to so many charities and what it means to give back.
We support a number of different causes because any charitable contributions that we’re able to make are a direct reflection of the people at our company. We found out about a number of causes from the WordPress community itself. For example, funding treatment for autism is something that has a personal impact on a few of us at WP Site Care.
We like to make sure that the causes that are important to individuals become important for all of us collectively. It not only goes to help the causes themselves, but helps us get closer as a working family.
Just Tadlock – Near the end of 2013, Justin Tadlock discovered the perfect house, but he didn’t have the money to cover closing costs, quarterly taxes, and appliances. He requested $5K to cover his costs, but he ended up receiving over $7K. It’s important to note that the campaign took place around Christmas which is a tough time financially for a number of people. However, the community rallied together to give Tadlock the ultimate Christmas gift.
Dan Griffiths – Dan Griffiths, who is known on Twitter as Ghost1227 and one of the creators of WP Tally, recently found himself in a financial emergency. He needed $2,500 within 24 hours. He reached out to Happy Joe, an organization that helps veterans in need. Happy Joe founder, James Dalman, published an all points bulletin on Twitter asking for help from the WordPress community. Within two hours of the initial call for help, Griffiths reached his goal.
Kim Parsell’s Son – Kim Parsell’s son was about to begin a new job when tragically, his mother passed away. He wasn’t able to start the job, putting him in a financial bind. He created a campaign asking for $1K to help pay bills as he mourned the loss of his mother. Within 42 minutes, 8 people raised $760 of the requested $1,000. When it was all said and done, 33 people raised $2K.
John James Jacoby – In late 2014, John James Jacoby launched a crowdfunding campaign asking for $50K in order to work on BuddyPress, GlotPress, and bbPress full-time for 6 months. The campaign was successful generating nearly $52K.
This is just a sample of the generosity expressed by the WordPress community. Although several businesses contribute to charities, it’s the individuals who receive funding that impress me. If one of us ends up in dire straits, potentially thousands of people are ready to help. It’s just one more reason why I’m proud to be a member of this community.
I’m certain I missed a few WordPress individuals and businesses that contribute to great causes, if you’re one of them, please use the comments and tell us about it.
One of the most unique sessions I attended at WordCamp Europe 2014 was Yana Petrova’s presentation on Depression in IT – Why Sometimes Happiness Requires Effort. Petrova, a marketing expert and long-time food blogger, is a member of both the WordPress community and the larger tech community in Bulgaria. She has also worked as an organizer for many local technical conferences over the years.
Her motivation to address the widespread problem of depression in IT grew out of personal experiences with friends and co-workers who were struggling with it. This put her on the path to research the disease and find ways to raise awareness on the topic. I had the opportunity to interview Petrova after the event, and it’s easy to see why she is a person to whom people would come for advice. Her warm, empathetic personality is combined with a rare willingness to listen to others.
Petrova’s experience in food blogging gives her a format for talking about depression in a way that people can understand, which helps to mitigate the stigma that surrounds the issue. We’ll take a look at some of the recipes she shared in her presentation, but first it’s important to have a basic understanding of depression.
Nearly everyone knows someone who is suffering from depression, as it afflicts more than 350 million people of all ages worldwide and is the leading cause of disability. In the most extreme cases it can lead to suicide.
Clinical depression is the most severe form, which is often treated with psychological and pharmacological therapies. However, many more people suffer from milder forms of depression from time to time.
In his TED talk, titled Depression, The Secret We Share, writer Andrew Solomon said, “The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality.” He describes his own dark journey of struggling with depression, which he noticed when all the normal activities of life and work began to seem like too much.
One of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it’s ridiculous. You know it’s ridiculous while you’re experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages, and eat lunch, and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door, and that it’s not a big deal.
And yet you are in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it. And so I began to feel myself doing less and thinking less and feeling less. It was a kind of nullity, and then the anxiety set in.
