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May 28, 2015

WPTavern: Fast Page Switch Adds a Quick Way to Switch Between Pages in the WordPress Backend

If you find yourself editing pages often and want a quick way to switch between them without visiting the All Pages screen first, try the Fast Page Switch plugin by Marc Wiest.

Fast Page Switch adds a metabox with a drop down menu to the Page editing screen that allows you to quickly switch to a different page. This eliminates the need to visit the All Pages screen and search for the next page you want to edit.

Fast Page Switch saves time if you have less than 20 pages. If you have more than 20, it could be cumbersome to use and outweigh the time saving benefits.

Fast Page Switch in ActionFast Page Switch in Action

I tested Fast Page Switch on WordPress 4.2.2 and didn’t experience any issues. You can download it for free from the WordPress plugin directory.

by Jeff Chandler at May 28, 2015 05:48 AM under review

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 194 – Celebrating WordPress’ 12th Birthday with Matt Mullenweg

In this birthday celebration episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I are joined by Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg. We covered a lot of ground with Mullenweg discussing the following topics:

  • Update on O2 the successor to the P2 theme
  • Memorable moments of the last 12 years
  • Update on the WordPress history book
  • Status of WordCamp USA
  • The WooThemes/WooCommerce acquisition
  • Hype surrounding the WP REST API
  • The WordPress Mobile App

We talked about a number of other topics as well. I apologize for the audio glitches in this episode as Mullenweg experienced bandwidth issues. We also experienced some technical difficulties with Google Hangouts.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, June 3rd 9:30 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Stitcher Radio: Click here to subscribe

Listen To Episode #194:

by Jeff Chandler at May 28, 2015 03:52 AM under woocommerce

May 27, 2015

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Team is Cracking Down on Violations of the Presentation vs. Functionality Guideline

photo credit: pollas - ccphoto credit: pollascc

During this week’s WordPress.org Theme Review Team meeting Chip Bennett opened the floor to discuss the “grey areas” of presentation vs. functionality distinctions in themes. The hotly debated topic concerns what is permissible in terms of “content creation” for themes that are hosted in the official directory.

“We know that CPTs and custom taxonomies are off-limits; likewise with non-presentational post custom meta data,” Bennett said. “But what about content created via theme options, custom widgets, etc.?”

This question often comes up in relation to themes that offer static front pages with custom widgets or textareas in the customizer where users can add small blocks of text. For example, a theme might offer a biography section or a place to enter copyright text. The concern is that a user is entering content, not knowing that it will be lost upon switching themes.

The Theme Review Team has had an established policy for years that forbids theme authors from defining the generation of user content. However, due to disorganization during the process of moving the official version of theme requirements from the Codex to the Theme Review Handbook, this particular guideline was omitted.

Bennett posted a review of Theme Review Requirements and documentation today on the Make/Themes blog with previously omitted items highlighted in red for clarity.

Presentation vs. Functionality
Since the purpose of Themes is to define the presentation of user content, Themes must not be used to define the generation of user content, or to define Theme-independent site options or functionality.

As this is a fairly general statement, the Theme Review Team will be discussing the finer points of how it applies during the next meeting. In the past, this guideline has been subjectively and inconsistently applied, allowing many themes to slip by with functionality that falls into these grey areas.

Theme Review Team to Begin Aggressively Enforcing “No Content Creation” Guideline

Zerif Lite, one of the top themes on WordPress.org, was highlighted during the meeting as an example of a theme that has been permitted to skirt this guideline, among others.

“Looking at Zerif Lite: testimonials, our team, our focus, about us – these are all CPTs, disguised as custom widgets,” Bennett said. In a ticket where the theme is currently being reviewed for updates, Bennett encouraged Zerif Lite’s author to remove any custom post meta data, except for that that which is presenatational, as it falls into plugin territory. This includes aspects of the theme such as author details, team member position, social network profiles, etc.

Reviewers are already aggressively cracking down on Zerif Lite’s violation of this specific guideline and will likely extend their vigilance to uphold the guideline more consistently with all themes as they come up for review.

Codeinwp, the company behind Zerif Lite, replied to Bennetts’ requests on the ticket:

Most of the things that you are pointing out are really sensitive for two reasons:

  • Probably 50% of the most popular themes use some custom content on the homepage
  • A lot of things like contact issue or testimonial can’t be solved without breaking 100k sites which use the theme

Codeinwp contends that the approach used in Zerif Lite is far more user friendly than having to install a plugin, or multiple plugins, in order to add small bits of text to the home page.

At the end I agree that our approach was a bit different/radical. However, it looks like it is something that people really want (Zerif is one of the hottest themes at the moment, with mentions all over the web). I mean most of them want to build a beautiful site in 10 minutes, without any knowledge and with Zerif Lite they can easily do it. They don’t want 10 CPT, 10 required plugins, contact form, and Captcha plugins for a simple site.

The theme author believes that creating a plugin to handle four of the theme’s focus widgets would simply waste users’ time.

“Also, you realize the amount of work required to do this for 100+ themes installed on million of sites, right?” Codeinwp said. The author also cited several other examples of popular themes in violation, including AccessPress Parallax, Onetone, and Colorway.

Given that the WordPress.org theme directory is riddled with violations of what is purported to be a long standing guideline, it’s clear that reviewers have been exceedingly lax in enforcing it. Theme authors who were ignorant of this guideline will be in for a rude awakening on their next submission for an update. Bennett confirmed in the ticket open on Zerif Lite that the policy will be strongly enforced in the future:

It has recently come to our attention that possibly several themes have been approved that may have similar issues. We’ll address them as we find them, and work with the developers to come up with a plan to bring the themes back into conformance with the requirements – just as we’ll do here with your theme.

This will mean a considerable amount of work for authors who have defined ways for users to generate content through the theme. They will need to port this functionality into a plugin(s).

WordPress.org themes are not permitted to bundle plugins, but authors can recommend plugins using the TGM Plugin Activation Library or another method. Themes are only permitted to recommend plugins that are listed in the official WordPress.org plugin directory. This means that authors who remove functionality in favor of companion plugins will need to get those plugins approved for WordPress.org before submitting their themes for updates.

Next week’s Theme Review Team meeting will include a discussion on specific examples of types of content that themes should or should not be allowed to create, i.e. button text, copyright text, etc. The team is generally in favor of authors using core methods for content creation.

Documentation regarding this issue has been unclear, incomplete, and scattered, spread across the Codex, Make/Themes, and two different places in the Theme Handbook. The team is working to rectify this in light of its renewed dedication to systematically enforce the “no content creation” guideline.

This will affect many of the top themes hosted on WordPress.org, which will be forced to implement changes that are likely to break thousands of sites’ appearance on update. Without a change log in place, many users will not be aware when they are receiving an update that suddenly requires the installation of new plugins.

by Sarah Gooding at May 27, 2015 09:31 PM under WordPress Theme Review

Matt: Why Awe?

In the great balancing act of our social lives, between the gratification of self-interest and a concern for others, fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.

The New York Times answers Why Do We Experience Awe?

by Matt at May 27, 2015 04:48 PM under Asides

WPTavern: My Struggle to Learn How the WordPress REST API Works

Earlier today, I watched a free presentation on how to use the WordPress REST API by Rachael Baker via WPSessions. If you missed it, you can watch the recording for $9.

As I watched the presentation, it was clear that no matter how many tutorials I read, WordCamp sessions I attend, and videos I watch, I won’t be able to grasp the API until I use products built with it. I’m not a developer and the REST API is developer centric technology.

What I Think the REST API Is

Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’ve figured out that the API provides a series of end points which are specific parts of WordPress. These end points can be connected to and manipulated through the REST API.

It’s this API that opens up a slew of new opportunities for application developers to send and receive data. This is what allows a developer to build an app that connects to WordPress with minimal code.

Learning Custom Post Types

In 2010, there were a lot of requests for tutorials on how to give specific posts a unique style. When Custom Post Types were introduced in WordPress 3.0, I was excited because I thought they would provide the ability to create custom styles for posts.

Looking back, some of the requests are due to the post_class() function added in WordPress 2.7 that provides the ability to use CSS to style a post. It took a few years to rewire my brain to not think of Custom Post Types this way.

When I described how long it took to figure out Custom Post Types on Twitter, Justin Tadlock responded, that end users should have never been introduced to the term post type.

Reviewing Products Helps Connect the Dots

I didn’t fully comprehend Custom Post Types until I reviewed several WordPress products that utilized them. After awhile, I was able to connect the dots between what I saw in the WordPress backend and what appeared on the front end.

