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January 31, 2015

Matt: Federated Wikipedia

A federated Wikipedia by Jon Udell talks about the ossification happening in the Wikipedia community, caused in part by its attachment to rules that were created with the best of intentions. All open source communities, including WordPress, have to be vigilant against this. Sometimes we have to throw out what worked before to create what will work tomorrow.

by Matt at January 31, 2015 10:50 PM under Asides

Matt: John Scalzi on Semicolons

I write novels. And with just about every novel I write, I try to do something new or different that I haven’t done before, in order to challenge myself as a writer, and to keep developing my skills. In The Android’s Dream, of example, I wrote in the third person for the first time; in Zoe’s Tale, I had a main character—a sixteen year old girl—whose life experience was substantially different from my own; with The Human Division, I wrote a novel comprised of thirteen stand-alone “episodes.”

And now? With Lock In? What new thing have I done to stretch myself as a writer and teller of tales? Well, I’ll tell you; it’s something I’m really proud of, actually:

I’ve written a novel entirely free of semicolons.

John Scalzi in Pacing Doesn’t Just Mean Wearing a Groove in the Floor.

by Matt at January 31, 2015 05:03 AM under Asides

January 30, 2015

WPTavern: Improvements to the Features as Plugins First Model

Feature Plugin Improvementsphoto credit: TerranceDCcc

Earlier this month, I described how the features as plugins first model is a mess. Drew Jaynes, who is leading the development cycle for WordPress 4.2, is already making headway into improving the model. Unlike previous release cycles, feature plugins that are likely to be merged into WordPress have been assigned a core mentor at the beginning of the cycle. Assigning mentors at the beginning of the dev cycle should help make the merge process smoother and keep each project within scope.

Improved Communication

One of the biggest issues I have with feature plugins is the lack of communication regarding their progress on the Make Core blog. This issue is being addressed with weekly updates that explain what’s changed, things to test, and where focus is needed. The following plugins are candidates that may be included in 4.2:

Improved Testing Opportunities

If you browse to the Add New plugins screen in a development version of WordPress, you’ll see a Beta Testing tab. The tab provides easy access to feature plugins that are currently in development. My primary gripe with testing feature plugins is that they’re usually not synched with their Github counterparts where most of the development occurs.

WordPress core developer, Dion Hulse, created a script specifically to sync feature plugins on Github to the WordPress plugin directory. This allows feature plugins to have nightly releases which are available from the plugin directory. This small but important change makes it a lot easier to keep up with and upgrade feature plugins.

WordPress 4.2 Feature Plugin Beta Testing TabWordPress 4.2 Feature Plugin Beta Testing Tab

It’s still early in the development cycle, but I’m impressed with Jaynes organizational abilities. He’s addressed some of the largest pain points to the feature plugin process. If the changes put the experimental model back on track, future lead developers will have an easier time managing the program.

by Jeff Chandler at January 30, 2015 11:32 PM under wordpress 4.2

WPTavern: StackExchange Community Building Beta Provides a Valuable Resource for Digital Community Managers

plants

Online community building is like gardening. Whether you’re running an active blog, moderating forums, or managing a social network, you will encounter challenges in maintaining growth. Experienced community builders have a wealth of knowledge to share with those who are new to it, especially when it comes to recognizing and mitigating toxic elements, fertilizing to encourage growth, and responding to community changes.

Last year, StackExchange opened a Community Building beta to test the waters for a new Q&A site dedicated to building, administering, managing, and cultivating digital communities. It’s been in beta for approximately six months and has attracted 877 users with an impressive 100% of questions answered.

community-building-stackexchange

While the Q&A site is not oriented around WordPress (WP Developers have their own thriving Stackexchange), many of the questions and topics relate to issues that WordPress site managers deal with every day:

WordPress users have a diverse array of community building software available to them for creating interactive comments, forums, and social networking sites. These plugins make it possible for anyone to build a community, even with very little technical knowledge. However, even with the best tools at your disposal, a community is an organic thing that requires skill and dedication to cultivate.

New community managers are eager to learn how to chase rabbits and moles out of their gardens while not disrupting community growth, as evidenced by the many questions submitted regarding managing user behavior. The “problem-users” tag is so far one of the most popular on the site, followed by other related topics, such as conflict resolution, new users, content curation, forums, and site growth.

This new Q&A site is still navigating through its beta period but still needs to demonstrate progress. So far, the beta is healthy in terms of questions getting answered, but it needs to generate more questions on a daily basis, attract more experienced members, and gain more traffic before it can graduate from its final beta.

Part of the StackExchange mission is to provide answers without distraction for users who are asking practical, detailed questions. The new Community Building beta site is not a place to vent but rather a place to get solid, actionable advice from experienced community managers. This site is an excellent resource for anyone who is involved in online community building, even if you simply have a blog that receives a steady stream of comments. If you want to contribute, sign up at StackExchange to get started.

by Sarah Gooding at January 30, 2015 11:11 PM under stackexchange

WPTavern: Auberge: A Beautiful Free Restaurant Theme for WordPress

Restaurant themes don’t often land in the WordPress Themes Directory. In fact, there are barely a dozen listed among the 3,000+ themes on WordPress.org.

One problem with many commercial restaurant themes is that they are usually marketed as a complete package with everything built into the theme, including menu management. The lack of separation of menu data from the theme means that users are locked into that theme and their content is not transferable.

That’s not the case with Auberge, a new free theme from Oliver Juhas of WebMan Design. Last week we featured Juhas’ Modern theme, which was built to showcase portfolios. Modern requires Jetpack for managing portfolio posts, and Auberge takes the same approach for menus.

