VIP News

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

April VIP Roundup

When you scroll through the list of updates from April, the projects, tools, and releases just keep coming. To highlight just a handful, there’s Gutenberg development and prep work in progress all over including at rtCamp and 10up, Alley‘s new feature rollouts for Kaiser Family Foundation, a new plugin from Human Made, and big updates to our Liveblog and Co-Authors Plus plugins.

We also cheered VIP client Explore Parts Unknown for taking home a Webby in a category near and dear to our hearts, Website Best Practices. And we welcomed Yoast as an official VIP technical integration. Read on for all of this and lots more.

Chris Scott introduces BigWP NYC at USA Today’s NY offices

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

  • As we have shared in previous updates, we’re developing a plugin to help make it easy to test and implement Gutenberg at the Page and Post level, and so that teams can plan their own smooth transitions. We’ll have more to share on that soon!
  • We’ve released a second round of educational videos at Vipgutenberg.com, covering hands-on topics like converting shortcodes and ACF fields to blocks, and access control. These are free and available for everyone. Get the full details including a list of topics in this week’s spotlight, further down in this post.
  • As one of our BigWP flash talks, Andrew Fleming from the Dow Jones Media Group shared the story of how their publication Moneyish is approaching the transition to Gutenberg. You can view a highlight now, and the full video of Andrew’s talk is coming soon.
  • You can share the Gutenberg content creation experience with colleagues easily by sending them to our Testgutenberg.com site, which has been updated with the latest version of the plugin.
  • rtCamp has been focusing on all things Gutenberg over this month: They formally released their Fields Middleware project that makes registering fields for Gutenberg blocks less repetitive (GitHub here). They wrote about their experience of moving their website to Gutenberg. And Daniel Bachhuber gave a technical introduction for the WordPress community in North Jersey.
  • Daniel Bachhuber has also been extremely active in the community in helping collect and curate plugin readiness research and leading the development of a migration guide. If you’re interested in either of these initiatives, jump in and help.
  • Special thanks also to 10up for their work identifying and addressing plugin compatibility issues.
  • Keep up with everything having to do with Gutenberg at VIP and a list of helpful resources in this regularly updated doc.

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

  • Exciting updates on VIP plugins Liveblog and Co-Authors Plus! Both released updates this month, version 1.8 and 3.3 respectively. Liveblog introduced media library integration and enhancements to the editor interface, which VIP clients can read more about on this Lobby post. Co-Authors Plus v3.3 establishes a new foundation for development, reflecting months of work from 30 contributors across VIP, our clients, and partners (Lobby post).
  • We shared an update on our plans and preparations for implementing the GDPR‘s principles in this helpful Lobby post.
  • We’re thrilled to welcome SEO household name Yoast as an official VIP technical integration.
  • WordPress 4.9.5 security and maintenance release came out on April 3 (Announcement post, Lobby post for VIP clients.) Version 4.9.6, focusing on privacy and personal data tools in support of GDPR, is already in beta.
  • Jetpack 6.0 was deployed to VIP Go (Announcement, Lobby), bringing new privacy-related tools and settings among other enhancements.
  • PHP 7.2 was rolled out across VIP Go in early April as well (Lobby post.)
  • Watch highlights from April’s excellent BigWP NYC talks in this playlist. In addition to Andrew’s mentioned above, we had Paul Schreiber from FiveThirtyEight on the importance of U2F security keys, Bradford Campeau-Laurion from Alley with a proof of concept for using WP_Query to source remote data on the Hachette Book Group project, and Kevin Langley from Human Made with highlights from the Fairfax Media case study.
  • We couldn’t be more proud of VIP client Explore Parts Unknown for their Webby win! They took home the People’s Voice award in Website Best Practices, defined as “an industry benchmark for the most current, innovative, and advanced practices in web development.” Kudos to the team at ANML for the beautiful design.
  • Go in depth with XWP in the latest edition of our partner profile series, Six Questions. XWP is currently recruiting beta testers for the next release of the WordPress AMP plugin.
  • 10Up released ElasticPress 2.5 with a new faceting widget to make it easy to filter content and support Elasticsearch 6.2. Their popular container-based environment, WP Local Docker, now bundles WP Snapshots for really streamlined team-based development; they also added some detailed tutorials to make it even easier. Pete Nelson shared his slides and code tests from a talk on custom roles and capabilities for publishers, including tips for Gutenberg.
  • rtCamp’s Joel Abreo conducted a session titled “WordPress: An Overview of the Ecosystem & Opportunities” as part of FOSSMeet 2018, a two-day conference at the College of Engineering in their home city of Pune.
  • Alley launched two new features for the Kaiser Family Foundation last month, both hosted on VIP. The KFF State Data tool now allows users to create, share and download Custom Data Reports, whilst Pre$cription For Power is a searchable database allowing people to investigate the relationships between patient advocacy groups and Big Pharma.
  • The latest “Inside Inpsyde” features Tobias Zimpel on the challenges of remote work.
  • Human Made built a new plugin for SquareOffs, a social voting poll that helps publishers receive direct feedback from their audiences.
  • Aaron Jorbin created Cafe.com/100 in 2.5 days thanks in large part to open-sourced code from Human Made and Alley. The CAFE 100 is a group of one hundred change-makers taking action to address some of the most pressing problems in America and around the world.
  • Hello Design was nominated for a Webby for their work on the Electric Daisy Carnival event app.
  • Chris Ford of Reaktiv Studios joined the OfficeHours.FM podcast to share how she uses automation tools to save time on web development projects.
  • Trew Knowledge cooked up a fresh UX design for Chef’s Plate, an eco-friendly Canadian meal kit delivery service.

