Event Video, Featured, Tech Community, Technology, Uncategorized, WordCamp

The State of The WordPress Ten Years After

wordpress-logo-notext-rgbAll of the sites I maintain run on WordPress, except one. That’s a legacy site that I hope can eventualy be moved to the WordPress platform in the near future. Why? Because WordPress can handle the complexities of media embedding and sharing without requiring a PhD in computer science on the part of the webmaster. The reason for this is that the development community around WordPress is a vibrant and active one producing for example, 336 themes and 6,758 feature plugins in just the last year that provide new features to the websites that run WordPress- or 18.9% of the entire web. Whether you know it or not, you probably frequent several websites built on WordPress. After ten years of development as a simple blogging platform, almost 70% of websites run WordPress purely as a CMS, 20% as a hybrid blog/CMS, 6% purely as a blog and a new 7% as an app platform. After ten years, WordPress has changed not only the look of blogs, but of the entire web.

Check out this video by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, for in depth discussion of the statistics above and the future of the platform, as discussed below:


This is all great, but the “web” now and in the future is all about mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, social sharing and rich media streaming to these devices. WordPress must address this complexity to thrive and I’m happy to say it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening. As a personal sidenote, the majority of my frustrations as a WordPress user have been around the wp-admin panel (or “Dashboard”) and arcane methods of embedding, formatting and presenting media, such as pictures, audio and especially video. Social sharing buttons can be a special place in hell all their own as new services pop up that you may want to link to from your blog. This blog right here- imperfect as it is- is a bit of a sandbox for me to try out new themes and plugins that solve some of these frustrations.

So what’s coming in WordPress that will define it’s second decade? First, in 3.6 code name “Oscar” (for jazz pianist great Oscar Peterson- got to love Mullenweg’s penchant for jazz-based code names as a homage to his saxophone playing youth), a focus on the 2013 theme formatting well on all devices, media streamlining with native audio embedding and smart video handling using simple content URL’s rather than complex embed codes, and much needed changes to the wp-admin UI. These are welcome changes to the point release that I’m looking forward to. Very rarely can I create a post in WordPress right now without switching out from the “Visual” WYSIWYG editor to the “Text” page source code editor and playing around with some embed codes and basic HTML formatting. But there’s more under that hood in how WordPress will address development moving forward.

As I understand it, WordPress’ new software/feature model will now support parallel release development and will follow a layered stack. The “core” will be the foundation of the stack along with layers for other services, plugin features and presentation layers. As a much less monolithic approach to development, this allows teams to form around these layers and submit updates to the project when ready. That to me is the definition of platform development, having seen such models work successfully on past open source kernel projects I’ve been a part of. Based on comments during the Q & A section of the talk, I gathered that this new cycle of development could possibly cause headaches for those who support the installed base for their clients. Change is always difficult initially, but the needs of the installed base will always be heard. Perhaps WordPress ends up with an Ubuntu-like LTS model with a stable release maintained for x number of years for enterprise customers?

While listening to Mullenweg’s presentation, it struck me how much thought was put into realigning WordPress as a platform and adopting a nimble and distributed development approach. The first ten years was birth, early development and feature growth through add-on plugins and themes. The next ten years will see a faster integration of new features, bug fixes and security updates. For the WordPress end user the Google Chrome model was referenced: WordPress would automatically update with the latest fixes and enhancements without direct user intervention, ensuring that all installations were running the latest/greatest codebase. This is how all our modern operating systems and most apps behave today so it’s great to see that idea ported to WordPress.

This brings me to my last thought, what do I think is in store for WordPress in the future? These are my predictions going into the next ten years, so let’s seen if any of this speculation turns out to be fact. One theme Mullenweg has mentioned often (and again in this presentation) is that WordPress can be the antidote to the walled garden of the web, especially those places where user agreements allow those companies rights to your content. So as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. change your rights and privacy continually, your site’s content is owned by you and I do believe WordPress will evolve to a richer feature set that provides the usefulness of a social network with a distributed and individually owned content model. Just take a look at Pressgram to see an exciting example!

Then there’s the app. I was surprised but not shocked at the newly reported growth of the platform supporting standalone apps. In the presentation there was a demonstration of a kiosk built on the CMS. That could be a “killer app” for WordPress. The software was already designed for the cloud day one, based on open source web standards and now it could have the potential as a software stack running on hardware. Think of this app as a complete CMS framework with connectivity built in, but also on standalone devices including mobile and embedded. Would we eventually see the WordPress environment branch out into something like a Facebook Home or Chrome OS?

What other developments could we see on the horizon for WordPress? Although a seemingly fiercely independent company, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) could see interest in outside partnerships, investment and even attempts at acquisition during it’s next decade. In the competitive environment of behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, I could see WordPress providing the foundation for a mainstream social network or CMS strategy as a competitive edge for a company with deep pockets of cash. Apple has come and gone with iWeb, Microsoft could make it’s first foray into open source without negatively impacting it’s core, proprietary products, Google’s culture could mix well with WordPress folks although they already have their own blogging platform and Yahoo is just buying stuff (although they just recently bought Tumblr)… This is just far-fetched speculation and I have no insider information, but it’s interesting to consider that as WordPress platforms grow to power 20% of the web, it’s not hard to wonder what the market will make of this asset in the future.

Most important, I look forward to working with all the new features to come in WordPress in the coming years. Great software, developers, content creators and communities make WordPress one of the very best things of the web.


