July VIP Roundup

The new WordPress editor Gutenberg hit a major milestone in July, completing its MVP feature goals and moving its focus to bug fixes and compatibility. VIP client Quartz shipped v.5 of their site, an incredible fifth full version in six years and this one faster than ever. We welcomed Slack’s SlackHq.com to the VIP family. And Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg joined Kara Swisher on her Recode Decode podcast to talk about WordPress, the future of the open web, and lots more.

Read on for updates from all over, including an in-depth client spotlight with the founders of Civil, and a talk by Airbnb content lead Hayley Nelson on the content strategy principles behind major brand marketing campaigns. We’ve also added a platform updates section, where you can get a quick summary of all of the changes to our platform in the last month.

 

A still from the Azores “Not Yet Trending” video, an Airbnb campaign Hayley Nelson featured in her talk at the 2018 VIP Workshop.

Gutenberg News and Notes

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

  • Gutenberg is officially considered ‘feature complete‘ as of version 3.2 released in early July! Two successive releases this month (July 20 and July 30) included a multitude of improvements, from strengthening the API surface to converting existing content to blocks.
  • We explored one of the more frequently asked questions about Gutenberg – plugin compatibility – and shared our findings and advice for evaluating your own plugins.
  • Gutenberg Times curated this list of 20 Gutenberg talks on WordPress.tv.
  • 10up CEO John Eckman gave a thoughtful presentation about Structured Content in the Age of Gutenberg.
  • Reaktiv walked through their approach to recommending Gutenberg to their clients
  • Inpsyde’s David Remer gave a talk on Gutenberg’s state management, introducing the Slot/Fill concept
  • Every other week, Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona get together and talk about the latest developments in Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0.

News and Releases

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

  • Congratulations to the entire Quartz team on their launch of the latest version of QZ.com, which we’re honored to host on VIP. Earlier this month, Elan Kiderman, senior product designer at Quartz, shared his approach to building ambitious editorial projects (Map of the Internet, anyone?).
  • The open source WordPress Coding Standards (WPCS) project released milestone version 1.0. This project has had 54 contributors in its 9 year span including 5 from VIP.
  • Kara Swisher interviewed Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg on the Recode Decode podcast, covering current industry issues like data privacy and advertising, the future of the open web, and our approach to distributed work at Automattic.
  • Facebook announced that starting in August, third-party tools like Publicize (the tool for WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites that connects your site to major social media platforms) will no longer share posts automatically to Facebook profiles. VIP clients can consult this Lobby post for details on navigating the change.
  • Airbnb content lead Hayley Nelson explored leading content-driven campaigns like Not Yet Trending in her talk, “Content Ecosystem Thinking” from this year’s VIP Workshop.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation announced a global collaboration to increase offline access to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sites.
  • Adam Silverstein of 10up published a guest post on Google‘s Open Source Blog reflecting on his experiences as a contributor, and received a Google Open Source Peer Bonus for his work bringing MathML to AMP.
  • Alley released version 1.4.1 of Apple News and won a Knight Foundation grant to bring the museum experience to Amazon Echo. Brad Campeau-Laurion also shared some thoughts on what to expect at WordCamp for Publishers, which is coming up next week.
  • HumanMade helped UNISON tell a story of digital adoption inside a trade union. Libby Barker was interviewed at WordCamp Europe about how a decoupled WordPress admin can make enterprise sites more flexible and engaging.
  • Inpsyde launched a new composer package, Inpsyde Assets.
  • Efficiency was the name of the game at Reaktiv Studios this month. Nick Croft wrote about jumpstarting projects with WP CLI scaffolding and Chris Ford discussed her recipe mix of project management tools at the Dungeons & Dragons-themed WordCamp Orange County.
  • rtCamp sponsored the second edition of WordCamp Nagpur.
  • Earlier this year, Trew Knowledge and the Canadian Olympic Committee were named an official honoree in the 2018 Webby Awards for best Sports Team website.
  • XWP shared posts on speeding up PHPUnit tests, converting xwp.co to Native AMP with the AMP plugin, and an intro to native AMP.
Developers gathered around a table for Contributor Day
Contributor day at WordCamp Europe 2018

Platform Notes

July has been a busy month of enhancements, releases, and maintenance for our VIP Go platform. If you haven’t tried out our VIP CLI tool for our VIP Go platform yet, please give it a go. We also added support for using a continuous integration service to build Javascript, CSS, SVG, etc. If this floats your boat and would improve your workflow, we have some documentation for you.

  • Release: Made VIP CLI 1.1.0 available, introducing paging for application lists, and some bug fixes (Lobby postrelease notes, documentation)
  • Enhancement: Rolled out TLS v1.3, the latest, faster, and most secure version of TLS, on July 16 (more information to follow)
  • Enhancement: Rolled out support for WordPress multisites to optionally allow two segment paths and/or mapped domains for each subsite (documentation)
  • Enhancement: We added support for automated build and deploy of Javascript, CSS, SVG, and other static assets (Lobby post, documentation)
  • Release: Updated all sites to PHP 7.2.8 (security release) on August 3
  • Release: Updated Jetpack to 6.3.2 on July 5, and 6.3.3 on August 1 across our VIP Go platform
  • Release: Updated WordPress to 4.9.7 (security release) on July 5, and 4.9.8 (minor release) on August 2 across our VIP Go platform (Lobby post for 4.9.7, WordPress project announcement for 4.9.7, Lobby post for 4.9.8, WordPress project announcement for 4.9.8)
  • Maintenance: Removed TLS v1.0 from our VIP Go platform on July 11 (Lobby post)

Media and Marketing Notes

Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

There’s a strong parallel between what Disney has accomplished and what today’s brands are trying to do: Find the intersection of strong stories, customer emotions, and constantly evolving technology. For marketers, that can be a hint—not only at how to approach creative problem solving—but also how to explore new approaches to your hiring and staffing strategies.

Liz Alton on what theme park designers can teach marketers about storytelling and brand loyalty.

Time and again tech reporting gets caught in the hype rather than reality; a super-fast but impractical rail alternative proposed by Elon Musk gets tons of coverage, but it’s difficult to get real rail projects funded … Maybe we should simply scrap the idea of a “tech desk” altogether.

James Ball makes the case for a new model of tech journalism.

Launch Spotlight

Photo by Alexander Svensson via CC by 2.0

Civil is a new WordPress-based platform using the blockchain to support, distribute and protect journalism, developed by partner Alley and launched recently on VIP. Civil’s first fleet of newsrooms launched earlier this summer and continues to grow. Read more about the project and its underpinnings in this extended spotlight interview. And watch for the CVL token launch, the token that allows a journalist to open a newsroom or a citizen to have a stake in challenges and votes, on September 18.

Upcoming Events

  • We’re starting to make packing lists for #ONA18, the Online News Association‘s annual conference, Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas. VIP is proud to support ONA as both a sponsor (look for our booth at the Midway!) and as a hosting and support provider for journalists.org and ONA’s other sites. Don’t miss our very own Steph Yiu serving up double the trouble at the event: she’ll be hosting a Table Talk and presenting alongside New York Times’ senior editor Hamilton Boardman in a session called, “OMGWTFBBQ: Breaking News Without Breaking Your Site.”
  • The next BigWP London meetup, our gathering of developers, product people, and editors who work on enterprise WordPress sites, is set for September 18 and will fill up fast. Reserve your place now. Here’s a YouTube playlist with talks from last December’s BigWP London event.
  • WordCamp for Publishers is right around the corner, August 8-10 in Chicago. The full tickets have closed, but you can still reserve your spot to attend without the guarantee of swag and evening social event attendance. It’s a fantastic event and we are proud to both sponsor and participate again this year. Hear directly from one of the organizers on what to expect.
  • Rumor has it Tracy Levesque will grace the stage at WordCamp Philly, which goes down October 27 and 28. Call for speakers closed this week, so keep a close eye as the first presentations get announced. In the meantime, you can enjoy Tracy’s talk, “Diversity Works” from this year’s VIP Workshop.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewDoWiUulfw&w=560&h=315]

  • Major WordCamps are going down this month in Montréal, Moscow, Minneapolis, Mexico City, Omaha, and so many more. Check out the full schedule for your next chance to join the fun.

