BigWP returns to London in December

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Our next BigWP London event is only three weeks away, and it’s going to be a pre-Christmas cracker.

Twitter’s central London office will again play host to our gathering for enterprise-level users of WordPress, and the agencies who support them, after work on Thursday 7 December.

Our London events are organised by the WordPress.com VIP team with the invaluable help of our partners at leading global WordPress development agency Human Made. We aim to hold them once every six months: but this will be our third in calendar year 2017.

We’re very excited to announce Tammie Lister, design lead on Gutenberg, as one of our speakers. Gutenberg is the project to reinvent the main WordPress editor component, using the principle of content blocks; and is due to be integrated into the next release of WordPress, version 5.0. It makes content creation beautiful and effortless; and lays the groundwork for exciting developments further down the line.

Gutenberg represents the most significant change to the core user experience in several years. It’s essential for enterprise clients and agencies to understand what is happening, and the implications for custom development, now and in the future.

Tammie will be racing back from WordCamp US, taking place just a few days earlier in Nashville, with Gutenberg certain to be a hot topic at the event. It’s your chance to hear the very latest from one of the project’s leads, and to ask her any questions you may have.

Also on the evening’s agenda:

  • Having been strong advocates for Drupal in recent years, global technology consultancy Capgemini recently moved their entire corporate web presence from Drupal to WordPress. Parker Ward, Capgemini’s global head of digital and content will tell the story of the move.
  • VIP is currently working with our agency partners Big Bite to rebuild our popular Liveblog plugin for WordPress. Jason Agnew will explain how the new version gets around the performance bottlenecks of its predecessor, using React, Redux and RxJS Observables to simplify the overall build.
  • Sotic are a digital agency focused exclusively on the world of sport, running sites for top-flight professional clubs, national governing bodies and international events. Over the past year, they have adopted WordPress as their platform of choice; and senior front-end developer Dan Drave will explain how they used it to power the data-rich website for the British & Irish Lions rugby tour to New Zealand this past summer.

Come straight from the office: we’ll be providing food and drinks. We expect to finish around 8pm, and will go on somewhere for a festive drink or two.

Capacity at the event is limited; so please sign up today via our page at meetup.com to guarantee your place. You will need to submit a request to join the group if you aren’t already a member: this is purely to ensure the group retains its enterprise focus.

We’ll always have Paris: thoughts from WordCamp Europe 2017

Simon Dickson and Matt Mullenweg on stage at WordCamp Europe

WordCamp Europe has become an annual highlight for anyone working with WordPress on this (or that) side of the Atlantic, and it was great to see so many familiar faces gathering in Paris last week for the 2017 event, from Europe and beyond.

The event is now in its fifth year, with each a little more polished and professional than the last; and Paris was no exception, drawing a crowd of almost 2,000 people from 82 countries, with another thousand following the live video streams.

The speakers programme featured some of the most prominent names in the WordPress space, including lead developers Andrew Nacin, Mark Jaquith and John Blackbourn; Automattic’s global head of computational design and inclusion, John Maeda; plus of course, the now-traditional Q&A session with WordPress co-founder and Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg.

It was great to see a number of faces from the VIP partner ecosystem on stage, too. 10up’s Adam Silverstein led a workshop at a busy Contributor Day. rtCamp CEO Rahul Bansal gave a flash talk on bringing new people into the WordPress community through translation sprints. Human Made’s Petya Raykovska, Jenny Wong and Rian Rietveld gave rousing talks, with Ant Miller bringing his customary energy to the job of MC’ing one of the Tracks. (Or so I’m told: I was MC’ing in the other room at the time.)

A particular highlight was the beautiful and spacious sponsor area, between the registration desks and the main conference hall. Speaking as something of a WordCamp veteran, it felt like the first time I’ve ever seen sponsors receiving the prominence their support deserves – and without detracting from the community feel of the event, too.

