21 Product Guidelines Forged While Growing Metro.Co.Uk 400%

In this post, WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting client Metro.co.uk‘s Head of Development Dave Jensen shares further insights on how their popular site achieved an incredible growth since its migration and launch on WordPress.com VIP. Originally posted on his blog, he’s agreed to share it here on VIP News as well. 

metro-quarterly-monthly-unique-traffic-growth

For the last two years I have been focused on the design, build and growth of Metro.co.uk utilising the WordPress.com VIP platform. Our approach consists of constant experimentation with both product and content which has returned a large set of data mixed with editorial feedback. This has been refined into a list of product guidelines to help us remain focused on growth. These are based on my experiences and our audience so yours may differ.

Good editorial content will deliver more growth than any product based approach

With a single well written/planned/timed story able to deliver millions of page views and course through the veins of social networks for weeks this should be the number one focus.

Good UX turns the dial more than any product hacks

The better the experience of product and content the more likely people are to visit your site, share your content and form habits around its consumption.

The closer to the main content area of the page the more related the content should be

Our data has shown that the closer to the article body or top of channel pages the better contextually related content perfoms. Once you are below these areas users are more open to a wider set of content to continue their journey.

Where content is placed on the page is almost as important as the content that is placed there

Our testing revealed content placement is almost as important as content selection (as long as it is relevant and recent). This is one of the reasons we have moved to an algorithmic approach for large areas of the site.

  • Nothing beats the value of an editorially selected contextual link within the article body
  • The area just after article delivers a lot of value as users have finished reading and can be easily tempted into something else
  • Sidebars aren’t shown on mobile and banner blindness often turns them off for desktop users so they are not an area we focus on

Fill dead space with content, people like to scroll it’s the natural behaviour of the web

Our newsfeed delivers over 10% of the page views of our site, this is pretty impressive considering it used to be blank space at the bottom of every article and channel page.

Don’t mess with the natural way that the web works

We tried and failed with this during our swipe phase. 5-7% of users delivered 20% of our page views but that didn’t increase their overall time on site. However it complicated everything we built hampering our ability to learn fast. It also didn’t quite fit into commercial or editorial strategies. This frustration/learning was what inspired the algorithm and scroll based newsfeed you now see.

Algorithms are great but need help from humans to perform at their best

Simple algorithms are a great way to optimise editorial workflows especially around content positioning. However these are only as good as the data behind them. Often you have to wait for this to be gathered before acting on it. Using editorial intuition is a great way to shortcut this process. Especially if you can make it run off existing priorities then process change isn’t required to participate.

Whatever Google/Facebook ask you to do, just do it

They deliver so much of your traffic don’t question, just do what they recommend.

Feed the beast

Google and Facebook are always hungry for quality content. Gaining momentum requires constant feeding. They both have overall scores for domain as well as article urls so focusing on keeping this high means a better chance to gain and then maintain momentum.

Think of every page as a funnel, you lose users as they scroll but the lower they get the more open to their next engagement they become

The higher up the page something is placed the more people will see it. However the lower down the page someone is the more open they are to being tempted by some more content, advertising or interactions (e.g. poll vote, comments)

A mobile first approach is a great way to approach product prioritisation

Most of our traffic comes from mobile rather than desktop so it is logical to prioritise. This has formed a major part of our growth strategy.

Goals need to be concise, measurable and focus on why

The more people understand the goal and are able to affect it the more powerful it is. A goal that contains a why will always beat a goal that just contains a what.

Product specific performance should be broken down to actions per daily active users for comparison

This gives a much better overview of actual performance. Allows you to take out traffic fluctuations, just make sure you have enough data.

A week seems to be the minimum amount of data required to see if a feature has worked

Due to fluctuations in traffic and browsing habits. Also good to look at monthly and quarterly trends over longer periods as quite often they exhibit patterns that aren’t found at lower levels. It was asking questions around unexpected trends/data that helped teach me most around product growth.

Distribute weekly reports to show trends and give your stakeholders an overview of how the product is performing

Have these scheduled to your team and stakeholders via email. Also very useful if you break something when fixing something else. Great safety net to minimise impact and spot any unexpected growth.

Any new feature needs to be taken in context of how it fits in the editorial work flow. The closer it is to the existing process the more likely it will be adopted.

The best way to change a habit is build off an existing trigger. New features that leverage existing habits will get much higher adoption than building new habits/process.

Consider the users current journey and their emotional state in all features

Segmenting users based on mindset is a great way to understand data. e.g. Social browsers are likely on a multi site journey in a chromed browser on a mobile device. So they are only looking for a single story from your site so optimise for that. No point in worrying about pages/visit focus on getting more return visits via a social follow.

When coming from social users are often looking to enhance their social status

Our top share buttons get clicked on 4 times more than our bottom share buttons. Social proof around number of others already shared also promotes more sharing.

When coming from search users are usually in a topic based mindset

More likely to click on related, in article links and masthead channel links. Continue to deliver great content around a niche to form habits. Particularly useful around passion centres e.g. Premier League clubs.

It’s better to have 100 amazing tag pages that look and feel like a destination than 10,000 that feel like they were made for Google

Quality trumps quantity every time, Google knows if you users are clicking through.

People click on headlines 4x more than they click images

This is why A/B testing headlines is a great idea. It is the single piece of the editorial process that can have the biggest impact on growth. We also have SEO and socially optimised headlines to ensure we cater to both needs.

These are the principles that I have applied to the product development of metro.co.uk over the past two years. The key takeaway is that constant experimentation is a great way to unlock growth if your environment supports it. The hard part is achieving that without adding too much complexity. Complexity inhibits your ability to learn and learning is central to any successful product growth strategy. Building a set of guidelines has enabled us to move faster and helped foster our continued growth.

One for the future.

Micro interactions help drive habitual use

We don’t have a lot of data on this yet but there seems to be a correlation between micro interactions such as poll votes and habitual use. My theory is that by engaging different parts of the brain you become more memorable. These simple actions form the basis of new habits around content consumption. I think this is a major opportunity for future growth.

Thank you to Dave and the Metro.co.uk team for sharing their tips with VIP News.

Want more information about WordPress services for your enterprise site? Get in touch.

Why Choose WordPress: A Government Perspective – Now With Full Transcript

WordPress.com VIP Director of Platform Services, Peter Slutsky, presented to the DigitalGov University about using WordPress CMS to build government websites, along with Dan Munz, from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, last year, now published with full transcript. 

DigitalGov is brought to you by the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies in the U.S. General Services Administration and their job is to help government agencies build a 21st century digital government.

“Can WordPress be a full-fledged CMS? Our experience is absolutely yes, it can.” — Dan Munz, Deputy Assistant Director for Consumer Engagement at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In this presentation you’ll learn:

  • How to determine if WordPress is a good option for your agency
  • The important technical considerations
  • The biggest challenges and successes CFPB had with implementing WordPress
  • The resources you’ll need to implement it and keep it sustainable
  • How to get buy-in and make the business case to switch/choose WordPress
  • And a Q&A from the attendees

Below is the video of the presentation: 

Good morning everyone, thanks for joining us for the second event in the Why Choose series.

Our first event featured why you might choose Drupal as your content management system or CMS and this event of course will focus on WordPress. Before we begin, I’d like to introduce our presenters.

First up we’ll have Peter Slutsky, he’s the director of platform services at Automattic, where he focuses on expanding the WordPress footprint in politics, government and nonprofit arenas. We’ll also have Dan Munz, who’s the product director for consumerfinance.gov at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the Flagship digital property, and he’s responsible for leading the daily of product-focused web team, articulating prodict priorities, and a release roadmap and shepherding individual digital products like the Bureau’s online knowledge base at CFPB.

So with that, I’ll hand it over to Peter.

Peter: Thank you, I feel like I’m going live on the Today Show.  So first of all, everyone welcome. Thank You so much for joining us this morning. My name is Peter Slutsky. I’m very excited to be with you guys. Let me quickly give you a little background on who I am and what I’m doing here, then I’m going to take you through just a couple slides and then you an overview of WordPress and some of the work that I’m doing to expand the WordPress footprint in Government.

So I started my career working in politics, and lived in DC for a long time. In those roles, I worked in new media, back when new media was actually new and in communications and some organizing on some campaigns. And in about 2007, I got connected to the folks that were launching  causes on Facebook, and I was a consultant for them which kind of opened up a whole new world of technology and the intersection of technology and digita and politics, which was kind of perfect for my past experience. I went to work for a company called Ming, which was doing some really cool things early on in social networking on and went to an early stage start up which led me to Automattic and WordPress, which has been phenomenal.

I’ve been there for about a year, it’s been an eye opening experience. I love the company. I’ve been a WordPress fan and WordPress user, as I’m sure many of you are, for a long time.

So let me start off by saying that I’m not a developer, so if you want to have more technical discussions, we ca do that and I can try, but chances are, I will pump the question and get an answer for you, and can follow up later.

I’m on the business team, and my role is to kind of evangelize and run, lead our business development team in government, non-profit and political space.

So, throughout my career, I’ve worked with a lot of really cool innovators in Silicone Valley and in Washington DC and now up in New York City where I live, and i’ve been super impressed working in the government space.

I feel like we are still really early on in the evolution of technology and innovation but we’ve had just amazing strides over the last couple years in the reinvention of digital strategy, of open government and open source technology, and you know, working with people like Dan who you’ll hear from later and others across government. It’s just been a phenomenal experience.

That being said, I do still think that we’re still super early and that we’re on kind of the first wave, the first generations of the platform and the technology that you’ll see deployed into governments, and we’re obviously in a lot of ways, we’re riding a Drupal wave right now.

