06 Mar 2015

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: Insight Into WordPress Communities Around The World

KInsta WordPress Communities Featured Image

One of the greatest things about WordPress is its diverse community throughout the world. Kinsta has published a fantastic and inspirational post that looks at up and coming WordPress communities in 5 continents and 17 countries.

My favorite story is Juanfra Aldasoro, co-organizer of WordCamp Buenos Aires, describing how the WordPress community in Argentina was organized. In 2007, Buenos Aires hosted the first WordCamp outside the US. Despite hosting a few more WordCamps, the community lacked organization. Aldasoro explains how celebrating WordPress' 10th anniversary brought the right group of people together:

When WordPress turned 10, in May of 2013, thanks to a banner in the Codex site we created a celebration meetup. More than 20 people showed up, and the good thing was that we were a bunch of geeks on the same track. We had the people but we were lacking an organization. The ones interested in having an organized community kept in touch, we formed WordPress Argentina (@wpargentina) and during 2014 we started to hold more formal monthly meetups.

One of the things I noticed is that several of the people featured in the article use Facebook groups for communication. Although a number of US based WordPress meetups use Meetup.com, in other countries, Facebook appears to be the dominant way to communicate and organize members.

Meetups are grassroots efforts that help WordPress reach every corner of the globe. As Matt Mullenweg said during his 2014 State of The Word presentation, "Organizing a meetup is one of the hardest things to do in terms of contributing to WordPress. Every single month, you have to come up with new stuff." Those who help maintain community as a pillar of WordPress' success are helping to maintain its growth and popularity.

It's exciting to think about the enormous amount of WordPress education, contributions, and learning that takes place across the world everyday, thanks in large part to people like those featured in the article. It's wonderful to see so many WordPress communities around the world growing in size to the point of having their own WordCamps.

If you're having trouble organizing a WordPress meetup in your area, let us know in the comments. Thousands of people across the world access the Tavern on a daily basis and we might be able to help connect you to others in your area.

06 Mar 2015 5:16am GMT

Matt: Kanye on Color

Speaking of color masculinity, here's Kanye on creativity, society, and color from his 2008 FADER interview:

I feel like all the words are in you, you're just blocking yourself, you're blocking your creativity. Society has put up so many boundaries, so many limitations on what's right and wrong that it's almost impossible to get a pure thought out. It's like a little kid, a little boy, looking at colors, and no one told him what colors are good, before somebody tells you you shouldn't like pink because that's for girls, or you'd instantly become a gay two-year-old. Why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color. Everyone's born confident, and everything's taken away from you. So many people try to put their personality on someone else.

06 Mar 2015 4:19am GMT

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 182 – John James Jacoby Talks BuddyPress, bbPress, and GlotPress

John James Jacoby is nearly halfway through his six month development cycle on BuddyPress, bbPress, and GlotPress. So, Marcus Couch and I invited him on the show to give us an update on how things are progressing. On average, WordPress Weekly is an hour-long. This episode however, is two hours and nine minutes, but is filled with deep conversations surrounding each project.

In this episode, we learn the history of BuddyPress and how its connection to WordPress MU (WordPress Multisite), influenced the project's direction. Jacoby explains what GlotPress is and why its a cornerstone of the WordPress project. We discuss the future of comments on the web and the role bbPress can play in turning things around. Last but not least, we discuss whether Jacoby's successful crowdfunding campaign has opened the door for others who need funding to work on open source projects.

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

BuddyPress Identicons automatically replaces default avatars with GitHub-style identicons. Each member's identicon is likely to be unique, because it's generated from a hash of their username.

BuddyPress Cover Photo allows users to upload a cover photo to their profile.

Friends For bbPress allows users to add friends in bbPress forums. This plugin creates a section on each user's profile page that contains their friends.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, March 11th 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 #182:

06 Mar 2015 1:22am GMT

WPTavern: Wocker: Create a Docker-Based WordPress Development Environment in 3 Seconds


If you haven't caught on to the Docker craze, it might be time to see what it's all about. Fans of the open source container technology appreciate that it's lightweight, super fast to boot up, and easy to share containers through the Docker Hub.

Docker standardizes an app platform and its dependencies so you can hand the box over to another party without worrying about conflicting dependencies or differences between machines. While virtual machines can be rather weighty with an application plus an entire guest operating system, Docker is much lighter, containing just the application and its dependencies.