The VIP team has always considered the broader ecosystem to be an integral part of our value proposition. When we represent WordPress at enterprise level, our message is all the more compelling when potential clients can see a diverse marketplace of products and service providers. Looking around the sponsor area, few could doubt that WordPress now demonstrates the kind of maturity and sustainability that corporations expect to see when selecting a strategic platform.

A recurring theme throughout the event was Gutenberg, the new block-based text editor component, whose first beta release Matt Mullenweg announced during his Q&A. Although still some way from being production-ready, it’s clear there is a lot of excitement about its potential to take WordPress content creation to the next level, far beyond the current capability of other enterprise CMS solutions. The VIP team will be working with clients and partners over the coming months, to help them make the most of its new possibilities.

The organisers have wasted no time in cutting up the videos for viewing on demand. All the talks, plus a few behind-the-scenes extras are already available at WordPress.tv; many are also available on YouTube. You’ll need to supply your own café and croissants.

But really, there’s no substitute for being there. If you use WordPress for work or for pleasure, and perhaps even both simultaneously, large-scale events like WordCamp Europe or its transatlantic cousin WordCamp US provide an amazing opportunity to meet people and hear stories from far and wide. Your next opportunity will be Nashville in December; or next year’s European event, in the Serbian capital Belgrade. See you there?

Photos courtesy of Val Vesa (@adspedia), published on Flickr under GPL

Challenging times for online journalists: thoughts from ONA Dublin 2017

A few of us from the WordPress.com VIP team were delighted to join journalists, producers and developers from Europe and elsewhere for the Online News Association’s conference in Dublin, Ireland in mid-May. VIP is a long-time sponsor of ONA’s events: this was their third outside North America, but the first to venture away from London.

Dublin’s regenerated Docklands area has attracted countless global businesses in recent years, including many from the tech world. Google were our hosts for the drinks reception on the evening before. Facebook’s international headquarters, just a few minutes walk away, was the venue for the main event.

Mark Little: photo by Leopold Stuebner, used with permission #

The highlight of the day was closing keynote speaker Mark Little, known to many in the audience as a TV journalist and presenter on Irish state broadcaster RTÉ. He left to found social media news agency Storyful, bought by News Corp in 2013; then took charge of media partnerships at Twitter. Few could be better placed to describe the quandary in which journalism, particularly digital journalism, now finds itself.

Social networks had not set out to become the most powerful news distribution platforms of all time, he contended; it was an unintended consequence. Authoritative news content is ‘flowing through a pipe that is ranked and priced on the basis of emotion.’ With revenue dependent on competing for attention, and generating an emotional response, Mark suggested ‘you could not design a better model to erode trust in news and information than the one we sit in right now.’

His remedy lay in a move towards subscription-based funding, perhaps via bundled models as Netflix does for movies, or Spotify for music; and deeper and more direct engagement with consumers. Restore that trust, he proposed, and there was a bright future for journalism as a public utility, telling readers not just what they wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear.

A theme running through many of the day’s sessions was the uneasy power relationship between publishers and platforms, including our hosts for the day. As a man with a foot in both camps, Mark said it was time for platform companies to recognise and address those unintended consequences of their growth, ‘not through marketing, but through changes to the product’.

But there was no shortage of optimism in evidence, with sessions touching on artificial intelligence, clever use of smartphone notifications, and immersive storytelling techniques. Many of these can be watched on demand via the ONA website.

Online journalism may be going through turbulent times, but sometimes, that’s when the most exciting ideas emerge.

We’re already looking forward to ONA’s main annual event, taking place in Washington DC in early October. VIP will once again be a sponsor, with our Recharge Lounge providing an opportunity to power up your portable devices, whilst talking to us about the VIP service or WordPress more generally. Tickets are available at a reduced rate until June 29.

WordPress.com VIP hosting now certified under Privacy Shield

We’re delighted to announce that we have completed certification of WordPress.com VIP’s hosting service under the EU-US and Swiss-US Privacy Shield Frameworks.