Solomon notes that people tend to confuse depression, grief, and sadness, but understanding the trajectory and duration of these feelings will help to clarify the situation. While grief is explicitly reactive and related to loss, depression doesn’t always have an easily identifiable cause. Some forms of depression will require professional help for the person to regain a semblance of normal living.
Depression in the IT industry can be more difficult to address, as many tech workers are intelligent, independent, and in high demand. Three years ago, when Yana Petrova and her colleague first proposed a presentation on depression for a local tech conference, she experienced a great deal of resistance.
“There were a lot of discussions surrounding it and people in the organizations were hesitant to include it,” she said. “They believed that people who are in IT are earning very well, the people who are suffering should just go to the doctor, there’s no need to discuss it at a technical conference.” The presentation was so impactful, however, that some of the top Bulgarian psychologists heard about it and encouraged them to continue raising awareness.
The IT industry has several unique factors that seem to contribute to depression and anxiety. Many people in the WordPress community, in particular, work alone at home as freelancers or with distributed companies. Unless the individual is motivated, this work environment can severely limit healthy social interactions. Additional pressures can also lead to periods of depression, including:
“I think that most of the time they are trying to become really good at what they are doing, which requires most of their attention and most of their time,” Petrova said, commenting on the lifestyle of many developers with whom she is connected.
“When you are reading code, coding most of your time, and doing things related to coding, then a social part is missing – the part related to relationships, self-esteem, knowing yourself. You’re just not going deeper into that, because you are giving your time and attention to something else, trying to be good at something else. Our brain resources are kind of limited.”
Client interaction is also a major cause of stress and anxiety for self-employed professionals. When you work from home by yourself without a team, criticism from clients can have a severe impact on your feelings of self-worth. If you don’t have a healthy reservoir of outside interests and hobbies, you can easily become mired in client negativity.
During Petrova’s presentation at WordCamp Europe, she received questions about how to deal with clients who can damage a developer’s self-confidence. Sometimes clients don’t understand that they are not working with machines but rather real people with families and lives.
“Because a lot of people are working from home, what the client thinks and what the community thinks about their work can be a source of depression,” she said. “Actually, a lot of people have mentioned that clients are sometimes rude in explaining how incompetent they were.” This can have a devastating impact on a developer who is lacking self-confidence, outside social connections, and restorative hobbies.
“Questions about clients wasn’t something I expected, but it’s another vertical to explore,” Petrova said. It has inspired her to start working on a talk about relationships, clients, teams, and how to preserve your team.
Petrova has observed that many people working in IT don’t prioritize knowing themselves and understanding their reactions, although this is not unique to the IT industry. They are often blind to their mental health issues and don’t know when to seek help.
Petrova’s presentation centered around ways to prevent depression and successfully cope with work-related stress and anxiety. “Depression is not something that defines you for a lifetime,” she said. “It might be just a problem, and it might be that, at this time, happiness requires more effort for you.”
She believes that depression is an important mechanism in the human consciousness. “It’s a signal for us that change is necessary – changes about us or changes somewhere around us.”
Petrova compares cooking recipes to recipes for coping with depression, noting that it’s important to adapt those recipes to work with your preferences and needs. Her presentation highlights five ways that you can discover and create your own recipes for preventing depression from setting in.
Deep breathing practices help you to regain calmness and perspective. “They say that graveyards are full of irreplaceable people,” she said. “Actually, we all are, but it’s more important that we are alive, we are here, and we are happy. We can never control everything in the world, and we should never try to take responsibility for all the things here. We often tend to forget that our bodies have their limits and we are fragile.” Deep breathing reminds us that we are not machines.
In addition to breathing, Petrova suggests finding other activities outside of work that will help you to gain perspective on life. “Dedicate special time for your recipes,” she said. “Start spending an hour in the morning with your coffee. Spend Sunday afternoon with someone or with friends,” she suggests.
“But never give away this time. Never give it away for work. Never replace it for something, never sacrifice it. It’s important that you keep this thing and slow down.”
