GitHub Code Review Comes to VIP Go

On our containerized managed platform, VIP Go, the platform team has been experimenting with and refining one of the most valuable parts of our service: code review.

Code review does lots of things for our clients. It gives developers confidence that their code will run at scale, that they’re not adding any unanticipated technical debt, and allows us to share skills to develop knowledge and best practices. For leaders and product owners, it makes launches smoother and more predictable, and creates trust and accountability.

When we began working on the VIP Go project a few years ago we felt it was a good opportunity to revisit our development workflows and code review. We had watched developer teams move from SVN to Git and wanted to ensure our tools did the same. We chose GitHub as the place to be as so many open source projects are based there.

One of our goals for this year has been to bring our code review process even closer to the default workflow most teams use. We’d like it to be so seamless that it feels like we’re just another member of the development team. This week we have introduced a new workflow and process for our industry-leading code review with this in mind.

Pull Request Code Review

As of this week, we will now be providing code review using GitHub’s excellent code review tools. Among other things, GitHub provides inline commenting, excellent syntax highlighting and diffing, and allows the VIP team to work with your team in a shared UI.

A pull request against your master branch is all it takes to trigger a code review from one of the VIP team. We will then leave feedback inline against the code itself.

This workflow has a number of benefits:

You control when your code is deployed to production (including reverts)

Once a pull request has been approved by the VIP team you will be able to merge it to your master branch. The merge triggers a code deploy on your site. This allows you to control when code is deployed and you no longer have to schedule deploys with us.

It also simplifies rollbacks/reverts as the Github UI provides a simple one-click method to revert PRs.

Code review takes place inline; no more back and forth in tickets

Our current code review feedback takes place away from the code itself via Zendesk tickets. This abstracts it from its context, which can slow down reviews and the implementation of fixes. On GitHub, conversations happen alongside your code making it easier to address the feedback given. Pushing changes also dismisses inline feedback.

Integration opportunities with automated code feedback and CI systems

In the near future we plan to introduce automated code feedback integrations with Continuous Integration systems like Travis CI, CircleCI, and TeamCity. This will provide near instantaneous feedback on code quality, errors and linting for our code standards.

So far the feedback has been very positive:

“a big thumbs up for the recent change to incorporate the pull request review functionality”
– Weston Ruter, XWP

If you would like to find out more, our documentation on the new GitHub PR Review Workflow describes the workflow in detail and answers many common questions.

Under the hood

The VIP Go operational API searches across all GitHub repositories looking for open pull requests against master branches. These are aggregated into our code review queue. The review queue is what notifies our developers that a review should be started.

The review queue is a React powered front end that interacts with the API. This front end currently supports both this new workflow and our existing workflow which will be deprecated soon.

Here is how a pull request currently looks for our developers:

The pull requests can be filtered to only show those that require attention and we also highlight SLA information along with the latest discussion to take place.

On the GitHub side things are as you would expect them:

What’s next?

The VIP platform team focuses on the advancement of the tools and systems that power WordPress.com VIP. As mentioned above our main focus now is looking at automated feedback and integration with common CI systems. Beyond that we want to keep the dialog open and continue to refine the process. If you’re a current client, we look forward to your feedback as you use these tools. If you’re thinking about working with VIP, we’d love to hear how a process like this would integrate with your workflows and processes. It will be user feedback that helps determine where we head next.

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.

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.

Upvoted – a Redditorial publication – launches on WordPress.com VIP!

We all know Reddit – the online community where users vote on content. Today, we on the WordPress.com VIP team are excited to be part of a new chapter in Reddit history as they launch a hub for that original content, Upvoted.com. Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, explains a bit more about what Upvoted is for the Reddit community…

This launch of upvoted.com is the next logical step in celebrating the Reddit community: a hub for original content to give Redditors credit, as well as go beyond the original story to learn more about the people and ideas that bubble up across this site of 202 million monthly users (bigger than Brazil!). And of course, you can discuss every piece of original content at r/upvoted.

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Read more about the launch on Upvoted!

21 Product Guidelines Forged While Growing Metro.Co.Uk 400%

In this post, WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting client Metro.co.uk‘s Head of Development Dave Jensen shares further insights on how their popular site achieved an incredible growth since its migration and launch on WordPress.com VIP. Originally posted on his blog, he’s agreed to share it here on VIP News as well. 

metro-quarterly-monthly-unique-traffic-growth

For the last two years I have been focused on the design, build and growth of Metro.co.uk utilising the WordPress.com VIP platform. Our approach consists of constant experimentation with both product and content which has returned a large set of data mixed with editorial feedback. This has been refined into a list of product guidelines to help us remain focused on growth. These are based on my experiences and our audience so yours may differ.

