VIP News

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

December VIP Roundup

For many, December was a frenzy of activity kicking off with WordCamp US (more in last month’s special edition roundup) and continuing from there, followed by a good chunk of quiet heading in to 2018. As the year turns, once again we share a look back at news and updates from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem.

From December’s BigWP London, at Twitter HQ (photo by @scottsweb)

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

  • There has been a flurry of Gutenberg-related activity across the community since the exciting updates and live demo at the State of the Word, including new resources, demos, and videos. WP Tavern has gathered many of them in one central post for easy discovery. Human Made published a white paper on Gutenberg with a wide range of contributors including Tammie Lister, Anna Harrison of TinyMCE, Greg Priday of SiteOrigin, and their own Ant Miller, Joe McGill, and Matthew Haines-Young. And 10up‘s Helen Hou-Sandi explored how Gutenberg could bring better integration between ads and content. Also, don’t miss our overview of what’s coming in the Gutenberg editor, and how to best prepare for the transition.
  • Jetpack 5.6 was released in early December (Announcement, Lobby post), followed up by 5.7 earlier this week (Announcement, Lobby). Updates include enhancements to Elasticsearch-based Search, JavaScript minifcation, and various other improvements and bug fixes.
  • You can now find full videos of the talks from December’s BigWP London meetup on VIP News: Tammie Lister on Gutenberg, Jason Agnew from Big Bite on the Liveblog project, Parker Ward from Capgemini on their migration from Drupal to WordPress and VIP, and Dan Drave from Sotic on their work with the Lions tour.
  • Automattic updated our user privacy policy, with changes going in to effect as of January 3, 2018. This policy affects users of our services, but does not apply to the information we collect on our VIP clients’ behalf about their site visitors – that information is covered under our existing agreements with our VIP Clients.
  • Dekode‘s Magne Ilsaas published Modularity by Design, an essay on what modular design and development means at Dekode and how it informs their entire approach.
  • Urban Airship released a WordPress integration for web notifications, developed with 10up.
  • SailThru released version 3.1 of their plugin (VIP News, Lobby post), bringing finer controls for developers and users.
  • Storify notified its users of its sunsetting timeline, with the service and web site going offline for good as of May 18, 2018. (Lobby post, Storify’s FAQ)

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

“The good news: Of those who are not paying for online news now, younger Americans are more willing to pay in the future, possibly because they often already pay for other forms of digital media. The bad news: No more than 2 percent of people surveyed in any country said they are “very likely” to pay for news in the future.”

-Denise-Marie Ordway summarizing a University of Oxford study on paying for news online, in a roundup of the most important digital and social media research from 2017.

 In addition to using the platform as a reporter’s notebook or to fact-check statements, some people used tweets to really explain the journalism they were doing in a really human way. The explanations were amazing, clear and necessary. But Twitter is the worst place for them.

-Melody Kramer evaluates the value and limitations of journalistic tweetstorms as they became a much bigger part of the landscape in 2017.

Featured Launch(es)

With the year drawing to a close and a new one just beginning, this month we wanted to recognize all of the fantastic work done across the VIP family this year. We are proud to celebrate all of you, our clients, partners, colleagues, and community members. This post from the WordPress.com blog highlights some of this year’s moments and launches from across the Automattic family.

Upcoming Events

  • O’Reilly’s OSCON, which takes place July 18-19 in Portland, OR, is accepting speaker submissions until January 30.
  • LoopConf, an annual WordPress developer conference, is happening February 21-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Automatticians Mel Choyce and Dennis Snell will be presenting, along with Human Made’s John Blackbourn. Early bird tickets are still available.
  • Recode’s Code Media, an immersive, two-day media and technology event hosted by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher, will take place February 12-13 in Huntington Beach, CA.

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

Sailthru VIP Plugin Updated with Finer Controls

VIP technology partner Sailthru is a consumer interest based personalization platform purpose-built for publishers and retailers. It brings powerful capabilities to WordPress, like high-performance email, onsite personalization, and mobile marketing automation.

