A New VIP Training course: Security, Performance, & Debugging

WordPress.com VIP Training Days - Security, Performance, & DebuggingAfter the success of our two initial training courses, we’re launching a second developer course in June in San Francisco!

The new course, WordPress Fundamentals: Security, Performance, & Debugging draws from issues and examples we’ve seen here with our WordPress.com VIP clients. We’ve worked with numerous VIP clients to make their sites more secure, faster, and able to scale WordPress for high traffic, and we’ll now work with you to help make the sites you build safe and scalable.

Below is a complete description of the course. You can sign up for the new training course in June in San Francisco now!

WordPress Fundamentals: Security, Performance, & Debugging is a day-long, intensive course meant to improve WordPress developers’ in advanced concepts like security and performance. 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 fast and secure code. Attendees will see and try popular profiling tools and we will show common performance problems, both on the front- and the back-end. Instead of just listing vulnerabilities, attendees will learn how to think like an attacker and exploit the vulnerabilities before fixing them.

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

  • Performance: common reasons for slow back-end code
  • Performance: profiling back-end code with WordPress tools
  • Performance: profiling back-end code with lower level tools
  • Performance: profiling tools for front-end code and asset loading
  • Security: common types of vulnerabilities
  • Security: exploiting and fixing XSS problems
  • Security: exploiting and fixing SQL injection problems
  • Security: exploiting and fixing CSRF vulnerabilities
  • Security: exploiting and fixing remote file inclusion attacks

Sign up for the Security, Performance, & Debugging course in June in San Francisco, or take a look at our other upcoming events and training!

VIP Workshop 2014 v3 Recap

At the beginning of the month, dozens of WordPress.com VIP clients, partners, and team members gathered in Napa, California for our 3rd WordPress.com VIP Intensive Developer Workshop! This year was our largest event yet, though with a restricted number of attendees so we could keep the feeling of the event intimate and small.

We some great feedback from the attendees:
100% of participants surveyed said they would recommend the conference to their colleagues and
92.68% said they would come again!

Developers from the WordPress.com VIP team and extended Automattic team led our hands-on workshops focused on Security, Performance, and Elasticsearch and attendees also had a chance to sit down 1-on-1 with members of the VIP team to talk through their development aims or hack on a problem.

We again had some great flash talks from VIP clients and partners, and this year’s presentations included talks from CBS Local, Re/code, USA Today, Digital First Media, BlueHost, The New York Times, Tribune Broadcasting, and Interactive One.

The event provided a lot of networking opportunities and we’re hopeful the fruits of some of the discussions and ideas which happened over the course of three days will make their way into those VIP sites, projects, and contributions to WordPress soon!

If you missed this year’s VIP Workshop, don’t worry! We’re doing our 1-day in-person training courses, VIP Training Days, in 3 cities in the near-term, in Toronto, London, and San Francisco. In conjunction with the training for developers and superusers, we’re also helping to host the Big Media & Enterprise Meetups in those cities as well. Find out more and sign up for the meetup groups and for the training.

And keep your eye on our Events and Training pages to see what we’ve got planned in the future!

Here are some scenes from this year’s VIP Workshop: 

Interested in hearing more about WordPress.com VIP Training and Events? Check out our Events and Training pages and sign up for our newsletter.

You can recaps of the past events here: VIP Workshop 2013, VIP Workshop 2012.

Toronto, London, Boston, San Francisco Big Media & Enterprise Meetups Coming Soon!

Following the success of the Big Media & Enterprise Meetups in New York City, we’re going to help roll those out to three more cities in the next few months: Toronto, London, Boston, and San Francisco!

If you’ve never been to a meetup, they are focused on the operation, development, and scaling of large, high-traffic WordPress websites. The meetup features four 10-minute presentations, followed by an evening of networking. Take a peek at previous presentations here.

