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.

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.

WordPress Agencies: Facing Challenges for the Next 10 Years

Last week I gave a presentation at WordCamp Paris, focused on what WordPress agencies need to do to be enterprise-ready which I think is the biggest challenge the WordPress community is facing in the next ten years.

At WordPress.com VIP, we’re at the forefront of evaluating, analyzing, and enabling enterprise and large-organization WordPress projects with WordPress developers and agencies all over the world.  As the software matures and becomes more well-known, the demand for bigger and more innovative projects is increasing, too, and the many WordPress consultancies around the world need to be ready to answer that call.

Below are the slides from my presentation and then some additional insights and advice from WordPress.com VIP Featured Service Partners to WordPress agencies and consultancies all over the world.

Q: When did you know it was time to grow your team & how did you do it? What has contributed the most to your growth?

Austin Smith from Alley Interactive: Our project management team keeps a close eye on resource allocation and lets us know when it’s time to hire. We don’t allow ourselves to grow rapidly in response to any one big site build project—the baseline revenue has to grow in order for us to take on a new FTE. This also means that we can’t say yes to every large project. We’re lucky to have watched a similar agency expansion in the Drupal world from the sidelines, and we’ve witnessed that the agencies that grew rapidly in response to a few big contracts had a very hard time surviving after those projects were delivered and the big checks stopped coming. Don’t accept a project that you can’t deliver with the team you have at the moment you sign the agreement.

Tom Willmot from Human MadeWe’ve grown organically as the amount of work coming in has grown, we’ve generally been pretty cautious when adding to the team which I think has served us well. In the beginning that growth is slow as adding a single new person could be the equivalence of growing the team size by 33% but as you grow it becomes easier to grow more quickly.

Simon Dickson from Code for the People: I think of the early days of WordPress as a ‘serious’ platform – by which I’m talking 2006-8 – as its ‘punk rock’ years. I had seen corporate web development become slow, costly and too clever by half: think Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Emerson Lake and Palmer. For me and many others, involvement in WordPress was a reaction against all that, powered by enthusiasm rather than education. We could produce great work in small teams with minimal knowledge and minimal overheads. And although we could see amazing potential in WordPress, we tended to keep our ambitions in check – no concept albums or twenty-minute solos.

But as WordPress developed, and as we kept proving ourselves on the small stuff, clients began bringing bigger and bigger projects to us. Instead of modest microsites, we were being asked to develop the main website, or a corporate publishing platform. And with greater budgets come greater responsibility. We needed to expand the team, to provide cover for the skills we already had, and to add extra skills we didn’t already have.

The bar to becoming a great web developer is higher now than it ever has been. It’s unrealistic for someone to be an end-to-end expert in everything from responsive visuals to server efficiency, not to mention sales and business management. There’s still a huge market for ‘jacks of all trades’ – building smaller sites or working with smaller clients. But to build the kind of sites we wanted, for the kind of clients we wanted, we needed to put together a team of specialists.

Q: How has your coding workflow & style changed as you’ve grown? What prompted the changes?

Tom: We’ve evolved our workflow a lot, from what was a mish-mash of personal coding styles / workflows to what we have now which is pretty clearly defined. This was important to us for a number of reasons:

  1. We enforce internal code review, all code is reviewed by a coding buddy and vice-versa. This increases overall code quality, reduces bugs, promotes consistency and is a great way to learn from each other. We rotate those buddy pairs quarterly and purposefully pair across skill levels.
  2. Having a clearly defined workflow helps us work more effectively with freelancers and clients as they can easily get up to speed on how we like to work.
  3. Our local development environment is based on Vagrant which is huge in terms of ensuring everyone is working from a consistent base.

Simon: Over the past year, as we’ve added extra employees and expanded our freelancer pool, git has become absolutely pivotal to our work process.

We are a distributed team, scattered across the UK; yet we can all collaborate safely and effectively. Features can be developed in parallel, and merged together when ready – all the more important as we each specialise in different facets of site development. And with a visual tool such as SourceTree, we always have an overview of who’s working on what, and which version of the code is on which server. I can’t imagine how we ever coped without it.

Austin: The most significant change we made was to implement code review for everything we deliver. Every line of code we ship has at least one extra set of eyes on it. It’s not supervisory, it’s peer review, which fosters collaboration. This had a very positive side effect in terms of natural exchange of ideas, and has also ensured that our Github repositories now all use feature branches, which is definitely a best practice.

We formalized this practice when we grew our management team beyond the co-founders—it’s a way for us to ensure high quality code delivery whether the founders are involved in a project or not.

Q: What was the biggest challenge your team faced in serving larger clients? 