One of the things that I’ve heard a lot about in the last year, as I’ve begun to have more and more conversations is, that people are using WordPress as a blogging software and oftentimes behind a firewall for internal communications, and inter-agency communications.

But increasingly, now there’s a desire to use WordPress as a full CMS and to use it for top line websites and agency, projects and micro sites at all levels of government. It’s been really cool to see it, interesting conversations.

So what I want to do is take you guys through the WordPress Eco system and kind of re-introduce you to where WordPress is today in 2013, because I think we’re literally this year, in May, celebrating our 10th university.

So, it’s a really, we’re not grown up yet, but we have come a long way and there’s a lot of perception out there a that I want to work on resolving as we now get into our early adulthood.

So let me just take you through the slides. There’s three flavors of WordPress. There is the self-hosted, WordPress, open-source service which was founded about 10 years ago by Matt Mullenweg, who’s the founder of Automattic and also was the first lead developer for WordPress.

Anyone can go on to WordPress.org, download the open-source, free WordPress software. You can run it on your own servers, you can host it on any number of cloud hosts, Amazon, Rackspace, wp-engine, BlueHost, Remote, Go Daddy, all those, the web host companies that we have good relationships with.

And, WordPress.org, you really have complete control over the code, the codebase, the experience, the fees, the plugins, the accessibility, the third-parties, the technology you bring in.

So in that way it’s really a model framework for building anything from an agency blog or a small web site, a microsite all the way up to large sites like The New York Times, and CNN and I’ll show you some of those great examples after.

We always say with great power comes responsibility, working as a developer or working with a few developers, you can do great things, but it’s also easy to build a plane that you fly too fast. So a lot of times I’m talking with people about sort of picking and choosing which plugins they want and streamline themes and decluttering to make it the most efficient, fast, responsive website, as possible.

So that’s WordPress.org. WordPress.com is the largest WordPress site in the world. It’s one large ultimate site. As of today, I think we have about 45 million sites running on WordPress.com including many in government space, the political and nonprofit space.

Basically, it’s a saas model, software as a service. So we do all of the backend infrastructure, hosting, CDN, storage, backup, security pieces so what you really have to work with and deal with and think about is the front end, the design, and the content, and that’s, that’s something that I know that people working with limited budget constraints or limited resources in terms of development, that’s something that’s very good.

Often times, I’m working with cities and states that have great design teams, they know CSS and Javascript, but they don’t have a good background php or in the code base. So using WordPress.com has been a real asset to them.

The third bucket in this line of buckets is WordPress.com VIP. This is my team. So the VIP team is sort of the best of both worlds, WordPress.org and WordPress.com It’s a SaaS hosting and support model, for enterprise-level websites. I can show you some examples later, but we power like a huge amount of the media sites and the large websites you probably visit every day.

On WordPress.com VIP, we allow you to run your own code base, your own plug ins, but you have direct access to our developers and they can do code reviews to make sure everything you’re doing is safe and secure, and scalable.

Those are things that I’m going to touch on in a minute but those are kind of some of the main questions that i’m getting as I’m talking to folks in the government space.

Really quickly about Automattic, Automattic is basically the commercial arm, the parent company if you will, of WordPress.com. It was founded in 2005, by Matt Mullenweg, who you can see, if you look A-U-T-O- and the M-A-T-T-I-C that M-A-T-T is for Matt. We had all different kinds of products, and for those of you who are running WordPress right now or thinking about running WordPress in your agency, I really recommend you take a look at automattic.com to see all the suite of services.

We have Akismet, VaultPress, Jet pack, VideoPress, and Gravatar, and all these products are really plug and play features to WordPress ecosystem, and some of them are also stand alone products that can really help drive all different kinds of features for your website, so check that out.

We’re about 150 employees, we work all around the globe. I’m sitting in Brooklyn, New York, but my team is in Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, Australia and all throughout America and Canada, it’s really interesting. And to note, we also don’t have company e-mail. We don’t do internal e-mail. We communicate all by a series of internal blogs that are all linked together and so it’s a super, kind of new-age company and the work that we’re doing reaches a ton of people. We reach about half a billion people every month.

We have some great investors, which you can see here, including The New York Times. Who’s one of our big users and partners.

So our core philosophy of WordPress is simple and elegant, but also really powerful and flexible. Which is kind of the driving measure with which we measure ourselves with our software. We want anyone from a local blogger anywhere in the world to CFPB.gov or Nasa or BOJ or the State Department or the White House or anyone to be able to come on and build something that scales to their needs.

We have a lot of flexibility, you know, plugins and themes and APIs, and all these things allow you to you take the base software and make it as robust as you need to.

And in this role of diminishing budgets, diminishing resources, that is where we’ve seen a lot of the adoption of WordPress come in. It’s fast and easy, but very powerful which we’ll go over in a minute. You’re very safe, very secure, and super scalable.

One of the key points also is that it’s open. It’s open-source, this is something that’s kind of the driving force behind not only our software that we built, but the company itself. We’re an open-source company and that’s how we’re able to work in this distributed way across the world and make it work.

We are strong believers in rapid iteration, we put out three major releases every year. Upgrading WordPress is super easy, and for those of you again who are running WordPress right now or are thinking about running WordPress in the near future, I really recommend that you take a look at the upgrades and updates.

I talk to people every day in the government space that are running old software and that introduces a lot of issues. So if you have questions about that, or need recommendations or best practices, definitely reach out to me, iIll give you my e-mail and I can help you with that.

We’re the most powerful CMS on the web. We power 17.9% of the entire internet is powered by WordPress.  60+ million sites, 100,000 new sites are joining our ranks every day. We just had a major influx, there are stories you can check out about some defection when Tumblr was bought by Yahoo. And now we’re getting a lot of that traffic over to WordPress.com, which is really exciting.

We have 25,000 plgugins, 15,000 themes, and more every day. We have an amazing core group that works on the wordpress.org team that helps to get and manage all the code base for the plug ins and the themes that come in to make sure there’s no vulnerabilities, that there’s no hacking, prospecting, to make a website vulnerable. So, it’s a huge community, but we’ve done a really great job of building it. There’s a ton of resources out there.

So, let me talk quickly about WordPress as an enterprise CMS. My biggest challenge coming into this job was, you know, WordPress powers the world, by far the largest CMS around, but when you look at the .gov space, the federal government and in some cases state, definitely not local, federal and state, there’s this perception that, yeah, we’re going to run our blogs on WordPress, but it’s not, it doesn’t scale to an enterprise CMS and obviously a lot of that  came from the decisions that the White House made in an earlier administration, to use Drupal, and a huge eco-system has been built up around Drupal in DC.

But let me just go through WordPress as an enterprise CMS, these are the majority of our VIP clients. These are the people that we’re building this and developing for every single day. On a CMS, you can customize your data and decide what everything looks like. We have multi-author responsibility where you can set rolls and permissions.

So, in some cases there are hundreds, or in some news rooms, thousands of people that are practicing the WordPress dashboard and that are leveraging, something that has evolved. There’s also multisite, which is the ability run multiple sites on on a single codebase within one organization. So we see this all the time in universities, at state government level, we’re working with GFA, as they’re scouting out a new project that’s super cool that involves WordPress multisite, but this could be an amazing application for your agency, you know, to kind of consolidate.

That’s one of the big things that I hear is that people are working in silos, not just across agencies, but across teams within agencies. They have different CMSs, they have no CMSs, they have a topline Drupal CMS, or a WordPress CMS but then everything else is on an old proprietary platform or no platform at all.

That’s one of the big things that I hear is that people are working in silos, not just across agencies, but across teams within agencies. They have different CMSs, they have no CMSs, they have a topline Drupal CMS, or a WordPress CMS but then everything else is on an old proprietary platform or no platform at all and WordPress multisite is definitely something that you guys should check out and that our team supports. If we saw more adoption of it, which we will over the next couple years of government, it would be an amazing thing for technology and innovation and also for cost savings obviously – it’s free.

All kinds of integrations that help power the enterprise CMS, APIs, plug-ins, all kinds of social extensibility, social plugins, plublicize, to Twitter and Facebook, and LinkedIn and Tumblr, and to push content in and out.

And then also, we have a VIP feature partner program, which we’ve basically gone out and curated the best technology companies and brought them into our fold. So all of our clients, and the people that are using WordPress.com VIP et increasingly into other products on WordPress.com, they get access to all these great tools.

And we also we have this great team of developers who’ve built this really great set of plug-ins that help with edit flow or for high octane news room, which could be amazing application for a government agency where there are different departments, different teams, different publishing, where instead of working inside Google Docs and on email, this is a way, I’ll give you an example with Edit Flow, a way to work directly within the Dashboard within the CMS to edit content and then push it to the, and then publish it to production.

WordPress is super scalable. Sometimes I’ll have calls with IT folks in government and they’ll say “well, I’m worried that it’s no scalable past a certain point. I read this here, or I saw this here.” A lot of it, if you Google and you start to get nervous or paranoid about these issues, a lot of those articles are from like 2004, 2005, 2006. We’ve come a long way.

WordPress.com, like I said, is the best example, but we have about 4 billion page views every month, we’re publishing 500,000 posts, 400,000 comments, and that’s all on one single installation of WordPress. So when I talk to government agencies that are scoping WordPress, I will bring our systems team on the phone with in-house IT folks and we’ll have a really great conversation about how to optimize that set up so that you can almost guarantee, 100% uptime, SLA, and all these things that I know the CIOs all are looking for when they’re scoping out new platforms.

From a security standpoint, that’s another thing that I hear about, I’m sure that that’s one of the biggest things, that, as web folks that you’re hearing as well “well WordPress isn’t secure”, and I hear this all the time even in conversations between WordPress and Drupal, people say “well, open source php, dynamic websites, these are not safe and secure things the government to be running and that’s totally, totally not true.