The theme’s home page features a large header image, with blog posts and/or an optional food menu preview displayed beneath.

auberge

Check out the live demo to see how the menu page is divided into sections. The menus are responsive and each item can be assigned an image, price, and description.

auberge-menu

Auberge requires the WebMan Amplifier plugin, available on WordPress.org, in order to extend the theme to include the custom “ingredients” taxonomy and recipe metaboxes. The theme also requires Jetpack to support many of the features you see in the demo, including:

  • Food menu posts
  • Featured content setup (banner area)
  • Tiled galleries
  • Image lightbox zooming effect
  • Infinite Scroll
  • Sharing buttons
  • Site icon, favicon, and image logo
  • Related posts, CDN, etc

Auberge utilizes WordPress’ native customizer to offer layout options for the placement of the blog posts and food menu sections on the home page. You can also customize the header background and text colors, accent color, footer and widget colors. The customizer also contains options to set the basic font size and select Google Font combinations based on recommendations from the Google Web Fonts Typographic Project.

If you like the layouts seen in the demo site, the theme’s author has prepared all the markup for each page to copy into your pages. You can find this in the “Demo Content Page Layouts” section of the theme’s documentation.

Auberge has support for post formats as well as the unique ability to split posts and pages into multiple parts. It also supports Schema.org markup, Google Recipe View, and Theme Hook Alliance action hooks.

Auberge was built based on Automattic’s Underscores starter theme. Juhas designed it to be lean, so any extra functionality comes in the form of plugins. The theme itself contains no shortcodes, sliders, or page builders.

If you’re looking for a restaurant or cafe theme that includes menu content the right way, Auberge is a solid option. It allows you to select a different theme further down the road without losing all of your content. You can find it via your admin themes browser or download it directly from WordPress.org.

by Sarah Gooding at January 30, 2015 08:20 PM under wordpress restaurant theme

Matt: Designer’s Creed

You might remember a few years back I talked about why Automattic has a creed, and shared ours. Here it is again:

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

One of the parts of Automattic that has grown the most over the past few years is our design corps, now over two dozen people. This group, led by creative director Dave Martin, has come up with a supplemental Designer’s Creed for followers of their craft at A8C:

I take pride in my craft. I ensure that everyone — regardless of ability or device — can use my designs. I routinely ask for feedback, even when it’s uncomfortable. I regularly watch people use my designs, because testing leads to clarity. I will never stop at “good enough.”

You can read more about it on Dave’s blog. »

 

by Matt at January 30, 2015 01:15 AM under Automattic

January 29, 2015

WPTavern: Herbert: A New WordPress Plugin Framework

herbert

WordPress plugin authors have a great deal of liberty when it comes to structuring and organizing their code. There’s no prescribed file structure, so when you look under the hood of a plugin, you often need to poke around a bit to find out how the author is organizing things.

Jason Agnew found this to be confusing when he went to build his first WordPress plugin. Agnew is the technical director at Big Bite Creative, located in Middlesbrough, England. He often collaborates with both front and back end developers on projects, which drove him to find a better way to write plugins that are organized for multiple team members.

This week Agnew introduced Herbert, a new open source framework for building WordPress plugins. “We believe the current approach to building plugins is unorganized and difficult to understand,” Agnew said. “It makes working in teams or taking over from a previous developer time consuming. Its early days for Herbert but our aim is to solve this.”

Prior to creating Herbert with his team, Agnew did his homework to see if there was an existing tool to solve this problem. He discovered the WordPress Plugin Boilerplate project, but determined that it wouldn’t work for his agency’s needs. “Although WPPB would be a great starting point, it seemed best suited to the quick development of smaller plugins,” Agnew said. “We needed something more suited to scale.”

He checked out some of the most popular WordPress plugins, hoping to find a common thread among them for a semantic, structured method of plugin creation. “To our surprise, there wasn’t any sense of uniformity or consistency of implementation among them,” he said. At that point, he rallied his team to write their own WordPress plugin framework.

The open source Herbert project was born out of this effort. The framework aims to keep business logic separate from template code, so that back and frontend developers aren’t tripping over each other. “It offers a file structure to keep your code organised, with a solution as simple as all your routes belonging in the plugin/routes.php file,” Agnew said. “It no longer ties you or your development team to the WordPress Database Object ($wpdb), allowing you to use the power and effectiveness of Laravel’s Eloquent ORM to handle your database queries.”

Herbert utilizes Composer to handle the framework’s dependencies. Template code is stored in views, which uses the Twig PHP templating engine. The framework may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you like separating your code into routes, views, and controllers, then Herbert may save you some time when spinning up new plugins.

The Big Bite Creative team plans to maintain the framework and will add plugin examples in the future. “We plan to introduce an interface to the WordPress post object for Eloquent, along with tests for your code,” Agnew said. They are also considering adding a WordPress-specific frontend framework to work alongside Herbert. The project is open to contribution, so feel free to fork Herbert on GitHub and send code back to the team.

by Sarah Gooding at January 29, 2015 11:55 PM under wordpress plugin development

WPTavern: Chris Lema’s Session From PressNomics 3 on Managing Time and Energy

One of my favorite sessions at PressNomics 3 is now available to watch for free on YouTube. Although sessions weren’t recorded or live streamed, Chris Lema used his own gear to record his presentation. He shares the lessons he’s learned throughout his career on managing time and energy.

One of my favorite tips is writing down three things you want to get done each day. Each completed task builds confidence and over time, you end up with a lot of accomplishments. So far, the technique is working and as long as I complete two out of three tasks each day, I feel pretty good about myself.

by Jeff Chandler at January 29, 2015 10:23 PM under sessions

WPTavern: Seville, Spain to Host WordCamp Europe 2015

seville

The WordCamp Europe organization team announced today that the 2015 event will be held in Seville, Spain from June 26 – 28 at the Barceló Gran Hotel Renacimiento. Last year’s WordCamp in Sofia, Bulgaria was a tremendous success with nearly 800 attendees, a world-class speaker lineup, and a strong local community of volunteers.

Ordinarily, the WCEU organizers select a host city based on applications from various European WordPress communities after an open call. However, this year is an exception. WordCamp Central prevailed upon the team to have the event in late spring or summer in order to accommodate WordCamp US, which is expected to take place in the fall.

