VIP News

Updates and features about our platform, services, and partners, as well as stories and events from across the enterprise WordPress community.

WordPress VIP welcomes Skylab as a Silver Agency Partner

Today, WordPress VIP welcomes a new addition to our exclusive Featured Agency Partner program: Skylab. Based in Manchester, United Kingdom, […]

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Data visualization using custom map types

WordPress VIP collaborates with our featured partners to deliver unparalleled digital experiences for our clients. A recent interactive mapping project […]

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Disrupting the Enterprise: Notes from WCUS 2019

This post highlights key takeaways from WordPress VIP CEO Nick Gernert’s talk at WordCamp US in St. Louis on November […]

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The Saucal team in branded hoodies

Ecommerce expert Saucal is VIP’s newest agency partner

At VIP, we strive to connect our clients with the best design and development talent on the planet. Today, we […]

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How TechCrunch built a subscription tier on WordPress

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP San Francisco meetup at Eventbrite on the evening of June 26.

In February 2019, TechCrunch leveraged WordPress architecture to launch a subscription tier paywall, Extra Crunch. Sam Singer, Lead Software Engineer at TechCrunch, delivered a talk at BigWP SF that gave an overview of the project’s process, architecture, and challenges.

Image of Sam Singer on stage at BigWP SF discussing Extra Crunch, TechCrunch's paywall built on WordPress
Sam Singer delivers a presentation at BigWP SF on building a successful subscription tier on WordPress.

TechCrunch wanted to make the product experience better for its core audience. Additionally, they wanted to give this audience a chance to support high-quality journalism. To that end, Extra Crunch subscribers have ad-free access to premium content, as well as the ability to get in touch with writers directly.

Extra Crunch’s launch followed one year after TechCrunch’s major redesign, which saw the launch of a semi-decoupled WordPress and React web application. Subsequently, Sam’s team was able to build upon the existing WordPress architecture to add payment processing and content paywall capabilities. As a result, Extra Crunch readers can support the creation of more evergreen content and deep-dive journalism.

Watch Sam’s full talk below:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in San Francisco, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP SF June 2019 playlist, or individual posts here:

WordPress VIP welcomes Rareview as a Silver Agency Partner

We are pleased to welcome Rareview to our Featured Agency Partner program! Rareview is 1 of only 19 partners in this prestigious group and the only Silver agency on the West Coast of the United States.

Brothers Chuck and Rob Pearson of Rareview
Brothers Chuck and Rob Pearson started Rareview to help established brands grow.

Rareview is an award-winning digital design and marketing agency. Under leadership from brothers Chuck and Rob Pearson, the agency takes an intentionally different approach to building brands and products. In short, they design digital experiences that cultivate relationships. The team believes exceptional results lie at the intersection of great design and marketing — which is a delicate balance. So, at Rareview, design and marketing teams aim to increase conversions by working hand-in-hand to develop creative based on marketing principles and design best practices.

“Much of our development work has focused on WordPress over the last few years. As an agency partner, we are excited to gain access to additional partner resources and the WordPress community. It’s thrilling to be part of this exclusive group,” says Chuck Pearson, CEO of Rareview.

WordPress VIP closely vets every agency partner. Critical criteria include clear product understanding and innovative go-to-market strategies. We seek agencies with a track record of forward-thinking implementations of WordPress at scale. To learn more about the program, or if you think your agency is a good fit, visit https://wpvip.com/partners/agency-partners/

How Credit Karma leveraged WordPress to jump start a secure testing strategy

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP San Francisco meetup at Eventbrite on the evening of June 26.

Credit Karma, is a financial tech brand championing financial progress for all. For them, security is an important consideration. This summer, April Aaronson, Growth Technology Manager at Credit Karma, took the stage at BigWP SF to talk about how they keep security in mind without sacrificing growth.

April Aaronson of Credit Karma holds a mic on stage in front of a group of seated people at BigWP SF
April Aaronson shared at BigWP SF how Credit Karma leverages WordPress for secure testing

Credit Karma has scaled its business by expanding beyond free credit scores: they demystify finances for their members. To accomplish this, they provide financial calculators, editorial content, and other tools to help consumers better understand their financial standing.

In the financial technology industry, trust is critical. As a result, Credit Karma takes great care to be thoughtful about the tools and technology they use across all aspects of the business. April’s talk focused on how they leveraged WordPress to develop a testing strategy that put its 100 million members first.

Watch April’s full talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. Want to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in San Francisco? Join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP SF June 2019 playlist, or individual posts here:

Creating an open platform for 60,000 contributors with WordPress and Thrive Global

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP San Francisco meetup at Eventbrite on the evening of June 26.

When Ariana Huffington created Thrive Global’s behavior change platform, the goal was to build a scalable, open, publishing system… fast. In his talk at BigWP SF, John McAlester, Senior WordPress Developer at Thrive Global, talked through the wins and challenges of building a WordPress site at scale.

John McAlester presented at BigWP SF on leveraging WordPress for Thrive Global’s massive scale publishing.

Thrive Global, an open media platform focusing on wellness and productivity, leverages the power of WordPress and the REST API to make its community and branded content available to mobile apps, eLearning courses, and third-party integrations. Contributors to the platform increase brand awareness by publishing hundreds of posts per day, focusing on wellness and productivity.

On the back-end, the platform makes use of custom user roles with modified capabilities. It also has a custom sign-up flow to encourage good actors. Engineers coordinate deployments between a decoupled React app and the WordPress back-end. This approach allows their content to be repurposed in various contexts.

In the talk, John also discusses the downsides of having a decoupled frontend, and why he believes in working with core WordPress themes and user systems.

Watch the full talk here:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in San Francisco, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP SF June 2019 playlist, or individual posts here:

How Multidots nailed big data for the Air Jordan set

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP NYC meetup at The New York Post on the evening of June 11.

When Sneaker News, the “CNN of kicks,” needed to streamline their content creation, VIP partner agency Multidots rose to the challenge. At BigWP NYC, Multidots’ CEO Anil Gupta talked about how they leveraged the REST API to help Sneaker News reduce operations time by 65%.

Image of Multidots CEO Anil Gupta in orange sunglasses presenting on the REST API at BigWP NYC
Multidots CEO Anil Gupta presents on the REST API at BigWP NYC

Sneaker News needed a centralized repository for sneaker data that could seamlessly push updates to six different systems. With this in mind, Multidots leveraged the REST API to move data from this “master” repository to the various “child” applications, which included several WordPress sites.

Sneaker News publishes up to 150 new posts per month and receives millions of monthly page views. Thus, reducing 65% of operations time with an automated flow was a big win. Next up, Multidots will convert the centralised “master” repo into a decoupled WordPress instance.

Watch Anil’s talk in full to learn more:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP NYC June 2019 playlist.

Managing millions of public data records with WordPress

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP San Francisco meetup hosted at Eventbrite on the evening of June 26.

VIP featured partner agency 10up encountered some unique challenges when integrating millions of public data records with the WordPress website for ElectricityPlans, a broker in the Texas electricity market. So explained Brian Bourn, Associate Director at 10up. In his talk at BigWP SF, he shared how 10up used Elasticsearch to create a custom-built API checkout solution that significantly increased commissions for their client.

In Texas’s deregulated electricity market, customers can shop around for their residential plans. As a result, licensed brokers offer the ability to shop around for plans with different providers. Securing sales commissions can be challenging for these brokers. The typical model of linking off to provider websites can often result in tracking being lost. Another problem was failed conversions due to a lackluster UX.

10up’s API checkout system was a gamechanger. It leverages Elasticsearch for near-instantaneous search through more than 20 million address and meter records which change on a nightly basis. Most importantly, this on-site solution dramatically increased the client’s conversions, and revenue increased organically every month.

Watch Brian’s full talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in San Francisco, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the BigWP SF June 2019 playlist.

How FiveThirtyEight tuned Liveblog for the midterms

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting enterprise WordPress talks from the BigWP New York meetup at The New York Post on the evening of June 11.

FiveThirtyEight makes heavy use of live blogging, especially for elections, debates, and live sporting events. At BigWP NYC, Paul Schreiber, Staff Web Developer at FiveThirtyEight, talked about the site’s journey with live blogging plugins.