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

“For news organizations, the GDPR may actually prompt a return to first principles, where a focus on quality content beats adapting to the latest social media algorithm.”

Susan McGregor, Assistant Professor at Columbia School of Journalism and Assistant Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, in a Columbia Journalism Review article summarizing a report on the impact of Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation.

“Accessibility should be as important to your ongoing practice as good writing and content.”

Robert Stein, EVP and Chief Program Officer, American Alliance of Museums, at Museums and the Web 2018 in Vancouver. He spoke alongside Seema Rao, principal, Brilliant Creative Studio, in a talk titled, “To Journey In Twitter Canoes: Methods To Understand The Mechanisms And Meaning In Twitter Conversations.

“My numbers are lower, but in the long run more meaningful (interaction, retention rates/dwell times, uniques and so on).”

Esra Dogramaci, Senior Editor, Digital at Deutsche Welle, in ‘Metrics that matter,’ notes from her talk at the International Journalism Festival.

Spotlight: Gutenberg educational videos

We asked some of the biggest enterprise users of WordPress what they most wanted to know about the new Gutenberg editor. These videos, which include both overview and hands-on material, are the result. The topics listed below are available for anyone to view, whether or not you’re a VIP client. Register for free and watch them at www.vipgutenberg.com

Converting Custom Content to Gutenberg

  • Shortcodes to Blocks
  • ACF Fields to Blocks
  • CMB2 to Blocks

Access Control & User Permissions

  • Controlling access to blocks
  • Controlling access to blocks based on user roles
  • Creating Block Templates
  • Applying User Roles to Block Templates

There are additional videos available on the site as well, which will appear automatically for VIP clients.

Upcoming Events
We can’t wait to see many of your at our favorite event of the year, WordPress VIP Workshop, May 14-17 in Napa Valley, California! Joining the keynote and session leads, our recently announced line up of Flashtalks feature agency partners Dekode, Alley Interactive, 10up, rtCamp, and XWP on topics ranging from AMP to IoT. Take a look at the complete session list for more details. Attendees, look out for an email with travel instructions and make sure you’ve accepted the invite to our Slack channel to get this party started.

  • We are excited to participate in Brand Marketing Summit as a silver sponsor, May 30-31 in San Francisco. Designed to create the Chief Marketing Officer of the future, tracks include the science of storytelling, personalizing customer journeys and the next generation of social media. It’s not too late to register, and VIP clients and friends can use this discount code: VIP300
  • We hope to see you in Boston for Forward, the annual brand storytelling conference from technical partner Skyword, June 14 in Boston. Forward is adding an optional “Storynomics” seminar this year taught by Robert McKee, whose former students include 63 Academy Award winners (and Jimmy Fallon).
  • WordCamp Europe is just around the corner, June 14-16 in Belgrade. Our own Simon Dickson will be reprising his role as MC, and the schedule of speakers is chock full of folks from across the VIP extended family. Organizers recently released a fresh batch of tickets. They also compiled these tips for a night out on the town in Belgrade, in case you like to plan ahead.
  • SRCCon returns for its fifth year, this time in Minneapolis June 28-29. VIP is thrilled to sponsor and we always seek to send as many folks as we can to this event, which attracts over 300 journalism-technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. Sound like your people? Here’s more about how to attend.
  • We are excited to support ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement, a one-day deep dive into audience engagement for digital journalists, newsroom leaders, managers, executives and entrepreneurs. It all goes down in Toronto on May 11 at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.

Six Questions with XWP

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

XWP has been a WordPress.com VIP Partner since 2013 and have been building big with WordPress since 2009. Their earliest at-scale WordPress gig was a 50 brand migration with Rogers Media, followed by 9 more years of leading the industry.

XWP team at work

What’s your agency’s origin story?

In the beginning there was XHTMLized…

Some companies are born in a moment, and others emerge over time. XWP is one of the latter. Part of the X Company family, we started as the WordPress team within X-Team, one of our sister companies. 2014 was when we officially spun into our own company with our first major project being the high-stakes migration of 15 News Corp Australia properties to WordPress. This project set the standard for the type of work we would pursue and excel at over the next 4 years: complex, business-centric engineering for high-traffic websites. The News Corp Australia project also established something fundamental to who we are now as a group of people: a team committed to contributing to the Open Web and the Open Source Community. Translating the work we do with clients back in to WordPress was something kicked off with News Corp Australia, and has been something we have brought to every project and client relationship since.

Today, we continue to adhere to the characteristics of our earliest projects. We take on projects that are complex, interesting, and reciprocally valuable to the WordPress ecosystem. Our remote team has grown from the original 8 to 45 and now covers 14 different countries across 6 continents.