We’ve just created Meetup groups for the upcoming events in Toronto, London, and San Francisco, which start in May and June. Please join your local group and recommend it to your friends and colleagues in the area!

Toronto:

London: 

Boston

San Francisco:

Even if you can’t make the next Meetup, be sure to sign up for your local group so that you’re kept in the loop for the next event. If you’re interested in speaking, helping find space for the next meetup, or volunteering in general, leave a comment here and we’ll be in touch.

VIP Training Days in Toronto, London & San Francisco

We’re excited to announce upcoming VIP Training Days in Toronto, London, and San Francisco!

WordPress.com VIP Training Days

VIP Training Days are intensive, one-day in-person training courses led by a team of WordPress.com VIP instructors. We’ve already had two great sessions in San Francisco and New York, and we’re planning on doing many more.

We deliberately limit the size of each class to no more than 20 people with each team of VIP instructors so you can ask as many questions as you need to, and can get individual attention and assistance from the instructors.

In each location, we’ll be offering our existing Developer Fundamentals I and Superuser courses, and in San Francisco in June, we’ll be debuting a new course, Developer Fundamentals: Security, Debugging, & Performance, which we’ll introduce in the coming days in more detail.

Here are the upcoming dates & links to register for those courses! You can read on below for more information about the other courses, or go directly to the event registration pages where each course is explained in detail.

Hurry up and register! Space is limited for each class, and we definitely expect to sell out for each. VIP Training Days courses are open to the public, so VIP clients and non-VIP participants are equally welcome to sign up!  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.

We’re also hosting the Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup in each of those cities during the training week. Find out more about the event, and sign up to the group to get notifications!

About the courses:

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!

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!

Sign up for one of these courses!

If you’re interested in VIP training and can’t make it to this location or these dates, keep an eye on future VIP training events, or 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.

The Dream Internship: Work at Automattic (Summer 2014)

Our company Automattic — which runs WordPress.com, Akismet, VaultPress, and many other services — is looking for a few stellar summer 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, Observer.com, GigaOM.com, etc.

We currently have two open (paid) intern positions. 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.

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. The internship runs 8-10 weeks between June 1st and August 1st, 2014, but we are flexible on the dates.

Interested? Write up a post on your WordPress blog and leave a comment on this post with a link to it telling us 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. It’s OK if you’d like to keep your post private; your comment and link will remain private to the VIP team as well.

Send in your internship application by May 1st, but the earlier, the better. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we’ll get back to you!

InStyle Launches New Look for What’s Right Now

TIME’s InStyle launched new desktop and mobile designs of their popular fashion and lifestyle news site, InStyle’s What’s Right Now, on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting.

InStyle What's Right Now

The fully responsive site features up-to-the-minute articles about fashion and celebrity news and has some great new features which they detail in their site refresh post:

“…effortless sharing from everywhere; a new way to save your favorite finds; bigger, bolder images; and a new How-To section packed with videos, slide shows and even a few GIFS that will show you how to get the latest fashion and beauty looks. What’s more, you’ll find the same clean and intuitive layouts on every device and screen size.”

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The site also tracks and showcases the stories which are most popular and are getting shared on various social media channels:

What's Popular on InStyle What's Right now

The WordPress.com VIP team was excited to help this get launched! Congrats to the InStyle team.

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

Last-minute spots opened up for VIP Workshop

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Are you a developer or technical lead running a high-scale WordPress site? Are you interested in learning more about scaling, security, and performance from the WordPress.com VIP team and from other VIP clients and partners? 

Due to some last-minute changes, a couple of spots have opened up for the WordPress.com VIP Intensive Developer Workshop v3.0, which will take place at the end of the month from March 31st – April 3, 2014.

If you’re interested in participating, fill out the pre-registration form and we’ll follow up with you.

Pricing, schedule, and other information are all available on the VIP Workshop page.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight Launches on WordPress.com VIP

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight, which launched today! FiveThirtyEight is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means.