Paul Schreiber

In 2014, the need for a live blogging plugin on FiveThirtyEight arose when editors wanted a way to rapidly update posts with content related to the midterm elections. At the time, they started using LivePress, but when that plugin was deprecated in 2017 the team needed to move to a different solution: Liveblog.

Paul’s team, together with VIP featured partners 10up and Big Bite, set to work updating the plugin with the features they needed. Their custom updates include metadata, migrating from LivePress, integration with the Co-Authors Plus plugin, and access to the media library. All the work is open source, and contributions are welcome!

Watch the full talk to learn more about the process, including the Liveblog product roadmap:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series. It brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks from this event in the BigWP NYC June 2019 playlist.

What to expect at WordCamp for Publishers 2019

Alexis is one of the lead organizers of WordCamp for Publishers. VIP is proud to sponsor and participate annually in this great event.

Howdy! I’m a co-lead organizer for the third-ever WordCamp for Publishers taking place on August 7th to 9th in Columbus, Ohio. I’m incredibly honored to be leading one of my favorite WordCamps where we’re able to gather a talented group of folks together and dive into topics at the intersection of journalism, WordPress, and technology.

I’m happy to announce that we’ll also have 8 outstanding journalists and technologists joining us at the event thanks to our scholarship partnership with OpenNews.

WordCamp for Publishers is a community-organized event that brings together folks who use WordPress to manage publications, big or small.

Our goal is to empower participants by coaching them on best practices and encourage collaboration in building open source tools for publishers. Anyone who actively manages a publication with WordPress can benefit from attending our event.

Our schedule

The schedule is up now and includes speakers from national media organizations, smaller publications, and agencies that work with media companies. This year’s schedule features:

  • A hands-on workshop on security training in newsrooms
  • Two sessions on bringing Gutenberg to editorial teams
  • An in-depth guide to creating robust newsletters
  • Lightning presentations on Newspack, managing site networks, and paywalls

Not only do we have a fantastic set of speakers lined up this year, but we’ve placed an increased emphasis on mentorship. Our third and final day of the conference will be a Mentorship Day where we’ll group folks by topic and introduce speed mentorship rounds for attendees to connect with one another.

This is a great opportunity for attendees to lend their expertise and learn from other skilled folks attending the event. 

What you can expect

We’ll have a main track of talks and panels that are 45 minutes each as well as a separate track of 90 minute in-depth workshops centered around topics that aim to provide actionable takeaways for publishers to take home. There will also be openings for our popular unconference sessions which attendees can self-organize at the event based on interest.

For folks that prefer the hallway track, there will be plenty of opportunities to connect with people from top media organizations. Take a look at our sponsors and make sure to say hello and grab some swag!

Social activities

We always like to offer fun, low-key opportunities for socializing outside of the main conference day at WordCamp for Publishers. We’ve arranged several events this year, including an evening of fun and games at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters and an outing to a Columbus Clippers game. 

Get your ticket today!

We encourage everyone to check out the videos and participant recaps from the last WordCamp for Publishers in 2018 to get a sense of what’s to come. We hope to see you in Columbus in a few weeks, and if you haven’t gotten a ticket yet, you can still get one today!

WordPress VIP welcomes Multidots as a Silver Agency Partner

VIP is proud to welcome Multidots as a new Silver Agency Partner. Multidots is one of several agencies joining the expanding Featured Agency Partner program to better serve the growing demand for enterprise WordPress.

Increasing presence in APAC

Multidots is a global enterprise WordPress agency headquartered in India with sales and support offices in Virginia and California, USA. Their full team is comprised of over 110 distributed employees who serve clients in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Multidots supports digital strategy (including content marketing, performance marketing, and lead generation) for publishing companies like QuinStreet, Higher Educations, and All Star Directories.

Enterprise clients like Accenture, MIT, Jumeirah, NAB, and SneakerNews have turned to Multidots for complex and large scale WordPress implementations and multi-platform integrations.

“Multidots helped ABUV Media to grow from annual revenue of $100K to almost $15M and startup to a successful acquisition. Their technical expertise in the areas of WordPress, page performance and security have been the key to the success of our websites,” said Douglas Jones, former CEO and co-founder of ABUV Media (acquired by Higher Educations).

“Their selection to this highly exclusive and reputed WordPress VIP featured partner program boosted my trust and confidence in their talent and team.”

 

“In the course of 10 years, Multidots has achieved many milestones and success, but Multidots’ acceptance into the VIP Featured Agency Partner program is the biggest among all,” said Anil Gupta, CEO of Multidots.

“Looking at the fact that there are approx 100,000+ WordPress Agencies in the world and 15,000+ agencies in India alone, Multidots being one of the two VIP agency partners in Asia is the moment of pride and honor for everyone at Multidots.”

Contributing to the global community

In the last three years, 20 “Dots” (employees of Multidots) contributed to WordPress core 12 times and 10 contributed to WooCommerce 7 times. The Multidots team also helped manage 32 meetups for the Ahmedabad WordPress Meetup Group, sponsored dozens of WordCamps around the world, organized the first ever WordCamp in Ahmedabad and spoke at local and global WordCamps and WordPress Events.

“With our participation in the VIP Featured Agency Partner program, our WordPress development services come with the extra benefits of the added security, flexibility and performance that our high-volume and enterprise projects demand. We are very grateful and thankful to our existing clients for trusting us on solving some unique problems and motivating us. And we are thrilled and pumped up to continue on our mission, ‘Serving people and solving problems.'”

— Anil Gupta, CEO

For more information on our new Featured Agency Partners, or if you believe your agency is a good fit for our growing program, please visit https://wpvip.com/partners/agency-partners/.

VIP expands Featured Agency Partner program to meet increasing client demand

We’re pleased to announce VIP is expanding our Featured Agency Partner program! As the leading provider of enterprise WordPress, VIP is experiencing rapid global growth and increasing client demand. WordPress itself continues to dominate global market share: it now powers over 34% of the web, and more companies are discovering the performance, flexibility, and interoperability of WordPress at scale. As demonstrated by VIP’s recent launches for clients like Github, Alaska Airlines, and Hilton, high-scale deployments of enterprise WordPress are on the rise (we served 38 billion page views in 2018 alone). To keep pace with this significant growth, we are welcoming additional agency partners with proven capacity to create digital transformation for the world’s largest brands.

Image courtesy of Dekode, a Norway-based agency which has been a Featured Agency Partner since 2015

Partner agencies are a critical part of the VIP ecosystem. Together, we deliver performant, secure, and stable applications that enable our clients to optimize their digital experiences with ease. Expanding our Featured Agency Partner program means clients can now select from a broader group of partners with skill sets and experience that align with their business goals and product roadmap. Another key benefit of adding partner agencies is the expertise they contribute from new verticals and geographies.

The expanded program provides agency partners the opportunity to strategize, co-sell, and go to market alongside WordPress VIP. The introduction of Gold and Silver tiers allows us to partner with the most qualified design and development agencies of every size. Key criteria for agency partners include clear product understanding and innovative go-to-market strategies. We closely vet every partner to identify agencies with a proven track record of successful and forward thinking implementations of WordPress at scale.

“WordPress VIP is experiencing significant growth and we’re poised to deliver transformational results for brands who require best-in-class digital experiences,” said CEO Nick Gernert. “We’re excited to welcome new agencies alongside our existing partners to help us deliver on the most demanding implementations of enterprise WordPress.”

For more information on our new Featured Agency Partners, or if you believe your agency is a good fit for our growing program, please visit https://wpvip.com/partners/agency-partners/.

April 2019 VIP Roundup

Spring has sprung (in the northern hemisphere, at least) and as you scroll through March’s updates, you’ll see fresh growth everywhere: We’ve got new launches for Hilton and Alaska Airlines. Development for WordPress 5.2 is well underway. Our teammates and partners are winning awards and earning certifications. And we’re thrilled to announce expanded support for enterprise clients in Asia Pacific. Explore details on all that and more below, including the latest from WordCamp Europe and a special spotlight on our work supporting female leaders in digital media.