Content Ecosystem Thinking at Airbnb

Hayley Nelson has spent the past two decades of her career bringing digital tools and technology to journalists. Among other accomplishments, she helped shepherd the New York Times into the era of digital media by launching its first blogs, built an award-winning digital team at Wired Magazine, and launched CNET in four Asian markets.

As head of content at Airbnb, Hayley is focused on value-based storytelling that engages consumers across platforms and devices. Her work has been building off their 2018 We Accept Superbowl commercial.

A still from the Azores “Not Yet Trending” video

In her talk, “Content Ecosystem Thinking” at the 2018 VIP Workshop, Hayley outlines a path for marketers to leverage the tricks of the publishing trade to put the reader at the center of their digital efforts. The most successful brands, she argues, are tying every piece of content to their company’s core values. Think Everlane’s transparent factories and the commitment from Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to hire 10,000 refugees. “Who are we, and what are the values that we want to stand up for? How do we bring our mission to life? … It’s the brand’s job to become a great storyteller.”

Patagonia did a documentary on people whose lives are transformed by the sea. One person profiled is this woman who is a deep-sea spearfisher who catches fish and makes sushi, another is this surfer guy in Tahiti, and it’s just a really compelling documentary — and you hardly notice but they may or may not be wearing Patagonia swimsuits. That’s how subtle it is.

Watch the full video to go behind the scenes on Airbnb’s Not Yet Trending campaign, which ties beautiful videography of destinations on the cusp of trending into two of the brand’s core messages, “it’s a host-led world,” and “the magic of travel,” to drive would-be travelers to book on the platform.

I want you to think of us as that edgy, underground friend that’s telling you where to go because it’s the most interesting place in the world — and maybe you come back six months later when you’re ready to book a trip.

You’ll also learn her ten-step process for organizing a global content strategy, including the non-trite way to capitalize on social media holidays and how introducing agile to marketing processes has transformed the way she approaches campaigns.

If you weren’t able to join us at VIP Workshop this year, you can still catch dozens of the sessions, including speakers from TechCrunch, Google, Cloudinary, the VIP team, our agency partners, and many more on this YouTube playlist.

Preparing Plugins for the New WordPress Editor

Our team is excited to see Gutenberg’s full integration into WordPress on the horizon. Our clients, partners, and colleagues are shipping useful, powerful projects with the new content editor everywhere you look. However, if you think back a few months, there was some initial anxiety around how we’d get our arms around a big bag of unknowns.

One of the most challenging of those unknowns was plugin compatibility. Like any group that supports active plugins, we wanted to make sure our code would work with Gutenberg as quickly as possible. And until we dug into it, we didn’t know if that was going to require a little work, a ton of work, or something in between.

Facing this uncertainty, we took a big deep breath…and started testing! We’re in a pretty good place now, and want to help others get there, too. We’re sharing our findings and process here for those who may be at that “I don’t yet know what I don’t know” stage in their Gutenberg transition.

 

Gutenberg review from Matt Mullenweg’s keynote at #WCEU 2018 (photo from @WCEurope)

Our Process

First, we had to decide where and how to focus our efforts. For us, we needed to think about how our plugins are used within VIP/Automattic and how they’re used by the WordPress community at large. We also had to consider all the third-party plugins clients may be using on our platform. And although we can only directly impact the first of those two areas, we decided to cast a wide net and study all three, to see what we could learn and share.

We’ve been advocating for a transitional approach to Gutenberg, so we decided to break this project into manageable stages for ourselves:

  1. Assessment > test plugins to ascertain their level of Gutenberg readiness
  2. Compatibility >  make sure stuff doesn’t break with Gutenberg
  3. Optimization > update plugins to make full use of Gutenberg’s features (Gutenberg native)

Next, we had to define “compatible”, and come up with concrete testing steps for our team. Daniel Bachhuber has already done awesome work in this space. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we based our approach on his very well thought-out definitions he developed as part of the community plugin compatibility database project here.

  • A plugin is compatible with Gutenberg when:
    • A user can perform the same functional task with Gutenberg active (feature-parity), and;
    • There are no (obvious) errors when the plugin is active alongside Gutenberg.
  • A plugin can be marked as ‘Likely Compatible’ based on reasonable assumptions (e.g. a caching plugin probably doesn’t expose editor-specific functionality).
  • A plugin can be marked as ‘Optimized’ if it is making best use of Gutenberg features (e.g. shortcode has been converted to blocks).

Finally, we had to collate a list of plugins for testing, and enlist volunteers*! We divvied up our own plugins amongst VIP team members and reached out to 3rd party plugin vendors encouraging them to test their work and share their results with us.

*A HUGE thank you to all the plugin authors who responded: Daniel Bachhuber, Michael Bester, Lester Chan, Brad Kofoed, Chris Northwood, Chris Scott, Justin Tadlock, 10up, Alley, Codepress, Delicious Brains, Getty Images and @scribu. Your contributions were extremely helpful for us, and will help the entire community as we all work towards this brave new Guten-world!

Helpful Tips for Plugin Testers

  • Breaking it down into realistic, manageable stages made this task achievable. We’d definitely recommend this approach to other developers with a similarly large portfolio.
  • Be on the lookout for plugins which add media buttons in the classic editor. Those buttons are unlikely to be exposed in Gutenberg unless the author has made special provision for it, making this a common culprit for incompatibility.
  • There are some common compatibility issues to look out for with Metaboxes.
  • Plugins that contain metaboxes may be compatible without doing anything. If they are, the compatibility argument should be added in the short term. Long-term, metaboxes should be converted into blocks to be considered optimized.

Our Findings

  • There are ~167 different plugins running on VIP.
  • 39 of those plugins are maintained by Automattic/VIP, of which:
    • All 39 have been tested
    • 34 are compatible or likely compatible
    • 5 are not compatible
  • 128 of those plugins are by 3rd party developers, of which:
    • 14 have been tested
    • 10 are compatible or likely compatible
    • 4 are not compatible

If your assessment reveals that you support active plugins that haven’t yet been accounted for, the best place to share what you find is the plugin compatibility database.

Next Steps

We will take a closer look at the 5 Automattic/VIP plugins found not compatible and take appropriate action to remedy. Testers have recommended 3 of them to be deprecated. Others will be updated for Gutenberg compatibility.

We will add our results to the public plugin compatibility database.

We will continue working with 3rd party plugin developers encouraging compatibility testing and updates.

Over the long term, we are working towards our stage (3) goal of optimizing our plugins to make the best use of Gutenberg features, i.e. Gutenberg-native.

Other Resources

Client Spotlight: Civil

Civil is a new platform using the blockchain to support, distribute and protect journalism. Last month, Civil launched its “First Fleet” on WordPress.com VIP. A group of what will ultimately be 13 Newsrooms focused on local, international, investigative and policy journalism that received grants from Civil to be the first to officially publish on its platform, Civil’s First Fleet share a common commitment to the ethical standards enshrined in the Civil Constitution and enforced through Civil’s blockchain technology. Civil itself has an ambitious and worthy mission: to “help power sustainable journalism throughout the world.”

Prior to launch, VIP’s Ryan Sholin caught up with two of Civil’s co-founders: Matt Coolidge, Brand Strategy and Communications lead, and Dan Kinsley, Engineering lead. Both were excited to discuss their work at Civil and what blockchain and crypto-economics can do for journalism.

You can read more on Civil.co and their launch post.

Photo by Alexander Svensson via CC by 2.0

Can you talk a little bit about the idea behind Civil and what it has been like to build out new models? It seems like you’re doing a lot of trailblazing right now.

Matt Coolidge: It’s interesting when we’re talking about “building new models.” I always think it’s a really helpful baseline to start any conversation like this by really making clear that Civil’s mission is journalism. There’s one very key thing that we don’t need to reinvent and that is what constitutes ethical journalism.

I think that the models that have proliferated in recent years have made it harder to incentivize quality journalism in a sustainable way. We’re introducing a new model that’s based on blockchain and crypto-economics that is incentivizing quality journalism and rewarding individuals for helping to curate a marketplace for high-quality journalism.

You mentioned incentivizing people to contribute and incentivizing people to participate. It seems there’s a whole democratic process built in.