Introducing Wocker

Vagrant 1.6.0, released last May, introduced support for Docker-based development environments, enabling Vagrant to manage them within Docker-powered Linux containers, instead of virtual machines.

WordPress developers who want to incorporate Docker into their workflow now have a new tool at their disposal. Wocker is a Docker-based rapid development environment of WordPress.

If you already have Vagrant, VirtualBox, and the vagrant-hostsupdater plugin installed, then getting started with Wocker takes next to no time. Simply clone the Wocker repository:

$ git clone https://github.com/wckr/wocker.git && cd wocker

Then run vagrant up. You can now navigate to your Wocker development site at: http://wocker.dev/. Here you'll find the latest version of WordPress installed with the default theme active.


Running a new Wocker container takes just three seconds:

core@wocker ~ $ wocker run --name wp

The tasks of creating a new container, restarting a stopped container, or shutting down, can all be done in a matter of seconds with Wocker commands.

Kite Koga on Creating Wocker

Japanese WordPress developer Kite Koga created Wocker to speed up his own development. Koga is also the organizer of the upcoming WordCamp Kansai 2015.

"I used to use MAMP and VCCW for developing on WordPress," Koga said. "MAMP is simple and easy but I have to download or copy WordPress core and create a database every time. VCCW is a great tool, and I still use it now and then. It has a lot of options and functions but takes awhile to provision."

Koga also experimented with using VVV before creating Wocker. "Maybe VVV is good for developing WordPress core, but I feel it's not fit for developing on WordPress. It takes too long to provision every time," he said.

"Ultimately, I found that Docker was a good choice for me," Koga said. "Once I have a Docker image, it takes only three seconds for every new WordPress container. However, Docker is a little tricky, and the command line is complex. Therefore, I made the Wocker command line to run containers and sync files with local more easily."

Wocker is intentionally simple and limited to just a handful of options, as Koga's primary objective was to make it super fast to create a new WordPress development environment. One drawback is that you cannot run two or more containers at the same time, but it takes just seconds to switch between containers.

Koga summarized the main reasons that he opted to use Vagrant to manage Docker deployments:

  1. I could write some provision scripts in the Vagrantfile, so users only have to do `$ vagrant up`
  2. It was easier to map hostnames to IP addresses.
  3. Vagrant with CoreOS was simpler to manage Docker images and containers than boot2docker.
  4. To sync files between local machine, virtual machine, and the Docker container was tricky, so I made Wocker commands to make it easier.

If you want to test out Wocker and find that it's not for you, it's easy and fast to uninstall. Simply run $ vagrant destroy to remove the Wocker folder, and your local machine will always be clean.

I tested Wocker and found that it was insanely fast to create new containers (as well as restart existing ones), a task for which I would require an extra utility (such as Variable VVV) to perform with VVV. If you find VVV to be too slow and want to check out an alternative, Wocker provides a faster way to set up simple development environments.

06 Mar 2015 12:52am GMT

05 Mar 2015

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: WordCamp Europe Now Taking Applications for 2016 Host City


Organizing an event the size of WordCamp Europe is a year-round endeavor. The 2015 event is just four months away, speaker applications are closed, and the organization team is already asking for applications for the next host city. So far, the camp has been held in Leiden and Sofia, and will come to Seville in June.

Applying to host WordCamp Europe is similar to applying to be an Olympic city. Local WordPress communities in potential host cities must submit applications, including a budget and a convincing plan. Organizers scrutinize the applications for the following factors:

This year Seville, Spain was selected as the host city after a short bidding process. WordCamp Central requested the event be scheduled earlier in the year to avoid calendar conflicts. This was an unusual turn of events but organizers are committed to re-instituting a public bidding process for all future events.

WordCamp Europe to Pilot New Organizer Mentorship Program

For months in advance, an all-star lineup of WordCamp organizers from around Europe put their heads together, sharing their experiences to plan the best event possible.

"Organizing WordCamp Europe is both a pleasure and a challenge," co-organizer Petya Raykovska told the Tavern. "What's great about it is that you get to work with experienced WordCamp organizers from across Europe. Each organizer brings their own knowledge and perspective to the organizing team which makes it a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow."

The event has traditionally highlighted the diversity of the European WordPress community and its attendees' eagerness to connect beyond boundaries.