At WordCamp Kolkata, CEO of rtCamp Rahul Bansal wears a white blazer and poses next to VIP Anand Natarajan in front of a blue banner celebrating rtCamp as a featured partner of WordPress VIPCEO of rtCamp Rahul Bansal poses with VIP’s Anand Natarajan at rtCamp’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

News and Releases

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

  • WordPress 5.2 is slated for release within the next month, bringing the block editor into WordPress mobile apps and shaving 35% the load time for large posts. The software is still in development, but you can download the beta or experiment with the WordPress beta tester.
  • Newspack is a collaboration from Automattic and partners News Revenue Hub and Spirited Media that aims to make it easier for smaller publishers to produce sustainable journalism. Project leads have selected 12 newsrooms from around the world to pilot the first live version of the platform. Among this first cohort are Chile’s El Soberano, Prague’s Transitions, and San Antonio’s The Rivard Report.
  • Automattician Seyward Darby was named a Top Woman in Media for her work as Editor-in-Chief at The Atavist Magazine.
  • VIP welcomed Anand Natarajan to the team as Sales Director for Asia Pacific, and expanded our infrastructure with a new data center in Mumbai.
  • Does your team deploy on GitHub? If so, 10 Up’s new plugin, GitHub Actions for WordPress, might make your life a little easier.
  • Congrats to Alley on the launch of Food Learning Locator. They’re also behind the design and development of Alaska Airlinesredesigned blog, and the development of Hilton’s corporate responsibility site. CEO Austin Smith was featured in a Local News Initiative story on the need for improved user experience of news websites.
  • Three cheers for Big Bite, who achieved certifications in two ISO standards for Information Security and Quality Management, and won the Northeast England Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Award.
  • Petya Rakovska of Human Made has started hosting kid’s workshops at WordCamps across the globe, teaching the next generation of WordPress superusers to build their own websites and custom themes. She created an organizer’s kit to spread the movement.
  • Inpsyder Frank Bültge shared this recap of eCommerceCamp 2019.
  • Reaktiv Studios released Design Palette Pro 1.6
  • rtCamp celebrated their 10th anniversary. You’d expect the cake, but the lemons were a surprise. CEO Rahul Bansal spoke at WordCamp Kolkata and COEP FOSSMeet’19 about Hiring in WordPress Ecosystem and Careers in WordPress and Open Source. Another Rahul (Prajapati) introduced students to WordPress Hooks Concept at COEP FOSSMeet’19. Amidst the revelry, they also released three GitHub Actions for automated code review, deploying WordPress, and Slack notifications.
  • Congrats to Trew Knowledge on the recently launched independent.com, the new site for the Santa Barbara Independent, a weekly newspaper in California which moved to WordPress and VIP after years using EllingtonCMS. Trew Knowledge also launched Journal Métro on Apple News.
  • Distributed teams are increasingly common. The crew at XWP identified 7 experiences that help them create a sense of ‘team’ among remote contributors.
Over a dozen kids with laptops collaborate with WordCamp Belgrade volunteers at one of the first WordCamp kid's workshops
Volunteers at WordCamp Belgrade taught kids to build their own WordPress sites and themes. Photo via Petya Raykovska and provided by Ivan Gatić.

Platform Notes

  • VIP Files Service, our distributed, scalable, and versioned file system, now supports a much greater range of files operations, thanks to an upgrade in the way file writes work for WordPress uploads.
  • We rolled out WordPress 5.1.1, Jetpack 7.1, and Jetpack 7.2 to all sites. (Links point to Lobby posts for clients.)
  • We released a VIP Cache Personalization API.
  • We updated the process for specifying files to be excluded from automated build and deploy processes. It now uses a .deployignore file, rather than .gitignore.
  • WP core upgrade has been fixed for local environments.
  • Fixed an issue with Contact Form 7 attachments and the VIP Files Service.
  • We’ve been working with selected clients on our Node.js application hosting. If you’re interested, please get in touch using the form below, or by contacting your RM.

What We Read (And Listened To)

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

Spotlight

The spring 2019 Women’s Leadership Academy cohort at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This year, VIP is proud to sponsor both the Online News Association’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator and the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy for Women. Steph Yiu has been attending their programs since 2016 and wrote a feature on the exponential impact of raising new voices to the highest levels of digital media leadership.

Upcoming Events

  • We’re excited to sponsor WAN-IFRA’s 71st World News Media Congress in Glasgow June 1-3. The event draws global news leaders passionate about media freedom and ensuring a sustainable news industry. You can register here.
  • We’re also sponsoring brand storytelling and digital marketing conference Forward, where marketing VP Jessica Snavely will share how Automattic uses data to tell success stories.
  • WordCamp Europe descends on Berlin June 20-22. Schedule highlights include talks from our featured partners 10up, Human Made, and rtCamp; sessions on Gutenberg, accessibility in design, optimizing remote teams; and a keynote from Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic. VIP’s very own Tom Nowell will do a live demo on using blocks outside of posts and pages.
  • The sixth annual SRCCON returns to Minneapolis July 11-12. This event attracts over 300 journalism-technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. Sign up for information about tickets if you want to learn more.
  • WordCamp for Publishers is slated for August 7-9 in Columbus, Ohio. Plans are underway for the speakers and schedule, which will include tracks for editorial, engineering, and product teams. Read our notes from the 2018 event to get a feel for the festivities, and bookmark the event page to stay up to date.
  • The National Association of Black Journalists’ Convention and Career Fair combines education, career development, and networking to improve access for journalists of color. This year’s theme is “Fight The Power: Press Forward with Passion and Purpose” and goes down in Miami August 7-11.

How VIP supports the future of digital media leadership

This year, VIP is proud to sponsor both the Online News Association’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator and the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy for Women. This is our fourth year supporting each program — here’s a little bit about why they’re so important to us.

I write this fresh from wrapping two very full days at Poynter’s spring Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. This year, I was struck by how often the attendees used the word “magic” to describe this conference. But then I recalled my first 24 hours at the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy in 2016. I was completely blown away. In one day, I met more women leaders than I had interacted with my entire career.

Closing the gap

For many years now, VIP has been bringing WordPress to some of the world’s largest publishers. In 2016, we were wrestling with the realization that we rarely interacted with female clients, because digital decision-makers at enterprise organizations tended to be men. We also didn’t have many women on our team and were eager to change that.

At the time, we already had a relationship with the Online News Association, as sponsors of their annual conference. So when the opportunity arose to expand our sponsorship to a women’s leadership program, we were all in.

A different kind of conference

Upon arriving at that first event, I was immediately impressed by the attendees. Twenty-eight women were chosen out of more than 400 applicants. All were up-and-coming female leaders at media companies around the world. Remarkably, the curriculum was completely customized for the group. Coaches closely evaluated attendee applications, teammate feedback, and personality tests to provide 1:1 coaching specific to each individual’s needs. While that was valuable, the most important learnings came from attendees speaking up, being vulnerable, and building on shared experiences.

As a sponsor, I came with a prepared presentation on WordPress, but quickly realized I had to adapt to the room. This was a different kind of conference — one where I was expected to be as open as possible about my challenges and struggles. I threw away my prepared remarks.

Instead, I spoke about becoming a female team lead, and how paralyzing imposter syndrome can be when almost all your clients and teammates are male. I talked about how it takes extra courage to speak up when you’re the only woman in a room full of men — courage I often did not have as a new team lead. I shared that I spent a lot of time trying to be like everyone else. It was a long and frustrating road for me to stop mimicking other people, and start validating the things I was good at.

After that presentation, I made genuine friendships with many of the women in the room.

The spring 2019 Women’s Leadership Academy at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

An exponential impact

Since that first sponsorship, women we’ve met at the program have attended our BigWP community events, spoken at our annual VIP Workshop, and become a part of WordCamp for Publishers. Some of them have become trusted friends and advisors for me. Others have become clients.

I’m also proud of the impact the sponsorship has had on our team. As we’ve hired more women, I’ve been able to bring teammates to these events. Over the last two years, Suzi Gaiser, Alexis Kulash, Nabaht Peters, and Rebecca Hum have all attended events and become part of the ONA-Poynter community. I have been grateful to both programs for their interest in soaking up a bit of VIP’s distributed and open culture. In turn, the programs have allowed us to participate in sessions on being a change agent, negotiating as a woman, promoting diversity in leadership, and personal career development.

As I travel home, I’m carrying a little boost of positive energy, reminded that there’s an incredible community of women leaders looking to support each other. At VIP, we’re deeply committed to sustainable journalism, and proud to support the critical work of organizations like ONA and Poynter who help raise new voices to the highest levels of media leadership.