Petrova advises people to make lists of recipes that work for them in preparation for moments when it’s difficult to think clearly. “Think of those lists as emergency plans. When the grey veil of depression comes, your rituals may not seem as important or as life-saving as the day before,” she said. “You might not enjoy them as you did before, so you should have a list of things.” Perhaps it’s a list of movies you wanted watch, or places you wanted to visit, a restaurant or recipe you wanted to try.
At the beginning you won’t be willing to do anything from this list. Those things will look silly and you say no this is not the time to do this. You will be preoccupied with all of your worries right now. Force yourself and just pick a thing and start doing it. Start those lists today and obey them frequently.
Petrova shared a few simple items on her own list – i.e. eating avocados, making herself a chai latte, enjoying a local spicy soup. If you maintain a clear list of things that make you feel better, you have some activities to turn to when things start to become stressful at work.
Make goals for yourself that put you on the path to success with frequent, small milestones. This will help to keep you oriented towards fulfillment. “Another recipe of mine was to keep an editorial calendar,” Petrova said. “Even if I am not feeling well, I already had something planned, so I can keep moving in that direction.”
People who excel at solving some of tech’s most complex problems can also be notoriously masterful at avoiding introspection. Petrova approaches the topic of introspection with the idea of “debugging yourself,” a concept with which many in tech are familiar.
She suggests writing your own user manual to document how you work and what keeps you healthy. “Write your own user manual. Start writing a user manual for yourself and imagine you are giving it to someone else. This will help you think more about how you are thinking,” she said.
“You can see that there are a lot of small hacks that can help you feel better. Just imagine how empowering it might be to discover more,” she said.
“This requires a lot of patience and dedication. It usually takes time for reading and time for writing. It takes time to debug your mind.” Petrova suggests writing down all of the things that help your mind work better so that you have that manual for when depression tries to settle in.
“Debug yourself, but if you can’t do it yourself, then try to talk to someone,” Petrova said. “We cannot resolve anything by ourselves.”
You can never underestimate the importance of community in maintaining your mental health. The community is stronger when people overcome their irrational inhibitions and learn to share their stories and listen to each other.
“It’s not really easy to listen the proper way, but you can sometimes save people by listening to them carefully,” Petrova said. “You can empower them by listening to them.
People need to tell their stories to realize what is happening. Sometimes when you are keeping things only in your head, you are not realizing the power of your situation.”
When should depression lead you to seek professional help? “In some official resources, they say if you are feeling like this for four weeks then go find some help,” Petrova said.
“But I think that the more you are getting to know yourself, the more you can feel if you need to meet with someone or talk with someone. The doctor might not be the first person. The first person might be a friend or a relative or someone who is closer to you. Or just someone you see, someone you believe in and decide to tell your story to. I really believe that it’s powerful to tell stories.”
Petrova recommends a book called The Healthy Programmer, which contains the basics of healthy living for people who work most of the time in a seated position. She believes that movement is especially important for those who work from home and set their own schedules.
The first thing is related to moving/movement. Are you moving enough? Are you doing active things, sports? This is really important, because if you are living where you are working, then you can find yourself in a situation where you are staying home, ordering food all the time. You forget all the healthy things you could do to feel better, for your body to feel better and your mind to work well. It’s really related.
If you’re staying active and able to use your normal problem-solving skills to debug yourself, you will greatly lessen the chances of falling into depression. Building up these habits takes time, but you’re also less likely to be crippled by stress and anxiety. In the future, Petrova plans to start a blog called “The Happiness Cookbook” in order to encourage people to share their recipes with the community.
“Get to know yourself better and your reactions to different situations,” Petrova advises. “You really need a lot of time to know what’s happening to you and to know how to react in a timely way for prevention.
“We all have our stressful moments. We all have our sad moments. You are certain to have them in your lifetime. But you can learn how to prevent your reactions, what to do when depression happens, and the best way to overcome it. The temporary feelings can be over at some point with the help of simple tips, and then you are not going to get depressed. Otherwise, you are just digging into that.”