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

  • People (are of the Highest Value): We treat them with care, respect, and generosity, always.
  • Visionary: We believe in the Open Web and its undeniable value to humanity. We work to ensure it has the strongest possible future and look for opportunities to break new ground on open source projects.
  • Best Practices: We champion development best practices in the community and bring this commitment to our clients and projects.

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

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to work on some very cool projects with some very cool companies. One recent project that stands out was a front-end performance engagement we did with Heavy.com. Our engineers were given the ultimate brief: “Make it blazing fast!”. The team seriously went to the next level in diagnosing, building, and testing and have achieved results on low-speed devices/connections that the majority in the industry didn’t think was even possible. It was very fun to see this project unfold and very rewarding to hear of the impact it’s made on the client’s business.

Our partnership with Google is also worth mentioning. We’ve worked with them on a couple of projects, including the Coding Standards project Tide. More recently we’ve worked with them on AMP and its intersection with WordPress. Not only are we bringing the latest of AMP to the WordPress plugin, but we’ve been able to technically contribute directly to the AMP Project, engage and educate the WordPress community on AMP, and even present on the work at this years AMPConf.

XWP Engineer Thierry Muller sharing on the AMP Plugin at AMPConf 2018 in Amsterdam.

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

We shared this question with the whole team. 🙂 Their responses can be best summarised under: Gutenberg, Tide (Coding Standards), and the impact of Design.

  • Gutenberg: I dare anyone to suggest Gutenberg is not the biggest deal in WordPress this year. Its impact seeps through every layer of WordPress. It will change the editing experience for all, small blogs to big media. It will change how developers, of themes and plugins, architect their work. It will change transform the entire site building experience for WordPress users in years to come. It’s bold, ambitious, and convinces us that WordPress has an important role to play in the Open Web for next 15 years of its life.
  • Tide (Coding Standards): Coding best practices have alway been a core part of who we are. We’re excited that code quality, and general coding standards, is receiving even more attention by the community. Our contribution through this with Tide reflects the importance we place on this and our commitment to helping the community in this area.
  • Impact of Design: Over the last year we have deepened our appreciation for UX and design-led projects. The understanding of the user experience and allowing it to influence product development is something we believe is really going to unlock the potential of WordPress even further. It’s been inspiring to see these kind of practices in those working on WordPress Core.

We’ve been seeing amazing work from the team tackling Gutenberg, design support for major Core focused initiatives, and organizational changes for how design and development can work together. – Joshua Wold

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

This is a great question and the responses from the team have been interesting. The big theme though is something along the lines of “whatever event is next”. This sounds a lot like a cop-out answer, but the reason is we are a remote company and there are only a couple of cases where 2 or more people live and work in the same city. Events for us represent opportunities to get together and get some face time with friends. Connecting with the open source community IRL is fantastic as well, but time together with colleagues is something we enjoy finding excuses for.

With that said, we are big fans of LoopConf, with its deep dive focus on engineering, and WordCamp for Publishers, launched just last year, with its focus on an industry we work closely with.

(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What does “building a better web” practically look like?

Our company call-to-arms is “Let’s build a better web”. It’s unpacked further in the statement “We work for a future where the open web is more performant, secure, reliable, and accessible.

The application of this could be as simple as that when we work for our clients, we adhere to best practices and ensure we build the best possible version of what can be built. We do do this, but “building a better web” is even more than that. Just as we go deep on the work we do for clients and partners, we look for opportunities to go wide and influence the standard of the whole internet. If we can improve that standard by even a small percentage, how many lives and businesses will be positively impacted. Two current examples of this kind of work are Tide and our work on the AMP project. Tide will help improve the quality of code across the entire WordPress ecosystem (that’s 30% of the web) and AMP represents a widely used standards based technology.

Building a better web means adhering to best practices ourselves and lowering the barrier of entry to best practices for everyone else.

Thank you, XWP Team!

More on XWP:

Agency focus and specialties

  • Experience with largest enterprise-level platform migrations to WordPress
  • Collaborative and caring approach
  • Custom workflow development
  • Enterprise-level engineering
  • Code audits
  • Developer training
  • Ongoing support

Currently working with: NewsCorp Australia, Heavy, Rogers, Fairfax Media, Google, Beachbody, Rolling Stone, Automattic, Variety

Agency highlights

  • WordPress Core Lead Developers and Project Leads
  • Specialists in complex, at-scale, never-been-done-before WordPress engineering
  • Lead advocates on the WordPress Coding Standards Project
  • Contributors to the AMP project

Free Gutenberg How-To Videos

In our last Gutenberg update, we shared our high level recommendations to help enterprise WordPress users fully embrace the block while planning for WordPress 5.0 and the new Gutenberg editor. That included an initial set of Gutenberg educational videos we’ve developed exclusively for VIP clients and their teams.

Today we’re releasing a second set of videos that are available for anyone to use. These are aimed at helping you convert current customizations including things like ACF codes and shortcodes, and build block templates to get your sites running Gutenberg well before WordPress 5.0 ships.

