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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
New enhancements released in February included block nesting, block shortcuts on empty paragraph blocks, a new experimental columns block, and improvements to “undo” and “saved” states.
“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.
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.
Kicking off VIP WorkshopMay 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!
Fresh from the January relaunch of Five O’Clock on VIP, men’s grooming brand Harry’s is in the process of launching a major initiative and set of partnerships that evolves the brand’s mission in culture and sharpens its editorial focus. Last week Harry’s released a new short film emblematic of the new approach, entitled “A Man Like You”:
We caught up with Caitlin Ganswindt, Editor at Harry’s, to hear about what’s in the works and the journey that brought her, and them, here.
Ganswindt came to Harry’s in late 2015 after serving as managing editor at Shinola and leading experiments with native, branded content at Urbandaddy. Since its origins in 2013, Five O’Clock has gone through a number of stages in its evolution from pioneering native brand magazine to the bigger cultural mission it is now embracing.
Tell us about the history of Five O’Clock and where you have taken it in since you joined.
We’re coming up on our 5th year anniversary at Harry’s in March. So you’re talking about, in 2013 starting a native publication with a very small group of people. Whatever story pitches we got pretty much went up on site. When I joined the team, they were looking for somebody who could figure out what the editorial strategy should be, and migrate the site on to a non-self-hosted solution. We just didn’t have the engineering resources to support a site, that we didn’t really know how to quantify yet, and didn’t really know the value of yet.
The original site was custom and proprietary, and very, very binary. There were only a couple of formats that we had to choose from. All of the assets were required and very finite. There was no tagging. There was no way to search on site. It was a rudimentary sort of blog…hole.
I spent the first couple of months, November and December of 2015, just doing a complete audit of the site. Everything we had run, things that worked, things that didn’t, and tried to hypothesize the what and the why. Then, in January of 2016, I made a proposal to migrate on to a customized WordPress theme, so that we could get away from the engineering constraints, and actually start testing against our point of view in real time. I started development of the second iteration of Five O’Clock using the Zuki theme, with a full custom CSS overlay of the existing theme templates.
On the last day of March 2016, the last day of Q1, which was a feather in my cap, we went live with that iteration of the site. We received a Webby nomination, and it was met with a lot of love from customers and industry folks. People were into it! They were really excited about the content that we were producing.
What was the new editorial focus?
We started talking about grooming education. We started talking about brand happenings. Business initiatives. Iterations of our products. We introduced people to our factories. We started putting faces to the names behind our products.
And then in November of that year, 2016, we launched Five O’Clock News, which is a monthly newsletter of Five O’Clock content.
That’s also been doing really well. We have very consistent readership, with numbers firmly above industry averages. More than half of everybody who receives our emails are opening them, engaging with them, and sharing them on a regular basis.
Do you have a mental picture of what’s been most popular and what the profile of the readership looks like, based on what works and what doesn’t?
We’ve actually gone through another iteration with this new site launch, but the very clear things that are trending, and are still true today: first, grooming education. Actually learning the “how” and “why” behind the tools we make and products and practices. Highlighting ingredients – the differences between shave cream and shave gel and why you should care. How to match the grain patterns on your face to optimize your shave.
Then in January of 2017, we starting thinking as a brand and marketing team more seriously about our point of view as a company. And have been working over the past year to bring that brand mission and positioning to life in the real world.
In tandem, we realized that while the new Five O’Clock site was really beautiful and doing great things, it was also grounded in three categories: better grooming, better mornings, and better life. Because our original positioning of the brand was – “the shaving company that’s fixing shaving” – being really frustrated by the margins in between what it cost to make something, and how much people were actually paying for razors from the bigger guys. While that’s where our story started, and we realized that we can do a lot more with this microphone.
We started thinking about what we truly believed, and realized that our focus was really more about this idea of progressive masculinity. Harry’s is committed to amplifying the ongoing cultural conversation around what it means to be a man today. Because men can be both strong and nurturing, self-assured and accepting of others. The big overarching picture is that to be a good man is to be a good human. We’ve always felt that existing shave brands weren’t speaking to us in a way that resonated. And again, since launching, we’ve learned so much about our customer values. So we wanted to do our part in opening up that conversation and try to modernize ideas around masculinity, to better reflect who our customer really is.