March 2019 VIP Roundup

The WordPress team recently celebrated another major milestone with the release of WordPress 5.1, alongside news that the platform now powers a full third of the web. Huzzah! Kauffman Indicators, the Facebook Journalism Project, Rio Negro, MinnPost, and MTN now count themselves among that elite group after enjoying successful launches this month.

Elsewhere, we were lucky to join some amazing conversations about shaping the enterprise WordPress world we want to live in, including more women leaders in digital journalism and the importance of designing for all. Read on for details, as well as the latest updates from across the community.

A group of women from ONA's Women Leadership Academy posing in front of a brick wall.
ONA Women’s Leadership Academy participants and mentors. Photo via ONA.

News and Releases

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

  • WordPress released version 5.1. Nicknamed ‘Betty,’ 5.1 introduces new Site Health features and includes performance improvements for the new block editor. Congrats to Automatticians Matt Mullenweg and Gary Pendergast and the 561 contributors (including folks from our partners 10up, Reaktiv Studios, and rtCamp) who made it possible.
  • It’s official: WordPress now powers 33.3% of the web.
  • VIP worked with featured partner Alley to help The Kauffman Foundation launch the Kauffman Indicators of Early Stage Entrepreneurship. This new tool offers in-depth reports and interactive data visualizations that present entrepreneurial trends across decades, geographies, and demographic groups.
  • The Facebook Journalism Project provides products, tools, and training to promote news literacy and help journalists harness the power of Facebook for good.
  • Argentina’s 115-year-old Rio Negro newspaper is looking mighty fine in its new home.
  • Longstanding nonprofit news organization MinnPost joined the VIP family.
  • Congrats to South African mobile phone provider MTN on their new site launch.
  • 10Up turned eight and beta launched WP Acceptance, a team-centric tool for writing reliable, scalable acceptance tests.
  • Alley shared a reflection on how creating a self-quoting SlackBot shaped their company culture.
  • Big Bite sponsored Middlesborough Digital, part of several burgeoning digital sectors in the UK.
  • Inpsyde released a OneStock for WooCommerce plugin to make it easier to manage product inventory across multiple shops.
  • rtCamp shared the PHP migration script they used to move 300+ repos, 10000+ issues/PR and 100,000+ comments from GitLab to GitHub. Their team also attended 3 WordCamps in one weekend!
  • HumanMade hosted their annual meetup in Sri Lanka (We’re not jealous. Okay, we’re jealous).

Platform Notes

What We Read (And Listened To)

Spotlight: Kurator at NewsCorp Australia

We have had the pleasure of working with News Corp Australia (NCA) since early 2015. Today they host 21 sites with us, including market leaders News.com.au, Foxsports.com.au, and TheAustralian.com.au. For NCA, WordPress represents one important application among others, within a complex and powerful systems architecture that predated their migration. We spoke with Juan Zapata, head of the Site Production Platform team, to learn more about their custom-built Kurator tool, which brings external resources to authors and editors working in WordPress. Read all about it.

Recent Events

  • Earlier this month, we sponsored and attended ONA’s Women Leadership Accelerator at UCLA. Each year, this event brings 30 women from around the world for a weeklong leadership intensive to advance women in digital journalism. VIP has been a major sponsor of ONA WLA since the beginning and are proud to continue our support. Alternate: This year, our very own Steph Yiu spoke about managing remote teams (recap on her site) and VIP’s work promoting digital journalism.
  • VIP was also pleased to sponsor February’s Change Forum, where our friends at News UK brought together established media businesses and startups in London to speak candidly about product design and development. Simon Dickson, Alison Blanda, Jason Snow, Ryan Sholin, and Simon Wheatley represented VIP at the event, and Automattic’s design director David Kennedy spoke on reaping the benefits of prioritizing accessibility in design. Get a summary of his talk alongside major highlights in our event recap.
David Kennedy on stage at the Change Forum conference, pictured in front of an audience and against a red background with the word 'Change' inscribed across it.
Automattician David Kennedy speaking on designing for diversity. Photo via News UK

Upcoming Events

  • BigWP meetups focus on the operation, development, and scaling of large, high-traffic WordPress websites. Next up is BigWP Toronto, hosted by our friends at the Canadian Olympic Committee on March 27. These events always fill up fast, so hop to it.
  • Facebook’s developer conference F8 is slated for April 30-May 1. Billed as, “A conversation about technology and human connection,” this event offers deep dive sessions and product demos across Facebook’s family of apps. You can apply to attend or sign up to stream the keynote.
  • We’ll be attending WAN-IFRA’s 71st World News Media Congress 2019 in Glasgow, June 1-3.

Freedom to innovate: VIP at Change Forum 2019

VIP was proud to sponsor February’s Change Forum, where our friends at News UK brought together established media businesses and startups in London, to speak candidly about product design and development.

Speakers from the BBC, The Times, Netflix, Lego and here at WordPress.com shared lessons learned about audience engagement and growth whilst leading product teams.

The common thread across all the day’s presentations was an acknowledgement that a steady flow of new ideas and perspectives was essential to the continued success of a modern business. Teams at one startup were expected to carry out five experiments every single month.

David A Kennedy on stage at Change Forum 2019 London
David Kennedy, design director at Automattic

Data, experience and intuition were all of limited value in predicting which ideas would ultimately move the needle. Several speakers described lengthy or expensive processes which yielded little; whilst tweaks taking only a few hours could have a remarkable impact.

And sometimes, as our colleague David Kennedy explained, ideas expected to deliver one benefit could produce greater gains in another, unexpected way. David’s passion is accessibility in design. He cited the example of NPR, who began posting transcripts of their audio broadcasts to aid accessibility – and saw a significant increase in traffic and user engagement, through the text content’s greater search engine friendliness.

Christina Scott interviews Jonas Huckestein
News UK’s Christina Scott chats with Jonas Huckestein of UK bank Monzo

Jonas Huckestein, co-founder of UK banking disruptor Monzo, confessed that the company’s success had been built on trying things, seeing which ones worked, and keeping on doing them. They spent months developing a peer-to-peer payment function, which was a total flop. But a simple ‘golden ticket’ function, to let friends of existing customers jump up the waiting list, drove steady weekly growth for many months.

Customers loved it when Netflix began sending out brand-new movies on the day of the DVD’s release; but it only reduced customer churn by a tiny amount, so they canned the initiative.

Conversely, when faced with the dilemma of whether to notify customers about the imminent expiry of their initial free trial, Netflix decided to do the ‘right thing’, and send out reminders. It naturally reduced conversion rates, costing the company tens of millions in revenue; but they decided it was good for the brand… and easy to reverse.

Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix

How to decide if an innovation was successful? It depended on what you had hoped to achieve, the data you considered, and who was making the decision. Your CFO might take one view; your community of users, or readers, or consumers might take another. It’s for the culture of the company to decide whose view matters most.

With VIP’s roots deep in the WordPress open source community, these conclusions rang true to our own experience. We believe that the freedoms to innovate on top of WordPress, to share your ideas and efforts with the world, and to choose from many solutions already in circulation, are key factors in the continuing growth of WordPress.

Photos courtesy of Fluxx Studios: posted on Flickr, used under license.

February VIP Roundup

After a brief stint away for the holidays, 2019 is off with a bang (or, a shake, for the VIP Business Development team attending a meetup in Mexico City last week). The first 1/12th of the year has seen several exciting launches, including GitHub, Prensa Libre, and Crowley. Our client USA Today came back with its Ad Meter rankings of the most popular ad at the Superb Owl, but our favorite might be this shoutout to the free press from the Washington Post.

Take a look ahead at this month’s updates from across enterprise WordPress, including a spotlight straight from VIP’s own newsroom, and the running list of events we’ve got our eyes on this spring.