“As we had to move WordCamp Europe to the first half of the year, we were quite limited in time,” organizer Petya Raykovska said. “So instead of publishing an open call for applications, we decided to reach out to some of the best established WordPress communities in Europe that have experienced teams of local organizers and asked them to prepare bids to host WCEU 2015. We received three very good applications from three different teams.”

The WCEU organization team landed on Seville after considering various factors, such as the local organizers’ preparation of the budget and venue research. “We chose Seville because of the excellent job they did with the application,” Raykovska said. “But also because of the great, experienced local team, because it’s a great location with a very different vibe from Sofia – it’s affordable, well connected with the rest of Europe, and has a very strong local WordPress community.”

The WordPress community in Seville has held a local WordCamp for the past several years. The city’s metropolitan area has approximately 1.5 million residents, making it a decent-sized city for hosting an event. Attendees should expect to pack for warm weather, as the Seville’s average high temperatures in the summer often reach above 35 °C.

Siobhan McKeown will be leading a team of 18 organizers for the 2015 event, including five experienced local organizers and a global team of organizers from all over Europe.

Tickets will go on sale at the beginning of February, and the organization team will be calling for speakers and sponsors in the next few days. Unlike last year’s event, WordCamp Europe 2015 will include interpretation for the local language. While all sessions will be given in English, a Spanish translation will be offered simultaneously.

by Sarah Gooding at January 29, 2015 08:37 PM under WordCamp Europe

WPTavern: Why Jetpack Comments is Not A Great Alternative to WordPress’ Native Comment Form

Jetpack ships with more than 30 different modules including, Jetpack Comments. One of its primary features is allowing people to login using credentials from their WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.

Jetpack Comments FormJetpack Comments Form

This module has replaced the WordPress native comment form for nearly two years on WP Tavern. It makes it easier for people on social networks to post a comment, but the convenience comes with several drawbacks.

Lack of a Graceful Fallback

Jetpack Comments Temporarily OfflineOut Of Fuel

In early 2014, several Tavern readers experienced Service Temporarily Unavailable errors when trying to submit a comment. The error was caused by a security setting with mod_security on DreamHost and exposed the lack of a graceful fallback. Instead of displaying an error, the iFrame should have been replaced with the native comment form. I created an issue on Github explaining the problem and although it gained immediate attention, not much has happened since.

Annoying Page Refreshes

It’s normal for articles on the Tavern to have several comments with multi-threaded conversations. I’ve discovered that Jetpack Comments will sometimes take me to a different part of the page after I reply to a comment instead of taking me to where the comment is published. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s annoying.

It’s 2015, 10 years after the term Ajax was coined by Jesse James Garrett. Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML. It’s a collection of technologies that provide near real-time interaction with page elements. For example, if you leave a comment on a site running the P2 theme, it will appear on the site without refreshing the page.

Page refreshes are distracting, annoying, and break the flow of a conversation. I’m not the first one to request Jetpack Comments be Ajaxified. In an issue on Jetpack’s Github account, George Stephanis, who is a member of the Jetpack development team explains that, while theoretically possible, it’s not high on the priority list.

It’s theoretically possible passing the event through JS window.postMessage — but to actually render the comment would take some theme integration that we can’t presently assume. If someone wanted to write this I’d be fine accepting a pull request that fires an event and passes some limited data back, like the comment ID and status or something, but it’s not high on the priority list.

The ticket has gained little traction with no signs of Ajax support being added anytime soon. His response is similar to Matt Mullenweg’s in episode 130 of WordPress Weekly, when I asked him why comments haven’t changed much in WordPress over the years, “It’s very difficult to iterate comments as it’s hard to get those changes to be compatible with every WordPress theme in the world.”

It’s Not Highly Extendable

One of the biggest problems I have with Jetpack Comments is that it’s not easily extendable using plugins. Since it’s an iFrame hosted on WordPress.com, it’s hard to manipulate and is an all or nothing approach.

The Old Comment Form

In 2011, I used a collection of plugins to add features to the native comment form so it felt more like a reply box on a forum. Readers had the ability to style and preview comments without having to write code. They could also subscribe to the thread and edit their comment afterwards for up to 10 minutes.

However, my favorite feature was the Reply link next to each comment. When clicked, the name along with a link to the comment id was automatically added to the comment form. For example, @<a href=”#comment-11784″ rel=”reply”>Name of Awesome Commenter</a> – Comment text here. Since the theme didn’t support threaded comments at the time, this feature came in handy.

Comment Form Used on The Tavern in 2011Comment Form Used on The Tavern in 2011

Although some of the features are replicated in Jetpack Comments, the old form felt like a better experience to me. If you’re a long time commenter on the Tavern, I’m curious if you feel the same way?

I Don’t Recommend Jetpack Comments

In an era where Twitter, Facebook, etc. provide the ability for real-time communication, Jetpack Comments and the default comment system in WordPress feels like ancient technology. If all you need is an easy way for people to login using their social media accounts to post a comment, Jetpack Comments is a good solution. However, if you need something more robust, look elsewhere.

Unless the team adds Ajax support for comment submissions and makes the module more extendable, I can’t recommend it as a viable alternative to the native comment form in WordPress.

by Jeff Chandler at January 29, 2015 06:54 PM under module

January 28, 2015

WPTavern: Recent Pressable Outages the Result of a Slow Loris Attack

photo credit: BBC Naturephoto credit: BBC Nature

Last week, Pressable was engaged in a 24/7 struggle to keep its customers’ sites operational. The recent outages caused some customers 24+ hours of downtime and many closed their accounts in favor of finding an alternative host. Today the company announced that the root cause of the outage customers experienced the week of January 19, 2015, was an intentional attack on Pressable’s systems.

A post on the company’s blog further breaks down the attack: “Ultimately, the reason for this outage was a well crafted attack on our systems. The attack was a variant of the “Slow-Loris” attack discovered in 2009.”

