20 Dec 2014

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WPTavern: Nulis: A Free Minimalist WordPress Theme with a Unique Twist

Nulis is one of the most unique designs to land in the WordPress Themes Directory this year. At first glance, you might think the theme is rather plain. The screenshot on the theme's description page doesn't indicate anything interesting going on under the hood, but something about it intrigued me enough to put it up on a test site.

Nulis-screenshot

Nulis includes several options built into the native customizer for adding your own header image, background, a custom logo, the ability to change the header text color, and more. Once customized, the theme looks quite a bit less plain than its screenshot.

nullis-customized

The icon on the top right spins when clicked and fades in a search bar. The icon at the top left of the theme also spins and opens a hidden panel with your logo, bio, navigation menu, social links, and any custom widgets you wish to add. Everything included in the hidden panel can be added via the customizer.

nulis-hidden-panel

Nulis is the Javanese word for 'writing,' and the theme does an excellent job of highlighting your content, especially if you are fond of post formats. Each post format has its own unique styling to set it apart from the others. The one-column theme surrounds your content with ample white space and showcases large, full-width featured images. The theme is also responsive and looks fantastic on mobile devices.

nulis-responsive

Check out the live demo to see the theme in action, and make sure to try the interactive icons at the top while you're there. It's a fun addition for toggling the hidden panel and search box.

Nulis was created by web developer Denny Kuswantoro. It's his first submission to the themes directory and his account will be one to watch in the future. You can download Nulis from WordPress.org or install it on your site via the admin themes browser.

20 Dec 2014 12:27am GMT

19 Dec 2014

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WPTavern: phpBB.com Compromised, Users Should Change Their Passwords

phpBB.com, which hosts the popular open source forum software phpBB, has been compromised. On Dec. 14th, members of the development team discovered several web servers that power the website were compromised and immediately suspended operations. Users are not at risk as the phpBB software is not affected.

phpBBHomePagephpBB HomePage

According to an ongoing investigation, initial entry was gained through a staff member's account. The attackers obtained access to the phpBB.com and area51 databases, meaning that user information, including hashed salted passwords, was also compromised. Area51 is a phpBB development website maintained by the phpBB team.

Additionally, all logins on area51 between Dec. 12th and Dec. 15th were logged in plaintext. Despite the passwords being hashed, users are encouraged to change their passwords, especially if you use the same password on other sites.

When it comes to using a forum in WordPress, bbPress is usually the go-to plugin because of its tight integration. However, there are a few plugins that bridge the phpBB forum software with WordPress. WP-United is one such plugin and has nearly 40k downloads. Its popularity indicates several site owners connect WordPress to phpBB instead of bbPress.

The team is in the process of restoring its website. Once the servers are back online, they will provide full details, including the steps they've taken since the compromise.

19 Dec 2014 11:01pm GMT

WPTavern: Postmatic Offers Free Concierge Service for Installation of Its New Comments Subscription Plugin

postmatic

Postmatic is currently offering free concierge installation, configuration, and user migration for its new comments subscription which is now in beta. The plugin allows users to subscribe to new posts/comments via email and leave a comment by simply hitting reply. Postmatic beta 6 introduced 1-click migration of subscribers from Jetpack, in order to make it easy for Jetpack users to get on board.

The plugin aims to make WordPress and post/comment subscription emails work seamlessly, so that users don't have to leave their inboxes to interact with commenters. While the base plugin is free for any number of blogs and subscribers, the Postmatic creators are looking to monetize it in the future by offering paid delivery of outgoing mail for larger sites.

In an effort to compete against the Jetpack-dominated comment subscription feature, Postmatic is aggressively signing up new users via its free concierge service. For a limited time, the team will perform the following for users who wish to switch to Postmatic:

The free concierge service is limited to the first 50 people who respond by filling out Postmatic's application. If the service is successful, I wouldn't be surprised to see it added to the product's commercial offerings in the near future.

Comments are vital to the health of a blog and are often the strongest indicator of engagement on your content. Based on the initial response to Postmatic, WordPress users who value comments are eager to find better ways to extend them to boost interaction.

Postmatic, like many other new products, is entering the marketplace with the strategy of building a strong user base around its free plugin. Its creators are aiming to capture a share of the post/comment subscription market with importers for Jetpack, Mailpoet, Mailchimp, Feedburner and other services before the official public launch.

19 Dec 2014 10:10pm GMT

WPTavern: Menu Customizer Now in Development for WordPress 4.2

hammer

WordPress 4.1 was released just yesterday, but core contributors are already planning and working towards 4.2. The Menu Customizer feature plugin is back in development and contributors are hoping to have it ready for inclusion in 4.2. Nick Halsey, who originally started the Menu Customizer work as part of his Google Summer of Code project, will be leading the effort to get the feature prepared for the upcoming release.

