Using Gutenberg In Production: One Agency’s First-Hand Experience

The WordPress core development team has just announced a draft schedule for the next WordPress release, which will include the long-awaited new editing component, Gutenberg. But for many leading WordPress agencies, Gutenberg has been a fact of life for several months already.

One such agency is VIP partner Big Bite, whose technical director Jason Agnew described the experience of implementing Gutenberg on a number of enterprise-level projects at September’s BigWP gathering in London, hosted by our friends at News UK.

Big Bite have recently been working with a major global bank, to produce an internal news app for consumption primarily via iOS and Android smartphone apps, but managed in WordPress using Gutenberg blocks. And as profiled here previously, they delivered a block-based solution for Amnesty International to build and manage pages in visual form.

Jason describes how Big Bite nominated one team member to become their in-house expert, giving him the time he needed to build his own knowledge, which he could then spread across the company.

Developing with Gutenberg can feel a lot slower, Jason says: ‘you can’t really build the site until you have all the blocks.’ His rule of thumb is that it takes a week to build a block: but if a client is in it for the long run, ‘it’s definitely worth the investment now.’

Discussing Gutenberg with clients has been really easy: some even described the authoring experience as ‘fun’, which is rare indeed in the world of content management systems! Project owners expressed concern at using beta or newly-merged functionality; but Jason has explained that it’s worth a little bit of risk now, in order to save a lot of upgrade costs in the future. ‘Most people can relate to that,’ he says.

VIP has been helping clients and developers prepare for the arrival of Gutenberg. We have a test environment showcasing the Gutenberg experience: just go to testgutenberg.com and start clicking around, no login required. We also have a series of free how-to videos for developers; and a free plugin allowing site owners to manage the rollout of Gutenberg functionality across their site at their own pace.

September VIP Roundup

Welcome to the September roundup! Even though this is October material, we’d be remiss not to start off with the big news coming out of the Gutenberg project this week, Matt Mullenweg’s Plan for 5.0 update and Gary Pendergast’s follow-up Proposed Scope and Schedule. We’ll keep you updated as 5.0 plans continue to come together.

Meanwhile, there’s lots to catch up on from September. The Online News Association’s annual event is always a highlight of the year and ONA 2018 in Austin was no exception. We came back energized and excited about all of the work going on across the digital journalism community. And thank you to Human Made and News UK for co-hosting our latest BigWP London, with great talks which will be available on YouTube shortly.

Read on for news and updates from across enterprise WordPress, including a new section called, “What We Read,” a carousel of articles (and podcasts) that inspired, informed, and influenced us this month.

Gutenberg News and Notes

The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0.

  • As mentioned above, plans for the WordPress 5.0 release are starting to take shape. Matt Mullenweg posted a plan and Automattician and core contributor Gary Pendergast gave further details in this proposed scope and schedule, identifying November 19 as the target release date.
  • Earlier in September, Gutenberg version 3.9 shipped with a host of UX improvements within the editor, in addition to the ability to create reusable templates and import/export reusable blocks.
  • The Gutenberg plug-in has surpassed 500,000 installs.
  • Automattician and core contributor Riad Benguella released a helpful technical overview of Gutenberg integration into WordPress core.
  • Yoast SEO 8.2 is making it easy to automatically add structured data with Gutenberg content blocks.
  • Peek behind the scenes at the custom blocks powering Amnesty International‘s new platform developed by Big Bite, also embedded in the spotlight below.
BigWP London kickoff capture via @PrimaryImage

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • VIP teamed up with Human Made to host Big WP London, featuring talks from 10up, Big Bite, Inpsyde, and News UK. Video from the talks coming soon!
  •  Alley helped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation answer the question, “Does where you live affect how long you live?” by building a life expectancy estimator using data from 73,000 U.S. Census tracts. They also redesigned the Online News Association’s VIP-hosted resource portal just in time for #ONA18.
  • 10up CEO John Eckman shared slides from his talk at WordCamp NYC on rethinking his approach to GDPR and privacy.
  • Jenny Wong of Human Made penned a comprehensive (read: 5,000 word) piece on the most useful features of GitHub.
  • XWP released AMP plugin v1.0-beta4 and announced a new leadership team.

Platform Updates

Spotlight: Amnesty International

Take a video tour of the custom Gutenberg blocks powering Amnesty International’s new platform, built by Big Bite for the new WordPress editor. Their team is also working on one of the largest Gutenberg-built applications to date, with a global financial organization.

What We Read

FeaturedJournalists Just Can’t Quit Microsoft Word. But Some Are Trying (Slate)

VIP take: “Still exchanging Microsoft Word documents with contributors to make edits? Apparently, some publications are still redlining their way to a final draft, while others have made the shift to Google Docs. If you’re happy with the collaborative editing features in Google Docs, try out this add-on to send your drafts straight to your WordPress site.” — @ryansholin

Other stories:

Recent Events

VIP was thrilled to be a part of ONA again in 2018, which went down in Austin, TX from September 13-15.

