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March 03, 2015

WPTavern: There Can Only Be One Sticky Post

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

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

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

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

There are no options to configure, simply install, activate, and configure which post you want to sticky. Using this plugin, you no longer have to remove the sticky flag from the previous post which saves time and effort. There can only be one is Jones’ first plugin submitted to the plugin directory and he’s interested to hear any feedback or suggestions you have to improve it.

by Jeff Chandler at March 03, 2015 10:04 PM under there can be only one

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

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

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

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

  • Keynote by a well-know member of the WP community
  • Kids Camp a class geared towards 8-13 year olds, however, any age is welcome to attend (space permitting). Parents must be present for children under 13 and all attendees must bring a laptop. Up to 3 children under the age of 18 can attend without charge for each paid adult (parent) ticket.
  • Hackathon help developers, designers, and other attendees on creating or improving local organization’s presence on the web (the list of specific organizations will be announced later, if you know of someone who might benefit drop us a line)
  • All-day happiness bar: come and learn with the best!
  • Give back to Core: members of the plugin and theme review team as well as core contributors will be on hand to help you give back to the global WordPress community.

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

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

by Jeff Chandler at March 03, 2015 08:29 AM under wordcamps

March 02, 2015

WPTavern: ThemeConf: A New Conference for Designers, Themers, and Front-End Developers

theme-conf

Designers and front-end developers who work with open source software have an exciting new event to look forward to in the UK this summer. ThemeConf was announced today – a brand new conference created to help themers, designers, and front-end developers recharge their batteries with a variety of unique sessions on the world of themes.

The event will be hosted in Keswick, England, June 18-19th at the Alhambra Cinema, one of Britain’s oldest cinemas. Automattic is ThemeConf’s first sponsor and three of the company’s employees are organizers for the event, including Tammie Lister, Jack Lenox, and David Murphy.

“Jack always had the idea for a conference like this; he also wanted something in his local area,” Lister said. “I also wanted a conference that is theme focused. We all started talking over a Christmas meetup and this is what happened from that.”

Exploring the Future of Theming Beyond Specific Platforms

The conference will focus on theming for open source applications such as WordPress, Drupal, Ghost, and Joomla. Themers of all experience levels are welcome, as are front-end developers who are interested in theming. The topics for the first year will be focused around the future of theming.

“We hope to bring a wide range of talks under that banner,” Lister said. “We are currently curating our schedule, but it’s shaping up to be really interesting and diverse. We are planning on making it a place themers can go to get inspired.”

In selecting the sessions, organizers hope to further delve into the technologies and styles, beyond specific platforms, to explore the future of theming. They also plan to incorporate talks on performance and user experience.

Jack Lenox wants to focus the event around some of the most recent and significant shifts in theming and front-end development. “These go beyond the platform,” he said. “From REST APIs, to new design directions and into the burgeoning ecosystem of the new JavaScript tools such as React – tools that allow us to build engaging, human user experiences alongside a REST API.”

As one platform cannot possibly hold a monopoly on technical innovation, it’s important for designers and developers to venture outside the bubble of their primary platform in order to stay on the cutting edge. ThemeConf organizers are aiming to facilitate cross-platform collaboration and knowledge sharing to help attendees explore a wide range of topics.

The event will be non-profit, with any proceeds going into the next year and/or donated to the local area. The 101-year-old Alhambra Cinema is an intimate venue that will be limited to 150 attendees. If you’re interested in exploring the future of theming with other fans of open source in Keswick, make sure to sign up for the ThemeConf newsletter.

by Sarah Gooding at March 02, 2015 11:13 PM under theming

WPTavern: It’s Time For WordPress to Automatically Update Themes, Plugins, and Core by Default

Over the weekend, the WordPress plugin directory implemented a major change that better reflects how popular a plugin is. The number of total downloads has been replaced with the number of active installs. While the numbers are not exact, they’re close enough to give people insight into usage.

Active SitesActive Sites

When it comes to reporting WordPress plugin security vulnerabilities, this is a welcome change. The active install numbers give the media a better idea on how many sites are potentially at risk. In addition to knowing the active installs for a given plugin, we can also see a breakdown of which versions are used.

Using Outdated Versions of Plugins

With Jetpack, we see that nearly 40% of sites use the latest version while the other 60% use an older version.

Active Plugin VersionsActive Plugin Versions

Yoast SEO is split down the middle with 50% of sites using the latest version and the other combined 50% using an older version.

YoastSEO Plugin Version BreakdbownYoastSEO Plugin Version Breakdbown

 

Only a quarter of the sites using Contact Form 7 are using the most recent version, while nearly 75% combined are using an outdated version.

For other plugins, the trend is the same. A majority of sites are using older versions of plugins. For all of the effort that goes into informing users to keep sites up to date as a bare essential security practice, these are sobering statistics.

Time to Auto Update All The Things

While I realize there isn’t always an immediate need to update a plugin unless it’s a security release, it’s a good idea to keep them updated regardless. These statistics indicate that the only way to keep as many sites as possible updated is to forcefully turn on automatic updates for major releases, minor releases, plugins, and themes.

A move like this would likely generate a lot of push back, especially from those who already don’t like WordPress’ current implementation since there’s not an option in the WordPress backend to configure them. However, the numbers indicate that millions of sites are running outdated code by choice which is unacceptable.

Safety First auto Updatesphoto credit: Rescue device(license)

The WordPress development team is in a position to help make the web safer for everyone. If all it takes to get people to support automatic updates for themes, plugins and core, is to add some UI to the WordPress backend to configure them, then so be it. I think it’s a small price to pay to quickly improve the situation and move in the right direction.

While I don’t like having my hand held by software to keep things up to date, it appears as though there is no other choice. Automatic updates to minor releases is a good first step, but it needs to auto update everything because leaving the responsibility up to users is clearly not working.

by Jeff Chandler at March 02, 2015 10:24 PM under updates

WPTavern: Chris Wiegman, Former Lead Developer of iThemes Security, Joins 10up

iThemes Security Featured ImageChris Wiegman, the creator of Better WP Security, has announced that he’s moved on from iThemes to join 10up. In late 2013, iThemes acquired Better WP Security and changed its name to iThemes Security. As part of the deal, Wiegman was brought on board to continue developing the plugin.

Wiegman Moves From Products Back to Client Work

Joining 10up gives Wiegman the opportunity to take what he’s learned from developing iThemes Security and apply it to client sites. He notes two huge reasons for the move: burnout and losing focus on why he was developing the product.

To put it simply I was bored and burned out with the plugin. If I’m really going to be honest this was the case when I sold it to iThemes in 2013 and at the time I truly believed that working on it full-time would somehow renew my interest but that wasn’t the case. This is not to say I didn’t have a passion for it but just that I really wanted to work on other things and not just the plugin.

This is an interesting move, because generally I see a lot of WordPress consultants branch away from client work to focus on products. In this case, a product driven developer has decided to go back to client work for the variety and educational opportunities it offers.

The Future of iThemes Security

Since its creation, Wiegman has been the face of Better WP Security and iThemes Security. iThemes CEO, Cory Miller, has this to say about Wiegman’s work.

We thank Chris Wiegman for his contribution to iThemes Security (formerly known as Better WP Security) and his time at iThemes. We hope to make him proud of leaving such an awesome project in our hands. We are committed to making iThemes Security the easiest tool to allow people to protect and secure their WordPress websites.