The attack went undetected because of the insidious manner in which it was executed. Pressable has been working with security professionals to get the attack under control and announced all systems operational on Monday.

A week ago, after hearing about Pressable’s continued struggle with downtime, I asked CEO Vid Luther if the company was being intentionally sabotaged. At the time, he didn’t think that an attack was a real possibility:

I do not believe that anyone who has an agenda against Pressable is behind these issues. I’m not aware of anyone who has an agenda against Pressable, besides the general competition in the WordPress hosting space, and currently, some of them are acting like vultures. But, I don’t think those guys have the ability to orchestrate something like this. So, unfortunately, no conspiracy theory from our side.

While working to mitigate customer downtime, the Pressable team discovered the coordinated attack on their systems. The attacker’s sophisticated method of sabotaging Pressable went undetected, because it was made to appear that the host’s infrastructure was being overloaded.

The knowledge of the attack came after multiple apologies from Luther, who originally identified Pressable’s lagging infrastructure as the cause. Luther told the Tavern that he has an idea of who the attackers are but will be digging into it further before calling out any parties publicly.

by Sarah Gooding at January 28, 2015 10:43 PM under wordpress hosting

WPTavern: GenerateWP Introduces WordPress Custom Code Snippets

GenerateWP, the popular WordPress code generator site, is celebrating two years in operation this week. The site, founded by Rami Yushuvaev, launched with five code generators and now has more than 20. Yushuvaev sees the site as an educational tool that helps WordPress developers learn more about coding best practices.

Before launching GenerateWP, Yushuvaev created three code generators to serve the Israeli WordPress community. The site was an instant success, which prompted him to translate it into English and launch GenerateWP in January 2013.

generatewp-hebrew

The first week after launching, Yushuvaev was approached by a major brand that offered to buy the site and a few developers made offers to finance more generators. “I decided that it wasn’t the right time to give up the site, since I had big plans for it and for the WordPress community,” he said.

The site has 15K+ registered WordPress developers and averages 100,000 visitors per month, most of whom are designers and developers. During the past two years, Yushuvaev worked with contributors Maor Chasen and Ohad Raz to rewrite the entire code base to use object-oriented programming and make it work better with WordPress.

In celebration of the site’s two year birthday, GenerateWP is introducing custom code snippets, which will allow users to save their own snippets in a public and/or private library. “Front-end designers use codepen.io to showcase their code, JavaScript developers use jsfiddle.net, Bootstrap developers have bootsnipp.com, and now WordPress developers have GenerateWP.com,” Yushuvaev said.

The site now includes a collective library of public snippets shared with the community. Users can also browse public snippets by author.

rami-snippets

Individual snippets allow users to share, download, or clone the code into their own libraries. Developers can embed snippets on their sites, send them to Pastebin, or create a GitHub gist.

generatewp-snippets

Future Plans for Expanding GenerateWP

Yushuvaev has plans to monetize the site further down the road but said that the generators and code snippets will always remain free. “The money will come from other services,” he said. “I can’t reveal our plans but you can expect a game changing feature for our premium users.”

In the meantime, the team plans to create new code generators, including a tool to generate widgets, a meta box generator, and admin menu page generators. In the coming weeks, the site will also provide an oEmbed option to embed snippets using nothing but the URL.

Currently, the most popular generators on the site are the ones for creating custom post types, shortcodes, and custom taxonomies. Yushuvaev is optimistic that the site will continue to grow as more developers discover how much time they can save with the generators.

I was writing the same code over and over again (post types and taxonomies) for different clients,” he said. “Creating an automatic generator to save some time was the next logical step.” He found that writing code eats up plenty of time and did not want to utilize free plugins, as they often do not remain in active development.

GenerateWP is quickly becoming a popular tool for WordPress educators. “The site is used in WordPress classes around the world to teach new developers how to properly code using WordPress coding standards,” Yushuvaev said. “We managed to confirm a class in Thailand, universities and colleges in Israel, United States, Canada, and Germany.

“We also have received requests to translate our tools to other languages,” he said. The GenerateWP team plans to add translations in the near future to open up the site to more international users.

by Sarah Gooding at January 28, 2015 09:20 PM under generateWP

Matt: Slack Buys Screenhero

Slack Buys Screenhero To Add Screen Sharing And Voice Chat To Its Work Messaging Platform, which I’m very excited about as a daily user of Slack (on 5 teams now) and through Audrey an investor in Screenhero and a big fan of their vision. As the article mentions, Automattic has been a Screenhero customer as well.

by Matt at January 28, 2015 07:47 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Thank a Plugin Author Day 2015

Created by Matt Mullenweg in 2009, when the plugin directory hosted only 4K plugins, Thank a Plugin Author Day (January 28th) motivates users to thank plugin authors.

There are several ways to celebrate the event, such as visiting the plugin author’s website. The link is usually available via the plugin’s page on WordPress.org. You can also find a link to the author’s website by searching for the plugin in the backend of WordPress. Also, most plugins in the directory have a link to give a monetary donation.

Plugin Donation LinkPlugin Donation Link

Another way to thank plugin authors is to rate and review their plugins. Ratings and reviews are an easy way to send feedback directly to an author. Make sure to provide actionable feedback instead of one or two-word reviews. A side effect of rating and reviewing plugins, is that it’s one of many ways to contribute back to the WordPress project.

Billion Thanks Featured Imagephoto credit: opensourcewaycc

Since the holiday’s creation, over 31K plugins have been added to the directory which results in nearly 36K reasons to use WordPress! Thank you to anyone who has ever published a WordPress plugin whether it’s on the official directory or on GitHub. Without so many plugins, I wouldn’t be able to customize WordPress to make it my own.

by Jeff Chandler at January 28, 2015 07:05 AM under holiday

WPTavern: Envato Stats, Tips For Getting Things Done, and More at PressNomics 3

PressNomics IntroductionPressNomics Introduction

Last week, I attended the third annual PressNomics conference in Phoenix, AZ. The event focuses on the business side of the WordPress ecosystem and provides opportunities for business owners to learn from those who are blazing a path towards success. On the evening before PressNomics, I joined several business owners for dinner.