To kick things off, we and our partners at Alley co-hosted a pre-conference meal where we broke bread with clients and friends. At the conference itself, VIP’s very own Steph Yiu, Ryan Sholin, and Shannon Smith teamed up to present “The Future of Content Creation in WordPress” which gave an inside look at the intersection of publishing, WordPress, and Gutenberg. Ryan also joined a panel on “Remixing Content: Refining Your Workflow to Make Your Work Flow,” sharing tips to make workflows meet your newsroom’s distribution needs without bloating them.

Overall, the VIP team was inspired to see how journalists and newsrooms are using WordPress to create new frontiers in digital publishing. To learn more, visit the VIP-hosted journalists.org.

Upcoming Events

  • WAN-IFRA is hosting the Digital Content Expo (DCX) and World Publishing Expo parallel to each other from October 9-11 in Berlin. While the World Expo focuses on print strategies, DCX examines digital trends for content production, distribution, management, and monetization.
  • WordCamp US is coming to Nashville again on December 7-9. Organizers just announced the fifth round of speakers. November 1 is the deadline to get a printed badge (and share your preferred shirt size).
  • NICAR is slated for March 7-10 in Newport Beach, California. Sign up for the NICAR mailing list to stay up to date with conference announcements.
  • The first batches of tickets have dropped for WordCamp Europe! It goes down June 20-22, also in Berlin. While may seem like a long time from now, tickets always sell out, so grab yours fast.

Amnesty and the Power of Gutenberg, the New WordPress Editor

See how Big Bite’s custom blocks streamline publishing for Amnesty International.

The most exciting thing around the WordPress community right now is the new editor experience. The Gutenberg project has transformed what it’s like to create content and manage pages and sections. It has also offered a new approach to matching a team’s existing workflow, and allowing editorial teams to work in the context of what the site and pages actually look like. And it has made a flexible, granular reusability of individual elements across projects and even across the community much more directly available.

Agency partner Big Bite has built an entirely new site platform for Nobel Peace Prize Winner Amnesty International, with the new WordPress editor as its foundation, via the Gutenberg plugin. They focused on developing custom blocks and a core theme that serve as the heart of Amnesty’s digital efforts moving forward. More than a new site, this is a framework for applying consistent brand identity, design, and user experience standards to many new sites and for allowing creators to spin up new, powerful sites quickly and with ease. And as a part of Big Bite’s and Amnesty’s shared commitment to give back to the community, large parts of the project will be released as open source components for anyone to use.

In the short video above, you’ll see a quick overview of what it’s like to build new sites quickly and publish and manage content in Amnesty’s new platform launching in September.

August VIP Roundup

August kicked off with the second annual WordCamp for Publishers in Chicago, IL, where presentations and discussions centered on how publishers can protect and nurture the open web and all of its core values.

Meanwhile, as awareness efforts kicked up a notch, the new WordPress editor Gutenberg plugin surpassed 100,000 active installs within a week (and is now past 300,000). It’s now a central component of many new enterprise site projects slated for Q4 launch.

Speaking of new site projects, here at VIP we’ve supported a flurry of diverse launches over the last several weeks across business sectors, too many to cram in to a friendly introductory paragraph. To name a handful, we’ve welcomed Wikimedia Foundation, Shionogi, The Online News Association (ONA), Facebook Connectivity and Politics, and Dentistry For Children.

Read on for news, updates, and this month’s profile with featured partner 10up.

A fitting signoff as WordCamp for Publishers 2018 drew to a close with a day at the ballpark

Gutenberg News and Notes

The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0.

  • After several releases in August bringing issue fixes and user experience enhancements including the new “Spotlight Mode” and Unified Toolbar design, the Gutenberg plugin is now at version 3.7.
  • Currently at 300,000+ active installs, the plugin crossed the 100,000+ threshold just a week after the “Try Gutenberg” prompt appeared in the WordPress dashboard.
  • Prominent plugins announced Gutenberg readiness: Advanced Custom Fields as of ACF Free version 5, Yoast for Gutenberg,  Beaver Builder as of version 2.1, 10up’s Distributor at release.
  • Automattician and core contributor Gary Pendergast offered big picture thoughts on the long range vision and benefits of the Gutenberg project.

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • Catch up with notes and highlights from the second annual WordCamp for Publishers with co-organizer and Automattician Alexis Kulash’s comprehensive recap.
  • Get to know new VIP technical partner Setka and their print design-inspired, Gutenberg ready, content creation tools.
  • The Brightcove Video Connect plugin version 1.5 is now available, bringing multiple enhancements and bug fixes.
  • Matthew Ingram at Columbia Journalism Review interviewed VIP client Civil‘s founder Matthew Iles ahead of the CVL token sale coming up on September 18th.
  • Congratulations to the 10up team for the successful launch of nobelprize.org. Learn more about their origins and work in VIP’s latest partner profile. And check out the public release of Distributor, which uses the REST API to make it easy to reuse content across sites.
  • Austin Smith, CEO of Alley, authored an extended report and recommendations around the future of local news for Lenfest, also excerpted in a piece for Nieman Lab.
  • Reaktiv Studios wrote an ode to Bootstrap, their favorite CSS.
  • Congratulations to rtCamp for their contributions to WP-CLI v2!
  • XWP shared a case study on their work improving front end performance for Heavy.