Oftentimes, the stories that you’ll see, where there’s been a hack or a vulnerability, or an issue, that comes from either the host, or from running an outdated version of WordPress, or some kind of call stripping error that a developer has introduced, but that’s why our team does expensive code reviews.

We review every line of code to make sure that all of our clients and all the people that are running WordPress at an enterprise level are really kind of inoculated from those types of issues. We’ve been vetted by all kinds of agencies and all the big players in IT security and we’ve gotten great feedback. So WordPress is a scalable, secure, platform, that can take you all the way up to where you need to go.

We’re mobile-friendly, mobile ready. The most exciting thing to me in the world is thinking about where the future is going, especially in the context of government, when it comes to mobile. The fact that, you know, we’re now putting all of this information and data, and giving it to people to develop apps and all kinds of integrations with healthcare and what Dan is doing at the CFPD, with consumer data. It’s so exciting and I think we’re super early on, but WordPress is completely mobile friendly.

You can make pretty much any theme responsive. We have great APIs, and we have themes that are mobile optimized. So you don’t have to have a separate track of mobile development and web development. It’s pretty much all one development package at this point.

Really quickly, a little bit more about VIP services just because I want to make sure that people know, if you are going to use WordPress or if you are using WordPress, there is a company, Automattic, that is behind the service and that could help support and scale and be a resource to you or to an agency partner or to a consultant.

We do this all the time where we step in and basically get a developer seat for self-hosted support and you can have unlimited access to our team of developers, who are really world-class, top WordPress and php developers and we will help you with best practices, code reviews, advice on plug ins, and all those kinds of things.

And then also, if you get to a point where you decide you want to host outside of your environment, WordPress.com can be a great option for you. And like I said, we do host a lot of government clients, and also Fortune 500 companies, and big media companies which I’ll show you in two seconds.

So really quickly, when you’re working with WordPress, your company, these are just some of the organizations using WordPress, The White House, DOJ, The House of Representatives, all throughout the Senate, DOD, State, CFDB, Library of Congress, EPA, and it’s growing every day. Everyday I have an exciting conversation with someone whose doing some kind of amazing innovation.

On the media front, we have our CNNs, CBS local, New York Times, Time, Tech Crunch, Venture Beat, all the big tech blogs, and it accounts for a lot of our traffic, but it also accounts for a lot of the energy and and the development resources that we put into our core products. If something is good for The New York Times, it’s going to be good for core software which is going to be good for you guys. It’s a really awesome eco-system and one that builds and builds and builds.

Let me close off real quick with this. We are doing a WordPress in Government half day workshop on June 13th in DC. It’s going to be really fun, a bunch of our partners, I think GSA will present,  agency partners and some interesting people, from Washington and around the Washington world. The Washington Post, which I don’t know if you guys know this, but The Washington Post actually serve a lot of their traffic through WordPress.

During the of 2012 campaign, I think at one point at the end, 85% of traffic was being served through a WordPress site, which was super exciting for us.  And now they’re official partners of ours and we’re working with them to help scale all these amazing products that they’re building. So if you want to come to WordPress in Government event, then let me know. Shoot me a note on e-mail, or here’s my email address and my Twitter handle. I would love to have you there.

Let me close out by saying, again that I’ve worked with some amazing people and I just applaud everyone who’s inside of government right now and innovating. It’s the place to be, and when I work and have meetings in Silicon Valley and in New York, everyone is trying to tap into the market of, you know, engaging with citizens, and I think you guys are on the front line of that, so I would love to be a partner and I would love to figure out ways for us to drive WordPress inside your agencies.

So please get in touch and I really appreciate your time.

Moderator: Thanks Peter. Before I pass it to dan, I wanted to remind everyone that we will take questions at the end and to please type your questions in the chat box. And we’ll also include, Peter, your email address in our follow up e-mail to attendees.

So if you didn’t get a chance to write it down, and have questions for Peter, we’ll send it.

So, as I mentioned our next presenter will be Dan Munz and he’s the product director for ConsumerFinance.gov.

Dan: Thanks a lot and thanks every body for spending a little bit of time this morning listening to Peter and I talk about WordPress and our experience with it.

I’m going to start off just with a little bit of background. First real quick about who I am and why on Earth you should listen to me about any of this stuff. As it was said, I’m the product director for consumerfinance.gov, at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is DC’s newest federal start-up agency. I’m responsible for leading product development of the Bureau’s site consumerfinance.gov and some of our other digital products. And it’s important for me to say that I work with an amazing team of designers, developers, data analysts, project managers and new media strategists, who make all of this stuff I’m about to talk about go.

I’m a proud alumni of BGSA Center of Excellence in Digital Government. Before that, I spent about 5 years in political campaigns, non-profits and federal government, understanding how the modern web and the civic sector fit together and understanding the emerging technologies like WordPress make that happen and make it happen quickly.

Today, I’m going to give you a little bit of an overview of the Bureau and of consumerfinance.gov, talk a little bit about how we use WordPress and how it fits into our overall kind of web architecture. Give you a few thoughts about how to use it successfully and what to be careful of kind of from point of view and talk about a few sort of big, big hairy questions that keep us up at night.

So really quickly, a little bit of background on the bureau. If you want to trace our founding to kind of one sentiment or one thought, it’s probably this article published by then law professor Elizabeth Warren in the summer of 2007 called “Unsafe at Any Rate” in which she observed that it is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of turning out to be much more destructive than you thought or that you were able to realize at the time.

And her insight then,  was there ought to be a federal agency regulator responsible for making consumer markets and consumer products work for consumers  and for responsible lenders and prevent exploding mortgages from making their way into the economy. That, as I said, was in summer 2007. A bunch of stuff happened to the American economy after that and in July 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. By July 2011, we were about 100 or 200ish people. Here’s a picture of some of them. By July 2012, we were close to our current capacity, which is 1000-1100.

So we’ve had a pretty steep growth curve, and this is where we work. It’s at 1700 G. Street NW, if anyone’s in DC, come say hi, you can see our big friendly logo on the wall. That’s a little bit about the CFPB.

So now let me shift to talk about our site, consumerfinance.gov. It was launched in February 2011, five months ahead of schedule. It’s worth noting that the bureau itself didn’t actually open for business in a meaningful way until July 20011 and so for about 5-6 months, our website was not so much the website of a federal agency as the blog of a bunch of people who were building a federal agency. And we’ve had to evolve of the time, as a bureau matures and offer things it didn’t use to to offer, like complaint intake and consumer engagement regulations enforcement.

Consumerfinance.gov is the Bureau’s only digital property, we own digital property, and we’re actually pretty proud of that. When people ask how many websites we have, the answer is one, I’m personally pretty dedicated to making sure it is only ever one. Consumers are our core audience, like I said, we do regulation, we do enforcement, we do a lot of industry and other partner-facing work, but as far as our web brand is concerned, consumers are our core audience.

And to give you a sense of size, we do about 900,000 unique page views per month. We’re no WordPress.com, but we do okay. This is what our stack looks like. Going from the bottom up, we use Google Analytics to do our web analytics, we’re hosted on Amazon web services, we use Akamal as our content distribution network. At the top of the stack, there is WordPress, we also use Django, which is a pyhton-based web application framework to build a lot of stuff, but I’ll talk more about that in a second.

There are, to be sure, a lot of other technologies floating around in there that connect you to our our site. Apache obviously is in there, but as far as the technologies that surface to a user, this is the main stack.

So you notice at the top we have WordPress and Django there and this is a microcosm of the big CMS vs Framework questions. One thing I will say by the way is that I think Peter was maybe a little modest in talking about the question about can WordPress be a full-fledged CMS. Our experience is that absolutely yes it can.

It’s just uncontroversially true. There are things you have to do to make that happen successfully and there are things you can do to make it happen unsuccessfully, which I’ll talk about in a little bit.

Our experience so far has borne out the idea that WordPress manages content and is a good system for doing that. We use WordPress and Django together. We found that WordPress is a good fit for things that are standardized content types. So when you think about our blog, or our newsroom, or regulations, or testimonies, or speeches, or reports,  any of the many products we have that are sort of standardized content that we put out on a regular basis that we can manage in a sort of a bulk presentation way.

It has actually good content management user interface, UX designers sometimes referred to as the interface UX forgot and I agree they’re not always awesome and WordPress, or at least the self-hosted version which we use has a pretty solid back end. It also lets us cleanly distribute editorial workflow. There are plugins for that, but even WordPress out of the box has an ok version of this. And web application frameworks like Django, although there are CMSs for Django, tend to not do an awesome job at it.

So what we’re using Django for is really whenever we’re doing custom app development. Anything that’s highly interactive or highly database driven, or has a really complex taxonomy. Anything that depends a lot on search or complex navigation, or Ajax and things like that.

And we use it mostly for things that have relatively infrequent content updates, though there are certainly exceptions to that. I think the short way to think about this is we use wordpress when we want more people doing fewer things. We want more people around the Bureau to be able to create a blog post or create a press release, or repeatable simple things like that.

We use Django when we want fewer people to be able to do more things. So Django is the language that our designers and developers will use to build an application, and they can build a full application from bottom to scratch. It can be data viz oriented, have a lot of complex interaction. So it has a lot more flexibility and strength but you do have to be a developer to get in there and build with it.

To tackle kind of the main question that frames our time today, why choose WordPress, these are some of the reasons that I think at least we chose and why we continue to choose it. One is a basic level. You have a c (content) that needs m’ing (management). I remember a survey a while back when the federal, “hey everybody get rid of so many websites” order came about. Someone called all .gov sites and tried to count what CMSs they were all using, and I think 1,200 came back as none, which is not great.