During the last release cycle, Halsey was focused on improving the Customizer API in core to add dynamic and contextual controls, sections, and panels. The Menu Customizer plugin has now been updated to be compatible with WordPress 4.1 and is ready to pick up development where it left off. As it's no longer a GSoC project, Halsey is now actively looking for contributors.

Currently, the menu customizer is usable and offers the ability to assign menus to locations, edit existing menus/menu items, and add new menus.

menu-customizer

Halsey outlined a roadmap for preparing the Menu Customizer for merge, which includes a number of PHP and Javascript development tasks, including, but not limited to, the following:

He also hopes to improve the experience of using the customizer on mobile, followed by getting the menu customizer plugin to work on mobile. Halsey is also looking for contributors to assist on the design, code review, a backwards-compatibility audit, and inline documentation.

If you're curious about how the Menu Customizer works, anyone is welcome to try the plugin and offer feedback. For the time being, it is compatible with WordPress 4.1 but may require 4.2-alpha down the road as it progresses.

Contributor interest is critical for the Menu Customizer to have a shot at inclusion in WordPress 4.2. If you can help in any way, jump in on the Make/WordPress Core post to volunteer.

19 Dec 2014 8:57pm GMT

WPTavern: WordSesh 3 Begins Tonight at 7PM EST

WordSesh 3 Featured ImageWordSesh, the 24 hour virtual WordCamp, begins tonight at 7PM EST when one session per hour for 24 hours straight will stream live on the WordSesh homepage.

It's free to attend with sessions covering a wide range of topics including, WordPress performance, WooCommerce, and business advice. Take a look at the schedule to see a list of sessions and their scheduled broadcast time.

In case you can't watch a session live, each one will be recorded and made available immediately following the event. Scott Basgaard, the events primary organizer, plans to add each session to a video playlist through the WordSesh YouTube account.

Will you stay awake for 24 hours to watch WordSesh? I don't think I'll be able to make it, but I'm going to try!

19 Dec 2014 8:53pm GMT

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 175 – New Years Resolution Slider

In this episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I discuss a number of topics. We give you a heads up on the latest round of attacks taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the Revolution Slider plugin. We congratulate John James Jacoby on successfully reaching his crowdfunding goal. We talk about a new plugin discovery tool released by ManageWP and compare it to what's available on the official directory.

This is the last show of 2014. Thank you for listening and supporting the show throughout the year. The next episode will be on January 7th, 2015.

Stories Discussed:

100,000+ WordPress Sites Compromised Using the Slider Revolution Security Vulnerability
StoryFTW Now Available in The Plugin Directory
Jetpack 3.3 Introduces New Centralized Dashboard for Managing Multiple WordPress Sites
WordPress Themes Directory Now Requires All Themes to be Translation-Ready
BuddyPress, bbPress, and GlotPress Development Campaign is Now Fully Funded
Google Earth API to Retire December 12th, 2015
ManageWP Releases Plugin Discovery Tool

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

HTTPS Mixed Content Detector attempts to identify sources of mixed content warnings. The plugin will examine content loaded when admins are viewing the site. Any content that violates the policy of loading content that originates from "https:" resources will trigger an error and that resource will be logged.

Performance Tester allows you to launch a performance and quality analysis on your WordPress home page from your back office. The report is provided by DareBoost.

Idea Factory allows users to submit new ideas from the WordPress front-end and vote on them.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, January 7th 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 #175:

19 Dec 2014 2:11am GMT

WPTavern: Concept Image Shows Redesign of Drupal.org User Profiles

Open source projects rely on contributions from both paid and non-paid volunteers. As a project gets larger, there are more ways to contribute. Displaying a user's contributions is a great way to show off a person's impact to the project.

Like WordPress, Drupal.org provides a profile page for registered users. During the December 17th Drupal Association meeting, the team announced it's going to redesign Drupal.org user profiles and released a concept image.

Drupal User Profile Page Redesign ConceptDrupal User Profile Page Redesign Concept

The proposed design will change slightly as members of the community continue to work on it, but I like what I see so far. It's clean, uses colors, and does a good job of organizing a lot of information.

Meanwhile, the WordPress.org user profiles which are also a work in progress, don't show nearly as much information. Activity, Plugins, and Favorites are split into sections. However, the main profile page looks nice, uses color, and contains badges.