Simon: In our experience, even with the largest clients, the day-to-day responsibility for a project usually rests with one individual. And whenever possible, we like that individual to feel like part of our extended team. We often give them a login to our company-only chatroom and our code repository, so they can see the commit messages and join the ongoing dialogue. Transparency builds trust, with benefits for both sides.

Our biggest challenge has been learning to be patient. I spent most of my career working for large organisations, from national governments to tech multinationals, so I know all about dealing with slow decision-making processes, and challenging long-established policy or practice. In those first few months working for myself, I couldn’t quite believe how productive I could be. It’s all too easy to forget that others are still suffering.If you want to deal with large clients, you just have to accept the slowness. ‘No brainer’ decisions can take months, and there’s almost nothing you can do about it – apart from being ready to respond, as best you can, when the answer finally arrives.

Austin: We started our firm to work on big projects with big clients, so the size of work has only gotten incrementally bigger. We’ve always enforced internal consistency per project, but allow for overall standards to improve from project to project.

Tom: Assuming clients want the cheapest not the best – when you come from the mindset of serving small-business you tend to be hyper focused on delivering solutions as cheaply as possible. Often when estimating a project, say to add a simple e-commerce section you’ll think “we could knock something simple together in 2 days, but to really build something great we’ll need 2 weeks”. We want to seek out clients that want us to go for the latter option.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you had done from the very beginning?

Tom: I wish we had participated more in the WordPress community, in the early days I was more of a lurker than an interacter and definitely lost out because of it, more WordPress agencies need to wake up to the power of being part of the WP community.

Austin: I’d say code review, but it I’m not sure it would’ve been a reasonable thing to ask of our smaller team a couple years ago.

Simon: Simon & I had both been through the ‘starting a company’ thing previously; and we had been working as an unofficial partnership for a couple of years. So we knew the pitfalls which lay in wait during that first year.My advice to others would be to look for opportunities to use third-party services wherever possible. Time is the one thing you can’t stockpile: so it’s almost always worth spending a few pounds/euros/dollars on a good hosted service which will ‘just work’, even if there’s a free self-hosted equivalent.

Thanks to our WordPress.com VIP Featured Service Partners for their insights! We’ll be adding more to this as the answers come in. 

Answer the Annual WordPress Survey!

wordpress-logo-hoz-rgbThe third annual WordPress user and developer survey is open!

If you’re a WordPress user, developer, or business, you should definitely submit your feedback as it helps to get a sense for the WordPress community and how they’re using WordPress.

The data will be shared with the world during Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word address during WordCamp San Francisco later this month. It’s usually even made available for download for your own data mining and discovery, so add your voice to it!

Answer the annual WordPress survey!

WordPress in Government Workshop

wp-in-government

A few weeks ago in Washington, DC, WordPress.com VIP hosted a half-day workshop focusing on WordPress in Government, which was co-sponsored by our friends at GovLoop.com. The workshop was a huge success and I wanted to take just a few moments to share with you some highlights from the day’s events.

First off, why government? WordPress powers close to 19% of the top 10 million websites on the planet and we’re seeing major growth in all areas. The government sector, from federal to the state level and all the way down to local cities and towns, is experiencing some major technology shifts which have led to big changes in the way average citizens relate to and get information from their government. It’s an exciting time to be a technologist or developer at any level of government and it’s leading to some really interesting opportunities for WordPress, as there’s real interest on the part of government to move towards open source software and the availability of responsive platforms that help deliver on-demand information and government services.

We wanted to showcase some of the innovation that’s happening with WordPress for the government sector, so we hosted a workshop at the District Architecture Center in Washington, DC. We gathered over 115 key technologists and decision makers who work inside and outside of the government to network and to hear some presentations about some innovative things happening with WordPress in government. The attendees represented a big cross-section of agencies and organizations and many discussions centered on what they’re currently doing with WordPress and how they plan to scale their platforms.

We had attendees from:

  • Department of State
  • Peace Corps
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Millennium/Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC)
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation
  • US Navy
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Patent and Trademark Office
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Commerce
  • And more…
  • We’ve gotten some great feedback so far on the content of the event, and over the next few weeks we’ll be posting various presentations from the workshop here on VIP News so that you can learn more what’s happening with WordPress in government.

Here are some of the presentations from the event (we’ll be adding more as they become available):

You can read through some of the tweets and real-time reaction that was taking place through the event on Twitter (see below). #WPGov tweets can be found here, and thanks again to GovLoop.com for partnering with us on the event.

Here are some pictures from the workshop:

If you have any questions about WordPress inside your government agency, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Read more about WordPress in Government.

2013 VIP Intensive Developer Workshop Recap

One month ago, dozens of WordPress.com VIP clients, partners, and enterprise WordPress users gathered for our second WordPress.com VIP Intensive Developer Workshop in Napa, California.