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The site, which is led by Nate Silver, was formerly part of The New York Times and is now operated by ESPN, and joins ESPN’s Grantland on our WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting platform.

Nate announced the change back in July and his team has since been working hard on launching the new site and its verticals on the VIP platform.

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The team has expanded to address all the site’s verticals and Nate explains the aim of the site in his launch post, What the Fox Knows.

The breadth of our coverage will be much clearer at this new version of FiveThirtyEight, which is launching Monday under the auspices of ESPN. We’ve expanded our staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and counting. Few of them will focus on politics exclusively; instead, our coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports.

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Here’s the FiveThirtyEight team counting down the launch of the new site:

In true FiveThirtyEight style, they even predict the probability of you reaching the new site during the launch (WordPress.com VIP’s note: only during DNS propagation…after which we predict 99.9999% uptime!)

On the development side, WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner 10up assisted in creating the new site:

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

Highlights from Matt Mullenweg’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit

Reddit’s popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) series is an open forum between notable personalities and their users. Matt Mullenweg, WordPress co-founding developer and Automattic’s CEO & President, hosted a question & answer session several months ago. Here, we’ve excerpted some of the most interesting questions and answers as they pertain to WordPress core, WordPress.com, and other Automattic products. Questions have been slightly modified to isolate the question. Original AMA thread here.

Q: I was at your State of the Word in SF and you talked about moving WordPress more towards being an application framework rather than a CMS or blog platform. What specifically do you have in mind for this (better settings API, developer features, etc)? And then if you could break backwards compatibility (which really isn’t a option for WP), what would you really like to completely redo or add to WordPress? (submitted by andrewry)

Matt: First and foremost the most important things for a platform are stability, speed, and security. To do those well you need the ability to push updates and fixes as close to real-time as possible. And it needs to work in every language. User authentication, data and caching abstraction.

A lot of what people think of as platform stuff is actually at the CMS layer — custom post types, taxonomy meta.

If backwards compatibility wasn’t a concern I would rename all the inconsistent column names and variables to match our style guide, drop TinyMCE, simplify the user roles and capabilities system, replace widgets with page blocks, redo the admin menu system, denormalize the DB, flatten dependencies and deep hierarchy in function execution, and completely reorganize the code so the bare minimum of files are included with any given request.

Q: Are there any plans to improve the search in Plugins directory, Theme directory, and Support forums at WordPress.org? Options for sorting results after searching would be awesome. We are constantly bombarded with “What’s a good plugin/theme for such and such function/type of site?” questions on r/WordPress. Seems to me that an improved search on WordPress.org would help a ton. (submitted by summerchilde)

Matt: Completely agree.

Q: Hit me with some Akismet stats. (submitted by andrewinmelbourne)

Matt: We’re blocking 40-50 million more spam every day than we were last year. The volume of spam has been growing unusually fast.

Q: What individual do you think is the most under recognized contributor to the WordPress community at large? (submitted by jb510)

Matt: That’s a tough one… I’m going to say the volunteers on the support forums. There are 2M+ posts there, and it’s easy to forget that a huge number of WP users end up in the forums and get help that allows them to use the software when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

Q: I find WP so much more user-friendly than the competition. Was that a conscious decision from the outset? Was it hard work to make it that way or was it just the way you guys did things? Do you have a warehouse full of useability testers or does it just come naturally to you guys? (submitted by jimmerd)

Matt: The first few users were friends of mine who weren’t into technology at all, so from the start we needed to make it work for regular people. As we grow it’s mostly just a matter of reminding ourselves of that, sitting down with them to see how they use the software, and anticipating their needs.

