06 May 2015

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Matt: Untold Silk Road

This Untold Story of Silk Road is pretty amazing writing, a gripping story regardless of the genre (non-fiction, in this case). I can't wait for the next chapter to come out on May 14. Also when reading about Ross, it's interesting to keep in mind Vanity Jones who was in many ways the brains behind the operation, and also undiscovered.

06 May 2015 6:00am GMT

05 May 2015

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WPTavern: Dan Griffiths Launches $175K Crowdfunding Campaign to Build HostPress

When it comes to hosting, there are predominately two choices to manage your account or server; Plesk and cPanel. Dan Griffiths wants to shake things up by adding a third choice with HostPress. HostPress is an open-source, extensible server control panel built on top of WordPress.

HostPress LogoHostPress Logo

Griffiths has started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to generate $175k. The money will be used to cover personal expenses, take care of his son, and cover the server fees and salary of an experienced server administrator for one year. cPanel and Plesk have several shortcomings, including:

HostPress will have a smaller footprint on servers and customers will be able to brand it with just a few lines of code. By using WordPress, the platform taps into existing development resources which will help it stay on top of security issues.

HostPress Concept ImageHostPress Concept Image

Server managers will be able to extend the platform through an API as well as plugins. HostPress will have a robust set of plugins available to the public, covering the most popular server software at the time of launch.

Market Share

According to BuiltWith, there are more than 4.1 million individual servers running active, licensed cPanel and Plesk installations. Base on this number, Griffiths calculates more than $82M is spent on control panels assuming a $20 per month price tag. Dedicated servers using cPanel, however, cost $45 per month.

Funding Specifics

The funds generated through the campaign will go to Griffiths, even if it's not fully funded. However, if the project is fully funded, he expects to ship a beta of the product in June of 2016. He also plans to release the following:

If the project doesn't reach its funding goal, development will continue but at a slower pace. "The goal is to provide the Internet with an alternative to the clutter and complexity of server management. Even if we don't become a major contender in this space, the support we do get will put pressure on the existing solutions to up their game," Griffiths said.

Market Demand

When asked how much demand he's witnessed in the hosting space, he replied, "There's constant demand for fresh blood in the control panel space. Just take a look at a few of the cPanel/Plesk discussions online and you'll see a lot of people complaining about their various flaws, or looking for a good alternative. In fact, there have been a number of other attempts made over the years, but none have gained traction due to one fatal flaw. They're all written by engineers, so while the underlying functionality is solid, the interface always sucks."

If there is high demand from webhosts and server managers for a solution that's better than Plesk or cPanel, Griffiths should have no problem reaching his funding goal. To find out what major webhosting companies think of the campaign and if they'll financially contribute, I contacted GoDaddy and InMotion hosting. Both companies did not respond to my inquiries, despite multiple efforts to contact them.

Largest WordPress Crowdfunding Campaign on Record

Griffiths isn't a stranger to the WordPress community's generosity. Near the end of 2014, he started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,500. He ended up with nearly three times that amount. In this case however, it's a product and $175k is a lot of money. If successful, it will be the largest WordPress crowdfunding campaign on record, dwarfing John James Jacoby's campaign by $125k.

HostPress looks like it could be an interesting product but without the financial aid of companies with large pockets, I don't see how the campaign will reach its funding goal. Let us know your reactions to the campaign in the comments.

05 May 2015 10:16pm GMT

WPTavern: New Plugin Reorders the WordPress Admin Menu Using Drag-and-Drop

reorder-admin-menu

Every WordPress administrator has different needs when navigating the admin. For example, one may require frequent access to the Posts menu and rarely touch the Appearance menu. Another admininistrator may have a certain custom post type that is accessed more frequently than any other menu item.

In some cases plugin developers take their liberties placing their menu items at the very top of the admin. Jetpack is a prime example of a plugin that assumes preeminence above Posts, Media, Comments, and other more frequently used publishing items.

Admin Menu Manager is a new plugin that allows you to take control of the admin and order menu items to suit your workflow. The plugin, created by Pascal Birchler and the folks at required+, adds a simple drag-and-drop interface for decluttering and reordering menu items.

As you can see in the demo, Admin Menu Manager allows you to drag menu items from top level to a sub-menu or pull sub-menus out to top level for easier access. The plugin is unobtrusive and doesn't require its own settings page.