Obviously we know that shaving is inherently masculine, and the category has been dominated by brands that have perpetuated this traditional idea of masculinity as “being the best, the strongest, the smartest, the toughest.” But in real life, guys are a lot more than those traditional stereotypes. There is no one box that can define a person, and we feel like it’s time for brands to promote a more progressive vision of masculinity. But, moreover, we want to help guys define what it is to be a man on their own terms. Embrace whatever attitude and behaviors actually are resonating with them, and have a safe space to be who they are, or who they’re not, and embrace the parts of themselves that have previously been off limits according to these outdated ideals.
It’s quite a maturation of vision from “fixing shaving” to this bigger, cultural piece, with a lot of area to explore.
Yeah, definitely. We’re rolling out our new social mission over the coming weeks as well. Harry’s is partnering with a few really wonderful charitable organizations, to donate a portion of our profits to, and join the movement behind the initiatives and the conversations that they are pushing forward.
But by and large, as far as Five O’Clock is concerned, we’ve realized there’s a real whitespace when it comes to men’s lifestyle content. With all these fights for gender, marriage, class, equality, all over, men are facing new dynamics that are having them question these traditional ideals of what it means to be a real man. We think that the tension between the past and the future are really important to highlight and have real, candid conversation around.
We feel that Five O’Clock is a microphone to amplify these voices and galvanize this new generation by cultivating a space for real discourse. I think what drives us most is to lead in culture and raise awareness by bringing positive attention to these progressive shifts, rather than just focusing on the negative.
Tell us about where you are today with that mission and project. What has been shared so far?
One of the partners we’re aligning with is The Representation Project. They’re focused on helping guys understand misrepresentation and breaking down barriers of harmful stereotypes. We worked with GSD&M, a creative agency out of Austin and The Representation Project to create this film. We’ve also rolled out on Five O’Clock, profiles with the founders of The Representation Project and A Call to Men, another organization that we’re partnering with for our social mission. In the UK we’re collaborating with an organization called CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably) that focuses on awareness on mental health and also suicide prevention among men. We’ll have a profile and some great initiatives coming out with them soon.
Over the next several weeks and months, you’ll definitely see us putting a bigger stake in the ground around these conversations for sure.
It all sounds amazing. How do Five O’Clock and Harry’s fit together? How does the one connect up with the larger organization?
We feel like Five O’Clock is the place where our point of view can be loudest. It’s the most concentrated as far as participating in these conversations. It serves as a point of discovery and inspiration for people who feel like they’re ethos and values are in line with this progressive future.
It definitely serves as a contrast, particularly if you look in the broader world of beauty across masculinity and femininity – having a strong magnetic pull that says ‘This is what we’re about. If you’re about this, become a part of our…of us.”
Totally, and I think that’s definitely the goal. And it’s not to say anybody else is doing it wrong. Brands have found, and will continue to find success in myriad ways. But taking two steps back and reflecting on the state of culture and the world right now, we feel like particularly that grooming—you can call it beauty, sure—it’s a lot deeper than that. Shaving is important for upkeep, but it’s also a moment to make you feel good. And there are so many other things that are important to feel good as a human.
What do you think about the observation that in the current political moment, skincare is all of the sudden becoming a bigger piece of self care than it was before?
I don’t necessarily know if that is tied to a cultural moment. I think that care routines in general are becoming more center lane, and I think that that’s a little bit more of a technology thing. With social media, if you look at Glossier, Fenty Beauty—it’s the age of bloggers—we’ve never before had such democratized access to product reviews in real time.
If you think back to the original general store, if you needed a product, you went and you talked to the shopkeeper and said, “This is what’s going on and this is what I need.” And they would make a recommendation on the right product for you. You weren’t competing with branded advertorials. It wasn’t the guy who has the most money made the loudest boom, and that’s who you went with.
And now, in the age of bloggers, and independent brands, and direct to consumer, I think that we’re actually coming back to that original moment of …all of this information is available, so it’s about what you need and what you want and then you can find the product and brand that is most in line with that. I think it goes beyond just the quality of the products themselves and ladders up more to, “Is this brand for me in general?”
Tell us about the current iteration of the site, and the move to VIP.
As we were working on this updated brand positioning, we realized we’d also need to overhaul the Five O’Clock editorial mission to be in line with that. So we were thinking, yet again, of overhauling our content space. Part of the challenge we wanted to solve for was to be able to see the whole 360-degree user funnel. We wanted to improve our approach to data as far as who is using the site. Are they Harry’s customers? Are they more valuable because they are reading our content? Those kinds of questions, and that’s how we came to VIP.