WordPress.org User Profile PagesWordPress.org User Profile Pages

Difference in Approach

One of the differences between WordPress and Drupal is that the ticket dedicated to redesigning Drupal user profile pages is filled with discussion and contributions. On the other hand, WordPress uses a mixture of tickets, posts on the Make Community P2 website, and comments to decide how to redesign the profile pages. I'm a fan of keeping information about a specific feature in a central location as it's easier to reference.

User profiles are a common item shared between two large, open source projects. It's interesting to see the approach each has taken towards improving the design and showcasing a user's contributions to the project.

What do you think of the concept image and is there anything in the design you think would work well for WordPress.org user profiles?

19 Dec 2014 12:39am GMT

18 Dec 2014

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WPTavern: Critical Git Vulnerability Patched: Update Your Git Clients Immediately

photo credit: git - the simple guidephoto credit: git - the simple guide

Git just announced version 2.2.1, a maintenance release that includes a security fix for a critical vulnerability that affects those using Windows and Mac OS X Git clients. This update also includes new releases with the same security fix for older Git versions.

GitHub confirmed that GitHub for Windows and GitHub for Mac are both affected and should be updated immediately. The GitHub engineering team explains how attackers might exploit the vulnerability:

The vulnerability concerns Git and Git-compatible clients that access Git repositories in a case-insensitive or case-normalizing filesystem. An attacker can craft a malicious Git tree that will cause Git to ovewrite its own .git/config file when cloning or checking out a repository, leading to arbitrary command execution in the client machine. Git clients running on OS X (HFS+) or any version of Microsoft Windows (NTFS, FAT) are exploitable through this vulnerability. Linux clients are not affected if they run in a case-sensitive filesystem.

If you're using GitHub's client for Windows or Mac, the security issue has been patched and is ready for download. This includes an update to both the desktop application and the bundled version of the Git command-line client. If you're using any other kind of Git client or software that connects to Git repositories, you'll want to update immediately.

Although the issue should not affect Linux users, the release announcement encourages those who operate hosting services with users that fetch from Windows or Mac OS X machines to update in order to protect users with older versions of Git. Check out the 2.2.1 release notes for further information on the security fixes.

18 Dec 2014 10:03pm GMT

WPTavern: Export Your WordPress Blog to Jekyll with One Click

jekyll

Jekyll fans are fond of the Ruby-powered static blogging software due to its ease of use and support for Markdown and the Liquid templating engine. With no database to maintain and no comments to moderate, Jekyll radically simplifies blogging. It's also the software that powers blogging on Github Pages.

Moving content from WordPress to Jekyll is super easy, thanks to the Jekyll Exporter plugin created by Ben Balter. His Jekyll-powered blog is hosted on GitHub, along with his exporter plugin, which has been in development for more than a year. It was recently updated to be even easier to use and is now available on WordPress.org.

Want to move from @WordPress to @jekyllrb? The native, one-click exporter got a big refresh; now in plugin directory https://t.co/tUWrOe9Tn4

- Ben Balter (@BenBalter) December 12, 2014

The one-click plugin converts all posts, pages, taxonomies, metadata, and settings to Markdown and YAML, which can be dropped right into Jekyll.

Who Needs a Jekyll Exporter?

I think WordPress is the best blogging software out there, but there are some bloggers who don't want the hassle of comment moderation and all the maintenance that WordPress requires. This plugin is perfect for conveniently transitioning to Jekyll.

It's also useful if you have created a bunch of documentation for a project on your WordPress site but decide to move the docs to a freely hosted Jekyll-powered site on GitHub Pages. This allows you to manage your documentation with version control and makes it easy for others to contribute.

I have not found Jekyll terribly easy to set up when I've worked with it in the past. That's why this exporter plugin is a huge time saver - it basically does everything for you:

The Jekyll Exporter plugin has no settings to configure. Just click the button and you'll have all your content exported into the correct format for Jekyll and organized into the right structure.

If you're having trouble with your server timing out on the export, Balter has ensured that the plugin is compatible with WP-CLI. You can run this command, which also has support for sites where wp-content isn't in the traditional location:

wp jekyll-export > export.zip

Currently, the Jekyll Exporter is the only one of its kind in the WordPress.org plugin directory. Fortunately, it was created by a reputable developer who knows the ins and outs of using Jekyll after WordPress.

18 Dec 2014 9:33pm GMT

Post Status: WordPress 4.1, “Dinah”

wordpress-4-1
WordPress 4.1, "Dinah", has just been released. WordPress 4.1 is the result of months of work and includes a number of excellent new features.