"I got the idea for this particular plugin when I stumbled upon a similar one that used a drag and drop interface just for reordering menu items," Birchler said. After searching for other comparable solutions for the admin, he decided to take it one step further and produce a proof-of-concept. The result was a useful new plugin.

"I learned that such side projects are great for adapting new technologies and digging deeper into WordPress," he said. "This is already my third plugin leveraging Backbone.js in my first three months working at required+. Before that I had no idea how to use this library.

"Also, I now know that the WordPress admin menu can be quite a mess. I mean, there aren't even unit tests for it. I'll see how I can change that in core."

Birchler said he counts himself lucky that his employer offers him time to work on open source projects. Before he started at required+, the company had no plugins listed on WordPress.org. Now they are up to five after polishing up a few that were lying dormant on GitHub for awhile.

Version 1 of Admin Menu Manager is now available on WordPress.org and the team is working on adding the following features to version 2:

In its current state, the plugin is a good option for re-arranging the admin to suit a client's needs or for simply getting Jetpack and other less-frequently used menus out of your way.

New users often complain about how confusing the WordPress admin can be, especially when many active plugins are adding their own top-level menus. With the features promised in version 2, Admin Menu Manager has the potential to become a solid tool for decluttering the admin.

05 May 2015 9:11pm GMT

WPTavern: Themekraft’s Difficult Experience Switching to the WordPress Theme Customizer

Sven Lehnert, CEO of Themekraft, published his company's experience migrating from a custom theme options page to the theme customizer. He describes how difficult it was to move between the two and how it caused user frustration.

"I'm sorry for the trouble some users are experiencing. We receive positive as well as frustrated feedback and I understand how users feel this way," Lehnert said.

Custom Theme Options PageCustom Theme Options Page Using the CustomizerUsing the Customizer

Themekraft is migrating to the customizer because of a new requirement that forces themes hosted in the WordPress theme directory to use it to build theme options. The requirement has sparked controversy and with 175 comments, is the most discussed article in Tavern history.

Consequences of Doing the Right Thing

Although Themekraft believes the requirement is the right decision, it's come at the price of losing users. Lehnert expressed frustration that doing the right thing has caused users to jump ship, "I think it's really frustrating, that our choice to use the customizer to create better themes has made users switch to a different theme. Our decision to use the customizer has pushed users to Themeforest.

A lot of users have told us they moved to Themeforest and gave up on themes hosted on WordPress.org. To them, Themeforest does the job of WordPress.org and WordPress.org themes are outdated with limited functionality."

Two to three years ago I would have agreed with the opinion that themes in the WordPress theme directory leave a lot to be desired. I've read enough reviews of great looking free themes that I've nearly erased this mindset. I used to discourage users from browsing for themes on the directory, now I encourage them.

The Educational Problem

Chalkboard Learningphoto credit: Clint Gardner - cc

For years, the WordPress community has discussed and educated users on why it's important to separate presentation from functionality. Lehnert thinks it's something normal users can't understand, "They want to buy solutions and base their purchasing decisions from a graphical point of view. The separation from design and functionality is not understandable for the normal user."

In a recent comment on the Tavern, Chip Bennett explains his perspective on the educational part of the problem, "You are absolutely right that the wider (i.e. more than just the developers/insiders/one-percenters) have a very long way to go to educate those users.

The reality is that, for far too long, commercial Theme developers attempted to add 'value' to their Themes by creating Theme+Plugin combinations."

There's been some movement on this front with some theme authors moving theme functionality back into plugins.

Part of the problem is explaining the difference between themes and plugins. If you ask 10 WordPress developers where the line is drawn, you'd likely get at least five different answers. Since plugins can do everything a theme can do, it can easily become a never-ending debate between presentation and functionality.

The Balancing Act

Creating a WordPress product that balances user and developer needs is tricky. The main impetus for requiring the theme customizer is to provide a standardized experience between all the themes hosted in the directory. It will also help the Theme Review Team review themes more efficiently.

Lehnert trusts the Theme Review Team's decision but feels the change is geared towards developers. "I really believe in the WordPress community and I trust there will be a solution to the problem some day. At the moment however, the theme review guidelines only make sense from a developer's perspective."

He suggests that the WordPress theme directory add support for better theme previews with customizer access. This way, users can see how flexible and customizable a theme is.