I think the same thing will happen when the REST API is added to WordPress core. I’ll be able to connect the dots and figure out how it works by reviewing products that use it.

by Jeff Chandler at May 27, 2015 02:02 AM under rest api

May 26, 2015

WPTavern: Replace the BuddyPress Mystery Man with Unique, Colorful Identicons

buddypress-identicons-featured

Nothing makes a BuddyPress site seem more active or more colorful than when members upload their own unique avatars. Unfortunately, not all users have the motivation to follow through with adding a profile picture. You could use a plugin to add avatar upload to registration, or even force BuddyPress users to upload a profile photo before accessing other pages. However, this may seem a bit heavy handed for some social networks.

The BuddyPress Identicons plugin is one alternative that will bring some color to the members directory without troubling users to upload a profile photo. By default, those who haven’t uploaded an image will have the mystery man avatar assigned. Too many of these can turn your directories into a sea of grey and white and give the impression that members are not invested in the community. BuddyPress Identicons replaces the mystery man with GitHub-style identicons.

buddypress-identicons

BuddyPress developer Henry Wright, the plugin’s creator, was inspired by GitHub’s implementation of identicons, which the social network added in 2013 for users who do not have a Gravatar. The idea is based on Don Park’s original Java and Canvas implementations for creating unique identicons.

henry-identiconBuddyPress Identicons are uniquely generated from a hash of the member’s username. The implementation will not look exactly how it does on GitHub, as the logic used to generate the identicon is somewhat different. In fact, this plugin allows for a few customizations to better fit your social network. You can set the background to transparent in the BuddyPress settings menu and also adjust the image size by defining the constants in your bp-custom.php file.

The plugin is compatible with both WordPress multisite and bbPress. After testing it on a BuddyPress site, I can confirm that it works as advertised. If you’ve been frustrated by a lack of unique avatars on your social network, the BuddyPress Identicons plugin provides an instant fix. Simply install it from WordPress.org, activate it, and all of your mystery men will be transformed into unique, colorful identicons.

by Sarah Gooding at May 26, 2015 11:04 PM under buddypress plugins

WPTavern: Postcard Project Discontinued, iOS and Android Apps Now Open Source

postcard-shareKyle Newsome, creator of Postcard, announced over the weekend that the project will be discontinued. The free social sharing app for iOS launched in February of 2014 with the aim to make it easy to share content from your phone to multiple social networks, including your own website.

Postcard’s chief selling point was the idea of owning your own content. Instead of posting content directly on Facebook or Twitter, for example, you could set your own website as the “host” network and direct all the traffic there.

Newsome also built a free WordPress plugin as a companion to the app to allow users to host and archive their data. He intended it to help users make sure their websites didn’t go stale as they regularly posted short form content to social networks.

Unfortunately, the idea did not catch on as Newsome hoped it would and he was unable to keep up with the maintenance.

“I’ve fallen behind on maintenance and, due to some sweeping new policy changes in Facebook’s platform as of May 2015, the live iOS and Android development versions are broken and it’s been the final kick in my ass necessary to admit Postcard is unsustainable,” he said.

Despite making progress on the Android version last month, he was ultimately unable to get it ready for release on the Android market.

In Postcard’s post mortem, Newsome identified changes to external services and their APIs as one of the primary factors for discontinuing the project.

Postcard was an interesting project for me. It started from a frustration with ever changing policies and lack of standardization in social media and ironically will be shutting down for exactly the same reasons. I really have to say that social media management is a tough thing to tackle for any single developer. It’s hard enough to depend on code that you didn’t write yourself and it’s even harder to depend multiple on APIs. It takes a lot of maintenance just to stand still.

Keeping the WordPress plugin updated was also a challenge, and Newsome was discouraged at the prospect of having to rebuild it in the near future.

“The WordPress plugin also got stale as a major update and even a new forthcoming JSON API made the custom work I had done seem like a large investment made in something soon to be obsolete,” he said.

Additionally, he found that the costs of maintaining the app, both financially and in terms of time spent, were unsustainable, as the app only pulled in a total of $750 over the past year. This barely covered the app store licensing fees.

Postcard Mobile Apps Now Open Source

Newsome has no intention of maintaining or developing the mobile apps or the WordPress plugin anymore. The apps are now available on GitHub under the MIT license with broken/partial functionality:

All the code is available to any developer who wants to take the original Postcard idea and run with it or modify it to suit another purpose.

“I don’t want to be that developer who never admits their project is over when it’s over,” Newsome said. “Both myself and my users deserve better.”

He hoped that Postcard would fundamentally change how people use social networks, but the idea of having your WordPress site as the host network for your social content never really caught on. Since many people do not host and maintain their own websites, the golden feature of this app probably went unused by the majority of those who tried it. The ability to broadcast the same content to multiple networks was likely the more popular feature. In the end, the Postcard iOS app was downloaded just 6,000 times.

Postcard’s failure may be an indication that people are still not ready for decentralized social networking, where you host your own data and distribute it to third-party social networks at will. Given that the project was powered by a one-person team (a developer who is otherwise employed), Postcard had little chance of being able to keep pace with the development burden of external networks and their changing APIs.

Newsome may not have launched it with enough resources, or it may not have been the right approach or the right time. Multiple factors combined ultimately spelled Postcard’s doom, but if any interested parties have the vision and time to revive it or fork it, Newsome is happy to assist in any small way. You can contact him directly via the Postcard post mortem blog or on Twitter.

by Sarah Gooding at May 26, 2015 05:18 PM under postcard

Matt: Best of Thelonious Monk

Monk was the master of the single note, perfectly selected, timed, and struck so that it would have a symphonic amplitude. The asymptote of his music is a punctuated silence, which is why he was especially sensitive to his drummers and dependent on them to organize the music’s forward motion.

The New Yorker reviews the 15 CD set, The Best of Thelonious Monk, which sounds like a lovely set of music to spend a weekend with.

by Matt at May 26, 2015 04:21 PM under Asides

May 25, 2015

Matt: WordPress + Japan

Did you know that WordPress users in Japan have meetups dedicated just to eating crab in the Fukui prefecture? WP Tavern has has a fantastic article on Community, Translation, and Wapuu: How Japan is Shaping WordPress History. There is so much that is quotable, just check out the entire thing!

by Matt at May 25, 2015 10:53 PM under Asides

May 24, 2015

Matt: Bosworth says Be Kind

Andrew Bosworth, one of the early engineers and leaders at Facebook tells the story about how he almost got fired in the early days despite being a top engineer. “If I was a good engineer, why would it be hard to work with me? Of course that question was the very foundation of my problem.”

by Matt at May 24, 2015 11:45 PM under Asides

Andrew Nacin: Smarter algorithms, smarter defaults

Instead of showing the user an alert that something might not work, maybe we can build a smarter algorithm. Instead of asking the user to make a choice up front, maybe we can set a smart default and see if there is high demand after launch for more customization.

Rebecca Rolfe on the Google Chrome team, interviewed in The Badass Women of Chrome’s Security Team in Refinery29.

(More on making decisions, not options.)

by Andrew Nacin at May 24, 2015 11:11 PM under WordPress

Matt: Soaring SV Housing

Talent is leaving Silicon Valley because of high real estate costs. Today, the median price for a home just exceeded $1 million.

Why one in four Silicon Valley homebuyers wants to leave. Yep.

by Matt at May 24, 2015 01:38 AM under Asides

May 23, 2015

Matt: TC on Apple Watch

The John Biggs article on Why I’m Still Wearing My Apple Watch almost perfectly describes how I’m feeling about the watch right now. It is a very personal device, I’ve gotten attached to the little fellow, and I should probably start selling all my mechanical watches.

by Matt at May 23, 2015 12:55 AM under Asides

May 22, 2015

WPTavern: Cover: A Minimalist Blogging Theme for WordPress, Featuring Support for Aesop Story Engine

If you’re looking to bring your blog’s design back to the bare bones of pure content without distractions, then the new Cover theme may be a good option. Cover brings blogging minimalism to a new level. After less than a month on WordPress.org, it has already been downloaded more than 2,500 times.

cover

Cover was created by new WordPress.org theme author Paul Eiche and is based on the popular Underscores starter theme maintained by Automattic.

The theme’s simple, single-column design is accented by support for full-width featured images. It was bundled with Font Awesome to allow users to easily add scalable vector icons to any content or social menu. Cover incorporates the lightweight Headroom.js script for hiding your header until it’s needed. It also includes skrollr.js, a stand-alone parallax scrolling library for mobile (Android + iOS) and desktop.

Cover’s widgets and menus are optional and hidden behind an full-screen overlay triggered by the hamburger icon. This keeps the focus on your content while offering plenty of space for unlimited widgets in the overlay.

Cover's overlay for widgets and menusCover’s overlay for widgets and menus

Cover supports one regular navigation menu, one for social media, and an additional social menu in the footer. If you’re using Jetpack’s Infinite Scrolling module, the theme will actually detect whether or not the footer social menu is present and respond accordingly.