WordPress 4.1 was led by John Blackbourn, who did an outstanding job. Two hundred and eighty three contributors were part of WordPress 4.1, which Matt Mullenweg states is a new high.

Here are some of the new features.

Persistent Distraction-free Writing

I must begin with the new persistent Distraction-free Writing feature, as I'm using it to write this very post. We've had Distraction-free Writing since 2011, with the release of WordPress 3.2. However, it's always been a single-experience decision. You hit the button to enter distraction free mode, and you utilize it for a single writing session.

Now, the button itself is persistent, and the experience of writing distraction free doesn't enter a new screen, but rather fade away the distractions of the default editor.

Screen Shot

The left admin seamlessly floats away, as do the metaboxes to the right of and below the editor. The editor itself remains, versus using a modified editor like before.

When you update to WordPress 4.1, you are triggered with a note about Distraction-free Writing, and now that it's a decision you only have to make once, I think this feature will finally get the broad use it deserves. It really is much more pleasant to write without everything else around you, to be lost in your thoughts as they make their way to the editor.

Twenty Fifteen theme

Screen Shot

The Twenty Fifteen theme is the finest work I've seen yet of the default theme team. A blogging, and personal, theme - Twenty Fifteen is simple, with beautiful typography, and capable of showcasing blog posts of any format with poise.

Twenty Fifteen comes in six base color schemes: default (light), dark, yellow, ping, purple, and blue. It also supports WordPress' background and header image features, and allows you to customize colors from your base selection; Twenty Fifteen can be as quirky as you are.

Screen Shot

Here's a link to the default theme demo, as well as it's new page on WordPress.org.

Dozens of languages, available any time

Screen Shot

WordPress has made tremendous progress for non-English speaking users in the past few releases. With WordPress 4.0, you could choose a language on installation, whereas before it required many more steps. Now the team has gone a step further, so that language can be changed at any time, right from WordPress' general settings page.

Given that a third of WordPress installs are non-English (and if I recall correctly half of new downloads are non-English now), this change further reduces the barrier of language in publishing software, and is an excellent move for the progression of the platform across the world.

Recommended plugins

Screen Shot

I believe recommended plugins is probably the most controversial feature in WordPress 4.1, though it is not without precedent. "Featured" themes have been in the WordPress dashboard for a while now. But with a tab for recommended plugins, now users can see plugin recommendations based on plugins already installed and plugins other sites have installed.

Recommended plugins are replacing the former popular plugins tab, and is mostly a change in the underlying API for showing the plugins themselves. Since it's not a manual recommendation, I think this is a good change, and will more accurately help folks find relevant plugins than just listing the most popular plugins in the directory.

New template tags and theming tools

I'm really looking forward to using some of the new template tags introduced in WordPress 4.1.

My favorite is get_the_archive_title(). Themers out there all know about the big blob of conditionals in most theme archive templates to spit out the right string based on which archive template it is. Now, there's a function for that, and it's fully filterable to boot.

Descriptions of the new title functions, some new pagination functions, and some particularly nice body class assignment enhancements are well described on this Make WordPress post by Konstantin Obenland. There's also a post about adding theme support to let WordPress handle title tags, which is a handy thing.

Log out from anywhere

A relatively small but nice security feature is the new ability to log out of all installs from a single location. WordPress uses cookies to keep you logged into your install for a period of time. Well, if you ever leave yourself logged in on a computer you don't trust, you can now log out of all instances easily, from your profile page on an install.

There is a new button that says "Log Out of All Other Sessions," and also tells you if you are logged in at more than one location.

More improvements to queries

I love how much progress has been made on the WordPress query tools in the last couple of years. WordPress 4.1 introduces the ability for a nested query syntax, which makes more complex queries possible for WP_Tax_Query, WP_Date_Query, and WP_Meta_Query. I don't often call out single individual's work on something, but Boone Georges really slayed it with the nested queries work. He wrote about it on his blog in detail.

More under the hood

WordPress 4.1 includes many other under the hood features you should check out on the Codex page about the release.

More excellent progress for WordPress

WordPress is better than ever, and hundreds (or thousands) of people make it so. Great job everyone. Now, go download WordPress 4.1.

18 Dec 2014 7:12pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress 4.1 “Dinah” Released

photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Imagephoto credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Image

After nearly four months of development, WordPress 4.1 "Dinah" in honor of jazz singer Dinah Washington, is available for download. Led by John Blackbourn, 4.1 contains several improvements such as a new default theme, an improved distraction free writing experience, and plugin recommendations.