Platform Updates

Spotlight

Group photo of 10up outside at the annual 10up summit

This month we profiled VIP agency partner 10up, whose work includes enterprise WordPress tools including Distributor and Ads.txt Manager. They have also contributed greatly to efforts around the new WordPress editor. 10up comprises more than 150 full-time staff members globally, and works with a wide array of clients including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, the State of California, ESPN, and AARP. Read the full profile to find out about 10up’s agency history, vision for the future, and why they chose the three words “Dedicated,” “Creative,” and “Welcoming” to describe their culture.

Media and Marketing Notes

Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“Unless we build in natural alternatives to ad revenue models we can’t be an honest authentic media brand.”

Frederik Anderson in Digiday explains Vice’s strategy to grow its revenue streams through ‘offline activations’ like music festivals and food courts.

“Even as they draw from journalism standards and training, podcasters seem to embrace the idea that their tone, style and motivations go beyond traditional techniques, defining their craft in non-journalistic terms such as intimacy and connection.”

Janet Saidi of the LA Times on how podcasts are changing journalism.

“The best parts of Chicagoist, the ones that Chance would be wise to preserve, were its broad editorial freedom and its focus on niche neighborhood stories that might escape the attention of larger outlets.”

Kim Bellware speculates on the implications of Chance the Rapper’s purchase of local news site Chicagoist.

Upcoming Events

#ONA18, the Online News Association‘s annual conference is just a few days away! Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas. Find us at the Midway when you get there. VIP is proud to support ONA as both a sponsor and the platform for ONA’s sites. You’ll find us in several spots on the schedule, including Steph Yiu’s Table Talk and a session with New York Times’ senior editor Hamilton Boardman called, “OMGWTFBBQ: Breaking News Without Breaking Your Site.”

The latest BigWP London is also just around the corner, September 13th at News UK headquarters in London at 6:30 pm. The four flashtalks are as follows: WordPress Multisite for large and high traffic multilingual websites by Giuseppe Mazzapica of Inpsyde; Rebuilding NobelPrize.org by Gabe Karp of 10up; How we won the World Cup by Joel Davis, News UK; and Using Gutenberg in production, by Jason Agnew, Big Bite. Space is limited and signups will close 24 hours before the event.

September WordCamps include Tokyo, Rome, and NYC, the latter featuring talks by John Eckman of 10up on privacy by design and Rick Viscomi of Google on site performance tools.

Look out, too, for a surprising amount of WordPress-related content at Drupal Europe! Automattic will again be sponsoring the event’s Open Web Lounge, to promote sharing and networking between open source projects, communities and influencers; and there are several familiar names from the WordPress world on the session program.

Welcome, Setka!

We’re excited to announce our newest technical partner, Setka! Setka creates tools that make it easy for content creators to produce beautiful, customizable, multimedia content pages that work across platforms.

Part of what makes the Setka Editor special is it brings the elements we love about print design into the interactive environment of the screens we use today. It puts power directly in the hands of editors and designers to create stunning content with beautiful features—without much extra effort (and without always having to rely on developers). They can change page layouts, add interactive and multimedia elements, and make other design decisions based on what will serve their content best. The user-friendly WYSIWYG interface combined with customizable layout and style templates give the people producing content creative freedom while making sure they stay on-brand with design.

While the user experience is a breeze, the Setka Editor is working hard behind the scenes. It’s already compatible with the new Gutenberg editor, and will stay on track as WordPress moves to version 5.0. It pairs with the AMP for WordPress plugin to generate eye-catching Accelerated Mobile Pages. It generates the mobile version of your article pages automatically. The HTML is stored in the database, so your content design stays the same even if you uninstall the plugin, and pages can be exported in any necessary formats. The plugin seamlessly integrates into both editorial processes and scaling technical infrastructures to keep everything moving efficiently.

“We’re so proud to be a WordPress.com VIP Partner, since VIP and the WordPress community value design as much as we do. We can’t wait to keep adding more features to help you easily produce amazing content,” said Katya Bazilevskaya, co-founder and CEO of Setka, who spoke on visual storytelling at this year’s VIP Workshop in Napa.

If you’d like to know more about how Setka can improve your daily workflow, drop us a note.

Inclusivity and the Open Web: Notes from WordCamp for Publishers

The second annual WordCamp for Publishers went down last week in Chicago with the theme “Taking Back The Open Web.” This theme was sparked from questions explored in a 2016 post by Drupal founder Dries Buytaert:

Do we want the experiences of the next billion web users to be defined by open values of transparency and choice, or by the siloed and opaque convenience of the walled-garden giants dominating today?

As conference organizers, we challenged speakers to touch on whether an open web ever truly existed, what state it’s in now, the consequences of a closed web, and how publishers can protect and encourage an open web.

Overall, we saw common themes emerge around empowering publishers to innovate and evolve. There was a shared belief that ethical journalism depends on an open web, with inclusivity as a fundamental building block to creating responsibly for the future.

Each of these topics has raised significant discussion in the WordPress community, and we envisioned #WCPub as a platform to discuss the state of the publishing industry and future of WordPress in the open web together, with folks from all different backgrounds in the industry. Thankfully, our speakers and attendees were more than up to the task!

Those who weren’t able to attend in person could live stream the entire event.