So you know, WordPress is one of a family of software called CMS, and if you just have a bunch of content on a site that right now is just static HTML, you should get yourself a content management system period. It lets you get started really quickly and cheaply. Even the hosted version, for me to have hosting, it’s relatively simple to set up and install and get started. It’s really well documented in their documentation and online. So googling is really your help function.

Like i said, it has a pretty usable admin experience. It has a really nice syndication features. It makes it trivial to create an RSS feed content, there are plugins that let you really easily create a JSON API for the content. So WordPress has the potential to lend itself really nicely to being just one member of your web ecosystem.

Data in, data out are relatively clean. And one thing that is really important that I can’t stress enough.It was a robust well-managed community both on the kind of “I need tech support” side but also on the code side. There’s a lot of great development happening, there are a lot of plugins for core functionalities  that are relatively mature and really well maintained. So it’s relatively new, but it’s certainly past the point of being experimental technology, it’s absolutely usable.

The flip side of these things is kind of thing is that if you do choose WordPress, one thing that’s important to say is that WordPress is not natively a web application framework.And this is a statement to me that seemed obvious and I Googled it and it turns out to be a relatively controversial statement. It’s clear to me that WordPress, whatever its ambitions is not yet a full-fledged framework application. It is a CMS, and you know, I’m absolutely sure that it’s possible to build really complex web applications but it’s not what it does best. There are other frameworks that do it much better, much easier out of the box.

If you’re going to choose WordPress, you should really understand that the kind of four walls of what you’d consider to be content management, are really what you’re getting, at least that’s been our experience.

You still need designers and developers. It’s really important. It’s easy to think, I’m going to get WordPress and I’ll have a great website, but then you find out that, oh, well, you actually need designers to make it brand compliant, to do layout really well, you need UX professionals, to make sure your information architecture is right, so you understand what your content types are. You need developers to get the thing running, inspect plugins, make sure they work well, things like that.

So it doesn’t really free you from kind of needing a great design and dev team on staff. Some core cabilities are still maturing, the flipside of the robust plugin community,in some things I think of as core capabilities are kind of left to plugins, which, robust as they are, are still in development.

One great example of this is called Ramp, which is a plugin written for a use case that we certainly have which is moving from content from sort of a staging server to a production server, selectively in a way that doesn’t require to you delete your production database and start over. And you know, it’s a great plugin, it’s really incredible for us that it was written. But it doesn’t do some simple things like make removing content from production really easy. Or give you a unique ID that sort of syncs between staging and production.

So, that kind of stuff, you can run into it. And it’s only really when you realize that you need that functionality that you go “oh man, we need that” and then you kind of hope that the people who maintain that include that feature. To an extent, that’s true with all open source software. But we found that, in a few cases to be true of even things you’d think of as kind of core functionality.

I think this is another frame on Peter’s “with great power comes great responsibility” quote. It’s easy to do things right with WordPress, but it can be even easier to do things wrong. It makes it really trivial to upgrade the site, to add new plugins, so change your theme files and if you’re like me, php still looks like Matrix code to you.

It does make it potentially even easier to do things wrong. Before proceeding, some things have been really helpful for us, one is understanding your information architecture, and I mean seriously understanding it. And this is something you should do with any CMS, and any website.

But it’s especially true in a scenario where you have, at least for us, a hosted version of WordPress and you have to be pretty thoughtful about what kinds of content you’ll have, how they’ll relate to each other, what kind of taxonomies you’ll be able to use site-wide to be able to manage that content.

How you want content to show up in different places and it’s really important to kind of think out for your enterprise a step or two or three beyond where you are now. For us, we were in a major growth situation, where if you look at the Bureau, kind of 2 or 3 years into existence, the range that we offer the public are just totally different, and evolved every time, ’cause we’re growing so rapidly.

And so one challenge for us has been keeping our view of our digital architecture up-to-date with the architecture of the Bureau’s public offerings. So that’s really important.

A flip side of that, or a companion to that is understanding the enterprise. Understanding how you’re going to want content to be managed, who you want to have permissions to do that, what permissions you want them to have and reverse-engineered to the question of how you can configure that in a tech capability way.

One other thing I’d say is to think about search. This one area where I think WordPress, at least when we started using it, is not super strong and it’s, you know, for obvious reasons not up to the task of search across, example, WordPress and all of the stuff we keep in our Django-based apps.

So you’ll want to think about what your search solution is, we use USA search, which is a great one. There are things like Solr, which is a search library for Django, which is really great or for python.

The other tip I give is understand how your security shop thinks about open-source software. What Peter said earlier is absolutely right. Anyone who said that open-source software is inherently less secure or more secure than proprietary software is to my mind just flat wrong.

At the same time, using WordPress, does mean that, one way or another, if you,re doing it right, you’re going to have to take code that someone else wrote and run it our your servers. And that’s going to require you to at least understand and maybe have a few heart to heart conversations with your security shop to understand what’s the process for reviewing a plugin that we want to use, and the process for reviewing an upgrade.

It may turn out to be painless, or painful. If you dive into this without understanding how they’re thinking about that challenge, it’s almost certain to be painful.

So the next horizon issues for us, from a web strategy standpoint broadly, one is structuring content and taxonomies more consistently. This is kind of an issue I flagged earlier. Understanding how all the content we have relates to one another, and how kind of the information architecture that’s emerging can be reflected efficiently in the way we divide content on the back end. Something we’re always striving to do better but, it’s something that I think keeps us up at night.

Being smart about pushing reusable code blocks into modules or plugins. I think we’re learning all the time, about what kind of single purpose things we build, turn out to be enduringly useful and how we can push those into blocks of code or blocks of functionality that we an reuse.

And to me the biggest one is abstracting this question of templating to be platform agnostic.  More and more I think you see kind of really mature web organizations thinking about the engine that templates and serves sites to the public, being potentially really different from the engine used to manage and store content, kind of the database.

I think our kind of hypothesis, is that if we’re able to separate those functionalities and create a layer that pulls content from WordPress or from Django, or somewhere else and can serve it with the same consistent template, we’ll be in a really good position.

This is a particularly important issue for government, not only because you’re sometimes integrating multiple content management database structures, but also because occasionally, if you’re like us, you’re called on to integrate kind of a third party piece of software that has a public facing component into the site. And regardless of what kind of CMS you mostly use, it can be a real challenge to do that in a way that’s kind of brand consistent and well-integrated.

So we’re really actively thinking about investing in the capability to take the question of templating and sucking content out of somewhere and serving it onto the web in a really uniform way and really separating that from the core database stuff, where content is kept.

So that’s pretty much all I have to say, I hope that’s given you kind of overview of how we think about and use WordPress and how we think about managing web content and having better web properties generally. Like I said I really appreciate everyone on the call taking the time and I’m eager to take some questions.

Moderator: Okay, thanks Dan. We do have a couple of questions.

Both you and Peter mentioned security, would it be preferable to install WordPress on an intranet server, as opposed to using it as a third-party method?

Now I don’t know if Peter you want to address that or Dan or both of you?

Peter: It’s hard to say, depending on the use case is. The person with the question should definitely reach out to me and I get some more solid recommendations.

Dan: I mean the only thing I’d say is I’d go back to my point earlier that there’s not really and this is partly because I think Federal security shops are, while not new, not necessarily having standard out of the box procedures for reviewing open-source software, it’s hard to say there’s a preferable way to do it.The really preferable way to do it is have a conversation with your security team before you pick a direction to proceed in.

Moderator: Okay. You mentioned, Dan, that you obviously need developer and technical support to use WordPress. Can you elaborate relative to other CMSs, is it more, less, the same?

Dan: My guess is a little bit less than Drupal, although, I have to say I don’t have a ton of experience with Drupal, my understanding is that you know, partly because it was kind of born as a CMS, there’s a little bit more configuration complexity there to it. But if you think about the spectrum of things, if you think about something like WordPress.com, or any kind of hosted service, that’s where you really need the least developer support.

You still need design unless you’re building a website with no front-end, maybe you want your visitors to consume pure JSON, but if that’s not the case, you’ll need design. But in terms of dev and tech resources, anything hosted externally is the easiest solution. Anything hosted internally, if you want to do it professionally, there’s just going to be some level of having folks who can think about the architecture of the site, having it think about scalability, caching and serving and things like that. You’d be surprised at like the really dumb things that can happen if you don’t have folks like that around. Then, as I said, the top of the spectrum is frameworks ike — like pure web applications like Django and ruby on rails and things like that that are really purely application development frameworks and really, you know, anyone can get started but that’s kind of where a developer or designer just has to play really, a really dominant

Peter: And also, just to weigh in on that a little. One of the things I’ve been working on is really helping to identify resources, especially in and around the DC area. So talking with a lot of companies that do web development and bringing them up to speed on WordPress as an enterprise product, so, if, and there are some really great resources out there, so if you know you want to do something that is a little more complicated than the out of the box piece, let me know and I’m happy to connect you.

Also, as I said, part of what we do is supporting folks that are self-hosting, to be that developer resource. If you have someone that knows WordPress or php but doesn’t feel like they can extend it to the point where you need to get it, we can be kind of that bridge to help you in that way. I think to answer the fundamental question, all these things, when you’re talking about doing something that’s bigger than out of the box requires some level of expertise and that includes developers and designers. But for the most part, when I talk to people bout, deciding between WordPress and Drupal, and let’s just say Junla, it’s never a question of, this one needs nothing and this one needs something. It’s always a question of, where are the resources, and also what’s the long-term strategy. Like for example with Drupal, they do a once a year or once every ten month release period, or updates, and that oftentimes will lead to you needing to tear down the house and rebuild it more often, whereas WordPress is more iterative. And you can update as you go and theres a lot more backwards compatibility. And that’s the kind of thing we see a lot in conversations.