Matt Coolidge: When we talk about incentives, I think there’s the obvious ideological incentive. Certainly, we want people that believe in quality journalism to identify us as a marketplace that shares their values, and certainly, support the independently owned and operated newsrooms that run on Civil.

Going a level beyond that and recognizing that human nature is not always pure or idealistic in its intent, we think that there’s a great opportunity to introduce very real economic incentives that also help this model proliferate. Part of that is, how can we introduce incentive structures that essentially outline an economic gain, which is, spot the unethical newsroom and keep it off the marketplace and if you do so successfully, you can be economically rewarded. 

“How can we get people onto a new marketplace that offers what we think is a healthier and more pro-journalism incentive structure?” –Matt Coolidge

What is the day-to-day role of blockchain in the production and consumption of journalism at Civil?

Dan Kinsley: The key part of Civil’s protocol is a crypto-economic system called a Token Curated Registry, a whitelist of approved newsrooms. We have a token called the CVL Token, that is essentially used to provide financial incentives for people to curate this list.

If I’m a newsroom, I could apply to be on this registry. I want to be on this registry because it’s going to be a sign of credibility. When people come to my newsroom, they’ll trust that we’re following the rules of the Civil Constitution.

When you apply, all of the other token holders can then play this game where they say, “Will having them on the list increase the value of the list and increase my holdings?” Then as the value of the list gets better, it increases the demand of other newsrooms to be on that list, so then it becomes this virtuous cycle of, as there’s more demand to be on the list, the list gets higher and higher quality and more people want to play the game of curating the list.

Matt Coolidge: One parallel I’d draw is Airbnb (or you can just as easily plug in Uber, Amazon…pick a platform model). Airbnb we admire in particular for its ability to say, “Hey. You want to travel? There are two ways to travel. You can travel like a tourist and go to Expedia or whatever and stay at a Hilton or you can travel like a local and you can stay with an Airbnb host in a neighborhood of your choice.”

Certainly, Airbnb is not the only platform that is doing what they’re doing, but they’ve been so effective in creating this network effect.  I think we have the same opportunity with a platform model with Civil to say, “Hey. Civil is ultimately a protocol and it has this definition of what does and does not constitute ethical journalism that is spelled out in a document known as the Civil Constitution.”

Do you think a statement of core values has been missing from the corporate media world?

Matt Coolidge: I don’t think we’re looking to vilify say, “the corporate media world,” but there is certainly an issue of trust and questioning bias and what is information and what is misinformation and where is this really coming from? When you look at the mass consolidation right now, something like 85% to 90% of mainstream outlets is owned by five corporations here in the US.

That does not engender trust and it questions who is the holding company and what shareholders are they beholden to? [Civil creates] a decentralized network where ownership of this network is represented by owning these Civil tokens. Come here and launch a platform knowing that you’re beholden to your readers alone.

How will you know what success looks like? What is going to make Civil sustainable in the long run? 

Dan Kinsley: A sign of success is having diverse opinions: having conservative newsrooms, liberal newsrooms, newsrooms in Asia, newsrooms in South America. Having everybody with a voice being empowered to tell their stories. Providing tools for these publications to establish credibility and trust with their constituents.

Matt Coolidge: Attracting additional readers and compelling them to support Newsrooms is the most important metric. We’re committed to always placing the reader <> journalist relationship at the center of Civil, and never standing between the two. Along those lines, we’ll never take a direct cut ourselves from a subscription fee that a reader pays a Newsroom. We don’t want to have a stake in that process and risk compromising that relationship by ever seeking to influence the behavior of one party or another.

Developers will also play a significant role in Civil’s growth. With this crypto-economic structure, there is a very novel and interesting opportunity for open source developers to come in and to really be fairly compensated for their work in a way that doesn’t necessarily thrive outside of these crypto-economic structures. This is hopefully going to be a compelling draw for some really talented developers to come and help build the apps, the tools, the services that we think readers will very quickly demand and that will definitely outpace our own capacity to do so.

“We want to find the best of breed providers in each part of this value chain, give them a big hug, and say, ‘Hey. Do you guys want to start a newsroom?'” – Dan Kinsley

How did you approach the selection process for Civil’s First Fleet?

Matt Coolidge: We wanted to focus on areas that we saw as hardest hit by 20 plus years of mass media consolidation. We decided to focus broadly on local, international, policy, and investigative journalism because we think that there’s a huge demand right now that far exceeds the supply of quality journalism serving those markets. Each of the 13 newsrooms we have right now are a nod to those four beats.

Now, certainly the Civil marketplace is not going to be confined to those, but those are areas that readers are very passionate about and already very inclined to support. Introducing this subscription economy predicated on reader support, I think is going to help newsrooms get to sustainability very quickly, especially when they’re run by folks like Nushin Rashidian from the Tow Center or Seamus Toomey who used to be the managing editor at DNAInfo who really understand not only the editorial but the publishing side and can really help set important precedents around best practices.

What about WordPress made it such a good fit for the First Fleet newsrooms to get started?

Dan KinsleyEverything we do, we want to do open source. Like I said, we’re a protocol and we found WordPress just aligns very tightly with our values. It’s a great solution because it just works, right? We actually started to go down a path of building our own CMS and we upended it and we said, “Well – why – when we can have way more reach with WordPress?” They have an extensive plugin system so we can build plugins there. Once we went down that path, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Is the plan to open source everything?

Dan Kinsley: The core protocol, and everything you need to build anything that we would ever build, will be open source. Some people call that model “Open Core.” In the future, we envision building what you could call a Civil version of the Twitter Firehose, so there’s all this activity that happens on the blockchain. You have all these little islands. Each newsroom is publishing to the blockchain and there is all this activity.

Then we’ll have a service that listens to all that and then builds an API. You could then subscribe to that Firehose and build either your own client or your own curation service. Maybe it’s built for screen readers or it’s focused on certain industries or whatever. Stuff we haven’t even imagined yet. I imagine you could build your own Firehose, but we’ll probably have a proprietary version that we’ll have. Other than that, everything will be open source.

“To “experience Civil” can be as simple as coming and reading and supporting an outlet in any payment method that you choose.” –Matt Coolidge

What qualities are you looking for as Civil builds partnerships, and how did you land on VIP as part of that process?

Dan Kinsley: What I liked about WordPress.com VIP is they get our model and the value we want to bring to the industry. We want to empower newsrooms. We want to lower the barrier to entry. I think that’s actually in your mission statement. Like, democratize publishing. That’s what we want to do, right? We want to find the best of breed providers in each part of this value chain, give them a big hug, and say, “Hey. Do you guys want to start a newsroom? Go talk to WordPress.com VIP if you need hosting. Go talk to our friends over here at Pico if you need payment. Go talk to our friends at Alley if you need site development.” Again, just really lower the barrier to entry.

Matt Coolidge: We want to upend a system where you have this duopoly between Facebook and Google where they’re controlling something like 70% of digital ad revenue. It’s choking publishers off. It’s not giving them many options.

How can we get people off and onto a new marketplace that offers what we think is a healthier and more pro-journalism incentive structure? I think part of the way we do that is to breed familiarity and to really reward and promote beloved tools and approaches that journalists and publishers are already using to great success.

As the First Fleet launches, what should people know? What’s the next step for them after they read a story?

Matt Coolidge: One of the most important things that we can’t stress enough about Civil right now is that we have this novel economic game-based approach that is running on this token economy.

The vast majority of people at least initially that are coming to Civil to read and support journalism are probably not going to touch that system. They are more than welcome to, and we want to be very transparent and encourage as many people as possible to do so, but at the end of the day, Civil is a publishing platform on which this great new crop of journalistic outlets are going to launch and to “experience Civil” can be as simple as coming and reading and supporting an outlet in any payment method that you choose.

If you do want to go below what we call the ‘water line‘ and play this economic game and help to really promote a high-quality marketplace for journalism, you can absolutely do so.

Dan Kinsley: This First Fleet is just that. The first ones; they’re the vanguard. There’s such a pent-up demand for independent publications. I would encourage people to don’t think that they can’t. If they have an idea, then there’s probably something there. We can provide the tools and don’t sell yourself short. I know that sounds corny, but there are lots of publications that I think could be created on this model.