"It's a challenge because each of us has our own way of doing things and we have to learn how to listen to each other and compromise," Raykovska said. "And, of course, there are all of those idioms that don't cross language and cultural barriers!"

New WordCamp Europe organizers should be equipped with a solid grasp of diplomacy and the ability to work with others across cultural differences.

This year the current organization team plans to experiment with a mentorship program that would prepare the next crop of organizers to take the helm in 2016.

"We're introducing a new process that we hope will help not only find the best team for next year, but will also be a pilot for a mentorship program for future WordCamp Europe (or any large 600+ people WordPress event) events," Raykovska said.

"So what we want to do in 2015 is choose the team for 2016 and get them to work with us for the 2015 edition, so they can get to know what it takes, get introduced to the processes, work closely with the existing team and monitor what's required of the local team."

Current organizers are prioritizing mentoring new additions in order to create a seamless transition from one organizational team to the next. Instead of learning the ropes at the last minute, new organizers will have the opportunity to see how it works without all of the pressure.

"We believe it will be highly beneficial for them and will ensure smooth sailing for next year's organisation," Raykovska said.

05 Mar 2015 7:32pm GMT

WPTavern: New Theme Development Company Makes First Sale Minutes After Being Approved on ThemeForest

Warriors Of Code is a new WordPress theme development shop in Australia. An employee who goes by the name Genesisfan on Reddit, published a post explaining how the company recently had its first theme accepted on ThemeForest and was willing to answer questions others had about the experience. According to the post, he spent the better part of six months with a designer he hired while working a full-time job developing Broadsword.

BroadSword Single Page ViewBroadSword Single Page View

When asked what he thought of the ThemeForest submission and review process, he responded, "We were pleasantly surprised with how quickly they turned around our review, and the level of detail they provided in their soft rejection. Aside from some technicalities that we'd missed (being more specific about what features we supported), the biggest issue was that we were missing some data validation in our files. Make sure you use the esc_ and sanitize_ functions provided by WordPress!"

Once the issues were addressed, ThemeForest approved the submission and the team made its first sale within minutes of it going live. When asked what makes their theme different in the marketplace, he responded, "We kept the theme options to a minimum. We were both pretty tired of themes that include a thousand options and tend to be more like frameworks than standalone themes."

Based on stats that highlight how well ThemeForest is doing, it's not surprising that Warriors of code made their first sale within minutes of going live. However, the company used social media to its advantage, so it's possible one their followers purchased the theme based on tweets. In fact, the company explains how they handled promotion:

Regarding promotion, we've been tweeting it out and liking the facebook page we've set up and luckily, it's now trending on ThemeForest. It helps that I'm on the east coast of Canada and my partner is in Sydney, Australia, so we're able to pretty much cover comment replies quickly at any time of the day. I think that goes a long way to helping promote a positive vibe about the theme.

After 24 hours, the company has six sales at $43 each. It's not a huge amount, but it's a start. The big takeaways is that ThemeForest reviews are catching insecure coding practices and making the first sale is a quick endeavor, especially if you already have a social media presence. The company answers several other questions related to the experience.

We know that in this instance, ThemeForest did its job to discover insecure coding practices during reviews. It's also refreshing to hear from an up and coming theme company that they're tired of theme options. I haven't used their product so I can't confirm if its claims are true, but it's a step in the right direction to see other ThemeForest sellers make such statements in public.

05 Mar 2015 7:33am GMT

Matt: WIRED Re-launch

There's the smart publishers, and then there's the ones going out of business. WIRED is one of the smart ones, and just launched an awesome redesign on WordPress. From their editor-in-chief:

Back in 1994 we launched Hotwired, the first site with original editorial content created for the web. It was a digital home for reporting on the future of science, business, design, and technology. You've come to trust us over the past two decades, but our growth online has sometimes come too quickly and with some pain. When I took over as editor in chief in 2012, WIRED had an archive of more than 100,000 stories. That's good! But they were spread out over more than a dozen different databases, sections, and homepages tenuously connected by virtual duct tape and chewing gum. The cleanup process-onerous and without a shred of glamour-took almost 15 months. But finally, last year, our engineers rolled out a newly unified site architecture built atop a single streamlined WordPress installation. And you didn't notice a hiccup. Maybe you saw that pages loaded a touch faster. Stories looked more WIRED.