Moderator: Great, thanks. Could one of you actually show specifically what the back end looks like?I  don’t know Peter or Dan, who would be the best person. Peter, I can pass control back to you just so we can get a better understanding of how it works and how we can better use it.

Peter: Whoever had that question, there’s all kinds of resources, screenshots, screenshares online, so if this doesn’t answer all your questions, that will.

Moderator: Maybe Dan you could answer this question. With all the API work being done in Drupal, will it scale or work with WordPress?

Dan: I mean it’s a little bit tough to tell. It depends on the individual project, but in general, I think it’s really important to understand that one of the kind of main goals of API work generally is to make data transport really agnostic to these kind of platform questions. Depending on how, I mean it sounds like the question might be about content migration between Drupal and WordPress and operating them together. If the person who asked that question wants to drop a little clarifying note, that’d be great.

Part of the reason I think it’s good for everyone, both Drupal and WordPress, they focused pretty hard on making it easy to create APIs and build webpages on top of webpage stores, is that it doesn’t lock you in to any of those. Your data’s really portable, it’s reusable in web applications. So if I wanted to build a web application that pulled in my content from Drupal and my content from WordPress, inefficiencies aside, I could probably do that.

So, when you think APIs, you should think inter-operability, more or less no matter what. Like I said, I’m sure their fields look different, they’re stored differently, but in the abstract, that’s the answer.

Moderator: Great, thanks. So Peter, are you-all set?

Peter: I hope you guys can see it. Here’s the basic dashboard, if you see people walking around the world with WordPress, wp admin shirts on, all the nerds like me, this is kind of our core, the core tenant ofWordPress that has remained constant throughout the 10 years that we’ve had it.

Dan: Peter, can I just say that i love that you have two categories of blog posts, music and other.

Peter: Oh yeah, I’ve really extended this one greatly. Yes, so this just my own personal blog, so it doesn’t have any complexity to it, and I’ve seen The Washington Post’s dashboard and The New York Times’ Dashboard and it’s absolutely insane.

They build all these custom things for editing and edit flow, and permissions and all these types of things.

But very basic. Basically, here’s our, this is how you add a new post and a post is content-type, that you can even assign as, assign to different parts of your web site.

It can be media, it can be text, it can be anything. We have obviously taxonomy around tagging and so you can have robust search. This is the uploaders where you can add images and links and then have you, in your library, you have all of your uploaded content, and it can kind of practice a storage area for you and then you can click in and embed content, so that’s great for photos if you’re one to put beautiful HD photos, those kinds of things look great.

On the user front, this is something that may interest you guys. Say you have 30 people in your office who are assuming different roles and you want them to have different permissions, you can invite new users and you can change roles to be an administrator, editor, author, contributor, will then trigger access to different parts of the site, different controls of the site, which is a great feature, in an organization where there’s a lot of folks.

What I really recommend you do, because it’s free and it takes 10 seconds and it’s easy, is go to WordPress.com, sign up for free account, and just start to poke around, build your own little site and from there you can really start to play around. And as I said, it’s really that easy, to at least get started.

The stuff that Dan’s talking about, it’s all super interesting, the layers of framework that he’s put on top of it. Or to just get a basic site up and running that has pretty much all the full functionality that you would need to publish, it only takes a couple of minutes and then from there, the sky is really the limit. We also have great stats which I love checking. I’ll show you what a loser I am right now, but you can really see kind of all your stats here in one place. Not as good as google analytics, but it’s getting these. It’s pretty fun to watch.

One of the things that I definitely recommend you do too, if you’re running your own WordPress site is go to jetpack.me and install that plugin. It’s a way to bring a lot of the development of WordPress.com onto your self hosted site and in doing that, you get the chat functionality and other cool things to see and to try.

Moderator: Peter, can you limit specific roles to specific pages?

Peter: You can. There’s some stuff that you can do, definitely, and that’s something that we get a lot of questions about. So there’s definitely, there’s great documentation if you go to Google and type in WordPress Goals, there’s a link that I send around to people a lot that clarifies all the different pieces of the roles on WordPress.

Moderator: Is there any type of site that you wouldn’t recommend using WordPress, for example a transactional site or a data heavy site?

Peter: I don’t think I can recommend that you don’t. What we’re seeing how WordPress works at every level. Some of the stuff that Dan was talking about with heavy data table asks those kind of things,there might be integration that would make sense to explore.

But, we’ve done surveys of our user base and there’s a huge number of people that are running e-commerce and running full CMS and kind of doing full-fixture blogging sites and increasingly now using WordPress as a framework. I don’t think this is going to happen in government tomorrow, but it could be something down the road. And certainly, like the Washington Post is using it, using either the publishing piece of WordPress in the backend and a front-end solution, or vice versa and they’re using the front end of the solution and importing through a different type of back end. It just takes a lot of creativity and some developer lifting.

Dan: Just to add to that. I would frame the question just a little bit differently and say that for almost any type of site you want to build, the great thing about the web is that someone’s already built something like it already, and so there’s probably a tool that’s really great at it.

And so it’s hard for me, I mean at the end of the day it’s all code. It’s hard for me to think of a kind of site that you just absolutely couldn’t build with WordPress, especially it you extend it with the right technologies.

You should really kind of understand the kind of offering you want to build whether you’re building something very editorial, or something that’s focused on serving data and APIs in like a really high-volume scalable way. You know, there are technologies that are greater and better meant for it and that’s where I’d start.

It’s also worth understanding that the technology is really just one element. It’s really important to understand how the technology plus what kind of resources you have. If you have, you know, WordPress plus a bunch of amazing php developers, that might be a great choice to build a really kind of data-heavy, interaction-rich site. If you have WordPress, but you know, no developer help and you want to build something complex like that then it’s not a good choice.

A lot of platform choice hinges in parallel with the question of what kind of team you have to work on it.

Moderator: Okay, thank you, that’s actually all the questions we have and we’re just about at noon, so thank you both to Peter and Dan for taking the time, and thanks to everyone for listening. As a reminder, we’ll be sending a survey evaluation along with several resources and Peter’s contact information.

So thanks again everyone and have a great afternoon.

 

If you’re looking for information about government sites using WordPress, check out our spotlight on Building Government Websites with WordPress CMS or get in touch directly with the WordPress.com VIP team.

Thought Catalog on Building a Massive Open Contributor Network – Big Media & Enterprise Meetup NYC

James Ellis, Jameson Proctor and Matthew Spencer from Athletics  presented “Thought Catalog on VIP: Building a Massive Open Contributor Network” at the recent Big Media and Enterprise Meetup in New York City. Their presentation included their author permalink plugin that is now available on GitHub.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group. We have upcoming developer and superuser training near you.

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.

VIP Training Days in San Francisco & New York in November

In November we’ll be hosting VIP Training Days, our intensive, one-day, in-person training courses led by a team of WordPress.com VIP instructors, in both San Francisco and New York City.

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In each location, we’ll be offering our existing Developer Fundamentals I and Superuser courses, and our newest developer course, Site Security & Debugging. VIP Training Days courses are limited to no more than 20 people with each team of VIP instructors which ensures lots of hands-on learning and interaction. You can read on below for more information about the other courses, or go directly to the event registration pages where each course is also explained in detail.

These courses are suitable for both self-hosted and WordPress.com VIP sites/superusers/developers – the large majority of the material will focus on core WordPress functionality/features.

For current VIP clients & partners, there is a client discount available if you register before October 10th – please get in touch for the discount code. If you’re planning on sending two or more participants to VIP Training Days, please get in touch as well as we’d like to offer you a special group discount.

Register for VIP Training Days in November!

Current VIP clients & partners can contact us to be invoiced directly if preferred.

A special thanks to WordPress.com VIP Service Partner Voce Platforms (@VocePlatforms) for offering their offices for the New York training.

Be sure to join the Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup in San Francisco or the Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup in New York City! Meetups happen regularly. The next meetup in San Francisco is November 4th, and the next one in New York City is December 9th!

More information about the VIP Training Days courses:

VIP Training Days: Developer Fundamentals I Training

Description

WordPress Fundamentals I is a day-long, intensive course meant to introduce PHP developers to programming for WordPress. Attendees should be familiar with WordPress as a tool, and have a working understanding of its general terminology. Proficiency with PHP is also a must, but no knowledge of the WordPress code itself is expected. This is a great course for developers looking to build sites which will scale to VIP levels, and write secure and scalable code.

Prerequisites

  • Proficiency with basic PHP development.
  • Awareness of WordPress as a platform, including common terminology such as a post, a page, widgets, and sidebars.
  • A local development environment running WordPress Trunk. We will provide a virtual machine ahead of time for participants who don’t have their own development environments, but they will be responsible for setting it up ahead of time.

Course Materials & Requirements

Each student will provide their own computer (laptop) for the course, with working wifi functionality. A lunch break and light lunch will be provided by WordPress.com VIP. Students should have a local working copy of WordPress trunk installed and tested prior to the training. To download trunk: http://wordpress.org/download/svn/

Curriculum Overview

  • Intro to WordPress core, SVN, and Trac, history and culture
  • Developer environment and debugging tools
  • WordPress Development Best Practices
  • Introduction to Plugins
  • Actions and filters
  • Introduction to Themes
  • The Loop & WP_Query
  • More on themes
  • …and more!

VIP Training Days: Developer Fundamentals Training: Site Security & Debugging

WordPress Fundamentals: Site Security & Debugging is a day-long, intensive course meant to improve WordPress developers’ understanding of advanced concepts. Attendees should be familiar with developing WordPress plugins and themes or should have attended our Developer Fundamentals I course.