The WordPress integration brings it into the WordPress dashboard to seamlessly surface Sailthru and its insights within team workflow.  Site editors can also personalize onsite experiences by using Sailthru insight to post content that is most relevant to their users.

The newly updated plugin, version 3.1, brings more powerful and fine grained controls to the dashboard:

  • Streamlined setup
  • Deploy Sailthru’s latest JavaScript Tag easily to give you greater flexibility on how your site interacts with the Sailthru API
  • Ability to choose between deploying Sailthru JS or just tag manager
  • New fine grain control over source attribution for our list Subscribe Widget and ability to start flows in Lifecycle Optimizer
  • More control over transactional emails
  • Improvements to filters and hooks, giving your developers more control over functionality

VIP clients will find notes on transitioning to the new version in the Lobby(#).

Connect with Sailthru to learn more about how clients use the platform to deliver personalization across multiple channels.

 

 

The WordPress Tool Set Powering the Lions Tour

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Sotic are a digital agency focused solely on sport, who recently adopted WordPress as their strategic development platform of choice. Senior front-end developer Dan Drave peeled back the curtain on the specialized knowledge and experience they have gained in building digital platforms for some of the biggest brands and governing bodies in European sport. Specifically, Dan’s talk shared the approaches and tools they used to support the British and Irish Lions as they faced the mighty All Blacks (now also running WordPress, by the way) earlier this summer.

The key elements that define Sotic’s approach include:

  • A custom WordPress theme built specifically as a sports CMS foundation
  • Custom Post Types that support unique formats such as quotes and fun facts
  • Advanced Custom Fields to weave the post type fields into templates
  • Sotic Metadata and Widgets that work with their customized API
  • The WordPress REST API

In this clip, Dan explains the mission and functional requirements involved in supporting a high scale sport site such as the Lions Tour:

Watch Dan’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

Capgemini’s Move from Drupal to WordPress

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Earlier this year, global consulting and technology leader Capgemini completed an impressive replatforming from Drupal to WordPress and to WordPress.com VIP, supported by agency partner Human Made. Parker Ward, global head of digital and content at Capgemini, took to the BigWP podium last week to share highlights of the case study.

The initiative successfully addressed a number of shortcomings of the previous system, from administrative bottlenecks in making changes to a challenging and unfriendly interface that itself caused churn within teams who were required to use it. Where previously the site was dependent on 4 Drupal webmasters, their new WordPress build already had 70 people managing content across 40 markets, with more to follow.

The new WordPress platform also put in place new functionality that will better support the needs of Capgemini’s 200,000 employee global operation. Adding a simple, powerful shared publishing calendar has allowed teams of marketers globally to free up their email inboxes and share an always updated canonical record of what content each team is running, day after day.  Another new feature Parker highlighted involves customized syndication tools that empower local editors to manage their own use of global content and also share content laterally.

In this clip, you’ll hear Parker describe the state of the previous Drupal system and the processes around it, at the time when he was brought on board, and some of the challenges the new WordPress system solved for:

Watch Parker’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

What’s Next for the Liveblog Plugin

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Jason Agnew, technical director at our agency partner Big Bite, presented an overview of the work they’re doing with us to rebuild and update our popular and powerful Liveblog WordPress plugin, initially released in 2012 and up for a re-release soon.

He started with some perspective on how and why big media companies use Liveblog, to create rolling coverage of breaking news (see: GlobalNews.ca) and high profile events like national elections or the Academy Awards. It’s a fantastic way to host a single, frequently updated page in real time, usually with contributions from a number of writers and editors who may be watching and curating from multiple external locations and sources.

Jason went through some of the advantages of the Liveblog approach over things like Tweetstorms:

  • No item length limitation
  • Support for all kinds of form factors
  • Ability to run more than one at a time
  • Persists after the event without any additional effort

In this clip, Jason talks about the project’s goals and the focus of the next release:

Watch Jason’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

Gutenberg at BigWP London

 Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Fresh from participating in WordCamp US and meeting with several enterprise WordPress teams at big media companies in New York, Gutenberg design lead Tammie Lister (@karmatosed) took the BigWP crowd through an overview of the project and a look at the editor plugin’s latest progress (more background on Gutenberg here).