Check out Civil’s First Fleet:

  • Documented NY covers New York City’s immigrants and the policies that shape their lives
  • Sludge focuses on the nontraditional, often shadowy ways that special interest groups advance agendas
  • ZigZag is a podcast about capitalism, journalism, and changing the course of women’s lives
  • Block Club Chicago delivers coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods
  • Cannabiswire.com covers the complex social, economic, and policy-related issues around cannabis legalization

Follow along as more First Fleet Newsrooms come online.

Some Thoughts on The Capital Gazette

Note: The following post was originally written and published for an internal audience here at WordPress.com VIP.

Since Annapolis is my home, I wanted to share some thoughts on the tragedy in my community that occurred on June 28, 2018, since it has a ripple effect on our industry. On that day last week, I was at SRCCON 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota – an interactive gathering of journalists, editors, technology professionals and media publishers of all stripes in the news industry. Just a few hours before the attack, I was engaged in friendly conversation with an engineer from the Baltimore Sun about local Maryland publications and shared my appreciation for the valuable information his team published for the recent Maryland primary elections. My wife texted me that she was at a store near the area when heavy police activity began but was safely on her way out. Later, we would learn that a journalist who wrote occasionally for the regional magazine my wife worked at was among those killed. The Baltimore Sun engineer who I had just met also found out that someone he knew was killed.

The attack on my local paper was a direct assault on media publishers and their freedom to publish. The Capital Gazette and its parent organizations, The Baltimore Sun and tronc, have the same mission as many of the people we support every day at VIP. A free press is a cornerstone of American democracy as well as for free countries around the world. The free press in my community was maliciously targeted by someone who did not agree. This fact was not lost on the organizers and participants at SRCCON who shared information about the tragedy and donation information to benefit The Capital Gazette. This gunman may have held a personal grievance but given the current divisive and threatening rhetoric recklessly issued from the highest levels of American government and echoed in some media outlets, it is not difficult to imagine any other media publisher counted among those branded as the “enemy,” especially when the truth happens to be inconvenient.

Stories like this one are an unfortunate reality in America today. My belief that one day, peaceful citizens in a peaceful country should be able to do their job in a public space without fear of it being converted to a war zone is strong. My belief that a free press in a free country should publish without fear of retribution is uncompromising.

If there is some hope that can be drawn from this tragedy, it would be that The Capital Gazette courageously continued publishing within hours of the attack and published the news on schedule the following day. Let that be an inspiration for us all to keep publishing. Let that inspire us all to help our clients and other publishers around the world to do the same. 

“We’re here to report the news. Whatever the news is… I guess there might be bad people but I don’t care about them. The world is full of good people.”

Rachael Pacella. Writer, The Capital Gazette (injured during the shooting)

If you would like to support The Capital Gazette, there is a charitable fund with more information listed on the original Gofundme page.

June VIP Roundup

There are lots of summer launches across the VIP family to celebrate, including Rolling Stone, Civil‘s First Fleet, and top Venezuelan news site La Patilla. A bigger, better, and bolder WordCamp Europe brought news of the next steps and roadmap for the Gutenberg project. And we released the first building block in our focus on empowering developers on VIP, the VIP CLI.

Read on for June highlights from across the enterprise WordPress community, including a look ahead at must-attend summer and fall events including ONA and WordCamp for Publishers.

June brought one of our favorite events of the year, SRCCON 2018

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

  • There are now 14,000 sites actively using Gutenberg. That’s according to WordPress.com co-founder and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, who shared the Gutenberg Roadmap as part of his keynote at WordCamp Europe. Watch the main keynote and Q&A, or read a summary and transcription.
  • As of June 21st, the Gutenberg plugin is at version 3.1, and includes a tips system for new users, improvements to the block sibling inserter, and much more as detailed in Matias’ latest What’s New post.
  • The public version of our Gutenberg Ramp plugin is now available (Lobby post for VIP clients). We created this version for anyone in the community with sites hosted elsewhere who want to take advantage of the same functionality we created for our users on the VIP platform (Lobby post about using Ramp on VIP Go). The plugin allows users to turn Gutenberg on for certain post IDs, page IDs or content text, making it easier to test and activate Gutenberg at your own pace, instead of flipping the switch site-wide in one go. We have lots of additional resources as well, including how-to videos and TestGutenberg.com where you can experiment with the latest version.
  • 10up published the results of a Gutenberg usability test, including heatmaps and verbatims from participants.

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

  • Earlier this month we released VIP CLI, a new and direct way for developers to interact with their applications hosted on the VIP Go platform. (Lobby post, announcement post)
  • The new automated build and deploy workflow for VIP Go means you no longer have to manually build, commit, and push your code (Lobby post).
  • We profiled agency partner Big Bite Creative in our latest Six Questions With…. Read all about their origin story, their values, and the impressive work they’re doing in enterprise application development using Gutenberg and React Native.
  • Our latest technical integration, LaterPay, is now available as a WordPress plugin (Lobby post).
  • Jetpack 6.2 has been deployed to all VIP Go sites. (Lobby post, announcement post). Jetpack 6.3 beta launched July 5 and is open for user testing (Lobby post).
  • SketchPress is 10up’s new library of WordPress admin interfaces, symbols, and icons aimed at saving designer’s time when wireframing. 10up also created Simple Podcasting, an intuitive and lightweight plugin that includes beta support for Gutenberg. Check out what went down at their annual summit in this video.
  • Alley joined the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) annual meeting to present their work with Freer|Sackler including TMS Connect, which allows museums to synchronize their collections and objects into WordPress, and an Alexa Skill that works with their VoiceWP plugin.
  • Big Bite Creative redeveloped PMC’s recent acquisition Sourcing Journal, integrating Vamp footwear and Rivet denim as well.
  • Siobhan McKeown of Human Made spoke on the Yonder podcast about hiring remote workers.
  • Inpsyde implemented an encryption feature in their plugin BackWPup Pro to make backups GDPR Compliant.
  • Reaktiv Studios wrote a prediction for the future of Gutenberg (tl;dr the ‘Gutenlook’ takes over the world).
  • rtCamp launched leading Venezuelan news site lapatilla.com on VIP this month, as well as helping LaterPay complete their VIP technical integration.
  • XWP launched AMP Plugin Release v1.0-alpha1, which includes “support for core themes, a big update to the compatibility tool and extended Gutenberg support! 🎉”
The Big Bite Creative team in their natural habitat. Read more on Big Bite in our partner profile.

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

It’s hard to be transported to another world when you can still smell the salmon you had for dinner earlier that night.

Jonathan Crowell argues the trick to VR for marketers is creating a truly immersive experience.

One unintentional consequence of the tool is that advertisers will now be able to see what kind of ads their competitors are running.

Facebook released a new feature that allows users to see all active ads a Page is running. Twitter followed suit with its new Ad Transparency Center.

Humans like to test the limits of the technology, to stump it, break it, and get it to do things it wasn’t designed to do.

Nicholas Diakopoulos discussed the potential implications of using AI to help with interviews.

 

Upcoming Events

  • #NABJ18, hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists, goes down Aug. 1-5 in Detroit. This year’s theme is “Driving Journalism, Technology & Trust.” Drawing over 3,000 journalists, media executives, PR professionals, and students, this annual convention is part conference, part job fair and features special events with Tyler Perry, KEM, Tamar Braxton, and more.
  • Tickets are still available for the second annual WordCamp for Publishers, Aug. 8-10 in Chicago. This is a community-run event with organizers volunteering from Alley, Mother Jones, PMC, Dow Jones, iOne Digital, Hand Built, and here at VIP. The sessions listing is now available on the site and there are topics of interest to engineering, product, and editorial teams, with speakers from national media organizations, niche publications, and agencies. Last year’s event produced incredibly useful talks and materials, and this year’s is sure to offer the same.
  • We’re looking forward to seeing you at #ONA18, the Online News Association’s annual conference, Sept. 13-15 in Austin. Look for our booth at the Midway! Our own Steph Yiu will be hosting a Table Talk and speaking with New York Times’ Senior Editor Hamilton Boardman in a session titled “OMGWTFBBQ: Breaking News Without Breaking Your Site.”
  • Press on: Moving Forward Together” is the theme for this year’s Asian American Journalist Association conference, slated for Aug. 8-11 in Houston. #AAJA18 offers workshops with major cable news outlets; a screening of Crazy Rich Asians, and the second annual Story Slam. See the full schedule here.
  • Look out for WordCamps this month in Poland, Spain, Japan, Costa Rica, India, Australia and the US: WordCamp Central has the full schedule. Or for your viewing pleasure at home, the videos from last month’s WordCamp Europe are starting to appear at WordPress.TV.