He also explains that while Wiegman is no longer with the company, iThemes will continue to develop the plugin, “One benefit of iThemes having been around for seven years now, with a 20-plus person team, is having ‘bench strength’ or rather, people who are able and available to take over projects such as iThemes Security in the event someone moves on to another opportunity.”

Chris Jean along with Aaron Campbell will take over development of iThemes Security. Campbell will work with Jean to create a strong roadmap and assist in its future development. “The present and the future is bright for iThemes Security,” Miller said.

by Jeff Chandler at March 02, 2015 08:10 PM under ithemes security

WPTavern: WordPress Version Stats Updated: More Than 1/3 of Sites are Running WordPress 4.1

Over the weekend, WordPress lead developer Andrew Nacin announced a major update to WordPress version stats for PHP, MySQL, and WordPress. While the stats page looks much the same as before, more sophisticated methods of collecting and processing the data have been put in place, thanks to the efforts of WordPress.org contributor Dion Hulse. The results are a dramatic shift in the data reported.

wordpress-stats

More Than 1/3 of Sites Running on WordPress 4.1

One of the most notable differences is the percentage of sites that are running the latest version of WordPress. Things are not quite as grim as previous stats indicated. Prior to the update, WordPress was reporting fewer than 10% of sites running on 4.1. After eliminating data for sites that are no longer online, the new data shows roughly 36% of sites running on the latest version.

Andrew Nacin explained how the new stats are collected and interpreted into the updated pie chart:

Thousands of new WordPress sites come online every day. Some others, though, stop pinging over time. The new data only reflects sites that have pinged api.wordpress.org within the last few months. There were also plenty of other inconsistencies in the data that we’ve been able to resolve, which has resulted in numbers we feel are more consistent and accurate.

Other major shifts in the data demonstrate that there are very few sites still lingering on WordPress 3.0, which was released in June 2010. Sites running on 3.0 were previously reported as 16.06% but are now ringing in at just 2.27%.

The same goes for PHP 5.2 usage, which was previously reported at an alarming 31.76%. More accurate data puts this figure at 16.60%. This is likely due to eliminating sites that haven’t pinged api.wordpress.org within the last few months.

While the PHP version usage outlook is no longer as bleak as previous data indicated, Nacin said it isn’t enough to change the minimum required for WordPress core:

One-sixth of all sites running PHP 5.2 is still many millions of sites. If we move the PHP minimum version too early, we risk stranding millions of installs on older versions of WordPress.

So, I wish to note that this does not change our calculations for keeping PHP 5.2 as the minimum for WordPress core — we had these numbers available to us when preparing our 2015 plans.

The new stats are a welcome update to many involved in supporting and updating WordPress sites, but several commenters requested a more detailed cross of PHP version as compared to the WordPress version that sites are using.

WordPress developer Josh Pollock commented on the announcement post with the same question: “Is there anyway we can see PHP/MySQL versions broken down by what WordPress version they are running on? It would be interesting to see what percentage of users running an EOLed version of PHP are choosing to stay on old WordPress versions of their own accord/lack of action.”

I checked with Andrew Nacin, who confirmed that this data is available and will be made public at some point in the future. “We’re still working on ensuring the numbers are stable,” he said. “They’re pretty predictable: older WP versions have more people on older PHP and MySQL versions. Newer WP versions have less.” There’s currently no set timeline for delivering the additional stats, but WordPress.org contributors have more data in the works.

WordPress is Urging Hosting Companies to Use More Recent Versions of PHP

The WordPress project continues to work with hosting companies to urge them to update their PHP version offering to 5.4+. This is a slow but necessary process before WordPress can raise the minimum required PHP version, which Nacin said is ultimately part of the plan:

PHP 5.2 is at about 16% for all installs right now. It’s at about 10% for installs running WordPress 4.1, but because 4.1 is such a large part of the pie (36%), it’s the WP version with the most PHP 5.2 installs.

Our goals remain the same: priority 1 is to update old WordPress installs, priority 2 is to update old PHP and MySQL. Only once the numbers drastically move as a result of our efforts would any minimum requirement change. We cannot risk abandoning so many users on older WordPress and PHP versions.

Ensuring the accuracy of WordPress usage stats is a major milestone. At the moment, the number of users on PHP 5.2 is far too high to consider a minimum requirement change any time soon. However, Nacin said that hosts have so far been very responsive to WordPress’ urges to update PHP versions. “Right now we’re still primarily in a research phase, but hosts have been very receptive and proactive in this area.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 02, 2015 07:31 PM under wordpress stats

Joseph: WIRED on WordPress

WIRED.com has merged into one WordPress install:

Our redesign is here thanks to a big under-the-radar project in March 2014, when we migrated 17 active WIRED blogs into a single WordPress install. If we did our jobs right, you barely noticed that happen.

No doubt that this was a big job. Good to see it all come together, making their content easier to manage.

Unfortunately their new design includes the super annoying trend of covering up the text I was reading when I scroll up on the site:

wired-menu

This makes the reading experience really painful.

by Joseph Scott at March 02, 2015 04:32 PM under WordPress

Matt: Pink and Blue

A June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

Did you know pink and blue implying gender is relatively new, and all babies used to just wear white dresses?

by Matt at March 02, 2015 04:06 PM under Asides

March 01, 2015

Matt: Text as Interface

Great piece by Jonathan Libov on text-based messaging interfaces for everything in the future, it’s like the command line has come alive again.

by Matt at March 01, 2015 05:11 PM under Asides

Matt: Watching Television

It wasn’t that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that I didn’t have any TV shows I was actively watching. Life has been busier than ever, but I’ve started catching up with shows instead of movies when flying. I’ve been blown away by the high quality of storytelling  in the medium of television right now.

So I find myself actively watching a few different shows:

  1. House of Cards (new season out today!).
  2. True Detective.
  3. Scandal.
  4. Blacklist.
  5. Empire.
  6. West Wing.

There are some guilty pleasures in there, and there are probably a dozen shows that friends have recommended to me as amazing that I’ve never even started. (Hence West Wing, I’m watching it for the first time, somewhere in Season 4.)

This is the first time I’m watching things that are still “on” versus something like Firefly or Sopranos which are complete already. There’s definitely something fun about discussing the latest developments with other people who are also caught up, in the zeitgeist, and the anticipation of new episodes coming out, like what I imagine it must have been like with serialized novels back in the day.

by Matt at March 01, 2015 03:43 AM under Asides

February 28, 2015

Matt: Writing code is like solving a Rubik’s cube

Ben Dwyer on why writing code is like solving a Rubik’s cube.

by Matt at February 28, 2015 04:55 AM under Asides

Post Status: The most popular WordPress plugins

WordPress has long had download counts for core WordPress, plugins, and themes.

But downloads counts are deceiving. They count downloads, but are not representative of actual active installs.

Recently — in my Club member newsletter — I noted that it is past time to get data for actual installs, versus download counts. There is a private beta program on WordPress.org that offers just that, and at least some of the new stats are launching very, very soon (edit: the initial changes are now live).

The new plugin stats pages will show four new charts, visible to plugin authors:

  • New installs per day
  • Updates per day
  • Active installs per day
  • Active versions

Most importantly, the “active installs per day” chart shows us — with much greater precision than we previously had — how many actual websites are running any plugin available on WordPress.org.

For the beta period, utilizing a non-public query string parameter, I was able to see these stats publicly for any plugin on the repo. That query string parameter has now changed, so the data is no longer publicly visible.

These stats are partially launching very shortly, to highlight the active installs for plugins as well as the breakdown of active versions. Active install counts will replace the download count in the right column.