Obviously, there are some forms of depression that will ultimately require professional help. Petrova’s tips for prevention are intended to help folks before they reach a very dark place where they have lost interest in work completely and are struggling to find vitality.
“Depression means that you need to change something, for yourself, around yourself, about yourself,” she said. “This is the key message. Just research the pain that made you feel like this and start debugging it step by step.”
He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?
The Guardian on Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches. Definitely the coolest pope in my lifetime.
Oil prices have fallen by about half since June, making it much cheaper just in time for drivers to fill up their cars for Christmas travel. But the decline in oil prices has had made no perceptible difference on the cost of flying.
New York Times: No Relief for Air Travelers.
When we asked readers what they thought of the new Distraction-free writing mode in WordPress 4.1, a majority of readers responded that it was an improvement. However, a number of others stated they preferred the old version. Readers also took to the comments to describe their first impression of the feature.Distraction Free Writing in WordPress 4.1
Since the release of 4.1, I’ve forced myself to use DFW. When I write content, I often hit the preview button several times to review changes. This results in DFW mode turning on and off multiple times which I find distracting and at times, annoying. I’m not the only one who feels this way as Brian Krogsgard of PostStatus.com explains:
When I write, I tend to save and preview the post live a number of times while I’m writing, especially toward the end of my time spent writing.
It gets a bit dizzying to be fixing typos and saving and previewing while going in an out of DFW.
I’d like to see “Save Draft” and “Preview” buttons moved into the editor body, so that I can stay in DFW while finishing up my posts.
I like the idea of moving the Save Draft and Preview buttons to the post editor. It’s one of the reasons why I reviewed the Distraction Free Preview Button plugin by Alex King. Krogsgard also lists several other ideas with screenshots showing the changes in action, including:
Jen Mylo, who reviewed the feature as a user, suggests similar improvements. One other thing I’d like to see is a full-height editor. It’s annoying when the meta boxes fade away, the editor remains the same size as if the boxes are still in place. That’s because they are, but I think it would be better if DFW mode would go back to being a separate writing experience so meta boxes are a non-issue.
I believe if the ideas proposed by Krogsgard and Mylo are implemented, DFW would likely become the primary mode in which I write content. Until then, I’m sticking with the default interface. What you do you think of the proposed ideas and are there any you’d add?
Research and analyst firm, RedMonk, released its programming language rankings for January 2015. RedMonk looks at programming language discussions on Stack Overflow and usage on GitHub in an effort to extract insights into potential adoption trends.
The results from the analysis are not clear indications of general usage but rather, an examination of the correlation between two populations RedMonk believes to be predictive of future use.RedMonk Q115 Programming Language Rankings
Be sure to read RedMonk’s interpretation of the data and the trends worth noting. Also worth reading is Wired.com’s take on the data and the rising popularity of Apple’s Swift programming language. What do you make of the rankings?
Distraction-Free Writing has been a bit of a controversial feature in WordPress this release. It changed from a you have to toggle to it every time feature to it’s always on feature in WordPress 4.1.
With that change, the DFW experience changed to be more like the regular editor, well, because it is the regular editor. It just removes stuff off of the screen that you’re not using.
Here’s the editor now, with DFW not on:
And here’s the editor now, with DFW on:
Jen Mylo wrote a post about how she doesn’t like the new feature as much as the old one. I’ve seen similar complaints a few times from folks.
The positive trade-off is that now DFW is much more likely to be used, since the setting (the four-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the editor box) is persistent for a user once enabled. Previously, DFW had to be toggled in each use, and was probably used by a minority of users.
4.1 was the first go at the feature in its new state, and I think it’s pretty great. I’m now using DFW every post I write, whereas before I almost always forgot to turn it on; plus, it previously felt like a commitment to the blog post.
Nevertheless, I think Jen’s critique (as well as others’) are noteworthy, so I decided to take some of the complaints I’ve heard and hack around in the browser inspector to see if I could alleviate them.