Register for free and watch them at: https://vipgutenberg.com

Here are the topics covered in the new videos:

Converting Custom Content to Gutenberg

  • Shortcodes to Blocks
  • ACF Fields to Blocks
  • CMB2 to Blocks

Access Control & User Permissions

  • Controlling access to blocks
  • Controlling access to blocks based on user roles
  • Creating Block Templates
  • Applying User Roles to Block Templates

These videos are the culmination of weeks of research with our clients. VIP went to some of the biggest enterprise users of WordPress and asked “What are your questions about Gutenberg? What do you loath to explore about the new editor?” Their answers drove a curriculum exploring how to convert custom content to Gutenberg and access control with user permissions.

As we mentioned in our previous update, we’re also developing a plugin to help make it easy to test and implement Gutenberg at the Page and Post level. We’ll have updates on that soon.

In the meantime, if you’re a VIP client and you have questions about rolling Gutenberg out on your sites, get in touch with our Support team.

If you’re not currently on VIP and are feeling less than ready to embrace block-based life, drop us a note.

Welcome Yoast!

We’re excited to announce Yoast as a VIP technical partner! Over the last year we’ve been working with the Yoast Premium plugin on our VIP Go platform with a number of our clients with great success, and we are proud to add them to our VIP technical integration program.

The Yoast team at Yoastcon

Yoast is a household name for anyone in the professional and enterprise WordPress community. As one of the most popular plugins perennially in the WordPress.org marketplace, their SEO tools help over 8 million websites to optimize their pages for search engines. With their easy-to-use guidance, you can easily write and maintain optimized pages for the keywords you want to rank for.

Yoast guides you with focused recommendations for both SEO and human readability, and provides easy-to-update interfaces to test and refine over time. These analyses and recommendations are evaluated and adjusted on a frequent basis, to match the latest developments in SEO.

The Premium version, recommended for enterprise WordPress teams, offers a ton of helpful features including the following:

  • Optimize every page for up to 5 keywords
  • Internal linking suggestions for better cross-linking
  • Redirect manager: your visitors don’t get stuck on a 404 Not Found page
  • Preview of your page in social media
  • Content insights: are the keywords you’d like to rank for in line with what you’re actually writing about.

Additional specialized Yoast tools include Local SEO, Video SEO, News SEO (optimized for Google News), and WooCommerce and Local WooCommerce options.

“VIP is an excellent platform for enterprise WordPress applications. It only made sense to formalize our connection. We’re excited to work with VIP and continue to fulfill our mission of SEO for everyone,” said Joost de Valk, CEO and Founder of Yoast.

“At VIP we’re relentless about providing our customers great flexibility in addition to performance, speed, and security. As a part of our vision to make it easy to take advantage of the very best that enterprise WordPress has to offer, we seek to identify the tools and technologies clients rely on most, and forge a deeper tie with them and their development teams. As Yoast is a trusted component of many of our clients’ ongoing SEO testing and optimization cycles, we’re excited to welcome them officially as a VIP technical integration,” said Nick Gernert, CEO of WordPress.com VIP.

March VIP Roundup

If you aren’t yet a part of the wave of activity around Gutenberg development, experimentation, and planning across the WordPress community, now is a great time to join in. We have a slew of March updates and tools to share on that front in this roundup, along with news from across the community, and a run-down of Spring and early Summer events including our own VIP Workshop!

Read on for all this, plus a spotlight on TechCrunch‘s redesign, rebuild, and relaunch on VIP.

From Enterprise Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith’s talk at the Montreal WordPress meetup

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

  • Have teammates who haven’t yet played around with the Gutenberg editor? No problem! They can use our TestGutenberg.com site to try out the latest version on a standard WordPress site.
  • For VIP clients, we’ve partnered with well-known WordPress educators Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona to develop our own videos on the Gutenberg project. Get all the details on how to access these videos on the related Lobby post.
  • We are committed to helping all of our clients integrate the new editor into their workflow smoothly. We’re working on a tool that will help you incorporate Gutenberg in to your production environments by Page and Post. The Gutenberg Ramp plugin will allow you to make granular choices about where Gutenberg appears so that you can get teams working with it sooner on live sites, test all of your customizations, and get everything squared away ahead of WordPress 5.0 deployment. Once we have this tested and in place on our platform, we’ll release a public version as well that anyone can use. More on that soon!
  • Automattic Product Designer Mel Choyce presented at LoopConf on the future of Customization in the post-Gutenberg world. And Enterprise Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith gave a talk on Gutenberg and the future of WordPress, including a demo of our new TestGutenberg tool, for the Montreal WordPress community.
  • Jay Hoffman at Reaktiv posted a helpful step-by-step guide to getting started with Gutenberg block attributes.
  • In the month of April, rtCamp is offering complimentary 30 minute technical introductions to Gutenberg.
  • Keep up with everything having to do with Gutenberg at VIP and a list of helpful resources in this regularly updated doc.