The story of the engineering behind it from Kathleen Vignos is also cool:

The redesign gives us the third incarnation of our Curator application, which started years ago as a separate Groovy on Grails application maintained by a single Java developer. Curator once consumed articles from 35 different blogs for curation on our homepage. When we migrated our 17 active WordPress blogs into one WordPress install, we also rewrote Curator in Cake PHP to match our WordPress PHP backend. After this, anyone on our team could maintain Curator-but the architecture remained the same and lived outside of WordPress. Using this version of Curator, our web producer team manually constructed the homepage throughout each day as various stories were ready to be promoted.

Our new and improved Curator is now a custom WordPress plugin-and it's artificially intelligent! This allows our homepage and section landing pages to be both automated and curated at the same time. Stories flow through automagically based on editorial criteria, but editors can take control of the flow by locking stories in certain slots in our card system. This means our homepage and section landing pages are constantly changing with new stories all day long.

Curator sounds cool, as does the coming "longform feature article builder."

05 Mar 2015 2:36am GMT

WPTavern: Ninja Forms 2.9 Ships With Major Performance Improvements

Ninja Forms Featured Image

Ninja Forms 2.9 is available and features an improved user experience along with major performance enhancements. One of the biggest performance problems 2.9 solves is handling large forms. Prior to 2.9, users had to edit a php.ini file to handle the increased amount of server resources needed to process long forms, something many shared webhosts don't allow. According to Kevin Stover, lead developer of Ninja Forms, 2.9 not only solves this problem, but the form builder is more efficient overall.

In our local tests, a 578 field form was 12.8mb and took 33.52 seconds to load. (It also occasionally crashed our browser.) In version 2.9, the same form was only 1.2mb and took only 1.41 seconds to load. We call that progress.

The user experience is vastly improved compared to earlier versions of the plugin. Now when you edit an existing form or want to create a new one, you're taken to the form builder instead of a page filled with confusing settings. After installing Ninja Forms, it took less than five minutes to recreate the Tavern's contact form.

Ninja Forms 2.9 User InterfaceNinja Forms 2.9 User Interface

A small but noticeable change is that, when you create a new form without a submit button and save it, a model window pops up reminding you to add one. Or, you can let Ninja Forms add it automatically. It's hard to make a form useful without a submit button!

Ninja Forms 2.9 Submit ButtonNinja Forms 2.9 Submit Button Reminder

One of the major changes to the form building experience is configuring fields. In previous versions of Ninja Forms, all of the configuration options for fields were in view which felt overwhelming. In Ninja Forms 2.9, field options are hidden behind drop down menus that are closed by default. This allows you to configure them at your own pace.

Ninja Forms 2.9 Field SettingsNinja Forms 2.9 Field Settings

Overall, Ninja Forms 2.9 is a solid release and offers a better experience than its predecessors. I found it easier to build forms without having to rely on documentation. Stover says this release, "lays the groundwork for even better stuff to come down the road." You can download Ninja Forms free from the WordPress plugin directory.

To learn more about James Laws, Co-founder of WP Ninjas and his company, listen to episode 179 of WordPress Weekly. In the show, we discuss some of the improvements that made it into Ninja Forms 2.9.

Ninja Forms Featured Imagehttp://wptavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/EPISODE-179-Interview-With-James-Laws-Co-Founder-of-WP-Ninjas.mp3

05 Mar 2015 12:32am GMT

04 Mar 2015

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: BuddyPress 2.3 Development Kicks Off, Contributors Prioritize Work on New APIs


The BuddyPress 2.3 development cycle is now in full swing, following a successful 2.2.1 maintenance release that broke the plugin's one-day download record with more than 10,000 downloads in just 24 hours. More minor fixes are on deck for inclusion in the forthcoming 2.2.2 release.

This week contributors identified priorities for new features and improvements to work on for the 2.3 development cycle. Updates to BuddyPress' existing APIs and work on the following new APIs commenced this week:

New APIs would make it possible for BuddyPress developers to build extensions that bring in more exciting features, such as a core-supported way to manage media/user galleries, local avatar management, invitation capabilities for groups, sites, blogs, docs, etc. The APIs give developers a way to custom tailor those experiences for their communities.