In March of last year I put together a proposal for this migration. And then building all of the piping on our end to use the analytics we’re now able to use. We started development in September, and we launched live in January of this year. The whole site is fully custom. We’re doing some really cool things as far as styling on galleries. We have a really lovely dynamic scroll on the homepage as well as all of our article pages that have a gradient treatment, which is not something we see super often. Also, the entire site is set up super scalable to our business needs. For example, we built in hexadecimal code fields for every category on the site. Which means changing the look and feel of the homepage is as simple as changing the color scheme that’s aligned with a particular content category. So, if we had a big campaign or partnership we were rolling out that we wanted to do a whole new treatment for, we have that immediate flexibility without actually getting in to the code.
We’re also now running a reverse proxy for hosting, so the domain is now Harry’s.com/fiveoclock. We’ve also set up a child environment where we can theoretically host all of our acquisition/DR pages. So for the first time everything that we’re creating as a brand is all indexed against the same domain, providing that full 360 user funnel.
Over the next year, two years, and beyond, my focus is going to be figuring out what that attribution model looks like, understanding the real brass tacks – things like profitability of content on long term customer value. And that’s definitely where we’re heading next.
How does this new brand and site relaunch feel for you, to have done so much in evolving Five O’Clock multiple times in such a compressed period of time?
I think that this is a next step in one of the most exciting years for Harry’s as a brand, and Five O’Clock as a publication. I definitely feel lucky that, as an editor, we’ve had such confidence from our co-founders from the start, and that we were given the years necessary to hone in and prove out the channel. And I’m just really excited for the opportunities Five O’Clock has ahead.
You’ve built a very progressive case and grown this thing deliberately over time. Any advice for others who might be trying to develop similar evolutions for their publications?
I think the most important thing is to keep yourself in check. Particularly working at a brand, if you’re talking about native content, there tends to be one editorialist in a room. So that person needs to remember to take two steps back and ask themselves “Do I give a shit about this piece of content that I’m putting out in the world? Do I believe in it? Do I care personally?” If these answers are no, then you’re probably not on the right path. At the end of the day, even if it’s branded content, it’s still content, and as an editor, you’re wasting your mind if you’re putting things out into the world that you don’t feel are spurring or perpetuating culture or conversation.
We at VIP, as well as Automattic as a whole, joined the AMP project early on in 2015 and took on the challenging task of creating the first platform integration, a foundation to serve the needs of individual WordPress users and enterprise users alike.
Why? We want to make it easy for our users to deliver the best experience on the mobile web, and that means, fast.
There has been a ton of work going on across the project since its launch, on the core services and on the integration. We’re excited to announce the AMP for WordPress 0.7 beta, co-created by Automattic, and our partners, Google and XWP, which was officially unveiled at AMP Conf 2018 in Amsterdam earlier this month.
Watch the talk here:
What’s new with the AMP Plugin
Historically, the AMP Plugin has used a pair mode. That means that the plugin used a simple-theme approach, which generated a separate AMP version of your webpage.
Now, we’ve improved the experience, enabling “WordPress AMP,” a native experience that we believe is not only an improved feature set, but also a huge step forward for WordPress.
Since the beginning we have had our sight set on enabling an organic AMP experience in WordPress; that is, an experience where there is no need for a pair mode (unless applied by choice) because there are no gaps, either functional or visually, between the AMP and non-AMP versions of content published in WordPress. Without such a gap, WordPress publishers are able to publish a single version of their content which is beautiful, feature-rich, all-around WordPress, and runs at the speed of AMP! We call this an all-AMP experience.
To get started, you can install and activate the 0.7 version of amp-wp which can be found on GitHub here and will be released on WP.org soon. After that, you can go to your functions.php file and add add_theme_support( 'amp' ); to the after_setup_theme action hook. This will turn your entire site into a valid AMP canonical site (not just single posts/pages like the current plugin)!
The plugin does all of the dirty work of converting relevant HTML tags to amp-HTML valid tags. It also restructures the document head to comply with the AMP spec for how CSS and JS are implemented. We’d like to think it works like a charm!
As a whole, the new release takes as its focus the notion of empowering content creators and non-technical folks to go further with AMP on their own. The 0.7 beta supports: AMP native mode, default widgets, default embeds, commenting, creation of AMP-related notifications and outputting valid AMP. See it live on the full theme demo site today.
“At Automattic our focus has always been on the user. That’s why we’ve been committed to providing support for AMP from the project’s inception. We believe enabling everyone to create content on the open web in a fast and accessible way is key to both users and our business.”, Matt Mullenweg, CEO, Automattic
He also mentioned the goal of making the upcoming Gutenberg editor, slated to be a part of WordPress 5.0, work hand in hand with AMP. And we’re proud to support and highlight the work of our partners Google and XWP, who in the last year have taken a leading role in evolving the AMP for WordPress plugin to make it even easier, more accessible for smaller teams with limited development resources, and more powerful.
