05 Jul 2015

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Matt: Automattic Challenge

"We have two interesting challenges for you - to write the shortest code possible and to write the fastest code possible." One of the prizes is a conference ticket and three nights in a hotel. Check it out over at the Automattic React Europe Challenge.

05 Jul 2015 5:50am GMT

04 Jul 2015

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Matt: New VideoPress

We launched a shiny new version of VideoPress that makes mobile better, is way faster, has a sleek UI, and is HTML5. This is targeted at WordPress.com users right now, but will expand for everyone soon.

04 Jul 2015 5:56am GMT

03 Jul 2015

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WPTavern: Automattic Overhauls VideoPress and Open Sources Technologies Used to Build It

VideoPress, Automattic's video hosting service, has undergone a complete overhaul. The video player is now responsive and adjusts well to mobile devices. Videos can be embedded anywhere and are easier to share, thanks to permalinks.

There's also a couple of neat options for sharing videos. Similar to YouTube, you can select a time stamp where the video will start playing. You can also loop and autoplay videos.

VideoPress Sharing OptionsVideoPress Sharing Options

One thing I noticed is that pasting a VideoPress permalink into the self hosted WordPress visual editor does not load the video. This is because WordPress does not have oEmbed support for VideoPress.

To embed videos into posts, you need to copy the HTML embed code from the video and past it into the WordPress text editor. Pasting the code into the visual editor doesn't work. Guillermo Rauch, who works on the VideoPress team at Automattic says they are working on adding oEmbed support.

The new video player takes up little space and is unbranded. According to Rauch, the player's skin and behavior is controlled by JavaScript, HTML and CSS. This opens the door for customizations by theme developers in the future. Thanks to major performance enhancements, pages with videos on them will load faster, even for those on slow internet connections. Here's an example of a video using the new player.

A feature that I think a lot of people will enjoy is real-time seek which lets you skim through videos and helps you start playing at a desired point. Last but not least, the libraries used to build the new video player have been open sourced, including jpeg-stream, pixel-stack, and video-thumb-grid.

If you're interested in using VideoPress, you need a Premium or Business plan on WordPress.com. The premium plan is $99 per year and includes 13GB of space. Videos take up a lot of space and one has to wonder if it's worth the cost or if YouTube is a better option. If you use VideoPress, let us know what you think of these improvements.

03 Jul 2015 3:46am GMT

02 Jul 2015

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Matt: Domain Anonymity and the Brilliance of Entertainment Lobbyists

To rid the internet of piracy, entertainment companies are willing to greatly reduce privacy, at least where website registration is concerned.

Where the entertainment industry views proxy registration as a pirate's tool for obfuscation, privacy advocates see identity concealment as a feature that can enable free speech and freedom from harassment.

So there's a new proposal to force any "commercial" website, which could cover pretty much anything, to have real WHOIS/contact info. This is a terrible idea, and of course there are already ample and simple means to bypass proxy services being actually abused with a court order. But they want to go a step further, so potentially a parenting blogger with ads or affiliate links on their site would be forced to put their actual home address and phone number in a public directory anyone on the internet can access, or break the law. What could go wrong? EFF has more about why this impacts user privacy.

I think the better question here, is when has the entertainment industry ever proposed something good for consumers or the internet? I'm not kidding, 100% serious: have they ever been right?

It seems like a good approach for governing bodies like FCC, ICANN, or Congress to just blanket oppose or do the opposite of what MPAA or COA propose, and they'll be on the right side of history and magically appear to be a very tech-savvy candidate or regulator.

02 Jul 2015 10:30pm GMT

WPTavern: Lasso Adds Real Time Revision Restoring to WordPress

This week Nick Haskins launched an update to Lasso, which introduces real time revision restoring. Lasso, a plugin originally designed to improve the experience of using of Aesop Story Engine, is currently one of the most user-friendly and well-supported attempts at bringing frontend editing to WordPress.

The plugin works with or without Aesop Story Engine. Lasso brings a minimal, unobtrusive approach to editing that keeps the focus on content creation. Haskins hopes to ship version 1.0 of the plugin this fall, and the source was recently made available to developers and testers on GitHub.