Food for Thought

Based on Lehnert's experience, there is a perception problem between WordPress.org hosted themes and those on Themeforest. It will be interesting to see if other theme authors and companies have a similar experience when they make the switch.

It was disheartening to read this statement by Lehnert, "In the case of a theme business, staying outside of the community is easier!" Developers and users have at least one thing in common, they don't like change, especially when it comes to requirements or guidelines. Developers have always had two choices:

  1. Abide by the requirements and guidelines to have a plugin or theme hosted on WordPress.org
  2. Do things on your own terms through your site and GitHub

Outside of WordPress.org, it's the wild west. You can use whatever custom options page or framework you want without anyone telling you what to do.

Theme developers and companies are going to experience growing pains meeting the new requirement, but I think users of themes hosted on WordPress.org will be better off in the long run. They'll know what to expect thanks to a standardized interface and eventually get used to interacting with the customizer.

05 May 2015 8:45pm GMT

WPTavern: BuddyPress 2.3 Will Introduce Companion Stylesheets for WordPress Default Themes

wp-bp

Two years ago, BuddyPress 1.7 introduced WordPress theme compatibility, which meant that sites no longer required a BuddyPress-specific theme in order to run the plugin. The vast majority of themes that use WordPress' standard template loading should be compatible with BuddyPress.

However, some themes still need a little help to make the BuddyPress UI elements more harmonious with the rest of the theme. This is the case with the WordPress default themes, which prompted BuddyPress contributors to look into creating a set of companion stylesheets to address any conflicts arising between the plugin and the themes.

Hugo Ashmore, who is leading the task of creating supporting styles for BuddyPress when activated on the default WordPress themes, summarized the goal on the BP development blog:

We discussed and agreed in essence that it would be nice that BP displayed at its best when activated on these default WP themes as they may well be a user's first impression of BP and first impressions last.

As of BuddyPress 2.3, the plugin will check and enqueue an additional set of styles if either Twenty Fifteen or Twenty Fourteen are active on the site. The same process will be used moving forward to support new WordPress default themes as they are released.

Work on the tickets for these two themes has already been committed to BP trunk and is on track for inclusion in 2.3. Whereas previously you might have seen messy unordered lists and BP component UI elements in various states of disarray, the new companion stylesheets resolve many of these issues with BP in use on the default themes.

bp-twenty-fifteen

A New Approach to User Account / Single Group Navigation Menus

If you take BuddyPress 2.3-alpha for a spin, you'll notice that the companion stylesheets take a new approach to the user account and single groups navigation, with the primary object nav now displayed vertically on the left.

The traditional horizontal nav often causes problems, as plugin developers can dynamically add to this menu, pushing it out to two or more rows of menu items. The vertical menus in the stylesheet eliminate the crowding that you often see in the horizontal user/group navigation.

bp-user-account-nav

In the most recent update on the task, Ashmore requests that users bear in mind it's "less about theming every aspect as about ensuring a broad sweep on elements to ensure the majority of critical issues are addressed."

The primary goal is to make BuddyPress render in a more seamless manner in the default themes. Refined styling to tweak specific BP elements is next on the agenda. If you want to test 2.3-alpha and find that the stylesheets aren't loading, make sure to add define ('SCRIPT_DEBUG', true); to your wp-config.php file if you want to run trunk directly.

Contributors working on the companion stylesheet tickets welcome feedback from the community regarding the layout refactoring of the parent theme containers for the BP directories and user account screens, as well as the vertical menu approach. Testing these elements ahead of the BuddyPress 2.3 beta, expected out this week, will help contributors ship more polished stylesheets in the official release at the end of May.

05 May 2015 6:30pm GMT

04 May 2015

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WPTavern: WordCamp Miami 2015 to Experiment with New Tracks, Tickets Selling Out Fast

wcmia-2015

WordCamp Miami, one of the largest and longest running WordPress events in the US, is gearing up to celebrate its 6th year on May 29-31. Last year the event brought together 770 attendees and tickets for 2015 are selling fast.

"We have sold over 600 tickets, and we see a sell-out on the horizon," organizer David Bisset told the Tavern. "Our workshops are already almost sold out, and soon the weekend tickets will be as well."