The theme was built to make a nice accompaniment to sites using the Aesop Story Engine plugin, although it’s not required. When used with the plugin, content can expand to full-width when using components such as images, galleries, maps, etc.

If you’re a developer wanting to modify the theme, you’ll find that Cover’s stylesheet is compressed. It was built with Sass and the /sass directory includes all the necessary components for compiling the stylesheet.

Cover is a beautifully responsive theme that presents your website in a bold way on any device. Its minimalist design supports your content instead of upstaging it with the clutter of widgets and navigation. Check out a live demo on the theme’s project page to see it in action. Cover is available for free on WordPress.org.

by Sarah Gooding at May 22, 2015 11:15 PM under free wordpress themes

WPTavern: Hello Security Plugin Aims to Educate WordPress Users on Web Security Best Practices

Hello Security is a new plugin developed by Michele Butcher that displays security tips and reminders in the WordPress backend. It’s a fork of Hello Dolly and Butcher’s first plugin submitted to the plugin directory.

Hello Security TipsHello Security Tips

Security best practices include PASSWORD is never a good password, backup all the things, and only give users the access they need. A full list of the tips used is located within the hello-security.php file.

Inspiration, Motivation, and Determination

For years, Butcher has avoided learning how to code. Thanks to a WordCamp session and inspirational members of the WordPress community, she now has a plugin of her own. In this short interview, we find out what held her back from developing plugins sooner and who inspired her to go through the process.

What held you back from writing your first plugin?

For the longest time, I didn’t want to learn how to code. I was a firm believer in that there’s a plugin for everything. Once I was motivated enough to create one, I didn’t know what to create first.

I have ideas for the types of plugins I want to make but I always find three plugins with similar functionality. The first WordPress plugin I’ve ever looked at the code for is Better WP Security, developed by Chris Wiegman that eventually turned into iThemes Security.

I knew I would have to dig deep into learning code before I could write a plugin that large. I discovered the best way to learn code is to jump in and read actively developed code. Once I became comfortable reading code, I started to get ideas on plugins to create.

What motivated you enough to go through with creating and releasing your first plugin?

I subconsciously kept telling myself to just make something. I eventually decided to get into plugin development and taking the first step was the hardest. I bounced ideas off of friends for a long time before I jumped in and just made one.

At WordCamp North Canton, I attended Topher DeRosia’s session, Introduction to WordPress Plugin Development. After the session was over, I realized I didn’t have to make something that has thousands of lines of code. I brainstormed ideas, thinking how I could use Hello Dolly.

What inspired you to write Hello Security?

The first idea that came to mind in using Hello Dolly was not security related. I initially thought of doing something fun like Hello Jovi (Bon Jovi lyrics) or Hello Marvel where I use awesome one liners from the various Marvel movies. Iron Man quotes alone would have given me at least 30 lines to work with.

I decided against doing something fun and make something that could be useful. Many of the quotes in Hello Security are things I say at all of my talks, tell every client after I clean their site, and mention to everyone who is getting into WordPress.

Hello Security is there to help those who are either new to WordPress or might not know how or why they should keep their site secure. It is a way to be proactive before something bad happens. Wiegman and DeRosia inspired me the most and I’m glad they did.

Informing Without Overwhelming

Hello Security is a good plugin that educates users on best practices related to web security without overwhelming them with information. I tested Hello Security on WordPress 4.2.2 and didn’t experience any issues. It’s available for free on WordPress.org and GitHub. Butcher encourages those who want to see a security tip added to submit a pull request on GitHub.

by Jeff Chandler at May 22, 2015 09:24 PM under wordpress security

WPTavern: How WordPress Business Owners are Benefiting from Publicly Sharing Revenue Stats

In light of Automattic’s recent acquisition of WooCommerce (and all of WooThemes), estimated to be in the range of $30M, WordPress business owners have been infused with a fresh perspective of the value and potential in creating strong GPL-licensed products.

Automattic’s acquisition of Woo, colloquially referred to as the “WooMattic” deal, is the company’s first major purchase within the WordPress ecosystem since BuddyPress in 2007.

The business model that brought WooCommerce to success is a free base product with a marketplace of commercial extensions. This revenue model currently drives the success of many of the top products in the WordPress ecosystem and is also proving to be effective for new businesses looking to quickly establish a user base.

This morning, WordPress developer Scott Bolinger published a compilation of 2015 WordPress business revenue statistics based on publicly available transparency reports and figures submitted by business owners. The resource includes each company’s business model, description, and monthly/yearly revenue.

wordpress-business-revenue

Bolinger is planning to use this information in an upcoming presentation and will be keeping the resource up to date with new submissions and figures as they roll in.

Transparency reports from WordPress businesses, ranging from small to large, have been popping up frequently over the past year, as owners are surprisingly eager to share their progress and receive feedback from the community. These kinds of reports are not unique to the WordPress ecosystem, but they do seem to complement the spirit of adventure that is common among open source product developers.

Zack Katz, co-founder of GravityView, remarked on his motivation to share the company’s revenue publicly.

“I think sharing revenue humanizes GravityView: we’re not a nameless corporation where you put in money and somehow good products and customer service come out,” he said. “Our customers are part of an interaction: their purchase of a support license directly allows us to develop the product and help them do great things with their websites.”

Katz hopes that the resource will be inspirational for WordPress entrepreneurs who are just getting started.

The WordPress community is slowly realizing that businesses don’t have to be cutthroat black boxes to succeed. As more people and businesses share and open up, we’re redefining what it means to be a business in the WordPress ecosystem. I think this leads to lower barriers to entry for others to participate. By sharing GravityView’s numbers and some of the things I’ve learned, I hope others are better informed and inspired to join our community.

Nick Haskins, founder of Aesop Interactive, is currently in the midst of active experimentation with his products and business model and recently published a transparency report for his 15-month old company. He believes that these kinds of reports are important for demonstrating the types of products and pricing models that can be successful.

“I think for Aesopinteractive it’s showing that you can still abide by WordPress theme best practices, and be successful at selling WordPress themes as add-ons at $129 each with 3-5 options and no functionality,” Haskins said.

“Plus, I really hope it motivates other ‘small timers’ to share numbers as well, and be held accountable for our growth. It’s a lot like sharing your goals publicly, and letting people hold you accountable for it. Sink or swim, the lessons will be valuable either way.”

by Sarah Gooding at May 22, 2015 08:11 PM under wordpress business

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 193 – WooMattic

In this episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I break down Automattic’s acquisition of WooThemes and discuss the future of WooCommerce. We discuss how the Japanese WordPress community influences WordPress development. Last but not least, we debate the merits of using an honor system for commercial plugins.

Stories Discussed:

Automattic Acquires WooThemes
WordPress.org is Testing International Theme and Plugin Directories
Community, Translation, and Wapuu: How Japan is Shaping WordPress History
Lasso Frontend Editing Plugin for WordPress Now Available on GitHub
cPanel’s Site Software Addon Disables WordPress Auto Updates
All Sessions from LoopConf Now Available on YouTube

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

Simply Pinterest adds a Pin It button call to action over each image in your post to prompt visitors to Pin your content. You can customize how the plugin is applied to your site with counts, colors and many other settings.

I wanted to highlight this plugin because it’s the first from Terry Ann Swallow. Terry has been active in WordPress since 2006 but this is her first plugin, and it’s good. We often forget to recognize first time plugin contributors, and I want to recognize Terry and wish her well with this plugin and many more to follow.

New Facebook Comments makes it simple to add the Facebook comments system to WordPress. You can also insert the comment box as a shortcode into any post, page or theme.

Simple Project Manager lets you manage projects, clients, tasks, and create invoices in PDF format. It also gives you the ability to run reports about projects, clients, tasks and invoices.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, May 27th 4:00 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

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Listen To Episode #193:

by Jeff Chandler at May 22, 2015 04:15 PM under woothemes

Matt: Undercover UberX

Emily Guendelsberger went undercover as an UberX driver in Philadelphia and wrote about the experience, particularly the economics of it. It’s a pretty fascinating and gripping longread, both in its content and it’s just well-written.

by Matt at May 22, 2015 05:29 AM under Asides

May 21, 2015

WPTavern: Hookr Enters Beta with New UI and Support for 800+ Plugins and Themes

hookr-featured

Last April, Christopher Sanford launched Hookr, a WordPress hook/API reference for developers. He initially wrote the parser/indexer for his own use, to improve efficiency in his work, and was inspired to make it a public resource.

“I have been professionally working with WordPress since 2.8, but most of which I would describe as ‘superficial development,'” Sanford said. “It wasn’t until later, roughly WordPress 3.5, that a large-scale WordPress project came along.

