USA Today Launches Multiple Sports Sites on WordPress.com VIP

USA Today has launched several sports-focused sites on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting. Welcome to the VIP family! We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

For the Win is about tracking sports news before it goes viral and the sharing stats for each article are prominent and an important part of the site.

For The Win | What fans are talking about.

The Big Lead covers sports but also touches on everything from politics to pop culture.

The Big Lead | Sports News and Media

MMA Junkie is a site focused on mixed martial arts news, rumors, live blogs, and more.

MMAjunkie | UFC and MMA news, rumors, live blogs and videos

The Q is at the center of its NFL coverage on Sundays, Monday nights and Thursday nights as an optimal second-screen companion for fans following NFL games, filtering out everything but the best real-time analysis through editor-vetted curation and exclusive, original content.

NFL | Q

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

Registration for the WordPress.com VIP Workshop: March 31 – April 3, 2014

The next edition of the WordPress.com VIP Workshop will be March 31 – April 3, 2014!

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Now in its 3rd year, the Intensive VIP Developer Workshop provides a unique opportunity to learn from the WordPress.com VIP team in person, as well as exchange ideas and experiences with other WordPress.com VIP clients through networking lunches and dinners, the in-depth WordPress curriculum and exercises, and focused, collaborative conversations.

We’re also planning to bring back flash talk sessions where WordPress.com VIPs can share their own experiences with building VIP-scale websites using WordPress, their workflows, shortcuts, lessons learned, and best practices, too.

The event is open only to VIP client developers, select partners & potential clients, and we expect to sell out quickly! Last year’s feedback was just as good as the year’s before:

  • 97% plan on attending again 
  • 95% would recommend the conference to a colleague

A quick peek at the itinerary - details & agenda will be available on the WordPress.com VIP site soon. You can see last year’s event details as well.

  • March 31: Arrival in the afternoon. Welcome, networking reception & dinner.
  • April 1 & 2: Full days of training with VIP instructors, followed by networking dinners.
  • April 3: Wrap-up, farewell breakfast, and morning departures.

Current VIP clients & Featured Partners are welcome to register now! Early bird pricing is set at $3,250 each for current VIP clients until January 20th. The price for attendees is $3,600. Registration includes 3 nights’ lodging, meals, and airport transfers from SFO.

If you’re interested in attending in 2014, fill out the pre-registration form here or send in a ticket to VIP Support. We’ll work with you on organizing payment and confirming your registration for the event. 

If you’re not a current client or partner, you can pre-register for the VIP Workshop 2014 for the full price & we’ll process registrations after the early bird period is over and as spacing permits.

Here are some pictures from last year’s event and the event recap.

New Plugin: Comprehensive Sitemaps

Map of Boston by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL

We’re excited to announce the availability of a new plugin for WordPress.com VIPs: Comprehensive Sitemaps.

All WordPress.com sites come with XML sitemaps built-in. These files are automatically generated, cached for a 24-hour period, and updated whenever a post is published, updated, or deleted—however, they are also limited to the 1,000 most recent posts.

With Comprehensive Sitemaps, you can now build and serve sitemaps encompassing all of your content, to help give search engines an extra boost when crawling your site. This is done by using sitemap indexes and breaking down the files into years, months, and days. Additional care was taken to optimize the plugin for quick and fast delivery (individual sitemap files are pre-generated), and the plugin smartly handles post changes by updating only the affected sitemap files, so you’re always serving up-to-date content.

The code was originally written by the development team at Metro UK. Here’s what Paul Kevan, a Metro engineer, had to say about the plugin:

The sitemap plugin spawned out of a requirement to maintain our indexing when migrating over from our in-house CMS to WordPress.com. The default plugins only output 1000 posts and considering the Metro site had over 300k posts, we were worried about the indexing drop when we not only moved hosting but also changed the structure of our permalinks.

Three months later, thanks in part to the plugin, we had fully reindexed the whole site in Google with only a few minor problems.

When the VIP team got in touch to discuss open sourcing the plugin, we were only too pleased to say “yes”. The Metro development team is able to be very lean thanks to the services of WP.com VIP and we were conscious that the best way to repay this was contribute back to the community.