Where Code Meets Community

John Eckman, CEO of 10up, was particularly drawn to the challenge of the event’s theme as it related to identity, inclusivity, and imagined communities. John explored the philosophical roots of the open source movement and how those ideas influenced modern-day open source ethics, software freedom, and netizen empowerment.

Austin Smith, CEO and co-founder of Alley, presented his research on the narrow path for local news. He argued in order to protect hyperlocal journalism, we’ll need to convince more readers to pay for the content they consume. We’ll also need to empower local publishers to innovate formats, ownership, and distribution.

Tyson Bird, projects designer at GateHouse Media, and David Parsons, senior software engineer at USA Today, spoke about their use of WordPress at scale to enable publishers to manage large media networks with a variety of markets and staff.

An Emphasis on Engagement

Caroline Porter, consultant for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Harry Backlund, co-founder and director of operations at City Bureau, and Sarah Schmalbach, resident at the Lenfest Institute, discussed the ethical collection of user data, experimenting with innovation around reader engagement, and two-way audience communication in a panel session moderated by Sherry Salko, director of the Amplify News Project.

Eric Ulken, a consultant, and Nick Johnson, founder of Pigeon Paywall, shared differing viewpoints on monetization strategies that ultimately focused on catering to users and their needs.

Open Sourcing in the Wild

There was a lot of excitement around Gutenberg, and Chris Van Patten, founder of Tomodomo, open sourced his team’s documentation project on best design practices using Gutenberg live during his presentation.

Chris wasn’t the only presenter to live open source a project during a talk. Russell Heimlich, lead developer at Spirited Media, open sourced his team’s image CDN project to much applause.

The Trust Project also announced their Trust Indicators plugin during the event.

Open Means Everyone

Sina Bahram, president of Prime Access Consulting, and Pattie Reaves, senior user experience developer at Alley, discussed the importance of developing with accessibility in mind.

Two lightning talks also addressed site accessibility concerns: one focusing on the particular needs of those with dyslexia, and another which offered a solution to accessibility through integration with Alexa.

Live Demos Galore

Jim Birch, senior Drupal engineer at Kanopi Studios, walked us through the value of correctly implementing metadata for content and showed off the tools for doing so.

Shayda Torabi, director of marketing at WebDevStudios, and Jodie Riccelli, director of client strategy at WebDevStudios, demoed a number of workflows with streamlined editorial experiences all contained entirely within WordPress.

Keanan Koppenhaver, CTO at Alpha Particle, showcased a few modern use cases of the REST API, from the Techcrunch redesign, a mobile news simulator, Amazon Echo integration, virtual reality, and more.

AMPlifying Performance

Barb Palser, global product partnerships at Google, argued we should look at site performance as a product, with a focus on quantifying the opportunity to increase user engagement.

Leo Postovoit and Ryan Kienstra of XWP went a step further and demonstrated how to improve performance “up to 85%” simply by integrating AMP.

On the flip side, Brian Boyer, VP of product and people at Spirited Media, delivered a passionate talk explaining his team’s decision to leave the AMP platform to focus on engaging readers in a different manner.

Off the Beaten Track

Attendees voted on Unconference session proposals to explore hyperspecific themes. The winning topics (“Gutenberg Therapy Session,” “Direct Revenue Discussion,” and “The Future of WordCamp for Publishers”) served as an opportunity for many to share their concerns about specific industry trends.

Workshops dealt with a variety of topics important to the community:

  • Paul Schreiber, lead developer for FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated, led a security-focused session.
  • Joshua Wold, design strategist at XWP, dove into creative thinking through development problems by sketching.
  • Ernie Hsiung, CTO at WhereBy.Us, fostered a discussion about communication across stakeholder groups.

We held a series of lightning talks that ranged widely in topic: from determining whether WordPress was a product or community, to implementing transparency standards for news; from solving content reuse and syndication woes to finding smarter and more efficient ways to create responsive HTML emails and manage media at scale, and even a case study of the need to combine mobile and AMP themes.

A Look to the Future

Then — all too soon — it was over!

We wrapped up the event with a shout-out from NiemanLab naming us WordPress’s publishing summit and a trip to the ballfield to see the White Sox take on the Indians.

Many thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, organizers and volunteers who made this fantastic week possible. Hope to see everyone at next year’s WordCamp for Publishers!

Six Questions with 10up

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

10up is a digital agency focused on delivering finely crafted websites, apps, and tools that advance business objectives. They have been a WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner since 2013. Founded in California with a fully distributed team, 10up’s Webby-winning and Emmy-nominated work includes projects with household names like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and The New York Times.

Group photo of 10up outside at the annual 10up summit
The 10up team at this year’s company-wide summit

What’s your agency’s origin story?

10up was founded by Jake Goldman in 2011. Jake helped his prior company abandon proprietary CMS software starting around 2008, giving him a front-row seat to WordPress’s rapid iteration from a basic blogging platform to a compelling content management system, and the delight that it created for its customers. Jake was eager to master WordPress: he built plugins that became popular, contributed to WordPress itself, and traveled around the country to participate in WordCamps.