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

  • Our new, streamlined Data Sync process for VIP Go allows you to easily and quickly replicate all of your production data to non-production environments. A self-service option is on the way soon!
  • We have an amazing group of speakers lined for VIP Workshop May 14-17th in Napa, California. Ticket sales end next Friday – more details below in Upcoming Events.
  • AMP version 0.6.2 rolled out across WordPress.com, including VIP sites hosted there (Lobby post).
  • Ads.txt manager, developed and maintained by featured partner 10up, is now available on VIP Go. This helpful tool allows you to manage and validate the contents of your ads.txt file through your admin interface (Lobby post).
  • Jetpack 5.9 General Maintenance rolled out this month (Lobby post, Announcement).
  • The PHP 7.2 upgrade has rolled out to all WordPress.com servers (Lobby post). It’s scheduled to deploy this week (#) on VIP Go.
  • Technical integration Ooyala version 3.0 is now available (Lobby post).
  • Trew Knowledge shared a look back at the work they did in collaboration with us at VIP in optimizing Olympic.ca and Olympique.ca for the heavy traffic expectations of the 2018 Games. The site’s visitors enjoyed gold medal performance throughout, despite it’s “exceeding projections by more than 200% and doubling what was generated in Rio 2016 with more than 17 million page views.”
  • Human Made released a trio of tools: React-wp-scripts for development tooling, Repress for smart Redux stores, and react-oembed-container to simplify oEmbed rendering. And Peter Wilson presented on a major media company replatforming at LoopConf.
  • 10up’s Helen Hou-Sandí was featured in NY Magazine’s “Ask A Tech Person” highlighting her favorite gadgets. And Adam Silverstein wrote up his experiences contributing MathML support to the AMP project. 10up has also made accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 Level A a baseline requirement for all projects, and updated their Engineering Best Practices to include specific standards.
  • Alley Interactive launched the 2018 State Science and Engineering Indicators data visualization project for the National Science Foundation.
  • rtCamp celebrated the company’s 9th anniversary at their annual team gathering in Goa.
  • Weston Ruter, CTO of XWP, and Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate with the Web Content Ecosystems team at Google, were featured in an episode of WPWeekly this month on the AMP Project.

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

“One of the biggest challenges facing newsroom innovators is transferring one-off prototypes to product teams. This can be exacerbated when there are simply too many new experiments for any one team to take ownership of.”

-Allie Schultes, Social media and outreach producer at BBC Labs, in notes from the team’s first Media Innovation Unconference.

“We spent a lot of time literally watching them use it on their phone. When does their face light up because they love it, or their eyebrows scrunch up because they’re stuck?”

-Arizona Daily Star product manager Becky Pallack as quoted by Meg Heckman in the Columbia Journalism Review, on the research they did in developing and evolving chatbots.

Client Spotlight: TechCrunch


Big congratulations are in order for Nicole Wilke and the entire TechCrunch team, along with Human Made, for launching a brand new TechCrunch on VIP in March. It was a complete rebuild from the ground up, including design, user experience, and architecture. Nicole’s introductory post traces the project from first principles all the way through to launch, and explores the rationale behind the TechCrunch team’s choice of a decoupled setup.

Upcoming Events

Tickets sales for our favorite event of the year, VIP Workshop (May 14-17th in Napa California), will end April 13th. In addition to kickoff talks by Kinsey Wilson, Howard RheingoldMiguel Fonseca, and Tammie Lister, session leaders include VIP clients like TechCrunchNielsen, and FiveThirtyEight, agency partners DekodeAlley Interactive10uprtCamp, and XWP, and Automatticians Simon Wheatley and Matt Perry. We keep the event deliberately small to make sure there are lots of opportunities for chance conversations and informal breakout discussions. Book soon!

  • BigWP NYC is coming up on Wednesday, April 11th! If you’ll be in the area and want to attend, RSVP soon via the meetup group to hear talks by Paul Schreiber from FiveThirtyEight, Andrew Fleming from Dow Jones, Tom Harrigan from Alley Interactive, and Kevin Langley from Human Made. It will take place at USA Today’s new offices in Midtown. Doors will open at 6:30pm. Space is extremely limited.
  • SRCCON 2018 will be June 28-29 in Minneapolis and the call for participation of all kinds is open! It’s the fifth anniversary for the event that gathers over 300 journalism-technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. VIP typically sends as many folks as we can to this event and it comes highly recommended.
  • VIP Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith will be giving a talk on code review April 11 at Web a Québec, the largest French-speaking digital event in North America.
  • rtCamp is sponsoring FOSSMeet at College of Engineering Pune (COEP), one of oldest and top engineering institutes in India, April 7-8. Rahul Bansal, rtCamp’s CEO, will be speaking there about the WordPress ecosystem.
  • We will be sponsoring ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement in Toronto, May 11th at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.
  • The awesome WordCamp for Publishers returns August 8-10 in Chicago and ticket sales are now open. Follow the Twitter handle @WCPublishers for updates. Check out our post from last year’s inaugural event to get a sense of what to expect.

Getting Ready for Gutenberg

WordPress 5.0 will bring the biggest and most exciting change to the WordPress editor experience, ever, and we want you to be ready. Much of this post will be useful for anyone running enterprise WordPress applications, anywhere, but it also mentions some things we’re doing specifically on the VIP platform or for our customers. Wherever possible we’re taking the tools we’ve developed for our own systems, and making them available for the community to take advantage of as well.