The strength of WordPress is based on its large, diverse and passionate community of users and developers, and it’s fair to say that passions have been stirred by Gutenberg and its implications. With all development happening in public, it has been easy for anyone with an interest to jump in and participate. The team has welcomed that engagement, providing a range of perspectives that have helped to refine the user experience with each weekly release.

In the clip below, Tammie describes some of the ways the team has brought in feedback and hands-on user participation, including online and via an in person testing booth at WordCamp US.

Watch Tammie’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

Team VIP at WordCamp US 2017

Last weekend, several of us at Team VIP joined the 1,500 people gathered in Nashville, TN for the annual WordPress community conference, WordCamp US. We were there to participate as attendees, but some of us also volunteered and/or led a session. Not only that, but our very own Andrea Bishop took on the huge responsibility of co-organising the whole thing.

If you’ve never been to a WordCamp US or Europe, it’s everything you’ve experienced at a more focused WordCamp, only more intense and with the added benefit of seeing an even wider representation of the WordPress community all around you. It’s thoroughly exhilarating, and exhausting, to be with so many colleagues, partners, and friends for such a concentrated period of time. Here are some of the highlights from VIP’s extended family at WordPress’ flagship event, with links to presentation decks where available.

  • Kickstarting the weekend were Rian Rietveld from VIP partner agency Human Made and VIP client, Digital First Media’s Jason Bahl. Rian went with a great how-to on accessibility testing, including workflow (which is accessible on the Human Made blog) while Jason evangelised – convincingly – about GraphQL.
  • Also of Human Made, Nathaniel Schweinberg talked through how to handle scale with AWS.
  • Friend of VIP and “newmattician”, RC Lations highlighted the importance of contributing to WordPress in the context of journalism.
  • Our very own Ryan Markel spoke about how VIP keeps our clients enterprise applications secure on a daily basis. As another, portable takeaway from Ryan’s talk, you can also check out the page on our site dedicated to WordPress enterprise security best practices.
  • Staying within the Automattic family, our CMO, Chris Taylor provided some thoughts on growth for WordPress, and how the wider community can help WordPress to grow in the enterprise space and beyond.
  • K Adam White, also of Human Made, demonstrated his technical prowess with a very informative talk on Webpack and how to make the most out of builds.
  • Core contributor Gary Pendergast did an excellent job of demystifying Javascript development, and used the exciting Gutenberg project as an example.
  • On that theme, we thoroughly enjoyed Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s well-received talk on Gutenberg.
  • Another core committer and Human Mader, Joe McGill explained how WordPress handles media.
  • Weston Ruter, of VIP partner XWP, took us through concepts and practical examples for building within the Customizer.
  • VIP partner rtCamp sent along Vivek Jain to share his years of experience with clients big and small and how to handle them the human way.
  • Helping to round out the talks, Philip John (yes that’s me, readers) helped to democratise performance by giving non-developers a few tips on WordPress performance.

Of course, the big highlight of the weekend was the annual State of the Word address delivered by WordPress project lead, Matt Mullenweg.

We were excited to lean more about Tide – a collaboration between VIP partner XWP and our friends at Google. Code quality is something we’re super passionate about at VIP and so we’re delighted to see the WordPress project working on a tool to enhance quality across the ecosystem. Come and join us as we get involved!

IMG_20171201_083844.jpg

 

Matt had some folks help him out with the State Of The Word this year (full video) and we were blown away by Matías Ventura’s live demo of Gutenberg – the new WordPress editor experience (more info on what’s coming in Gutenberg). We encourage you to get testing.

Security is another huge passion of ours and so we’re glad to see that the WordPress HackerOne program resulted in 52 solved security bugs, with 39 rewards for security researchers working to make WordPress more secure for everyone.