We’ll cover the basics of writing secure code. Instead of just listing vulnerabilities, attendees will learn how to think like an attacker and exploit the vulnerabilities before fixing them. In the course of learning more about security, we will introduce various debugging techniques to help attendees find problems in the code faster.

Prerequisites

  • Proficiency with PHP development.

  • Awareness of WordPress as a platform, including common terminology such as a post, a page, widgets, and sidebars.

  • Proficiency with basic WordPress plugin and theme development – actions, filters, loading assets, main core APIs.

  • The latest version of VirtualBox: https://www.virtualbox.org/

Curriculum Overview

  • Security: common types of vulnerabilities

  • Security: exploiting and fixing open redirects

  • Security: exploiting and fixing XSS problems in HTML, JS, and CSS

  • Security: exploiting and fixing CSRF vulnerabilities

  • Security: exploiting and fixing SQL injection problems

  • Security: exploiting and fixing remote file inclusion attacks

  • Security: exploiting and fixing clickjacking attacks

VIP Training Days: Superuser Training

Description

In this course, you’ll learn how to manage and use the WordPress interface from a site owner’s point of view; as someone who will be managing multiple users, their permissions, and ultimately sharing knowledge with them about how to use WordPress to publish a great site with an active community and/or audience. We like to think of this course as our teachers teaching your teachers – those who will serve as the WordPress expert in an organization.

We’ll also do a deep dive into the publishing process so our superusers can teach their editors, authors, and contributors how to best use the WordPress interface. From creating and publishing posts to managing tags and categories, from mastering multimedia and images in articles, and bulk management of posts and pages, we’ll cover the entire publishing process from draft to done.

Prerequisites

Users should have a working (beyond basic) knowledge of the WordPress administration panel / backend. They should be managers, administrators, or editors of an existing or future WordPress site with multiple users.

Course Materials & Requirements

Each student will provide their own laptop computer (no tablets) for the course, with working wifi functionality. A lunch break and light lunch will be provided by WordPress.com VIP to all students. For the purposes of the course, students will be given access to a WordPress.com site. Users will be requested to create a WordPress.com username if they don’t have one, and this username will be submitted to the course instructor. To create a WordPress.com username: http://en.wordpress.com/signup/

Curriculum Overview

  • User Management: roles, permissions, and invitations
  • User Profiles: settings, preferences, and Gravatars
  • Comments: moderation, spam, and notifications
  • Creating & Publishing posts
  • Managing tags and categories
  • Mastering Media: images, galleries, and slideshows
  • Bulk management of Posts and Pages
  • …and more!

Register for VIP Training Days in November!

Current VIP clients & partners can contact us to be invoiced directly if preferred.

Have any questions? Get in touch.

The Dream Internship: Work at Automattic (Spring 2015)

Our company Automattic — which runs WordPress.com, Akismet, VaultPress, and many other services — is looking for a few stellar spring student interns, specifically to work with us on the WordPress.com VIP team.

WordPress.com VIP provides hosting and support for high-profile, high-traffic WordPress sites, including Time.com, FiveThirtyEight.com, qz.com, TechCrunch.com, Recode.net, NYPost.com, etc.

You’ll be working on a range of projects depending on your skills and passions, but here’s an overview:

Development Intern: This internship is all about making things. You’ll likely be working on WordPress plugins for large media companies, or working on core WordPress.com features and development.
Update: The Development Internship position is now filled. We will be accepting applications for our summer internship starting February.

Communications Intern: This internship is all about improving client communications. You’ll likely be writing case studies, interviews, launch posts and new feature posts for the VIP News site, in addition to helping organize our fall events.

Where will you be working you may ask? Anywhere! We are a distributed company and are happy if you work from wherever you are — as long as you have a good broadband connection. This paid internship runs 12 weeks between March 9th and May 29th, 2015, but we are flexible on the dates.

Interested? Complete your application by filling in the form below. In the space provided, introduce yourself and why you’d like to be an intern with our team. Be clear about what you’ve done and what you’d like to work on — for example, a killer plugin or integration, a feature improvement, a case study, etc. Students enrolled in a full-time or part-time undergraduate or graduate program with 6+ months left before graduation are encouraged to apply.

Send in your internship application by November 1st for consideration in the program. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we’ll get back to you!

Josh Betz is a former VIP intern who now works as a code wrangler. During his internship he worked on a VIP user management plugin and WordPress.com Enterprise.

WordPress.com VIP at ONA and WordCamp Europe

This weekend members of the WordPress.com VIP and extended Automattic family will be present at two events: the Online News Association (ONA) 2014 Conference in Chicago, and WordCamp Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria!

At the Online News Association conference, members of the WordPress.com VIP team will be there along with a few of our colleagues from Automattic. We’ll be sponsoring a refreshment booth featuring coffee from Chicago’s Bow Truss Coffee Roasters, a sister company of our Featured Partner agency, Doejo. Be sure to stop by! Find out more about ONA.

logo11At WordCamp Europe, members of the WordPress.com VIP team will be there, as well as colleagues from Automattic. We’ll be at the WordPress.com VIP & Automattic sponsor booth as well as I am going to be presenting “7 Habits of Highly Effective Enterprise WordPress Sites” on Sunday. Several other Automatticians will be presenting that weekend as well —see the whole WordCamp Europe schedule.

If you’ll be at either event, drop us a note in the comments! We’d love to say hello. 

For WordCamp Europe, we ended up having two extra event tickets we’d like to donate back to the community. To get one, just leave a comment below and we’ll forward your information on to the WCEU organizing committee. Airfare, transportation, and all other expenses are not being provided and are at the expense of the commenter. 

GlobalNews.ca Makes Embedding Media Easy with the Media Explorer

At the Toronto Big Media & Enterprise Meetup earlier this year, Keith Robinson and Imran Nathani from GlobalNews.ca presented their customization of the Media Explorer plugin. The goal: To make inserting and embedding media as efficient as possible for their editors.

The Media Explorer plugin was a joint project between WordPress.com VIP and Code for the People, which allows editors to quickly and easily insert tweets and YouTube videos straight from the WordPress dashboard “Edit Post” page. The plugin is easily extendable, and allows for you to include alternate media sources.

Twitter search

Media Explorer

The GlobalNews.ca team decided to customize and extend the plugin to include other video and photo sources that their editors commonly use. In doing so, they allowed their editors to centralize their workflow within the WordPress dashboard. Watch their 10-minute “Flash Talk” below to see their customizations in action, and then check out our recent Q&A with Keith Robinson, manager of digital products, and Imran Nathani, web development architect.

What was the thinking behind extending the media explorer?
Keith: We have dozens of active producers, and making it really easy for them to curate content into story posts is a big part of what we do. Anything we can do to make their job even incrementally easier has terrific benefits.

With WordPress, we want to get our producers comfortable with one user interface, rather than telling them to learn a new system or look in a different place for each new feature. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and getting people to do almost everything they need in a post, and then press a button and move on.

It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS.

When we first saw the Media Explorer plugin in the fall, we saw how easy it was to curate Twitter and YouTube content straight from within the post. It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS. Imran pointed out that it was easily extendable and can be adapted for our own media. We’re trying to get as much rich content as possible into every story post, to hold readers a little longer, and Imran said, why not use the Media Explorer to do that?

By extending the Media Explorer plugin, editors can now easily search the NewsCred photo library without leaving the dashboard.

By extending the Media Explorer plugin, editors can now easily search the NewsCred photo library without leaving the dashboard.

The custom tool also allows editors to quickly crop images before inserting them into the post.

The custom tool also allows editors to quickly crop images before inserting them into the post.

What was the previous workflow like?
Imran: We’re a very video rich site because we’re a broadcaster, and with the way the video management was first integrated into WordPress, it was a separate screen. You had to go in and search in a separate interface, and then grab a short code and then bring that over into the story editor and cut and paste it in there somewhere. That may not sound like the most onerous workflow in the world, but it’s all about making things that much easier.

Embedding videos used to be a tedious process requiring multiple browser tabs. Now editors can quickly search and embed videos right from the WordPress admin.

Embedding videos used to be a tedious process requiring multiple browser tabs. Now editors can quickly search and embed videos right from the WordPress admin.

The custom tool that the GlobalNews.ca team built also lets editors create video players and carousels on the fly.

The custom tool that the GlobalNews.ca team built also lets editors create video players and carousels on the fly.

How has your tool evolved?
Imran: Our video producers are really localized, so we’ve given the producers an option to search video based on a specific region. For the first round of development, the user would just select a video and insert it. For the second round of development, we started thinking about groups of videos. This was mostly triggered by Rob Ford being on Jimmy Kimmel Live — we wanted to be able to show all the clips together. So, we created the option of a video gallery.

As for the NewsCred integration, sometimes the images that come through are really large, and our editors need to crop the photo to something that suits our site’s dimensions. So, we made it possible for editors to choose the photo and crop it, lower the quality for web, and then add it to the media library for use.

What’s the feedback from the producers been like?
Keith: Our video producers really like it a lot, and — the difference in the process before and after is pretty extreme. They’ve expressed that they really do find it a lot easier.

Since we’ve added this, there’s been more video going into posts, a lot more embedding of tweets right into the post. And I like that because it gets people away from using other outside tools to curate social media, and this allows you to do all the curation right within your post and house all of your own content.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group. 

Big Media & Enterprise Flashtalks with Captions on WordPress.tv

I’d like to introduce Andrea Zoellner, a WordPress.com VIP Communications intern who has been working diligently over the past two months to do some great things with WordPress.com VIP’s communication! Among other projects, she’s spearheaded transcribing and getting the Big Media & Enterprise Meetup videos and transcripts available to the public as soon as possible. We hope you’ll give her a big welcome, and we can’t wait to share what else she’s been working on! —Sara Rosso. 