Q: PHP has matured a lot in the last few years, with new tools such as Composer and new frameworks such as Laravel. The relationship between this side of the PHP community and WordPress seems to be pretty strained.
# Are there plans to address this relationship, particularly with the new focus on WordPress as a web app framework?
#Thoughts on forking WordPress, a la jQuery? (http://eamann.com/tech/wordpress-forking-and-the-road-to-4-0/)
# Multiple content areas – probably the most important CMS feature not baked into core. Will it ever happen?
(submitted by d_abernathy89)

Matt:
# I think the PHP and WP community are coming closer together, I know it’s something that Nacin has been spending time on and we’ve had more presence at PHP-focused conferences.
# I don’t think forking as described there is a good idea.
# There’s something around multiple content areas that could be really interesting we’re going to start working on this year, hopefully ready by early 2014.

Q: Are open source contributions a prerequisite to work at Automattic? (submitted by twinkeel)

Matt: No, but they get you to the top of the list when we’re reviewing applications. (I know, I look at every incoming resume.)

Q: I see a lot of desperate web development companies locally that try to stress that WordPress is insecure and shouldn’t be used. What would be the best thing to say to people like that to shut them up? (submitted by xHyperGx)

Matt: Some of the largest and most important publishers in the world rely on WordPress. (Show them the showcase.) If WordPress was insecure we’d see it on the front page of nytimes.com, wired.com, and cnn.com. :)

Q: What do you think about App websites/themes that seem to be using WordPress as the choice of CMS, do you think WordPress is a good platform for these types of sites? Scaling, Performance issues considering? Examples, Dating sites, Crowdfunding sites, Job board, etc. (submitted by throwaway201e3)

Matt: I think it’s a great framework for anything content-driven. For things like messaging that don’t map well to WP’s data model, you can still do it just make some new tables, don’t try to shoehorn it in the standard ones.

Q: And any plans to launch a Premium paid version of Photon service with more features? (submitted by pranjalgupta)

Matt: Not on features, we’ll make anything new there free to everybody, but might have a paid tier for top 1% of users by bandwidth/usage. But probably a few years from that, plenty of bandwidth and CPU here in the meantime, and it’s just getting cheaper and faster.

Q: Why is Hello Dolly still a default plugin? Do you have any statistics about how many people actually activate/use it? Have you personally written any other plugins? (submitted by the_MikePayne)

Matt: This is an interesting one, and I pulled up some stats around it:
Hello Dolly is actually the 13th most active plugin, with an active userbase of about 16% of Akismet (the most-activated plugin), and about a third as popular as Jetpack. It’s ahead of W3 Total Cache! Again this is not just installations, it’s currently active.
Some of the other plugins I’ve been involved with are here on my profile: http://profiles.wordpress.org/matt/
They’re obsolete but at the time I was proud of Advanced Caching, Staticize Reloaded, and Cache Images and the early and since-rewritten work on bbPress, HyperDB, and Akismet.

Q: Do you think an app store for plugin and themes built with high quality standards and framework, could be a good solution for WordPress end users? (submitted by nicolaballotta)

Matt: The plugin directory is an app store where everything is free.
Would having paid stuff there make it better? I don’t think so.

Q: I have been using WordPress for 10 years, make most of my living from it, and will always love it. Thank you for that! It is by far the easiest way I have found to build websites that my clients find easy to use. I see the reasons why WordPress does not use more modern coding practices and tools and appreciate the need for backward compatibility, but wonder if you ever see the code base moving forward to a time when developers can use the newest features of PHP, best coding practices (i.e. testing), and the great tools that are available these days, like Composer. Do you think there will ever be some kind of fork or offshoot of WordPress that functions as an application development framework, since so many developers are using it for that these days? (submitted by lori_b)

Matt: I disagree with the premise — WordPress does use modern coding practices. People assume that supporting say an older version of PHP or MySQL holds us back far, far more than it actually causes any trouble. Supporting older browsers is a way bigger deal.
Our biggest challenge is figuring out the user side of things, the front-end code. How things should work for a user rather than how they should work for a computer.