A half hour into the meal, I listened intently to various conversations taking place around the table. Topics of conversation included: market segments, customer satisfaction, and business partnerships. At this point I realized I was definitely at a business conference.

The Family Delivers Opening Remarks

Joshua and Sally Strebel along with their kids, appeared on stage and delivered the opening remarks. It’s as if the family invited every attendee into their home for a family reunion.

Despite several competing businesses, companies, and products under one roof, I witnessed so many small groups of people discussing strategy as if they’re all friends. I felt a positive energy amongst the crowd and several attendees left the event in high spirits, ready to take their businesses to the next level.

Session Highlights

A Room Full of Knowledge SeekersName the people in this image

The room was packed with attendees for every session since PressNomics chose not to record or live stream the event. The following is a list of memorable points from the sessions I enjoyed most.

Joshua Strebel interviews Dre Armeda

Joshua Strebel Interviews Dre ArmedaJoshua Strebel Interviews Dre Armeda

Joshua Strebel interviewed Dre Armeda on stage with a bottle of scotch. Aremda described how he became involved with WordPress and founded Sucuri, where he turned a two-person part-time hobby into a multi-million dollar, 30+ employee company. He also talked about his role as Vice President of Operations for WebDevStudios.

Ben Chan

Envato Stats via Ben ChanEnvato Stats via Ben Chan

Ben Chan is the Director of Growth and Revenue at Envato. The statistics he shared confirm that Envato is a huge player in various markets such as WordPress themes, audio files, and plugins. His slides are not available online, but I archived a few stats using Twitter. “Note that the earnings are before Envato takes their cut.”

  • In the first 30 days, the Automotive theme on ThemeForest had 300+ sales generating over $15K in sales.
  • In less than 10 months, the WPlus theme had over 4K+ sales.
  • In 2014, Visual Composer was the best selling plugin on CodeCanyon. The second best product is built on top of it.
  • Easy Social Share buttons plugin by Appscreo has over 6K+ sales on CodeCanyon.
  • Of the top 50 selling WordPress themes in 2014, 67% are new to the list versus 2013.
  • 79% of themes describe themselves as responsive, but make up 93% of overall earnings.
  • Only 4% of themes in the ThemeForest marketplace have earned less than $1K in their lifetime.
  • Envato supports initiatives in the WordPress community. One example is funding John James Jacoby to work on GlotPress, bbPress, and BuddyPress full-time for six months.

Selena Larson

Selena Larson who writes for the Daily Dot, shared tips on how businesses can receive press by improving their pitches. I agreed with pretty much everything she said on the matter and hope those in attendance took notes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Stop using jargon to pitch a product because no one talks like that.
  • Describe your product, service, or business in two sentences or less.
  • Balance your innovation with something that’s familiar. Don’t talk to reporters as if they’re investors because they’re not.
  • Product Hunt is a good way to test the market or pitch a product without involving the press.

As bonus material, be sure to read our guide on how to promote newly released plugins.

Danny Sullivan

SEO With Danny SullivanSEO With Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan, who is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land, presented on the topic of SEO. It’s a topic I’ve stayed away from and don’t talk about much, but Sullivan’s presentation was not only entertaining, it was enlightening. He showed a brief history of the Google homepage and described why numerous claims of SEO being dead are false.

The one thing I took away from his presentation is that SEO will never die, but continue to evolve. Because of Sullivan’s presentation, I’m going to open my mind to SEO instead of writing it off.

Chris Lema

The CTO and Chief Strategist at Crowd Favorite, Chris Lema, is one of my favorite speakers. He knows how to tell a story and keep the audience engaged. For this presentation, Lema shared tips and disciplines for getting things done. My favorite tip from his session is to start the day writing a list of three things you need to get done. Getting 2-3 items finished each day builds confidence and provides a historical record of things that are done.

His stance on putting family first is an important strategy I need to work on. So far, listing three things to accomplish each day is working. I feel better about myself and it’s helping me figure out when I’ve had a good day.

The last session featured Joshua Strebel interviewing Matt Mullenweg on stage, but I’m going to dissect that session in a separate post.

A Lot of Fun

Not only are the Strebels great hosts, they donated over $10K of proceeds from the event to the CureSearch for Children’s Cancer charity. If there’s a PressNomics 4 and you’re involved in the economics of WordPress, I highly encourage you to attend.

My goal was to be a fly on the wall for as many conversations as possible and I feel like I’ve accomplished that goal. I wouldn’t be surprised if several strategic partnerships are announced in the next few months with PressNomics being the birth place of the conversation.

If you can’t wait for PressNomics 4, consider attending Prestige Las Vegas, NV, February 27-28th. Similar to PressNomics, it’s a conference focused on the business side of WordPress.

Here are a few other photos from the event.

Click to view slideshow.

by Jeff Chandler at January 28, 2015 06:00 AM under pressnomics

January 27, 2015

Matt: Kitchensink WP podcast

I hopped on a podcast with Kitchensink WP to chat about the latest in the WordPress world.

by Matt at January 27, 2015 11:35 PM under Asides

WPTavern: How Important is Jetpack on WordPress’ Road to 50% Market Share?

jetpack-logo

This past weekend, 250 professionals gathered in Phoenix, Arizona for Pressnomics, a three-day event focused on entrepreneurship in the WordPress economy. During the last day, attendees had the opportunity to watch Pagely CEO Joshua Strebel interview Matt Mullenweg. Although the session wasn’t recorded, the audience tweeted out the highlights of the interview, and discussion continued on Twitter.

Strebel pressed Mullenweg on Automattic’s agenda behind Jetpack.