  • Try out the Gutenberg editor as a front-end experience. At our TestGutenberg.com site, you can easily try out the latest version of the Gutenberg editor on a standard WordPress site to get a feel for what it’s like to compose and edit with blocks. If you don’t already have a test environment with Gutenberg set up, this is an easy way to introduce your whole team and everyone who touches the WordPress admin to the new interface. This site is free and available for anyone to use.
  • Prepare your teams.There are a wealth of learning materials across the community thanks to the work of countless creators, including both free resources and videos and courses offered for a fee. Our documentation page points to a number of community resources and write-ups, and Gutenberg.news tracks just about everything that comes out across the community.

    For VIP clients, we’ve partnered with well-known WordPress educators Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona to develop our own videos on the Gutenberg project. VIP clients can get all the details on how to access these videos on the related Lobby post.

  • Test your customizations. No matter where your projects are hosted, you’ll want to start testing and planning now. We recommend developers to set up a local testing environment in which you can test all customizations and integrations to see how they work with Gutenberg prior to exposing it to users. To assist with that effort, we are working on compiling Gutenberg readiness information from partners and will share it when available. There is also a recently released Gutenberg compatibility library that may be helpful: https://github.com/danielbachhuber/gutenberg-plugin-compatibility#gutenberg-plugin-compatibility
  • Plan for a smooth transition. Based on testing and conversations with your teams, determine how and when you want to implement the new interface in your workflows. As mentioned previously, installing the Classic Editor Plugin will allow you to maintain the legacy editing experience after you install WordPress 5.0.

    For VIP clients, we’re developing a tool that will give our clients fine control over how Gutenberg surfaces at the Post and Page type level, both before and after 5.0 is deployed. This will give teams the ability to test more granularly ahead of time and phase the new editor in as needed based on team needs. It will also allow them to easily set a state that will persist after 5.0 launches, and we will have it set it to keep the legacy editor on by default.

    We are working on a public version of this plugin as well and will aim to release it shortly after we have it squared away for use on our own systems. More on this soon!

We’ll keep this documentation page updated with all of the latest information about Gutenberg at VIP.

An Amazing Slate of VIP Workshop Speakers

With ticket sales ending on April 13th, you’ll want to register soon for VIP Workshop, our annual enterprise WordPress gathering taking place May 14-17th. This marks the seventh year for a very special event that gets the whole extended VIP family together, including clients, partners, and community.

The speaker lineup is nearly complete, and it is shaping up to be a phenomenal three days in Napa, California. Topics run the gamut from big picture thoughts on organizational change, fostering diversity, and the future of digital, to the latest advanced topics with the Gutenberg project, to retrospectives, case studies, and best practices.

Throughout the week we’ll hear from VIP clients like TechCrunch, Nielsen, and FiveThirtyEight, agency partners Dekode, Alley Interactive, 10up, rtCamp, and XWP, and Automatticians Simon Wheatley, Miguel Fonseca, Tammie Lister, and Matt Perry.

And kicking us off will be WordPress.com President and veteran of The New York Times and National Public Radio Kinsey Wilson, and celebrated technology author and lecturer Howard Rheingold.

The schedule is split in to business and developer tracks, and includes ample opportunities for informal networking and conversations among the whole group. Session formats include joint-track full conference discussions, individual track case studies and featured topics, and flash talks.  Get the full details on speakers, formats, and topics, and all of the logistics on the Workshop site.

We keep the attendance deliberately small to make sure there are lots of opportunities for chance conversations and informal breakout discussions. Get your tickets soon!

Data Sync on VIP Go

Anyone who runs an enterprise WordPress application knows there are significant challenges and considerations to copying production data. No matter that your production data runs to tens or hundreds of thousands of articles, contains sensitive “live” data, and is accompanied by tens of gigabytes of images, often you need a complete copy of that production data to test new functionality or to reproduce a persnickety bug.

Today we’re pleased to announce a speedy, streamlined, and structured Data Sync process for VIP clients. This is a step in our larger effort to make copying large amounts of production data entirely self-service, which we will also be rolling out soon. In the meantime, and even after self-service becomes available, we are happy to sync data on behalf of our clients.

Read on for details on how our new process works.

 

As light as a feather

Copying data must never affect the operation of the production site. It cannot place load on the database or impact performance in any way. To remove the impact on our production servers we hook into our backup mechanism, and use the hourly backup data we keep for all production sites.

Fast, complete, and working data

For the large datasets we expect from many of our clients, copying everything over can take a long time and the subsequent operations on the data can take even longer. Our Data Sync completely replicates their production data and we wanted the operation to be as fast as possible.

To sync the data we use the reliable and well tested functionality of our backup systems. Our backups are fast to restore, and have complete internal integrity, e.g. no partly completed data operations, making them ideal for this purpose.

As well as restoring the data, we need to replace any URLs using the production domain with URLs for the new non-production environment. Traditionally this is done using the WP-CLI tool, which provides a command line interface and tools for managing a WordPress install. While this works for the majority of WordPress sites out there, this method is simply too slow for the massive datasets typically used by a high scale WordPress.com VIP client. The slowdowns are caused by the interactions between PHP and the database layer – many hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of reads and writes will necessarily take some time!

To replace the URLs in the data at the speed VIP customers demand, our team wrote a Golang script, “go-search-replace“. In our tests, go-search-replace is at least forty times quicker than the equivalent search and replace using WP-CLI commands, reducing operations which took many hours to minutes at most. (We apologize if you were expecting to kick back with a long and refreshing beverage during the Data Sync.)