Twenty Fifteen

New Default Theme For 2015New Default Theme For 2015

Twenty Fifteen is a two-column theme with a focus on content. In sharp contrast to Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Fifteen is light in color with a left hand sidebar and content in the right column. It's designed with a mobile first approach and looks great on various screen sizes. Twenty Fifteen looks best when using large, featured images. It also ships with five different color schemes, ranging from dark to pink that are accessible from within the theme customizer.

Plugin Recommendations

Plugins Recommended To Me Based on Data of Sites with Similar Plugins InstalledPlugins Recommended To Me Based on Data of Sites with Similar Plugins Installed

When you browse to the Add New plugins screen, you'll see a new Recommended tab. Recommendations are based on data from thousands of WordPress sites about plugins that are commonly used together. It's similar to an online store's "people who bought this also bought this" feature. Because of the strict data set used, plugins that are 3-4 years old or older won't be recommended.

Improved Distraction Free Writing

Distraction Free Writing in WordPress 4.1Distraction Free Writing in WordPress 4.1

When you enable Distraction Free Writing mode, the surrounding interface disappears as you type leaving important actions and menu items just a mouse movement away. This mode minimizes distractions without having to go through a clunky transition to access the admin menu or meta boxes. To bring back the menu and meta boxes, move the mouse cursor to the left or right of the editor.

Log Out of Every Session With One Button

WordPress Session UIWordPress Session UI

WordPress 4.1 includes a new Session UI. The UI shows up on the profile page when WordPress detects more than one active session. When pressed, the button logs out of every session except for the active one. This is useful for those times when users might have forgotten to log off from a laptop, phone, or public computer.

Inline Image Editing

Inline Image Editing ToolsInline Image Editing Tools

When editing an image using the Visual editor, a set of inline editing tools appear above the image. These tools provide a quick and easy way to align an image or access additional editing options.

oEmbed Support Added For Vine

WordPress 4.1 has oEmbed support for Vine which hosts short videos that continuously loop. Sharing a Vine is now as easy as copying and pasting the URL into the Visual editor.

Choose a Different Language at Any Time

Site Language Picker in WordPress 4.1Site Language Picker in WordPress 4.1

You can now choose a language for your site at any time by visiting the General Settings screen. Choosing a different language installs the required language pack.

Developer Items

Metadata, date, and term queries now support advanced conditional logic, like nested clauses and multiple operators. There are a couple of new Template tags and a major improvement with Title Tags in 4.1. There have also been several improvements to the Customizer API, including contextual panels, sections, and JavaScript templates for controls.

4.1 Represents Continued Improvement

WordPress 4.1 is the product of dedicated developers and 283 contributors. The ability to choose a language without having to touch a line of code is a great improvement. The default theme is refreshing compared to Twenty Fourteen and users have an entire year to manipulate the design. While some users will see the new Distraction Free Writing mode as a distraction, others will enjoy its convenience.

This is one of the first major WordPress releases in a long time that doesn't have a video walk through. To take its place, here is a video featuring songs from Dinah Washington in 1954.

What do you think of the new default theme and will you try out the new Distraction Free Writing mode? Let us know what you think of 4.1 in the comments.

18 Dec 2014 6:37pm GMT

WPTavern: Intergalactic: A Bold Free WordPress Theme from Automattic

Despite a global decrease in public funding for space programs, humans are still reaching for the last frontier through film, music, and even design. Automattic's latest free theme release on WordPress.org is a bold new take on the space motif.

Intergalactic features strong typography with post titles overlaying full-width featured images. The one-column layout is well-suited to a personal blog and the theme has support for all the standard post formats.

intergalactic-theme

Intergalactic also includes support for custom headers, custom backgrounds, and a social links menu. The theme keeps navigation out of sight via a high-contrast slideout menu. The sidebar is 530px wide with plenty of space for longer page titles and wider widgets.

intergalactic-slide-out-menu

The theme also has built-in styles for right-aligned, left-aligned, and centered pullquotes, which can be easily set in the text editor.

<blockquote class="alignleft">
   This is a left-aligned blockquote.
</blockquote>

Intergalactic's bold design takes you back to the glory days when space photography was brand new and manned missions put explorers on the moon. It's been more than 40 years since the Apollo 17 astronauts' last visit to the lunar surface in 1972, but the idea of space travel remains firmly stuck in the public imagination.

If you need a new look for your blog and you're aiming to publish at the speed of light in 2015, the Intergalactic theme is a powerful motivator. Check out the live demo on WordPress.com to see it in action. Intergalactic is now available to download for free from the WordPress.org Themes Directory.