WordPress.com VIP Workshop 2013 Group photo

The event was decidedly bigger than the inaugural event and it sold out quickly. We wanted to keep the intimate feeling of the exclusive event so all attendees had a chance to interact and get to know each other during networking breaks and dinners.

We’ve gotten some great feedback from the attendees:
95% of participants surveyed said
they would recommend the conference to their colleagues
97.37% said they would come again! 

This year we added flash talks from select VIP clients including CBS, Simperium, AlleyInteractive/KFF, PMC, Local TV, The Washington Post, Time Inc, Grist, Metro UK, Quartz, The New York Times, and Maker Media, about how they are using WordPress and WordPress.com VIP to power their businesses. We’ll be reposting those presentations right here on WordPress.com VIP News.

Developers from WordPress.com VIP and the extended Automattic team lead hands-on training sessions that covered everything from Security, Advanced Caching Patterns, MySQL Query Optimization, Building JS Apps with WordPress, Front-end performance, Backend optimization, Automated Testing with WP, Building Mobile sites with WP, in-depth looks at WordPress.com functionality, and more.

We also dedicated some time to open discussions on subjects which are dear to VIP clients like development workflow, single sign-on, administrator tools and utilities, and content embeds and integrations. The open format gave everyone a chance to share their ideas, solutions, and for VIPs to learn from each other directly as well as from the WordPress.com VIP team.

A special thanks to Jeff Veen (VP, Adobe) for his insightful welcome speech, and to all the VIP clients and partners who attended! Below are some of our favorite moments from the event.

We’re ready for what’s next, too!

The WordPress.com VIP team is busy planning the next installment of the VIP Workshop, as well as a series of VIP training this fall which should be interesting for both developers and superusers such as site administrators, managers, and editors!

If you’d like to receive word of the next WordPress.com VIP training or networking event, sign up for the WordPress.com VIP News & Announcements newsletter to receive the latest, and stay tuned to the VIP News site!

If you have any questions about WordPress.com VIP Services, be sure to get in touch!

The Dream Internship: Work at Automattic (Summer 2013)

Update: The application period is now closed. Thank you to all who have submitted an application! We’ll get in touch with potential candidates via email. 

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

As a paid intern, you’ll be working on a range of projects depending on your skills & passions — everything from doing development work on plugins that improve WordPress functionality for large media companies to working on core WordPress.com features and development. Last year, our interns had a great time developing code for WordPress.com that launched and is still in use! One of our intern developers worked on an early version of WordPress.com Enterprise, and another worked on Push Syndication, which is live on the WordPress.com VIP platform now.

Where will you be working you may ask? Anywhere! We are a distributed company and are happy if you work from wherever you are — including your parent’s summer beach house — as long as you have a good broadband connection. The internship runs 8-10 weeks between June 1st and August 1st, 2013, 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’d work on — for example, a killer plugin or integration, a feature improvement, etc. Your comment and link will remain private to the VIP team.

Send in your internship application by May 1st, but the earlier, the better!

Looking forward to hearing from all of you.

WordPress.com VIP mixes with London VIP clients

In February many members of the WordPress.com VIP team headed to London to meet up with some of our VIP clients and partners. One evening we organized a WordPress.com VIP client and partner meetup and the turnout was great!

There were many conversations about what’s next for the growing WordPress community in the United Kingdom, how UK enterprises, media companies, and large organizations are doing interesting things with WordPress, and what’s coming up in WordPress 3.6.

That week, we were also happy to sponsor the WP Meetup in London and meet some of the WordPress users and developers using and building web applications with WordPress in London. (Are you following us on Twitter? @WordPressVIP)

That weekend, Automattic also sponsored the PHP UK conference and several WordPress.com VIP developers were on hand to interact with the PHP UK community, as well as to share how a PHP application can scale as large as it does on WordPress.com.

We’ll definitely be heading back to London soon and often, so if you’re there or have colleagues there, let us know!

Are you in London or nearby and interested in WordPress.com VIP events? Are you, or an organization you know, doing innovative things with WordPress? Leave a comment below or get in touch.

NYC VIP Party – Thank You!

Hudson Hotel

To those of you who were able to join us last Thursday in NYC for the VIP Happy Hour, I wanted to extend a hearty thank you – we really enjoyed seeing so many of you there! We had about 120 attendees, ate some delicious chocolate fondue and enjoyed the beautiful courtyard space at the Hudson Hotel. We’re really looking forward to our next VIP Happy Hour – in London next February (more details on this soon…).

If you have ideas for future events that you’d like to see us host or sponsor (both social or professional welcome!), please get in touch. We really enjoy bringing everyone together and we’re looking forward to some awesome events in 2013.