Massive media libraries

Of course the database is just one part of the story. Many WordPress sites we host include tens, even hundreds, of gigabytes of data and hundreds of thousands of files on our VIP Go Files Service. Copying such a significant amount of data would take many hours. Instead our cloud platform provides a service we call UnionFS.

UnionFS works by making the files for the production site available to all non-production sites in read-only mode. Files shared by UnionFS in this way are served from the same infrastructure and have the same caching rules applied.

Tailored to your WordPress application

Production data often includes connections to APIs and services that should not be active in non-production environments, such as API keys for live payment gateways and connections to mailing lists. To ensure you have confidence in the data, and to be sure you get the same results every time, we provide a WordPress action hook so your code can swap API keys, clear production orders, and any other custom operations that are specific to your WordPress application.

How do I try this?

As we finalize everything that will make this process fully self-service, we will continue to support VIP client Data Sync needs as they arise. If you want the data from your VIP Go WordPress site copied into a non-production environment, please contact our support team and we will be happy to help.

You can read more in our Data Sync documentation.

Six Questions with Human Made

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

Founded in 2010, Human Made has been a VIP Featured Partner since 2013. We asked Commercial Director, Ant Miller, and Communications Manager, Ana Silva, six questions to help you get to know who they are as an agency.

A shot taken by a WordCamp Brisbane attendee where Human Made provided Coffee Sponsorship (photo credit: Emma Howchin)

What’s your agency’s origin story?

Human Made was founded in 2010 by Tom Willmot and Joe Hoyle, who had previously worked as freelancer web developers building WordPress projects for small clients.

Eventually, Tom was hired by a large US based organization who had purchased a number of sites and wanted to build niche WordPress powered social networks. Joe soon joined him and here they gained experience working with clients and building sites that eventually grew in scale.

When they left the company with an impressive portfolio, they continued freelancing but with increasing workloads and more clients, they soon realized they could combine their skills and take on different aspects of the business. Tom took on the business operations as CEO, and Joe took over the engineering department as our CTO.

Our first few hires were local, and the opportunity to hire remotely arrived with Daniel Bachhuber and Paul de Wouters. Daniel had previous remote experience and bought many of these processes to the company, some of which are still being practiced today. Within a few months of the remote hires, the company pivoted to being entirely distributed. Although some people still did (and still do!) work in our first home, the Matlock office.  

Fast forward to 2014, and Noel Tock completed the trio as a partner and CPO with a new Product team, managing projects such as Happytables, Nomadbase and BackUpWordPress.

Today, we’re a team of 60+ people based in five continents working with clients across the globe, and one of the leading providers of large-scale enterprise publishing platforms.

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

Sustainable, supportive, open.

Our culture is guided by our commitment to being open and inclusive, with each other, our clients, and the wider community. It’s also something we have to maintain remotely, and as we’ve grown, we’ve had to find new ways to adapt and ensure our culture survives and thrives. Keeping that growth sustainable, demonstrating support for each other, and adopting openness in our collaboration and communication, are fundamental to who we are.  

Human Made Product team in their weekly meeting

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

We’re extremely lucky to have worked on some really exciting projects in the last seven years, and there’s certainly some we won’t ever forget. Back when we started, we built the digitaltrends.com website and in those days, it was one of the largest websites being built with WordPress. It was an exciting time for the community, and we’re delighted to see that even with astronomical growth, the website remains on WordPress.

In more recent times, we’ve had the privilege of working with big media publishers, such as Fairfax Media and Capgemini; the latter, a project we completed alongside WordPress.com VIP, and which involved a complex replatforming effort from Drupal to WordPress. It required a huge collaborative effort between several agencies, and ushered in a new and more effective culture of digital creation for the Marketing and Communications team at Capgemini.

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

The Enterprise Growth Council, and its focus on WordPress agencies working together in the commercial space to a common end goal, is a really exciting opportunity for all of us. We’re passionate about WordPress’ capacity and potential, and really want to get behind a bigger push to market and deliver WordPress as an enterprise-grade CMS. We feel this is something best accomplished as a wider community, and we’re eager to continue the conversation, and build momentum around the project.

Noel Tock speaking at WordCamp Stockholm, 2017

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

WordCamp Europe used to be the event we focused our company retreat around; now that we’re 60+ people it’s no longer as convenient as it used to be, but it’s still a hugely important event to us, as is the equivalent WordCamp US. We usually have several people leading teams during Contributor Day, speaking, organising, and participating in events such as the Community Summit. As a remote company, it’s also a great opportunity to meet with your team and spend time socialising together.

(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What are your goals in 2018?

It’s important to us to maintain sustainable growth, and ensure we’re keeping our culture every step of the way. This new initiative saw us appoint Siobhan McKeown as People Director late last year, and we’re already implementing processes and standards that will help us stay true to who we are even as we continue to expand.

As previously mentioned, we’re eager to explore the opportunities in repositioning WordPress as an enterprise-grade CMS, and one that can help solve common issues for large enterprise publishers. It’s important for us to challenge some of the misconceptions and concerns around WordPress in enterprise, and to communicate the change and success we’ve witnessed in enterprises adopting WordPressnot only for our clientsbut for a large number of high-profile brands.

