Category Archives: WordPress

Dear WordPress,

Has it really been 10 years? It seems just yesterday we were playing around on my blog, and the blogs of a few high school friends. Two of those friends are married, one isn’t anymore, two are still figuring things out, and one has passed away.

You were cute before you became beautiful. Wearing black and white, afraid of color, trying to be so unassuming. I know you got jealous when I wore those Blogger t-shirts. They were the cool kids at SxSW and I thought maybe you could grow up to be like them.

You wouldn’t have shirts of your own for a few more years. We didn’t know what we were doing when we made them and the logo printed ginormous. People called them the Superman shirt and made fun of them. But, oh, that logo — the curves fit you so well.

You showed the world you were growing up, and how much you cared about design and typography and other platonic ideals. You knew that open source didn’t have to be homely. I stretched myself too thin trying to get you there, and I did a stupid thing to pay for it. I hurt you, but instead of casting me away you held me closer, supported me, gave me another chance. I will never forget that. Akismet made me feel less guilty. I wouldn’t change anything, because the mistake made me understand how important it is to fly straight and take your time.

You’re so beautiful… I’m continually amazed and delighted by how you’ve grown. Your awkward years are behind you. Best of all, through it all, you’ve stuck with the principles that got you started in the first place. You’re always changing but that never changes. You’re unafraid to try new things that may seem wacky or unpopular at first.

I see you all over the world now, glowing from screens, bringing people together at meetups and WordCamps — you’re at your best when you do that. You’re my muse; you inspire me, and I’ve seen you inspire others. You become a part of their life and they become a part of yours. I hope we grow old together.

Cheers to ten years, and here’s to a hundred more.


Neil Leifer on WordPress

One of my favorite photographers, Neil Leifer, has a beautiful new site. For the past few years I’ve had this photo in my office:

Ali - Williams (Overhead)

The story behind it is pretty interesting, taken from this interview with Larry Berman and Chris Maher:

Chris/Larry: It’s actually quite a different question to say what are your favorites verses what do you feel are your best photographs.

Neil: I know, and my best picture ever, in my opinion, is my Ali Cleveland Williams picture that I shot from overhead. I don’t usually hang my own photos, I collect other people’s pictures. But that picture’s been hanging in my living room as long as I can remember. I have a 40×40 print of it which is hung in a diamond shape with Williams at the top. That’s the guy that’s on the canvas on his back.

Chris/Larry: It’s remarkably abstract for a sports picture.

Neil: I think it’s the only picture in my career that there’s nothing I would do different with it. You look at pictures and think that you can always improve them no matter how successful the shoot is. Part of what motivates you to go on to the next shoot is every once in a while you get a picture, whether it’s the cover of the magazine or an inside spread, that’s as good as you think you could have made it. And then a week later you see a couple of things that you could improve slightly. A month later you might see a few more things. It doesn’t diminish the quality of that picture. It simply means that there’s always room for improvement.

Chris/Larry: You’re learning for the future?

Neil: Exactly. It’s sort of what motivates you to go on. If I were to do the Cleveland Williams Ali picture again, I would do it exactly the same. And more important is that no one will ever do it better because it can’t be done like that anymore. Today the ring is different and the fighters dress in multi colored outfits like wrestlers. Back then the champ wore white and the challenger wore black.  Today, when you look down at the ring from above, you see the Budweiser Beer logo in the center and around it is the network logo that’s televising the fight. Whether it’s Showtime or HBO, they have their logo two or three times on the canvas. The logo of promoter of the fight, Don King Presents, is also visible. That’s why that picture couldn’t be taken today. So not only did the picture work out better than any I’ve ever taken, but it’s one that’ll never be taken again.

©Neil Leifer

Chris/Larry: Where are you in this picture?

Neil: I’m at 11:00 o’clock, as I remember it. I’m in a blue shirt leaning on the canvas with a camera in each hand.

It’s always an honor to have a great creator make their home on the web with WordPress.

Radically Simplified WordPress

Had an interesting chat with Anil Dash today at the GigaOM/PaidContent conference in NYC, here are some tweets from the talk:

If you’re curious about P2 check out where you can sign up pretty easily.

I learned this from the Complex interview with Young Guru. (Which they present in slideshow format, for some reason.)

A few very kind words from Jay Rosen:

And finally we talked about how WordPress is actually on its third or fourth pivot, as in the most important contributor to growth of the platform changes over time, which turned into this article which has been making the rounds:

WordPress was first for pure blogging, then became embraced as a CMS (though some people still deny this), is seeing growth and innovation in being used as an application platform (I think we’re about a third of the way through that), and just now starting to embrace social and mobile — the fourth phase of our evolution.

As with each of our previous transitions there are large, established, and seemingly unshakable competitors entrenched in the same space. This is good because we can learn from those that came before, as we always have, and good competitors drive you to be better. As before, people will probably not notice what we’re doing at first, or deny it’s happening as folks who still say WordPress “isn’t a CMS.”

Function reforms form, perpetually. As John Borthwick put beautifully today, “A tablet is an incredible device that you can put in front of babies or 95-year-olds and they know how to use it.” How we democratize publishing on that sort of platform will not and should not work like WordPress’ current dashboard does. It’s not a matter of a responsive stylesheet or incremental UX improvements, it’s re-imagining and radically simplifying what we currently do, thinking outside the box of wp-admin.

There are hints of this already happening in our iPhone and Android apps, but even though I’m thinking about this all the time I don’t have all the answers yet — that’s what makes it fun. WordPress is going to turn nine years old this Sunday and I’m as excited to wake up in the morning and work on it as I was the day we started. I think when we turn 10 in 2013 the ways people experience and publish with WordPress will be shorter, simpler, faster.