WordCamp Miami has adopted a strong educational focus for the event with an expanded array of workshops. On Friday, May 29, the organizers will host a BuddyCamp and a separate Front-End/Theme workshop. As last year's kids workshop was a success, organizers are exploring the option of adding a more advanced kids workshop that gets into coding.

New "How To" Tracks and Mini-Workshops for Developers

Bisset and his team received feedback from last year's event indicating that attendees are interested in having more advanced developer talks. This year organizers are replacing the user track on Saturday with experimental "How To" tracks.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time a WordCamp has tried something like this," Bisset said. "This track will focus on getting things done - almost like a mini-workshop focused on one or two concepts with step by step instructions - steps you can go home that night and do hopefully on your own." Attendees of these tracks will be able to print out "cheat sheets" of each session and bring them to the conference or refer to them when they get back home.

The organizers are hand-selecting the speakers and requesting that they format their slides to be a lasting resource for users. Speakers will also move to the Happiness Bar to answer any questions in a non-rushed environment after their sessions are finished.

For the first time, WordCamp Miami will add an additional developer track on Sunday, which will consist of mini-workshops. In this format, two speakers will be give presentations on a single subject (back-to-back), so attendees will get multiple perspectives on the same subject.

"For example, Andrea Rennick and Jesse Petersen will start off that Sunday with a 'Genesis Framework' mini-workshop," Bisset said. "Andrea will introduce the basics and concepts while Jesse afterwards will dive into more advanced topics on Genesis. There are also mini-workshops on building WordPress plugins, the WP-API, and more."

Organizers are also reaching out to other open source communities to help forge connections across different projects.

"For the first time, we have a Joomla developer coming to speak on Sunday and talk about Joomla, WordPress, and open source," Bisset said. "We have been opening our doors to local Joomla and Drupal developers so we are excited about this presentation and hope it's the start of something bigger for the future."

WordCamp Miami is known for its excellent opportunities for networking and will maintain that aspect of the event in 2015.

"Besides knowledge, networking has always been a key reason why people (local or not from the area) attend WordCamps," Bisset said. Organizers are tailoring the after-party to be more of a "networking party" where attendees can continue their conversations from the event. Networking parties will take place on Thursday evening, Saturday night, Sunday for social breakfast, and a brief ice cream social Sunday afternoon.

The new venue, Florida International University, is large enough to accommodate the 800+ attendees expected this year. All of the educational and networking opportunities during the 3.5 day event give attendees an incredible value for their tickets, especially for those who are traveling from a distance.

WordCamp Miami is an event that traditionally sells out every year and Bisset expects the same for 2015. The workshops will be limited to 100-150 people and tickets are going fast. Check out the event website for more details on the schedule and available tickets.

04 May 2015 9:27pm GMT

Matt: Macbook & USB-C Review

macbookI'll start by saying I'm writing this on a 12″ Macbook in space grey. The screen, weight, size, and weird keyboard have captured my heart and I'm enjoying using the machine. It has replaced a 15″ Retina Pro as my primary laptop for about 2 weeks now, with most of that being on the road.

For better and worse, it's a lot like an iPad - the size and weight feel very natural in your life, and the screen is really gorgeous. It's also not worth plugging anything into it besides its charging cable. It feels great to open and pick up right where you left off. The speed feels more than adequate for everything I've thrown at it so far, though I haven't tried video editing or photo management outside of the new Apple Photos app. If there was a perfect iPad and keybard combo, it would feel and look like the new Retina Macbook.

The second thing I'll say is I wouldn't recommend this laptop for everybody yet. There are some trade-offs, for example I can get 5-6 hours from the battery but it's a little shorter than I expected. It's refreshing to have a computer that's totally silent with no fan, and I've only had a heat warning once when it was sitting in hot direct sunlight for about 20 minutes. I moved into the shade because I was also wilting a bit from the direct LA sun.

The main reason I'm not sure if I'd recommend this Macbook right is hopefully ephemeral: USB-C. One of the very coolest things about the new Macbook is it charges (quickly) with a new standard called USB 3.1 with a Type-C connector, which is open for anyone to use, is reversible, and I think is going to be the future as I've written about on this blog before.