In the talk embedded at the top of this post, Fast By Default: AMP Powering WordPress, Alberto Medina from the Google Web Content Ecosystems Team along with Software Architect Thierry Muller from XWP demonstrated an AMP Native WordPress theme that shows off the potential for WordPress publishers to easily take full advantage of AMP’s speed and capabilities.
For example, Thierry Muller from XWP specifically noted these improvements:
The AMP version of the WordPress comments are much more dynamic than the default WordPress UX, and the AMP version of the gallery widget uses the AMP Carousel component instead of output images stacked like it would by default in WordPress.
We’re excited about the direction of the AMP project, and look forward to sharing more updates in the future.
WordPress.com VIP provides a wide range of services to our clients beyond managed cloud hosting. Some of those take place behind the scenes or across Slack, video conferencing, and terminals, but one in particular gives us the the opportunity to be in the same rooms with our client teams for an extended period of time. Our onsite visits get us embedded with client developers and users for as much as a whole week for a combination of shared planning, learning, and collaboration.
An onsite visit is extremely useful in a number of ways – it gets our teams synced up, provides the chance for a shared retrospective, creates opportunities for very hands-on learning and collaborative working experiences, and gives us at VIP a deeper appreciation for our clients workflow and context. That deeper context is experienced by all of the VIP Support team folks who attend but also shared in highlights and takeaways with the entire VIP team. It makes all of our ongoing work that much more connected.
Recently I joined four colleagues to spend a week with our client Grupo Abril at their headquarters in Sao Paulo for an onsite visit. This one was the third since we started working with Abril. My notes and pics from the week will give you a sense of what the structure looks like, how much we manage to pack into a relatively short period of time, and everything that comes out of it.
Our week started off with a retrospective which gave us a few extra topics to go through and some actions to take forward. We’re always keen to see what went well and where there is room for improvement, be that tooling, process and support, communications or anything else.
Particularly satisfying for us was to be able to share the developer improvements we have seen over the year. Developer skill and code quality has increased, site performance has been better than ever, and releases have been faster and more predictable. It’s exactly where we want our clients to be.
Roadmap Updates, in Both Directions
The WordPress.com VIP hosting platform is continually evolving and improving, and visits such as this help us get product and development teams up to speed and share roadmap news on both sides. The new WordPress block editor Gutenberg is also a hot topic and we talked about that too.
We talked to editorial teams about WordPress tooling, new and emerging technologies, content and application models, and further possibilities to enable and free their work.
We see WordPress used increasingly to power other applications such as mobile and node applications, and also consuming data from other applications thanks to the flexible and powerful REST API. We also talked about syndication models and VIP technologies such as Liveblog which is a great tool for covering real time high traffic events such as sports games, elections of other major events.
Working with product and development teams proved incredibly productive, and the Abril teams set aside some time for a mini sprint working on projects with us for two days.
One team experienced their first steps in Gutenberg development creating a block. Another worked on a proof of concept for an intranet site. Another got up to speed on new platform tooling. It was handy that we could pull in Automattic’s Gutenberg team who work on the WordPress core development for assistance.
Spotlight on Performance and Security
We hosted a performance workshop exploring best practices and potential issues as well a deep dive on development tooling to support debugging and performance analysis. This material built on sessions we held the previous year.
We also talked about security both at a platform level and an application and process level and it was exciting to be able to share details about the new activity log baked into our hosting platform. It’s a big plus for security teams and editorial teams managing workflow and process.
It’s quite common for us on WordPress.com VIP to see clients – especially traditional publishers and media companies – working with legacy editorial and print editorial systems. We’re often helping them streamline and simplify processes as well as manage the move from print first to digital first.
A Look Back
We finished the week with demos showing off the output of the hackathon work and a final retrospective. It was exciting to see what the Abril teams had produced in such a short time, and working together was just one big highlight. We would have liked even more hackathon time.
The retrospective brought out lots of individual takeaways and highlights, providing a really good end to the week. The Abril and VIP teams parted with high energy and spirits. Having the chance to work together in person on so many different parts of our shared goals has me really looking forward to the coming months and continuing the great work.
We are hugely grateful to the folks at Abril for their welcome and work together that week. I feel privileged to be working with such a terrific client and proud to be part of WordPress.com VIP supporting and working with clients like these every day. All of us truly care about our clients’ applications as if they were our own, and we live and breathe daily our mission to free our clients to publish.