One thing Jen brought up was the height of the editor box. You no longer toggle the height from the bottom corner; instead it auto-adjusts with your content, and comes shipped with a default height.
She believes, and I agree, that it would be nice if the editor filled the available height of the window, because right now it feels a bit squished and cramped. Thankfully, we have the viewport height (vh) unit in CSS, and this can be adjusted with pure CSS and a few media queries.
In fact, I really like this concept, even when not in DFW mode. It really calms me down, not seeing the metaboxes below the post content right out of the gate. We can just keep them right below the editor, just out of sight.
Another note Jen made was that she was bothered the editor isn’t centered in DFW mode. Well, I’ve never noticed that, but now I do, ugh. It’s this way because DFW simply hides the right column and admin columns, which are not the same width, and therefore the editor is left with unequal margins.
Well, during the transition of those admin columns, theoretically, we could also move the editor box, though I think we should test what kind of UX effect there is of transitioning the editor your cursor is in. It might not be the most elegant solution.
Nevertheless, here’s what it’d look like once you’re done, including the full-height editor box.
I’m iffy on this one. I really don’t like the idea of moving the box you’re actively focusing on. Needs testing.
A critique I learned from another user was that the huge width on the DFW editor box bothered them. I agree. I think we should put a max-width on the editor box — probably whether the user is in DFW mode or not.
Here’s the large version that’s unwieldy, especially in DFW mode:
One more idea: what if we inverted the WordPress admin colors, so that the background was white, and metaboxes were gray. And then, we could ditch the “container” of the editor box altogether.
Here’s a mockup of that.
I think this could look really nice, but it would require a good bit of admin changes.
And then the Distraction-Free Writing version:
This one is my own idea, based on drafting posts in this mode every day.
Distraction-Free Writing toggles on and off pretty rapidly as you focus in and out of the editor. When I write, I tend to save and preview the post live a number of times while I’m writing, especially toward the end of my time spent writing.
It gets a bit dizzying to be fixing typos and saving and previewing while going in an out of DFW.
I’d like to see “Save Draft” and “Preview” buttons moved into the editor body, so that I can stay in DFW while finishing up my posts. Here’s what that looks like:
Iteration in WordPress feature development is important. I’m glad we introduced Distraction-Free Writing in the first place, and I think the changes in 4.1 are worthy. They may need some adjustments, but it’s a process that will continue to improve.
Constructive feedback is always good. The more we use and figure out how others are using various features of WordPress, the more they can be improved.
In preparing to write this post, I was able to reach out in WordPress Slack and find out the best venue to give feedback, and if Jen’s post and this one help start a conversation, the changes can make their way to Trac tickets and eventual patches to make WordPress better.
I’ve seen at least a handful of folks say “Bring the old Distraction-Free Writing back!” That’s understandable; lots of folks don’t like change. Every UI-involved feature in WordPress ever has had critics.
But when you look at WordPress today and WordPress 5 or more years ago, WordPress today is way more beautiful to use. That’s because the experience the core team has built has iterated over time in response to use, feedback, and contributions.
Once upon a time in WordPress there was a New Feature called Distraction-free writing mode. You accessed it by clicking the icon in the editor toolbar that means full screen pretty much everywhere on the web.
It would load a new screen tha mostly just consisted of a writing box not surrounded by meta boxes or formatting, and what limited formatting options there were would only appear when you moused out of the writing area. It wasn’t perfect (I would have liked that fading toolbar to have all the same formatting options as the regular editor) but it was pretty non-distracting, and it just felt calm.
A while back I noticed some changes in the wp-admin regular editor. All the navigation and meta boxes now faded away while you were writing, and I thought, “Oh, that’s pretty nice, kind of a DFW Lite!” I didn’t pay too much attention, as I was just writing a quick post, but in my head I approved, and thought it was a good improvement. Until this morning.