Good editorial content will deliver more growth than any product based approach

With a single well written/planned/timed story able to deliver millions of page views and course through the veins of social networks for weeks this should be the number one focus.

Good UX turns the dial more than any product hacks

The better the experience of product and content the more likely people are to visit your site, share your content and form habits around its consumption.

The closer to the main content area of the page the more related the content should be

Our data has shown that the closer to the article body or top of channel pages the better contextually related content perfoms. Once you are below these areas users are more open to a wider set of content to continue their journey.

Where content is placed on the page is almost as important as the content that is placed there

Our testing revealed content placement is almost as important as content selection (as long as it is relevant and recent). This is one of the reasons we have moved to an algorithmic approach for large areas of the site.

  • Nothing beats the value of an editorially selected contextual link within the article body
  • The area just after article delivers a lot of value as users have finished reading and can be easily tempted into something else
  • Sidebars aren’t shown on mobile and banner blindness often turns them off for desktop users so they are not an area we focus on

Fill dead space with content, people like to scroll it’s the natural behaviour of the web

Our newsfeed delivers over 10% of the page views of our site, this is pretty impressive considering it used to be blank space at the bottom of every article and channel page.

Don’t mess with the natural way that the web works

We tried and failed with this during our swipe phase. 5-7% of users delivered 20% of our page views but that didn’t increase their overall time on site. However it complicated everything we built hampering our ability to learn fast. It also didn’t quite fit into commercial or editorial strategies. This frustration/learning was what inspired the algorithm and scroll based newsfeed you now see.

Algorithms are great but need help from humans to perform at their best

Simple algorithms are a great way to optimise editorial workflows especially around content positioning. However these are only as good as the data behind them. Often you have to wait for this to be gathered before acting on it. Using editorial intuition is a great way to shortcut this process. Especially if you can make it run off existing priorities then process change isn’t required to participate.

Whatever Google/Facebook ask you to do, just do it

They deliver so much of your traffic don’t question, just do what they recommend.

Feed the beast

Google and Facebook are always hungry for quality content. Gaining momentum requires constant feeding. They both have overall scores for domain as well as article urls so focusing on keeping this high means a better chance to gain and then maintain momentum.

Think of every page as a funnel, you lose users as they scroll but the lower they get the more open to their next engagement they become

The higher up the page something is placed the more people will see it. However the lower down the page someone is the more open they are to being tempted by some more content, advertising or interactions (e.g. poll vote, comments)

A mobile first approach is a great way to approach product prioritisation

Most of our traffic comes from mobile rather than desktop so it is logical to prioritise. This has formed a major part of our growth strategy.

Goals need to be concise, measurable and focus on why

The more people understand the goal and are able to affect it the more powerful it is. A goal that contains a why will always beat a goal that just contains a what.

Product specific performance should be broken down to actions per daily active users for comparison

This gives a much better overview of actual performance. Allows you to take out traffic fluctuations, just make sure you have enough data.

A week seems to be the minimum amount of data required to see if a feature has worked

Due to fluctuations in traffic and browsing habits. Also good to look at monthly and quarterly trends over longer periods as quite often they exhibit patterns that aren’t found at lower levels. It was asking questions around unexpected trends/data that helped teach me most around product growth.

Distribute weekly reports to show trends and give your stakeholders an overview of how the product is performing

Have these scheduled to your team and stakeholders via email. Also very useful if you break something when fixing something else. Great safety net to minimise impact and spot any unexpected growth.

Any new feature needs to be taken in context of how it fits in the editorial work flow. The closer it is to the existing process the more likely it will be adopted.

The best way to change a habit is build off an existing trigger. New features that leverage existing habits will get much higher adoption than building new habits/process.

Consider the users current journey and their emotional state in all features

Segmenting users based on mindset is a great way to understand data. e.g. Social browsers are likely on a multi site journey in a chromed browser on a mobile device. So they are only looking for a single story from your site so optimise for that. No point in worrying about pages/visit focus on getting more return visits via a social follow.

When coming from social users are often looking to enhance their social status

Our top share buttons get clicked on 4 times more than our bottom share buttons. Social proof around number of others already shared also promotes more sharing.