We’ve been posting videos of presentations from the Big Media & Enterprise meetups over the past few months, and we believe those presentations are one of the biggest resources for the WordPress community at large with regards to understanding how WordPress is being used for innovative and highly-scaled projects.

With the goal of helping the community in mind, we submitted the videos to WordPress.tv so the entire global community could discover and share them as needed. We also painstakingly added English subtitles and a full transcript to these videos to make it easier to follow along, increase accessibility, and make them translation-ready.

These videos are an opportunity to hear about interesting features and stories from some of the most sophisticated WordPress installs on the web. By recording the meetup presentations and making them available to the wider WordPress community, we hope more people will benefit from the content.

Check out some of our recent presentations which we transcribed and published on this site:

Want to make more WordPress.tv videos accessible? You can help the WordPress.tv community bring meetup talks to an even broader audience by contributing subtitles to other videos. Find out more.

One Theme, One Multisite, 30+ Unique Websites – Now With Full Transcript

Simon Dickson and Simon WheatleyCode for the People, presented “One Theme, One Multisite, 30+ Unique Websites” at the recent Big Media & Enterprise Meetup in New York City. We’ve shared this post previously, but we’re publishing it again now with full transcript below.

 

Okay, so I’m Simon Wheatley, my partner Simon Dickson is just over there and we’re from a company called Code For The People.

We’re one of the VIP partners and I want to talk to you today about a client who came to us, similar I guess to the Oomph guys,the Interactive One guys, just been talking about one thing, but dealing with many websites initially 30.

This is for a magazine publisher in the UK, so they wanted to move 30 of their titles initially on to this platform but they wanted one standardized theme, one standardized set of functionalities that they could use.

So our solution for them is based in a couple things that I’m going to talk about tonight one is the WordPress theme customizer and one is the way we’re handling layouts using widgets and widget areas so these solutions are things you can apply in other organization. You can have your WordPress themed cake made by my partner’s wife and you can eat it at the same time.

So you get in this way, using this customization but based on the standardized theme, you get to reduce maintenance and at the same time keep the editorial teams happy.

So I’m going to talk through three of the areas where we allow editorial control so obviously there’s colours, I’m going to talk about typography and I’m going to talk about layout.

So the first element, colour, we started off with the idea that we would have the user pick half a dozen colours and we would then do colour calculations based around on let’s find some complimentary colours let’s find some lights and dark equivalents and then we’ll be able to work out how of those six colours, we can deal with the header and the footer and the body post but that actually gradually became unwieldy.

So you get in this way, using this customization but based on the standardized theme, you get to reduce maintenance and at the same time keep the editorial teams happy.

We found ourselves adding more and more colour options to avoid a clash of dark colours appearing on dark colours or red appearing on green, that kind of thing and the solution that we arrived at eventually was that we split it into two colour palettes, so there are two colour palettes which we call palette A and palette B and then we split the page into three areas. We’ve got the header area which can have one palette assigned the body of the page which can have another palette separately applied to it and then obviously the footer which can have a completely different palette.

So there are three palettes there, with about 12 different areas and we’re just using the standard WordPress theme customizer to allow you to pick the colour for that we’re still doing a little bit of colour calculation, lightening and darkening and so on but essentially it’s the two palettes applied to different areas of the page. We don’t take the standard approach that some themes take of just injecting a whole bunch of CSS into the head. Instead, we’re using LESS with CSS Preprocessor.

Probably now looking at the fact that core have adopted SASS, we could be using SASS but at the end of the day it’s all CSS Preprocessing. It all really does the same thing, it’s taking variables from the customizer and injecting them into CSS and using that to build the final styles for the website.

It’s simpler and cleaner than shoving a load of overrides in your head. So that’s colours, let’s talk about typography. Obviously there’s a number of font services out there and we’re going to want to give 30 editorial teams a good choice of fonts for their websites.

So we’re using the Google Fonts API, there’s a wide wide variety of fonts there and we’ve built a custom control for the customizer so can pick say the open sans fonts and because we’re dealing with the API. We know that there are these variants and weights associated with that and then we can be applying a text transform so that you’ve got fully uppercased for the navigation, but you’re just capitalizing for the headers or whatever.

That’s the one customizer control, which has got three sub-controls within it we looked around and found a couple of those on the internet in the .org repository but they all seemed to be making a bit of a meal of it and we ended up making something that turned out simpler but works quite nicely.

It’s simpler and cleaner than shoving a load of overrides in your head.

What you’ll see we haven’t got there is a font size for each individual element. We’re not setting a font size for the heading and then font-size for the subheading. Instead, we’re setting a base font size and then we’re using multipliers up from that. So maybe 16 pixels or something and then the heading is 1.5x that and the meta is 1x that or whatever.

So let’s talk about layout. We started out with layout with some very grandiose ideas that you might recognize from other themes and options that you’ve got out there. We were going to allow the user to draw areas on the screen and we we’re going to then use those as widget areas and drop stuff into those and then we we’re going to magically work out how we calculated the break points so that you could you know have tablet portrait, tablet landscape.

Eventually we took a step back from that and realized we could accomplish pretty much the same thing but in a much much simpler way.

Eventually we took a step back from that and realized we could accomplish pretty much the same thing but in a much much simpler way. So if we look at the primary content area on the left there, we’ve got a grid of widget areas so we’ve got a widget area at the top spanning then we’ve got the two-column side by side and then we repeat the same again. But of course with the widget area in WordPress you don’t need to put widgets in it.

So if you wanted to have just a single column of news in the primary content area then you just put widgets in the double span that comes second in there. Or, if you want a two-column layout, then you can just use the top two. Every so often in the year, when you’ve got a promotional item, you can be putting that in your double span above those to columns, so it gives it a lot of flexibility.

Because it’s a known quantity, it means that we can scale down to the various breakpoints and we know exactly what we’re doing and we’ve got a really nice responsive website and that comes out really really well when you start actually putting content in it this website, the fields, they started building that yesterday at 11 o’clock in the morning and by 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they had a site, fully migrated, fully customized with all the old content in it from the old custom content management system and up and running, so it comes up through the breakpoints.

Nice shotgun advert there for the shooting season coming up.

And then the desktop, full desktop width…so let’s, just taking a look at this page, we’ve got one widget that’s controlling a lot of this stuff. So if you look at the news sequence of posts and the food and drink sequence of posts, they’re using the same widget, and that’s something that we call the post query widget which is essentially a wp query builder for those you who know what I mean by that.

It’s putting together a series of parameters by which you’re going to reach into the database, grab the post that you want and get to display them on the page so you can choose the post type that you want to display in the particular widget that you’re editing at the moment. You can filter it down by the taxonomies and then you can go to actually start displaying that.

We do that by breaking the sequence of posts up into sections, so section one here has just got one post in it, it’s a list with a large image. Section two, you’ve got two posts, smaller images, and we’ll show the author and we’ll show the date there. Then section three is just a text bulleted list without any additional detail in there.

What that comes up as is something like that so it gives you really quite a flexible display of how you’re going to pull the posts in and then how you’re going to actually show them on the screen and you could have all large images or all bullet points, pretty much anything you want

We don’t limit the number of sections there so another thing I wanted to mention was category archives so again, we’ve got a customizer control in there so select your category and then choose similar again to the way that we’re dealing with the query widget so similar, we look at the style that you want that in, maybe this category you’ve got some really nice images, maybe the review images you’ve got are great and you want to highlight that

So you’ve got the ability to customize the display on the category there, so I’ve whistle stopped through this we talked a little bit about colours, so we’re using the colour API a little bit of calculation, we’re using LESS in CSS Preprocessing there talked about typography, so we’ve used the Google Fonts API to allow you to choose a font we know from the Google Fonts API, what the variants are, so we can pick that and we can give you a transform, we’ve got the base font size we talked about layout, we talked about the post query widget and about the custom layouts for categories so has anybody got any questions?

Q: Are you guys supporting live previewing in addition to the standard customizer stuff?

A: Yeah, absolutely, so all of this stuff, I mean if you’re not familiar with the customizer, one of the great things about it is nothing is live until you click the save and publish so all of this customization is happening just for you personally so even with the LESS Preprocessing, that’s being piped off into a separate stylesheet which is only being served to the editor that’s actually doing the customization at the moment

Q: ( [...] )

A: Yeah, we’re working with posts, obviously the built in post type which they’re using for articles, we’ve got a custom post type for events and for reviews as well so the post query widget that I showed you, you can say I want to see just reviews here or just events here and it will allow you to display those

Q: ([...])

A: Some of the titles that we’re dealing with are relatively low staffed So I don’t think that kind of title would be necessarily looking at clicks we have got an evolution of the post query widget which looks at Google Analytics and uses the Google Analytics API to evaluate what’s popular in a particular category so you can use that as the sort mechanism, but that’s not something that’s live on the site at the moment

Q: ([...])

A: Yeah, so the widget areas that are there for the, where are we, let’s skip back through yeah the widget areas that are here are exactly the same widget areas, they’re just, they cascade through with the different break points and we move them around so this is the full desktop width but if you can quickly scan you can see that the same widget areas are just linearizing basically as you move down through the sizes so it’s exactly the same stuff ([...]) absolutely yeah responsive break points any more for any more

Q: ([...])

A: At the moment, pre-3.9 the disadvantage is anything you do to a widget is live on the site immediately, post 3.9 widgets move into the customizer so we’re able then to choose the widget layout and mess around in the same way exactly the same was as I said for the rest of the customizer, you can change your colours, change your fonts it’s not live until you click save and publish so 3.9 is going to herald a grand new dawn in terms of that being able to get right before it’s live

Q: ([...])

