New Embed for Getty Images

Getty Images, one of our Featured Partners, announced today that it is making its library of award-winning professional photographs available for free through a new embed feature. We are very excited to bring this embed to WordPress.com and wanted to make sure that our VIPs are also aware of this awesome new feature.

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As you know, Getty Images is also a Featured Partner and has built a VIP plugin that allows users to license and access images directly from the Editor. Unlike the free embed, this plugin requires a license to Getty Images.

For more information about the new embed feature, check out this post.

If you’d like more information about using this feature, visit our Getty Images embed support page.

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. 

Code For The People: How Media Explorer Was Made

With the new Media Explorer plugin, you can now search for tweets and videos on Twitter and YouTube directly from the Add Media screen in WordPress. Media Explorer is a joint project by WordPress.com VIP and Code For The People (a VIP Featured Partner). In this post, CFTP’s John Blackbourn shares the technical and user experience decisions that were made while developing the plugin. 

Embedding a YouTube video or a tweet into a WordPress post is powerfully easy.

There’s no HTML, no shortcode, no dialog box or Settings page – just the magic of oEmbed, baked right into WordPress core. But it’s so simple, and so unassuming, that many people just don’t know it’s there; and it’s not something they’d ever go looking for. With Media Explorer, we wanted to expose that magic within the user interface.

The end goal was to make retrieving externally-hosted content as easy as retrieving items from your own site’s Media Library, without even having to open another browser tab.

The initial plan concentrated purely on integration with Twitter with an architecture that would easily allow developers to add support for other web services like Flickr, YouTube, and Scribd.

Once the base of the plugin was completed with the Twitter search functionality, it was exciting to see YouTube support added in double-quick time, with no changes to the core plugin. It’s what WordPress development should be all about.

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PublishThis and Brow.si Join the VIP Featured Partner Program

We’re excited to welcome the latest partners – PublishThis and Brow.si - to our Featured Partner Program. Since the Partner Program started, we’ve focused on finding smart and innovative technology providers that are building cool tools for our VIPs. With PublishThis and Brow.si, we’re bringing the latest in content marketing and mobile web experience into our WordPress.com VIP platform.

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PublishThis makes curating, discovering and distributing content a breeze. With PublishThis, WordPress.com VIP customers can easily package and share content and even find new ways to monetize existing content.  Learn more >>

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Brow.si is reinventing mobile browsing. It dynamically adds powerful features and functionalities to your WordPress.com VIP site inside the mobile browser that’s designed to deliver a better mobile experience and increase user engagement. Learn more >>

Featured Partner Demo: Tout – April 18th

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 6.20.43 PMWordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Tout, a real-time information network for up-to-the-minute video updates across news, sports, politics, entertainment, is going to hold a free 30-minute demo for VIP clients and partners to discover how to use this popular network with WordPress.

Capture Touts on your smartphone and publish real-time 15-second videos to your website, app, social network or Tout.com.

The demo will take place on Thursday, April 18th, at 9am PDTFind out what time the demo is in your time zone.

To sign up for the free 30-minute demo, brought to you by WordPress.com VIP and Tout, just RSVP here and insert your email address. You will receive a reminder for the demo and details on how to connect to the demo.

Here’s what you’ll learn about Tout:

  1. What is Tout
  2. How to embed a Tout widget on a WordPress site
  3. Tout’s Premium Partnership Services
  4. Q&A

Check out their popular Tout channels, which include The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ESPN, and the BBC, to see how other enterprise sites are using Tout.

RSVP for the Tout demo!

Janrain, Shoplocket, and Storify Join the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program

We’re excited to share the news today that Janrain, Shoplocket, and Storify have all joined our Featured Partner Program. Now nearly 30 partners strong, the Featured Partner Program helps WordPress.com VIP customers work seamlessly with other technology providers to make their WordPress websites best-of-breed.

We’ve worked closely with our friends at Janrain, Shoplocket, and Storify to integrate their services directly into our WordPress.com VIP platform, and provide a one-click activation experience for our users. And because we’ve done deep testing and code reviews on each integration, you get the same level of performance, stability, and security that you’ve come to expect from WordPress.com VIP.