“I found myself spending an obscene amount of time either digging through code within my IDE, or performing countless Google searches, in order to uncover/understand various hooks, functions, constants etc. So, I wrote a plugin that would index the application/site it was installed within– this was the first iteration of Hookr.”

As a developer whose career is not based in the WordPress ecosystem, Sanford didn’t know what to expect when he tested the waters with his new public resource for developers. After several months in alpha, the traffic and feedback were enough to convince him to invest in performance improvements and an overhaul of the UI.

“The alpha version of the site was truly alpha – the UI was a complete afterthought, there were many UI bugs/hiccups, the navigation was not cohesive; it was a hot mess,” Sanford said. “Prior to the beta, I had not updated hookr.io for months, which was purposeful. I wanted to see if the traffic would completely level-off, or if it would remain consistent, with the latter being the determining factor as to whether or not I would continue with the project.”

Hookr Beta Adds UI/UX Improvements and Support for 800+ Plugins and Themes

Sanford was surprised and encouraged to find that usage of the site was solid and continued to grow. He spent the next three months fixing issues, rewriting core parts of the parser, and refining the UI to focus on features that people actually needed. The site has now entered beta with a slew of noteworthy improvements:

  • UI/UX overhaul, with emphasis on responsiveness and fewest number of clicks
  • Hookr.io is now twice as fast with half the download payload (mobile first)
  • Themes have been introduced to the index – (current count: 62)
  • Hundreds of plugins added to the index (current count: 827)
  • 5 of the latest versions of each plugin and theme (previously included a single version for each plugin)
  • Usage examples that users can cut and paste
  • Annotated source code

Index screens are infinitely-scrollable and filterable, which cuts down on a lot of clicking through endless pagination. Hook details have been refined to follow a format similar to PHP’s detail pages and include annotated code signatures and descriptions.

hookr-annotated-descriptions

In addition to the basic info about the file and lines where the code/object is defined, Hookr has also been updated to display any related hook callbacks sharing the same tag name or signature.

hookr-relations

Usage examples for every action, filter, function, and constant can now be easily copied. Users can also quickly view source code with Hookr’s new hyperlinked and annotated source code blocks.

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand?

Many of those in search of a comprehensive hook/API reference find Hookr to be easier to use than the official WordPress.org code reference. Sanford has experienced friction from creating what some perceive to be a competing resource.

There were several people that have/had an issue with the resource even existing. For the sake of full-disclosure, my career is outside the WordPress ecosystem; it is simply a platform I use (and love), not a lifestyle.

My experience with the ‘community’ has been mostly positive; many people love the resource, while others are indifferent. I wrote Hookr to aid legit designers/developers/agencies, not hobbyists masquerading as designers/developers who have no skill besides martyrdom and nothing positive to contribute.

The Hookr name has also proven to be controversial, as a few vocal opponents find it to be off-putting and offensive. Sanford said that he is very much torn over rebranding the site but is open to the idea.

“The WordPress market is saturated – it is hard to make any sort of impact, hence the name,” he said. “The name is short, controversial, relevant, and memorable – either people love or hate it, of course. It was never the intent to insult, offend, or alienate any demographic.

“If people are uncomfortable saying “Hookr” in an open forum, then maybe it’s time to put my personal ethos aside for the betterment of the resource. That being said, I am on the fence in regards to renaming/rebranding Hookr. If I do, it’s only to remove the initial barrier/stigma and promote usage.”

As the site is still in beta, Sanford is still collecting feedback from users but is concentrating on features, fixes, and SEO. If he decides to rebrand, it will likely happen as the site moves out of beta.

The Future of the Hookr.io Resource

After streamlining the design, removing a few features that no one used, and refining those that worked, Sanford reports that so far users are enjoying the beta version of Hookr.

“The feedback I have received has been exceedingly positive,” he said. “The usage has effectively doubled.” User suggestions regarding the search functionality are shaping the roadmap for the next iteration of the resource.

“The current search implementation is more or less a filter mechanism, which is effective once you’ve drilled-down to the relevant index,” Sanford said. “However, numerous users have asked for a traditional ‘global’ keyword search that spans core, plugins, and themes. The global search, along with a few other features, will be released within the next month or so.”

While Sanford is committed to keeping the resource free for anyone to use, he is exploring a few long term options for monetization.

“Cluttering the interface with ads is not something I want to do, but never say never,” he said. “However, there is another opportunity for monetization.”

In the future, Sanford is looking at the possibility of establishing the infrastructure to offer Hookr (SaaS) for commercial theme and plugin developers.

When I released Hookr Alpha, a few people inquired about using it to augment the documentation of their premium plugin/theme. I wasn’t confident that it was a true ‘value-add.’ Over the course of a year, I’ve refined the parser and data objects to a point of viability.

The Hookr Parser analyzes source code, which is then reconciled against the inline documentation describing it; often times, the inline documentation is either missing or is erroneous. Jeff Matson and I discussed these issues and decided that Hookr would be invaluable if it could identify these issues, which it now does.

A SaaS model for monetization would allow Sanford to offer developers pre-generated documentation with their themes/plugins. He is also exploring the possibility of offering the raw data in JSON, XML, CSV, etc. to vendors to implement an API microsite.

For the time being, Sanford will continue investing time into improving Hookr as a reference and refining features according to user feedback. If you use Hookr.io regularly, feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments and follow the project on Twitter for all the latest updates.

by Sarah Gooding at May 21, 2015 08:05 PM under wordpress hooks

Matt: William Zinsser Obit

Mr. Zinsser was a prolific author, editor and teacher, but it was his role as an arbiter of good writing that resonated widely and deeply.

The New York Times obituary of William Zinsser is touching and fascinating. Clear writing and clear thinking go hand in hand, and Zinnsser’s work On Writing Well did more than any other to help me hone my mind.

by Matt at May 21, 2015 04:41 AM under Asides

WPTavern: Happy Joe Partners with WebDevStudios, SiteGround and Announces Dates for WordPress BootCamps

Happy Joe, a 501 c3 non-profit organization that helps U.S. veterans with entrepreneurship and employment opportunities using WordPress, has announced a new round of sponsorships and dates to upcoming boot camps.

When I talked to James Dalman, founder of Happy Joe in late 2014, he emphasized how important financial assistance is to the organization, “We need people to help fund the training and mentoring of our veterans. We have a lot of people who are sharing the story and mission of Happy Joe and we are VERY appreciative of that. However, we need sponsorships and donations to make a true difference.”

New Sponsors

WebDevStudios is partnering with Happy Joe as a Hero Partner which is the highest financial contributing level available. Considering the number of military veterans that work at WebDevStudios, the organizations are a perfect match. The agency will also volunteer their time and expertise at upcoming WP BootCamps across the United States.

I asked Brad Williams, founder of WebDevStudios and a military veteran, what it means to be able to help veterans through Happy Joe.

I’m very excited to officially support Happy Joe and their efforts to help Veterans find jobs. As a Veteran myself, I know the struggles trying to find work after leaving the Service, so knowing we are doing something to help ease that process makes me extremely proud.

SiteGround, a webhosting company based in Bulgaria, is also partnering with Happy Joe and will provide business mentoring, career development, training resources, and work opportunities to military veterans and their families.

The company is also providing free hosting for three months to all WP BootCamp attendees. Dalman hints that the partnership may one day lead to the first WP BootCamp in Europe.

Upcoming WP BootCamps

WordPress Boot Campphoto credit: MizGingerSnapscc

WP BootCamps are events tailored to the military community and help veterans of the Armed Forces to set up resume style websites on WordPress so that they can be seen as technology relevant. Veterans are also shown how to launch or build a very successful business or career in the WordPress marketplace.

Dalman has released a schedule of upcoming camps with the first taking place on July 11th and 12th on GoDaddy’s Sunnyvale, CA campus.

  • Sunnyvale, CA : July 11 & 12
  • Las Vegas, NV : July 25-26
  • Seattle, WA : Aug 15 & 16
  • San Diego, CA : September 12 & 13
  • Austin, TX (WordCamp Austin) : Oct 16
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina : Dates TBA
  • Norfolk, Virginia : Dates TBA
  • Tampa, FL : Dates TBA

Presentations will include, Discovering Opportunities in WordPress, Starting Off Right with WordPress, Finding the Perfect (and Paying) Clients, Winning An Agency Interview, Skills Companies Pay MORE For and more by the following presenters:

There are a limited amount of tickets available but only those who meet the following criteria are able to attend.

  • All Active Duty Service Members
  • Military Veterans from any branch of service, regardless of era served
  • Military Spouse or Military Caregiver
  • Service Dogs
  • Non-Military People wanting to work with veterans (limited seating)

You’ll need to show proof of military service via an Active Duty Card, Retirement Card, DD Form 214 from you, your spouse, or family member. Tickets have yet to go on sale but Dalman expects this information to be available in the next few weeks.