Most of my blog-based activity happens on work-related blogs that have front-end posting forms, so it’s been a while since I tried to access DFW mode. But I was going to be writing a long post, and I wanted to go over into that peaceful screen, so I clicked on the full-screen icon. That’s when I discovered that what I thought was DFW Lite was actually the new DFW. There was no more new screen.
At first I thought,”Hm, that’s a lot more efficient. Good for them!” Then I started writing, and thought, “[Letters-in-a-configuration-to-replicate-my-slightly-alarmed-and-uncomfortable-sound]!” I hated to admit it, but I felt physically uncomfortable. Am I turning into Sheldon (skip to 3:34)? Crap! Anyway, here’s why I don’t love the new DFW.
When wp core switched over to the “toolbar anchors to top of editor no matter how long your post” setup, users lost the ability to grab a corner of the editor and drag it to make it taller. Since it is supposed to automatically resize as you write, most people thought this was a tradeoff with a net benefit, and even though I really didn’t want to lose my little corner resize handle, I agreed that the net benefit was worth it. The thing is, if in your head you’ve already thought out a long post, starting in the small box feels cramped, kind of like when you have to repack a sleeping bag and you’re smooshing it with all your might to get it to fit back into the compact stuff sack.
Think about opening a New Document in MS Word (or equivalent writing program) , or a writer putting a fresh piece of paper in the typewriter (for those who are too young to remember, it’s like this). There have been reams written by famous authors in the past about the feeling that action engenders — a feeling of limitless possibilities, a knock on the creative door, an open road ahead. That’s what DFW tried to emulate. Starting in the small box instead of the full height box feels like possibilities with limits, a creative window that won’t open more than 3 inches for safety, a road with one lane closed for construction. Thoughts scrunch down to try to fit into the available space.
Even when the box expands to be the height of the screen (minus padding against top and bottom of browser), a chunk of space is lost at the top for the toolbar. That fade it used to have really did remove distraction. I wish there had been a way to combine the zen of the fade away (Matt’s original nickname for DFW was zen mode) with the convenience of the always-at-top placement.
In the old DFW, the writing window really did have that feeling of a fresh New Document or crisp new sheet of paper. Now, even once it’s tall, it’s a bit off-center to the left, because that’s where the editor box is when on a screen containing navigation and metaboxes.
There was a time (pre-2000) when I didn’t think too much about alignment in UIs. Then I got a lot of design ideas drilled into my head that stuck, especially regarding alignment. I like asymmetry in a lot of things, always have. Hell, in a site we were just working on one of the things we said we wanted was some asymmetry. But for DFW, the symmetry — the centeredness — was a big part of what made that screen so calming. Your brain didn’t have to do any pattern recognition or internal balancing to make it feel right. But now it skews to the left and it’s driving me crazy, Sheldon style. This isn’t zen for me; it’s a misused apostrophe, a lowercase p, a cabinet door left open.
I thought I’d be a holdout forever against using the new wordpress.com posting interface (I have a lot of issues with it, surprise), but, well, their DFW has that open and symmetrical feeling (even if it has other problems) that makes for a non-Sheldony writing experience.
So this might be my last post written in wp-admin DFW mode for now. Farewell, old friend!
* * *
Standard disclaimer when writing about WordPress: This is my personal opinion. I have not been the UX lead for WordPress core for a couple of years now, so this post on my personal blog should not be seen as representing the WordPress project in any way, it’s just my personal experience with a user interface.
After experiencing a significant delay in late 2014, the folks over at SIDEKICK have launched a new website along with Composer. Composer is a tool that allows you to create visual, guided, walkthroughs. When SIDEKICK Co-founder, Ben Fox, showed off the initial demo last year, I described it as the Camtasia of WordPress.