No WordCamp US would be complete without Contributor Day and members of VIP were happy to contribute, working on – amongst other things – documentation and Gutenberg.

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Outside of the main conference it was great to get together with our clients, partners and friends both at our own Happy Hour and the official after party. Ahead of next year in Nashville again, the next chance to join a WordCamp of this size is probably the one in Europe in June. You can already grab one of the early bird tickets or apply to speak through mid-January. We’ll see you there!

November VIP Roundup, Special WCUS Edition

This month’s edition of the enterprise WordPress roundup straddles a bit of December in order to cover news from WordCamp US this past weekend. We’ll start there before bringing you news and updates from our team, clients and partners and across the ecosystem.

photo via @WordCampUS

State Of The Word 2017

An amazing WordCamp US wrapped up this past weekend. Highlights from this year’s State Of The Word (full video) included:

  • Technical lead Matías Ventura performing a live demo of the new WordPress editor experience, Gutenberg, showing off how it all works in the plugin today (read our VIP guide to what’s coming for enterprise users)
  • The target ship date for the Gutenberg editor in core (April 2018) and the areas of focus for the coming year: Gutenberg editor, Gutenberg customization, and then a Gutenberg-specific theme
  • Impressive stats from the Hacker One initiative, with 52 WordPress bugs resolved and 46 hackers thanked
  • The formal announcement of the Tide project, a series of automated tests whose mission is to raise the code quality of all plugins, with participation from XWP and Google in addition to Automattic
  • WP-CLI becoming an official core project

You’ll find more highlights as well as presentations from the sessions in our team VIP recap.

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

  • VIP released our new Cron infrastructure, which handles your enterprise-sized task queues with ease. We shared some of our best practices for WordPress application security. And DC web agency WDG interviewed VIP Director of Strategic Partnerships Tamara Sanderson on how to evaluate a hosting and support partner.
  • WordPress 4.9 went out (Lobby post, announcement, release notes), bringing design drafts, scheduling, and locking to the Customizer, and much more. Security and maintenance release 4.9.1 (Lobby post) followed on at the end of November.
  • XWP interviewed the three leads of the WordPress 4.9 release. XWP also published part one of a series on decoupled CMS.
  • Big Bite released version 2 of of Macy.js, a Pinterest-style masonry layout library. Big Bite also posted a balanced view on AMP, offering pros and cons of implementing it along with some recommendations.
  • 10up released the Distributor plugin, for content syndication and reuse across web sites.
  • Rian Rietveld at Human Made published an overview of Accessible Design, running down principles, methods, and resources.

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

“How could we think more broadly about triggering a paywall or taking it down? What other mechanisms could we use besides article count?”

-Melody Kramer, writing at Poynter, offers a whole host of fresh ideas for how to rethink paywall usage.

“In a first step, the Project has released eight trust indicators that newsrooms can add to their content. This information will help readers understand more about what type of story they’re reading, who wrote it, and how the article was put together.”

-Jeff Chang, Group Product Manager for Search at Google, in an announcing the Trust Project, which is working with 75+ news organizations worldwide to come up with a set of story markers to help readers assess article credibility.

“Rather than frame the online overhaul as yet another “brand as publisher” pivot, Poggenpohl sees it more as an SEO play. After all, most visitors to BMW.com come via search engines rather than directly, he added. ”

-Seb Joseph at Digiday, referring to Jörg Poggenpohl, BMW’s head of digital marketing on the strategy behind the new content-driven bmw.com.

Featured Launch

We are thrilled to welcome global leader in consulting, technology, and outsourcing services Capgemini to the VIP family! Agency partner Human Made led the replatforming of Capgemini’s main site from Drupal and Acquia to WordPress and VIP.

Upcoming Events

  • Early bird tickets and speaker application submissions are now open for WordCamp Europe, which will take place June 15-16.
  • PHP Conference in Brazil is on now, and runs from December 6-10. Automattic is sponsoring and several VIPs are there.
  • Recode’s Code Media, an immersive, two-day media and technology event hosted by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher, will take place February 12-13 in Huntington Beach, CA.