Thirteen Lego astronauts in orange jumpsuits nestled in the snow holding a black sign that reads 'VIP Launch'

The VIP Launch Squad met in Boulder, Colorado last week. Photo not actual size. (Photo credit @kgagne)

News and Releases

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

  • You can now watch and share the videos from November’s BigWP NYC event. Our thanks to Remy Stern of the New York Post, Setka CEO Katya Bazilevskaya, and Libby Parker and KAdam White of Human Made for dropping knowledge on managing push notifications, AMP compatibility, and customizing pre-existing Gutenberg blocks.
  • GitHub has a new home on VIPGo, with a .blog TLD. Check out github.blog or their 2019 policy predictions for a look around the new digs.
  • Prensa Libre is one of the biggest newspapers in Guatemala and one of the highest-trafficked websites in Central America. We partnered with Alley to migrate them over to WordPress and the VIP Go platform. New capabilities include a refreshed landing page module system, and the option to export wire stories straight to print.
  • Congrats to Crowley on their long-haul launch of a new site on VIP, and many thanks to the small army of collaborators from across several teams who made this one possible.
  • Alley published a robust 2018 year in review, highlighting their work with news organizations, museums, nonprofits, and more.
  • Hello Design worked with MDC to build the Coral One robot, which Business Insider called the best robot at CES2019.
  • Clutch named Human Made both a “Top 1000 Global” B2B company and “Top WordPress Development Company.”
  • Reaktiv Studios launched Tala on VIP Go as a multilingual site.
  • Rtcamp is heading to WordCamp Bangkok, where CEO Rahul Bansal will speak on the art of pricing. Read how choosing ‘focus’ as a guiding theme for 2018 impacted their year.
  • XWP wrote a piece on what you need to know before you AMP. They also released v1.0.0 of their WordPress development library.
  • Setka’s CEO Katya Bazilevskaya was quoted in the Native Advertising Institute’s 2019 predictions e-book (gated download).

Platform Notes

  • We’re building a testing panel to give us feedback as we develop our client-facing tools. If you’re interested in helping us, please drop us a note via support.
  • We’ve released WordPress 5.0 (Lobby post for clients) up to 5.0.3 (Lobby post) and Jetpack 6.9 (Lobby post)
  • VIP CLI has been updated to 1.3.0. You’ll notice a few updates: we now preview the date and time of the backup used for sync, show the mapped domain when listing apps, and better messaging around environments–as well as some minor bugfixes and general bolt tightening. Please update your local install with npm install -g @automattic/vip
  • MU Plugins:
    • Query Monitor is updated to 3.1.1
    • Fieldmanager is updated to 1.2.4 (Lobby post)
    • Edit Flow is updated to 0.9 (lobby post for clients (Lobby post)
    • Safe Redirect manager is 1.9.2 (Lobby post)
    • Responsive Images are rolled out to all sites (Lobby post)
    • Getty Images 4.0 (Lobby post)
  • We’re upgrading our VIP Go Hosting to PHP 7.3, to take advantage of the performance benefits, stability, and security advantages there. Non-production environments were updated on Monday 4 February, and production sites are planned to be upgraded on Monday 25 February (Lobby post)

What We Read (And Listened To)

Spotlight

Image via thenewsproject.net

VIP is deeply committed to the sustainability of news organizations, large and small, around the world. We’re excited to share we’ve doubled down on that commitment by investing in the News Project. According to founder Merrill Brown, the News Project’s goal is to “stabilize existing news sites and encourage new startups by simplifying publishing and the path to sustainability.” Take a product tour to learn more about their tools, or sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date.

Upcoming Events

  • Tickets are on sale for WordCamp London, April 5-7. This event joins a slate of WordCamps going down all across the globe this spring, including Jakarta and Pune on February 16, Helsinki March 7-8, and Miami March 15-17.
  • ‘Intelligent Connectivity’ is the focus of #MWC19, coming to Barcelona February 25-28. Attendees can explore 8 themes, including Immersive Content and Digital Trust.
  • This year’s (free) AMP Conference will be in Tokyo April 17-18. Already an AMP expert? Act fast: the call for speakers is open through February 14.

Human Made’s approach to Gutenberg? Don’t repeat yourself.

Libby Barker, a Senior Project Manager, and K. Adam White, a Senior Developer, both from Human Made, spoke about their approach to working with clients on Gutenberg projects, even before its recent official launch in WordPress 5.0. This talk was delivered on November 13 at BigWP NYC, a gathering of developers and product people who work on WordPress applications at scale.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Human Made started with the blocks already available in Gutenberg, and customized from there. Rather than spending time and effort building blocks from scratch, they were able to give clients more control of design elements and a better editing experience.

Any Gutenberg block might turn out to be reusable on another page, or in another layout. In one example they shared, the Human Made team found that an element built for a site’s homepage could double as a recirculation module at the bottom of single posts or pages, too.

Watch the talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.

Bringing AMP and Gutenberg Readiness to Setka

How the Setka Editor team built AMP compatibility into their custom post design tool

At our latest enterprise WordPress meetup in New York on November 13, Katya Bazilevskaya, Cofounder and CEO at Setka, talked about building the Setka Editor to be Gutenberg-ready and AMP-ready. The Setka Editor is a powerful tool for building beautiful longform stories out of building blocks, all optimized for mobile with full Google AMP integration.

The Setka team transformed WordPress galleries, javascript libraries, and even animations into AMP-ready HTML elements, speeding up mobile load times and giving users a lightning-fast experience.

Modern CSS approaches available in AMP help cut down on time to First Meaningful Paint, and Setka users are seeing the difference.

Watch Katya’s talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.

WordPress.com VIP Invests in The News Project

At WordPress.com VIP, we’ve worked closely with journalists since the very beginning of our service. From our earliest clients, news organizations were an integral part of WordPress’s growth from an open-source blogging platform to a technology that now powers more than 32% of all sites on the web.

Since that time, VIP has grown into an enterprise publishing platform that now boasts a customer list including some of the biggest news organizations in the world — CBS, Time.com, and News Corp., to name a few — to global brands like Microsoft, Airbnb, Capgemini, and Capital One.

But in this difficult business climate for news organizations, we want to double down on our commitment to journalism and a free (and sustainable) press. Today VIP is announcing that it has made a significant investment in The News Project, a new WordPress-based platform founded by Merrill Brown, the veteran digital news executive who helped launch MSNBC.com.

In addition to VIP’s financial investment, The News Project will be powered by VIP’s platform, with a goal of serving medium-sized digital news organizations around the world. You can read more about TNP’s vision here.

Along with VIP’s existing platform for large publishers and brands, Automattic’s funding of the new Newspack initiative with Google and other partners (announced yesterday), our own in-house media properties Longreads and The Atavist (bringing the best narrative storytelling to WordPress), and even the individual work of reporters like 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak, we are deeply committed to the sustainability of news organizations, large and small, around the world.  

We’re thrilled to work with Merrill and his team on this shared vision. For more information, go to thenewsproject.net.

Push Notifications at Scale at the New York Post

How The New York Post uses WordPress to manage push notifications for a busy newsroom

Remy Stern, Chief Digital Officer at the New York Post, our hosts at BigWP NYC on November 13, led off the presentations with an explanation on how they use WordPress.com VIP to send thousands and thousands of push notifications, email alerts, and to control their breaking news alerts on the web, too.

Why use WordPress to manage notifications? It’s the central tool for workflow in their newsroom, and reduces the risk of errors by keeping things in one familiar system with a consistent user experience. As a bonus, that helps things move quickly.

“Speed really matters when you’re sending out breaking news push notifications.”

Maropost, Urban Airship, and even Apple News are all in the notifications mix for the New York Post, all managed from inside their WordPress admin.

Watch Remy’s talk in full:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November BigWP playlist.

Client Spotlight: Kurator at News Corp Australia

Peek behind the scenes with the WordPress team at News Corp Australia

We have had the pleasure of working with News Corp Australia (NCA) since early 2015. Today they host 21 sites with us, including market leaders News.com.au, Foxsports.com.au, and TheAustralian.com.au.

For NCA, WordPress represents one important application among others, within a complex and powerful systems architecture that predated their migration. They run their own massive content database and API (CAPI) and also use Méthode for print publishing. The smart ways they have integrated their existing components into WordPress as they migrated their flagship publications to it are a testament to their development vision and execution. They also point to one of WordPress’ great strengths. Its flexibility allows enterprise organizations with existing infrastructure to adapt and evolve with WordPress over time, rather than requiring a complete systems overhaul and mass migration all at once.

News Corp Australia Site Production Platform WordPress team
The SPP team at News Corp Australia

Kurator Lite is one of those powerful custom-built tools that NCA uses to bring external resources to authors and editors working in WordPress. After catching a glimpse of Kurator Lite in action, I chatted with Juan Zapata, head of the WordPress group, the Site Production Platform (SPP) team at News Corp Australia, to hear more about its history, how it works, and what’s in the pipeline for the SPP team.