18 Dec 2014 6:19am GMT

WPTavern: How to Take Control of The WordPress Heartbeat API

Heartbeat Control Featured Imagephoto credit: osseous - cc

The WordPress Heartbeat API, introduced in WordPress 3.6, simulates a pulse and is responsible for revision tracking, session management, and more. The pulse is around 98 Bytes in size, but it can cause performance issues in certain situations.

If you've been notified by your webhost that your account is using too many resources and cite POST /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php as the cause, it's likely due to the Heartbeat API.

How The Heartbeat API Works

Inmotion Hosting has an excellent article that explains how the Heartbeat API works. If you monitor server requests while in the post editor, you'll see POST /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php "http://example.com/wp-admin/index.php appear every 15 seconds. This is the pulse generated by the API.

The pulse makes sure you have a persistent connection to the web server and provides a way for developers to trigger events. For example, if the pulse takes 30 seconds or longer to process, WordPress displays a connection error and attempts to reconnect to the server.

The Problem

Execution TimeExecution Time

There are several situations in which a pulse is generated either automatically, or by a user. Most of the time pulses are harmless and don't do anything.

Each pulse (POST request) executes a PHP script equating to CPU time on the server. In an experiment, InMotion Hosting left the dashboard open for a half hour and noticed 25 PHP script executions that used 5.77 CPU seconds. The small amount of CPU time was used to do nothing.

The problem is compounded by the fact that each user who has access to the backend of WordPress generates a pulse. As the number of users navigating the WordPress backend simultaneously increases, so does the number of pulses generated from the API.

If a webhosting provider has strict limits on the number of processes or resources used, you could easily go over the limit.

How to Control The Heartbeat API

Heartbeat Control, developed by Jeff Matson, is a new plugin that enables you to control the interval of pulses. After activating the plugin, you'll find the settings located in Tools>Heartbeat Control.

Heartbeat Control SettingsHeartbeat Control Settings

You can choose to disable the API entirely, only on the dashboard page, or allow it only on the post editing screen. You can also choose the interval when pulses are sent. The choices range from 15-60 seconds with 5 second intervals in between.

By changing the interval to 60 seconds, pulses are less likely to impact server performance. Several HostGator customers who use the plugin report they no longer experience suspensions for using too many resources.

Why InMotion Hosting Doesn't Throttle The API by Default

If increasing the pulse interval from 15 to 60 seconds increases server performance, why doesn't InMotion Hosting throttle the API on every webhosting server?

Matson, who works for InMotion Hosting, says a one size fits all approach doesn't work. "The reason we don't do that is because there are some users that require it at the default rate or an even higher frequency. When making server-wide changes, you have to be extremely careful that you do not impact a customer's site."

Matson goes on to say that, "As a host, the number one goal is making customers happy and restricting the normal operation of a user's site is unacceptable."

How HostGator Almost Deleted WP Tavern

I sympathize with those who use HostGator as they have a strict CPU resource restriction. If pulses from the Heartbeat API cause the CPU to become busy or cause a backup in processes, using 25% of the CPU longer than 90 seconds is easy to do.

HostGator's policy for using too many resources is to suspend the account. This makes it impossible to troubleshoot the problem. If you exceed the resource allotment more than five times, the site is removed from the server and your account is banned.

HostGator Resource PolicyHostGator Resource Policy

In late 2013, when WP Tavern used HostGator, I experienced first-hand what it's like to have a website suspended. When I upgraded the Tavern to WordPress 3.6, which introduced the Heartbeat API, I started to experience problems. The site would routinely lock up and when I viewed the processes tab in cPanel, it looked like a simple process repeated itself, leading to a denial of service.

Site Offline ErrorsI can't confirm if the Heartbeat API was the culprit but it's high on my list of suspicions. After suspending the Tavern twice, HostGator informed me that if the site was suspended again, it would be removed from the server without giving me a chance to back it up. Needless to say, I switched hosts immediately.

Don't End Up in a Similar Situation

If you're using a webhosting service with strict resource limits, consider installing Heartbeat Control to limit the number of pulses. Not only will it mean fewer calls to the server, but it may lead to a performance increase as well. Keep a close eye on the resources used and if you come close to maxing out, it's a sign you need to upgrade to a better plan. Don't end up in a position where you may lose your site!

18 Dec 2014 2:19am GMT

17 Dec 2014

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WPTavern: Atlanta WordPress Coders Guild: A New Meetup for Designers and Programmers

photo credit: FrenchKheldar - ccphoto credit: FrenchKheldar - cc

The Atlanta metro area will soon be getting a new type of WordPress meetup, targeted towards programmers and designers. Local organizers Mike Schinkel and Micah Wood announced the Atlanta WordPress Coders Guild on Meetup.com and have already attracted 55 members who identify themselves as coders.