This means global publishers and European residents can host and store data on the VIP platform, with confidence that you’re doing so in accordance with current legal standards.

The EU-US Privacy Shield Framework was agreed in July 2016, following the collapse of the earlier Safe Harbour scheme. It provides certain protections for the personal data of EU individuals transferred to companies and services based in the United States. These include limitations on US government access on grounds of national security, and the provision of several channels for making inquiries and complaints.

A similar agreement was reached between the US and Switzerland in early 2017.

Participating companies self-certify annually with the US Department of Commerce, confirming that they adhere to the Privacy Shield principles.

Automattic has a long and proud history of standing up for the privacy and legal rights of our users, as our twice-yearly Transparency Reports demonstrate; so we were very happy to sign up to the necessary commitments, such as notice, access, security and recourse.

Details of our participation in the Privacy Shield frameworks can be found on the US government’s Privacy Shield List. A detailed Notice of Certification has also been posted on the vip.wordpress.com website, in accordance with Privacy Shield requirements.

Certification applies to our core WordPress.com VIP hosting service, and does not include any add-ons, a VIP client may elect to install and use on their website.

BigWP returns to London next week

Calling all WordPress professionals in the London area! After a brief hiatus, we’re pleased to announce the return of BigWP London, when we invite enterprise-scale users of WordPress and the agencies who serve them for an evening of learning, sharing and maybe a little socialising.

BigWP Meetups are an opportunity to peer behind the curtains at some of the highest-traffic and highest-profile WordPress operations. We usually have a handful of short presentations, usually but not exclusively technical in nature, with a chance to chat and ask questions afterwards.

The first BigWP of 2017 will take place in central London on the evening of Thursday 19 January; and will be hosted by News UK, publishers of The Times and The Sun, at their offices next to The Shard.

News UK moved thesun.co.uk to WordPress.com VIP last summer, becoming the fastest growing newspaper site in the UK, with well over 20 million monthly unique visitors, and tens of millions of page views every week. They recently added Scottish and Irish editions within a WordPress multisite configuration, all managed using the same innovative extension to the WordPress Customiser. WordPress is fast becoming an important part of News Corp’s worldwide publishing infrastructure, powering more and more sites in the US, India and Australia, as well as in the UK.

The schedule will be finalised shortly, but will include presentations from the News UK team, as well as our two UK-based VIP partner agencies, Human Made (our co-sponsors for the event) and Big Bite. Come straight from work: we’ll be providing food and drink.

Capacity at the event is limited; so please sign up today via our page at meetup.com to book your place. You will need to submit a request to join the group if you aren’t already a member: this is purely to ensure the group retains its enterprise focus.

With the US Election, a Landmark Week for WordPress.com VIP

There were mixed feelings on the VIP team last week, when a joke about one of our clients went viral.

Reports of obsessive refreshing of the US election predictions on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, hosted on WordPress.com VIP, began to appear in late October. As Election Day got ever closer, things reached fever pitch.

One of the campaigns even felt the need to send an email to supporters, urging them to “stop refreshing FiveThirtyEight” and focus on getting out the vote instead.

Things really went into overdrive when the team fired up their Election Day liveblog. The first calls were made at 7pm Eastern; traffic surged as visitors looked for guidance on the clues each new result gave to the final, surprising outcome.

By midnight, FiveThirtyEight had posted — in a single day — the kind of traffic numbers we would usually expect of the most popular, mass-appeal sites we host… over the course of a week. Not bad for a nerdy site all about statistics.

We’re absolutely delighted to see a client doing so well, but the VIP team were all too aware of the responsibility on our shoulders. We knew our systems and practices would face their sternest test ever — even if constant refreshing hadn’t become a new national pastime.