When coming from search users are usually in a topic based mindset

More likely to click on related, in article links and masthead channel links. Continue to deliver great content around a niche to form habits. Particularly useful around passion centres e.g. Premier League clubs.

It’s better to have 100 amazing tag pages that look and feel like a destination than 10,000 that feel like they were made for Google

Quality trumps quantity every time, Google knows if you users are clicking through.

People click on headlines 4x more than they click images

This is why A/B testing headlines is a great idea. It is the single piece of the editorial process that can have the biggest impact on growth. We also have SEO and socially optimised headlines to ensure we cater to both needs.

These are the principles that I have applied to the product development of metro.co.uk over the past two years. The key takeaway is that constant experimentation is a great way to unlock growth if your environment supports it. The hard part is achieving that without adding too much complexity. Complexity inhibits your ability to learn and learning is central to any successful product growth strategy. Building a set of guidelines has enabled us to move faster and helped foster our continued growth.

One for the future.

Micro interactions help drive habitual use

We don’t have a lot of data on this yet but there seems to be a correlation between micro interactions such as poll votes and habitual use. My theory is that by engaging different parts of the brain you become more memorable. These simple actions form the basis of new habits around content consumption. I think this is a major opportunity for future growth.

Thank you to Dave and the Metro.co.uk team for sharing their tips with VIP News.

Want more information about WordPress services for your enterprise site? Get in touch.

New! WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting Statistics

At WordPress.com VIP, we love statistics.

We’d like to share some of the statistics associated with our WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting service, where we support thousands of publishers and serve billions of page views every month to their visitors through the WordPress.com infrastructure.

Take a look at our new VIP Stats page to see more about our how we provide world-class service and support to some of the world’s biggest WordPress sites and the numbers behind what we do:

WordPress.com VIP Statistics page

Want to know more about how WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting works? Get in touch

Alberta Motor Association launches on WordPress.com VIP

Welcome to Alberta Motor Association (AMA), who recently launched on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting! The AMA is a non-profit membership organization serving Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and is affiliated with the Canadian Automobile Association and AAA.

The Alberta Motor Association provides its members with roadside assistance service, a range of auto touring and leisure travel services, insurance services, and member discounts with partners.

AMA Home Page   AMA   Alberta Motor Association   CAA Alberta

The AMA site is packed full of features, including the ability for potential members to get a quote for their life, home, or auto insurance needs directly online.

Auto Insurance   Home Insurance   Life Insurance   Insurance   AMA

 

The AMA also offers extensive travel planning as a benefit, and members can plan their next cruise, vacation, or even business trip using their customized travel planning tool.

AMA Travel   Flights   Hotels   All Inclusive   Last Minute Deals   AMA

Visit the Alberta Motor Association site.

Interested in WordPress.com VIP for your corporate or enterprise site? Get in touch.

Buyers Rejoice! Roadloans.com launches on WordPress.com VIP

Congrats and welcome to RoadLoans.com, who just launched on WordPress.com VIP Hosting. It’s a great example of a corporate site packed with information & tools for their customers!
Car Loans l Car Refinance l Roadloans.com

RoadLoans’ guides to buying, getting loans, and other helpful information when it comes to test driving, buying, and financing a car are also supplemented with their shopping tools which help consumers make decisions on-the-go about which car is right for them.
Shopping Tools

The RoadLoans team also regularly blogs to keep their users informed about the latest happenings around the automotive world, and some tips & tricks, too.
Blog

 

Visit RoadLoans.com.

Interested in WordPress.com VIP for your corporate or enterprise site? Get in touch.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight Launches on WordPress.com VIP

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight, which launched today! FiveThirtyEight is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means.

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The site, which is led by Nate Silver, was formerly part of The New York Times and is now operated by ESPN, and joins ESPN’s Grantland on our WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting platform.

Nate announced the change back in July and his team has since been working hard on launching the new site and its verticals on the VIP platform.

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The team has expanded to address all the site’s verticals and Nate explains the aim of the site in his launch post, What the Fox Knows.

The breadth of our coverage will be much clearer at this new version of FiveThirtyEight, which is launching Monday under the auspices of ESPN. We’ve expanded our staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and counting. Few of them will focus on politics exclusively; instead, our coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports.

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Here’s the FiveThirtyEight team counting down the launch of the new site:

In true FiveThirtyEight style, they even predict the probability of you reaching the new site during the launch (WordPress.com VIP’s note: only during DNS propagation…after which we predict 99.9999% uptime!)

On the development side, WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner 10up assisted in creating the new site:

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