You can see an example of what the new public stats from the WordPress Importer plugin look like, which will be visible to users. Plugin authors will see a slightly different view that contains the additional stats:

wordpress-importer

Click to view full size

 

The most popular WordPress plugins

I took some time to look through the most popular WordPress plugins I could think of, as well as other notable plugins. What follows are some of the numbers I recorded, which were noted in the charts as being recorded February 24th.

Once this data goes live, the counts will be revised to round with less detail, and for installs over 1 million, will simply say “1 Million+”.

Plugin Downloads Active Installs
Contact Form 7 24.304 million 6.3+ million
Akismet 28.128 million 6.2+ million
WordPress SEO 15.928 million 3.7+ million
Jetpack 14.587 million 3.7+ million
WordPress Importer 9.635 million 3.4+ million
Google Sitemap Generator 16.477 million 3.4+ million
All In One SEO 21.853 million 3.1+ million
WP Super Cache 6.869 million 1.7+ million
Tiny MCE Advanced  4.788 million 1.4+ million
NextGen Gallery 11.991 million 1.3+ million
Google Analytics for WordPress 8.159 million 1.2+ million
WooCommerce 6.445 million 1.2+ million
Hello Dolly 510,136 1.1+ million
WP Page Navi 5.432 million 1.1+ million
W3 Total Cache 4.491 million 970,000+
WordFence 4.828 million 710,000+
Better WP Security 4.259 million 600,000+
WPTouch 6.743 million 410,000+
bbPress 1.741 million 250,000+
MailPoet 3.447 million 230,000+
The Events Calendar 1.438 million 230,000+
BuddyPress 2.647 million 150,000+
WP eCommerce 3.009 million 80,000+

As you can see, the data is incredibly insightful, especially compared to the public download stats. However, beware that there is not a guarantee of accuracy here, and in fact you should know that in some instances, the team knows the data isn’t reporting properly, especially for plugins with more installs.

Contact Form 7 and Akismet are by far the most popular WordPress plugins, with over six million active installs each. I included most of the plugins from the Popular page on the repo, plus some additional notable plugins.

There are also a number of outliers, where the discrepancy between downloads and active installs is huge. I believe this is largely due to plugins with long histories that were once immensely popular but have since faded in popularity.

The download count keeps old plugins relevant far longer than if active installs were the prominent number.

Compared to BuiltWith data

How accurate is this data? Well, one smell-test we can give it is to compare it to other potentially inaccurate data. From my research, BuiltWith is doing one of the best jobs around of accurately checking site data. Go ahead and input your domain to BuiltWith and see how accurate it is for you.

So, if we compare this same plugin list to BuiltWith data for “the entire Internet” — as they segment based on site rankings — then we can get a feel for how well the WordPress.org number and theBuiltWith number get along.

In this table, I link to the BuiltWith page so you can get more information if you like. Do note that some plugins aren’t available on BuiltWith, so are in the list but don’t have information.

Plugin BuiltWith Active Installs
Contact Form 7 594,677 6.3+ million
Akismet 166,791 6.2+ million
WordPress SEO 2.602 million 3.7+ million
Jetpack 1.629 million 3.7+ million
WordPress Importer n/a 3.4+ million
Google Sitemap Generator n/a 3.4+ million
All In One SEO n/a 3.1+ million
WP Super Cache 991,729 1.7+ million
Tiny MCE Advanced n/a 1.4+ million
NextGen Gallery 977,343 1.3+ million
Google Analytics for WordPress 871,144 1.2+ million
WooCommerce 685,937 1.2+ million
Hello Dolly n/a 1.1+ million
WP Page Navi 585,809 1.1+ million
W3 Total Cache 571,864 970,000+
WordFence n/a 710,000+
Better WP Security n/a 600,000+
WPTouch (Pro Data only) 15,696 410,000+
bbPress 126,081 250,000+
MailPoet 149,018 230,000+
The Events Calendar 56,095 230,000+
BuddyPress 76,853 150,000+
WP eCommerce 58,115 80,000+

Data Accuracy

There are zero instances from this list where BuiltWith shows more sites than WordPress.org using a plugin. That is a confidence enhancing note, as WordPress.org should be much more fully comprehensive.

There are some instances, especially with plugins that are on the backend, or have limited front-end visibility, where the numbers don’t line up too well.

However, for the highly visible plugins, the WordPress.org data feels good to me, in comparison to BuiltWith.

The team working on the new stats has less confidence in the numbers as the numbers get higher. So for plugins with well beyond a million installs, they have reason to believe adoption may be different than what is reflected in the stats.

How stats are collected

WordPress.org collects this data via the update checks that a WordPress install performs.

There are a couple of caveats to consider for the WordPress.org data:

  • The numbers could include (and therefore inflate numbers) non-public (dev and staging environments) domains. According to Andrew Nacin, the team does exclude sites with “localhost”, “.dev”, “.local” and “other telltale signs of local development and staging sites, like IP addresses.”
  • The numbers don’t include websites that have, via code, turned off update checks.
  • Some data is making more sense as it is collected. Now that it’s a few months old, they are able to make better determinations about what is accurate and what is not.

Keep in mind the percentage of installs that wouldn’t be included in these checks is minimal. Also, unfortunately, a large percentage of folks just don’t keep dev or local installs of their websites, so those numbers probably do not inflate the totals as much as you may think either — though I’m guessing on that front.

For the accuracy of the numbers, the team has seen some discrepancies, where one graph shows data that should also impact another, but it does not. They’re working to resolve these issues still.

This data is important

The team working on this project has been deciding on which stats pages to showcase for the general public, and which to show to plugin authors.

The active install data is important, and it needs to be public for users, in addition to plugin authors. If we can ensure that the data is even remotely accurate, it is far superior to using download counts alone.

Download counts give legacy plugins too much clout in the repo, and also make misinformation all the more likely.

A prime example is that of Slimstats, which had the recent security breach. That plugin has over 1.3 million downloads. But when I looked at the stats, there were only 100,000 or so active installs.

Yet, when tech blogs covered the security breach of the plugin, they largely cited “over a million” installs at risk. This is bad for WordPress and it’s unnecessary. We can fix it. We have the data.

Lead developer Dion Hulse also had this to say about the progress of the stats pages, when I notified him that I had access to these numbers:

The current beta stats page was put together as a trial to find what data plugin authors wanted (We’ve been in touch with a few who have provided great feedback in the past on the stats).

Based on what they have learned, they are launching the active install numbers and active version chart, and will follow up with a future launch for the plugin author only stats. The plugin author stats are going to go live with the notice that they may not be totally accurate, and they may change over time as the team continues to analyze the data.

WordPress is open source, and has absolutely massive adoption across the web, as we all know. It is therefore a source for what’s become a multi-billion dollar industry. WordPress.org and those that hold the keys to the website have great power.

Changes to the website and how themes, plugins, and any other potentially business-centric data make a difference to real businesses.

All those businesses have signed up for this (being involved with the WordPress project), and therefore any risks associated, but in my mind this data — especially of active installs — brings welcome sunlight to a murky plugin landscape.

I’m glad I was able to see this data. I’m very pleased that the active install numbers are replacing the download counts. WordPress itself will be better for it.

by Brian Krogsgard at February 28, 2015 02:38 AM under Everyone

WPTavern: Time To Abolish Post Specific Metaboxes in The WordPress Post Editor

WP Metabox Featured Imagephoto credit: packing up(license)

I’ve used WordPress to write about WordPress for more than seven years, it’s how I make a living. Recently though, writing in WordPress feels more like being a data entry specialist. I guess in some ways, it’s not surprising considering that’s exactly what I’m doing.