Six Questions with Big Bite Creative

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

Big Bite Creative has been a WordPress.com VIP Partner since 2015 and has been building big with WordPress since 2011. They are based in the UK, and work with clients from around the world, like Penske Media Corporation, NewsCorpDMG Media and Metro UK.

What’s your agency’s origin story?

Big Bite was born in 2011 and we decided from day one that we were going to build the agency we wanted to be in the future: no shortcuts, lay the groundwork before we needed it, experiment and embrace what’s new. All three of us — Iain, Jason, and Mark — were working our first jobs in the industry. We were eager, a little naive, learning hard lessons fast, and quickly realizing that there was an opportunity to do things differently.

We wanted Big Bite to be a place where talent and ideas mattered more than background or fancy job titles and in 2012 we got the chance to really put that concept into practice. Our work with Elizabeth Weil, the Corporate Design & Development lead at Twitter, generated the interest of our first international clients like Netazine and a large project for Clicksco allowed us to start hiring new talent. Those new people, from experienced devs and designers to self-taught interns who are now permanent members of the team, kept pushing us onto bigger and better things. Soon a number of our clients were being acquired by Dropbox and we started peaking the interest of some of the biggest names in digital publishing.

As a WordPress.com VIP partner we’re regularly building innovative apps and doing high-traffic site migrations for the likes of DMG Media and Penske Media Corporation. We’ve won awards for our work and business, taken more prolific clients, and are pushing the future of WordPress with things like Gutenberg, but we’re still very much plugged into our local community. We’ve grown in size and grown up, but we’ve managed to keep what makes us unique intact and we’re very proud of that.

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

  • Curiosity – Many of us started on this road by taking apart computers to see what made them work or by teaching ourselves to code. We decided early on to embrace curiosity and create space within the company for people to experiment, whether that was a fun project for the office, an open-source product for the web, or coming to grips with whatever promised to be the next big thing in our industry. It keeps things interesting, encourages creative thinking, and we can offer our clients work that’s built for the future rather than just being ‘on trend’.
  • Community – The web’s ability to transcend borders is amazing and is the reason a company like ours can have a global reputation without being based in London or San Francisco. But it’s also an ocean where it’s easy to find yourself adrift. We’ve always thought of community as our anchor and that’s only become more important as we’ve grown. We started by attending local industry events, then helped organize a few, and now we sponsor a new wave of them. Our team still collaborate on open source projects within the WordPress community and we’re as happy hosting barbecues for the our local creatives as we are to hop on a flight and share notes with our peers at events like WordCamp US.
  • Agility – Big Bite was never typical. We stayed local when the consensus was that you had to move to a big tech hub. We focussed on developing a small team with a depth of talent rather than mass hiring. We decided to grow slowly and keep control of our own agency in order to adapt to the changing industry. It allows us to think about the future and build for it in a way that a lot of bigger agencies struggle with, but it’s also helped define who we are, as well as the kind of forward-thinking businesses that work with us.

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

We excited to be soon launching an internal news and comms app for one of the largest global financial institutions and their 200,000+ employees around the world. That’s a point of pride for us of course, but most interesting is how we did it.

We built it using the soon-to-arrive Gutenberg. Not only was getting the opportunity to work in an interesting new way a thrill, it allowed us to push what’s possible for a project on that scale and that level of complexity. We regularly deal with extremely high-traffic sites and apps, but this project required developing two apps for Android and iOS in React Native and also exploring building the product as a progressive web app (PWA). PWAs are still relatively new, only being supported by iOS 11.3 onward for example, but are sure to become a more and more important aspect of web development for global organizations in the coming years.

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

Honestly, just how much it’s grown and evolved. In some ways our story has mirrored WordPress’ in that way. Most of us have been a part of the WordPress community from back before we had our first jobs, before starting Big Bite. The fact that WordPress is increasingly the go-to solution for enterprise on the web is exciting, and a confirmation of our long-held belief in it as a platform. We’ve achieved a lot of firsts with WordPress, but we’re just as excited about what comes next. Our team is already building great things with Gutenberg, for example, and we’re excited to see what happens when the whole world realizes its potential.

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

We’ve been attending the various WordCamp events around the world for years now and they never fail to be a fantastic opportunity to share notes, as well as a few drinks, with our peers and colleagues. That sense of community is often an inspiration, but this year’s WordPress.com VIP Workshop in Napa Valley was particularly poignant. Jason and Mark both turned 30 while we were out there. We celebrated with vineyard visits and hot air ballooning, but it was also powerful moment of reflection, looking out across these amazing views while taking stock of everything we’ve achieved both personally and with Big Bite.

Yet some of our favourite events of the year are the least dramatic. Our infamous Big Bite barbecues are informal affairs where friends, colleagues, and everyone from the local creative industries gather, rain or shine, to eat, drink, and relax. It’s rejuvenating and being able to offer that sort of thing for the people in our local community is a point of pride for us, plus it keeps our feet planted firmly on the ground.

(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What will change the way you work most in the near future?

Right now that’s Gutenberg, no question.

We feel like we’ve already begun proving its potential with our recent work, but we know there’s so much more that can be done with it. Our clients are already realizing that embracing something new, especially with all of Gutenberg’s benefits, ensures they’re ready for the future instead of playing catch up. The ability for us to provide clients with blocks means that we can offer them more control over their content. It offers a flexibility that stops changing parameters or requirements derailing projects. It also means that clients don’t have to come back to us for every little change, saving them time and money, while we get to work on the next big thing.

Thank you, Big Bite Creative!

More on Big Bite:

Agency focus and specialties

  • Native Mobile Apps – React Native
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA) – React
  • API/CLI driven WordPress Migrations
  • Migrations to the new Gutenberg Editor
  • AMP Integration
  • Liveblog Integration

Currently working with: Penske Media Company, NewsCorp, DMG Media, Metro UK

Agency highlights

  • Currently launching a news and comms app for one of the largest financial institutions in the world
  • Won ‘Best Lifestyle, Sports, & Entertainment App’ at the 2017 European Digital Media Awards for soccer news app 11vs11
  • Implementing ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 information security standards
  • Supporting local community events and industry meetups

Welcome LaterPay!

We are excited to announce our latest technical integration, LaterPay! LaterPay offers publishers a frictionless deferred payment approach to monetization that saves users time and increases conversions.

Instead of requiring upfront registration and payment – which derails over 98 percent of all intended purchases – LaterPay defers this process until customer purchases across websites reach a $5 threshold. With this approach, publishers can simultaneously expand existing subscription models, increase their paying customer base, and improve their user experience.

Publishers that integrate LaterPay on their VIP-hosted site can choose from a number of monetization solutions that best suit their needs. For instance, publishers can prompt users to purchase a specific article, timed access to content, or a full subscription. Single purchases and time passes complement the full subscription model by pulling new potential subscribers into the publisher’s ecosystem while generating incremental revenues.

LaterPay’s clients include leading German news site SPIEGEL online, news outlets like PC Games Hardware and KidsGo, and dozens of the top regional newspapers across Germany.

Laterpay CRO Hal Bailey
Laterpay CRO Hal Bailey at the VIP Workshop

At this year’s VIP Workshop in May, LaterPay CRO Hal Bailey shared his view of the current online monetization landscape in a joint session with TechCrunch’s Head of Product Nicole Wilke. Flip through the slides from their Rethinking Revenue presentation.

If you’re interested in using LaterPay, reach out to the VIP team, or fill out the form on the partner page. Installation details for current VIP clients are available in the Lobby post.