Q: What is your opinion about current state of PHP in general? Do you like any particular framework? Templating engine? (submitted by houdas)

Matt: I think it’s pretty great, would just love to see continuing development around performance. Nothing really in the language that’s holding us back. Wish it was trendier with younger devs.

Q: Automattic has a lot of side projects (Gravatar, PollDaddy, etc) – What’s next? (submitted by baaaatmaaan)

Matt: There’s always a struggle between doing new things or experiments under a new brand — like VaultPress — vs putting it under an existing brand. A lot of the things I’ve been thinking about we’re going to put under the Jetpack brand, for example Jetpack Photon (CDN + dynamic image resizing and filtering) could be a standalone product, but decided to bundle it. So keep an eye on some big things coming to Jetpack, especially for Code Poets, people who use WordPress professionally.

Q: Will you ever support multiple languages in the WordPress core? What do you think of new writing platforms like Quip and Editorially? Will the WordPress post editor ever have any of those ‘team’ features? (submitted by chedonline)

Matt: No plans for multiple languages in core, sorry.
I really dig the new writing platforms, I do think we’ll get some of those team features if not in core than in Jetpack.

10 Growth Hacks That Helped Metro.Co.Uk Achieve 27 Million Monthly Visitors

In this post, WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting client Metro.co.uk‘s Head of Development Dave Jensen shares some 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-Monthly-Uniques

Metro Monthly Unique Visitors (Jan’12 – Feb’14)

Over the past 12 months Metro has been on an amazing growth curve. Some of it is being in the right place at the right time for algorithm changes but a lot of it was planning and then execution of a growth (hacking) strategy.

Hack 1: Responsive Design

Metro-Monthly-Uniques-Mobile

Monthly Unique Visitors from Mobile (Jan’12 – Feb’14)

We decided a responsive design would be the best way to capitalise on the explosive growth in mobile. A nine month redesign process culminated in Metro going responsive on 7th Dec ’12. We immediately saw growth from social referrals with Twitter’s almost doubling over night. The other benefit of responsive sites is that there is only one URL. As this is the key used to store ranking information in search and social algorithms you don’t want this split between multiple domains like m dot.

The key takeaway is that if you give people a great experience on all devices then they are much more likely to read, share and return to your content.

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Weekly Visits from Twitter (Oct’12 – Feb’13)

Hack 2: Focus all development efforts on growth

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WordPress.com Stats for Metro (Dec’12 – Feb’14)

We also migrated to the hosted platform as a service provided by Automattic on vip.wordpress.com. This enabled all of our costs and resources to be focused on growth as they didn’t have to worry about caching, servers or anything that didn’t improve experience for our readers or editorial users. The amazing thing about the platform is that it is a flat fee. This means that although our traffic has grown 350% year on year our costs have not changed. The depth of their out of the box features plus ecosystem of plugins ensured that we did’t have to worry about commodity features such as SEO, site maps and editorial workflows as someone else had built and open sourced an approach.

Hack 3: Open up content creation to anyone

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Metro Blogs Monthly Unique Users (Dec’12 – Feb’14)

The other great thing about the WordPress platform is that it enabled us to allow bloggers to contribute content directly into our core CMS. This started out as a feature for Metro employees but grew to encompass a much wider set of sources. Club Metro is now the most prominent and now contributes over 1M unique visitors a month. Having blogs content on the same domain placed amongst the rest of Metro’s content ensured we leveraged our existing algorithmic rankings. A single editorial workflow also helped keep the overheads low. The added bonus that most bloggers were already using WordPress and can write from anywhere helped us secure some top talent.