The post editor is more or less a pretty user interface that enables me to add data to a database. I think the feeling is stronger if you write in WordPress every day as it’s an endless cycle of filling in text areas, fields, uploading media, and clicking the publish button. Many of these tasks take place within their own metabox which is something that detracts from a seamless experience. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to try something different.

Many of the posts I write post consists of content blocks such as: blockquotes, media, etc. Thinking about how I create content in WordPress, the conceptual post editor proposed in 2013 makes complete sense. Instead of a full-blown TinyMCE editor, I could select from a set of established content blocks. In addition to the content block idea, some of the metaboxes are integrated into the editor.

ContentEditingProposalProposal To Revamp The Post Writing/Editing Interface

The publish, categories, and tags metaboxes are integrated into the editor. It probably wouldn’t take too much effort to add a way to feature an image. I don’t know how usable this interface is, but I’d love to give it a try for a few months. The more metaboxes that disappear, the less I feel like I’m hitting switches and turning knobs before clicking the publish button. By having some of these tasks integrated into the editor, I think it’ll provide a better publishing experience.

I probably wouldn’t be able to get rid of all the metaboxes because of the plugins I use. However, I’m most interested in an interface that consists of less scrolling, searching, etc., that gets me to the publishing stage quicker without feeling like a data entry specialist.

Despite a large amount of discussion surrounding the proposal, the concept lost steam. Although I’ve never used it, I feel like I’d prefer it over the current editor. It’s anyone’s guess if we’ll ever see the post editor undergo a major change, but if it did, this is the direction I’d like to see it go.

by Jeff Chandler at February 28, 2015 02:28 AM under post editor

WPTavern: SIDEKICK Adds Support For WordPress Multisite, Launches Partnership With MediaTemple

SIDEKICKFeaturedImage

SIDEKICK has announced that its voice-guided WordPress training video plugin now supports WordPress Multisite. According to SIDEKICK Co-founder, Ben Fox, WordPress Multisite has been one of the most requested features from users. Users can now:

  1. Easily auto activate your SIDEKICK license across all sites on your network
  2. Set a Walkthrough to auto-start the first time a new user logs into any site on your network
  3. Enable and disable walkthroughs and walkthrough categories network wide from one screen

SIDEKICK has a support article that goes into more detail on how to activate Multisite.

Challenges Encountered

SIDEKICK’s Chief of Technology and Product Development, Bart Dabek, describes the most challenging aspect they encountered adding Multisite support, “The biggest challenge was incorporating our API and building out the relationship between the super admin setup page and individual sites. Once that relationship was established, it was easy to pull in settings from the network settings and assign them to individual sites.”

“Some things to keep in mind with our particular situation is, keeping authentication details within the super admin account so that if our sessions expire, the system can automatically log back into our API and continue to auto activate SIDEKICK on new sites without the need for the super admin to do anything. It’s something developers will have to consider if they’re dealing with an API on this level,” Dabek said.

Free Genesis Walkthroughs

If you use SIDEKICK with the Genesis Framework by StudioPress, you’ll see 30 free Genesis walkthroughs. As long as you’re using a Genesis powered theme, you’ll see the videos appear in the SIDEKICK drawer. The walkthroughs were created by Web Savvy Marketing, a WordPress development agency that specializes in Genesis themes.

MediaTemple Learns From GoDaddy’s Mistake

The basic student plan offered by SIDEKICK priced at $5 per month, is available for free to MediaTemple customers. In addition to 30 Genesis walkthroughs,  customers gain access to 160+ WordPress walkthroughs. We’ve received a few reports from readers that SIDEKICK has been activated on every site on MediaTemple without an opt-in notice, similar to what happened to GoDaddy customers late in 2014. However, this isn’t the case.

Email send to MediaTemple Customers about SIDEKICKEmail send to MediaTemple Customers about SIDEKICK

MediaTemple emailed customers on February 23rd announcing the partnership and included directions on how to activate the plugin. It appears as though the company learned from GoDaddy’s mistake.

How to turn on SIDEKICKHow to turn on SIDEKICK

Around the same time the email went out to customers, the company sent out a press release to the media with the same information.

MediaTemple SIDEKICK press releaseMediaTemple SIDEKICK press release

Multisite support gives network administrators the ability to easily provide access to an educational tool. Through strategic partnerships with SIDEKICK, MediaTemple, and GoDaddy, customers have an easy way to learn the ins and outs of WordPress.

While some don’t like the approach taken by SIDEKICK, it’s another option to those who find it difficult to use the WordPress Codex or other educational resources.

by Jeff Chandler at February 28, 2015 12:42 AM under sidekick

February 27, 2015

WPTavern: Clean Up WordPress with the New WP-Sweep Plugin

clean-up

After years of creating new content, changing themes, and adding and removing plugins, a WordPress installation can become littered with unused, orphaned, and duplicated data. Not every plugin properly extricates itself and its data from your site when you uninstall.

Lester Chan‘s new WP Sweep plugin was designed to perform housekeeping on WordPress installations. Chan is a prolific plugin developer, who created his first plugin in 2003 shortly after WordPress was forked from b2. He now has 24+ plugins listed in directory.

WP-Sweep’s distinguishing characteristic is that it uses proper WordPress delete functions as much as possible instead of running direct delete MySQL queries. This method is in direct contrast to similarly purposed plugins such as WP-Optimize, which has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times.

What can WP-Sweep clean?

WP-Sweep uses WordPress delete functions, such as wp_delete_post_revision(), delete_post_meta(), wp_delete_comment(), etc. to clean up the database. It can perform sweeps of all of the following:

  • Revisions
  • Auto drafts
  • Deleted comments
  • Unapproved comments
  • Spammed comments
  • Deleted comments
  • Orphaned post meta
  • Orphaned comment meta
  • Orphaned user meta
  • Orphan term relationships
  • Unused terms
  • Duplicated post meta
  • Duplicated comment meta
  • Duplicated user meta
  • Transient options

WP-Sweep can be found under the tools menu after you install it. It will give you a full overview of items that can be cleaned up.

wp-sweep

Scroll further down and you’ll see reports for comments, users, terms, and options. Certain sweeps have extra instructions to consider before using, i.e unused terms: “Note that some unused terms might belong to draft posts that have not been published yet. Only sweep this when you do not have any draft posts.”

One user tested the plugin and reported a savings of 23.5% on database size. He also reported a bug, which Chan promptly fixed.

Chan plans to continue to develop the plugin and is considering adding unused options to the sweeps in a future version. If you want to use the plugin to clean up your website, you are strongly advised to make a backup of your database first, as the actions it performs are irreversible. Check out WP-Sweep on WordPress.org and favorite it for the next time you need to do some database housekeeping.

by Sarah Gooding at February 27, 2015 10:03 PM under wordpress database

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Handbook Updated to Include Design Recommendations

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

The new design of the WordPress Theme Directory is a welcome change on WordPress.org. Faster browsing and filtering means users can more easily sort through the thousands of available options. While the directory includes many beautiful, high quality themes, it often requires sifting through hundreds to find that diamond in the rough.

One of the reasons for the glut of lackluster and uninspired new theme submissions is a lack of design feedback from the Theme Review team. Reviews have traditionally focused primarily on the code quality of themes and often neglect major design issues with new submissions.