USB-type-C

Today, however, USB-C is bleeding edge. I actually have one other device that uses it, Google's new Chrome Pixel laptop, but when you search on Amazon for "USB-C" there are almost no results except sketchy or not-in-stock generic things, and Apple doesn't have any USB-C stuff in stock, even in their stores. (Perhaps related to the general stock issues I ended up writing about last time I tried to pen this Macbook review.) I was able to get a cable that had male old USB and male USB-C on Amazon, that was pretty much it. The promise of USB-C is incredible: standard cables for charging everything super-quickly, a battery pack that could charge your phone or laptop, smaller power bricks, a next-gen Thunderbolt display with one cable for all data, display, and charging. You can see and imagine a really perfect ecosystem around USB-C, but it doesn't exist today. Some cool stuff has been announced but isn't coming until the summer, even thumb drives.

The problem in one sentence: it is impossible to buy a cable, from Apple or otherwise, that let's you plug an iPhone 6+ into the Macbook. They've announced but not shipped (to me at least) an adapter for old USB stuff (Type-A), but the last thing I need in my life is another dongle.

I thought I would miss this but in practice it has been a surmountable problem. Instead of using my laptop as a battery, I've been using a battery to recharge miscellaneous electronics on-the-go, and everything else including transferring photos from phone to computer is now happening wirelessly.

apple-line-upI think the most perfect tech combo in the world right now might be a 5k iMac at home, an iPhone 6+ as your phone, and the Macbook as an on-the-go device. (The iPad isn't in my must-have list anymore.) The strengths of each of these products complement each other, and as Apple gets better about the cloud with things like photos, tethering, keychain sync, and continuity it's really becoming a pleasure to use these products together. I also have an Apple Watch in the mix, but still forming my thoughts on that one.

The thing I might be most excited about is when some of the new tech in the retina Macbook around the keyboard, screen, trackpad, and battery is applied to their "Pro" series, which will probably be a bit more in my wheelhouse.

04 May 2015 9:25pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Developer Handbook Updated with Comprehensive Guide to the Customizer API

photo credit: Artist's Room - (license)photo credit: Artist's Room - (license)

The Theme Review Team's controversial decision to require the use of the Customizer API for building theme options unearthed a wave of criticism and concern about the capabilities of the customizer.

In response to more than 150 comments debating on the topic, Nick Halsey, who has worked extensively on the feature in WordPress core, stopped by to offer a few words in support of the Theme Review Team's decision:

Many of the comments here are misinformed or unaware of both the full power of and the future importance of the Customizer. I've given an overview of my perspective on my blog, and while those views don't directly represent the views of the WordPress project, I can say that most people working on the Customizer in core would agree with my points. Like it or not, the Customizer is here to stay, and ignoring that fact will eventually cause users to turn against you.

Halsey's post calls for theme developers to re-examine their philosophies when it comes to building complex UI options and stop re-inventing the wheel. He believes the customizer has more creative potential than developers give it credit for.

Complaints about the amount of screen real estate available and the 300px default width show a lack of creativity and resistance for the sake of resistance to change. Start by removing all of the ads, external links, unnecessary branding, unnecessary options, and general clutter. Make your options self-explanatory - if you need a paragraph to describe what it does, it probably shouldn't be a user-facing option. Do you still have so much UI that the experience is completely unusable? Try an outside-the-box solution, like utilizing the core media modal (header images and core media controls use it), a custom modal (theme details modal in core), or a slide-out panel (widgets in core and eventually menus in core as well).

Prior to the Theme Review Team's decision, documentation on theme development with the Customizer API was sparse and claims about its wide range of capabilities were difficult to support.

Resistance from theme developers has WordPress.org contributors scrambling to produce better documentation for using the customizer in themes. Over the weekend, Halsey created a canonical developer tutorial on the Customizer API in the official theme developer handbook.

customizer-api-documentation

This official comprehensive guide includes the following sections and provides detailed examples for each:

Theme Review Team admin Justin Tadlock posted more details clarifying the new WordPress.org guideline and included a list of additional resources for learning more about the customizer.

Over the weekend, Samuel "Otto" Wood, who has written several customizer articles over the years, wrote a "What's new with the Customizer" tutorial that explores some of its newer features in depth, including panels, active callbacks, and customizing the customizer.

With WordPress 4.3 blazing forward on customizer improvements, now is the time for theme developers to familiarize themselves with the available documentation and tutorials in order to be ready to take full advantage of WordPress' core-supported method of providing live previews to users.