This resulted in one of the most controversial statements to come out of the event:

Mullenweg further clarified his statement on Twitter, essentially identifying Jetpack as a tool to bolster the platform against competition. Jetpack allows users to gain access to professionally-supported third party integrations without WordPress being forced to dump all of these features into the core software.

Jetpack-enabled blogs have more features available to them on the WordPress mobile apps, which are wholly sponsored by Automattic. Many self-hosted WordPress users don’t appreciate the fact that the mobile apps are packed full of WordPress.com features, but, at the moment, there are no superior alternatives. In our most recent interview with Mullenweg, he deftly addressed the friction caused by the preeminence of WordPress.com’s Reader in the app, which he sees as a gateway that simplifies the onboarding process for new users.

I see it as a gateway drug and it gives people more options down the road. If we don’t do anything on mobile, five years from now, when everyone is only using mobile devices, they will all have Squarespace’s or Weebly’s. WordPress is still around but it just doesn’t matter. This allows us to matter five years from now.

With both Jetpack and the mobile apps, Mullenweg sees an opportunity for Automattic to provide functionality that goes beyond the core publishing experience to offer mobile access and connect users with readers and commenters via social networks.

The Road to 50% Market Share

In a recent interview with Adam Silver on the KitchensinkWP podcast, Mullenweg gave a better overall picture of his next goal for WordPress and how he sees the platform reaching more users in the future. The software is currently used on 23.3% of websites worldwide and is on track to reaching 25% before the end of the year. Mullenweg hopes to grow that number to 50%:

The next goal is the majority of websites. We want to get to 50%+ and there’s a lot of work between now and then. As the percentage increases, it gets harder and harder to grow the market share, and we have to grow the market share by doing things we haven’t done in the past – really thinking about the onboarding process, really thinking about the integration with social networks, and with how WordPress works on touch devices, which is going to be the predominant computing platform of the future. These things are going to be really important.

What got us here isn’t going to get us there. Once we get to 50%, we can decide something new we want to do.

With a focus on the onboarding process, integration with social networks, and mobile publishing, Mullenweg is outlining how he sees the mobile apps and Jetpack entering the picture to grow the market share and prevent the decline of the platform.

For Mullenweg, a 50% market share with a growing international user base isn’t a purely business goal, but rather ties back in with WordPress’ mission to democratize publishing with open source software. In response to Silver’s question on whether or not the recent focus on the mission is connected to an increase in non-English downloads, Mullenweg replied:

The big assumption in what we’re doing is that there’s an inherent goodness to the transparency and the ability for people to publish. Of course people use WordPress to publish things I personally disagree with or might find morally odious. But it’s very important that we provide the people the opportunity to have that voice.

By giving everyone equal ability and access to reach the web, you’re a click away from several billion people. But you’re not if you don’t have the tools to really reach them. It’s not hunger or clean water or any of the big problems that society has, climate change, but at least for our little part in it, I think we can make a pretty big dent in it.

Mullenweg knew that WordPress had the potential to have an enormous impact on the world of publishing, even when the software was still batting in the minor leagues. WordPress.com was originally created to help users set up blogs while bypassing what used to be a complicated hosting and installation process. Over the years, as WordPress.com adapted more sophisticated ways of supporting the average WordPress user, the idea of Jetpack was born to connect self-hosted blogs with the same features.

The question is whether or not Jetpack and the mobile apps are the missing link for helping users get connected to billions of people. While Jetpack’s features aren’t necessarily unique, they are professionally-supported and users feel safe banking on the plugin for the foreseeable future.

Mullenweg’s controversial statement about WordPress being in decline without Jetpack was phrased as conjecture, because there’s no objective way to prove this unless you remove Jetpack from the picture entirely. As he further explained in his Twitter reply, the notion is based on witnessing the decline of other publishing systems that aren’t innovating with social or mobile features.

Those who disagree with the statement object to the idea of hinging the success of WordPress’ market share on a plugin produced by a commercial entity. This is especially provocative when it comes to mobile, as Automattic’s agenda to promote WordPress.com features goes unrivaled. Nevertheless, WordPress wouldn’t have a mobile publishing platform without the company’s subsidy of the open source apps.

If WordPress is dependent on Jetpack to continue building its market share to 50%, then the software’s future is inextricably tied to Automattic’s continued success. The company is one of a small few that have the capital to invest in a major plugin like Jetpack along with the ongoing improvement of the mobile apps.

“Last year, Automattic raised a bit more funding than we have in the past,” Mullenweg told Silver in his interview. “It’s actually bigger than most IPO’s. We raised $160 million and that gives us a lot of capital to invest into the community. We’re able to make bigger bets, longer term bets, and it also solidifies us as an independent entity for many years to come.”

The WordPress open source project can still be considered a success in terms of its mission, even if it doesn’t achieve a dominant market share. Tying its growth to Jetpack is a bold statement that eclipses some of WordPress’ best qualities, such as its rigid adherence to protecting user freedoms with the GPL, the strong community of contributors, and the massive ecosystem of products and services surrounding it. The availability of Jetpack may be one factor responsible for WordPress’ growing market share, but I don’t think it’s the sole tool saving WordPress from decline.

by Sarah Gooding at January 27, 2015 10:27 PM under wordpress mobile apps

Post Status: WooCommerce is going after photography

Photography is a huge — and quite competitive — market. WooThemes has one nice advantage, in that they are quite dominant in the eCommerce space.

However, catering to actually selling photos is a whole new world. You’re talking about competing with dozens of services, some quite vertically integrated (from website, to photo management, to photo fulfillment), to a very picky audience full of people with unique workflows.

I am not a photographer. However, last year I did a ton of research on photography product potential in the WordPress space. I was working with Range, and we were exploring creating our own photography product. I interviewed a dozen professional photographers in person, ranging in industry, experience, and company size.

I learned a lot during that research phase; and one thing I learned is that this is no easy venture.

The new WooCommerce photography extension does one thing quite nicely: it allows a photographer to create albums where customers can bulk purchase photos, and it allows the photographer to upload the photos for purchase, as well as protect the albums so that only the photography client can view them.