With training in business, information systems, and software development, and an eye for beautiful craftsmanship, Jake saw an opportunity to start an agency that could position itself as a leading provider of integration and delivery of WordPress. The rise of “distributed” remote-work companies, the remote nature of WordPress core itself, and the rising international WordPress community suggested it was also time for a 100% distributed agency.

Jake set up shop in his small home office and got to work bootstrapping 10up. From its earliest days, 10up focused on superior engineering quality and elegant editorial/administrative user experiences Leveraging a strong network of connections, Jake quickly welcomed exciting clients like 9to5mac, Trulia, and TechCrunch.

With the help of the earliest additions to his team, many of whom still remain at 10up and some of whom have gone onto to impressive roles elsewhere in the industry, Jake grew 10up from 1 employee – himself – to more than 100 in less than 5 years – without an ounce of outside investment.

The name 10up comes from finishing that last 10% — the difference that extra polish, that extra level of attention, makes. –Jake Goldman

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

Dedicated. Our team understands that we’re a services business; our values are rooted in an empathy and dedication to the needs of our clients and colleagues, as well as the broader open-source and WordPress community. 10uppers consistently go above and beyond expectations to jump in and help when a client or fellow teammate needs support.

Creative. This is a team of problem solvers – strategists, designers, engineers, and so on. Whether it’s a discreet and specific solution to a customer need or an innovative approach to synchronizing developer environments or managing new standards like Ads.txt, this team is constantly finding new ways to solve the challenges we face every day.

Welcoming. Maybe it’s something about our remote culture, our in-depth orientation, or a high growth team culture… but almost everyone who starts at 10up comments on how inviting their team lead, fellow teammates, and craft leadership are in welcoming them aboard and offering support through their beginning and tenure. Even though we’re infrequently in the same room together, there’s a palpable sense of camaraderie and cheer at our annual all-hands summit.

Five 10 up team members in a work session hanging pink post-its against a wall
10up team members roll up their sleeves in a client project work session

Tell us about a client project you are especially proud of.

Where to start! If we had to pick one, we’d highlight our work with Mayo Clinic, building out an internal knowledge portal and management intranet that tens of thousands of nurses use every day, around the country, to collaboratively participate in advancing patient care. It was a multiyear project, and our team did a brilliant job of designing the user experience, engineering a scalable solution, supporting change management, and training both developers and administrators. As a service-centric organization, it’s immensely rewarding to know that our work is helping other incredibly dedicated service professionals (nurses) and their patients, every day, in some small way.

What are you most excited about in the WordPress community right now?

We’ve been very focused from day one on the experience of creating and managing content – the back end and editorial user flows that can have an enormous impact on the efficiency of the business and the happiness of the staff responsible for pushing out content. It’s why we chose WordPress as our platform – a user experience-centric ethos to our practice.

With that said, it’s hard not to call out the massive effort to revamp the writing and content layout experience – Gutenberg.

It’s exciting in the sense that it shakes up the way we think about editorial page creation and curation, and forces us to think about some old and stale paradigms in new ways. It’s cause for us to go back and take another look at some of our solutions and plugins, and breathe a bit of new life into them. Some of the principals of the block-based layout authentically offer an opportunity to improve the way we think about modules. That’s been especially evident as we approached support for the classic and new editor for some new open source projects – like Simple Podcasting – and found that the user interface made a lot more sense in the new context.

Notebook splayed open showing a doodle of the 10up logo and a pen alongside

What’s your favorite conference or event of the year, and why?

We love seeing the WordPress community evolve a set of professional industry and market-specific conferences. WP Campus and WordCamp for Publishers provide a nice, focused iteration of the wide-appeal community events.

On a very different note, our team also gets quite a bit out of the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) event, in terms of professional development and peer inspiration.

(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What are you looking to accomplish in 2018?

We’re pushing on several fronts. Our team is growing again this year; we expect to expand our team by ~25-30%, and we hope to achieve that while retaining an engaging and supportive culture and employing systems that ensure we uphold the highest standards for craftsmanship. Some major growth areas include the 10up Europe team and our strategic consulting including Audience & Revenue.

We’re also more invested than ever in contributing to and helping WordPress succeed as a platform, through our Open Source Practice. We want to see growing adoption of some of the solutions we’ve put out there that push WordPress forward as a platform, like our Distributor plugin.

We also want to do a better job of communicating the exciting and innovative work we’re doing, and the ways in which we’re growing, to our customers and a larger community interested in 10up. Expect to see more stories from 10up and more effective ways of staying apprised of those stories.

Thank you, 10up!

More on 10up:

Agency focus and specialties:

  • Editorial/administrative user experience and workflow design
  • Audience and revenue strategy
  • Integrations and migration between WordPress and other platforms
  • High scale and forward-thinking implementation of WordPress
  • Internal communication & workflow tools
  • Team augmentation
  • 24/7 site management

Currently working with: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, The New York Times Co, the State of California, Walmart, ESPN, and AARP

Agency highlights:

  • More than 150 full-time staff working from around the world.
  • In-house expertise includes Front and Back End Engineering, Visual Design, UX Design, Systems/Cloud Infrastructure Engineering, Online Advertising, Analytics, SEO, and general project management and strategic consulting.
  • Delivered hundreds of successful, enterprise-grade projects over our 7.5 years of existence.
  • Two of our interactive projects with AMC Networks were nominated for Emmy Awards. Our client projects have been nominated for numerous Webby Awards, with several wins under our belt.
  • We’ve produced outstanding projects across most major verticals, including collaborations with household brand names in finance, healthcare, media and publishing, academia, retail, food and beverage, and nonprofits … to name a few.