A: The brief for the widgets was that it wasn’t so much of a manual curation process, so if we needed to manually curate this particular post into position in this particular area of the homepage

I guess you could get around that by hacking with tags, but it wasn’t a core part of the brief that we were able to do that, so using something like zoninator where you can precisely choose which post to go and in which order they appear in wasn’t a requirement we could develop a different widget that did something like that I think we would probably still stick with widgets we’re also looking at doing some work to customize

so you can take the homepage layout and then for a particular purpose maybe for a sponsorship section have all of the sidebars completely custom for that but hidden from normal view so It’s only when you’re editing that page that you go in and those side bars are only live when you’re editing that page, that set of sidebars so you don’t end up with this situation wherein the WordPress admin area, the widget section you’re looking at all the sidebars and there’s like 300 sidebars which one am I adding the widgets in and which one am I not we’re able to actually filter which sidebars are being shown for a particular purpose

Q: ([...])

A: Yeah exactly that principle yeah.

Q: ([...])

A: Yeah, so like I say, some of these are fairly low staffed publications so the key for them is probably that they’ll set something up and then they won’t touch it for a little while we’re using a plugin which is available on the .org repository called the customizer settings revisions which allows you to save what you’ve created so you might go like “okay, this is the Christmas layout” with all the pretty snowflakes and the lovely snowy red design and then you can pop back to that when Christmas comes around again or when Easter comes around or whatever you want to do thematically so we’re using that plugin for that purpose

Q: ([...])

A: So the ads are outside of the widget areas, they’re placed at various points in the page that we know how to deal with for again, for the responsive break points are we concerned about the responsive kind of nature of it and so on, yeah so we have, we haven’t got the ability to do the thing that really you only do to show your boss that the site’s responsive which is you know, move the site edges in and out and change the width of the page, the adverts won’t change at that point because they only change on page load, it will look at the width and then ascertain what ads you need and then load them at that point does that answer the question?

Cool. Thank you.

 

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group. 

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.

Building Quartz – Now With Full Transcript

Josh Kadis is the web applications technologist at Quartz. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on building qz.com on WordPress, which we’ve shared here and republished now with the full transcript below. Quartz just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and you can learn more about it by reading our case study here.

See Josh’s slides here.

 

My name is Josh Kadis, I work for Quartz, which is a business and economics site from Atlantic Media, which is the publisher of The Atlantic. We launched in September last year, and our most recent numbers for July were about 5 million uniques (views). My role at Quartz is I do the bulk of the WordPress work and then I’ve also been heavily involved in building the Backbone application that runs the front-end of the site.

If you haven’t seen Quartz, it looks like this. It’s a responsive web app, WordPress backend, publishes on JSON API, that gets picked up by the backbone front-end and the bar across the top under the word Quartz – that expands and that’s how you navigate between different sections and within a section you can navigate by scrolling up and down in the column on the left which we call the queue, or in the “item well”, which is the main content area on the right.

So the basic architecture is that Automattic and the VIP team host our WordPress installation, the Backbone files and our CSS and some other Javascript kind of stuff are hosted on the same CDN that’s used by the rest of Atlantic Media, which is like theatlantic.com, theatlanticwire.com and other non-WordPress sites.

WordPress publishes the JSON API, and we get all the backend post authoring and media and we have some custom backend stuff, like a post type that allows us to publish the newsletter through the MailChimp API from within WordPress.

We have a self-hosted system for reader accounts, which is what you would use for the commenting feature that we recently rolled out which is more for annotating individual paragraphs within a post, and then managing your subscription to the newsletter The Daily Brief and that kind of stuff, so that’s also WordPress.

We’ve actually found that the comments that come back are less awful because people get to the specifics of what they want to say about this specific paragraph instead of a general “you suck”. That’s kind of nice.

We have this division of labour between WordPress and backbone where WordPress handles what you would expect: generating the basic HTML markup which kind of gives the page the basic structure and is useful for search engines. WordPress publishes the JSON API, and we get all the backend post authoring and media and we have some custom backend stuff, like a post type that allows us to publish the newsletter through the MailChimp API from within WordPress.

The order of the posts you see on the homepage is not initially chronological, it’s manually ordered by the editorial staff, that’s the ‘Top’ post. So there’s a plugin that allows them to do that with a drag and drop interface from among the recent posts. Backbone also handles what you’d expect on the client side: fetching data from the API, deciding where and when to render it on the page, reflowing based on the device and on the screen size. We’re doing some offline reading with local storage and all of the annotation’s functionality is contained within the Backbone app and the entire thing can be turned on and off without even touching WordPress.

The URL and getting Backbone and WordPress to interpret the URL in the same way is really where the two things come together. The whole site relies on that or else the front-end and back-end are out of sync.

So we have these two things and where do they really intersect? It’s here: The URL and getting Backbone and WordPress to interpret the URL in the same way is really where the two things come together. The whole site relies on that or else the front-end and back-end are out of sync. So just to kind of quickly walk through it, if you haven’t written a Backbone app before, the router is the foundation of it, it essentially determines how the URL is parsed and then triggers a series of events that come one after another and ultimately result in stuff showing up on the page.

Good URL design is really a key to what we’re doing.

To work, the router reads the permalinks, and Backbone has some kind of build in syntax for how you read a permalink and decide what’s a variable within that and what’s a key. The permalinks come back to WordPress to run off the rewrite rules, and the rewrite rules run Quartz.

Good URL design is really a key to what we’re doing. So something like this: http://qz.com/107970 is the URL of the most viewed post of the history of Atlantic Media, it’s about bees. This is something that doesn’t have to run through a URL shortener, doesn’t get redirected, both Backbone and WordPress will understand this URL and parse out that single ID in the exact same way. Here is a little bit of code from the router, grossly over simplified.

Basically the router initializes, you give it this regex, it looks for these core sections: ‘Top’ – which is, I explained, is the manually ordered, “here’s what’s important right now” segment of posts. ‘Most recent’ is the latest one, ‘Popular’ we kind of calculated near real time using Chartbeat, ‘About’ is some static pages.

When the router recognizes one of these keywords from the regex and the URL, it triggers the core function which passes the particular one to this event which then gets triggered and a whole bunch of other stuff happens that results in a bunch of posts as you scroll through.

When you look at the WordPress theme, if you see rewrite rules, you would kind of recognize the regular expression: Top, Latest, Popular, About, and for both the front-end query, which is this first set of rewrite rules and then the API they both resolve to pass these two parameters, these two query variables to WordPress. API = true or false and then request = one of these things in this array.

For handling those two variables, we add_rewrite_tag request, we hook into query_vars and add API and then WordPress knows to look for those two things so that when the parse_request action comes around, we are able to, and in my oversimplification, I left out an if statement here, then we can fire up this qz API class and kind of pre-empt the main WordPress loops and that’s how we get JSON back without really needing to run through anything else that WordPress would do.

So this kind of enables us to go from a regular URL with a parameter like JSON tacked onto the end which is how in a lot of situations if you were building a JSON API on top of WordPress, you might do something like this and get back basically the same data structure that’s in the WordPress post object.

For us, we haven’t done that for a couple of reasons. We’ve gone with a custom API for clarity’s sake, being able to put all our endpoints inside API and then on the server side, we want to do all our processing of the meta data before we return it through JSON or else all that work needs to be done and that slows things down.

So for example, we’re able to return the URL to multiple sizes of the same image which we’ll ultimately be able to serve differently using this new SRC set attribute for different screen resolutions, stuff like that that is not necessarily apparent if you’re just reading the meta data straight out of the database.

So the Backbone side touches WordPress in a couple of other places. One is we need a way to keep track of version numbers, because they really are so separate. When we load the current Backbone version, it’s a different actual number than the WordPress version, so WordPress needs to know what’s what and keep one step ahead of the VIP team, really, because we put in a deploy to them, and we’re not sure when it’s going to come back so we want to know that as soon as it does, we’re ready and we’ll load the correct version of the application.

We’re also sort of separate from WordPress but still in Automattic, we’re using an Akismet API for kind of like profanity and spam filtering when annotations come in.

So in a second I’ll show you a quick shot of a plugin that enables us to do that. We’re also sort of separate from WordPress but still in Automattic, we’re using an Akismet API for kind of like profanity and spam filtering when annotations come in. Previews get pretty complicated in fact, with the Backbone app because it doesn’t know if the person is logged in to WordPress or not, it doesn’t know what permissions they have, so we need to sort of render some special Javascript in the markup that comes back initially from WordPress in order for Backbone to pick up that preview.

And then finally, there’s something that we’re working on that David in the third row in the red shirt is going to be working on soon, which is kind of figuring out how to keep the WordPress post templates and the underscore templates that Backbone uses, keep those in sync. It’s kind of hard right now, and ultimately doing a better job of that will allow us to load more of the application initially from WordPress, instead of having to process it within the browser in the Backbone app and then put it on the page.

So, this is a quick look at the plugin that manages the version number, essentially it allows you to stay on this auto-pilot mode that kicks whichever version is higher between the constant that’s set in the theme that can get committed to VIP or a setting that’s saved in the options table that you can set here so if for example you have a new version in the Javascript application that’s not making any adjustments to WordPress, we can just update the setting here in the plugin as soon as we put it on the CDN and we’re ready to push it.

But if we have stuff that’s sort of related to some changes in the WordPress theme and some stuff in the Backbone app, we put the Backbone app up first change the constant in the WordPress theme to sort of point to that new version of the Backbone application and as long as we’re sort of incrementing the number, the plug in will kick the higher number as soon as the new code with the constant is live on VIP.

This is just a quick look at annotations. You should all check it out, it’s really really nice. The responsive aspects of it are really cool and it’s just an interesting way of diving into the content. We’ve actually found that the comments that come back are less awful because people get to the specifics of what they want to say about this specific paragraph instead of a general “you suck”. That’s kind of nice.