04 May 2015 4:46pm GMT

03 May 2015

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Matt: James Whitcomb Riley Poem

Via Om, I wanted to share this poem Away by James Whitcomb Riley:

I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead. He is just away.
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.
And you-oh you, who the wildest yearn
For an old-time step, and the glad return,
Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here.
Think of him still as the same. I say,
He is not dead-he is just away.

03 May 2015 4:34pm GMT

Donncha: Matt’s interview in the SBP

image

Nice to see an interview with Matt in the Sunday Business Post, but they got one thing wrong that Matt is not chilled out about!

Related Posts

03 May 2015 11:48am GMT

02 May 2015

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Matt: RIP Dan, RIP Dave

We've lost two incredible souls this week: first Dan Fredinburg in Nepal and now Dave Goldberg has unexpectedly passed. I encourage you to Google articles about their lives, like this one about Dave Goldberg or this on Dan, because both were unique and incredible individuals. In an example of how software can have unintended effect on emotions, I just realized I had a pending friend request on Facebook from Dan, probably years old. :( Going through a lot of emotions, but a good reminder that life can be fleeting and to make time for friends and those who you love, something both of these men were great at. May they both rest in peace.

02 May 2015 7:46pm GMT

01 May 2015

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WPTavern: Belgrade’s First WordCamp Sells Out, Plans to Double Attendees Next Year

photo credit: WordCamp Belgradephoto credit: WordCamp Belgrade

Organizers of the very first WordCamp Belgrade are happy to report that the event was a smashing success. Serbia's rapidly growing WordPress community started just two years ago with local meetups that became larger than some smaller WordCamps.

"Our road from the first meetup back in April 2013 to the first WordCamp was brilliant," organizer Milan Ivanović said. "Every WPSerbia meetup had no less than 100 people attending, with at least three speakers each." Serbia was ready to host its first WordCamp.

"We were completely sold out about 10 days before the actual event, and it was such a shame that we had to turn down around 50 people who were asking for extra tickets," Ivanović said. "We were limited by the venue and we couldn't take more than 180."

Attendees represented 13 different countries with the highest numbers from Serbia (73%), Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. Those who came from other countries were treated to Serbia's famous hospitality with tours and local cuisine.

"We dedicated some extra time for people who visited Belgrade for the first time to experience Belgrade and all of its beauties," Ivanović said.

"That is why we organized an unofficial after-after party that included a stroll through Belgrade's main pedestrian street Knez Mihailova, a visit to Belgrade Fortress Kalemegdan, and dinner with true Serbian food and music in the most famous boem street Skadarlija."

photo credit: WordCamp Belgradephoto credit: WordCamp Belgrade

"The food was so good that I was afraid that this WordCamp wouldn't be remembered by its talks and speakers but by the catering that all of us enjoyed," he said.

WordCamp Belgrade 2015 in numbers:

Attendees received "Wapuujlo" magnets and stickers to commemorate the event.

wapuujlo-magnets

Videos from the WordCamp are already available on WordPress Serbia's YouTube account and will soon be uploaded to WordPress.tv as well.

"As soon as WordCamp Belgrade finished, the first thing I did was start plans for #wcbg2016," Ivanović said.

wcbelgrade-organizers"The biggest outcome from this event was people asking how they can help organize the next WordCamp Belgrade, offering lots of different kinds of help - from finding new sponsors to offering their organization skills."

Ivanović and the organizing team plan to at least double the size of the event next year. They are aiming for 400 attendees and two tracks of speakers.

"If we manage to organize an event that size, I think that would be an awesome test and a great intro for application to organize WordCamp Europe 2017," he said.

Check out more photos from the event on the WordCamp Belgrade website.

01 May 2015 9:04pm GMT

Matt: More on GMOs

After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.

Mark Lynas writes How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food, particularly how GMOs impact the places where crops are needed the most. If you're looking for a catch-up check out this link collection on ma.tt last year.

01 May 2015 6:43pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress.com Suspends Theme Submissions from New Sellers

In March 2014, WordPress.com opened its marketplace to new theme authors. Prior to that time, new sellers were added via invitation only. A year ago there were only 300 themes available to WordPress.com users, but after having the marketplace open to new authors that count is up to 345.

