VIP News

Updates and features about our platform, services, and partners, as well as stories and events from across the enterprise WordPress community.

July VIP Roundup

Highlights from July in enterprise WordPress included our new GitHub Pull Request workflow, Gutenberg version 0.6.0, the upcoming WordCamp for […]

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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 […]

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June VIP Roundup

We’re back with the past month’s highlights from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem and the media and marketing landscape. News […]

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Custom Tools for the Largest UK Newspaper: The Sun and Human Made

Powerful and intuitive, the WordPress editorial and content management interface is also extremely flexible. It has been customized to match […]

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

Simon Dickson and Matt Mullenweg on stage at WordCamp Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May VIP Roundup

With May drawing to a close, we’re several weeks out from seeing many of you at VIP Workshop, and WordCamp Europe is just days away. See below for the past month’s highlights from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem and the media and marketing landscape.

We’ve added a signup form below the post to get these updates via email, and please send feedback and notes for next month any time.

Iain, Jason, and Mark (Big Bite Creative) and Anthony (Trew Knowledge) on wheels at VIP Workshop

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

  • The WordPress.com for Google Docs Add-on has had a few updates since its launch in March, including support for categories and tags, and post types. If your team uses Google Docs as part of your editorial workflow, this Chrome extension could save some time. (changelog)
  • Emily Schechter, Product Manager for Chrome Security at Google, gave a talk about the importance of HTTPS at Google I/O, featuring the story of our own extensive rollout.
  • WordPress.com VIP is now Privacy Shield certified under the EU-US and Swiss-US Privacy Shield Frameworks.
  • Human Made shared their company handbook with the world and also released Cavalcade, a “a horizontally-scalable WordPress jobs processing solution.”
  • Inpsyde published a detailed and visually rich look at their company retreat.
  • Alley Interactive updated the Publish to Apple News plugin to version 1.2.7, with minor bug fixes.
  • Recent reader-facing feature updates to VIP clients FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated include allowing visitors to embed the site’s podcasts via iframe code snippet, and implementation of the Apple metatags for smart podcast promotion.
  • Technology partner Parse.ly analyzed more than 10 million articles published last year to find out which platforms drove site traffic, broken down by topics.
  • WordPress 4.7.5 security and maintenance release and Jetpack 4.9 launched. The latter included new widgets and bug fixes.
  • WordPress 4.8 is expected around June 8-9. VIP customers, check the VIP Lobby for more info related to the release.
  • A hackathon for small businesses in Detroit staffed by volunteer WordPress developers turned in to WordPress.com’s first ever TV ads.

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“Mobile Ad-Blocking Skyrockets: In developing markets where data costs can be high, users are increasingly blocking ads whenever they can. Nearly 400 million people around the world block mobile ads.”

-TechCrunch coverage of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation. (slides, video via Recode)

“Google Attribution works by integrating with AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search to bring together ad data from across Google to give a more complete view of performance. It is based on tech Google acquired when it bought attribution company Adometry three years ago. The machine learning works by determining how much credit to assign each step in the consumer journey – whether a first search or a final click before purchase. It analyses each account’s unique conversion patterns to compare the paths of those who convert with those that don’t, meaning personalised results.”

-Sarah Visard covers the May 23 launch of Google Attribution and related tools at Marketing Week.

“Now, when you click on a Trending topic, you’ll see a carousel with stories from other publications about a given topic that you can swipe through. By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region.

-Ali Amahdi and John Angelo at Facebook, on their redesigned Trending results page, which aims to distribute attention on timely topics to a broader set of publishers and views.

“Our interviews with more than 70 social media managers and strategists for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism” found that expensive news distribution strategies aren’t yet yielding enough consistent revenue for publishers to justify the costs or to know whether their strategies are working.”

-Nushin Rashidian at CJR, on the challenges of publishers caught in the crossfire between social media platforms, and the complexity of trying to optimize assets like video to multiple competing specifications.

Featured May Launch: Spotify Jobs

We’re proud to highlight Spotifyjobs.com which launched on VIP in early May. The site integrates several API’s and features vibrant, emotive moving image backgrounds that use focus pulls as a design element.

Awards and Recognition

Congratulations to Big Bite Creative for winning a European Digital Media Award for Best Lifestyle, Sports, and Entertainment app, for their React native/WordPress powered football news app 11versus11.

Upcoming Events: WordCamp Europe

The big event in June – in fact, the biggest event in WordPress history is this year’s WordCamp Europe, with well over 2,000 people expected in Paris. The event opens with Contributor Day on Thursday June 15 where VIP’s Tom Nowell will be helping first-timers take their first steps in core contribution. Then on Friday and Saturday it’s the usual packed schedule of talks and demos, with VIP’s Simon Dickson returning to the stage as an MC. Look out for VIP wranglers Andrea, David (A), Scott, Shannon and Stefan among the army of volunteers.

Speakers at the event will include Rian Rietveld, John Blackbourn, Jenny Wong and Petya Raykovska from Human Made; Adam Silverstein from 10up; and Rahul Bansal from rtCamp. Matt Mullenweg will do his now traditional Q&A on the Saturday afternoon, in the company of Om Malik. And watch out for Automattic’s John Maeda, a big hit at our Napa workshop last month, on why design is often an afterthought – and why designers are to blame.

If you can’t join us in Paris, watch for announcement about the conference livestream in the coming few days; or catch up afterwards at WordPress.tv.