While none of these APIs and improvements are yet guaranteed to make it into 2.3, contributors have hammered out the tickets they will be investing in during the next three months. The official release is currently targeted for the end of May, 2015. To follow progress on tickets for the 2.3 milestone, check out the roadmap on BuddyPress trac.

04 Mar 2015 10:10pm GMT

Post Status: Adii Pienaar is making a WordPress comeback with stake in Obox

Adii Pienaar has been largely away from the WordPress community for much of the last year and a half. He's one of three co-founders of WooThemes and was instrumental in their growth and success they achieved from 2008 until his departure in late 2013.

Today, Adii is making the second step of his WordPress comeback. In addition to Receiptful - his new eCommerce receipts product - he's taking on an advisory role with Obox, to go along with a cash investment in the company.

Obox is based in Cape Town, South Africa - where Adii and WooThemes are also based. Obox has been around the block as well.

They were founded in 2009 and are lead by brothers Marc and David Perel. Obox has experienced times of great success - peaking as a team of 8 in 2012 - and also years where they've scaled back in response to more competition and watering down of the WordPress theme market.

Before Adii left WooThemes, he had numerous conversations with Obox about an acquisition, but the parties could never agree on the specifics.

Adii now owns a 30% stake in Obox

David Perel showed Adii some screenshots of Layers while they were wrapping up development of the new product. Adii was intrigued and they started once again talking about joining forces, except this time the direction changed; they started talking about what it would look like for Adii to join Obox.

Adii has made a cash investment in the Obox team, in return for a 30% stake in the company. The investment gives Obox a valuation in the millions of dollars, "but less than $10 million."

The cash from Adii's investment is largely going to be used for operating expenses for the Obox team as they create the business model around Layers. Obox has also beefed up their team by acquihiring Calyx, a two man Cape Town agency.

According to David, "Every cent Obox raises and makes will go into Layers."

Roller coaster ride

Adii has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since his departure of WooThemes. I've heard both Adii and his cofounders (Magnus Jepson and Mark Forrester) describe their split as a divorce. It was a hard time.

The split was complete, and Adii released all ownership of the company for an amount he has confirmed on Mixergy was seven figures. He tells me that he has been fully paid for his shares.

With cash in hand, Adii had room to take some risks, and with that risk came a mixture of successes and failures. His first foray into another product was Public Beta, which had many iterations before he ultimately deemed it a lost cause.

His latest startup seems to have traction; Receiptful has had a successful launch, is getting nice adoption, and is expanding to multiple eCommerce platforms after an initial WooCommerce-only launch.

Time heals all wounds, and it appears Adii's relationship with WooThemes is also mended. They even blogged about Receiptful recently on the main WooThemes blog.

Renewed passion for WordPress

Both Receiptful and the Obox investment show renewed passion for WordPress, as well as a sign of Adii getting back to his roots and what he knows best. With the launch of WooCommerce, Adii spearheaded what became a huge success during his time at WooThemes; and WooCommerce has only further grown since his departure.

Adii hopes to take what he's learned - both at WooThemes and with his adventures since - to his role at Obox.

One of the biggest challenges within WordPress is the disconnect between how developers and end-users use it, which makes building great WordPress products really hard. It's also something that we encountered often at Woo and instead of truly tackling the problem we leaned towards building tools for developers.

Layers is different in that sense, because it's focused on the (end-)user experience from the ground up. I couldn't be more excited to work with David & Marc to grow Layers, as they're fanatical about UX and it's my belief that they'll finally make progress to closing the gap between a developer tool and end-user product.

And in terms of the commercialisation of Layers… Well, let's just say that I see opportunities and patterns that were prevalent in WooCommerce's early days too…

A new step for a dynamic WordPress figure

Adii was a huge and dynamic figure in the early days of WordPress' commercial product space. He's always made bold decisions - some good and some not so good.

He has a penchant to make quick decisions and he iterates at a rapid pace; to some it can be off-putting, but for finding a hit it can be hugely important. In contrast, the Obox team makes calculated risks. While they've done a great deal of interesting work and experimentation on their own, they have largely stuck with the theme business while some of their early theme competitors rotated toward plugins and other verticals.

I believe that the combination of Adii and the Perel brothers will make for a compelling trio of leadership at the helm for Obox. Their Layers launch certainly made waves, and their next steps will be hugely important for the future of a company that has gone all in on a product without a monetization strategy.

You can read the official announcement on the Obox blog.