We worked closely with Paul and Metro’s development team to get the plugin into a shareable state. Other VIPs like Maker Media and Service Partners like Alley Interactive and 10up also offered to help and contributed code that helped further clean up or optimize the code or introduce new features.

Installing the Plugin

The plugin needs to be installed via your theme code:

wpcom_vip_load_plugin( 'msm-sitemap' );

Setting up Sitemaps

Once you’ve committed the code change to activate the plugin, please open a ticket so that we can generate the sitemap for you. We need to run a one-time process to generate the full archive; it’s rather resource-intensive and something that we can help run in a smooth manner.

Note: if you’re using custom post types and want to include them in the sitemap, you need to explicitly include theme via the msm_sitemap_entry_post_type filter.

Follow Along

You can follow development on Github. If you come across problems, we ask that you first check the issues on Github and if the problem hasn’t already been reported, go ahead and create a new one. There are several fixes and improvements planned; pull requests are welcome and highly encouraged.

A big thank you to Metro UK for contributing this code back to the VIP community!

Map of Boston courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL.

WordPress.com VIP Training Days in New York, February 2014

The next WordPress.com VIP Training Days, our one-day intensive courses held in-person, will be in New York City in February 2014.

The courses will focus on small groups of students with hands-on material led by several Automattic and WordPress.com VIP instructors. The course will be very interactive and full of practical information & exercises, and students will have the opportunity to ask questions during the course as well.

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VIP Training Days – New York, February 2014

Special Note: 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.

  • Superuser Training - February 3rd – $600 course fee.
  • Developer Fundamentals I Training - February 4th, $850 course fee.

Note: All transportation, transfer, and lodging costs will be the responsibility of each student, as well as any other expenses not explicitly stated. Lunch will be provided. Payment is required to confirm registration. 

Register for the Developer Fundamentals I training, or the Superuser training in New York in February, or read on for more information about each course’s curriculum and prerequisites.

If you’re interested in VIP training and can’t make it to the New York dates, you can register your interest and let us know your location preferences (no commitment required). It’s possible we’ll add more dates or locations in the future.

Register now!

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.

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!

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 the Developer Fundamentals I training, or the Superuser training in New York in February!

Refunds

We’ll provide a full refund if the cancellation is requested within 30 days from the event date, and 50% thereafter. No refunds will be provided for cancellations 5 days before the event.

Register now!

Big Media WordPress Meetup: How The Washington Post Uses WordPress

A huge thank you to everyone who attended our WordPress Big Media Meetup last Thursday, hosted at the Thunderdome HQ in New York City.

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We had a terrific lineup of speakers:

  • Connor Jennings (The Washington Post): How The Washington Post Uses WordPress
  • Helen Hou-Sandi (10up): Redefining Traditional Media Workflows in WordPress
  • Mo Jangda (WordPress.com VIP): Code Review for Teams
  • Taylor Buley (Parade): Parade.com and the WordPress Theme Customizer

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting each of the talks. For the first installment, here are the slides and video from Connor Jenning’s presentation.

Apologies for the video quality, we’ll be sure to get a tripod next time. :)

To see the talks from the previous Big Media WordPress Meetups, click here.

WordPress isn’t Suited for Major Publishers?

austin@alleyinteractive.comIn this post, WordPress.com VIP Featured Service Partner Alley Interactive‘s managing partner Austin Smith shares his thoughts regarding a recent article which dismisses the potential and power of WordPress as an enterprise solution. We naturally disagree with the article and turn this post over to Austin. 

Felix Salmon sounded off earlier this week, at some length, about one of my favorite topics—choice of CMS for news organizations. One of his central points is that Vox Media has a distinct advantage because of its über-CMS. I admit, what I’ve read about Chorus makes it sound pretty awesome. But there’s a broader question here about CMS models in general—do you want your CMS to run everything, or do you want it to be a component in a broader digital ecosystem?

First, I can answer this question for myself and most of our clients—I think the CMS should be a component in a broader digital ecosystem. From the look of the screenshots on TechCrunch, Chorus includes an ad management platform and a full-scale user management system. I’m not jealous of these features, nor are we often asked for them. The heft of maintaining such a platform would be unbearable for most publications, and to this extent I take Salmon’s point that an organization that can own the full scope of its digital experience may ultimately come out ahead. But we generally handle these features via third-party integration and our publisher sites still succeed.