"Our goal is simple: be a front-end editor that negates the use of the WordPress post editor," Haskins said. "One of the last areas to tackle in this endeavor was revisions."

Lasso 0.9.6 allows users to restore revisions in real time while editing a post on the front end. The plugin introduces a new and unique approach to displaying revisions, removing the default "diff style" comparison in favor of a simpler sliding interface.

lasso-revisions

Lasso displays the last six revisions and users can click on the time to restore a revision live. It functions like a little piece of magic on the front end.

"Because Lasso already operates within the post_content, there wasn't really a huge technical challenge to overcome," Haskins said. "The biggest bottle neck was finding a way to do this that would cause no confusion.

"WordPress revisions use a "diff style" comparison, which I don't think benefits 80% of WordPress users. After all they're not coders. So we decided to restore the post as it was, and most importantly, the context that it lives in," he said.

The live revisions restoring supports images, markup, and everything else that you would expect to be parsed into HTML, but Haskins has a few outstanding items he hopes to polish up.

"Things like shortcodes and ombeds are not processed into HTML as they need a page refresh, so finding a way to parse these live is just about the only technical challenge that we still have to overcome," he said. "This doesn't prevent things from working, but I think a user expects these items to show as they appear on site."

This is the first time a plugin author has done anything like this with revision display and restore. It transforms the process of reviewing revisions into a visual and interactive experience. Removing the "diff style" comparison makes it much easier for the average content creator to decide on which revision to restore. If you want to test it out or take a closer look at how it works, check out Lasso on GitHub.

02 Jul 2015 7:19pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress 4.3 Beta 1 Now Available for Testing

testing

WordPress 4.3 is right around the corner with beta 1 released and ready for testing. According to the 4.3 project schedule, there will be no more commits for new enhancements or feature requests from this point on. Contributors are now focusing on bug fixes and documentation ahead of August 18th, the target release date.

With all the controversy surrounding WordPress 4.3's inclusion of menus in the customizer, you may have missed a few other lesser known features that are on track to be included and need to be put through the paces. The new site icons feature was added to trunk this week, along with a text editor for the Press This posting interface.

WordPress lead developer Mark Jaquith has been working on making passwords more secure. As of 4.3, WordPress will no longer send passwords via email. The password strength meter is now more tightly integrated. It will warn users upon selection of a weak password and can also suggest a secure password.

One interesting new improvement added to the post editor is recognition of some basic markdown-esque patterns inside TinyMCE:

Certain text patterns are automatically transformed as you type, including * and - transforming into unordered lists, 1. and 1) for ordered lists, > for blockquotes and one to six number signs (#) for headings

For those who are used to formatting text this way, the post editor in WordPress 4.3. will be a more friendly place for speedy composition.

Admin post and page list tables will take a huge leap forward to become more responsive in this release, improving the experience of using WordPress on smaller screens. Previously, the columns that could not fit were truncated, but WordPress 4.3 will allow columns to be toggled into view.

Check out release lead Konstantin Obenland's beta announcement post to download a zip of the beta. If you want to help test, the easiest way is to get hooked up via the WordPress Beta Tester plugin. Bug reports are welcome on the Alpha/Beta support forums and can also be filed on WordPress trac.

02 Jul 2015 4:39pm GMT

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 197 – WordPress Theme Review Roundtable

In this episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I are joined by Chip Bennett, Jose Castaneda, Tammie Lister, and Edward Cassie who are members of the WordPress Theme Review Team. We learn why the team exists, its goals, and what the process is for getting a theme into the official directory.

The team clarified the difference between requirements and guidelines. We discuss the results of three separate surveys that indicate users want to see improvements to the way theme demo content is displayed. Last but not least, we learn how you can get involved with the team.

Stories Discussed:

The WordPress Community (A Comedy of Drama, Ego, Oligarchies, and More)

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

Plugin Grouper allows users to group plugins together to make them easier to manage.

WordPress Import YouTube Liked Videos helps users connect to their YouTube account and import their recently liked videos.