04 Mar 2015 3:56pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress Plugin Directory Launches New Design

The WordPress.org Meta team is on a roll this month. Following the successful launch of the new theme directory, the plugin directory is getting the same treatment with a fresh coat of paint and a set of brand new features.

Browsing the official plugin directory is now similar to searching via the admin plugin browser. Having all of this code on hand made it easier for the meta team to replicate the experience in the directory.


In addition to the new design, the directory includes a new section for logged-in users to manage favorited plugins. Previously, users had to navigate to their own profile pages to access this information. With more than 36,000 listings in the directory, favorites are becoming an important feature for users who want to keep track of plugins they use frequently.


The "Popular" section seems to be populated by extensions with the highest number of active installs. It would be helpful to be able to further sort popular plugins based on different criteria, i.e. the most-favorited plugins and those with the highest ratings.

Beta Testing is a new section which you may recognize from the WordPress admin. It lists all the feature plugins that are currently under consideration for inclusion in core at some point in the future. This more prominent display will help users discover the plugins, resulting in an increase in feedback for contributors.

Users can also now search for plugins based on author, keyword, or tag. Searching is lightning fast, but it could be improved with filtering options to further narrow down the results.

Although individual plugin pages did not receive a design update, they now reflect more accurate data with the number of active installs for each plugin. This provides plugin authors with a better understanding of how many sites are actively using that functionality, as opposed to just having downloaded it once and then uninstalled it.

The new design is more visually-oriented than the previous one, making it easier for users to quickly scan through a long list of results. It is now more important than ever for developers to prioritize plugin branding if they want their work to stand out in the official directory.

In his announcement about updates to the plugin directory, WordPress.org contributor Scott Reilly said that a backend reimplementation of the directory is on the roadmap for a future update. If you find a bug in the current implementation, feel free to open a ticket on meta.trac.

04 Mar 2015 9:25am GMT

Matt: WordPress iOS WYSIWYG

It's been a long road, but the WordPress mobile apps are finally making some major strides. WordPress iOS version 4.8 includes a visual editor so you won't see code anymore when blogging on the go. (For anyone curious at home, WordPress originally shipped with WYSIWYG in version 2.0, and it was highly controversial at the time.)

04 Mar 2015 4:31am GMT

Akismet: February 2015 Stats Roundup

February was another slow spam month for Akismet. We didn't even hit 200 million comments on any day this month. You can see the daily breakdown of the spam and ham comments Akismet caught in the graph below:

graph of akismet spam and ham daily stats February 2015

The busiest day was the first of the month, with about 178 million spam comments - and the slowest day was the 18th with about 106 million.

ohio state football fieldThe total number of spam messages caught this month was 4,090,182,500. To visualize this, let's say each spam is represented by one blade of grass in a football field - to commemorate the football season ending this February.

How many football fields would it take to cover that much spam? Twelve and a half.

How about the real comments? We got a total of 131,465,000 of those this month. And if each one were represented by a blade of grass, they would take just under one half of a football field to account for. As always, real comments account for much much less than spam comments - about 3% this month.

This month was unusually low in spam numbers not only compared with last month (with a 14% decrease in volume), but also since last year - decreasing by 38% compared with February 2014.

We missed only about 1 in every 10,917 spam comments this month - not bad!

Your own blog's stats may have followed a similar pattern of decreased spam activity this month. If you are ever finding that the spammers are winning and more comments than usual are getting through Akismet's filters, please feel free to reach out and let us know. We're happy to look into it and help restore order :)

This post is part of a monthly series summarizing some stats and figures from the Akismet universe. Feel free to browse all of the posts in the series.

04 Mar 2015 1:03am GMT

03 Mar 2015

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: Jason Schuller’s Pickle Theme Re-Imagines WordPress as an Invisible CMS


Last week Jason Schuller launched his Pickle WordPress theme on Pickle.pub and the product is now available on Creative Market. Pickle is a restaurant theme that is packaged with a custom admin design to provide a seamless content-editing experience.

Schuller's decision to re-enter the WordPress theme market following the sale of Press75 came after several years of experimenting with alternative publishing platforms. In an interview with the Tavern last year, he expressed dissatisfaction with trying to make WordPress do what he wanted, which caused him to consider abandoning the platform entirely.