PS: We are hiring! If this kind of work sounds interesting to you, check out our hiring page. We have a stellar team within a great company, doing great things with amazing clients at big scale. It’s zero effort for me to get excited about what we do every single day. Join us!
VIP is hiring, and we’ve recently expanded the roles we’re looking for!
There are a few questions that often come up when we talk to folks about working with VIP. I’ll try to go over some of them now.
Is Automattic / WordPress.com VIP a good place to work?
Well, we’re clearly biased but if you look at the reviews on Glassdoor we think it’s pretty clear that it’s a great place to work! We’re serious about increasing diversity in the tech industry. We want to build Automattic as an environment where people love their work and show respect and empathy to those with whom we interact. Diversity typically includes, but is not limited to, differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political and religious affiliation, socioeconomic background, cultural background, geographic location, physical disabilities and abilities, relationship status, veteran status, and age. To work on diversity means that we welcome these differences, and strive to increase the visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups. Read more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion here.
How do I know if I’m qualified for the job?
That’s a great question! Most of the time people think you need to know everything before applying, but in truth, depending on the position, that’s not that strong a requirement. The most important thing is being able to figure out and solve problems independently. For example, you don’t need to know why something is slow just by looking at the code, but you should be able to work on debugging it, finding the root cause, and finding a fix for it.
The most important skill is being able to learn new things when faced with a challenge you haven’t already encountered. That means being able to search internally and externally and being able to figure out which information is good and which information is potentially wrong. While not required for all positions, reviewing an intentionally vulnerable plugin is great practice for the Expert Debugger and VIP Developer positions.
What kind of work do you do?
Depending on if you’ve interacted with the VIP team before you might think all of our days are spent doing code review! While many of the roles include doing code review, it depends on your role, and your role can change as often as you want. A lot of our time is spent asking ourselves questions: Why is this code behaving in this unexpected way? What would be an efficient way to solve this problem? How can I reproduce what the client is seeing?
What that means in practical terms, for support developers, is working with clients in tickets helping debug functionality. You’ll give advice on how to achieve clients’ goals. You’ll build tools to help improve the client support experience. You’ll help clients launch new sites. You’ll work to improve site performance, sometimes proactively, sometimes in reaction to problems.
What’s the application process like?
It all starts by sending us an email. The specific instructions to follow are on each position’s page. We’re very lucky to get many applications, so make sure you read the full job description and follow the instructions if you’re interested in being considered for an interview.
The interview is to get to know you and has a few technical questions. Depending on the position, we’ll be asking various questions to test your skills more then your knowledge. The process for figuring things out is always more important then the right answer. The interview is done via text on Slack.
3) Code test
If you are applying for the Expert Debugger (hiring for this position will resume in the fall), VIP Developer or Enterprise Platform Engineer position, you will take a code test. It involves a plugin that needs some modifications. We’ll provide you with an SVN repo (we use SVN, although we do most of our day-to-day work with Git) and some instructions. We expect you to spend around 10 hours on this task, and this is done asynchronously over the course of 1 week.
The trial period is a unique part of Automattic’s hiring process. For this part, you join the team as a part-time contractor. We give you a contract for up to 40 hours over the course of up to 4 weeks. The pay is standard for all trial positions at USD $25 per hour. We usually recommend at least 10 hours a week, and this can be done at any time of the week. We’ll connect you with a VIP team member at the times you’re expecting to work so we can help guide and support you during your trial. You’ll be given work similar to the work you’d be doing as a full-time employee and you’ll be interacting with other team members similarly to being a full-time employee. The team and your trial buddy give recommendations to the hiring team.
Congratulations, we’d like you to join the team! At this step, we’ll make you an offer!
Trew Knowledge is an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Toronto. They have been a WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner since 2015. We asked founders Anthony Moore and Shawn Barrans six questions to help you get to know who they are as an agency.
What’s your agency’s origin story?
Trew Knowledge was founded in 2009 by Anthony Moore and Shawn Barrans. Anthony, with a background in Digital Media Arts focusing on design and programming, and Shawn with a degree in Marketing, were able to mesh their different set of skills to form an agency that offered clients full 360 solutions.
In our first couple of years in business it was just the two of us, working on a kitchen table in a suburb just outside of Toronto. We were constantly working all day and night building relationships with clients, attending networking events, participating in trade shows, and partnering with other agencies.
When we started making traction and bringing on a lot of clients we decided to rent office space downtown Toronto and hire staff. It was around this time we built a relationship with WordPress.com VIP and eventually became part of the Featured Agency program. In addition, we have become exclusive partners to Gigya and ramped up our services in the Customer Identity and Access Management industry.
