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.

Germany’s Inpsyde: our newest VIP Featured Partner

We’re delighted to welcome Germany’s Inpsyde, one of Europe’s largest and longest-established WordPress agencies, as the newest member of the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program.

At Automattic, we firmly believe in the development of a strong and sustainable WordPress ecosystem. The invite-only Featured Partner Program is our way of promoting the agencies who not only demonstrate creative and technical excellence; but also share our commitment to supporting the WordPress open source project, and the community built upon it.

Inpsyde are synonymous with WordPress in Germany, Europe’s largest single market. Few agencies worldwide have been so instrumental in building and supporting their local community. They provided technical infrastructure for blogs and forums long before anything central existed. They represented WordPress at industry events, and organised or sponsored WordPress-based events of their own.

When we began to think of potential partners in continental Europe, Inpsyde were the most natural choice. Founded in 2006, they have grown into a company of some 30 employees, scattered across Germany.

If you follow the development of the WordPress core software, you will immediately recognise the name of Inpsyde’s Dominik ‘ocean90’ Schilling, a Core Committer since 2013, who will lead the development of version 4.6 this summer. Attendees of the larger European WordCamps may not know co-founder Robert Windisch by name… but they will almost certainly know his straw boater hat!

There’s no shortage of familiar names on Inpsyde’s client list too, including global brands like Adidas and Mercedes-Benz; and media companies like ZDF, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Arte.

The web industry has particular reason to be grateful to Inpsyde, for their ongoing work with Smashing Magazine, a must-read resource for designers and developers. ‘Thanks to our work with Inpsyde, Smashing Magazine is now loading faster than any other well-known Web Design or Web Development Blog around the web,’ according to editor Vitaly Friedman. ‘If you are looking for professionalism and endless know-how in terms of WordPress and Web Development in general, then seek no longer since you just found what you were looking for.’

We’re proud to recommend them for projects not just in German-speaking countries, but more widely. Their experience in multilingual development, and deep knowledge of WooCommerce will be of interest to many enterprise and VIP-level clients.

It’s also a significant moment for us at VIP. Inpsyde are our first Featured Partner agency for whom English is not their first language (although it’s a very close second). With well over 25% of the top 10 million websites running on WordPress, its success reaches far beyond the English-speaking world, and it’s time our Featured Partner network did too.

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

Welcoming Big Bite Creative and Trew Knowledge to the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program

We’re pleased to announce two new additions to our list of Featured Service Partners, the ‘premier league’ of specialist WordPress development agencies.

WordPress.com VIP exists to help high-traffic and high-profile publishers get the most out of WordPress. To do so, we work with the best agency partners to deliver best-in-class solutions. Our list has been kept deliberately small and selective: but we’ve been looking to expand it just a little, not least to improve our geographic coverage. And today we’re excited to introduce our new UK-based partner, Big Bite Creative, and our new Toronto-based partner, Trew Knowledge.

Big Bite Creative come from Middlesbrough in the north-east of England, away from the more familiar digital centres of London and Manchester. They are comfortable working with clients in the UK, elsewhere in Europe, or in North America, which currently accounts for about half their business.

They first came to our attention with open sourced projects like Herbert and Ship, demonstrating an awareness of what’s happening on other platforms, and how similar methods might benefit WordPress developers. We also loved their efforts to build a creative community in what they admit is an ‘often overlooked’ part of the UK.

Trew Knowledge is our first Canadian partner, based in Toronto. Although Trew Knowledge is new to the partner program, they are not new to VIP. We’ve worked with them for several years already, as the developers behind the Canadian Olympic Committee website, hosted on WordPress.com VIP.

Trew Knowledge has always focused on building solutions that emphasize speed and performance without compromising security — aspects that align perfectly with our vision for the platform. They’re excited to combine their experience in large-scale digital enterprise solutions with VIP’s robust cloud based infrastructure for clients.

Both teams bring something new to our Featured Partner Program, and we’re delighted to welcome them aboard. The VIP team will be happy to advise on the contribution they, or any of our Partners can make to your next WordPress project.

Have some Shortcake – the plugin which makes shortcodes a piece of cake

Shortcodes can be a useful way of defining complex HTML elements within the WordPress editing window. But as Matthew Haines-Young, senior engineer at WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner agency Human Made, told the London Big Media & Enterprise Meetup, ‘everybody hates them.’

His solution is Shortcake, a plugin developed as part of Human Made’s work with the US media company Fusion. It gives developers the ability to add user-friendly modules to the Add Media window, making the shortcodes themselves (almost) invisible.

You can browse Matthew’s slides below:

Shortcake lives on Github for the moment, but it has proposed as a candidate for future inclusion in the WordPress core software.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group.

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.

WordPress For Weans – how the Scottish education system is encouraging kids to contribute with confidence

It’s one of the largest WordPress multi-site installs we know of in the UK, but few have ever heard of it. Scotland’s Glow was the world’s first national intranet for education, and features WordPress as one of several components offered to pupils and teachers. It supports more than 140,000 websites, blogs and e-portfolios, with hundreds more being added each week.

Glow product owner John Johnston joined us at March 2015’s London Big Media & Enterprise Meetup to explain how WordPress was supporting the Scottish curriculum’s aim to produce successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. You may need to channel your inner Scotsman to make sense of his title, ‘WordPress For Weans’!

John’s slides are also available as a PDF.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group.

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.