Author Chat is an internal chat system that lets your authors or users with access to the dashboard chat with each other.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, June 8th 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 #197:

02 Jul 2015 4:35pm GMT

WPTavern: Ship: A New App for Shipping Plugins from GitHub to WordPress.org

One of the small hurdles to hosting a plugin on WordPress.org is the fact that you have to use SVN to ship your updates. Most developers are far more familiar with Git. It's not difficult to learn how to use SVN for the sake of WordPress.org plugins, but many find it to be inconvenient.

Ship is a new application designed to eliminate this hassle by helping developers ship plugins directly from GitHub to WordPress.org. All you have to do is tag the release on GitHub and the app will automatically push updates to the plugin's official SVN repo on WordPress.org.

ship

The application was created by Jason Agnew and his team at Big Bite Creative, authors of the Herbert plugin framework. The team built the app in Laravel in just five days. It's currently hosted on Digital Ocean, but Agnew plans to move it over to AWS once Ship has gained more users.

"We've reached a point where most developers are familiar with GitHub, and as a result, Git," Agnew said in his announcement. "If you plan to do anything open source you're likely to find yourself on there - even Apple has made the move. Unfortunately WordPress.org uses SVN, which most developers don't use daily, or are even familiar with. It's easy enough to pick up, but why should you learn something new to update your plugin?"

With the help of the Ship app, developers won't have to touch SVN at all during the process of sending updates to WordPress.org plugin repositories.

"For years most plugin developers have used GitHub and then shipped to WordPress.org SVN using a bash script," Agnew said. "You'll find plenty out there, but they require you to keep both a Git and SVN repo on your machine - plus you need to remember to run it every time you tag a new release. We thought there must be a simpler way to do this, so we put our heads together. After a few days we had put together the first version of Ship."

In order to use the app you must have already submitted your plugin zip file to WordPress.org. You can then sign into the Ship app with GitHub and authorize its access to your repositories.

authorize-ship-app

The app will then fetch your repositories and you'll have the opportunity to select the ones you want to link up with a WordPress.org SVN address in order to start syncing updates.

ship-sync-reops

Big Bite Creative has built many custom plugins over the years, but Agnew said they never had the time to open source them.

"Now with Herbert out there we want to start releasing more plugins on Github - Ship is part of making that process easier," he said.

In the future, Agnew and his team would like to eliminate the need to first submit your plugin on WordPress.org and instead have that process initiated by Ship. They used "Sign in with GitHub" to save time when initially building the app but would also like to open it up for other services like BitBucket.

The new Ship app effectively gets around WordPress.org's SVN requirement for plugin repos, which has long been a minor deterrent and annoyance for developers wanting to host their work in the directory. If Ship is successful in making plugin developer's lives easier, the result will be more open source extensions available to WordPress users. Agnew and his team welcome feedback on the app and have created an empty repo on GiHub to capture any suggestions or issues.

02 Jul 2015 1:13am GMT

WPTavern: Which One of These Six Cities Should Host WordCamp US?

When Matt Mullenweg put out the call to cities interested in hosting WordCamp US, we learned the criteria they would have to meet in order to qualify. Venues would need to seat approximately 1,000-2,00 people, have hotels within 3 miles of the venue, hotel costs for a range of budgets, and average flight costs from the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Mexico, and Canada.

Applications to host WordCamp US 2015 officially closed today. Six cities submitted applications to host the event, they include:

On the Make WordPress Community site, Cami Kaos says applications are being carefully reviewed and organizers of the host city will be contacted as soon as possible. Dates for the event won't be given until a host city and venue is chosen.

Out of all the cities selected, I want WordCamp US to be in Chicago. I love Chicago and it's a quick flight from Cleveland. The city also has awesome pizza. Take the poll below and vote for which city you think should host WordCamp US. This poll is only for fun and will not affect the outcome of the host city.

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

02 Jul 2015 12:28am GMT

01 Jul 2015

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WPTavern: It’s Not a WordPress Problem, It’s a People Problem

Tom McFarlin published a thoughtful piece on what he perceives to be the sad state of the WordPress community. Too many people are participating in behavior that is embarrassing from the outside looking in. It's a long read, but it highlights the need for members of the WordPress community to stop and reflect on our actions.