WordCamp Europe in Belgrade: bigger, bolder and better than ever

 

More than 2,000 WordPress users, designers, developers and entrepreneurs, from across Europe and beyond, gathered in the Serbian capital, Belgrade last week for what proved to be the biggest WordPress event in history.

WordCamp Europe, now in its sixth year, has become a fixture of the global WordPress calendar. Each event seems a little larger, a little more polished, and a little more mature than the last: and this year was no exception. Few of us knew much about Belgrade before we arrived; but we left with many fond memories of a unique and welcoming city.

With two tracks of uniformly excellent speakers over the two days, plus extended workshops and fringe events, it was impossible to see everything and everyone. But the two sessions which seemed to get most people talking were:

Both subjects represent significant evolutionary changes in what WordPress does, and how it does it. Inevitably, passions have been stirred: but those passions are the fuel which drives WordPress forwards.

I was struck to see both Matt and Alberto wasting no time in acknowledging and addressing the community’s concerns. The audience was left in no doubt about the depth of consideration and planning which has gone into both initiatives.

As in previous years, VIP’s agency and technology partners were highly visible at the event: in addition to those already mentioned, Human Made, 10up, Inpsyde and Yoast were all represented on-stage at various times. VIP has chosen these companies as partners because we believe they are at the top of their game. It’s great to see their talents also being recognised by the speaker selection processes for these events.

The main conference tracks were all live-streamed; and are now being edited for posting on WordPress.TV in due course. If you weren’t at the event – or even if you were! – you’ll be able to catch up on everything you missed on-demand shortly.

In keeping with tradition, the conference’s final act was the announcement of next year’s host city. WordCamp Europe 2019 will take place next June in Berlin: a city known for its creative community, in a country more devoted than most to the principles of the open web. It’s certain to be a great event.

If you can’t wait that long, the next major gathering will be WordCamp US, returning to Nashville, Tennessee in early December. But before then, there are dozens of smaller, local WordCamps happening all around the world: check out the full schedule at central.wordcamp.org.

Thanks to the organisers for the fantastic ‘aftermovie’, embedded above; and our fellow Automattician Clicky Steve for the featured image.

A Command Line Interface (CLI) for your VIP Sites

We’re excited to announce VIP CLI, a new and direct way for developers to interact with applications hosted on VIP.

We’re excited! We’re really looking forward to this CLI tool making our workflows much easier. We’re particularly pleased about the flexibility to adapt data sync to our sites, adding our own custom functionality to clean out our specific production credentials, production options, and change things up.
– Bob Kirkemo, Lead Software Developer with VIP Client
Digital First Media

Control vs power

We’re creating the preeminent platform to empower WordPress developers and accelerate our client’s business. The faster developers can deliver value, the faster the business can differentiate in the market.

The VIP platform allows companies to run sites confidently in the face of remarkable traffic levels while maintaining a strong security posture and remaining performant, all without an in-house Systems and Operations team. Until now, the tradeoff has been that our team has handled the control of your site on your behalf, as well as relaying information as requested.

In contrast, roll-your-own cloud hosting provides a lot of raw power to development teams, but requires dedicating company time and energy to architecting and operating the infrastructure. On a hosting platform designed and operated in-house, everything can be done by your team but everything has to be done by your team.

Power and tools

When we talk to our client developers, they tell us they want more direct ways to work with their sites and applications, and more immediate methods of feedback. They want the best of both worlds: our hands-on support when they need it, and direct access when they don’t. We agree. We are determined to meet our clients’ developers on their own terms, and deliver the access and control they demand while retaining the benefits of a fully managed platform.

When you want direct assistance, we will anticipate it and be there for you. And when you don’t, you should be able to proceed smoothly and without extra steps or encumbrances. We think about the latter as empowerment… and empowerment is a key focus as we develop the VIP Platform and tooling.

Any time we can get something done ourselves rather than fire up a ticket, it saves us time and keeps our team’s heads in what we’re doing. I’m excited to see VIP keeping a focus on enabling us to tackle more tasks ourselves.
– Erick Hitter, Principal Software Developer at VIP Partner Alley

CLI: The first building block

We wanted our first tool to address as broad a range of developer scenarios as possible, and the obvious answer was to build a command line interface (CLI) tool. Many developers are familiar with issuing CLI commands in a terminal, and using those commands to script interactions with WordPress sites via the official WP CLI tool, so we knew we were working with an established paradigm.

This week, we’re proud to release VIP CLI, and the first commands you can run with it, including triggering a data sync to synchronise data from your production environment to non-production environments, facilitating faster debugging and QA. To get started, please read our documentation for installation instructions.

Below you can see a video of the tool in action:

[wpvideo WzRZpBMy]

What’s coming

We know that using a CLI tool is not for everyone, so we have a web-based dashboard in the works. Watch this space.

Please get in touch if there’s anything you want to discuss about the VIP developer experience, or anything we can help with.

Jumpstart your Testing and Transition Plans with Gutenberg Ramp

Introducing Gutenberg Ramp, a plugin to help you complete your testing plans ahead of time and transition smoothly to the new editor, code named Gutenberg, coming to WordPress 5.0.

Gutenberg itself is available as an actively developed plugin today, and is at version 3.0.1 currently. You can use Ramp along with the Gutenberg plugin to enable the new editor selectively by post ID (load only for specified posts) and post type (load only for specified post types), rather than all at once. We hope this makes it easier for you to get more hands-on experience in your own code base with all of the great features the Gutenberg project is producing ahead of WordPress 5.0. As always, we recommend you do your testing in a development environment.

Note: VIP Clients will follow a slightly different procedure for using Ramp and Gutenberg on VIP Go. Feel free to reach out to the VIP team if you need help getting it going.

While the Gutenberg editor will at some point become the default editor for WordPress, it is currently available as a plugin, and will continue to be available that way until it is merged in to WordPress 5.0 as part of the core software. To help you with a smooth transition, we plan to keep it in sync with WordPress 5.0, so that Ramp will work on both the plugin version of Gutenberg which you’d be using today and will continue to iterate, and the version that will be merged in to core as part of WordPress 5.0.

This video shows how you can use the UI to selectively enable the new editor:

We developed the initial version of this simple tool to help our clients selectively test their customizations, workflows, and plugins with Gutenberg in their development and production environments, well ahead of Gutenberg’s integration and release. It also allows for a more granular transition to the new editor, so that as specific post types and customizations pass testing, or as teams complete their workflow updates, the new editor can be turned on selectively and persistently.

We added some additional elements to create the public version, including a user interface, to account for a variety of hosting environments where it might be used.

We welcome your reports and proposed contributions via the GitHub repository.

Other helpful links:

Note: VIP Clients will follow a slightly different procedure for using Ramp and Gutenberg on VIP Go. Feel free to reach out to the VIP team if you need help getting it going.

 

May VIP Roundup

There’s been a lot to celebrate in the enterprise WordPress world this month: WordPress celebrated its 15th birthday, Gutenberg introduced its plugin API, AMP for WordPress introduced Native AMP, and we hosted our seventh annual VIP Workshop!

May’s update contains a host of new releases, partner updates, and envy-inducing summer event opportunities. Scroll on down for all that, plus a spotlight on Stand Up To Cancer and exciting news about our participation in WAN-IFRA.

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

Gutenberg plugin v3.0 is out as of this week, with a long list of great enhancements including support for child blocks, updates to the block library, and opt-in registration for presentational styles. This followed on v.2.9 which, among other updates, introduced the new Plugin API.

Gutenberg and the Ramp plugin are now available on VIP Go (Lobby post for VIP clients and partners)! The latest Gutenberg plugin is available and defaulted to “off.” It’s easy to selectively enable it with a single line of code added to your theme. Remember that Gutenberg is still in active development and subject to regular updates and changes. We will be releasing a public version of the Ramp plugin shortly.