Second, we build publisher sites on both Drupal (The New Republic, National Review Online) and WordPress (The New York Post, Digiday, Flavorwire, The New York Observer), so I’m in a unique position to take offense at Salmon’s casual offing of both:

Off-the-rack CMSs like WordPress and Drupal are OK for small-to-medium sites, but aren’t particularly well suited to be the framework for a major publishing operation.

Ouch! On whose authority? You could build a platform like Chorus on either WordPress or Drupal, and probably come out ahead. Drupal has long called itself a “Content Management Framework,” and would be naturally suited to this challenge. Similarly, anything you can do in PHP, you can package as a WordPress plugin. Plus with WordPress, you get the added benefit of editorial commonality—chances are pretty good that your reporters will have seen a WordPress admin screen before.

Also, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. These über-CMS projects have a tendency to fail pretty spectacularly, and humble as they apparently are, WordPress and Drupal are antidotes to this syndrome. The TechCrunch article about Chorus mentions WordPress.com VIP specifically as an alternative to this model. By virtue of its bulletproof reliability, careful curation, constant monitoring, and strong system of developer support, WordPress.com VIP takes a ton of this risk off the table. And in collecting a large number of high-traffic media sites, they’ve built a common set of shared plugins which handle many common publisher-site tasks. When WordPress gets better for one, it gets better for the others, too. Similarly, our biggest Drupal projects have launched successfully on Pantheon, and many other Drupal publishers run on Acquia.

Perhaps the “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality does not translate to digital media, as an open-source developer like me would prefer. But even if you buy into an eat-or-be-eaten mentality, it’s hard to believe that your CMS will win or lose the war.

Invective aside, one point I can take is that owning the full stack is a luxury that requires an immense scale. But is it a necessary condition for success? I don’t know, and I’m not sure Salmon does either:

I’m fascinated by the Medium experiment: I think it has a lot of potential, especially if it starts to support custom domains, like Tumblr did early on.

Great, but which is it? Medium or Chorus? I think we can agree that it’s too early to say, and that there could be plenty of room for both. But WordPress and Drupal do great things for big publishers too, and they aren’t going away.

Thanks to Austin for his commentary.

Interested in more information about WordPress solutions for publishing and media? Get in touch. 

NASA launches two more sites on WordPress

In addition to the NASA Open Government Initiative Websites powered by WordPress, NASA recently launched two more sites on WordPress.

The Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) contributes to NASA’s mission by promoting individual and team excellence in program/project management and engineering through the application of learning strategies, methods, models, and tools.

APPEL – Academy of Program:Project & Engineering Leadership

Visit http://appel.nasa.gov/

Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer — their Chief Knowledge Officer has two important advocacy roles: facilitator and champion. The CKO leverages, nurtures, and highlights formal and informal work happening across the agency and serves as a conduit between the workforce and leadership to ensure the workforce has the tools and resources necessary to meet NASA’s most pressing knowledge challenges.

NASA Chief Knowledge Officer | Share. Connect. Engage.

Visit http://km.nasa.gov/

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.

Canadian Olympic Committee launches Winter 2014 Games site on WordPress.com VIP

Today, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) officially re-launched Olympic.ca, marking the 3-month countdown to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Derek Kent, CMO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, remarked on the site’s redesign: “Our vision is to create a website that is best-in-class among National Olympic Committees. We know our fans, athletes and our partners are hungry for Canadian Olympic team content. This and the next generation of the website will ensure our athletes’ stories are told, and shared in more compelling ways with fans at home and around the world.”

We spoke with Todd Denis, Director, Brand Connections of the Canadian Olympic Committee, about the decisions made regarding the Olympic.ca redesign, which is hosted on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting.

Canadian Olympic Committee

Q: How is the website different from previous Olympic Games?

We wanted to make sure that the entire digital experience was driven by a ‘fans first’ approach. We’ve seen mobile traffic on Olympic.ca go from 15% in 2012, to 30% in the first half of 2013, and as of October, 2013 it was at 40%. So, in addition to the more obvious social hooks, we knew that re-designing around fans meant meant we needed to be ‘mobile first’.