Recently the submission form disappeared from the site with a message that WordPress.com would be keeping it temporarily closed in order to add new features that make the process easier.

new-themes-wordpresscom

Array founder Mike McAlister recently published an article that detailed his experience selling on the WordPress.com marketplace. One of the main drawbacks was the lack of efficiency in handling the queue for new theme submissions.

The review process on WordPress.com is long. I'm not talking about weeks long, I'm talking about months long. Each Array theme review has taken at least a month, usually longer. Our latest theme for WP.com, Camera, took four months from the day I submitted it to the day it was released.

In addition to painfully long queues, theme authors have also been disappointed with WordPress.com's recent lack of promotion for commercial themes. These factors contributed to McAlister's decision to focus on promoting his products through more efficient distribution channels and return to Themeforest.

In April, WordPress.com theme author Sami Keijonen posted about his recent difficulties with the marketplace after noticing that WordPress.com removed the submission form for new authors. He summarized some of the sources of confusion for commercial theme authors:

  • WordPress.com basically stopped marketing commercial themes. (However, they do tweet about new themes.)
  • We have a private blog for themers but other than that, there isn't any conversation between developers or WordPress.com staff. They did send a enquiry a while ago so that might help.
  • The review process takes months for commercial themes.
  • They seem to want really simple themes with simple design decisions. That's fine by me but isn't that kind of "forcing" the end user to like certain types of themes if they don't have any options?
  • I would have wanted more accessibility-ready themes in WordPress.com like mine, but it seems that isn't priority.

I contacted Automattic to find out why the submission form has been removed and when authors can expect for it to be re-opened. The company's official statement indicates that opening up the marketplace was a temporary experiment and that there is no ETA for relaunching it.

It's important to note that current WordPress.com sellers can submit new themes for possible launch. We're not closed for new theme submission. We experimented with a public form for themes from new shops last year, and we had a ton of great submissions from theme shops around the world. We took it down last fall while we worked on getting ahead of all the new theme reviews that it created. We'll put it up again but we don't have an exact date in mind. We do still reach out to new shops with great themes. We're always excited to find awesome theme shops.

The company's statement regarding the change in marketing clarifies that it is looking for new strategies to promote commercial themes.

We may not do blog posts any more, but we haven't stopped marketing premium themes. They're featured prominently on wordpress.com/themes and as part of our Business Plan. Plus, we're exploring more ways to put premium themes in front of users.

In the future, premium theme shops can expect better feedback around the themes they submit, quicker launches, and more communication in general from the WordPress.com Theme Team. We're excited about what we can continue to do for the world of themes with our sellers' help.

Automattic has no set time frame for launching these improvements, but it should be reassuring for commercial theme authors to know that the company is tackling the inefficiency that was bogging down the system. For the time being, new commercial theme authors looking to submit products to the marketplace are out of luck, but Automattic may decide to open it up again to continue the experiment in the future.

01 May 2015 6:11pm GMT

Akismet: April 2015 Stats Roundup

April turned out to be a slow month in Akismetland. The highest number of spam comments we saw come in this month on a given day was about 177 million. The total amount of spam we saw come through this month is 23% less than last month, and 33% less than April of last year.

Here's a chart showing the number of spam and ham comments we saw come through each day this month:

graph of akismet spam and ham daily stats April 2015

This image, .Time Machine. by Sachin Sandhu, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This image, .Time Machine. by Sachin Sandhu, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The total number of spam comments this month is 4,167,247,500 - just over four billion, which is still a big number even though it's a slow month 😀. To help visualize this number, let's say it takes a second to count each spam message. In that case, it would take 132 years and two months to finish counting.

As for ham - we saw a total of 145,308,000 real messages come through. If we were counting each one of those, it would take only 4 and a half years to finish. As usual, there's much more spam going around than real messages - only 3.4% of all messages sent this month were not spam.

We missed only about 1 in every 10,443 spams this month. If you are seeing spam in your comments, please mark it as spam - this will help Akismet learn from your input. Similarly, please mark any real comments that end up in the spam folder as 'not spam'. If you're seeing very many mislabelled comments, please contact us about it and we'll be happy to help dig into the issue.

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.


01 May 2015 3:52pm GMT

Matt: Changing America’s Mind

Bloomberg has a cool look at societal changes, called This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind.

01 May 2015 5:56am GMT