From our latest partner profile with rtCamp

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

  • In May, we had the distinct pleasure of hosting clients, partners, special guests, and Automatticians for our seventh annual VIP Workshop in Napa, California. Watch dozens of the sessions including speakers from Airbnb, Google, Cloudinary, the VIP team, our agency partners, and many more on this YouTube playlist. You can also read the recap and flip through many of the decks from the presentations.
  • WordPress 4.9.6 privacy and maintenance release was deployed in late May. This included new tools to support GDPR compliance. (Lobby post, official announcement post, update guide). Jetpack 6.1 privacy and maintenance release also went out in May (Lobby post).
  • Alley had a major presence at the American Alliance of Museum’s MuseumExpo 2018. Tom Harrigan spoke with the Freer Gallery of Art’s Courtney Dawn about using Alexa apps to augment museum collections. Pattie Reaves shared a post on rethinking accessibility for maximum benefit.
  • Peter Wilson from Human Made posted a thorough look at how they overhauled the edit screen for client Fairfax Media from the ground up with the WordPress REST API. Rian Rietveld wrote a piece on best practices for automating accessibility testing during development. Their team also celebrated WordPress’s 15th birthday by adding up their cumulative years of WordPress experience. Any guesses?
  • XWP announced initial support for AMP Native is now available in v0.7 of the AMP for WordPress plugin. Congrats to everyone who contributed to the project! Thierry Miller gave a talk at Google I/O alongside Google’s Albert Medina on building progressive websites in WordPress. Luke Cabris appeared on the WP Bosses podcast.
  • Read the latest edition of Six Questions, our partner profile series, to learn how rtCamp is strengthening WordPress training in educational institutions, part of a virtuous cycle that will keep the enterprise ecosystem strong. And check out their brand new office.
  • Trew Knowledge just released version 2 of its GDPR plugin, which helps a Controller, Data Processor, and Data Protection Officer (DPO) with compliance. It’s reached over 100,000 downloads and is now available in 11 languages.
  • 10Up is conducting a usability study for professional writers with Gutenberg. Their New Relic for WordPress plugin added support for the REST API. Anthony Garand contributed a bug fix for lazy loading to Jetpack 6.1. In the spirit of data privacy, they updated the popular Restricted Site Access plugin with more granular site security permissions. And in July, CEO John Eckman is speaking about CMS for higher education at WP Campus 2018 in St. Louis.
  • The Inpsyde team is growing. This month they welcomed two new employees, project manager Rich Winterstetter and developer Cristiano Baptista, and also released BackWPup 3.5 with the long-desired restore feature.
  • Communication Arts featured Hello Design’s work on the new Tillamook Cheese website, which shows how their famous cheese sauce comes together.
  • Skyword v.2.4.5 became available in May, adding integration with Co-Authors Plus and other enhancements(Lobby post).
  • Playbuzz v.1.1 is now available, including shortcode support and bug fixes. For information on updating, check out the Lobby post.
  • Apester v.2.1 is available, which brings functional and performance enhancements(Lobby post).

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

“How important is privacy to the on-line community?”

This Wall Street Journal time capsule from 1996 shows we’ve been grappling with the same privacy questions for over 20 years. And that ‘online’ used to have a hyphen.

“Ad exchanges used by many news sites reportedly saw an immediate drop in demand of between 25 and 40 percent.”

The Columbia Journalism Review analyzed the initial effects of GDPR on publishers.

“Cameron, for example, a musician and video game enthusiast, put it succinctly when he suggested that “news should come looking for me, I shouldn’t go looking for it.”

Nieman Lab published a story on recent research studying the information intake behavior of so-called news avoiders.

Launch Spotlight: Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C’s) mission is to raise funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C brings together the best and the brightest researchers and mandates collaboration among the cancer community. By galvanizing the entertainment industry, SU2C has set out to generate awareness, educate the public on cancer prevention, and help more people diagnosed with cancer become long-term survivors. All of us across Automattic are particularly proud to power SU2C’s digital platform in their pursuit of scientific breakthroughs.

Upcoming Events

  • We are proud to participate this week as a lead sponsor in The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)’s World News Media Congress in Cascais, Portugal. WAN-IFRA’s 80 member publisher associations represent 18,000 publications in 120 countries. VIP recently joined WAN-IFRA as members and we’re excited to partner with an organization passionate about media freedom and a sustainable news industry.
  • Next week, we will be in Boston to attend and support Forward, the brand storytelling conference hosted by VIP partner Skyword. Keynotes include author and entrepreneur Westley “Wes” Atendi Omari Moore; comic book author and artist Lynda Barry; CMO of Eastern Bank, Paul Alexander; and Storynomics founder Paul McKee.
  • WordCamp Europe is almost here! This year it goes down June 14-16 in Belgrade. Lots of folks from across the VIP family are contributing as speakers and organizers, including folks from Human Made, 10up, and XWP in addition to a strong showing from across Automattic. Check out #WCEU to follow along.
  • SRCCon takes place June 28-29 in Minneapolis, and they just released round two of tickets. Now in its fifth year, SRCCon attracts an eclectic mix of over 300 journalists, technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. We’re thrilled to support it and think you should jump on those tickets.
  • The second annual WordCamp for Publishers will be August 8-10, 2018 at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. Tickets are still available, and if you haven’t bought one yet, watch the videos from last year and you will see why this is such a special event. Applications for travel scholarships opened this week, and close June 15. If you know someone early in their career or who doesn’t have the means to get there, encourage them to apply!

Six Questions with rtCamp

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

rtCamp has been a WordPress.com VIP Partner since 2016 and has been building big with WordPress since 2009. They are based in India, with a subsidiary in the US, but work with clients from around the world, like HCL, PMC, NewsUK and IndianExpress.

Some rtCampers at WordCamp Pune 2017

What’s your agency’s origin story?

The idea of rtCamp was conceived in 2006. It all started with blogging; Rahul (rtCamp’s founder) loves writing.

In 2007, Rahul came across WordPress and immediately fell in love with both the software and the community. The line soon blurred between writing articles and writing code. After all, “Code is Poetry!”.

Rahul’s first blog, Devil’s Workshop, grew over the next few years into one of India’s top blog networks. The blog had full time authors, editors and more than hundred guest bloggers working through a transparent revenue sharing model.

When the ripples of the 2008 recession hit India, Rahul started teaching WordPress to friends in need of jobs and finding freelancing gigs for the entire group. The idea took off and rtCamp was formally incorporated in 2009.

The objective of rtCamp, from the start, was to build a sustainable business that pursued excellence and put its people above all other things in open source technologies. We believe strongly in the quality we deliver. Our challenge though, that persists even today, is grappling with the perception of cheap labour and bad quality associated with the region.

Fortunately, rtCamp has been growing at a steady pace since 2009. We currently have a team of over 60 rtCampers, a substantial part of which is working remotely at any given time.

We are proud to be able to work with some of the largest brands in publishing, ecommerce and in the startup space, with clients from every continent (except Antarctica 🐧)

“Good Work by Good People” – rtCamp summarized in one line!

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

  • Excellence– With everything we do, we are constantly challenging ourselves to find new and better ways to do it. We believe perfection is endless journey and no matter how well you do it now, you will find something to improve later.
  • Equality– “rt” in rtCamp stands for “Round Table.” This philosophy of treating everyone with dignity, respect and equality is echoed in everything from our hiring process, to HR policies and team events.
  • Good Karma– We believe in the clichéd power of doing good in every situation. One of the practical ways we do this is by putting our employees’ and clients’ interests above all else.
“Can you do it better?” – a simple question reminds goes long way in delivering excellence!

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

We have two projects we’d love to share.

One of our earliest projects was migrating multiple sites for Geometric Global, now part of HCL, from Microsoft Sharepoint to a WordPress multisite and multilingual setup. We are especially proud of this project because it involved guiding a large enterprise to an open source platform, and it was way back in 2012!

Another milestone was the optimization and development of Vanguard Nigeria – one of biggest news site in Nigeria. We were drawn to this project because of the challenge involved with delivering a stable publishing solution for a large scale traffic within the constraints of technology infrastructure available in Nigeria such as very low Internet speed and majority of traffic flowing through Opera Mini. To us, Vanguard is great example of the democratization of publishing.

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

Being a company that is so closely tied to WordPress, we also find it hard not be excited for Gutenberg. The sheer scale and ambition of the project is a humbling reminder of the amazing WordPress community that we are a part of. We are actively involved in Gutenberg through our fields middleware project, educating users through 1-on-1 calls and moving our own website to Gutenberg.