During the team’s meeting this week, contributors discussed ways to encourage more design feedback on submissions to the directory. WordPress.org theme author Kelly Dwan broached the topic in a recent post about ways to get designers involved during the review process:

If we tell people that they don’t need to be expert developers to review themes, and that this is a good way to learn better coding practices, why don’t we do the same with design? Good design is just as subjective as code standards (in that the basics aren’t, but people like to argue about it anyway).

The quality of code in the theme repo is improved by the review process, so we should encourage design reviews to increase the quality of design, too.

Her post included practical suggestions for updating the theme review handbook to provide better guidance on how to offer design feedback. This is one way that designers can contribute on WordPress.org, even if they’re not comfortable helping with the code review aspect of the process.

New Design Recommendation Added to the Handbook

Mel Choyce, Design Engineer at Automattic, volunteered to start filling out the design section of the Theme Review Handbook with recommendations. “Theme authors are never exposed to design guidelines before uploading their themes, unlike code guidelines,” she said. This is something the team is currently working to change.

The design recommendations so far are formatted to help the theme author think more critically about design decisions. Instead of taking a hard line about subjective aspects of design, the recommendations invite the designer to consider the theme from a user’s perspective. A few examples include:

  • Can you tell if the theme has an ideal audience in mind?
  • Is the type large enough to comfortably read?
  • Body text should generally be 14px or larger on desktop, unless using a font with a generous x-height.
  • Are the header and body fonts easy to read?
  • Is there enough difference between headers and paragraphs to distinguish them from each other?
  • Do paragraphs have enough line-height? If you squint your eyes, can you still see some space between lines?
  • A good rule of thumb is 1.3-1.4 on headers, and 1.4-1.6 on body text.
  • Is the color contrast high enough? Is the type readable against its background?
  • Do the details (drop shadows, gradients, etc.) distract at all from the content?

Encouraging more design feedback is difficult without offering reviewers the tools to so with confidence. The art of offering design feedback is tricky and it requires diplomacy to do it in a way that doesn’t crush the spirit of a fledgling theme author.

A basic set of guidelines is a valuable resource that team members can refer to during the review process. If theme authors are open to the recommendations, the quality of their designs can be significantly improved for future submissions.

by Sarah Gooding at February 27, 2015 08:52 PM under theme review team

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Directory Launches New Design

The new design for the official WordPress Theme Directory is live today. Contributors on the WordPress Meta team released a preview of the design in early January and worked quickly over the past month to resolve any outstanding issues related to the new plugin that powers the directory.

In addition to an updated design, the theme repository has been moved away from bbPress and into a new plugin, which includes a custom post type for the repository package and a theme uploader.

wordpress-theme-directory

The design is likely already familiar to most users, as it was matched to the UI to the admin themes browser. Now, whether you’re behind the wheel of your WordPress site in the admin, or browsing on the official directory, the experience of searching and sorting themes is more consistent.

Konstantin Obenland, in cooperation with Samuel “Otto” Wood, spearheaded the migration to the new plugin and design, with help and feedback from other members of the meta team. The work is not yet complete, but the new directory provides a vastly improved experience for users on the hunt for a new theme. Searching and filtering are both faster and users can quickly browse through thumbnails of all the queried results via infinite scroll.

Future internationalization improvements to the directory should make it an even better resource for WordPress’ growing global audience.

“There is still a lot more work to be done, but everything that’s remaining can be added, changed, or improved with the new directory active,” Obenland said in an update earlier this week. “Most importantly we want to make it available to language sites, so that we have an internationalized theme directory, and there will be more to be done around that.”

The improved browsing experience does a much better job of showcasing the work of theme authors, many of whom spend countless hours updating and supporting their free themes as a contribution to the WordPress community. Overall, the new design is a better representation of the high quality themes available in the official directory.

by Sarah Gooding at February 27, 2015 01:58 AM under WordPress Theme Directory

February 26, 2015

WPTavern: Add Infinite Scroll to the WordPress Admin

photo credit: தேவையில்லை காரணங்கள், நீ எங்கே? - (license)photo credit: தேவையில்லை காரணங்கள், நீ எங்கே?(license)

The WordPress admin list tables can get quite lengthy to browse if you’re relying on regular pagination, especially when you need to perform bulk actions.

As of WordPress 4.0, the grid view of the media library has beautiful support for infinite scrolling, but list tables for posts and users still rely on old-fashioned pagination. Setting the screen options to include more listings can help, but this, too, can become cumbersome.

screen-options

Infinite WP List Tables is a new plugin created by WordPress developer Brady Vercher. It’s a simple extension that adds infinite scroll to several pages within the admin, i.e. posts and users. Infinite WP List Tables has no settings to configure – simply activate it and it’s working.

infinitewp-list-tables

I tested the plugin both on a single site and on a multisite installation with thousands of sites and users. In both scenarios the plugin performed nicely to infinitely scroll admin list tables for sites, posts, and users.

It does not seem to work with comments, nor does it work with third party plugin tables such as the BuddyPress activity and groups admin listings. Integrations for plugins that display products, portfolio items, quotes, or other listings in the admin would make it even more useful, but I can see why Vercher might want to limit the plugin to core admin list tables.

Do you think something like this should be added to core, given that the media library works nicely with infinite scroll? As far as I’ve seen, no tickets currently exist on trac to propose infinite scroll for other areas of the admin. Do you prefer traditional pagination for sites, posts, users, and comment list tables?

by Sarah Gooding at February 26, 2015 11:05 PM under infinite scroll

Matt: Net Neutrality Win

A lot of the tech news I’ve linked here has been a bit of a downer, but today we can celebrate: FCC votes for net neutrality, a ban on paid fast lanes, and Title II. This is not an outcome I would have bet on a year ago.

by Matt at February 26, 2015 09:17 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Twitter’s New Official WordPress Plugin Prioritizes Extensibility

twitter

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when visiting the WordPress.org plugin directory in search of a Twitter plugin, as you’ll turn up more than 3,000 Twitter-related extensions. Unless you’re running on recommendations or personal experience, it may not be easy to narrow down a quality plugin that keeps pace with changes to the Twitter API.

This week Twitter finally decided to release an official WordPress plugin to assist users in optimizing their sites for a Twitter audience. I spoke with Niall Kennedy, Developer Advocate at Twitter and contributor on its official WordPress plugin, about Twitter’s plans for the plugin. Kennedy is also listed as a contributor on both the official Facebook and Vine plugins for WordPress.

“Twitter regularly works with partners to implement Twitter features on their site,” Kennedy said. “Shipping an official plugin allows us to directly support publishers powered by WordPress and provide an example implementation of Twitter best practices for publishers on any platform.”

The plugin requires PHP 5.4 or later and offers many features that you many have already seen available via other extensions, including customization of embedded tweets, embedded Twitter videos, Tweet button for sharing content, Twitter Cards, integration with Twitter Analytics, a Follow button, and ads conversion tracking.

Many are wondering why anyone needs an official Twitter plugin, given that WordPress already has excellent oEmbed support for tweets. Kennedy confirmed that the new plugin plays nicely with the built-in oEmbed support, while building on top of it:

The Twitter plugin for WordPress enhances the oEmbed support built-in to WordPress with additional customization and functionality. We enhance the typical oEmbed response with additional integrations with WordPress APIs.

Our plugin loads Twitter’s widgets JavaScript asynchronously through wp_enqueue_script, omitting the script element typically inserted onto the page markup through the default oEmbed response.