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Janrain Capture provides turnkey user registration and social profile storage through their User Management Platform. With Janrain Capture, WordPress.com VIP customers can collect and store rich social profile data in Janrain’s hosted user profile system and offer a personalized experience on their sites. Learn more »

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ShopLocket is the easiest way to sell products from your WordPress.com VIP website. No storefront to set up and no upfront or monthly fees. With ShopLocket, you can start selling on your WordPress.com VIP site in minutes. Learn more »

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Storify is the best way to collect media from social networks and enrich your blog posts with tweets, YouTube videos, Instagram photos and more. Create live, multimedia social stories that engage your audience. Learn more »

New on WordPress.com VIP: The Dish

Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish announced last year that they were going independent, and now they’ve successfully launched their new site on WordPress.com VIP with the help of our Featured Partners10up and TinyPass.

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The new site created by 10up is beautiful and fast, featuring responsive design and infinite scroll. Using TinyPass, readers can purchase a subscription (or make a donation) to The Dish, or simply log in if they are already a paid subscriber.

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A big thank you to The Dish team as well as 10up and TinyPass, who helped make the entire site migration and launch happen in just four short weeks.

Check out The Dish at http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/

Interested in going VIP? Get in touch.

Digital Subscriptions with MediaPass and WordPress.com VIP

MediaPass, a WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner, offers one of the best digital subscription solutions on the market. They’re continually adding new features to optimize the publisher experience, and in two weeks will be releasing some major updates for VIP users.

To kick things off, MediaPass is hosting a demo exclusively for WordPress.com VIP customers, partners, and friends—if you’ve ever considered increasing your web property’s total monetization by incorporating paid subscriptions, now’s the perfect time to give MediaPass a try.

Join us on October 4th from 10am – 11:00AM PDT for a free demo hosted by the MediaPass and VIP teams.

Register now!

Can’t make it?  Make an appointment with Rob Leon, VP of MediaPass Publisher Development by selecting any open slot on this calendar.

Expanding the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program

Earlier this year, we introduced a new partnership program where we’re working with technology platforms to integrate their services into our WordPress.com VIP platform, connect them with our VIPs, and collaborate to support the integration and provide a seamless experience for our users.

Some of the world’s biggest brands and publishers rely on WordPress.com VIP, and every day we connect our VIPs with top service providers for their WordPress development and design needs.

That’s why today we’re announcing the expansion of the Featured Partner Program to include interactive agency partners as well: 10up, Alley Interactive, Code for the People, Doejo, Human Made, inSourceCode, Oomph, Range, and Voce Communications are all joining as partners.

In addition to our agency partners, Facebook, Flipboard, PostRelease, Tinypass, and Zemanta are now a part of the program as well.

“As a team that relies heavily on WordPress, we have worked closely with Automattic and the WordPress.com VIP team to leverage their SaaS Hosting solution for the most demanding publishers in the world,” said Nick Gernert, SVP of Platforms for Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli company.

“We’re fortunate to be a part of a program that highlights consultants who are focused on world-class development, as well as user experience and client service.”

If you’re an interactive agency or technology platform and would like to apply for our Featured Partner Program, please get in touch.

Announcing the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program

This morning we debuted a project that I’m really excited about—our new Featured Partner Program. Our WordPress.com VIP team is now working with select partners to integrate their services with WordPress, connect them with our VIP clients, and collaborate to support the integration and provide a seamless experience for our users.

Each implementation has been reviewed and certified by our VIP team to ensure a well-optimized, secure, and forward-compatible integration with the WordPress platform, and our VIP customers get the benefits of that collaboration.

We’re excited to be working with launch partners Chartbeat, ContextLogic, Daylife, Livefyre, MediaPass, Ooyala, SocialFlow, Uppsite, and Wibiya to provide a range of solutions for publishers, from web analytics to online video delivery to mobile and more.

If you’d like to learn more about the program, please get in touch.