Due to the group's unique requirements, it is not affiliated with the WordPress Foundation-sponsored community meetups. In order to become a member, one must be interested in working with technologies such as PHP, MySQL, Apache, Javascript, jQuery, Git, Backbone, Vagrant, Gulp, Grunt, SASS, and the WordPress API.

"We are not affiliated with the WordPress Foundation's Community Meetups initiative because we are not open to WordPress end-users," Schinkel emphasizes in the meetup's description. "We are instead a group for serious professionals with a goal of raising the bar for WordPress coder talent in the Southeast and to make it more viable for the major project funders to choose WordPress instead of closed source solutions."

Official community meetups have a requirement to have membership open to "all who wish to join, regardless of ability, skill, financial status or any other criteria." Since the Atlanta WordPress Coders Guild isn't open to all skill levels, it is running independently. The organizers plan to host workshops centered around best practices expected by clients who spend $100k+ on projects that demand a high level of performance and security.

Atlanta's Fragmented WordPress Community

Schinkel has lived in the Atlanta area for several decades and has a great deal of experience organizing professional meetups. He's an accidental connector who became acquainted with many people in the area and has a unique perspective on the Atlanta tech and WordPress communities.

"We have a really strong tech community backed by education like Georgia Tech and ~10 Fortune 500 companies in the Atlanta area, and tons on technology meetups," he said. "Lots of Java, .NET, Ruby, Javascript and PHP, and at least 10 large digital agencies with probably up to 1000 agencies if you count the small ones."

The startup community is also thriving in the area and Atlanta is experiencing growth across various sectors, including financial, health tech, IT security, and more. Unfortunately, this has not directly translated into a strong WordPress community.

"The WordPress community, however, is fragmented because of metro Atlanta's expansive geography, lack of any natural geographic boundaries and no single entity with the clout to really organize a cohesive community," Schinkel explained. The area has 10 different meetups, many of which fail to attract more than a handful of members on a regular basis.

The Atlanta WordPress Users Group, organized by Judi Knight, is the most successful with approximately 1600 members, but Schinkel says those are primarily people willing to travel to a meetup in town. Outer metro Atlanta residents are reluctant to attend.

"Also, from the perspective of a professional WordPress PHP, MySQL and jQuery coder, those meetups are characterized by really novice end-users," he said. "Rarely, if ever, is there any significant WordPress coding talent in attendance, and intermediate to advanced topics are never announced or covered."

The Need for More Workshops Focused on Advanced Topics

Schinkel believes that the Atlanta WordPress community needs the opportunity to have more advanced workshops and developer-focused meetups. "As far as I can tell the existing successful WordPress meetups all focus on the needs of end-users," he said. "That's great, it is what in part has driven the success of WordPress, but it also means that there are no local meetups to help WordPress coders to grow their skills."

Schinkel used the term "coder" in the meetup name specifically to filter out those he would classify as developers.

Many people think of themselves as 'WordPress Developers' when what they do is install WordPress; select, install and configure a theme; select, install and configure plugins; maybe tweak CSS; and add some page templates with a bit if loop and template tag coding. So we think of those people as 'Site Builders' and think the term 'developer' is too broadly adopted to have any communicable distinction in the context of WordPress people.

There are a myriad of meetups in Atlanta for WordPress end users who want to learn about using themes and plugins, but virtually no meetups for coders who want to expand their skills. This is why the organizers are spearheading a WordPress coders guild in Atlanta.

"First and foremost we want to see more Atlanta agencies and internal teams in the larger Atlanta organizations choosing WordPress for their projects," Schinkel said. "For that to happen there has to be a stronger talent base in Atlanta who are knowledgeable and experienced in WordPress best practices, at least as far as they relate to agency use of WordPress."

He anticipates that the group will probably have its first "get to know each other" meetup in January and then start workshops in February. With advanced topics in the spotlight every week, Schinkel hopes that agencies and internal teams that rarely come out to network will be more motivated to attend.

"We want to create a stronger WP coder community than we currently have in Atlanta, and the one we currently have is really lacking," he said. "Put it another way, Drupal has a far stronger developer community in Atlanta because of their Drupal meetup and yet Drupal has ~1/10th the marketshare of WordPress. Now that is really sad, don't you think?"

Schinkel and Wood have identified a common problem with many community meetups where the topics focus on end user education. While connecting with people of all skill levels is important, more advanced WordPress professionals often become less motivated to attend meetups that don't include topics that challenge them and help them become better at their work. The Atlanta WordPress Coders Guild aims to solve this problem with an alternative, non-traditional WordPress meetup.