Each embedded Tweet, added through a URL or shortcode, passes through the shortcode’s filter (shortcode_atts_tweet) for customization of embedded Tweet features across the site. The plugin handles fetching the correct oEmbed markup from Twitter’s servers and caching the unique result for the customization.

The plugin does not change MCE oEmbed handling in the admin view.

Kennedy declined to comment on why it took Twitter so long to release an official plugin, but hopes that WordPress developers will use it as a building block. Those who previously created Twitter plugins now have a solid example for how best to extend WordPress to customize Twitter’s latest features.

Designed to be Extensibile

The development team behind the plugin plans to add new features to it as they become available from Twitter. They recognize that it will not be realistic to offer every imaginable feature, but instead are prioritizing extensibility to make sure developers can easily create their own customizations.

“The plugin includes support for displaying Twitter-hosted video embeds, a new feature available to Twitter developers just in the past few weeks,” Kennedy said. “An official Twitter plugin makes it easy to roll out new features to publishers.

We’re working with other plugin developers to integrate features through filters where any overlap may occur,” he said. Kennedy has a few ideas for the kinds of integrations that developers might want to build for the plugin using the WordPress APIs.

“Our plugin automatically generates Twitter Card markup to represent a post, making some best guesses for post formats built-in to Core,” he said. “We expect plugin developers creating more specific display experiences will be able to build on top of our base features to select the best Twitter Cards template for their content.”

Kennedy also believes the plugin can be further extended by SEO plugins to optimize content. “Some of the most popular WordPress plugins involve SEO,” he said. “We would like to integrate with SEO plugins to highlight the best titles, descriptions, and other detailed data provided by publishers to help their content stand out on Twitter.”

Additionally, he sees an opportunity for theme developers to make tweets a seamless part of a theme’s overall design. “Our embedded Tweet theming can be customized by theme authors to match the visual theme of their site,” Kennedy said. “Automatically adjusting Twitter theming components to a WordPress theme context would be pretty cool.”

If you’re looking to add the most common Twitter features to your WordPress site, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better plugin than the official one on WordPress.org. Kennedy confirmed that Twitter plans to support the plugin through its official support forums on WordPress.org and will also have an escalated support channel for managed hosting providers.

by Sarah Gooding at February 26, 2015 08:10 PM under twitter plugin

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 181 – Sticky Posts and Legal Issues

In this episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I take the opportunity to catch up on the latest news in the WordPress community. I share the results of our poll asking readers if they use sticky posts in WordPress. We discuss the pros and cons of content protection plugins, in which there are no pros. Marcus and I agree that the visual editor added to the latest version of the WordPress for iOS app is a nice addition. Last but not least, we run down a list of upcoming WordCamps.

Stories Discussed:

Do You Use The Sticky Posts Feature in WordPress?
Content Protection Plugins for WordPress Do More Harm Than Good
Press This Bookmarklet Generates Concerns of Copyright Infringement
WordPress for iOS 4.8 Released, Adds Visual Editor
High Risk Security Vulnerability Discovered in WP Slimstat, Update Immediately
Twitter Releases Official WordPress Plugin
Story.am Launches to Founders
Upcoming WordCamps Schedule

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

Woo Commerce Role Based Price extends the popular eCommerce plugin Woo Commerce, so that products can be offered at different prices for different customer groups.

Better Code Editor adds line numbers, error detection, and a choice of 28 different themes to use in the Plugin and Theme editors.

WPRecovery is a WordPress recovery manager, that will get your WordPress Site back up and running if it stops working correctly.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, March 4th 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 #181:

by Jeff Chandler at February 26, 2015 08:41 AM under wp slimstat

Matt: Matt Report Podcast

As a good follow-up to the podcast with Tim the other week, I did a podcast with Matt Medeiros of the Matt Report.

by Matt at February 26, 2015 07:48 AM under Asides

WPTavern: Plugins on WordPress.org Now Show More Accurate Ratings Data

Ratings Featured Imagephoto credit: Rating(license)

Those who host plugins in the WordPress plugin directory may have noticed a change to their plugin’s ratings. That’s because the ratings system has been reset and rebuilt by Samuel “Otto” Wood. The ratings now correspond exactly with reviews. According to Wood, the change has been two and a half years in the making:

Back when we launched the review system 2.5 years ago, we tied ratings to reviews. However, up until that point, we had existing ratings in the system. At the time, some argued that the ratings should be wiped out and everybody start fresh. I argued for the opposite, that we should leave the existing ratings in place until such time as we had enough reviews in the system to build up a good body of ratings.

A few weeks ago, Wood was checking out the ratings for the new WordPress theme directory when he noticed there were over 150K reviews. “Out of those 150K reviews, less than 10K are for themes” Wood said. This was enough to initiate the change and remove ratings not attached to a review. Since the system was rebuilt, some plugins have experienced 1 and 5 star rating swings, while plugins like WP eCommerce have seen its average rating rise from 2.9 to 3.4 stars.

In addition to displaying more accurate data, review spam has been neutralized. Review spam has been a serious problem for the past several years. According to Otto, this is no longer the case:

Ask any of the moderation team how many duplicate accounts they’ve seen to vote up their plugin and down those of competitors. Even though the reviews were removed, until yesterday, the ratings made by those accounts remained. This is no longer the case, and the ratings made by those spam accounts has now been effectively neutralized.

In summary, ratings and averages now reflect the most accurate data from the point in time reviews were introduced. Spam and fraudulent data hasn’t been lost or deleted but rather ignored from influencing the data set. Ratings that were added before mandatory reviews are also ignored.

By waiting two and a half years, Wood has avoided resetting the entire system which would have caused everyone to start from zero. This way, authors are able to maintain their ratings and reviews without starting from scratch. If you host a plugin on the WordPress plugin directory, let us know if your ratings changed, especially the average.

by Jeff Chandler at February 26, 2015 06:39 AM under Reviews

WPTavern: WordPress.com’s REST API Driven Post Editor Proves Speed Matters

In the last year or so, WordPress.com has been experimenting with a new post editor. As a user of WordPress.com, I clicked the add new post button and was shocked to discover an entirely different interface than what I’m used to. Continuously pushing improvements across the platform with little to no announcement and measuring feedback is WordPress.com’s signature development strategy.

Shortly after its release, users created support requests to offer feedback. Dealing with change is hard, but it’s even more difficult when it goes unannounced. After receiving a ton of feedback, the team eventually added the option for users to switch back to the classic editor. Since its launch, I’ve found myself getting used to the new editor, but there are a couple of quirks that need to be addressed.

New WordPress.com EditorNew WordPress.com Editor

Speed

Depending on when I create a new post, I’ll see a “beep beep, boop” loading message for a few seconds. The longest I’ve seen the message is around 10 seconds. The post editor is built on top of the WordPress.com REST API and depending on traffic, server resources, etc., the API calls take longer than normal to process.

Beep Beep BoopBeep Beep Boop

If it takes more than a few seconds to load the editor, that’s too long. With all of the server resources that make up the WordPress.com infrastructure, I expect things to load quickly. In reality, I shouldn’t see a loading screen.

Creating Content

Since the visual editor inherits most of the features found in the self-hosted version of WordPress, writing content is generally the same experience. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that, more often than not, the text area doesn’t expand to the bottom of the page. As I fill the text area with content, it doesn’t automatically expand. A quick fix is to reload the entire page by clicking the save draft button. Once I do this, the text area expands to take up the full-height of the browser window.

Instead of having separate meta boxes for each task, some of them have been combined like categories and tags. The design of the publish meta box is a major improvement compared to the self-hosted version. It has a cleaner look and seems easier to use.