SIDEKICK has a couple different plans available depending upon how many walkthroughs you want to publish. The free account allows for three published walkthroughs, 50 monthly plays or views, 1 active website, and support for WordPress multi-site.SIDEKICK Activated
The walkthrough creation interface is similar to Camtasia in that it has a timeline with various steps that can be added. To supply audio, you need to upload a pre-recorded mp3 file for each step. While not as easy as recording the audio within the plugin, it’s easier to fix mishaps without having to redo the entire walkthrough.Walkthrough Interface
While testing SIDEKICK, I encountered several things that need to be addressed in future versions.
During the initial setup, there is a box that explains how to build your own walkthrough with a link to get Composer. This leads me to believe that it’s a separate product or plugin when in reality, it’s not. Composer is part of SIDEKICK out of the box. Update SIDEKICK has already released an update that fixes the copy.
It took awhile, but once I understood how it works, I found creating walkthroughs a fairly easy process. With version one out the door, it will be interesting to see how it’s adopted by theme and plugin developers, considering a number of them already use admin pointers that are built into WordPress. However, there’s a distinct difference between a simple pointer and walking people through a task.
“Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as ‘remarkable’.” — Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds.
Harper’s had a great article on fasting a few years ago it’s not online at the moment but here’s a PDF of it. It’s also common in yoga and folks trying to live longer. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but perhaps will at some point this year — I like the idea of doing something by doing nothing.
Working on the right problem is more important than working hard. — Caterina Fake
Found via 84 highlights from The Startup Playbook by Automattician Dave Martin.
The hardest thing in the world is spending the most time on the most important things.
I’ve always wanted to write a post on Medium. But I’ve always been too greedy to do so, because I like to own my content, and I’ve never had a topic that I really wanted to write about that didn’t better fit on my personal blog or this one.
That changed today, so I got to experiment. On hearing that Teehan+Lax shut down, I felt it was a worthy time to try Medium. I had a bone to pick with their exit post, and they helped design Medium’s first version, so it seemed fitting.
Here’s a link to the finished product. Until today, I had never really done anything to play with their editor beyond look at it and write a few sentences to see the basics of how things worked.
Medium’s front-end is beautiful. And the back-end looks quite similar. They try to take pretty much everything out of your way to leave you to your words. I like that.
The only problem with simplicity is that it can obfuscate how to actually do stuff. In the case of the Medium editor, there are two methods to interact with text.
First, you can click the little plus button, which allows you to insert a pre-formatted block of something.
Second, you can highlight text and get a tooltip of formatting options.
Some of these options are confusing. The tooltip one was fine, but the + button was tougher. I didn’t know what to expect by clicking the horizontal line or the play button. I thought the code brackets were odd, as surely not many people are putting code on Medium. It turned out that was an oEmbed button.
Eventually though, I figured out roughly how to do what, even inserting those big full screen images everyone associates to Medium.
For most people and most posts, these tools are enough. And all in all the experience was delightful, despite this minor criticism. However, a part of me wanted more.
I like the persistent editing buttons of WordPress (though I could definitely do with fewer options in TinyMCE). I even felt a little weird about Medium’s previews. It’s basically a front-end preview when you edit, but it’s also not quite teh same. For example, you don’t get the below post items and other elements that affect the overall feel of the page, versus just the article.
Still, I think the WordPress editing experience could learn from Medium’s efforts, even if we don’t mimic it entirely. And I do think the recent changes to Distraction writing help get us there.
Medium has stats built-in. With WordPress, most people use WordPress.com’s stats module through Jetpack, or Google Analytics, or both.
Medium really trims down the stats information. You basically get a few metrics: Views, “Reads”, Read Ratio, and Recommendation counts.
I love the read ratio stat. Medium’s reliance on reading versus pageviews is pretty well documented, and I’ve always thought it was great. But what I realized nearly immediately is that this gave me much greater assurance that my post is quality or not, versus metrics I have available to me with WordPress.com stats or even Google analytics.
I usually determine quality of my posts based on how many tweets, comments, and pageviews I get for an article. This is great, but just because something isn’t shareworthy doesn’t mean it’s not high quality. Also, if I get 200 views but nearly everyone fully reads it, it’s better than getting 1,000 views where only 200 read it.