You can view a marketing video, walkthrough video, and screenshots for WooThemes’ Photography extension on the dedicated product page.

Considerations for true professional photo management / sales

However, that is one piece of the puzzle. This plugin makes the client-side of ordering relatively painless, but there are other elements to think about:

  • Narrowing an album from a lot of photos to fewer photos
  • Choosing to make an album visible to a wedding party or others that may want to purchase, in addition to a client
  • Creating a more visual gallery of an album, versus a “purchase” view
  • Enabling uploads to be synchronous with an editing tool, like Lightroom
  • Enabling categorization, automated meta data, and various grouping mechanisms for photos
  • The ability to quickly send the same or select photos from a client-viewed album to a new gallery for a blog post about a client event
  • Integrating a photo fulfillment service, to actually print and deliver purchased photos
  • And much more

I’m sure WooThemes has done a good bit of research for this product. However, I think they’ve made a feature that’s not yet ready for your every day photographer. Of the photographers I met, most lamented the experience of creating, managing, and selling photos and albums.

I think that there is a lot of room in the self-hosted photography space, and my reasoning is simple. Right now, selling photos and managing albums, client review, etc., on hosted services is super expensive. Plenty of services charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, and/or charge massive per-purchase fees (like 10%+).

A self-hosted, WordPress-integrated photography management solution — built for WordPress professionals — could be a million dollar idea on its own. I think WooCommerce creating this add-on is an interesting start, but I believe the concept has major legs that could grow into something huge.

Here are some other players in the market

Let’s start within the WordPress space:

  • Photocrati — a theme plus eCommerce, gallery, and other features (these are the folks behind NextGen)
  • Sell Media — Graph Paper Press’s spin on selling media and prints. If I recall correctly, this is a fork of EDD customized for their photo-heavy theme collection
  • ProPhoto — hideous but one of the more “full service” photography website options, minus selling
  • Easy Digital Downloads — Out of the box, EDD could be used for selling photos
  • Exchange — Out of the box, Exchange could be used for selling photos

No WordPress product is really providing a full solution though. Plenty of non-WordPress products are trying. Here are some that are interseting to look into:

  • SmugMug — A compelling, hosted option. Probably the most interesting in the market.
  • InstaProofs — A widely used method for proofing, selling, and fulfilling photo orders. (Requires 8%-15% commissions!)
  • Pictage & ShootQ — The most vertically integrated options: from initial lead to photo fulfillment. These two are quite popular, but are expensive SaaS products.
  • There are loads of these, but these are popular ones, and give you an idea of what WordPress-oriented products are up against.

I don’t envy professional photographers on the web

Professional photographers have a lot to juggle.

They’ve got to manage leads, their website copy, their contacts and CRM, their galleries and portfolio, their client albums and workflow, their events, their raw copies of photos and backups, the ability for clients to buy from them, and more.

Managing this entire setup online is possible, but right now a photographer with a WordPress website and a third party system for album reviews, sales, and leads is kind of lame.

I think WordPress can do a better job, and reduce expenses for professional photographers, while enabling them to have a more synchronized web experience for their clients. I think WooCommerce introducing a Photography extension is one piece of the puzzle, but it doesn’t solve the over-arching problem.

I truly believe someone could create a theme and plugin shop that competes with these third parties. But it needs to have a lot going for it: beautiful display, an easy to use interface (I’m not sure the back-end of WordPress counts as this), help photographers not continuously repeat themselves during photo management, and generally make their life as a professional photographer easier.

Hosted services are tackling this problem. Those photographers managing their websites on WordPress may have more freedom and lower costs, but right now the experience isn’t easier.

WooThemes is making a good first step. I’m not sure that they are the right team to really go 100% though. I’d be interested to see another company build something integrated into this product from WooThemes (or another WordPress eCommerce product) and really solve professional photographers’ workflow grievances.

Like I said, I interviewed about a dozen photographers from different backgrounds. None of those interviewed felt particularly satisfied with their web workflows. There is room in this market. My question is: who will fulfill their needs?

I think it can be a self-hosted product or hosted product, or both. But I think WordPress should be an excellent tool for photographers, and right now it’s not.

by Brian Krogsgard at January 27, 2015 09:30 PM under Site Owners

January 26, 2015

Matt: SPIEGEL Interviews Dean Baquet

SPIEGEL: One of the reasons Snowden didn’t approach the New York Times was that the paper had refused to publish the initial research about the NSA’s bulk collection in 2004. The story was only published almost a year later. Was it a mistake to have held back on that reporting?

This interview with Chief New York Times Editor Dean Baquet is remarkable both for its frank, direct questions and its frank, direct answers. I got to meet with Dean a few months ago and it really struck me how excellent he and the other editorial and product folks inside of the NYT are.

by Matt at January 26, 2015 11:33 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Deflame Web App Aims to Improve Discussion on WordPress Blogs

Life on the internet is full of controversial debates, people with strong opinions, and trolls, occasionally mixed in with intelligent, engaging conversation. You never know what you will encounter when you venture into the comments section on blogs with open discussion enabled, but that’s the beauty of free expression.

The Tavern has always been a place where anyone is welcome to offer opinions in the comments, even if they’re not fully polished. Oftentimes this results in some quality interaction from community leaders. We use Jetpack comments, but the module is lacking in features that add a more interactive discussion experience between commenters.

Deflame is a new web app, created by Alex Becker, that aims to improve the quality of discourse on the internet. Both the standalone app and the Chrome extension were built to work with WordPress sites, since the platform currently dominates the web. Deflame offers three features that allow users to “ignore asshats,” delineate a side in debate, and share their perceptions of an argument with others via a unique URL.