Above all, we are really excited about the efforts of the local and international WordPress community in education. We are particularly pumped that students get to experience the amazing values that WordPress and the open source software movement at large stands for – inclusivity, transparency, collaboration.

Over the past couple of years, rtCamp has been working with our local university and institutions to introduce WordPress and other FOSS (free and open-source software) into the curriculum of engineering students degree program.

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

Though we participate in events around the world, some of the most exciting developments are happening in the smaller events closer to home. For example, we were recently part of a FOSS meetup in a large university in our city. There were about 300 students from around the state, eager to learn more about how they can make a career in WordPress and open-source technologies. We love being a part of smaller, more student-focused events like these.

Our team also really looks forward to a few WordCamps. Over the years, we have met and built relationships with several WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe attendees. We also have some great memories being a part of WordCamp Mumbai and WordCamp Bangkok. Each of these events have given us the opportunity to interact with people from all types of backgrounds, skill sets and cultures.

rtShirt – rtCamp T-shirt

Ask yourself a last question, and then answer it: What do you look to do over the coming year?

Even though WordPress is now used by 30% of the web, we feel that it is still underrepresented within large enterprises. So we are working on some engineering and marketing initiatives to increase WordPress adoption.

More specifically, we’re focusing efforts on promoting WordPress training within educational institutions. We believe this will be a virtuous circle with WordPress adoption in enterprise: greater demand for WordPress will mean increased need for talented engineers, and increased availability of talented engineers will make it easier for enterprises to adopt WordPress.

The way we say it internally – it’s “WordPress in Education and Enterprises” year!

Thank you, rtCamp team!

More on rtCamp:

Agency focus and specialties

  • Discovery and Strategy
  • Content Migration
  • Custom Publishing Workflow
  • User Experience
  • API integrations
  • WooCommerce Specialist
  • Code Review

Currently working with: NewsUK, HCL, PMC, Vanguard, The Indian Express, Rotimatic, NJ Advance Media, Isha

Agency highlights

  • WordPress Solutions for Publishers and Marketing teams
  • WordPress Core Contributions
  • eCommerce – mostly using WooCommerce
  • Staff Augmentation and Training
  • Spreading WordPress in Education

Highlights from the 2018 VIP Workshop

“There’s no path ahead of me, but behind me I can make a path.”

-Kōtarō Takamura

Last week we at VIP had the distinct pleasure of hosting clients, partners, special guests, and Automatticians from across the company for our seventh annual VIP Workshop. It’s a few days spent focused on connecting with each other and sharing the work we do, with WordPress at the center and the heart.

The quote kicking off this post came from advice given to VIP CEO Nick Gernert. It relates to the challenges and triumphs of the enterprise WordPress community, and the way that the necessary work of breaking new ground so often opens up new pathways for many others to follow.

If there’s one theme at the heart of so many of the talks, and the conversations they sparked, it was the importance of keeping the pursuit of real connection at the center of your strategies and plans. For anyone who has spent any amount of time in the WordPress community, that’s not at all surprising and serves as a reminder of the path we make.

If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch video from over a dozen of the sessions on this YouTube playlist, and flip through many of the decks from the presentations on the Workshop site.

Whether it was your first time or your seventh time participating in the VIP Workshop, thank you for joining us! Special thanks to all of the speakers who shared broad overviews, deep dives, case studies, flash talks, best practices, and so much more with us. Their experience, insights, and hard work, combined with an outstanding roster of clients, partners, and others in the community is what makes this event magical.

If you want to know what VIP and this community is up to on a regular basis, follow our Monthly Roundups on VIP News, and please contribute to them so that we can all stay connected. Drop us a note to tell us about you and your team’s latest big releases and small victories.

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!

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!

Client Spotlight: Harry’s Five O’Clock

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.

A conversation with Hamilton’s Javier Muñoz, on life, work, and his path to understanding his own masculinity

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.

Lena Waithe on the significance of her Emmy win, her career path, and the causes she supports

Tell us about where you are today with that mission and project. What has been shared so far?

We have a new brand campaign that came out on the 26th. It is a video called “A Man Like You.” I think that may bring to a finer point the goals of the messaging.

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.

A profile on Justin Baldoni and Man Enough, the new series exploring traditional masculinity

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.

Highlights from Five O’Clock:

A First Class AMP Experience

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.

Stylized shot of AMP Conf stage

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.

As Alberto Medina from the Google Web Content Ecosystems Team, said in his recent blog post:

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.

Highlights from AMP Conf

As part of the keynote, Malte Ubl gave a history of our work with the AMP project as well as the current state of the plugin. As our CEO Matt Mullenweg shared in a video clip aired during the talk, this year we’re doubling down on our support for the project both directly and indirectly.

“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.

What Goes in to a VIP Client Onsite?

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.

Regular and special issues of Grupo Abril's Exame
VIP client Grupo Abril publishes some of the most popular magazines in Latin America, including Exame and Veja

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.

The Retrospective

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.

 

A collaborative look back at the past year working together

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.

 

Exploring the WordPress core roadmap, the VIP platform roadmap, and the upcoming Gutenberg editor project for WordPress 5.0

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.

VIP team meeting with Grupo Abril
Hands-on with editorial tooling

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.

Editorial team session on syndication and content models

A Mini-Sprint

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.

Abril/VIP mini-sprint

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.

Abril/VIP mini-sprint

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.

VIP Engineer Stéphane Boisvert (left) helping with xdebug remote debugging setup

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.

VIP Enterprise Engineer Matt Perry (right) talking through options to streamline mobile content publishing to a legacy system

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.

Abril developers demoing their hackathon projects: their first Gutenberg block

 

The end of week retrospective

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.

Klaus Harris, Enterprise Team Lead

Interested in bringing VIP to your team? Get in touch.

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!

Interested in joining the team?

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 VIP Development Consultant position.

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?

1) Application

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.

2) 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.

4) Trial

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.

5) Offer

Congratulations, we’d like you to join the team! At this step, we’ll make you an offer!

Where can I learn more about life at VIP?

Our Careers page has lots of great information. You can also find some great insight from posts from some team members. For example, David Artiss wrote a great post on a day in the life of a VIP support team member. Kailey Lampert also has a great post on things she’s learned from working at home.

developers with laptops in a conference room
VIP team members work onsite with client Grupo Abril in Brazil

Do you have any questions? Ask us! You can reach us via Twitter or email.

Six Questions with Trew Knowledge

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

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.

Boardroom Mural at Trew Knowledge HQ

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.

Anthony Moore presenting at BigWP in Toronto

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.

Panel Discussion on Customer Identity Management (From left to right: Shawn Barrans – Trew Knowledge, Vic Torossian – Corus Entertainment, Georgia Sapounas – Canadian Olympic Committee, Anthony Moore – Trew Knowledge, Sergey Krayniy – Gigya)

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

  • Strategy
  • UI/UX Design
  • Customer Identity Management
  • Gamification & Loyalty
  • Custom WordPress.com VIP themes & plugins
  • Content & Data Migration
  • WooCommerce

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.

Agency highlights

  • Exclusive WordPress VIP partner in Canada
  • Preferred solution partners with Gigya and Zurb
  • Official honoree in the 18th annual Webby Awards for Best Sports website for Olympic.ca
  • 2017 W3 Award, Gold – Best mobile user-experience for Olympic.ca

January VIP Roundup

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.

Dekode’s Björn Johansen presenting at WordCamp Stockholm

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 released Liveblog 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.”
  • New Relic is now featuring 10up’s advanced WordPress integration, New Relic Reporting for WordPresson their Connect Directory. Additional releases from an action-packed period for 10up include: Async Transients, an open source Composer library that improves handling of WordPress transient caches especially at enterprise scale, a significant update to Urban Airship Web Push Notifications, and Ads.txt Manager for WordPress, which adds validation and testing tool for the rapidly growing standard.
  • 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 of WordCamp 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 Made wrote 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.

Upcoming Events

  • 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.
  • LoopConf is happening February 21-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah and Automattic will be participating as a sponsor. Automatticians Mel Choyce and Dennis Snell will also be presenting, along with Human Made’s John Blackbourn. Tickets are still available.
  • 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:

Independent Speed and Performance Analysis Finds VIP Fastest among Top Tier Hosts

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.

 

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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.