The WordPress community is described by many as being open, friendly, with a willingness to help. It's all of those things but in the past few months, discussions on hotly debated topics such as the Customizer have brought the worst out of people.

Criticism is one thing, personal attacks are another and simply unnecessary. Unfortunately, text is a difficult medium to decipher context. Emoticons and emoji help, but it doesn't solve the problem. We as a community need to approach discussions with open minds. We can have different perspectives and viewpoints but we need to clearly communicate them without tearing the opposition down in the process. We must also learn to agree to disagree.

McFarlin's post is an inward facing moment for the WordPress community. Is this how we want people on the outside to portray us? WordPress is software created by passionate people who work tirelessly to improve the web. Let's all take a deep breath, collect ourselves, and do more to listen and understand each other.

01 Jul 2015 11:21pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress 4.3 Adds New Site Icons Feature and a Text Editor to Press This

WordPress 4.3 is on track to include a new site icons feature, which will allow administrators to easily upload an image to be used as the favicon and app icons for a site. Favicons have traditionally been handled by WordPress themes or plugins, but the new core support means that users no longer have to hunt down an extension to handle this basic site feature.

This addition landed in 4.3 in response to a four-year old trac ticket requesting an easier way for non-technical users to upload and crop an image to use as a favicon. Konstantin Obenland, release lead for 4.3, committed the feature to WordPress trunk this week, along with the following summary of its current capabilities:

This v1 marries Jetpack's Site Icon module with the Media Modal, reusing code from the Custom Header admin. For now, the core-provided icons will be limited to a favicon, an iOS app icon, and a Windows tile icon, leaving .ico support and additional icons to plugins to add.

After testing WordPress 4.3-alpha, I found that the experience of adding a favicon in the settings panel is smoother and more intuitive than any plugin I've ever tried. The screen offers users a nice preview of the image as a favicon and mobile icon. It also doesn't burden you with any notices about sizes and image quality, unless you attempt to upload an image that is less than 512px in width.

wordpress-site-icon

If you want to test the feature, you can provide feedback on the ticket or via the announcement post.

Another major enhancement added to 4.3 this week is a text editor for Press This. Many WordPress users appreciate the streamlined simplicity of the Press This post editor but were held back from using it to compose posts due to the lack of HTML editing support. The addition of a text editor offers the same capabilities as the standard editor in post-new.php.

press-this-text-editor

Press This will also receive a few polishes in addition to the text editor, including auto-scrolling when the caret moves out of the viewport while the user is typing (similar to editor-expand) and auto-resizing for the textarea. WordPress 4.3's improvements to Press This are not exactly a replacement for the dearly-departed distraction-free writing mode, but the post editor at wp-admin/press-this.php is quickly becoming one of the more zen-like interfaces in the admin.

01 Jul 2015 8:50pm GMT

Matt: Safari the new IE?

"In recent years, Apple's strategy towards the web can most charitably be described as 'benevolent neglect.'" Nolan Lawson throws the gauntlet down by asking Is Safari the new Internet Explorer?

01 Jul 2015 6:28pm GMT

Matt: Gut Bacteria and Mood

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood? Answer: Maybe.

01 Jul 2015 6:00am GMT

WPTavern: WordPress for iOS 5.3 Released With Refreshed Stats and a New Layout for Posts and Pages

WordPress for iOS 5.3 is available on iTunes and has a few new features. Post listings display more content making them easier to browse. A search feature has been added to the post listing screen that displays results as you type.

Search bar in WordPress for iOS 5.3Search bar in WordPress for iOS 5.3

I tested the search feature on two different sites. The first site is on WordPress.com and doesn't use featured images. Search results displayed quickly with little lag.

The second is a self hosted WordPress site that uses featured images. I noticed lag as the app tried to display real-time results as I typed which also lagged the app. I couldn't do anything else within the app until the search query finished.

I don't use the search feature often and this experience has me concerned. Instead of being fast and fluid, it's chunky and slow. I also don't see the need to display featured images in search results. I think this would make the search query and the app faster.