Schuller found himself chronically at odds with WordPress' limitations for scaling its complexity backwards to provide a more simplified publishing experience. Pickle was born out of this frustration. The theme reimagines the WordPress admin as an extension of the front-end design, with no abrupt transitions for editing content.


Targeting a Wider Market Beyond WordPress

At first glance, it might appear that the restaurant niche is a relatively small and limited market for a WordPress theme developer. However, if you check out Pickle.pub, you'll find no mention of WordPress among Pickle's features. Schuller is intentionally marketing it to a larger potential customer base that includes anyone looking to build a simple restaurant website.

"I'm not really advertising Pickle as a WordPress theme," Schuller told the Tavern. "Essentially, my approach was to use WordPress to create my own custom CMS for minimalist restaurant websites."

In the future he plans to release more options, styles and add-ons for the product. Currently, all of Pickle's functionality is packed into the theme, but Schuller is not overly concerned about data portability in this instance.

"That data (in my opinion) is exclusive to what I'm doing with Pickle," he said. "In other words, I'm not concerned with my users even knowing that it's powered by WordPress."

Schuller is hoping to attract two different markets: customers who know they want WordPress and those who just know they want a business website and don't care what software it uses.

"It shouldn't matter to new users if it's a WordPress solution," he said. "But at the same time, freelancers who work with WordPress and have clients in the restaurant industry might be attracted by Pickle because it is a WordPress solution. I'm hoping to target both ends of the spectrum."

This time around in the WordPress theme business, Schuller is venturing into the frontier where customers aren't already convinced of a favorite CMS. Pickle was intentionally designed to make WordPress, and all its complexity, effectively invisible. This is one of the reasons the theme does not currently support the use of 3rd-party plugins.

At Odds with WordPress Theme Development Best Practices

WordPress core doesn't make it easy for developers to heavily customize the admin. This will soon change when the WP REST API lands in core; Schuller is open to updating Pickle to use the API once it's no longer under heavy development.

"Once the REST API lands in core, there would be no reason for me not to change my approach," he said. "But for today, a little custom CSS and PHP will do just fine."

Pickle is Schuller's attempt at testing the waters for the possibility of other niche admin designs in the future. A hosted version is also set to launch within the next month. "If all goes well, I'll probably create more niche solutions from the simple HTML templates I've been releasing on Leeflets," he said. These include other one-page designs for things like newsletters, biographies, galleries, and landing or product pages.

"If that's something I do end up doing, I would probably create some sort of admin theming plugin in order to eliminate duplicating the work each time," Schuller said. "I could see the result of that being its own product as well for WordPress."

At the moment, he is not prioritizing putting the functionality into a plugin. However, the way Pickle is built is at odds with WordPress theme development best practices of separating plugin functionality from the theme's design.

If a major release of WordPress causes a break in Pickle, it's not in a plugin where one could easily disable the functionality. A breaking change could possibly effect the site's frontend design, without an update to Pickle. If the product were packaged as a theme plus plugin combination, users would be in a better position for updates from both core and Pickle.

Schuller contends that WordPress theme developers should have the option to add features in a more modular fashion:

I realize that my approach for Pickle specifically probably isn't the way most "WordPress" developers would have done it. The important thing is that I finished it, and the idea is out there regardless of how it was engineered.

I've always felt that a good CMS should reflect the functionality you need for any given project. For instance, we shouldn't assume that all themes should support links, comments, widgets, etc., or even posts for that matter. Some themes/users might only need "pages" which means that most of the admin menus in WordPress could and maybe should be hidden in that case. We have to manually add "theme support" within theme functions for features like "post thumbnails", so why isn't that the case for everything else?

After years of frustration with "the WordPress way," Schuller is going his own way this time around. He finds himself at friction with WordPress best practices and the ability to serve a larger market of people who don't care if a site is built on WordPress.

"To be honest, I really wasn't concerned about what the WordPress developer community would think about how I engineered Pickle," he said. "I know there are probably so many ways I could have done it better, or hired someone else to do it better for me."

In creating Pickle, Schuller consciously chose to ignore his fear of the doing_it_wrong() brigade in order to deliver a product that he believes will be simple for customers to use.

When I got started with WordPress back in 2007, I had no clue what I was doing, but I was creating things and putting them out there as I learned, which is how I grew Press75. Somewhere along the way, I became much too concerned with how the WordPress community might perceive what I was making and that's when my business started to decline.