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Club Metro Article

Hack 4: Facebook page as a major marketing channel

173,000 Facebook Page likes Feb ’13 to 562,000 Facebook Page Likes Feb ’14

Social referrals were another large contributor to growth. We focused on growing our Facebook page “Likes” as a content marketing strategy and this was very successful. We had always been careful to only send a small amount of our best posts out a day on our Facebook page. This had a solid base of users and growing this was a key goal for the last year. We employed many strategies including competitions with like gates and boosting posts. Competitions were effective in bringing in users but there were a lot of repeat entries. Varying the prize helped to minimise this and our email based CRM platform really helped to drive entries. The most cost effective way we found was boosting posts as friends of people who already liked Metro were shown a great piece of our content. They were then much more likely to then go on to like the page. As they were similar to people who already liked Metro they were very receptive and continued to engage with our content.

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Metro Facebook Page

Hack 5: Made to share content

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Weekly Social Visits to Metro (Jan’13 – Feb’14)

Ensuring that not just the content put out on the Facebook page was made to share also really helped grow our social referrals. When the content is written they set a success measure of 100 shares on an article and then set performance targets on achieving that on 25% of our content. This has allowed some interesting conversations around the areas of the site where that was less prevalent. More than anything it is a very easy test for all of the content creators to know what they should focus on. If it won’t hit that bar then find something else. A key growth hack we developed was the ability to show different headlines for social and search so we didn’t impact our search traffic.

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SEO and Social Headlines on Made to Share Content

Hack 6: Made to share UX

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Share and follow functionality on Metro.co.uk after the Made to Share focus.

The other side of social was increasing the number of people sharing from the site. The development team had a made to share focus where we introduced much larger, clearer social buttons and reduced the number of clicks it took to share. This with the addition of a sticky sharing bar that floats on desktop has seen a large increase in the number of direct shares from our site. This seems to have also affected the amount of people copying and pasting links from the site from the subtle reinforcement due constantly present share cues. It would also seem that Facebook take direct site shares as a strong signal in their algorithm as we have continued to see growth from social.

Hack 7: If something feels wrong don’t give up on it

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Referral from Natural Search (Google Fixed, July ’12)

After the redesign only 20% of our stories indexed in Google News had our pictures next to them. We spent months experimenting on different options before we finally managed to ask Google the right question in July ’13 so they could fix it for us. It turned out that they were still using the Webmaster Tools account we had been using before the migration which pointed to our old domain that included www. Not only did this change help our referrals from Google News but it gave us a major kick in all search referrals. It would have been much easier to give up on this earlier but relentlessly focusing on this until we solved it really paid dividends.

Hack 8: Let technology automate repetition

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Metro Development Releases to Production (Nov’12 – Feb’14)

Automation of all of our development and test processes allowed us to release 4.5 times on average every day (apart from Fridays) for the past 12 months. This enabled short feedback cycles and decision making to happen at a much faster pace. We have five different environments that are used for testing before we push code live. This kept errors to a minimum and kept the feedback flowing. This environment of automated front end tests and frameworks was a major investment but has continued to pay dividends.

Hack 9: Ensure proximity of key people who are focusing on a goal

Single Goal: 700,000 Average Daily Mobile Visitors in September 2013

A single goal of growth allowed us to work together cross functionally and a focus on data and numbers ensured that feedback was alway digestible. Content, social and tech sitting together and working together enabled the good ideas to come to the top quicker and equally the bad ones get ignored. Equally focusing on data helped take emotion out of decision making which enabled data to win arguments. This sped up innovation and focus. In most cases we have done less but done what we have done better to achieve growth.

Hack 10: Get out of the way

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Voticle: Are you a true Brit?

Once people are working cross functionally together towards a goal then get out of the way and let them get on with it. In the past two months we have relaxed our process and now the content creators are working directly with the developers on new article formats to continue our growth. Out of this we have developed five new ways of displaying content from quizzes to lists and beyond.

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Quizicle: How much of a Londoner are you.

Conclusion

None of the above would have been possible without the adoption of a lean mindset and the approach of build, measure, learn, iterate. It has been an amazing 12 months of growth at Metro and an great feeling to be part of a team that came up with and then executed a plan which delivered these results.

It was a pleasure to work with the below as well as many others on this journey.

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

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