You shared a really cool video that shows how an author or editor in WordPress at News Corp Australia can use Kurator Lite to work with all these different assets and content from all over the company. It looks like a really impressive piece of workflow. Tell me about its history.

Juan Zapata: Before we moved on to WordPress VIP we had two different platforms running. One was called FatWire, which was Oracle-based, for print and digital. The other one is Méthode, for print editions of newspapers. There was a disconnect between digital and print in which a user had to create the categories in both systems to be able to have them running correctly. This gap drove the company to create something to bridge the two.

That’s where the need for Kurator came about, a tool that manages whole sections of content in both. It’s a tool to help editorial tell the story a bit more easily and share it within these 2 worlds. After Kurator the team built Kurator Lite, which is that small panel you see in the video. That allows you to see the sections or the categories that you can assign to multiple stories. Then they embedded that thing into FatWire. And the same functionality was embedded into Méthode.

What year was that?

I started at News Corp Australia in 2015, and I think that project started in 2013.

How many publications and asset sources does Kurator search?

Kurator is basically an interface on our database, which is called CAPI, for Content API. At this stage, it has six million stories, last time I heard, like a month ago. The stories are syndicated across multiple sites, so it is basically a massive search on our database.

Really massive. So there was Kurator and you had versions of it implemented in these two CMS systems, FatWire and Méthode. Tell me about the WordPress implementation.

We decided, ‘okay, editors already know how to use this tool. Editors already are familiar with these interfaces. Let’s also embed it into WordPress, where they are managing digital publications.’ That’s the video that you saw in which you can basically find stories, search by section, drag and drop those assets from an external database, which is not within WordPress. Then WordPress will grab them and import them to be displayed and curated.

How recently was that embed for WordPress made available? When did the team finish that?

That needed to be done ASAP as we implemented WordPress…It went live at the end of 2015, so it had to be ready by that time because they need to be able to manage stories or curate stories within WordPress. They need to be able to search the stories that are not in WordPress to be able to import them and organize them and display that within the WordPress template. That had to go straight out.

The News Corp Australia Content API has over 6 million stories

How does it work? Can you walk me through some of the ways that an editor or an author would use it as they’re creating a story?

We tried to keep it as simple as possible. There are two ways of interacting with this thing. One of them is to rank or put collections into WordPress. Within WordPress, we created a custom post type that is a collection of items, of stories, of promos or whatever you want in there. It’s a collection of posts, basically.

You can go and open an interface for Kurator in your right panel. Then you search for whatever story you want. You drag it and drop it. You drop it into your container of the collection in that case. Then you can rank your collection in any place or your story in any part of the collection. It can be in the first location of that collection.

Then that collection is rendered in the website, for example, in the front page. It will be like the main stories in there. They can drop main stories in there directly, so they manage that concept of collections in there for that one. One way of doing it is through ranking stories into collections. You can open your Kurator panel, drag and drop, and pull your story directly in there.

The other way authors use Kurator Lite is, when you’re creating a story, basically you have your WordPress story in there. You create your title, your body. Within News Corp, we have the concept of containers. Container One is…if I translate that into WordPress, that will be your thumbnail image or your picture image. When you open the article page at the top you’ll see your featured image.

We have extended that functionality a little bit. What you can drop in there is multiple images and even videos. To keep it simple you just open your Kurator window on the right side, and then search for the image and then drop it into Container One. We have also extended this capability to the body of the article using this as oEmbeds elements.

Finally, we have something that is called Container Two right at the bottom, which is a container for related articles, things that you may be interested in that are related to these articles that you’re creating. The same functionality works there. You drag and drop and put it into that container. We tried to keep it as easy as possible as it helps to manually curate content.

The drag and drop looks really nice in the video. How does that work?

It took us a while to develop because the Kurator panel is an iframe. What we have to do is behind the scenes when you click on a drag event, it extends or puts a div that extends across the whole visible area of your editor. When you drag out of your iframe (visually as you are still within it), it starts sending post messages to that parent window, telling it, “Look, I’m in this position of that massive element.” Then it will be able to identify what to highlight behind the scenes.

Because there was no easy way of offering drag and dropping functionality between two iframes, we came with this approach. It’s all done through post messages going back and forth. Once you drop it, it sends another post message saying, “I drop it in this location.” Then we’ll add it and trigger the whole thing that is happening there.

It’s not the best implementation today because nowadays there are various different tools available that we can implement it with. There is now a way that we have figured out of integrating directly into WordPress, instead of using an iframe, but we tried to keep it as close as possible as it was implemented in the previous system because it was a known interaction and a business requirement. We knew what we were going to do in there at the time, basically, instead of going and trying different stuff with WordPress. But now we know a way of integrating more directly with WordPress, which will come later on.

What else does the full Kurator application do? What features are you most proud of?

Kurator does section management. If we translate that into WordPress terms, that will be category management. You can create categories in there. It does very good as it displays syndication rules in a very natural way. Kurator does not syndicate per se, but it has the rules of syndication. You can create a section within Kurator, and that section will say, “Okay, when somebody selects this specific section, I have to put it in this website in this category, in this other website in this category, in this website in this category.” It will tell CAPI, “You have to publish this information into all these sites.”

That’s one of the fantastic features that Kurator has in there, section management and syndication management.

The other one, of course, is Kurator Lite, which is for searching assets. That’s the part that’s integrated into WordPress.

The other one is legal kill. The whole concept of legally killing an asset is to remove it from any website as soon as possible for legal reasons. You say, “I want to legal kill this item,” but the problem is that the asset has been syndicated to multiple sites. You cannot say, “Yeah, it’s deleted from all the sites,” until you get confirmation from all the sites. To accomplish this Kurator verifies all the sites that it has been syndicated to and starts pulling information from there to see if everything was successful depending on the information that it has. It stays there until it finishes. If there is an error, it will notify people about it. It’s a very robust platform built in Node.js with AngularJS. It’s very interesting. It’s completely separate to WordPress, completely separate to CAPI. It’s its own beast.

How much of a team supports Kurator?

It’s three people. It’s a very small team. It was built long ago, and the core of it hasn’t needed to be touched since then. They built it as a plugin system – one plugin is search. Another plugin is the legal kill functionality. Another plugin is the section management piece. That core thing, they haven’t touched it since they built it. That’s how well they built it. It was a very good engineering task that they did in there for that one. Yeah. At this stage, it’s three people maintaining it.

Tell me about the SPP team, what does your team do and how do you work?

Within the company, we are the core team that powers WordPress and the teams that all the other product teams developed. We are responsible for ingesting content from our content API, CAPI into WordPress, getting that synced correctly in WordPress, Developing and maintaining our own editor and supporting theme developers with extra plugins within other functions of the team.

We are 4 WordPress PHP developers, 2 testers, and 1 automation tester, who is also a developer.

We actually have 52 different plugins that allow us to do a lot of stuff in our system within WordPress. To name some we have CAPI sync which controls the translation and ingestion of content to WordPress, Authoring which allows editors to create content within WordPress with all the different containers and integrations, Kurator integration, CHP integration which is our archive of images not hosted within WordPress, Legal Kill, Draft Post, Expire Post, Site Migration, I can go on…The list is massive.

What’s coming up on the SPP roadmap?

One big one is, we removed the previous liveblogging functionality that we were using, which was with a third party. We are bringing it into WordPress using VIP’s Liveblog plugin. We have been rolling that out this last month. Now we’re rolling out AMP support for live blogging which I’m really keen and looking forward to getting it out. Also, we are working on migrating to VIP Go to which our plugins need a bit of massaging but nothing that worries me.

That’s great. What kinds of use cases around News Corp is live blogging used for mostly? Is it sports? Is it entertainment?

Almost everything. Sports is the main one that you will see in there, but they have rolling stories around every morning that says, “Things that you need to know today.” Think of it like a live coverage story. They’re just churning stories in there into the Liveblog, and that appears in your homepage saying, “Things that you need to know today. This happened, or this happened yesterday.” They change that every 10 minutes, every 15 minutes. It’s like a live blogging functionality, but they use it in that part of the site. That’s used every day.