It wasn’t just FiveThirtyEight, of course. With so many VIP clients in the news business, many of the sites we host saw significant traffic spikes on Election Day, or for those addressing audiences living several timezones away (like News.com.au or Indian Express), the day after. Follow-up coverage on Thursday saw at least one major site post a new record number of page views.

I’m happy to say that we coped admirably. Independent monitoring by Pingdom shows 100% uptime for the week, and barely a blip in terms of average response time.

Part of VIP’s appeal is that we ensure you’re ready for high-traffic events like this: the ones you can predict, and the ones you can’t. With so many sites, from so many places, covering so many subjects, we simply have to be prepared for the most extreme scenarios.

VIP clients share the same high-capacity global infrastructure as the WordPress.com platform, consistently ranked as one of the web’s busiest properties. And our engineers work with each site’s developers to ensure their code is as efficient and performant as possible.

Clients are often anxious about traffic spikes. But really, they should be something to look forward to: these are the times your website truly earns its stripes.

A vibrant Fourth Estate will be more important than ever in the next few years — and it will need to be fast and performant for readers around the world. If VIP can deliver for FiveThirtyEight, the national focal point on one of the most dramatic election nights in history, you can be confident we can deliver on your big night too. We dare you to put us to the test.

WordPress.com VIP‘fastest by a wide margin’ in study of enterprise WordPress hosting

We were delighted to learn last week that VIP had ‘easily’ achieved Top Tier status in an authoritative study of enterprise-level WordPress hosting.

Review Signal’s analysis is recognized as the benchmark for comparing the performance and resilience of specialist WordPress hosts. This is the company’s fourth review of the market, but the first time they have looked specifically at enterprise offerings; and it’s the first time VIP has been assessed.

VIP put on an ‘amazing show’, according to Review Signal’s Kevin Ohashi; ‘they blew my (test setup) out of the water.’

“VIP put up the absolute fastest scores that I’ve seen by a wide margin, roughly triple the speed of the next fastest”
– Kevin Ohashi

We were the clear winner in tests conducted using Review Signal’s open-source WPPerformanceTester tool. ‘VIP put up the absolute fastest scores in the PHP bench that I’ve seen by a wide margin,’ Kevin writes: ‘roughly triple the speed of the next fastest.’

In a load test simulating up to 10,000 concurrent users, VIP’s average response time was ‘impressively flat and the fastest of any company by a good bit’. VIP came out top for almost half the global locations used in tests via WebPagetest.org, including Sydney, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, and LA.

We were delighted to see our Automattic siblings in Pressable also achieving Top Tier status, along with Kinsta, Pagely, Pantheon and Pressidium. It’s great to see an ecosystem of managed hosting solutions growing around WordPress, allowing publishers and enterprises to choose the solution that’s right for their needs.

We know how much performance matters at enterprise level – for consumers, content creators and search engines alike.

Review Signal’s findings confirm our status as the leading solution for enterprises seeking the fastest and most reliable hosting for their WordPress sites.

Presenting rtCamp, our first partner agency in the Indian market

We’re excited to unveil India’s rtCamp Solutions as the newest members of the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program, and our first partners based in Asia.

Unlike many such schemes in the IT industry, our Featured Partner Program is kept deliberately small, and highly selective. Its members are the dozen agencies worldwide whom we can confidently recommend to the largest and highest-profile online publishers, for the most ambitious WordPress projects.

To become a partner, an agency must demonstrate creative and technical excellence on VIP-level engagements. We also expect them to share the user-centric, community-minded values which have made WordPress itself so successful.

Founded in 2009, in the Indian city of Pune (150km inland from Mumbai), rtCamp – rt, standing for ’round table’ – is precisely the kind of team we want to endorse, and present as a role model for their local WordPress community.

Their technical credentials are strong; but it’s their record of community engagement which is particularly remarkable, with members of their staff being named among the contributors to every release of WordPress in the past three years.