WordPress.com and self hosted WordPress sites are now combined under My Sites. Instead of seeing a spinning circle when checking stats, there's a progress bar at the top. This gives the appearance that the stats page loads faster. The stats page also has a subtle color scheme change that makes things more pronounced.

WordPress for iOS 5.3 Stats PageWordPress for iOS 5.3 Stats Page

Last but not least, 5.3 includes several bug fixes. Overall, 5.3 is a decent update. Remember to use caution when searching a site with a lot of posts that use featured images. WordPress for iOS 5.3 is available for free on iTunes. If you encounter any issues in 5.3, please report them in the support forum.

01 Jul 2015 12:26am GMT

30 Jun 2015

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WPTavern: Filter to Disable the Customizer Shot Down on WordPress Trac

photo credit: shutoff - (license)photo credit: shutoff - (license)

WordPress 4.3 will introduce menu management via the customizer, providing live previews on the frontend for adding, deleting, and ordering menu items. Although users still have the option to manage menus using the admin interface, developers who are not keen on the feature are searching for an easy way to disable the customizer and remove its links throughout WordPress.

In certain scenarios involving client work, the customizer can be more trouble than it's worth and may not be a beneficial addition to a custom-tailored WordPress admin.

@pollyplummer very interesting. I'm not against the new updates but the customizer is hell in the agency world.

- Edward McIntyre (@twittem) June 24, 2015

Gabe Shackle, an application developer and UI engineer at Risdall, created a ticket on WordPress trac last week, requesting a filter to disable the customizer. His patch offers developers an easy way to enable the 'no-customizer-support' class within the body tag.

Due to the fact that the 'customizer-support' class is added via JavaScript on page render, it cannot be manipulated using any core filters or actions currently.

By setting the filter value to false, the Customizer is essentially hidden from the admin and the links that were currently pointing at the Customizer (widgets, themes, etc…) are reverted to their previous dashboard destinations.

Currently, developers who want to disable the customizer have to employ a combination of different methods in order to effectively remove everything that the customizer introduces into the admin.

"This filter makes this process into a simple boolean filter so that developers who do not want or need the Customizer can easily remove it," Shackle said.

WordPress lead developer Dion Hulse replied to the ticket to say that although he doesn't use the customizer much himself, he doesn't think that WordPress users would benefit from an easy way to turn it off.

Personally as much as I don't use the customizer a lot of the time, I think offering a filter to disable it is probably not in the best interests of WordPress users.

The customizer, as much as some dislike it, is a major component of the future of WordPress UX - whether that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen by some - but like it or hate it, it's here.

Hulse suggested, as an alternative, that a better way to disable it would be to remove the customize capability from the roles.

Shackle further explained that he was attempting to follow the precedent of the admin bar, which he considers to be a similar type of UX component.

"The Admin Bar can be disabled not only by a filter but by a global variable, core function, and user profile setting," he said. "The Customizer has none of these options."

Nick Halsey, the developer of the Menu Customizer plugin that is being merged into 4.3, replied based on assumptions about why Shackle might request a filter to disable the feature:

I have yet to see a valid reason for something like this. In most cases, concerns about not wanting users to have access to the Customizer stem from the fact that you're not giving them the appropriate capabilities. And the customize capability can be used to turn off the Customizer if you really must.

While you can remove the customize meta capability (or re-map it or whatever), doing so simply because you don't want to train users or don't want to use the Customizer is doing yourself and your users an enormous disservice. As dd32 mentioned, the Customizer will only continue to grow in importance within WordPress. Additionally, user testing has shown that the Customizer experience is generally easier for users to grasp than the admin, which largely stems from the value of having live-previewing available. We're putting a significant amount of time into the Customizer every release to continue improving it, conducting frequent user tests along the way to optimize usability.

Halsey promptly closed the ticket following this exchange. I followed up with Shackle to find out why the proposed alternative to remove the customize capability is inadequate for his purposes.