Today, we work with some of the largest brands in Canada, as well as globally. Being able to work closely with the talented people at WordPress VIP has given us the ability to take on large, enterprise projects and deliver incredible solutions.
Pick three words that describe your agency culture.
Collaborative, passionate, and forward-thinking.
Our office is laid out in a collaborative, open-concept workspace. This gives everyone on the team the opportunity to speak freely, share ideas, and work together on projects. Since we are currently a small team, everyone gets the opportunity to work on several projects at once. Because of this, we have been able to improve, streamline, and automate several of our processes for project delivery.
When we are looking to bring on talent to join our team we look for someone with a genuine passion for what they do. Whether a creative person or a programmer, their passion must play a large role in their lives. Everyone on our team has an incredible thirst for knowledge.
Tell us about a client project you are especially proud of.
Our relationship with the Canada Olympic Committee goes back more than five years with the development of their flagship site ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics Games. We also programmed the Canadian Olympic Club, the official fan club of the Canadian Olympic Team.
The Canadian Olympic Club, powered by Gigya, is the first ever digital fan club of it’s kind by any national Olympic team. It allows fans to log in via their favorite social network and complete various challenges to earn points. These points can then be redeemed for contests and prizes, including swag, trips, signed memorabilia, and digital downloads.
The success of the website has been honoured with accolades such as an official honoree in the 18th annual Webby Awards for Best Sports website, Communication Arts “webpick of the week”, and Gold for best mobile user-experience in the 2017 W3 Awards.
What are you most excited about in the WordPress community right now?
2018 is going to be a very exciting year for WordPress, and the internet overall. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect on May 25, 2018 we are interested in seeing how website/business owners handle the regulations for data protection. Internally, we are in the process of developing a set of tools to help guide people using WordPress and assist with maintaining a compliant website. We hope to share more details with the WordPress community over the next couple of weeks.
Our team is also very excited for the release of Gutenberg. Our team has been testing the new editor for a few months and are really excited to get this in the hands of clients. While there may be concern for many people, given this is a big change for how they currently use WordPress, we feel this is a very forward-thinking approach and will really create a bit of a standard for content creation.
What’s your favorite conference or event of the year, and why?
This year our team attended WordCamp US in Nashville. This was our first visit to WordCamp US and we were blown away by the quality of content and speakers at this event. It was great to see some fellow WordPress VIP partner agencies in attendance from around the world and catch up with them.
This was also our first time visiting Nashville, and between the music and hot chicken, we are looking forward to returning next year and doing it all again.
(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What are you looking to accomplish in 2018?
2018 has already been a busy year, and it has just started. As mentioned previously, this is a big year for GDPR compliance and it is something Trew Knowledge is taking very seriously as it impacts several of our clients. For organisations we work with who are using WordPress, we are in the process of developing a set of tools to assist with them becoming compliant. This has certainly been challenging so far but we see this being an incredibly valuable tool for our clients and the WordPress community in general.
As an agency, we are always looking to grow. We are looking to bring on more talent that will allow us to not only expand our client services, but also be able to develop more product based solutions. We have had the pleasure of working with clients from hundreds of different industries, and each one offers its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.
Thank you, Anthony and Shawn!
More on Trew Knowledge:
Agency focus and specialties
Customer Identity Management
Gamification & Loyalty
Custom WordPress.com VIP themes & plugins
Content & Data Migration
Currently working with: The Canadian Olympic Committee, Corus Entertainment, Rubicon Project, Rakuten Viber, The Nation Network, Hip2Save, Barnes & Noble, Toronto Film School, Yorkville University, Sun Life Financial, Walgreens, Arizona State University, and the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
After the briefest of holiday breaks in many places, the new year roared to life across the enterprise WordPress community. Most recently, VIP client USA Today’s Ad Meter launched ahead of the Superb Owl of American sport, and just hours ago crowned Amazon this year’s advertising winner. With Alley Interactive, we completed a successful data migration of Women In The World from WordPress.com to VIP Go, helping to decouple it from The New York Times.
The Gutenberg editor plugin reached version 2.1 and gained lots of great enhancements. Featured Partner Human Made implemented it on their site and provided an inside look at how it went. Read on for lots more, as well as upcoming events.
News and Releases Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.
New Relic application monitoring, the same tool set we use to monitor and optimize site performance, is now available for all clients on VIP Go. We also releasedLiveblog v.1.7, developed by partner agency Big Bite Creative, which includes a fully rebuilt React front end.
