Category Archives: WordPress

Devin Reams, Alex King, Shane Pearlman at dinner with WP Engine

My Biggest Take-Aways from WordCamp San Francisco 2013

My biggest take-aways from WordCamp San Francisco 2013 were:

  • 2 water bottles
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 10 stickers
  • 2 pair of sunglasses

…but seriously, the sessions I attended were great and I was able to see the direction that the WordPress project and community are headed. All while having some serious (and fun) discussions (with beverages).

Devin Reams, Alex King, Shane Pearlman at dinner with WP Engine

Devin, Alex, Shane at dinner with WP Engine. Photo credit Raquel Landefeld

Here are some of my highlights from a ‘project’ perspective (and perhaps less technical):

git is coming

The tool makes development easier for a number of developers and, if we’re already doing other work with git, why not WordPress development? Sure, Otto says there’s nothing that can’t be done in subversion, but I think this will also help lower a barrier to entry for new developers and contributors.

the project continues to grow up

The lego diagram that Matt showed during his keynote closely matches a metaphor I’ve been working on with the Crowd Favorite team on our WordPress page on our in-progress website redesign. Thinking about WordPress as a platform — which on top of that is a CMS, which on top of that is a blog — is an interesting way to think about the project’s direction and I hope it starts to drive more of the core design and development decisions (and not simply blog-centric decisions that would have us chasing after competitors like Medium and Squarespace).

More technically speaking, there were also some good conversations started around re-organizing the project code and even Open Sourcing more of the project website ( and the tools themselves. It’ll be fun to keep these efforts moving, mature the operations, and make it easier for others to join and contribute to the project.

we should stop accepting bad practices

I think this point dovetails nicely from the previous two: do the right things, do the best things, and don’t get dragged down by the least common denominator. I think we’ll see this affect decision making for years to come and look back at 2013 as when a lot of this began.

Mark Jaquith’s talk also showed a lot of people the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving known problems: botched deploys, late-night deploys, losing code changes, having proper testing environments, and so on.

project management is hard

The greatest engineers are not necessarily the greatest project managers. A lot of people have acted in various capacities as ‘leads’ and ‘representatives’ and so on but I think we’ll start to see more prioritization, active scheduling, management, accountability, process, and so on. There are pros and cons to having everyone and anyone “contribute” and there is room for improvement. It’ll be an experiment as we go into development of versions 3.7 and 3.8 to see how changes in process and management affect the overall project momentum, quality, and so on.

But most of all, it’s fun to come together and chat with friends (new and old) and talk about how things are going, where things are headed, where we’ve all been, and trade notes on personal and professional subjects alike. Here’s to another great WordCamp San Francisco.


I found some confusion an interesting discussion over on WordPress Tavern around Post Formats:

I used post formats for a few months on and I’ve made a few conclusions. The first is that post formats encourage short form content. Not only is short form content easy to do, it also promotes creating a fire hose of content. The second, the majority of people were reading via their favorite feedreader. Feedreaders don’t display content the same as a website. Third, some of the formats I selected displayed on the home page without a post title or an ability to comment. I think this had more to do with how my theme was displaying the formats more than anything else. Last but not least, I started treating post formats as categories.

Here are my thoughts and response republished:

As Chip has described, the concept of a “format” really just started as supported taxonomy to allow theme developers to apply consistent treatment across any blog (instead of one theme using post meta, one using a category, etc.).

Jump forward to (the in-progress) version 3.6 of WordPress and everyone has come to the same conclusion and realized there is more nuance and potential. What if this is a video post and my theme wants the video on top of the content and her theme wants it below? Standardized meta1 on that allows for more interesting things and the ability to solve more interesting problems.

To Rob’s point, the initial implementation was confusing, but we (Crowd Favorite) created the FavePersonal theme and the Post Formats UI plugin because if we standardized on meta and fields, we could do fun stuff in the loop views, single views, and feed very easily (eg: put a full width image on the single view of “Image” posts and drop the sidebar, replace the permalink in the feed with the “Link URL” a la Daring Fireball or other linkblogs, etc.).

Hopefully this leads to more interesting uses of WordPress in the near future…

  1. I don’t think the PressThis bookmarklet has done us a good long-term service here because now some display is coupled to the_content and for others the theme itself. 

The team at Crowd Favorite has been working on a solution to a problem a lot of designers and developers (and folks that work with designers and developers) didn’t quite realize they had: when working on a project you typically take notes on the side… but you usually throw that away and lose the snippets of code, outlines of todos, open questions and decisions, etc.

Capsule replaces that scratch document you have open when you’re coding. It creates an archive of your development artifacts.

Instead of keeping a text file open when working on a project, using Capsule means you can have a simple archive of all those notes and easily reference them in the future.

Initial reactions and reception have been very positive from the development and WordPress community so we’re all very pleased.

Be sure to check out Alex’s post on Capsule to read more about the thinking and decisions behind this (free) product.


I’m quite happy to hear that the folks behind Simplenote will be joining the team at Automattic as I know it means the native iOS mobile blogging experience for WordPress users will improve1.