July VIP Roundup

The new WordPress editor Gutenberg hit a major milestone in July, completing its MVP feature goals and moving its focus to bug fixes and compatibility. VIP client Quartz shipped v.5 of their site, an incredible fifth full version in six years and this one faster than ever. We welcomed Slack’s SlackHq.com to the VIP family. And Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg joined Kara Swisher on her Recode Decode podcast to talk about WordPress, the future of the open web, and lots more.

Read on for updates from all over, including an in-depth client spotlight with the founders of Civil, and a talk by Airbnb content lead Hayley Nelson on the content strategy principles behind major brand marketing campaigns. We’ve also added a platform updates section, where you can get a quick summary of all of the changes to our platform in the last month.

 

A still from the Azores “Not Yet Trending” video, an Airbnb campaign Hayley Nelson featured in her talk at the 2018 VIP Workshop.

Gutenberg News and Notes

The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0.

  • Gutenberg is officially considered ‘feature complete‘ as of version 3.2 released in early July! Two successive releases this month (July 20 and July 30) included a multitude of improvements, from strengthening the API surface to converting existing content to blocks.
  • We explored one of the more frequently asked questions about Gutenberg – plugin compatibility – and shared our findings and advice for evaluating your own plugins.
  • Gutenberg Times curated this list of 20 Gutenberg talks on WordPress.tv.
  • 10up CEO John Eckman gave a thoughtful presentation about Structured Content in the Age of Gutenberg.
  • Reaktiv walked through their approach to recommending Gutenberg to their clients
  • Inpsyde’s David Remer gave a talk on Gutenberg’s state management, introducing the Slot/Fill concept
  • Every other week, Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona get together and talk about the latest developments in Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0.

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • Congratulations to the entire Quartz team on their launch of the latest version of QZ.com, which we’re honored to host on VIP. Earlier this month, Elan Kiderman, senior product designer at Quartz, shared his approach to building ambitious editorial projects (Map of the Internet, anyone?).
  • The open source WordPress Coding Standards (WPCS) project released milestone version 1.0. This project has had 54 contributors in its 9 year span including 5 from VIP.
  • Kara Swisher interviewed Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg on the Recode Decode podcast, covering current industry issues like data privacy and advertising, the future of the open web, and our approach to distributed work at Automattic.
  • Facebook announced that starting in August, third-party tools like Publicize (the tool for WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites that connects your site to major social media platforms) will no longer share posts automatically to Facebook profiles. VIP clients can consult this Lobby post for details on navigating the change.
  • Airbnb content lead Hayley Nelson explored leading content-driven campaigns like Not Yet Trending in her talk, “Content Ecosystem Thinking” from this year’s VIP Workshop.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation announced a global collaboration to increase offline access to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sites.
  • Adam Silverstein of 10up published a guest post on Google‘s Open Source Blog reflecting on his experiences as a contributor, and received a Google Open Source Peer Bonus for his work bringing MathML to AMP.
  • Alley released version 1.4.1 of Apple News and won a Knight Foundation grant to bring the museum experience to Amazon Echo. Brad Campeau-Laurion also shared some thoughts on what to expect at WordCamp for Publishers, which is coming up next week.
  • HumanMade helped UNISON tell a story of digital adoption inside a trade union. Libby Barker was interviewed at WordCamp Europe about how a decoupled WordPress admin can make enterprise sites more flexible and engaging.
  • Inpsyde launched a new composer package, Inpsyde Assets.
  • Efficiency was the name of the game at Reaktiv Studios this month. Nick Croft wrote about jumpstarting projects with WP CLI scaffolding and Chris Ford discussed her recipe mix of project management tools at the Dungeons & Dragons-themed WordCamp Orange County.
  • rtCamp sponsored the second edition of WordCamp Nagpur.
  • Earlier this year, Trew Knowledge and the Canadian Olympic Committee were named an official honoree in the 2018 Webby Awards for best Sports Team website.
  • XWP shared posts on speeding up PHPUnit tests, converting xwp.co to Native AMP with the AMP plugin, and an intro to native AMP.
Developers gathered around a table for Contributor Day
Contributor day at WordCamp Europe 2018

Platform Notes

July has been a busy month of enhancements, releases, and maintenance for our VIP Go platform. If you haven’t tried out our VIP CLI tool for our VIP Go platform yet, please give it a go. We also added support for using a continuous integration service to build Javascript, CSS, SVG, etc. If this floats your boat and would improve your workflow, we have some documentation for you.