Early bird tickets are now available for everyone’s favorite gathering of the enterprise WordPress ecosystem, this year’s VIP Workshop, May 14-17th in Napa, California. We’re putting together the best lineup of speakers and sessions yet, and we’ll have updates to share on that soon.
WordPress 4.9.2 security and maintenance release came out this month (lobby post), as well as Jetpack 5.7 (lobby, public announcement), bringing easier customization for Jetpack Search among other improvements. Jetpack 5.7.1 maintenance release followed shortly thereafter (lobby.)
In early January Dekode published an expansive look back at their year, including projects, growth, goals, and their new office in the center of Oslo. From the post: “As we all know…Our work life consists of all the small things that happen as we move forward, the tiny breakthroughs in a complicated task, or a moment of clarity in a workshop with a client, or it could be the sun that blinds your vision as it reflects your computer screen, forcing you to go out for a deserved 2 minute break with your sunglasses on.”
Earlier this month, Alley Interactive completed a data migration for Women In The World (WITW) from WordPress.com to the VIP Go platform, which also involved a new url: https://womenintheworld.com. This was an effort to effectively decouple WITW from the New York Times. After doing an initial data migration to the new Go hosting, Alley planned a specific date and time for the final migration. VIP hosted a launch session with Alley and WITW on Stormchat to ensure that all of the data was properly migrated. Daniel Gale-Rosen at Alley noted, “Everything went off without a hitch and VIP was even able to import WITW’s old site usage statistics to their new site’s WordPress Dashboard.”
At XWP, Mike Crantea published a set of recommendations for improving Google Page Speed, and Luke Carbis offered a perspective on AMP’s role on the web. And as of January, the AMP plugin for WordPress, which XWP supports along with Google and Automattic, is now at version 0.6. Among other improvements, the new version has merged the AMP Customizer with the main Customizer, and has out-of-the-box support for Pages.
rtCamp was the Gold sponsor for the second edition ofWordCamp Udaipur, the City of Lakes, January 27-8. Later in February, Rahul Bansal will be speaking at WordCamp Bangkok about the qualities and assurances that enterprises look for while choosing a content management systems. rtCamp is also one of the sponsors of this WordCamp.
Getty Images has deprecated plugin versions earlier than 2.4.4 (lobby). We recommend updating to the latest, currently version 3.0.
Gutenberg News and Notes The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0
We encourage everyone to install the Gutenberg plugin in a test environment and start working with it. For clients, your VIP support team is available as always to help. If you’re already developing blocks or related tools, let us know! We’d love to hear about them. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from across the community last month:
Gutenberg v2.0 came out January 12th with lots of big updates including refinements to copy and pasting, mobile usability, the block API, the block library, and accessibility. Matías ran down all of the changes and offered a demo video as well. As of this post, it’s at version 2.1.
Tammie shared a post outlining the basics of Gutenberg design piece by piece.
In a tweet, Matías showed off the ability to paste Markdown text directly into Gutenberg.
Matt Mullenweg stopped by a WordPress Orlando meetup and answered questions about the Gutenberg project in an open floor, town hall-style session. Here’s an unofficial recap of the questions and answers.
Matthew Haines-Young at Human Madewrote up his experiences in adding Gutenberg compatibility to their main site, including 13 custom blocks and a UI for editing them.
Aaron Jorbin reflected on six months of using Gutenberg so far, including eighteen posts.
Gutenberg.news, Mike McAlister‘s ongoing collection of resources and tutorials, came on line this month. It’s another great way to stay up to date.
Media and Marketing Notes Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.
“Publishers are also using these Interactive Advertising Bureau-backed text files to organize inventory reports they share with advertisers, drive programmatic direct deals and shop for vendors.”
–Ross Benes at Digiday, in a story exploring additional uses publishers have found for ads.txt.
“When you create a subscription business model, your incentives change significantly,” [he said.] “You’re trying to build a really deep relationship with your reader. No one is going to subscribe if they think that what you’re doing is not unique … You do want as many readers as possible. You do want people to come frequently. But what you really want them to do is love your stories.”
-Wired Editor In Chief Nick Thompson, in an article and podcast conversation with Peter Kafka at Recode about Wired’s newly unveiled paywall.
As mentioned up top, we’re excited to share the dates for VIP Workshop, May 14-17, and have opened up early bird ticketing. It’s our favorite time of the year! We hope to see you all there.
Recode’s Code Media, an immersive, two-day media and technology event hosted by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher, is coming up February 12-13 in Huntington Beach, CA.