State of the Word 2011

Just in case you missed yesterday’s State of the Word presentation, it’s now available on WordPress TV:

The slides are also available on Slideshare.

Here are some key takeaways from yesterday:

  • We had over 1,000 people attending WCSF and many more watching the livestream, making it the biggest WordCamp yet.
  • The survey of 18,000 WP users revealed some interesting data, like a median hourly rate of $50 and that 6,800 of the self-employed respondents were responsible for over 170,000 sites personally.
  • WordPress 3.2 had 500,000 downloads in the first two days, representing the fastest upgrade velocity ever.
  • WordPress now has 15,000 plugins and 200 million plugin downloads, and we’re doing a lot of work to make the plugin experience more seamless.
  • 14.7 percent of the top million websites in the world use WordPress.
  • 22 of every 100 active domains created in the U.S. are running WordPress.

In true WordPress fashion, we’ll be open sourcing the raw survey data so people can slice and dice it their own way to find interesting trends or patterns, like breaking down the hourly rates by geography.

Special thanks to Pete Davies, who was responsible for the survey and helping craft the narrative of the keynote, and Michael Pick who did the same and also designed all the slides and animations you saw. Michael is going to prepare a blog post with all of the inspirations and allusions in the slides for those of you curious about the story behind the design.

Update: Raw data and a few other updates are now available on

The TimThumb Saga

Last week there was a serious flaw found in the code behind TimThumb, an image re-sizing library commonly used in premium themes.* Because the code is commonly embedded in themes it’s not easy to discretely update like it would be if the code were a plugin, and even when a theme is updated people are hesitant to update because they often customize theme code rather than making child themes, so if they were to overwrite their theme with a new version they’d lose their modifications. That, combined with the severity of the flaw, means that this is one of the more serious issues in the WordPress ecosystem in a while, even more than normal because it wasn’t in core.

It could have gone a lot of ways, but the incident brought out the best in the community. The core team sprang into action searching through the theme directory to inoculate any themes that contained the dangerous code. Community blogs quickly got the word out about the problem so people were aware of it. Mark Maunder, who originally discovered and broke down the problem, created a fork of the code called WordThumb that rewrote TimThumb from the ground up. Forking is not usually ideal because it fragments the market for users but Mark soon connected with Ben Gillbanks, long-time WordPress community member, and they’ve teamed forces to release TimThumb 2.0, a collaboration that exemplifies Open Source at its finest. An updated plugin should be in the directory shortly.

It also illustrated the original vision I had behind VaultPress. In addition to reporting early and emailing customers with vulnerable code, the following morning they had devised a way to go in and surgically correct vulnerable code on over seven hundred affected websites. This fixing-problems-while-you-sleep delighted users and is exactly the kind of problem I hoped VaultPress would solve for people and it underscores the core value of the service. If you’re not using VaultPress for your most important websites yet, you should.

* I originally had a long rant here, but here’s the 13-word version: I’ve seen no correlation between how much something costs and its code quality. This is getting better as more people become familiar with the coding standards of core, and PHP in general, but there is still a long way to go. If you want to avoid this in your own code, check out Theme Check and Log Deprecated Notices to start. If you’re looking for code to base your own theme on, it’s best to start with something like 2010 or 2011.

Fifty Million

As noted on TNW and Adweek, yesterday we passed over 50,000,000 websites, blogs, portfolios, stores, pet projects, and of course cat websites powered by WordPress. I had the good fortune to celebrate this milestone with a few hundred WordPressers at WordCamp Montreal yesterday. (During my Town Hall I wasn’t aware we had passed the number until someone shouted from the audience.) It’s always fun to pass a big round number and over the weekend many libations were consumed with friends old and new, but ultimately the press has always been more concerned with those top-line numbers than we have in the WordPress community. More sites being created is a good benchmark for our adoption, but ultimately WordPress matters not for the blogs it creates but for the lives it affects. We have some huge opportunities this year, particularly around making our software more accessible to the next 50 or 500 million people who want to have a voice online, something I hope to talk more about at WordCamp San Francisco next month.

Blogging Drift

The New York Times has a pretty prominent article today called Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter. The title was probably written by an editor, not the author, because as soon as the article gets past the two token teenagers who tumble and Facebook instead of blogging, the stats show all the major blogging services growing — even Blogger whose global “unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million,” meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone. (In the same timeframe grew about 80 million uniques according to Quantcast.)

Blogging has legs — it’s been growing now for more than a decade, but it’s not a “new thing” anymore. Underneath the data in the article there’s an interesting super-trend that the Times misses: people of all ages are becoming more and more comfortable publishing online. If you’re reading this blog you probably know the thrill of posting and getting feedback is addictive, and once you have a taste of that it’s hard to go back. You rode a bike before you drove a car, and both opened up your horizons in a way you hadn’t imagined before. That’s why blogging just won’t quit no matter how many times it’s declared dead.

Blogging (with WordPress) is the natural evolution of the lighter publishing methods — at some point you’ll have more to say than fits in 140 characters, is too important to put in Facebook’s generic chrome, or you’ve matured to the point you want more flexibility and control around your words and ideas. (As The Daily What did in their recent switch from Tumblr to WordPress.) You don’t stop using the lighter method, you just complement it — different mediums afford different messages.

Read more: Scott Rosenberg on “Another misleading story”; Mark Evans “Why I Still Love Blogging.”