As I write this, I’m on my way to Seaside, Florida to see 60+ Automatticians at our yearly meetup. More than sixty… that number astounds me! Automattic has grown so far beyond what I originally imagined and every day I’m amazed by my colleagues and the things they create. Today we’re growing in another way: Automattic has transferred the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation, the non-profit dedicated to promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity. This means that the most central piece of WordPress’s identity, its name, is now fully independent from any company.
This is a really big deal.
I want to recognize and applaud the courage and foresight of Automattic’s board, investors, and legal counsel who made this possible: Mike Hirshland, Phil Black, Tony Conrad, Toni Schneider, Gunderson Dettmer. I’d also like to thank Matt Bartus of Dorsey & Whitney for their counsel on the Foundation side. The WordPress brand has grown immeasurably in the past 5 years and it’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control. However, I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are.
When Automattic registered the WordPress trademark back in 2006, we were a small startup of a few people: a business founded largely to enable us to work on WordPress full-time instead of hacking around our day jobs. A lot has changed since then — somehow along the way we ended up with an audience of a quarter billion people — but a lot has stayed the same. We’re still a group of people in love with WordPress and free/open source software and we’re lucky to have figured out a way to contribute to the world and flourish as a business while doing it.
Automattic might not always be under my influence, so from the beginning I envisioned a structure where for-profit, non-profit, and not-just-for-profit could coexist and balance each other out. It’s important for me to know that WordPress will be protected and that the brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom regardless of whether any company is as benevolent as Automattic has been thus far. It’s important to me to know that we’ve done the right thing. Hopefully, it’s important to you, too, and you’ll continue your support of WordPress, the WordPress Foundation, and Automattic’s products and services. We couldn’t do it without you!
Facebook is offering its users a 6-month free trial of McAfee and promoting it heavily, and even forcing people to run a scan before they can reactivate a hacked account. They’re “not aware of another free Internet service that takes this much responsibility for helping people keep their accounts secure.” (Didn’t Google promote McAfee through Google Pack at one point?) I think this is a laudable step, more security is intrinsically good, but I have to suspect this is more about revenue than security. They will probably make many millions of dollars from their users installing or buying McAfee as a result of this.
Modern versions of Windows include free tools like Defender which are just as good and appear to have less of a performance impact on the computer. But if they really wanted to have a long-term impact on desktop as a vector for attack on web services I’m surprised they didn’t start, sponsor, or promote an Open Source equivalent of McAfee. This seems like a space very well-suited to address with an OS tool in the digital commons, much like a Windows anti-spyware equivalent of SpamAssassin, with self-updating rules and a completely transparent process.
At the last IRC meetup the WordPress community asked for better search that included both the forums and the Codex and was integrated with the look and feel of the rest of the site. When I did this before it was horribly slow and it involved several queries across several different programs and MySQL hosts to get the results from the wiki, the forums, the blog, and then splice them together somehow. Later we switched to a plain Google site-search but they didn’t like the HTML we used for the search form so we took it down. Well after the meeting I remembered Yahoo Developer Network which had some sort of API for their search with a much higher limit than Google’s.
I went to the site to see how much of a pain it would be so I could start properly procrastinating, but I was taken aback by how incredibly easy it was to get an application ID and start getting the results back as simple XML. I began hacking on it right then. It was about 5 minutes to set up a search form with URIs the way I wanted, 7 minutes to get the XML and parse it out, 5 minutes to write in some paging, and then about 20 minutes tweaking the search page to make it look a little better. The result is the new search.wordpress.org WordPress Search.
It still needs some more work. There seems to be a dupe problem, which is actually a problem with our site, not Yahoo Search. I’d like to tweak the results to highlight newer topics more, or at leats allow for a date-based weighting. Finally I think it would be nice to include some WP-related blogs like Blogging Pro and Weblog Tools Collection in the results. Most importantly we now have a clean URI structure and home for searches which is abstracted from any piece of software or particular service provider. Yahoo deserves major kudos for opening up their information in such a free way and making it so easy that it’s taken me longer to write this post than start using their API.
So I’m playing around more with Newsburst today, and one thing that struck me was the organization of the defaults. Where in the world did they come from? You could do this with most any category, but let’s take a look at “Open Source”:
- Builder.com.com — not sure what the site is doing, but the feed does have two mentions of open source software, but it seems to just be re-branded stories from News.com, so I’m not sure what the point is.
- Linux Dell Blog — Frequently down but hardcore open source.
- jfleck — I suppose the connection is he contributes to Gnome. Okay… No posts about OS on the front page, and even the category they subscribe to looks to be updated about twice a month.
- Kuro5hin — A great site, but nothing about Open Source in the feed lately. It’s more tech-culture.
- Linux.com — dry, but valid.
- linux kernel monkey log — valid.
- Miguel de Icaza — Good choice.
- NewsForge — groovy.
- Lockergnome Tech News Watch — covers tech but not too much OS
- Scripting News — Many things, but not an open source blog. Besides, it’s listed several other places already.
- Slashdot — who would argue with this?
What would be cool if Newsburst let me tag a feed when I subscribed to it, then highlight popular tags and the most popular “sources” within them. Forget what they think “open source” is, I want the opensource tag.
The way to get people hooked on blogs has nothing to do with RSS feeds or river of conciousness displays or whatever, it’s all the fantastic content that’s being created out there by people in the trenches. If you had a passing interest in learning about open source, you would get 60+% junk if you subscribed to that channel group. Where is Blake Ross’ passion about Firefox, Mitch Kapor, ZDNet’s OS Blog, Sitepoint’s, Spread Firefox, or anything from the people that are creating the applications that are changing the way we live, work, and play? Are blogs that talk about open source that hard to find?