Public Media Camp at Oregon Public Broadcasting

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of attending Public Media Camp at OPB studios. The organization rolled out the red carpet with helpful volunteers and an excellent buffet dinner spread that prompted my first, official event tweet:

PubCampOPB: Plate Full

Although there were some key folks missing who have been participating in online media that I wished would have attended, the crowd was a good mix of tech folks, journos and those with a community interest. Several I spoke with knew me and I knew them by way of Twitter and blogs, even though we had never met in person. I always find it awkward to meet people in person who I’ve followed for a significant time online. I feel like I already know you and don’t feel obliged by customary introductions.

Twitpic by PattiPDX

Once everyone had a chance to get fed we sat down in the main television studio, heard the ground rules for an unconference, and then passed the microphone for introductions. OPB’s volunteers for the event did an excellent job of getting everyone situated and the unconference planning board updated. I decided to attend the Content and Online Communities in the North side of a large conference room called Appy. Since this was one large room, the conversation competed with the Tech for Reporting/Reporting on Local Tech (their notes here). Our discussion seemed to overlap another that was happening in the studio called Community Engagement. They posted their notes here.

My take-away from this conversation is that we all still have a long way to go building healthy online communities within the context of major media sites. It seems like it’s a feast or famine proposition: hot topics that lead to negative comments, flame war and moderation, or no comments on a show topic at all. My friend Nate DiNiro made a few good points about Community Managers and implementing a good CMS (Content Management System), but I felt that the problem was less about technology and more about building relationships within your online community. I kept coming back to the many live, in-person events that the Portland web tech community has created and the ongoing Beer and Blog, the Friday night mixer at the Green Dragon that finds a diverse mix of folks that may have already established ties online. Eva Schweber, formerly of tech community hub Cubespace, has written her thoughts on community here. I believe OPB’s effort to reach out in person and host this Public Media Camp is a good start in this direction. It also prompted me to post this tweet:

PubCampOPB: Beer and Babble Anyone?

During the break I mixed, mingled and said “Hi” to a few folks. I stumbled around, not finding anything of interest to me in the Appy conference room until I saw this tweet:

PubCampOPB: $3.3M !!

Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone is throwing $3.3M or even sniffing around it well, I want to be in that session. So I crammed into the small Radio conference room with some familiar faces. The conversation seemed to focus on the topic of Bridging Old and New Media which was posted on the wiki. No talk of the $3.3M though, I must have missed it. If someone comes across this funding, shoot me a DM or email, OK? 🙂

As I got caught up on my Gmail/Twitter/Facebooks sitting in the back corner, I was startled into the discussion by a question directed to me and the room looking my way. Ooops! Pay attention in class, Mike! My contribution to this conversation revolved around the community niche content that I produce and the ability to readily produce it on the fly with the amazing production tools and capabilities we now have at our disposal on the web. Add to this recipe of technology a highly participatory community and you can do amazing things on the web in media. An interesting side-note to this, is the two discussions I had that night with broadcasters who are now starting to adopt some of these technologies to broaden their production capabilities.

So it was in this cramped conference room that I gave the example of a live remote we produced at the food cart pod on Hawthorne. It was Foursquare Day and we celebrated with a live show at Whiffies, talking about food carts, listening to live music and assisting KPTV with their 10 O’Clock news remote. It’s one of the best examples I can think of- dropping into a community event and delivering it live to an online and broadcast audience. As an independent web media producer, I posed two questions to this group: How do I partner with a traditional media outlet, providing them faster and nimble production capabilities? What communities aren’t being represented or are underserved in the media and how can I help them? To the first question, my friend Aaron Weiss of KGW talked about broadcast video quality standards but was also quick to point out that after some experimentation, they have embraced Skype for remote interviews. He also said that a news organization will use any quality level of content that would be identified as newsworthy at the time. An example of this would be CNN airing cell phone videos of a terrorist bombing.

As our session was coming to a close and we were getting kicked out of the room to make our way downstairs to the wrap-up session, I did get a chance to express my thoughts on funding media on the web directly through in-house, corporate production facilities- the deeper pockets where money does exist. We didn’t have time to explore the pros and cons of such a model, because of the time constraints.

In the wrap-up session I think one message was shared, that OPB should do this again. The closing thoughts are posted here from Morgan Holm.

–How does OPB build a stronger online community?

–How do web media producers and bloggers fit in with community and broadcast journalism?

–How do we provide a voice to underserved communities?

–Where does the money come from to support these efforts?

Comments are open.

CrazyTalk, WordCamp

Word Camp Portland 2010: Live Media on Your Blog: Tips, Tricks and Chicanery

For me, this year has meant some great accomplishments in producing media, juxtaposed by a devastating loss in my life and emotional conflict that at times, seems insurmountable and has brought with it feelings of deep sadness and anxiety. But to run away and hide from what has been accomplished and what has been made possible, is the wrong decision. I will continue to participate in building community through exploring the boundaries of technology and media– to teach, to learn and to hopefully make new friends along the way!

With this in mind, I submitted and was selected to give a talk at Word Camp Portland 2010, a yearly WordPress enthusiasts gathering. Although I certainly don’t consider myself a WordPress guru, I will give my talk on how to present live media on your blog- something I have spent many hundreds of hours producing. I hope to pass on some tips and also learn from the WordPress experts that will be there. If you won’t be there in person, please join the live stream, which I will embed right here on this blog.

Dr. Normal – Live Media on Your Blog: Tips, Tricks and Chicanery

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Hockley

This is not your father’s blog: with so much rich media on the web, bloggers want to know how to embed everything from podcasts to live events using their WordPress blog as a media portal.

Dr. Normal or doc normal is the nom de plume of Mike Gebhardt who makes great live video happen on the web.