New Post Editor Meta BoxesNew Post Editor Meta Boxes

One of the things I like most about the new editor is that it’s distraction-free by default. The surrounding admin elements in the classic editor are gone, allowing me to concentrate on writing. Meta boxes are shown but I don’t see them as distractions. The new editor also doesn’t waste valuable screen real estate showing admin notices, that I still haven’t figured out how to dismiss.

Admin Notices That Never Go Away!Admin Notices That Never Go Away!

API Driven Interfaces Need to be Fast

The new editor is a real world example of an alternative publishing interface built using the WordPress.com REST API. The biggest take away for me from using the new editor is how important speed is. As work continues on the REST API project for the self-hosted version of WordPress, which will likely lead to an explosion of alternative publishing interfaces, I think it’s important for developers to consider how to make things as fast as possible. It doesn’t matter how nice the interface is if the API isn’t fast enough and ruins the user experience.

After forcing myself to use the new editor for a few months, I rarely use the classic editor. It’s definitely not the ideal interface for everyone which is why I’m glad the team decided not to make it the only interface available. It has a few quirks, but for the most part, I don’t mind using it. If you use WordPress.com, let us know what you think of the new editor in the comments.

by Jeff Chandler at February 26, 2015 12:26 AM under wordpress.com

February 25, 2015

WPTavern: Roots WordPress Starter Theme Rebrands as Sage with 8.0 Release

sage

The Roots starter theme for WordPress has rebranded as “Sage” with its 8.0.0 release today. Roots project creator Ben Word announced last year that he planned to change the theme to be framework agnostic in 2015. This release is the first step towards that goal.

Fans of the starter theme appreciate its cleaner HTML, cleaner script output, and its unique theme wrapper method for handling template markup. Version 8.0 introduces a new frontend workflow that uses Gulp instead of Grunt:

  • Write stylesheets with Sass or Less
  • Assets from Bower packages (CSS, JS, fonts) are automatically added to your theme assets
  • JSON file based asset pipeline that allows you to customize your compiled CSS and JS files
  • Replaced LiveReload with BrowserSync, making your workflow faster by synchronizing interactions across multiple devices

Version 8.0 also drops IE8 support and raises the minimum PHP version requirement of PHP 5.4+. “We’re not going to let the WordPress minimum requirement of 5.2 hold us back from using short array syntax, short echo syntax, and namespaces,” Word said.

Now that Sage 8.0 is available, Word is concentrating his efforts on developing a Yeoman generator for the starter theme, which will allow users to integrate their desired frontend framework.

“Right now you can fairly easily use Bootstrap Sass instead of Less, swap out Bootstrap for another framework, or use no framework at all,” he said. “With a Yeoman generator you’ll be able to select from options to have your starter theme built how you like it from the beginning.”

Going framework agnostic will open up the Roots user base to more developers who may have previously been turned off by using Bootstrap with their projects. The rebranding to Sage allows Word and contributors to use the Roots organization to further expand the product lineup that will eventually subsidize the continual development of the open source starter theme.

by Sarah Gooding at February 25, 2015 11:06 PM under sage

Post Status: Twitter introduces an official plugin for WordPress

“About time” is probably what comes to mind. Twitter has announced an official WordPress plugin to support their platform. It’s available now on the WordPress plugin repo.

They just released the plugin a couple of hours ago. It’s actually taking the place of an existing plugin, which was wiped from the plugin repo two weeks ago by Otto Wood. That’s what will account for the 150,000+ downloads upon initial release. Otto has now reset the count in the database, so the numbers are more realistic.

I reached out to Otto to see how these decisions are made. Otto is one of the managers of the repo.

A twitter representative emailed us, sent us the plugin, and asked to have the “twitter” name in the directory. We reviewed the plugin as per normal, found no issues with it, and decided to give them the name because, after all, they are indeed “Twitter” and have the rights to their own name.

The previous plugin occupying that space had been inactive for a long period of time and had no real existing installations to speak of anymore. Additionally, the plugin had been closed for quite some time previous to that.

So giving them their own name is pretty much a no-brainer. :)

Techcrunch, and likely others, are misreporting the plugin’s immediate popularity, as those numbers were largely from the previous iteration of the plugin.

Twitter’s new plugin has a number of features, many of which have been implemented over the years by unofficial sources like Jetpack and Yoast.

For one, they have released “official” Tweet and follow buttons, along with a settings page for basic configuration.

twitter-share

twitter-settings

Also, there’s a metabox on post edit that allows you to customize the predefined Tweet and Twitter cards, which is quite nice.

twitter-sharing

They also have the ability to customize the colors for embedded tweets inside WordPress content.

According to the Twitter blog announcement, there is also integration for Twitter ads and analytics tracking, which are both nice features for publishers.

The one thing I notice is not in this plugin is any authentication feature. Perhaps it’ll come in the future, but right now you wouldn’t be able to auto-tweet new posts or perform other actions that would require Twitter Apps and authentication on a per-site basis. This is the type of functionality that Jetpack has long performed, using the WordPress.com authentication.

I’m pretty happy to finally see an official Twitter plugin. The source code is on Github, and the plugin is released with the MIT license. At a very quick glance, it seems quite well done and I’m looking forward to playing with it some  more.

by Brian Krogsgard at February 25, 2015 09:27 PM under Site Owners

WPTavern: Envato Continues to Rake in the Cash from WordPress Themes Packaged as Complete Website Solutions

envato

This week Envato published stats on how WordPress product sellers are doing within its economy. Theme authors make up the bulk of WordPress-based earnings on its marketplace and continue to dominate sales.

Inspired by his interaction with the WordPress business community at Pressnomics, Ben Chan, director of Growth and Revenue at Envato, penned an insider brief about the WordPress segment of Envato’s economy. The post makes it abundantly clear why theme authors continue to sell their products on Themeforest, despite the marketplace’s poor reputation among WordPress consultants.

Envato’s steady pipeline of traffic is the deciding factor for many commercial theme authors. “In September 2014, ThemeForest was the 88th most trafficked website in the world (according to Alexa.com), at the time ahead of Netflix,” Chan said. “The traffic it receives is more than just eyeballs; these are buyers looking to purchase a theme and many are introduced to WordPress for the first time.”

This volume has made it possible for 31 authors to sell more than $1 million dollars worth of products through Envato. “We have authors earning tens of thousands of dollars from our various product types, but it’s WordPress authors who currently dominate our Power Elite wall of fame by holding 30 of the 31 Power Elite spots.”

Competition is fierce among WordPress themes, yet even moderately competitive themes can make a decent chunk of change. Envato’s heavy traffic virtually guarantees sales for new theme authors. Chan reported average earning data for a single theme during a single month:

  • 50% of all WordPress themes on ThemeForest have made at least $1,000 in a month.
  • 25% of all WordPress themes on ThemeForest have made at least $2,500 in a month.
  • 15% of WordPress themes have made at least $5,000 in a month.
  • 7% have made at least $7,500 in a month.
  • 5% have made at least $10,000 in a month.

Theme authors who make their products responsive and compatible with WooCommerce and WPML tend to have much higher earnings, which indicates that people are building WordPress sites that will be optimized for mobile traffic and global commerce.

Poor Standards Lead to Security Vulnerabilities and Loss of Data Portability

Envato remains the dominant marketplace for commercial WordPress themes, despite rampant security concerns surrounding its products on a regular basis. Last September, 1,000+ Envato products were affected by the Slider Revolution security vulnerability. This particular debacle was fueled by theme authors who were lax in patching their products, as well as Envato’s poor standards, which continue to allow authors to bundle plugins with themes.