Other Events

  • Technology partner Skyword is hosting brand storytelling conference Forward 2017, June 15, in Boston.
  • Getty Images will be hosting the panel discussion Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 22 at 4pm.
  • Speaker submissions are now wrapped up for the first WordCamp for Publishers, which will be August 17-19 in Denver.
  • The WordCamp US call for speakers will be open until June 23 at 11:59 EST. The event itself will take place December 1-3 in Nashville, TN.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue. And sign up below to receive these roundups via email:

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Challenging times for online journalists: thoughts from ONA Dublin 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you from VIP Workshop 2017

We spent most of last week with many of you at WordPress.com VIP Workshop, our annual gathering of clients, partners, Automatticians, provocative thinkers, and invited guests. It brought together folks from all over the world, including India, Australia, across Europe and the UK. The main focus of the event is to convene the community of enterprise WordPress users to share knowledge, forge relationships, and spark ideas. But there are lots of other great things that always fall out of it as well, including the chance to hear directly from our platform users in a more relaxed setting, and the chance to renew and strengthen the bonds between lots of folks distributed throughout the world who work together all year long.

The first night and each day started with big picture thinking about issues broader than our day-to-day work. Innovation Catalyst Lee Kitchen offered a few examples and approaches to creativity that help his team get unstuck. Automattic’s Head of Design and Inclusion, John Maeda shared his real-world experiences in leadership challenges and his overarching mission of inclusion for WordPress and other platforms. And Matt Mullenweg reflected on VIP over the years, and a look at what’s coming to the Customizer as well as the Editor.

Sessions focused on many of the challenges and opportunities we all face every day. In the business track, a few highlights among a slate of stellar talks all around included Nicole Wilke of TechCrunch on how to approach major redesigns, Google’s Ilya Grigorik on key trends in Search, and Automattician Luca Martoni, who presented a methodology and case studies for A/B testing.

The developer track featured explorations of Google’s Progressive WordPress Sites and AMP with Alberto Medina, multi-format publishing with Facebook by Diego Quintiero, and Automattic’s testing infrastructure with Lauren Mermel. Several talks focused on using the REST API, including Jason Bahl of Digital First Media on GraphQL. Automatticians also led sessions about WooCommerce, the Calypso project, the VIP Go architecture, and the history of Jetpack’s redevelopment as a React app powered by the WordPress REST API.

Planning for next year’s has already begun. We take great care in gathering and reflecting on lots of feedback from participants, and we’ve just started the process of compiling all of that and taking a look at it together. In the meantime, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to be a part of this great event.

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.

April VIP Roundup

Welcome to the first edition of VIP Roundup, your monthly review of news and perspectives from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem, and the digital media and marketing landscape.

This is brand new, and we want to serve your interests, so please send us feedback anytime to steer it towards what would be most useful for you.

News and Releases
Updates from around VIP and our agency and technical partners.

  • On April 7 we launched our phased rollout of required two-factor authentication, an important step in helping keep your sites secure. 2FA is now required for all users who publish on a VIP site. Thank you to everyone for their cooperation in making this process as smooth as possible.
  • 10up released WP Docker, an open source Docker configuration optimized for local WordPress development. As we previously noted, support for VIP Quickstart officially ended on April 21. If you’re still working on migrating away from Quickstart, WP Docker is a good option in addition to VVV and Chassis. If you have any problems migrating, we’re happy to help.
  • Playbuzz released a new version of its plugin which adds the new Playbuzz Creator feature so editors can easily create Playbuzz items directly from the WordPress post editor.
  • XWP offered a digital treasure hunt they developed as an outgrowth of their new visual identity.
  • 10up Senior Engineer Derrick Koo wrote a step-by-step guide as an easy jumpstart to help anyone who wants to contribute code to the WordPress Core.
  • Automattic, Mash-up Americans, and MIT Center for Civic Media hosted Design and Exclusion, a remote conference focusing on how the design of technology platforms excludes people. All of the talks are archived here.

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Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

The latest moves on the social platforms to address “fake news” include an algorithm update for Google and a broader preview approach on Facebook. Facebook will also invest time to train local newsrooms. Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune (running on WordPress) this month, as a new model for journalism and publishing. Wikitribune joins a field of new approaches including Jay Rosen’s efforts to launch De Correspondent in the U.S.

“Absent any additional warnings other than the disclaimer, [and] fewer than 1 in 5 people recognized native advertising when they were exposed to it – and these were native ads labeled as ‘sponsored content.”  -A recent Boston University academic paper suggests caution and transparency for publishers experimenting with native advertising.

“…if you write a great story about an event, brand, or person not immediately recognizable, you need to explain what it is and why it matters within four words. More than that, and you’re meandering.”  -Ryan Craggs at CJR looks closely at the art and science of headlines and featured images in social media posts.

“We don’t need bigger numbers, we need saner numbers.” -Josh Topolsky reflects on what’s working with The Outline so far and what all media companies should be focusing on in editorial and advertising.

April VIP Site Launch Spotlight

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This month we highlight Anthony Bourdain’s newly launched online travel guide Explore Parts Unknown. The site features compelling stories, recipes, features, and video snapshots from all of the places Bourdain visits. At launch destinations include Madagascar, Senegal, Hanoi, Korea, Manila, Punjab, London, Rome, the Greek Islands, Istanbul, Vegas, LA’s Koreatown, Montana, New Jersey, Buenos Aires, and Colombia.

Awards and Recognition

  • East Bay Times won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for their Ghost Ship coverage.
  • Agency Partner Hello Design was recognized in HOW’s International Design Annual for their work on #Sonos and #ArtCenter.
  • Technology Partner Sailthru was named to Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Campaign Management.

Upcoming Events

Further ahead: Calls For Speakers have been issued for WordCamp US, taking place in Nashville in December; and the first WordCamp for Publishers, aimed specifically at journalists and publication managers, happening in Denver in mid-August. Proposals for Denver must be received by May 10th; you have until mid-June to submit ideas for Nashville.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue.

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