The Indian tech sector is booming, and growing in self-confidence, no longer satisfied just to pick up outsourced work from Europe and North America. Interest in WordPress is surging, with a growing number of the country’s leading websites choosing WordPress as their CMS, and a flourishing ecosystem of consultancies claiming WordPress expertise.

It’s high time VIP nominated an agency in the Indian market whom we believe to be capable of delivering those nationally significant projects, and doing so in the right way.

rtCamp have shown themselves to be up to the task; and ready to play a leadership role as the Indian WordPress ecosystem moves to the next level. We’re proud to call them partners, and we look forward to helping them deliver websites which show India’s 1.3 billion people what WordPress is capable of.

The VIP team will be happy to advise on the contribution rtCamp, or any of our Partners can make to your next WordPress project.

New: WordPress Plugin for Facebook Instant Articles

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Facebook has announced that its Instant Articles program will be open to publishers “of any size, anywhere in the world” starting on April 12, 2016. And with the free plugin we’re unveiling today, you’ll be able to prepare your self-hosted or VIP WordPress for the demands of this new channel.

Install it now from GitHub (it’s also coming soon to the WordPress plugin directory).

Instant Articles, now available to people using Facebook for iPhone and Android, load articles in Facebook’s News Feed up to ten times faster than standard web articles, and are optimized for the mobile reading experience.

The native format includes a built-in set of interactive tools like auto-play video and tap-to-zoom image galleries, bringing stories to life on mobile devices. Early analysis suggests that people engage more deeply with the immersive experience and share Instant Articles with their friends more often than standard web articles.

We’ve been working with Facebook, and VIP Featured Partner agency Dekode, on a plugin which takes care of the basics. Activate it, and you’ll have a compliant feed of Posts, wrapping your core content in the markup Facebook requires.

How it works

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Facebook has a review process where they verify that all Instant Articles generated from your website are properly formatted and adhere to their community standards and content policies before you’ll be able to start pushing content to the platform. (You can get more information in our Instant Articles FAQ.) Instant Articles generally should contain all the content a person would see in the web version of an article, so if you have extended the standard WordPress Post template in any way, it’s likely that you’ll need to extend the plugin’s default output too.

If you find any problems in our plugin, please send your feedback as an Issue on GitHub. And if you write a compatibility layer for another popular plugin, we’d encourage you to share it with the WordPress community via a Pull Request.

The Instant Articles program is one of several current initiatives that aim to bring improved speed and performance to the experience of reading news on your mobile device. We are thrilled to be working with Facebook on making it easier than ever for WordPress publishers to reach and engage their audiences in new ways.

Learn more at Facebook.

A warm welcome to Norwegian WordPress experts Dekode

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Norway’s Dekode are the newest members of the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program, bringing a dash of Nordic cool to our list of the planet’s leading WordPress development agencies.

Based in Oslo, Magne and his growing team are building not only an excellent reputation for themselves, but for WordPress as a platform for publishing and ecommerce. The Scandinavian CMS market has historically been dominated by one proprietary platform; but Dekode are working to establish WordPress as a credible alternative, even for complex enterprise usage.

They represent WordPress at Oslo’s Webdagene (‘Web Days’), one of the region’s leading conferences for the web industry; and they help organise Oslo’s WordPress meetups, including its very highly regarded WordCamp. (If you’d like to discover if that reputation is justified, the next one is in just a few weeks.)

More than most, Dekode’s focus is on combining creativity and technology. There’s no doubting their developers’ credentials; but what really shines through their project portfolio is the sophistication of their visual and UI work.

Dekode are consistently producing beautiful, modern, innovative websites. They aren’t afraid to take on challenging work, such as reinventing local community journalism, pushing WordPress forward as they do so. And they are doing it all in the right way, recognising the need for solutions to be sustainable in the long term.

So we’re excited to bring Dekode to the attention of a wider audience. They have concentrated on the Norwegian market thus far, but we’re in no doubt, they are ready to do great things on a European level.

If you’d like to find out more about Dekode, or any of our Featured Partners, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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