As we approach Memorial Day in the US, take some time to remember and thank those who honorably serve or served in the military. Consider supporting an organization like Happy Joe that works year round to give back to veterans.

by Jeff Chandler at May 21, 2015 03:52 AM under webdevstudios

May 20, 2015

WPTavern: Learn How to Utilize the WP REST API with Rachel Baker

photo credit: shenamt - ccphoto credit: shenamtcc

One trend at recent WordCamps is that any session on the WP REST API will undoubtedly pack the room with attendees eager to learn more about using it. This was certainly the case at WordCamp London 2015 where more than 200 people crammed into a small room to hear Jack Lenox’s presentation on Building Themes with the WP REST API.

rachel-bakerIf you’re a developer who is ready to learn more about getting started with the API, you will not want to miss WPSessions’ upcoming free live event. Rachel Baker, lead engineer at The Wirecutter and formerly a senior engineer at 10up, will be presenting on Utilizing the WP REST API on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Baker is one of the lead developers on the WP-API project and is fully in tune with where it’s headed, as well as all the changes in the latest 2.0 beta release. The topics she plans to cover will help developers dive in and start extending 2.0.

“The content is driven by wanting to dig deeper with a more technical audience from the overview presentations you see at WordCamps and wanting to show off how easy it is to extend our version 2.0,” Baker said. “This course is only 30-40 minutes, but if it goes well Brian would like to add more.”

She plans to cover the following topics:

  • Installing the WP REST API
  • Consuming core endpoints
  • Creating custom endpoints
  • Manipulating and Extending API results
  • Preparing for future inclusion in WordPress core

“It is targeted at developers who are interested in seeing how they can use and customize the API,” Baker said. “Front-end and full-stack developers will see how to add additional fields to the existing endpoint responses. Plugin developers will see a demonstration of how to add their own endpoints. If you are interested in using the WP REST API, or have used version 1.x, you will want to see how version 2.0 works.”

Baker’s session will essentially be a crash course in getting started, covering all the basics and more. While there has been a great deal of excitement surrounding the API and what it means for the future of WordPress, many developers are still getting a grasp on how they can incorporate it into real world projects. John James Jacoby made an interesting observation in his recap of LoopConf:

So many mentions of the REST API, but not a lot of truly practical usages yet – everyone is building WordPress minus WordPress instead of replacing existing piecemeal AJAX calls or iteratively improving WordPress itself.

Baker is planning to include practical examples in her presentation. One of her main objectives is to help developers get going with the 2.0 beta version so they can offer feedback as they continue to work with it.

“I can think of many practical uses, from powering interactions in a plugin like Custom Contact Forms to providing an API for a mobile app like StoryCorps.me,” Baker said.

“Our community is hearing that the WP REST API is going to change WordPress and they haven’t seen that happen. I don’t see the WP REST API as changing WordPress. I see the WP REST API as a WordPress feature that makes it easier to interact with your site’s data.”

Those who haven’t been able to attend a session on the API in person have an excellent opportunity to see Baker’s WPSessions presentation live for free on Tuesday, May 26th at 3pm EST (UTC-4). It will also be recorded and available after the event for $9.

by Sarah Gooding at May 20, 2015 09:43 PM under wpsessions

WPTavern: WordPress Trainer Morten Rand-Hendriksen on Common Pain Points, Roadblocks, and Advice for New Users

The WordPress community is filled with resources to learn about WordPress but finding them can be difficult. WordPress is developed around the clock and locating material that keeps pace can also be a challenge.

Lynda.com is an online learning center devoted to teaching topics such as, business, technology, design, and photography. For more than five years, Morten Rand-Hendriksen has taught and maintained the WordPress Essential Training course on Lynda.com. The course has been viewed by more than 100,000 individuals and to celebrate, Lynda.com is making it available for free for one month.

By maintaining a WordPress training course, Hendriksen is in a unique position to see trends. He’s also had to keep up with and monitor the vast changes to WordPress that have occurred in the last five years. In the following short interview, Hendriksen describes common pain points users experience with WordPress and shares advice for new users.

Short Interview with Hendriksen

photo credit: Huasonic - ccphoto credit: Huasoniccc

Which aspects of WordPress do users have the most trouble with?

Based on course feedback and a myriad of emails and questions on Twitter, the hangups people encounter when using WordPress fall into three main categories:

  1. Installation and migration
  2. User interface and feature changes
  3. Theme and plugin inconsistencies

Installation and Migration

More and more users create local installs to experiment before launching their sites, and they’re creating quite advanced sites on their local computers. When it comes time to migrate these sites, they often get stuck.

I think this is partially due to lack of official and understandable documentation about migration, and partially because the general level of technical know-how necessary to build a local install is decreasing. Thanks to tools like MAMP/WAMP, BitNami, and ServerPress, more advanced skills like migration and external hosting become bigger steps up than they were previously.

User Interface and Feature Changes

As WordPress evolves, user interface changes are fairly common but in most cases, they are left unaddressed in release documentation. Recent examples include the removal of Advanced Image Options and Link Title from the editor modals. When changes like these are encountered by existing users, their first response is to assume they are doing something wrong or there is something wrong with their install.

In my opinion, this is justifiable: In other software and in most other situations in the physical world, when a feature is removed or altered in such a way it is not easily found, this change is clearly addressed.

In WordPress, it is usually only the large feature changes that are explained while the smaller ones are left for the user to discover on their own. When these features are part of the user’s workflow, that becomes a problem. This is further exacerbated when meta-conversations in the advanced community go public providing confusing and often contradictory information for new users.

Theme and Plugin Inconsistencies

The final grouping is the most obvious one. As the theme and plugin landscape becomes more diversified, users often feel overwhelmed and confused about what solutions to choose and how to use them. A search for membership plugins, business themes, or booking calendars returns hundreds if not thousands of widely different solutions that often have little in common.

Meanwhile, you can find blog posts and lists claiming that pretty much every one of them is the best one and the rest are inferior copies. On top of that, more and more themes and plugins are released as freemium offerings or shells that lead the user to a third-party service.

All of this comes together to produce a confusing and frustrating user experience that leaves many users feeling like they are not smart enough to use the application or that they made a wrong choice in going with WordPress.

These are all issues that could be resolved by creating consistent user experiences and by theme and plugin developer communities becoming more mindful of what kind of experiences they provide for the user when they ship freemium solutions or third-party up-sells.

WordPress Road Blocksphoto credit: Haven bridge road block(license)

Are there more roadblocks to overcome than there were five years ago?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. WordPress has more roadblocks for the beginner, but for the more experienced user there are also more opportunities. I think one of the major challenges we are facing as a community is that WordPress is becoming too advanced for its core user base. The appeal of click-and-publish services like WIX and SquareSpace is that they do not require an in-depth understanding of the underpinnings of the application for it to work.

In striving to become a full-fledged CMS for advanced developers and large publications, WordPress has let itself drift away from its core philosophy of democratizing publishing by adding the very level of complexity it originally aimed to remove. Combined with the theme and plugin issues described above and a lack of modern tools that users expect such as, drag-and-drop design tools and front-end editing, I see new users respond the same way to WordPress today that they did to Drupal five years ago.

On the plus side, these roadblocks are more like speed bumps than fortified walls. With patience and access to well-crafted and easy to understand training materials, I stand by my claim that anyone, regardless of previous experience, can learn to build a great website with WordPress. What has changed is the level of complexity, both in use and in what you can produce.

WordPress Advice For New Usersphoto credit: What You Need To Know About Food Poisoning(license)

What advice do you have for those new to WordPress?

My number one piece of advice for new and existing WordPress users is to always remember that WordPress is just a tool that makes it easy for you to put content in a database and your visitors to retrieve that content. When learning a new tool as technically advanced as WordPress, it is easy to get so caught up in the tool itself, that you forget what you wanted to do in the first place. Whatever your goals and intentions were when you picked up WordPress for the first time, make sure you remember them and keep working toward them.

When learning WordPress, whether you are teaching yourself, learning from books or videos, or going to class, remember that every person in the community, even Andrew Nacin, was at some point in time where you are now: Just trying to figure it all out. While every person’s path to learning is different, they all have one thing in common: They all learn from each other.

So reach out online, in person, through Twitter, Facebook groups, Meetups, WordCamps, and beyond, and find like-minded people who want to learn with you or help you on your way. When you meet someone who is just starting out, help them get their footing and invite them into the community.