We had our design partner Zync focus on how things would actually behave as mobile content and navigation – on function, then form – making it easy to share articles, photographs and videos, with a content and menu system built specifically for those smaller screens.

And the site lives within a responsive grid, as we felt this provided our best immediate mobile product, while putting us in a great long-term position to benefit from the constant evolution in responsive design.

Canadian Olympic Committee _Samsung_Responsive-showcase-presentation_970x580

“WordPress.com VIP allowed us to focus on the fan experience and front-facing content, instead of the servers powering it.” — Todd Denis, Director, Brand Connections, Olympic.ca.

Q: Why did your team choose WordPress.com VIP as the platform for the Olympic.ca website?

We had to ensure that the site would be ready for any traffic and performance load that the massive Olympic Games audience could throw at it, but we also had to be aware of the limited internal resources we could expend on site administration. We were already running a self-hosted WordPress site, but it was in serious need of a technology and stability update. WordPress.com VIP allowed us to focus on the fan experience and front-facing content, instead of the servers powering it.

Q: How long did it take to put the project together, from start to finish?

From initial RFP to final launch was more than six months, but it was approximately 16 weeks as a pure timeline around UX, wires, content migration and development. We worked with Toronto based brand and marketing agency Zync, and their programming partner Trew Knowledge, to design, develop and support the site.

Q: How will your team use social media to complement the Canadian Olympic Committee website, and to drive traffic to it?

The site is social from top to bottom, with best practices in place for social sharing and channel promotion. But we’ve also got widgets that pull in context specific content from our social channels. For example, while the universal footer across the site is a direct pull in from Instagram, many of the Twitter feeds are grabbed based on the context specifics of the athlete or sport tags on the page. It’s these small things that help build to a more engaged fan-to-athlete experience.

We will also be launching a Canadian Olympic I.D. in the coming months, which will initially behave as a sort of registration system on the site to help streamline saving and sharing of content – and the I.D. will be powered by social registration to help us better understand who our fans are and what type of content they enjoy.

Canadian Olympic Committee_Samsung_Smartphones-white_970x580

Visit Olympic.ca and see for yourself the new site!

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

Congratulations to the 2013 EPPY Award Winners

We wanted to take a moment to celebrate teams in the WordPress.com VIP community who have recently been recognized in Editor & Publisher’s 18th Annual EPPY awards.

Best Overall Website Design with 1 million unique monthly visitors and over: GlobalNews.ca

GlobalNews.ca

We’d also like to congratulate our Featured Partner 10up, who completed the development work on GlobalNews.ca.

Best Business/Finance Website with 1 million unique monthly visitors and over: CNNMoney

CNNMoney

Best Entertainment Blog with 1 million unique monthly visitors and over: CNN – The Marquee Blog

The Marquee Blog

Best Sports Blog with 1 million unique monthly visitors and over: The MMQB

The MMQB
We’re delighted to be working with teams and websites that are being recognized for their excellence in smart design and high-quality content.

Congratulations!

“VIP Scanner” Plugin Updated with Exports and a Brand New Design

WordPress.com VIP themes and plugins represent over 5 million lines of code, with thousands more committed every day. Since we manually review all of this code, we try to make it as easy as possible for developers to double-check their code against the standards that we look for, streamlining the process for everyone.

Version 0.4 of the VIP Scanner is another step in that direction. We’ve refreshed the interface to make it easier to use: instead of choosing the theme and the type of review you want to run, we’ll automatically show you the results for the current theme. Issues are broken down by severity, with the most pressing issues at the top. And we’ve moved Notes (these are issues that you should be aware of, but are not strictly necessary to fix) to another tab to help reduce clutter.

We’ve also added the ability to export your VIP Scanner results, so you can submit them alongside your theme, to our team for review. We’ll be polishing this a bit more in future iterations, but for now it will simply download a Markdown formatted text file with the details of your review. If you’re using the VIP Theme Review scan, you’ll also be asked a set of standard questions, before you run the export, which will help us understand the thought process involved in building the theme. The answers to these questions will also be included in the export.

As always, pull requests are welcome over on Github.