  • Release: Made VIP CLI 1.1.0 available, introducing paging for application lists, and some bug fixes (Lobby postrelease notes, documentation)
  • Enhancement: Rolled out TLS v1.3, the latest, faster, and most secure version of TLS, on July 16 (more information to follow)
  • Enhancement: Rolled out support for WordPress multisites to optionally allow two segment paths and/or mapped domains for each subsite (documentation)
  • Enhancement: We added support for automated build and deploy of Javascript, CSS, SVG, and other static assets (Lobby post, documentation)
  • Release: Updated all sites to PHP 7.2.8 (security release) on August 3
  • Release: Updated Jetpack to 6.3.2 on July 5, and 6.3.3 on August 1 across our VIP Go platform
  • Release: Updated WordPress to 4.9.7 (security release) on July 5, and 4.9.8 (minor release) on August 2 across our VIP Go platform (Lobby post for 4.9.7, WordPress project announcement for 4.9.7, Lobby post for 4.9.8, WordPress project announcement for 4.9.8)
  • Maintenance: Removed TLS v1.0 from our VIP Go platform on July 11 (Lobby post)

Media and Marketing Notes

Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

There’s a strong parallel between what Disney has accomplished and what today’s brands are trying to do: Find the intersection of strong stories, customer emotions, and constantly evolving technology. For marketers, that can be a hint—not only at how to approach creative problem solving—but also how to explore new approaches to your hiring and staffing strategies.

Liz Alton on what theme park designers can teach marketers about storytelling and brand loyalty.

Time and again tech reporting gets caught in the hype rather than reality; a super-fast but impractical rail alternative proposed by Elon Musk gets tons of coverage, but it’s difficult to get real rail projects funded … Maybe we should simply scrap the idea of a “tech desk” altogether.

James Ball makes the case for a new model of tech journalism.

Launch Spotlight

Photo by Alexander Svensson via CC by 2.0

Civil is a new WordPress-based platform using the blockchain to support, distribute and protect journalism, developed by partner Alley and launched recently on VIP. Civil’s first fleet of newsrooms launched earlier this summer and continues to grow. Read more about the project and its underpinnings in this extended spotlight interview. And watch for the CVL token launch, the token that allows a journalist to open a newsroom or a citizen to have a stake in challenges and votes, on September 18.

Upcoming Events

  • We’re starting to make packing lists for #ONA18, the Online News Association‘s annual conference, Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas. VIP is proud to support ONA as both a sponsor (look for our booth at the Midway!) and as a hosting and support provider for journalists.org and ONA’s other sites. Don’t miss our very own Steph Yiu serving up double the trouble at the event: she’ll be hosting a Table Talk and presenting alongside New York Times’ senior editor Hamilton Boardman in a session called, “OMGWTFBBQ: Breaking News Without Breaking Your Site.”
  • The next BigWP London meetup, our gathering of developers, product people, and editors who work on enterprise WordPress sites, is set for September 18 and will fill up fast. Reserve your place now. Here’s a YouTube playlist with talks from last December’s BigWP London event.
  • WordCamp for Publishers is right around the corner, August 8-10 in Chicago. The full tickets have closed, but you can still reserve your spot to attend without the guarantee of swag and evening social event attendance. It’s a fantastic event and we are proud to both sponsor and participate again this year. Hear directly from one of the organizers on what to expect.
  • Rumor has it Tracy Levesque will grace the stage at WordCamp Philly, which goes down October 27 and 28. Call for speakers closed this week, so keep a close eye as the first presentations get announced. In the meantime, you can enjoy Tracy’s talk, “Diversity Works” from this year’s VIP Workshop.
  • Major WordCamps are going down this month in Montréal, Moscow, Minneapolis, Mexico City, Omaha, and so many more. Check out the full schedule for your next chance to join the fun.

Content Ecosystem Thinking at Airbnb

Hayley Nelson has spent the past two decades of her career bringing digital tools and technology to journalists. Among other accomplishments, she helped shepherd the New York Times into the era of digital media by launching its first blogs, built an award-winning digital team at Wired Magazine, and launched CNET in four Asian markets.

As head of content at Airbnb, Hayley is focused on value-based storytelling that engages consumers across platforms and devices. Her work has been building off their 2018 We Accept Superbowl commercial.

A still from the Azores “Not Yet Trending” video

In her talk, “Content Ecosystem Thinking” at the 2018 VIP Workshop, Hayley outlines a path for marketers to leverage the tricks of the publishing trade to put the reader at the center of their digital efforts. The most successful brands, she argues, are tying every piece of content to their company’s core values. Think Everlane’s transparent factories and the commitment from Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to hire 10,000 refugees. “Who are we, and what are the values that we want to stand up for? How do we bring our mission to life? … It’s the brand’s job to become a great storyteller.”

Patagonia did a documentary on people whose lives are transformed by the sea. One person profiled is this woman who is a deep-sea spearfisher who catches fish and makes sushi, another is this surfer guy in Tahiti, and it’s just a really compelling documentary — and you hardly notice but they may or may not be wearing Patagonia swimsuits. That’s how subtle it is.

Watch the full video to go behind the scenes on Airbnb’s Not Yet Trending campaign, which ties beautiful videography of destinations on the cusp of trending into two of the brand’s core messages, “it’s a host-led world,” and “the magic of travel,” to drive would-be travelers to book on the platform.

I want you to think of us as that edgy, underground friend that’s telling you where to go because it’s the most interesting place in the world — and maybe you come back six months later when you’re ready to book a trip.