If Envato required theme authors to adhere to industry best practices by clearly separating their theme and plugin products, the company would have had no need to publish a list of 1,000+ themes potentially affected by a vulnerability that was being actively exploited since its disclosure.

Obviously, the data presented in Chan’s insider brief was designed to convince more authors to sell on Themeforest. Several of the theme product examples he showcases are packed full of functionality that belongs in plugins, i.e. automotive listings, filterable inventory, custom categories and taxonomies, etc. The products do not clearly differentiate what functionality is included in a plugin vs. the theme itself.

Additionally, many of these top-selling themes offer accompanying plugins that are only compatible with that specific theme, a desperately myopic development practice rampant among Themeforest products that locks users into that theme/plugin package.

What would be even more fascinating to know are the stats on WordPress theme products that do not bundle any plugins whatsoever. How well are the products doing that are pure themes with a clear separation from the plugins they support? Where are the stats for themes that absolutely guarantee unobstructed data portability for customers?

Envato theme authors are making large sums of cash by selling themes that are packaged as complete solutions for online businesses, because that’s what consumers have been trained to expect – the bigger the package, the more appealing the product. This can cause serious problems with data portability for customers down the road and remains a continual source of frustration for consultants who are hired to support poorly built Envato products.

Source: Avada theme on ThemeforestSource: Avada theme on Themeforest

The marketplace’s loose product standards allow theme product authors to thrive on selling full website solutions, as Justin Tadlock discovered in his Themeforest experiment. Envato continues to rake in the cash from products that undermine best practices designed to protect users:

ThemeForest is in the business of selling WordPress themes. Selling anything else is underhanded at best and false advertising at worst.

If you want to sell a “Web site solution” or whatever you want to call it, you’re selling on the wrong marketplace. Go create your own site and sell these applications for WordPress.

If the marketplace were to change its standards and encourage theme authors to build themes that respect WordPress’ plugin system, it would most certainly result in a loss of profit. Envato currently has little incentive to move in this direction. As with the case of GPL licensing options, the company historically drags its feet until forced to comply with most basic requirements.

The WordPress community continues to pressure Envato to hold theme and plugin authors to standards that would better ensure the security and performance of users websites, but Envato isn’t likely to enforce stricter standards anytime soon.

The company continues to parade its top sellers as incentive for new authors to bring their products into the marketplace. Changing theme product standards would require the restructuring of virtually all of its top-selling products. Envato’s bottom line will continue to drive its standards until either the market or the community force the company to change.

by Sarah Gooding at February 25, 2015 07:25 PM under themeforest

WPTavern: High Risk Security Vulnerability Discovered in WP Slimstat, Update Immediately

WP Slim Stat Featured Image

If you use WP Slimstat, you’ll want to make sure you’re using version 3.9.6 or later as Sucuri has discovered a severe SQL injection vulnerability in versions 3.9.5 and lower. WP Slimstat is an analytics plugin for WordPress that provides real-time monitoring, heatmaps, and other features to monitor website data. According to Sucuri, the vulnerability can be used by any visitor browsing a vulnerable website:

This bug can be used by any visitor browsing the vulnerable website. If your website uses a vulnerable version of the plugin, you’re at risk. Successful exploitation of this bug could lead to Blind SQL Injection attacks, which means an attacker could grab sensitive information from your database, including username, (hashed) passwords and, in certain configurations, WordPress Secret Keys (which could result in a total site takeover).

Although the author has patched the security vulnerability, he offers some additional advice.

If you are using a caching plugin, please flush its cache so that the tracking code can be regenerated with the new key. Also, if you are using Slimstat to track external websites, please make sure to replace the tracking code with the new one available under Settings > Advanced.

Spread the news and to be protected from the vulnerability, make sure any site using WP Slimstat is updated to the latest version.

by Jeff Chandler at February 25, 2015 08:22 AM under sucuri

Matt: On WordPress.com and Bitcoin

There’s been some controversy and discussion about the fact that WordPress.com no longer support Bitcoin in our new checkout flow on signup. (It’s still there in some other flows.)

Since there has been a lot of discussion about it, I wanted to share directly some of the answers I had to Grace’s follow-up questions, since I’m not sure if they’ll be published and if they are it probably won’t be in their entirety.

In regards to your future plans for the currency, is bitcoin support definitely returning or is that just a possibility at this point?

We’re big fans of Bitcoin and hope to support it again in the future, for all of the reasons that we originally supported it in 2012, which you can read about here:

http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/pay-another-way-bitcoin/

Is there anything that will influence the outcome of this decision?

No, it is simply a matter of development resources, which are especially scarce for us right now as we’re trying to keep up with growth.

You mention that bitcoin has low volume compared to other payment methods, has this always been the case? Has its volume share changed over time?

The volume has been dropping since launch, in 2014 it was only used about twice a week, which is vanishingly small compared to other methods of payment we offer. We supported Bitcoin for philosophical reasons, not commercial ones.

What are the key aims of your checkout process changes?

Our goals are twofold: to refactor the code behind it which has parts that are over five years old and has grown very complex, and to make it faster and easier for people to buy our services.

When you first launched bitcoin payments WordPress’ blog post praised it as an inclusive payment method for those who cannot use PayPal. Do you worry that these people will now be excluded from the platform?

Of course, but either that number of people turned out to be smaller than we expected or they found other ways to pay. Since it’s so few people overall I’m happy to extend people’s subscription for a year, as I offered in your comments section.

What does being a ‘big believer’ in bitcoin mean to you?

I believe Bitcoin or some other blockchain-like system will be the basis of the majority of financial transactions in the future, from small remittances to multi-billion dollar corporate acquisitions. I think transaction costs should follow Moore’s law, and I don’t think we’re going to get there with the centralized gateways that currently account for the overwhelming majority of transactions. I also personally hold Bitcoin, I’m an advisor to Stellar.org, and my friends make fun of me for bringing up Bitcoin and the blockchain in unrelated conversations.

The bitcoin option still appears on the ‘WP Admin’ screen but not on ‘My Upgrades’. Is this part of the phase out, or likely to stay this way?

That’s on the old code base, and will be available for a short while if any current Bitcoin subscribers want to renew while the option is still available.

by Matt at February 25, 2015 05:20 AM under press

February 24, 2015

WPTavern: WordPress for iOS 4.8 Released, Adds Visual Editor

WordPress for iOS 4.8 is available on the app store and includes a few notable features. The app now sports a visual editor providing a what you see is what you get experience. Prior to 4.8, the editor was stuck in HTML mode making it hard to read and write content.

The editor contains the most commonly used formatting tools and just like the desktop version of WordPress, includes a toggle to switch between HTML and Visual editing mode. There’s also an image size selector where you can choose between Thumbnail, Medium, Large, or Full-size.

WordPress For iOS 4.8 HTML Editor WordPress For iOS 4.8 Visual Editor WordPress For iOS 4.8 Post Preview Screen WordPress For iOS Image Size Selector

Although I struggled with adding block quotes, the visual editor is a nice departure from HTML mode. I find it convenient to format content as I’m writing versus when the post is completed. Overall, 4.8 is a nice release and I think users are going to enjoy the new visual editor. After you upgrade to 4.8, let us know what you think in the comments.

by Jeff Chandler at February 24, 2015 08:27 PM under WordPress for iOS

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March 03, 2015 10:30 PM
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