I tested the standalone version and the Chrome extension, using a recent WP Tavern post regarding HeroPress, which sparked some heated debate. The app adds radio buttons to identify comment authors with whom you agree or disagree. You also have the option to ignore comments.

deflama-example

It’s unclear why sometimes the comments receive two radio buttons, but it’s likely that the app cannot accurately anticipate the correct placement of the buttons due to differences in comment templates. Once you mark your opinions in the comments, clicking the Chrome extension button will present a summarized table at the top of the page. It includes a unique URL that allows you to share your view of the debate with the flames dampened.

deflame-summary

Becker hopes that the app will give users a way to frame their positions and perceptions on debates that happen in the comments. “Too often, debates over important issues devolve into reasonable people on both sides attacking the trolls or madmen they perceive as representing the opposition,” he said. “Deflame aims to give commenters on WordPress-powered blogs the ability to rise above this.”

Since the app doesn’t actually affect the website on which it’s being used, it offers an independent way of presenting a user-moderated discussion. Users can show an overview of their opinions, even when a site doesn’t offer interactive voting features for comments.

However, some may not be comfortable with the fact that the app’s share link hides comments that have been ignored. The ability to view all comments is the only way to get the proper context for other comments posted in a debate. If visitors arrive to a site by clicking on a Deflame-generated link, they may not understand that they are only viewing a select group of comments. For this reason, I think an additional button to “show hidden comments” would be useful.

Overall, Deflame is an interesting idea that might make a useful WordPress plugin, if its code licensing permits. The project is available on GitHub. It includes a small list of supported sites, though the extension works reliably on many more that are not included in the list. If you want to test it, check out the standalone Deflame app or install the Chrome extension.

by Sarah Gooding at January 26, 2015 08:41 PM under wordpress comments

WPTavern: WP Chat Hosts AMA with Justin Tadlock

jt

WP Chat is currently hosting an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session with Justin Tadlock, founder of Theme Hybrid and co-author of Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Tadlock recently joined forces with fellow WordPress.org Theme Review team member Emil Uzelac to provide theme review as a service.

Leland Fiegel, founder of WP Chat, invited Tadlock as the first guest in a series of AMAs with WordPress community members. If you’re new to the format, Fiegel recommends that you check out Matt Mullenweg’s AMA, which was hosted on Reddit a year ago. Fiegel has a similar question-and-answer setup running Discourse, which is less ideal to navigate but gets the job done.

Theme Hybrid is one of the oldest WordPress theme shops in business. As a long-time theme and plugin developer, Tadlock has witnessed WordPress trends over the years and has helped to shape theme development best practices. So far, a couple of the highlights from the AMA include:

Q: Advice for someone working full-time in an unrelated field trying to break into the WP business? I’ve been waking up at 5am for years to learn and practice WP dev but it sure seems slow going with the full-time job necessary to feed my family.

Start a WordPress-related blog. Write tutorials. Share things that you learn. Learn things by writing about them. That’s how I got to know people in the community. It’s also how I was able to successfully launch Theme Hybrid.

And, always reply to comments on your blog. You’ve got to interact with your readers. At a certain point, that gets tough, but keep the conversation going.

Q: What is the worst thing about WordPress (the software) in your opinion? How can it be made better?

From a pure user perspective, I’d like to see the admin simplified even more. Get rid of anything that’s not necessary. I’d drop the theme/plugin editors and tools screen for starters. Then, I’d work on figuring out how to simplify the post screen as much as possible.

Ever curious about the future of post formats, I asked Tadlock if he likes them and if he believes they have a future. He replied:

I love post formats. They’ve really been around for as long as I’ve been using WP (anyone remember Matt’s asides?). I think the initial build was put in too soon, so it’s created some problems for theme authors. I feel like I’ve overcome most of those issues with the post formats-related code in Hybrid Core.

If you’re a new or experienced theme developer, this is your chance to ask Tadlock anything. The WP Chat thread will be open for approximately 24-36 hours, if you have a question for Tadlock and want to join in.

by Sarah Gooding at January 26, 2015 05:55 PM under wp chat

Matt: Build a CMS?

Austin Smith at Mediashift talks about Why It’s Risky Business for Publishers to Build Their Own CMS.

by Matt at January 26, 2015 05:00 AM under Asides

January 24, 2015

Matt: If Apple Made Milk

If Apple Made Milk, and Other Super-Cool Imaginary Product Packaging, cool work by the artist Peddy Mergui. (Who uses WordPress.)

by Matt at January 24, 2015 07:45 PM under Asides

January 23, 2015

WPTavern: Acknowledge Me Plugin Outputs a GitHub Repository’s Contributors

pods-team

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.

Acknowledge Me is a new plugin created by the folks behind the Pods Framework. It makes it easy to output contributors for any GitHub repository onto a WordPress post, page, or PHP template.

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.

contributors-screenshot

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 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.

by Sarah Gooding at January 23, 2015 11:12 PM under github

Matt: Find Fulfilling Work

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.

by Matt at January 23, 2015 09:00 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Pressable Struggles to Retain Customers Following Recent Outages

pressable

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.

What’s Happening at Pressable?

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.”

A Long-Standing Problem with Infrastructure

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.

by Sarah Gooding at January 23, 2015 08:02 PM under wordpress hosting

January 22, 2015

WPTavern: New French Theme Shop Hexagone Launches with Free and Commercial WordPress Themes

hexagone-themes

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.

by Sarah Gooding at January 22, 2015 09:49 PM under french wordpress community

Matt: Scaling PAPER for Kim

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:

  1. Wake up, press the publish button.
  2. Watch the stats go crazy. Sip some bourbon.
  3. Go to sleep.

by Matt at January 22, 2015 09:02 PM under Asides

WPTavern: HeroPress Launches Kickstarter Campaign to Highlight WordPress Developers

heropress

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:”

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.

by Sarah Gooding at January 22, 2015 08:07 PM under News

WPTavern: High Risk Security Vulnerability Discovered and Patched in Pagelines and Platform Themes

pagelines

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.

by Sarah Gooding at January 22, 2015 07:07 PM under security

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February 01, 2015 08:30 AM
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