"Mostly I was hoping that the Customizer could be treated more like the admin bar, which has 3+ methods for disabling it," Shackle said. "Having a clearly labeled filter is, in my opinion, more legible than modifying user capabilities. A PHP developer with virtually no WordPress knowledge could most likely understand much quicker what's happening with a filter named 'enable_customizer_support' rather than 'map_meta_cap'."

Obviously, not all tickets and patches will be considered valid by the maintainers of WordPress core components, but Shackle was disappointed by the defensive response to the discussion.

"Honestly, had the reply simply been something along the lines of 'You should just use the customize capability to achieve the same effect' I really wouldn't have had any issue," he said.

"Unfortunately, it seems any approach other than 'Customizer for all things!' means I get to be told multiple times how much of a disservice I'm doing my clients and what a lazy developer I am for not just re-training my clients how to manage their sites' appearance.

"It feels like the Customizer team themselves have an all-or-nothing approach to the project and that anyone who questions this is wrong, regardless of their reasoning," Shackle said.

This exchange demonstrates that since core contributors view the customizer as a major part of the future of WordPress, this is one feature where there will be little willingness to support efforts to make it more modular. Disabling support for the customizer will continue to require use of 'map_meta_cap,' the same method the creators of the Customizer Remove All Parts plugin have employed.

30 Jun 2015 11:08pm GMT

WPTavern: UpThemes Adds Managed WordPress Hosting to Theme Club Business

upthemes

After five years of selling themes and support, UpThemes is branching out into the managed WordPress hosting business. Last week the company announced the new hosting venture and partnership with Aesop Interactive:

We are excited to announce UpThemes Hosting, a managed WordPress hosting solution that includes 40+ premium WordPress themes including our entire theme library, all themes from the collection of Aesop Interactive (makers of Aesop Story Engine), as well as a curated selection of beautifully-designed themes from WordPress.org.

For $20/month customers can host one WordPress site with 5GB disk space and 100GB monthly bandwith. Tech support is included along with 40+ commercial themes from UpThemes and Aesop Interactive. Users have control over their sites as they would with a standard WordPress installation, i.e. FTP access, ability to install plugins and themes, etc.

upthemes-hosting

"This is actually a partnership with Pressed.net, a division of Site5, that sits on top of their managed WordPress hosting architecture," UpThemes co-founder Chris Wallace told the Tavern. "We've looked at many opportunities for a hosting partnership over the years and none of the options felt quite right to us, so we waited until there was one that provided our customers with the best hosting service and support.

"Site5 understood that need and we've worked hand-in-hand for many months to finally release this product. We're very proud of it and think it provides more value than the typical WordPress hosting product."

The hybrid combination of hosting plus a theme club is fairly unique in the WordPress ecosystem, but Wallace believes it provides an easier path for UpThemes customers looking to build an online presence.

"Our audience is mainly DIYers who just need a site up and running," he said. "We've always been looking to make it as easy as possible to purchase and install an UpThemes theme so a hosting platform where all our themes are pre-installed seemed like the perfect solution to the problem of 'which theme do I pick' and 'how do I install a theme' and 'will your theme work on my webhost?'"

The new hosting product also helps UpThemes deal with the financial volatility and unpredictability of managing a theme club business.

"From a business perspective, selling themes alone has always made it difficult to pin down our customer acquisition cost and churn rate (meaning the number of customers who stop paying their annual renewals)," Wallace said.

"Since we offer an annual license, we don't know if a customer will renew for a whole year, which, as you can imagine, makes it hard to know the lifetime value of the customer. It's a hard thing to analyze. Some people care enough to renew but most people don't understand the value enough to care."

UpThemes will continue to serve the small business and DIY market and Wallace hopes to add more journalists, storytellers, and photographers with the new Aesop Interactive partnership.

"Beyond our new hosting venture, we also serve thousands of blogs on WordPress.com, which helps us offer a one-click method of buying and using our themes without any sort of installation required," Wallace said.

"I think that really is one of the key points for us: closing the gap on how much knowledge you need to use our themes. We'd like to make it even easier for certain types of customers (e-commerce, for example) to hit the ground running.

"There are so many variables to creating a successful online business and we just want to give less technical WordPress users an easier path to success."

30 Jun 2015 5:54pm GMT