17 Dec 2014 11:34pm GMT

WPTavern: VVV-Dashboard Provides an Interface for Managing Varying Vagrant Vagrants Installations

VVV-Dashboard is a new tool that provides an interface for managing your Varying Vagrant Vagrants installations. Inspired by Variable VVV, a script that makes it easy to create and delete sites, Leo Gopal made VVV-Dashboard to complement it.

Gopal is a WordPress developer from Cape Town, South Africa. "I installed my first WordPress site seven years ago while in high school and started creating sites for clients ever since. Only recently, after Matt's Five for the Future speech, did I decide to come out and offer what I have to everyone, more freely," he said. VVV-Dashboard is one of his first public contributions.

The tool was designed to work with Variable VVV but can be used without it. "Because VVV is very terminal oriented, it's easy to forget commands when you need them. For example, you might forget to 'vagrant up -provision' when working with Variable VVV (and other site creators)," Gopal said. VVV-Dashboard adds a quick reference page inside your vvv.dev site for commands and includes a list of all your Vagrant installs.

vvv-dashboard

The title of the page displays how many VVV sites you have installed on your machine. Each site and its admin are linked, along with a profiler button that offers a quick overview. In order for the profiler to work, you must have Xdebug turned on.

Many developers end up with a long list of dev sites, and it can be difficult to remember what sites are active and where they are located. The VVV-Dashboard interface saves you time with a convenient list and might even inspire you to perform a cleanup of sites no longer in use.

In the next few releases, Gopal plans to include more basic site info in the dashboard, such as whether or not WP_Debug is enabled, an indicator for if Xdebug is on/off, the current active theme, etc. Variable VVV recently added a blueprints feature, which allows you to set up different plugins, themes, mu-plugins, options, or constants that will be installed to a new site you create. Gopal plans to create a few blueprint examples and add them to VVV-Dashboard.

VVV-Dashboard is licensed under the GPL V2. It adds a friendly layer between you and your VVV sites to make management more convenient and efficient. Check out the project on GitHub where you'll find complete installation instructions. If you have any tips on how to improve the project, make sure to leave your feedback for the developer.

17 Dec 2014 8:01pm GMT

WPTavern: ManageWP Releases Plugin Discovery Tool

The WordPress plugin directory has nearly 35k plugins and discovering new ones that have been tested and downloaded a few thousand times is difficult. Users can browse the directory for newest, recently updated, most popular, and highest rated plugins. With the exception of the recently updated category, there's no way to discover plugins in the middle of the pack. A new plugin discovery tool by ManageWP, attempts to solve the problem.

Algorithm Based

Best New PluginsBest New Plugins Page

The front page of ManageWP.org/plugins displays the best new plugins under 100k downloads. The plugins are determined using an algorithm that takes into account plugin quality and acceleration of growth. A plugin's quality is determined using seven metrics:

Using a combination of metrics, ManageWP is able to display a constantly evolving list of rising stars. Placing emphasis on a plugin's compatibility with WordPress and when it was last updated might motivate plugin authors to keep these fields updated.

Comparing Plugins

If you're curious to see how plugins compare to each other, check out the plugin comparison section of the site. Simply choose two different plugins and hit the compare button. The comparison displays each plugin's statistics with a download chart at the bottom. At the moment, you're limited to comparing only two plugins at the same time, but there are plans to allow for more in the future.

Plugin ComparisonsPlugin Comparisons

Plugin Awards

Awards are a quick way to determine how well a plugin is doing in specific categories. For example, WordPress SEO by Team Yoast, has a number of awards for being the most downloaded and highest rated in multiple categories. I think it would be beneficial if this area was extended to highlight more ranks like top ten, top five, and number one.

ManageWP Plugin AwardsManageWP Plugin Awards

Future Improvements

ManageWP founder, Vladimir Prelovac, says he's not finished with the site. In the announcement, he shares a couple of ideas on what he'd like to see in the next iteration.

The WP Vulnerability Database will be a nice enhancement, especially if you can see how many vulnerability reports a plugin has. Something to keep in mind is that ManageWP/Plugins is utilizing the WordPress.org Plugins API, which limits the types of data it's able to work with.

A Plugin Directory Without The Plugins

I love the idea behind ManageWP/Plugins because it fills a void created by the plugin directory. It's essentially a sub-section of the directory without the plugins. When I look for plugins to review, the directory leaves me little choice between one that's popular or brand new. ManageWP/Plugins gives me an opportunity to discover them before they reach global popularity.

17 Dec 2014 5:58am GMT