AMPConf is coming up February 13-14 in Amsterdam. Alberto Medina from Google along with XWP’s Thierry Muller will be presenting on AMP powering WordPress on the first day, and Gil Birman and Brian Ta from Airbnb will be on a panel on monetization and retail on the second.
Dekode, WooCommerce, and Jetpack are all diamond sponsors of WordCamp Oslo March 2-3. Speakers include our own Tess Needham, Scott Baasgard and Magne Ilsaas from Dekode, and John Blackbourn from Human Made.
Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue. And sign up below to receive these roundups via email:
WordPress.com VIP has once again been acknowledged as a top-tier provider of enterprise-level WordPress hosting, posting the fastest average response times from a range of global testing locations in independent analysis carried out by Review Signal.
Each year Kevin Ohashi at Review Signal evaluates enterprise WordPress hosts, and again in 2018 WordPress.com VIP joins a strong top tier. In the language of the review system, top tier means, “companies who maintain 99.9% uptime throughout the entire testing and show little to no performance degradation during load testing.”
After putting up “the absolute fastest scores [I’ve seen] by a wide margin” in our first participation in the rankings last year, this year VIP’s performance shone again. In addition to meeting each metric for top tier status, our scores in the WebPageTest.org tests showed off the speed of our content delivery network in accomplishing its main function – serving content as fast as possible to end users all over the world. Of the 11 locations used to test, VIP came out ahead in 9 of them, and we scored second in the two others. In his review, Ohashi concluded “[VIP] were delivering content the fastest on average around the world in the WebPageTest tests. Another Top Tier Performance award easily earned for WordPress.com VIP.”
Raw speed and performance is more than just an area for bragging rights. In terms of both search algorithm ranking factors and the behaviors and bounce rate of site visitors, it translates to real business value.
We’re pleased to announce that our New Relic offering is now out of beta and is available to all clients running on our VIP Go platform.
New Relic Application Monitoring watches your WordPress application to help identify and solve performance issues. Performance data is displayed in an extensive series of charts, and alerting can be configured to surface any issues as they arise.
The new New Relic package also includes:
Synthetics Lite, allowing you to monitor availability and uptime
Browser Lite, providing visibility and insight into how your users are interacting with the front end of your application
Insights Lite, allowing you to create custom analysis and visualizations of your application
Our support team uses New Relic’s tools extensively in the course of our ongoing work monitoring and optimizing client site performance, and find them incredibly useful. They take on additional value in the hands of site developers and architects who want to zoom in on the behavior of a particular service or process. New Relic can power customized dashboards and ongoing historical views, or it can analyze narrow bands of performance, such as specific critical transactions that must execute at a higher standard than the rest.
The video below gives you a taster of the information you can access via New Relic:
Find more technical details in our New Relic documentation, and please contact your VIP support team to get set up with access.
We’re pleased to announce the release of Liveblog v1.7, which introduces a completely new React-powered front end, adds new features and provides improved support for liveblogging from mobile devices.
Our Liveblog plugin offers a powerful and easy to use way to cover high profile events on an owned channel. With it you can host frequently updated real time event coverage pages, drawing in collaboration from multiple contributors who may be in multiple places. Many of our clients use Liveblog in their newsrooms to cover awards shows, big sporting events, and breaking news.
The new front end, rebuilt from the ground up, offers the enhanced performance and simplicity of React while retaining the existing Liveblog feature set, including:
Lazy loading of events
Check out the added autocomplete and emoji rendering features in action:
And it adds some of our most frequently requested enhancements:
A more mobile-friendly interface
Easier image insertion, including on mobile
Better formatting tools
Pagination of entries
Performance improvements for high-traffic liveblogs
Here’s a quick run-through of what’s new for editors:
And for users:
Special thanks to our development partner on the project, VIP featured partner Big Bite Creative, who with this great release have set a new foundation for continued enhancements to a critical newsroom tool.
“It’s been a rewarding few months working with the VIP team on what has been the biggest update since the original release. And it doesn’t stop here! With 1.8 already in works, we’re excited to demonstrate how easy it is to extend the new UI with some exciting new features.” said Liam Defty, Release Lead at Big Bite.
In this talk from BigWP London in December, you can hear Jason from Big Bite introduce the context behind this new release and a share a bit about what’s coming next.
If you’re a VIP client and have any questions about how to upgrade, check the Lobby post for specific instructions, or get in touch with your VIP support team.
Bugs, feature requests, and contributions are more than welcome on GitHub. And anyone can download and use the plugin via WordPress.org.
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