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

The New WordPress Editor: What You Need to Know about Gutenberg

In 2018, WordPress will modernize, streamline, and simplify the content creation experience with Gutenberg. It represents the biggest change to the WordPress user experience in several years. In fact, in the State Of The Word 2017 Matt Mullenweg described its enduring importance as “the editor for the next twelve years.” In this post, we hope to help VIP clients and all enterprise WordPress users understand these exciting changes, and how to best prepare your teams.

Gutenberg technical lead Matías Ventura’s live demo at WordCamp US last week (photo via @photomatt)

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is the codename for the new WordPress publishing experience. It optimizes for direct manipulation of the visual presentation of the content, instead of through indirect means, like metaboxes. The building blocks of a Gutenberg post are, well, blocks. Blocks help simplify the many ways we build a page (shortcodes, widgets, custom HTML, media, text formatting, and embeds) into a single, searchable flow and UI umbrella. The name comes from Johannes Gutenberg, the founder of the printing press.

The new streamlined, modular editor

To get a sense of how the new editor works for yourself, there’s no substitute for downloading the current plugin in a test environment and giving it a spin. However, for a quick overview take a peek at this live demo (video) presented at last weekend’s State Of The Word:

  • The way the block “handles” intuitively appear when they’re needed
  • Simple ways to manipulate assets in a gallery
  • Preview custom HTML blocks inline
  • Cleverly using blocks to temporarily store code and content snippets
  • Bulk editing blocks, for lengthy posts
  • “Unified undo” so you never lose work.

What’s important for enterprise WordPress teams to think about?

Every time the VIP team helps a publisher replatform, we receive an overwhelmingly positive response from their editorial team. The feedback is almost always: “WordPress is so easy to use.” We believe the Gutenberg editor will be no different. The new editor offers content creators a straightforward way to find, insert, and work with elements on the page. We think this experience is so compelling that editorial teams will quickly want to adopt it into their workflow.

For teams who have extensive customizations in place, upfront planning will be required for a smooth transition to Gutenberg. Fear not – VIP plans on helping clients opt-in to the new editor gradually over time. As many of you know, backwards compatibility is a core principle of WordPress, and it is no different with Gutenberg. Any content created in Gutenberg will be editable in the classic editor, and vice versa.

And beyond the modernized editorial experience itself, Gutenberg opens up lots of new possibilities. Let’s explore some that already exist, along with some that could come into play as the project rolls on:

1. Placeholders and Templates

With Gutenberg, editors can build complex story packages with various content blocks: headline, deck, pull quote, video, embed, and gallery. Placeholder blocks can easily indicate exactly what should go where and keep the editorial process moving forward.

As of Gutenberg’s 1.8 release, the project has introduced initial support for templates. This allows a developer to define a specific template for, say, an Event Post. When a user creates an Event Post, they will see a page pre-populated with blocks for Title, Image, Date, Location, Description, and other details.

Blocks can function as placeholders, and elements for easy templating

2. Collaborative Editing

Today, if someone is working in a post in WordPress, the post locking feature prevents writers from overwriting each other. With Gutenberg, it’s possible to imagine locking at the block level, allowing multiple people to work on sections of a draft without interrupting each other.

The flexibility of content blocks means that there could be a block for internal notes, which could allow editors to leave comments throughout a story while editing. The notion of surfacing editorial feedback inline can be useful in other ways as well. Here’s a possibility that the Yoast team has presented, on inline SEO feedback.

3. Block and Embed Discovery

We’ve heard editors complain about the difficulty of finding shortcodes. Gutenberg allows editors to easily search for content blocks, be it a Twitter embed, a Vimeo embed, or a custom template. Not only does this make embed discovery easier, but we could imagine a future with a content block marketplace.

Developers or agencies could create content blocks for unique needs, for media like galleries, or content types like recipes. This could also facilitate better code reuse across teams within an organization.