You’ll also learn her ten-step process for organizing a global content strategy, including the non-trite way to capitalize on social media holidays and how introducing agile to marketing processes has transformed the way she approaches campaigns.

If you weren’t able to join us at VIP Workshop this year, you can still catch dozens of the sessions, including speakers from TechCrunch, Google, Cloudinary, the VIP team, our agency partners, and many more on this YouTube playlist.

Preparing Plugins for the New WordPress Editor

Our team is excited to see Gutenberg’s full integration into WordPress on the horizon. Our clients, partners, and colleagues are shipping useful, powerful projects with the new content editor everywhere you look. However, if you think back a few months, there was some initial anxiety around how we’d get our arms around a big bag of unknowns.

One of the most challenging of those unknowns was plugin compatibility. Like any group that supports active plugins, we wanted to make sure our code would work with Gutenberg as quickly as possible. And until we dug into it, we didn’t know if that was going to require a little work, a ton of work, or something in between.

Facing this uncertainty, we took a big deep breath…and started testing! We’re in a pretty good place now, and want to help others get there, too. We’re sharing our findings and process here for those who may be at that “I don’t yet know what I don’t know” stage in their Gutenberg transition.

 

Gutenberg review from Matt Mullenweg’s keynote at #WCEU 2018 (photo from @WCEurope)

Our Process

First, we had to decide where and how to focus our efforts. For us, we needed to think about how our plugins are used within VIP/Automattic and how they’re used by the WordPress community at large. We also had to consider all the third-party plugins clients may be using on our platform. And although we can only directly impact the first of those two areas, we decided to cast a wide net and study all three, to see what we could learn and share.

We’ve been advocating for a transitional approach to Gutenberg, so we decided to break this project into manageable stages for ourselves:

  1. Assessment > test plugins to ascertain their level of Gutenberg readiness
  2. Compatibility >  make sure stuff doesn’t break with Gutenberg
  3. Optimization > update plugins to make full use of Gutenberg’s features (Gutenberg native)

Next, we had to define “compatible”, and come up with concrete testing steps for our team. Daniel Bachhuber has already done awesome work in this space. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we based our approach on his very well thought-out definitions he developed as part of the community plugin compatibility database project here.

  • A plugin is compatible with Gutenberg when:
    • A user can perform the same functional task with Gutenberg active (feature-parity), and;
    • There are no (obvious) errors when the plugin is active alongside Gutenberg.
  • A plugin can be marked as ‘Likely Compatible’ based on reasonable assumptions (e.g. a caching plugin probably doesn’t expose editor-specific functionality).
  • A plugin can be marked as ‘Optimized’ if it is making best use of Gutenberg features (e.g. shortcode has been converted to blocks).

Finally, we had to collate a list of plugins for testing, and enlist volunteers*! We divvied up our own plugins amongst VIP team members and reached out to 3rd party plugin vendors encouraging them to test their work and share their results with us.

*A HUGE thank you to all the plugin authors who responded: Daniel Bachhuber, Michael Bester, Lester Chan, Brad Kofoed, Chris Northwood, Chris Scott, Justin Tadlock, 10up, Alley, Codepress, Delicious Brains, Getty Images and @scribu. Your contributions were extremely helpful for us, and will help the entire community as we all work towards this brave new Guten-world!

Helpful Tips for Plugin Testers

  • Breaking it down into realistic, manageable stages made this task achievable. We’d definitely recommend this approach to other developers with a similarly large portfolio.
  • Be on the lookout for plugins which add media buttons in the classic editor. Those buttons are unlikely to be exposed in Gutenberg unless the author has made special provision for it, making this a common culprit for incompatibility.
  • There are some common compatibility issues to look out for with Metaboxes.
  • Plugins that contain metaboxes may be compatible without doing anything. If they are, the compatibility argument should be added in the short term. Long-term, metaboxes should be converted into blocks to be considered optimized.

Our Findings

  • There are ~167 different plugins running on VIP.
  • 39 of those plugins are maintained by Automattic/VIP, of which:
    • All 39 have been tested
    • 34 are compatible or likely compatible
    • 5 are not compatible
  • 128 of those plugins are by 3rd party developers, of which:
    • 14 have been tested
    • 10 are compatible or likely compatible
    • 4 are not compatible

If your assessment reveals that you support active plugins that haven’t yet been accounted for, the best place to share what you find is the plugin compatibility database.

Next Steps

We will take a closer look at the 5 Automattic/VIP plugins found not compatible and take appropriate action to remedy. Testers have recommended 3 of them to be deprecated. Others will be updated for Gutenberg compatibility.

We will add our results to the public plugin compatibility database.

We will continue working with 3rd party plugin developers encouraging compatibility testing and updates.

Over the long term, we are working towards our stage (3) goal of optimizing our plugins to make the best use of Gutenberg features, i.e. Gutenberg-native.

Other Resources

Ready to get started?

Drop us a note.

No matter where you are in the planning process, we’re happy to help, and we’re actual humans here on the other side of the form. 👋 We’re here to discuss your challenges and plans, evaluate your existing resources or a potential partner, or even make some initial recommendations. And, of course, we’re here to help any time you’re in the market for some robust WordPress awesomeness.