I’ve found the official WordPress iOS app to be unusable or very buggy for most of its lifetime (posts appear ‘drafted’ when published and can be accidentally published multiple times, integrations with Stats not working with multiple JetPack sites on one account, push notifications not ‘clearing’ correctly).

Back to my thoughts on WordPress as a “product or platform”: it seems that the folks at Automattic are de-facto maintainers and sole contributors to the iOS app. Perhaps maintaining Open Source iOS app projects is less attainable since its (currently) less accessible for folks to contribute to?

  1. Side note: I stop using SimpleNote long ago after a mis-sync on a new device (with no “notes”) unintentionally deleted all of my existing notes on the server. 

Is WordPress a development platform or a product?

I’m not sure if I’m thinking about the WordPress Open Source project and its “competition” the right way…

Two years ago, Alex wrote some thoughts about how we discuss WordPress as both a product and a platform with potential clients:

Some people view WordPress as a CMS platform to build on. They want us to help them create a website, service, etc. and they see WordPress as a platform that their idea can be built on […] On the other side of the spectrum are people who come to us viewing WordPress (and the thousands of plugins that themes that are available for it) as a product. These folks typically are looking to create a website with a certain feature set and may already have in mind a collection of existing plugins that they think may be useful for creating these features.

As you’re likely aware, the lines are blurry between WordPress being a “product” and a “platform” because WordPress means a lot of things to a lot of people now (even more so than two years ago when Alex wrote that article): is a different experience than downloading the Open Source package. WordPress that your roommate uses to blog about traveling abroad is probably set up very differently from WordPress that large publishers have customized for their daily use. Some sites use WordPress with no customizations and are very popular whereas some WordPress sites use many plugins and features and are quantifiably unpopular. Some companies run WordPress on their own web hosting servers whereas some folks may log in to WordPress installed on someone else’s servers. Some folks want to enable features and expect everything to work “off the shelf” while others anticipate needing resources to get their exact configuration in place. Some folks build businesses and platforms and products on top of WordPress, while others expect it to work as it says on the label. Sophisticated APIs can be created with WordPress, while beautiful photography portfolios can, too.

This means WordPress is up against a lot of competitors: paid services like Squarespace, free services like Blogger, other Open Source content management systems like Drupal, web development frameworks like Ruby on Rails, social networks like Facebook, etc.

I think this all leads to my point: making decisions for a “platform” can be much harder and much more different than a “product”. Does the WordPress Open Source project have “split personality” disorder based on its blogging (product) origins? Has it grown to warrant the kind of management and architecture decision making like a Ruby on Rails (platform)? Is it possible to exist both as a content management development framework and a publishing product?

That question is probably too hard to answer today.. maybe instead the point I was getting at previously is this: I think it’s worth defining “the competition” at the Open Source project level (are they products, services, or other platforms?) so that future design goals and decisions can be measured against it.

Without this kind of concrete direction, I feel that the project could experience severe cognitive dissonance and the product-platform chasm will only grow wider.

What competition is WordPress up against?

From Steven Sinofsky, regarding his recent use of an iPhone1:

Obviously you should use a competitive product. You should know what you’re up against when a consumer (or business) ultimately faces a buying decision. They will weigh a wide array of factors and you should be aware of those not only for the purposes of sales and marketing but when you are designing your products.

I can think of at least two big competitors that the WordPress Open Source project will continue to face in the coming year (and beyond):

1. User-friendly publishing tools attracting casual and professional writers, photographers, etc.

Svbtle, Medium, and Branch are all aiming to increase the level of discourse and quality of content on the web … and they’re all new since 2012. Not to mention the existing social networks like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook which continue to gain more attention and raise the expectations on what “web” experiences should be like.

That said, WordPress has recently focused on features like “distraction free writing” and theme customization options. Will the ecosystem of plugins and themes remain best suited to compete against and solve the problems these newcomers bring? Recent discussion around the “Post Formats” user interface suggest so, but is that fast enough to compete?

2. Content management systems targeting different website verticals

While existing “content management systems” are certainly still worth considering, it seems market share is moving in favor of WordPress. With that shift, newcomers will spot the opportunities to fill voids and can more readily create robust, user-friendly, niche-targeted services and products such as the folks at Squarespace and Virb.

Those aside, there are plenty of sites in the Showcase that help show the robust, multidisciplinary nature of WordPress. Should the marketing and attraction of new users continue to be left to the fragmented group of startups, freelancers, consultancies, and agencies building sites, products, and services with WordPress? Certainly, that’s part of the joy of open source. But, is the “development platform” able to allow those folks to continue to be competitive?

I only mean to ask more questions than provide answers or ideas here. I’m not sure if I’m thinking about this the right way…

  1. a “big deal” as he previously led the Windows division at Microsoft 


I’m very proud of the team at Crowd Favorite and the great work they did alongside the Simpson College PR team. Everything from the design, to the way the content is managed is exactly the kind of elegant work we’re excited to work on every day. Check out the new site at