Finally, remember that WordPress is not an island. The web community is a rich ecosystem with many differing solutions based on the same core technology. Learning how the web works gives you the power to use WordPress to move beyond its borders and it’s beyond those borders where true magic is found.

by Jeff Chandler at May 20, 2015 07:21 PM under wordpress training

WPTavern: WordPress.org is Testing International Theme and Plugin Directories

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WordPress.org is making strides towards fully localizing the project’s official theme and plugin directories. Dion Hulse posted this morning that he has enabled localized theme directories for all Rosetta sites. For example, the Romanian themes directory is available at: ro.wordpress.org/themes/.

Theme filters, directory sub-navigation, info and download buttons, and other aspects of the details page are all translated. Description and titles are not yet translated, but Hulse says the plan is to add those in the near future.

romanian-themes

Those who are interested in helping translate the interface for the localized theme directories are encouraged to visit the meta translation project page. The process for contributing is the same that is used with WordPress’ other Rosetta translations.

Localized plugin directories are being actively tested at /plugins/ and the sites are also available for contributions from translators. Check out ro.wordpress.org/plugins/ to see the Romanian plugin directory as an example.

romanian-plugins

As the localized theme and plugin directories are new, there are still a few missing pieces and likely a good number of bugs that will need to be resolved. You can help by reporting them on Hulse’s announcement on the make.wordperss.org/polyglots blog or by opening a ticket on meta.trac.

In Matt Mullenweg’s 2014 State of the Word address, he highlighted the importance of internationalization improvements for connecting and growing the global WordPress community. Localized directories for plugins and themes on WordPress.org are part of this larger effort and make the project’s website easier to navigate for non-English speaking users.

In the future, translation of WordPress’ development handbooks, the codex, and other documentation could also play a large part towards inspiring international developers to make more extensions, products for the marketplace, and contributions back to the project. Growing WordPress’ market share outside of English-speaking countries will be facilitated by having all basic WordPress resources available in other languages.

by Sarah Gooding at May 20, 2015 06:37 PM under WordPress Theme Directory

Post Status: Automattic has acquired WooThemes, makers of WooCommerce

This acquisition is an important milestone for Automattic, validation for the bootstrapped WooThemes, and will be hugely impactful on the WordPress economy as a whole.

The history of WooThemes and WooCommerce

WooThemes was started in 2008 as one of the first commercial WordPress theme shops. It quickly became popular and paved the way for hundreds of shops to follow in their footsteps.

With the leadership of Adii Pienaar and co-founders Mark Forrester and Magnus Jepson, WooThemes did a ton of interesting things over the years, and dominated the market with a handful of other shops. They launched WooCommerce in September 2011, in the middle of the commercial theme heyday.

WooCommerce’s origins are a hot mess and a long story. WooThemes worked for a long time to develop, with partners, their own eCommerce solution. After numerous failed attempts and false starts, they hired Mike Jolley and Jay Koster full time, and forked JigoShop after acquisition negotiations broke down. Jigoshop is a product that Mike and Jay built as freelancers for JigoWatt, but has since been sold off to another consulting company.

Mike and Jay were, and are, the heart of that eCommerce plugin — the one we know today as WooCommerce. Under their stewardship, and dozens of other full time and part time contributors — mixed in with outstanding marketing, perfect timing, and a lack of modern competition — WooCommerce took the WordPress world by storm.

They pioneered the extension model for paid add-ons. They put all doubters to rest over and over again. They made mistakes. But they kept at it, kept working, kept making it better. And soon enough, they took the eCommerce world by storm too.

In a short period of four years, WooCommerce has gone from a struggling concept, to a fork, to a remarkable open source commercial software success story.

I’ve had the privilege of following WooThemes since around the time they started, and have gotten to know the project and their team even more closely since the very early days of WooCommerce’s launch. In this post, I bring my analysis of the company based on those years of my watching them grow and interacting with them, and hope to share what the acquisition by Automattic may mean for the future.

Why WooCommerce is attractive

On the surface, it may seem to many that Automattic was the obvious choice to acquire WooCommerce.

After all, they need eCommerce support for WordPress.com. As Matt Mullenweg shared with me, they, “have a ton of demand,” for eCommerce from WordPress.com users. Acquiring WooCommerce gives Automattic access to the largest single group of eCommerce stores in the world.

One of many options

But Mark Forrester and Magnus Jepson — co-founders and owners of WooThemes — could have gone many other routes.

WooCommerce is big enough, and has enough brand power, to have attracted significant venture capital investments, as well as suitors from well outside the WordPress space — suitors like MasterCard, eBay/Paypal, Amazon, or Yahoo.

There are 1.2+ million active installs of WooCommerce. They have a nearly 20% eCommerce marketshare of the top one million websites, and over 24% eCommerce marketshare of all websites.

woocommerce-builtwith-top-million

The plugin has had rapid growth over its short four year existence, making it a ripe target for the right buyer.

A natural fit

WooCommerce’s popularity has largely been due to the fact that it’s available on WordPress. WordPress makes WooCommerce an attractive choice for websites that need bolt-on eCommerce.

One of WooCommerce’s greatest opportunities for growth is for customers that are eCommerce first, other-parts-of-the-website second. It’s gaining ground quickly as both WooCommerce and WordPress gain further respect for usage on websites of all sizes and scopes.

All of these factors make WooCommerce an attractive choice for Automattic. Automattic’s team knows, understands, and contributes greatly to the WordPress project. A shared reliance on WordPress core makes a WooCommerce and WordPress.com integration simpler. And 55 talented, eCommerce focused employees makes for an inviting addition to Automattic’s relatively small workforce.

18% growth in Automattic employees

Bringing 55 new people on at once swells Automattic’s ranks by around 18%, bringing them to over 360 people. Recruiting is not easy. This gain of talented people, in a single fell swoop, should not be underestimated.

But there may be some challenges integrating the two teams. This is, by far, the most people brought under the Automattic umbrella in a single acquisition.

Team integration

WooThemes’ theme division and team members will join Automattic’s theme team, and it’s my understanding that WooThemes support will join the Happiness team at Automattic as well.

WooThemes has long battled a significant support burden, even before WooCommerce came along. With the demands of supporting eCommerce software that can conflict with nearly infinite plugins, themes, and hosting environments makes support expensive. As long as WooCommerce offers paid self-hosted products, this support will need to be managed.

WooCommerce will certainly benefit from the developer resources at Automattic. Matt told me, “lots of folks at Automattic [are] interested in working on eCommerce.” From code audits, to fresh eyes, to more seasoned developers, Automattic’s team will be able to have an immediate impact on the WooCommerce product line.

Merging management

One aspect I don’t know much about yet is in regard to WooThemes’ middle management. Mark and Magnus own the company, but there is a four person leadership team beyond them:

  • Joel Bronkowski, Chief Business Development Officer
  • Warren Holmes, Chief Marketing Officer
  • Matty Cohen, Chief Product Officer
  • Michael Krapf, Chief Happiness Officer

Furthermore, there are product leads for WooCommerce, Sensei, themes, and other elements of WooThemes’ business. As a company, WooThemes is probably as hierarchical as Automattic with six times fewer people.

I anticipate some managers may merge into other Automattic teams under new roles, or play a part in sub-teams of sorts, which is (I believe) how Jetpack works now that it’s such a big team.

Already distributed

WooThemes is already distributed across five continents and perfectly accustomed to remote work. While they have an office (WooHQ) in Cape Town, South Africa, it’s a “come as you please” environment, similar to Automattic’s San Francisco space.

Joining Automattic will be a much cleaner culture fit than other potential buyers would have been. Some team members will naturally leave or integrate to other roles, but the overall gain is a huge win for both organizations.

The likely end of “WooThemes” as a name

WooThemes is a staple brand of the WordPress ecosystem. They’ve been around since 2008 and probably have the biggest single brand presence after WordPress itself; I’d argue the name is more well-known than Automattic, or even perhaps ThemeForest.

For all practical purposes, I believe the name WooThemes will be retired.

WooThemes has previously considered a name change to reflect the change in their business focus, but have not done it. Under the umbrella of Automattic and WordPress.com, there is really no need to carry on the WooThemes brand.

I’m told the decision to change the name of the website hasn’t been officially made yet, but it makes no sense to me to keep WooThemes. I’d expect the website we see at WooThemes.com to before long be simply WooCommerce.com.

They better keep Hiro, the Woo Ninja though. I love that little guy.

The WooCommerce business model

The WooCommerce business model is built largely on paid extensions that offer additional eCommerce functionality, updates, and support.

The current extension model

WooThemes lists a whopping 346 paid and free extensions on their website, about 150 of which link to third party sites. The remaining 200 or so extensions are either developed in house or in partnership with third party developers, but sold on WooThemes’ website. There are also dozens, if not hundreds more, distributed plugins by other vendors that are not listed.

Companies like SkyVerge and Prospress have built their businesses on WooCommerce extension development. If the model were to change drastically, it could have a great deal of impact on them and similar companies or solo developers.