Thank you, Ant and Ana!

More on Human Made:

Agency focus and specialties

  • Custom APIs
  • Bespoke WordPress development
  • Strategy and Consultancy
  • Code Review
  • Content Migration
  • Accessibility Review

Currently working with: Airbnb, USA Today, News UK, Skype, Newton, Capgemini, Thunder Head, Unison, TK Maxx

Agency highlights

  • Voted Top UK Web Design agency by Clutch.co
  • Human Made consists of some of the world’s most respected WordPress developers, including WordPress Core lead developers, the lead developer of the WP REST API project, the European WordPress Polyglots team lead and many more

February VIP Roundup

If you got through February without stumbling across the word “curling” once or twice, you clearly don’t follow Mr. T on Twitter. Kudos for podium performances from VIP clients Olympic.ca and Pyeongchang OlympicChannel (which also handily delivered content to the main Olympic.org homepage via widget), and to the FiveThirtyEight crew, who scored an Up Close And Personal shot with the victorious US Curling team. Read on for huge news on the AMP Project and WordPress plugin, loads of partner updates, and a special extended spotlight featuring VIP client Harry’s Five O’Clock.

Stylized shot of AMP Conf stage
From AMP Conf, February 13-14 in Amsterdam

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

  • At AMP Conf, we shared exciting news about the latest plugin, AMP for WordPress 0.7, co-created along with our partners XWP and Google. This version debuts a new AMP native mode that makes it much easier for publishers to create a single version of their content in WordPress and still take advantage of all of AMP’s benefits. (Additional thoughts from Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate at Google.)
  • VIP Enterprise Support team lead Klaus Harris provided a glimpse behind the scenes at a recent client onsite with Grupo Abril.
  • We kicked off our partner profile series, Six Questions with, starting with Trew Knowledge. Trew Knowledge released a GDPR plugin this month designed to help manage efforts to meet GDPR requirements and obligations.
  • WordPress 4.9.4 maintenance release rolled out this month. (lobby post, announcement) Jetpack version 5.8 deployed (lobby post), including updates to Jetpack Search, Lazy Images full availability (now out of beta), significant reduction in the JS and CSS footprint for certain features, and a new global filter to filter the list of active modules.
  • VIP client Quartz ran #Qzchartweek, with Managing Editor Kira Bindrim challenging the team to surface charts that are a story in themselves.
  • Alley Interactive completed a custom billing report and time tracking plugin for VIP client ThinkProgress. It allows their editorial staff to keep track of how and where their time is spent. Records are available for admins to export in bulk or review individually, along with advanced filtering options and basic analytics on data.
  • Dekode has some sort of a super top secret print project a’brewing. (We expect updates just as soon as they get back from Tobogganing Day at WordCamp Oslo.)
  • A month chock full of news from 10up included: integrating Amazon Polly technology to transform POLITICO in Europe’s daily newsletter into an engaging podcast, a core contribution to AMP which brings native support for MathML, by Lead Engineer Adam Silverstein, a tutorial authored by Engineer Nicholas Andre walking through 10up’s WP-Migration plugin for WP-CLI, featured on Smashing Magazine, a v1.1 update to their Ads.txt manager plugin, now in use on several VIP client sites, updates to their ElasticPress plugin now with full Elasticsearch 6.1 support, and a look back from the vantage point of their 7 year anniversary.
  • Marketing technology partner Sailthru released v.3.2 of their plugin. (lobby post for clients, GitHub repo).
  • Trevor Kaufman, CEO of monetization partner Piano sat down with Ricardo Bilton of NiemanLab for a conversation on the state of paywalls, revenue, and marketing in big media.

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

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

“The cornerstone of next-generation, sustainable business models for news, we believe, will be direct audience revenue supported by high levels of reader engagement.”

Elisabeth Hansen and Emily Goligoski, in the Tow Center’s Guide To Audience Revenue and Engagement.

“It’s not inexpensive to produce the content in all the different formats we produce it, so the fact that we’re investing this much into platforms like Facebook and Instagram and getting nothing in return is incredibly tough.”

-An anonymous snippet among many curated by Hilary Milnes from candid conversations at the Digiday Retail Summit in February.

Client Spotlight: Harry’s Five O’Clock


This month we are excited to share an extended spotlight featuring Harry’s Five O’Clock, which launched in January on VIP. This extended interview with Editor Caitlin Ganswindt covers the pioneering native brand publication’s evolution as a platform as well as the new social mission Harry’s has unveiled with a new short film last week.

Upcoming Events

  • VIP Director of Business Development Peter Slutsky will be featured on the Remote Work Summit this week. His talk will cover building and scaling remote teams.
  • VIP Happiness Engineer/Wrangler Shannon Smith will be giving a talk on code review April 11 at Web a Québec, the largest French-speaking digital event in North America.
  • We will be sponsoring and attending ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement in Toronto, May 11th at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.
  • Kicking off VIP Workshop May 14-17 at the Carneros Resort in Napa will be new WordPress.com President Kinsey Wilson! Kinsey previously held executive roles at the New York Times and NPR and will share his insights on the future of digital and organizational change. We’ll be making more speaker and schedule announcements soon. Join us in Napa!

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.