4. A Standardized Approach to Page Building

In the coming year, Gutenberg’s project focus will shift away from the editor to site creation itself. With that transition, it will bring a standardized approach to page building to native WordPress. Over the years we’ve seen clients create page builders for section fronts or marketing pages using Field Manager, Advanced Custom Fields, or a custom-built solution. Having a well-defined approach within core could provide a framework to support a wide variety of commercial and custom solutions. This common standard could in turn make content and data more readily portable across the various page building approaches.

5. A Foundation for Personalization

With page content all composed of blocks, it’s easy to imagine how that could facilitate conditional delivery of content based on user attributes. For example, on a media site, subscribers could be served a block with a related content recommendation, whereas new visitors would see a “subscribe” call to action. On the backend, the editor interface could offer a toggle so that a site editor could preview a post as various user segments like subscribing member, new visitor, and returning visitor.

So, what’s the timeline and what will rollout look like?

Gutenberg is already available as a plugin, and is set to be integrated into WordPress 5.0 which is planned for April 2018. The Gutenberg team is currently focused on the post-editing experience, but will then expand their approach to template creation, site creation, and more.

In order to preserve publishing continuity, there is a plugin called Classic Editor that will allow teams to use the current editor as they work on transition plans. We will manage the release of WordPress 5.0 to make the process smooth and opt-in for VIP clients. However, we expect that many editorial teams will want to start experimenting and creating content in Gutenberg right away.

The Classic Editor plugin

The VIP team is working closely with the Gutenberg team as they test and roll out the new editor. We know very well that our clients have extensive integrations with the current WordPress editor and will want a gradual transition. We are here to help answer any questions on preparing development and editorial teams for the transition.

What happens to existing content?

The current WordPress editor is not going away. Data storage will still be stored as HTML in post_content, which means nothing will change for existing content. Within Gutenberg, there will be a Classic Text block to handle any legacy content within a block of its own. Essentially, it’s the Classic Editor embedded as a block, and will aid in a smooth and carefully planned upgrade path.

Help test Gutenberg

How can I share feedback?

The Gutenberg Team is especially interested in feedback from VIP clients, who usually have large editorial teams and complex workflows. They would love for you to help them stress test the new builder. At WordCamp US last weekend, the team set up a special booth for in-person user testing, and will be sharing out findings from those tests. Here are three ways for you to test Gutenberg and share feedback:

  • Coming up tomorrow, December 7, at the BigWP meetup in London, Tammie Lister, design lead on Gutenberg, will be presenting on the project and taking questions.
  • Get involved on Github by installing the plugin and sharing feedback.
  • This week the VIP team, along with Matías and Tammie, traveled to New York City to spend time with VIP client editorial teams. On this research trip, we gathered information about different editorial workflows, and ran usability tests with web producers. We plan on doing more of these with VIP clients, both virtually and in-person, in the next few months.

We will be communicating updates in the VIP Lobby as relates to the Gutenberg rollout as the project continues. Meanwhile, as you test the plugin and begin to assess plans for the rollout in April, feel free to reach out to your VIP support team. We’d be glad to help.

More reading:

A huge thank you to Dave Coustan who contributed to the research and drafting of this post.

 

Where to See VIP and Friends at WordCamp US 2017

We hope to see you tomorrow and this weekend, December 1-3 at WordCamp US in Nashville or the next best thing, remote via free livestream. With so many fantastic sessions going on all weekend, we put together a guide to which ones feature folks from across the extended VIP family:

WordCamp US 2016 in Philly, uploaded by Seth Goldstein under CC-BY-SA 2.0

On Friday:

Last year’s State of the Word, uploaded by Luca Sartoni under CC-By-SA 2.0

On Saturday:

And also:

    Stop by the Gutenberg usability testing booth, where Tammie Lister and other members of the Gutenberg team will take you through short tasks and a brief survey designed to gather data that will inform bug stomping and fine-tuning.

And if you can’t make it in person, you can also grab a free ticket to catch the live stream of the entire weekend’s sessions.

Photo by Tammie Lister

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