Third party developers have been told that life will be business as usual. In an email to strategic partners, Joel Bronkowski said, “There are no plans to mess with the magic sauce strategy that has brought us this far.”

A conflict of ideology

However, the model of paid plugins is also counter to Matt Mullenweg’s often stated beliefs for what commercialization in the WordPress plugin space should look like.

I asked him to explain how his mindset has changed in regard to paid plugins that charge for support and updates. Paid Automattic plugins, like Akismet and VaultPress, are based on SaaS models.

He says that his view has not changed. He told me that one goal with WooCommerce will be to determine, “what services provide the most value to people over a long period of time.” He also noted that such a question is due to the fact that many WordPress product sales are one-time.

I found his sentiment curious. He didn’t directly answer the question about paid plugins, which isn’t too surprising. It’s impossible to imagine Automattic doing away with paid extensions in the short term, but there are serious threats to third party developers in the longer term, I believe.

Expansion of partnerships with larger corporations

WooCommerce has spent a lot of time doing business development over the last couple of years. Last summer, their leadership team went to Chicago for a big eCommerce conference and had a whole new world opened up to them.

Joel told me they, “still have a lot to figure out in terms of the road ahead, but [we are] incredibly excited about what this means for us in terms of product development, partner opportunities and for WordPress powered eCommerce.”

Under the wing of Automattic and in the future WordPress.com, I think WooCommerce will be able to further leverage their position in the eCommerce market with big payment companies and other potential corporate entities.

Potential changes to the business model

I would guess that a gradual change in business model will occur over the next several years, especially in regard to extensions. WooCommerce has a dismal 17% renewal rate for extension purchases. This is a number that needs to improve, or something should change.

It may make sense — and I’m shocked I’m saying it — to make WooCommerce more like Jetpack.

If I were at Automattic, I would encourage the two teams to brainstorm and evolve together. I think a model where a credit card is connected to WordPress.com, and extensions (free and paid) can be easily activated from within the admin makes sense. It would require a lot of change to existing UIs and development infrastructure, but it could also drastically improve what is often a convoluted method for site management with so many add-ons being independently managed.

If we take the potential even further: imagine the VaultPress model of instant syncing, data tracking, and backups being heavily integrated into eCommerce stores. Such a system could be part of a monthly fee.

Extensions also don’t have to be piecemeal, or the “nickel and dime” method. Automattic could make WooCommerce a tiered payment plan, where certain levels unlock particular functionality. Or they could buyout all third party paid extensions they care about and make the entire product free or part of a single package.

The point is that Automattic purchasing WooCommerce gives them an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of how to move forward. WooCommerce store owners should be prepared for a lot of potential change.

As a bootstrapped company, WooThemes had to turn a profit. Automattic has to make the company more valuable, but does not need to care about cash day to day. Their stated goal is to make products people want to use. A very small number of people at Automattic really consider profits and losses regularly. That mindset, when applied to WooCommerce, could bring about significant change indeed.

Bringing WooCommerce to WordPress.com

An important concern over the next year or two will be how to bring WooCommerce to WordPress.com. There is little question that it will happen.

Matt Mullenweg highlighted the demand from the general WordPress.com userbase, and hosted WooCommerce would be a great answer to Squarespace’s eCommerce add-on, and the likes of Shopify and BigCartel.

Furthermore, I’m sure a number of WordPress.com VIP customers will be clamoring for WooCommerce. Automattic’s Vice President of Platform Services, Paul Maiorana, said, “VIP tends to follow the same trends as the broader WP community. Initially blogs, then CMS, now everything.” He is excited about being able to offer a more catered eCommerce experience “in house to better service those customers.”

A hosted version of WooCommerce will be a very compelling upsell for WordPress.com if they are able to pull it off well. This too, will not be easy. But they are starting with a heck of a head start, given the WooCommerce brand name, team, and existing plugin infrastructure.

What the acquisition means for other WooThemes products

WooThemes makes more than WooCommerce, however nearly all of their products today at least integrate with WooCommerce.

WooThemes’ themes will be integrated into WordPress.com’s theme offering. Eleven themes are already listed there from an existing partnership that goes back to early 2011.

The Sensei courseware plugin will also continue to be developed and maintained. Regarding Sensei, Matt Mullenweg said, “their team is passionate about it, which is kind of the criteria for what Automattic works on.”

There is a lot of potential in the course space, and I actually think this could be a nice win for Automattic in this acquisition, especially if Sensei gets additional resources and attention.

WooThemes has other active free plugins that I doubt will change much. WooSlider is their only other paid plugin, but I don’t think it makes up a considerable amount of revenue.

I wouldn’t be surprised if both WooSlider and Sensei core become free plugins.

WooThemes’ revenue and the acquisition price

Everyone wants to know: how much was WooThemes making, and how much was the acquisition for?

Re/code’s Peter Kafka has sources that say the acquisition was for, “more than $30 million in cash and stock.” I believe this to be a reasonable amount and I don’t think he’d make the claim without some confidence.

I don’t know what the terms of the deal were. I’ve tried all day to find out. The best I can do is tell you what I know, what I think I know, and guess right along with everyone else. Sounds fun, right?

I’m quite confident that WooThemes’ revenues were around $9-$10 million in 2013. I also know that they have had positive trajectory month over month growth for some time, and I have reason to believe one of their more recent record months well exceeded $1 million in revenue.

If we extrapolate the 2013 numbers with 10-20% growth, we can presume that their gross revenues are somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million annually.

Based on some feedback from people I trust, a 2x multiple of expected 2015 revenues isn’t out of the question. In typical proprietary software and product situations, that would be a low multiplier.

But in this case, WooThemes’ sends a lot of money directly to third party developers, and spends a great deal of money on development and support. Furthermore, WooCommerce isn’t proprietary, it’s open source; which while I love and advocate for it, it simply would be difficult to valuate the same as proprietary software.

Additionally, I could be naive, but in the case of Automattic I’d rather more stock than cash. They are destined for an IPO (someday) that will likely put them well beyond their latest $1.16 billion valuation, and today’s stock could be worth many times what it is now in the years to come.

Lastly, I don’t think Re/code would run a number they pulled out of thin air. I think they got that from somewhere — perhaps a VC source.

Good for both sides, but not without consequences

I firmly believe WooThemes could’ve continued to grow WooCommerce to be worth $100 million or more. But it would’ve likely been a long and challenging road.

Under the Automattic umbrella, they have a great shot to continue making an awesome eCommerce product without some of their current burdens and with some outstanding new resources.

Meanwhile, especially if the $30-$35 million price is correct, I think Automattic got a steal. It’s a brilliant way into a huge market with a major player.

There are potential downsides to this purchase. For one, it makes Automattic further feel like a vacuum that inevitably sucks up the best talent, agencies, and products once they showcase their potential for success.

WooThemes was the bastion all other bootstrapped WordPress products stood behind. Knowing it’s possible to do something as big as WooThemes was doing, without funding and starting from nothing, is awesome.

Seeing them snatched up by Automattic around the time they’ve become nearly ubiquitous with the term “WordPress eCommerce” is kind of a bummer. It’s like we now have to start over again to see what WordPress centric product company can grow big enough to stand beside Automattic, not under it.

I also have some fear that if Automattic rocks the boat too much with WooCommerce it will cause some big inroads WordPress has made in self-hosted eCommerce to be lost.

My concerns are relatively minor. Would I have loved to see WooThemes continue to grow and dominate eCommerce alone? Yes. Am I excited by what this deal makes possible? Yes. Am I a little concerned what it will do to the WordPress economy? Yes.

We must all weigh the pros and cons of any decision. For Mark, Magnus, and the WooThemes team, this is a move that is good for them during this time, and will likely be good for the company they started seven years ago.

For Automattic, this is a heck of a way to round out their first decade in business. It’ll be really interesting to see what the next decade holds in store, but I bet Automattic will look a lot different then, like they do now compared to 2005.

Congratulations to both teams. You can read the announcements on Matt’s blog and WooThemes’ blog.

Photo credit: Matt Mullenweg

by Brian Krogsgard at May 20, 2015 07:15 AM under Everyone

May 19, 2015

WPTavern: Automattic Acquires WooCommerce

photo credit: Ma.tt - photo credit: Ma.tt – “A Celebratory Toast

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg announced today that the company has acquired WooCommerce, WordPress’ most popular e-commerce platform. The plugin recently passed seven million downloads and stats from BuiltWith show that WooCommerce is dominating global e-commerce platforms, powering roughly 30% of all online stores.

This is Automattic’s largest acquisition to date, bringing 55 new employees into the company from 16 countries for a total of 370 Automatticians. Mullenweg confirmed that the acquisition includes Woo, Sensei, and all of the other plugins and themes.