Instead of just being happy making things I was passionate about, I became obsessed with perfection and making sure everyone was going be happy with what I made. I'm not going to make that same mistake again. It's so much more important to put your work out there (even if it's not perfect) than to never put it out there at all in fear that someone might not agree with the way you did it.

Could business be as simple as building products that make both you and your customer happy? Do all WordPress sites need a long-term plan for data portability and separation of theme and plugin functionality?

Re-Imagining WordPress as an Invisible CMS

The invisibility of the traditional admin in the Pickle theme is a tribute to WordPress' flexibility as a CMS. However, the lack of theme/plugin functionality separation is my primary objection to how it's built, as it may make it difficult for the user to keep pace with core updates. This could potentially become a security issue.

Schuller's approach for one-page designs may not conform to best practices but it once again begs the question: how can we erase the separation between editing experience and the display of content? Many users find the native customizer in its current state to be too clunky to adequately handle this in an elegant way.

While I don't fully support the approach that Schuller took with building Pickle, I agree with the basic premise of pushing the boundaries to simplify WordPress for the user. Pickle is inspirational, despite its technical drawbacks. It is a groundbreaking example of a WordPress-powered content editing experience that is perfectly tailored to the frontend design. It's a design-specific theme that doesn't require a heavy page builder or multiple sub-panels of customizer options.

Not everyone agrees on the best way to make the WordPress editing experience better while moving theme development forward. The platform needs people who are dissatisfied with the status quo to spearhead new, unorthodox ways of solving problems. However, it also needs the folks who have managed to keep inspiration alive for years, while working on the less glamorous tasks of contributing to core and establishing standards to make it better for everyone.

As niche admin designs become common, the answer to the question of "What does WordPress look like?" will get fuzzy and difficult to define. A more modular approach to theming WordPress as a whole will make it easier for developers to sift out the functionality that users don't need on basic websites. Finding a happy balance here will be critical for the platform to continue its reputation as a user-friendly CMS.

03 Mar 2015 11:51pm GMT

WPTavern: There Can Only Be One Sticky Post

Sticky Posts Poll Featured Imagephoto credit: Free Thinking at the Sage, Gateshead - (license)

Last month, we polled our readers to find out how many use the sticky posts feature in WordPress. Out of 322 votes, 66% said no while 34% said yes.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Use cases included, featuring content in a slider, portfolio sites, and using it on a directory site. For those who sticky one post at a time, I discovered a convenient plugin that removes the sticky flag from previous sticky posts. There Can Be Only One, developed by Alex Jones, ensures that only one sticky post is published at a time.

There are no options to configure. Simply install, activate, and configure which post you want to sticky. When using this plugin, you no longer have to remove the sticky flag from the previous post which saves time and effort. There Can Only Be One is Jones' first plugin submitted to the plugin directory and he's interested to hear any feedback or suggestions you have to improve it.

03 Mar 2015 10:04pm GMT

WPTavern: WordCamp St. Louis, MO, March 14th-15 Will Have a Kids Camp

WordCamp St Louis 2015 Featured ImageWordCamp St. Louis, MO, takes place on March 14th-15th on the campus of Washington University. Tickets are still available for $25 which covers both days and gets you a T-Shirt, access to events, the after party, and community day.

The event features two days of learning about WordPress with four tracks of sessions. Two tracks are dedicated to developers while the other two are devoted to users. In a stroke of luck, the first day of WordCamp takes place on Pi Day, which means free Pi pizza for attendees.

After learning about WordPress on Saturday, folks can immediately apply their knowledge and help others on Sunday which is Community Day. Community day is similar to a WordPress contributor day in that there will be plenty of opportunities to learn, network, and share information. The schedule for community day looks like this:

Kids Camp takes place on community day from 9am to noon and will cover the basics of setting up a site and what it means to publish to the web. The class is geared towards 8-13 year olds, but any age is welcome to attend. Parents or legal guardians must be present for children under 12 and all attendees must bring a laptop. Also on Sunday, Mika Epstein will give a keynote presentation that explains how to fit into the WordPress community by being true to yourself.

I will be in attendance so if you see me, please stop and say hi as I'd love to chat with you. If you're going to WordCamp St. Louis, let me know in the comments.

03 Mar 2015 8:29am GMT