Political applications as well, they use it. Catastrophic events, like fires. Anything that needs a live blog, but basically the two main ones are sports, and then daily things that are happening in the city.

To learn more about our work with News Corp Australia, check out this case study

November Enterprise WordPress Roundup

At the risk of early December overshadowing an exciting November, we have to lead off with the biggest headline from the WordPress community in years. Just last week we all celebrated the completion of months of design, development, and refinement: the release of WordPress 5.0 featuring the new block editor! And add to that the release of AMP for WordPress version 1.0, as well as an open source theme based on Big Bite’s new platform for Amnesty International, all in just the past several days. There was a whole lot of November before that, including a BigWP event in New York and launches for Indian ExpressThrive Global, Boston Herald, National University, and SheKnows. Read on and we’ll bring you up to speed with notes from across the enterprise WordPress community.

 

Matt Mullenweg discussed the release and next phases of WordPress 5.0 in his annual State of the Word address at WordCamp US. (Photo by Val Vesa.)

WordPress 5.0 Arrives

  • The future of WordPress is here!  Congratulations to the core team and all of the colleagues, partners, and community members who made the WordPress 5.0 release a reality. VIP clients, check the Lobby for all the details on deployment at VIP and next steps.
  • Project lead Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word (full video) at WordCamp US outlined the next phases of the Gutenberg project, including customization outside the post/page, collaborative editing, workflows, and multilingual innovations.
  • Our own Simon Dickson runs down highlights from the State of the Word as relates to the enterprise WordPress community.
  • Jeffrey Paul, core contributor and team lead at XWP, composed this WordPress 5.0 Field Guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of the new release. 
Hand holding cube with the letter A
First annual Automattic Design Award winners were announced at WordCamp US last week (photo by finalist Ahmad Awais).

News and Releases

  • Nashville welcomed WordCamp US, the largest WordCamp in North America, last week. Check out WCUS on Twitter for conference photos, session takeaways, and lively post-event chatter.
  • Also at WordCamp US, Automattic announced the winners for the first-ever Automattic Design Award! See the full list on the award website
  • BigWP NYC brought our friends at the New York Post, Setka, 10up, and Human Made together along with a packed house. Topics included integrating plugins with AMP, decoupled WordPress architecture for the enterprise, and more. Stay tuned for videos from the talks, coming soon. 
  • When PMC acquired Rolling Stone, they turned to XWP and VIP to bring the beloved brand’s digital experience up to date. The Make WordPress Marketing team just published XWP’s case study documenting the collaboration. 
  • Congrats to the AMP project on the release of version 1.0 of the official AMP Plugin for WordPress.
  • rtCamp worked with the Indian Express team to revamp their flagship website on VIP. Their Gutenberg Fields Middleware plugin, which makes it easier to create custom Gutenberg blocks, is now compatible with WordPress 5.0. And more than a dozen rtCampers attended WordCamp Ahmedabad as proud sponsors and volunteers.
  • K. Adam shared some techniques Human Made are using to bring familiar React-ecosystem developer conveniences to their Gutenberg work.
  • 10up teamed up with StoryCorps for a poignant Google Doodle tribute honoring Veteran’s Day in the US. 
  • Alley wrote about applying scrum techniques beyond the development team. 
  • Big Bite took their latest work building a new block editor-ready platform for Amnesty International one step further. Their new open source theme makes some of those tools available for any organization to use. 
  • Hello partnered with Coral Robots to tackle the $2B robot industry. CEO and Creative Director David Lai published a piece about the lack of Asian American mentors in the design agency world. 
  • Inpsyde is offering an Advent calendar of helpful blog posts to celebrate the season. Here’s the first post of several in the series.
  • Trew Knowledge relaunched Hip2Save on VIP, giving them a refreshed interface and new community features.
  • XWP released the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin and shared their take on why tech companies should invest in WordPress.  
  • Rasmus Lerdorf, inventor of PHP, turned 50 on November 22.

Platform Notes

  • As mentioned above, WordPress 5.0 has been released! VIP clients, you will experience no immediate change to your publishing experience. Check out the Lobby for notes on next steps and working with the Gutenberg plugin as the project moves on to next phases. 
  • Domains have come to the VIP Dashboard. Currently a simple list of domains mapped to your environment, VIP has big plans for its future functionality.
  • VIP CLI was updated to 1.2.1:
    •  We now display a preview for vip sync which details the backup date/time being synced and the search/replace to be performed.
    • We now display the primary domain, instead of the *.go-vip.co domain in and vip app list.
    • More details here.
  • Jetpack was updated to 6.8.1 (Lobby post for VIP clients).
  • VIP MU plugins updates include: 
    • The Query Monitor update from 3.0 to 3.1.1 includes lots of changes such as a logger, accessibility fixes, and bug fixes. This release also introduces a Dark Mode.
    • Fixes and optimizations for purging file URLs from our cache. 

Spotlight

The Dekode team in their Oslo office

Dekode, based in Oslo, Norway, is the leading enterprise WordPress agency in the Nordics. They blend design, development, and strategy work to build cost-effective, self-sustaining solutions for enterprise clients like Tidal, Facebook, and the Norwegian government. Read more about what they’re building in our latest partner profile.

Upcoming Events

  • The Inland Press Association’s Mega Conference is slated for February 25-27 in Las Vegas. Topics span digital subscriptions, newsroom transformation, advertising sales, audience monetization and more.
  • MWC Barcelona (formerly Mobile World Congress) is the largest mobile event in the world, bringing together the latest innovations and leading-edge technology from more than 2,400 leading companies. It’s happening February 25 – 28, and it’s not too late to grab a pass
  • Speaker applications are open until January 7 for the first-ever WordCamp Nordic coming to Helsinki March 7-9.  
  • Fancy a warmer clime? Join IRE and NICAR in Newport Beach, CA on March 7-9 for their annual conference devoted to data journalism. 

State of the Word 2018 and Enterprise WordPress

Last week saw the release of WordPress 5.0, the project’s first major update in a little over a year. It’s most notable for the addition of the new Gutenberg editor component, which introduces blocks as the new mental model for WordPress content management.

In his 2018 State Of The Word speech, project lead Matt Mullenweg told attendees at WordCamp US that the pace of change would remain high. Gutenberg, he explained, was only the start of a process to address some fundamental problems in the software’s overall user experience.

Here’s our selection of key highlights for VIP clients and the enterprise WordPress community.

WordPress is all-in on blocks

Blocks have been designed to be predictable and tactile. They can cope with the full range of functionality expected of any WordPress site: they can be simple, like a text block, or as rich as an entire e-commerce interface.

They reflect the reality of HTML structure, making it (finally!) possible to meet user expectations on things like copy-and-paste from applications like word processors. But as developers we’re able to simplify their presentation, make their function readily apparent to users, and make them reusable across the interface.

Already we’ve seen an explosion of creativity within the community. Creators of well-established plugins have made early efforts to adapt their interfaces to exploit the potential of blocks: Matt specifically highlighted the popular Yoast SEO and AMP plugins, which provide feedback on a block-by-block basis. And new plugins are being created, bringing structured content into the editor area without the clumsy use of shortcodes.

We’re also seeing the growth of libraries, toolkits and tutorials, making it easier than ever for developers to surface complex functionality or embed external services within the authoring experience. It won’t take long for users to expect to find a block for every purpose.

Matt Mullenweg, State Of The Word 2018

Blocks will break out of the text box

Matt confirmed that the next challenge for Gutenberg is to take the same block concept beyond post content. He showed examples of how blocks might replace what we currently know as ‘widgets’ and ‘menus’. Configuration would take place within the WordPress admin area, in the Customizer – or perhaps even inline, on the front end.

Development of phase two will take place, as before, in plugin form – giving developers plenty of visibility into the process, and plenty of time for experimentation and testing.

Key enterprise functionality ahead

Matt also shared his thinking for the third and fourth phases of the Gutenberg initiative, both with particular appeal to large scale professional content publishers.

Phase three is set to focus on collaboration and workflows. It is likely to include content locking based on blocks, rather than pages as now. This will be especially valuable to newsrooms working on breaking stories: we know many of our clients already have elaborate workarounds to allow journalists to work on different parts of the same article simultaneously.