In the latter example, I got views but I didn’t impact. My goal is to impact, and Medium’s “reads” stat helps me determine that very quickly.
Referrals are also nice on Medium. I can quickly see where traffic is coming from, real time, and go see what that referring source said about my post or take part in the conversations.
Most importantly, regarding referrals, is that I can see them per article. This is a feature I would love to see hit WordPress.com stats.
Hardcore stats folks won’t be totally satisfied with Medium. And to my knowledge, you can add your own Google Analytics account to your medium account, so you have to live with what you get. For most of us, that is enough.
I think there is a ton of opportunity for a solid stats plugin for WordPress that either makes great use of Google Analytics within the WordPress Dashboard, or rolls their own (outside of WordPress.com / Jetpack).
One element I was pretty curious of was exposure. I know that some articles have done really well on Medium, but I’m not sure what causes that.
In my case, the article has had a couple thousand pageviews in a matter of an hour or two, so that’s great. However, I think it took off on Twitter and Designer News much more so than from Medium itself, besides recommendations
For recommendations, it’s like a rolling snowball. I get emails from Medium every day telling me what my Twitter friends recommended on Medium. I imagine that the more people recommend my story, the more email and other distribution the story gets. That’s good, because I’ve always figured recommendation buttons were mostly useless on sites, and really only social proof for other would-be readers that are already on some kind of archive.
As far as I can tell, Medium doesn’t really have a way to highlight new stories beyond recommendations. And they very much de-emphasize post dates and time-based feeds.
One last thing was categorization and tags. Medium no longer allows regular users to put a post in any particular category, as far as I can tell. You have to be some sort of more-certified user or author to put a post in one of their channels or tags or whatever they call them.
I thought this was a little frustrating. Without some kind of tag, how can I put my story in a feed that others that don’t already follow me can find? I think it has potential to prevent lesser-known writers from ever being exposed to more eyeballs, because there is a much smaller initial audience to read their post.
Furthermore, if I had 100 or 1,000 posts on Medium someday, it would make it harder for me to filter my own stuff. I often go back to certain categories on Post Status to see what I wrote about a particular topic in the past.
A couple of things that Medium excels at are notes and public previews. I can easily annotate my post in the margins, without putting the notes in the content (which I often do in WordPress). It’s very similar to Google Docs.
And public previews and draft sharing is exceptional. I have public preview functionality on Post Status, and it works okay; it’s built into Medium, and it has great placement and is easy to use.
I think WordPress could build these features in. They simply make publishing better. Nearly every site could utilize a tool like this and I think that while there are plugin options for accomplishing these tasks, it’s pretty core to the experience and mission of publishing.
All in all, I liked publishing on Medium.
No, I don’t own the content. Though they do have a one-click button for exporting everything you’ve ever written. (edit: reader and former Medium employee Evan Solomon notes I do own the content itself. I guess I mean it more in the sense that I don’t own the platform, and can’t guarantee my content will always be there.)
I also can’t use my own domain. If I published there long term, that would be a problem.
It’s unfair to compare Medium directly to WordPress. But from a publishing perspective, I’d say there are definitely elements WordPress could learn from. However, we shouldn’t just jump completely on the simplification bandwagon.
Now, in terms of who can definitely learn from Medium, it’s WordPress.com. If I were going with a hosted platform, owning my own domain and being able to choose my own theme are pretty much the only reasons I’d choose WordPress.com versus Medium. The overall account (especially) and publishing experiences (marginally) feel more polished on Medium than WordPress.com.
I don’t know if I’ll publish on Medium again. Probably, when I find a circumstance that this blog or my personal blog aren’t the right place. It was fun to play with a shiny new tool, but I’m still a WordPress guy, and I think we’re doing alright.
This is an aggregation of blogs talking about WordPress from around the world. If you think your blog should be part of this send an email to Matt.
For official WP news, check out the WordPress Dev Blog.
January 26, 2015 10:15 AM
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