Given WooCommerce’s extensive adoption on the web, Automattic will not be re-branding the newly acquired products. WooThemes and WooCommerce will continue to be sold via their dedicated websites.

“We’re planning on retaining (and growing) the WooCommerce brand,” Mullenweg told the Tavern. “The plan is to keep what has been working going.”

Mullenweg has spoken frequently over the years about growing Automattic’s reach into global commerce, but few could have predicted that the company would acquire Woo as opposed to building its own in-house commerce platform.

“They have a full team that goes to bed every night and wakes up in the morning thinking about commerce; it’s core to their DNA,” Mullenweg said. “That’s better than starting it in-house. Also they have a ton of adoption already.”

In April, WooThemes co-founder Magnus Jepson told the Tavern that WooCommerce accounts for over 85% of overall sales and processes “several million dollars per year.” Jepson also confirmed that WooCommerce’s revenue “has been climbing steadily over the past few years, and we are regularly breaking monthly revenue records.”

Automattic is not releasing the financial details of the acquisition, but Re/code speculates that it was in the range of $30 million:

Sources say Automattic will spend more than $30 million in cash and stock to buy the 55-person company. Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg wouldn’t comment on the price but said the acquisition was the largest his company had made, ‘by about 6x.’

In addition to growing the current WooCommerce customer base, Automattic is looking to use the platform to add more selling options for WordPress.com customers, while retaining its existing e-commerce partnerships.

“Partnerships will remain in place on WP.com, but long-term we’d like to offer Woo as an option there as well,” Mullenweg said.

When asked about plans to integrate WooCommerce into Jetpack, he said, “Jetpack could definitely complement WooCommerce (and WooThemes), but not the other way around.”

WooThemes founders never imagined that WooCommerce would rise to the level of popularity that it has, ultimately bringing them into the Automattic family. Co-founder Mark Forrester writes:

In 2008, as three strangers in three countries, we set out on a quest to pioneer WordPress commercial theming, never dreaming of the rocket-propelled voyage into the self-hosted eCommerce unknown that lay ahead. It’s been an incredible ride, backed by a unique community, and here we find ourselves powering over 24% of online stores with our flagship product, WooCommerce.

The acquisition affects a whole fleet of third-party designers and developers who create products for WooCommerce. They will likely have more opportunities and sales ahead of them with the power of Automattic behind the core plugin. Mullenweg confirmed that the next WooConf, scheduled to take place in Austin in November, will continue on as planned. Those who are heavily involved in the WooCommerce ecosystem will still be able to connect and build for the platform as they have done previously.

Democratizing Selling with WooCommerce

With Automattic now at the helm of the most dominant e-commerce platform on the web, it will be interesting to see if the company can make selling online just as simple as it has made publishing online. WordPress.com’s tremendous success can be partially attributed to the company’s commitment to democratizing publishing.

“I do believe that the web needs an open, independent and easy-to-use commerce platform that you can run yourself on your own website,” Mullenweg said in his video announcement, the first video ever to be published to Automattic’s YouTube account.

Publishing products and selling them on the web is arguably a more complex endeavor than simple publishing, especially when you factor in location, tax, payment gateways, and everything needed to process transactions. The average non-developer has no concept of what it takes to set up a blog, let alone an online store. But if Automattic can play a part in democratizing the ability for regular folks to sell products online, it has the potential to globally transform e-commerce.

by Sarah Gooding at May 19, 2015 09:15 PM under woothemes

Matt: Woo & Automattic

For years, we’ve been working on democratizing publishing, and today more people have independent sites built on open source software than ever before in the history of the web. Now, we want to make it easy for anyone to sell online independently, without being locked into closed, centralized services — to enable freedom of livelihood along with freedom of expression.

It’s not a new idea: at a WordCamp a few years ago, someone stood up and asked me when we were going to make it as easy to create an online store as we’d made it to create a blog. Everyone applauded; there’s long been demand for better ecommerce functionality, but it’s been outside the scope of what Automattic could do well.

That changes today — drum roll — as WooCommerce joins the Automattic team to make it easier for people to sell online. Along with Woo’s announcement, here’s a short video explaining more:

In the past few years, WooCommerce really distinguished itself in its field. Just like WordPress as a whole, it developed a robust community around its software, and its products meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Woo is also a team after Automattic’s own distributed heart: WooCommerce is created and supported by 55 people in 16 countries. Added to Automattic’s 325 people in 37 countries, that’s a combined 380-person company across 42 countries — the sun never sets.* I can’t wait to meet all my new colleagues.

Just like us, the vast majority of WooCommerce’s work is also open source and 100% GPL. And just like WordPress, you’ll find WooCommerce meetups popping up everywhere, from Los Angeles to London, and its global and community-focused work together to make the users’ experiences the best they can be.

ecomm-trends The stats are impressive: the WooCommerce plugin has over 7.5 million downloads and a million+ active installs; BuiltWith’s survey of ecommerce platforms shows Woo passing up Magento in the top million, with about triple the number of total sites. Even a conservative estimate that WooCommerce powers 650,000 storefronts means they’re enabling a huge number of independent sellers. They’ve added a tremendous amount to the WordPress ecosystem (alongside everyone else working in this area).

WordPress currently powers about 23% of the web. As we work our way toward 51%, WooCommerce joining Automattic is a big step opening WordPress up to an entirely new audience. I can’t wait to see how much more we can build together.

Automattic turns ten next month: another amazing milestone I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. Today’s news is just the first of a number of announcements we have planned for the remainder of the year, so please stay tuned! There’s still so much work to do.

* Want to work with us? We’re hiring. Bonus points if you live in Antarctica, the only continent we don’t have covered.

As I said in the video, please drop any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll answer them as soon as I can. Also check out the posts from Mark and Magnus.

Read more: Mashable, Recode, Techcrunch, Venturebeat.

by Matt at May 19, 2015 06:59 PM under Automattic

WPTavern: WordPress Cape Town to Host 2nd Annual Charity Hackathon in June

wordpress-cape-town-charity-hackathon-2015

Last August, the WordPress Cape Town meetup group experimented with hosting its first charity hackathon to benefit local charities. The do_action( ‘wordpress-charity-hackathon’ ); event was so successful in 2014 that organizers were inspired to make it an annual event. The 2015 hackathon is scheduled for June 20th from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

“With a team of nearly 50 volunteers from the community, we built brand new websites for nine different charitable organizations and we will be doing the same again this year,” said Hugh Lashbrooke, an organizer for the event.

The concept will be the same as the previous year – volunteers will build sites for nine Capetown-based charities, giving each their own unique online presence by the end of the day.

A few examples of websites built by the volunteers last year include:

“The charities this year are equally as deserving and spread across the whole spectrum of society again,” Lashbrooke said. The 2015 charities list includes organizations such as the Academy for Adults with Autism, FoodBank South Africa, and the Down Syndrome Inclusive Education Foundation NPC.

Sponsors this year include Hetzner, Obox, and WooThemes. Their generous contributions will help to provide snacks, lunch, dinner, and a prize for the team that builds the best site of the day. All attendees will also receive a ticket to WordCamp Cape Town 2015.

“We are still looking for volunteers (there are about 20 spots left at the time of writing this) and it’s important to note that we are not just looking for developers here,” he said. “This is open to Project Managers, Designers, Developers, Content Creators, and Social Media Managers, as all of those individuals are needed to bring a complete website together (especially when it is all being done in one day.)”

If you’re in the Cape Town area and you’d like to be part of this event, you can select a charity team to work on and specify your role when filling out the volunteer application form. Check out the recap video below for a closer look at attendees’ experiences from last year’s event.

by Sarah Gooding at May 19, 2015 06:49 PM under wordpress cape town

WPTavern: Short Survey on Which WordCamp Organizer Tools to Improve First

In the past several months, the Make WordPress Community team has engaged in numerous discussions with WordCamp organizers on how they can improve the tools that are available. Those discussions include:

The team has created a six question survey to gather data to determine what tools should be worked on or improved first. If you’ve worked with any of the tools available on WordCamp.org within the last 18 months, you’re strongly encouraged to take the survey.

WordCamp Tools Survey QuestionWordCamp Tools Survey Question

The last section has two questions that are open-ended to allow for feedback that extends beyond the tools in question. This is an excellent opportunity for WordCamp organizers to voice their opinion on what direction the team should take on creating and improving the tools available to them. It’s also a way to tell the team which tools you want to see created that don’t already exist.

by Jeff Chandler at May 19, 2015 06:36 PM under wordcamp survey

Matt: How to Get Yourself to Do Things

How to Get Yourself to Do Things. Hat tip: Alex.

by Matt at May 19, 2015 05:16 AM under Asides

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May 28, 2015 03:30 PM
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