Matt admitted: “One of the reasons that copy-and-paste from Google Docs to Gutenberg is so good, is that when I’m writing a post that I’m going to collaborate on, Google Docs is better for that. But if we can integrate these workflows directly into WordPress, we can integrate them with user systems, we can integrate them with revisions, and we can allow them to be fully extensible in a way that a SaaS service will never, ever be.”

Phase four will finally bring an official way for WordPress to support multilingual publishing. Numerous proven approaches already exist, of course. But the lack of a canonical solution within WordPress core is often cited as a weakness, and existing solutions often cannot guarantee to be compatible with other plugins and services.

Both these phases, proposed for 2020 and beyond, are likely to have implications for existing solutions, including plugins created and recommended by VIP. We’re excited to contribute our experience in these areas to the core initiatives, and encourage all of our clients to get involved as well. Feedback and participation from VIP clients provided the core team with critical insights during phase one, and those insights become even more pertinent as the team takes on the next areas of focus.

Enterprise takeaways in brief

  • The next phases of the Gutenberg project will continue to take place in plugin form. This will allow enterprise teams to test and adopt new functionality gradually as it comes out, and evaluate it in the context of existing workflows and customizations.
  • Phase two will focus on admin elements outside of pages and posts, further simplifying and streamlining the experience for users.
  • Phase three will focus on collaboration and workflows, which will be particularly useful for busy newsrooms as well as brand and product teams.
  • The fourth phase will take on multilingual publishing, bringing a canonical solution into core.

There are lots of ways for you to participate in the project! Whether directly through the many points of entry outlined on Make.WordPress.org, by sharing a private demonstration and feedback session with us at your offices, or simply by testing and working with the new features as they are developed, you can play a critical role in the project’s success.

Photos courtesy of: Brian Peat, Jen Hooks, Val Vesa. Thank you!

Six Questions with Dekode

This series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

Dekode is a digital agency based in Norway focused exclusively on WordPress platforms for the enterprise segment. Dekode strongly believes the best digital solutions are crafted when the disciplines of design, development, and strategy work in cross-functional teams. They have been a WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner since 2015.

Dekode team in their Oslo office

What’s your agency’s origin story?

Magne Ilsaas founded Dekode in 2009, bringing a background in design and establishing a strong tech and creative team from the start. In the Nordics, WordPress historically has not been known as a big media CMS like in other parts of the world. As big believers in the platform, Dekode set out to grow and evolve its reputation in the region.

Since its founding, Dekode’s focus has been to demonstrate the value and foundation of WordPress for Enterprise, B2B, B2C, and marketing sites in their local market. 

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

Pragmatic, compassionate, honest.

Consultant Christian Buksti and Dekode’s CEO Magne Ilsaas

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

We’ll mention two:

  1. Design and code frameworks: The Norwegian Government Security and Service Organization is responsible for digital services for the governmental secretaries and the Prime Minister’s office, as well as a number of other public institutions such as the Supreme Court and the Parliament. DSS operates 50+ web pages on WordPress. These require thorough quality control and continuous development of functionality.

    Dekode is the trusted advisor for these projects. As a reflection of our commitment to delivering cost-effective, self-sustaining solutions for our clients, we’ve built a design framework rather than a one-off platform for NGSSO. With this flexible theme, NGSSO can create new websites themselves. Currently, they have 60+ websites without the help of Dekode and at no additional cost.

  2. Community for Down Syndrome: Today, most conversations about Down syndrome amongst parents happen on social media and especially on Facebook. These shared experiences and discussions are often vital to the lives of children with Down syndrome, but as soon as they are published they fall down the drain of the Facebook feed. This knowledge does not have an expiry date, but in a year or five years, there is no possible way to retrieve it. We wanted to do something about it.

    We recently launched our new community platform oppsiden.no (The Upside). It’s a social knowledge sharing community for Down Syndrome. This was a Dekode-initiated project and the culmination of months of collaboration with the Norwegian Network for Down Syndrome. We are extremely proud Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg came to our office and officially launched the platform.
Norwegian Prime Minster Erna Solberg at Dekode’s office celebrating the launch of oppsiden.no

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

We are currently excited about the launch of the Gutenberg editor. From our experience thus far, when it comes to custom blocks, it has been really promising. We’ve been big fans of using Advanced Custom Fields for tailoring modular websites for a long time now. Gutenberg will make this a native experience to WordPress, and the experience for editors will be a really big and important upgrade. Gutenberg has the potential to be a fantastically open-ended system – themes, plugins, and possibilities on steroids. We’re looking forward to developing sites and platforms that harness that open-endedness to deliver the kinds of focused and dialed-in editorial experiences enterprise use cases tend to require.

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

This year, one of the best “conferences” Magne attended was a boat of startups, founders, and investors who all disconnected from their busy online lives. What amazed him on this trip was the willingness to share knowledge on how to run and scale your business in a sustainable way. This is something we at Dekode want more than anything else for the WordPress ecosystem: to share and collaborate on our businesses the same way we do with code.

Large white ship, the Christian Radich, under sail
The EntrepreneurShip

What are you looking to accomplish in 2018?

As 2018 comes to an end our immediate goals are transitioning our design and code framework to Gutenberg.  We’re also excited to launch our new community/ intranet platform and continuously position WordPress as a proper enterprise alternative.

Thank you, Dekode!

More on Dekode:

Petter Walbø Johnsgård of the Dekode team

Agency focus and specialties:

  • WordPress platforms, for clients with long term recurring digital needs
  • Design and code systems that enable brands with multiple sites to reuse components and scale their digital ecosystem in a sustainable way
  • Enterprise intranets on WordPress
  • Operationalizing their client’s business strategy while challenging stagnant thinking

Currently working with:

  • The Norwegian National Library
  • Facebook
  • Tidal
  • The Norwegian Government
  • Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue
  • The Church City Mission
  • Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Agency highlights:

  • Largest WordPress specialist agency in the Nordics
  • Recently launched an Enterprise intranet product on WordPress
  • Creating a design and code system for the Norwegian government enabling them to launch websites themselves
  • Global Diamond Sabre Award winning campaign for NORAD, a learning solution for youth about foreign aid

October VIP Roundup

With the projected release date for WordPress 5.0 fast approaching on November 27, there’s lots of October news around the Gutenberg project and the new editor it’s bringing to 5.0.  Read on for updates from WordPress core, releases from Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Post, Intercom, and XWP for the AMP Project. Don’t miss the call for entries for the brand new Automattic Design Award.

view from a train in Ireland
An Automattician’s office view for the day, from a train in Ireland.

Gutenberg News and Notes

The latest updates about WordPress 5.0 and the new editor.

  • 5.0 is coming! The updated WordPress Core timeline calls for WordPress 5.0 release on November 27, with release candidate 1 coming on November 12. VIP clients, keep an eye on the Lobby for updates as we draw closer.
  • As of this post, WordPress 5.0 beta 3 is the latest release, which came out on November 5. WordPress 5.0 beta 1 came out on October 24th. Naturally at this stage beta releases include Gutenberg as the default editor, the Twenty Nineteen theme, and all previous default themes updated to include block editor styles.
  • The Core team has announced that the Classic Editor Plugin will be supported until at least December 31, 2021. You’ll find lots of additional detail at that link as well.
  • We recommend all projects using the Gutenberg plugin today to upgrade to at least version 4.1 to assure a smooth transition. Gutenberg 4.2 is now available for testing. The updated formatting API makes it easier to extend Rich Text options throughout the editor. Developers can now add their own block categories and assign icons for better visual cues.

VIP’s Shannon Smith talking React at WordCamp Vancouver.

News and Releases

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

  • Our own Shannon Smith presented at WordCamp Vancouver, demonstrating how theme and plugin developers can use React to make the most of the new Gutenberg editor experience.
  • Mother Jones offers a fresh take on U.S. midterm election coverage thanks to feedback from audience engagement tool Hearken.
  • The Institute for Nonprofit News launched the INN Index, a comprehensive study of nonprofit news outlets. One key finding? Over half of INN’s newsrooms have 3 or more revenue streams.
  • Hear Joel Davies’ talk from BigWP London on how The Sun optimized their World Cup coverage this summer to draw 23 million unique visitors a day during the tournament.
  • From that same event, watch Big Bite’s Jason Agnew explore their work with Gutenberg on two major client projects.
  • 10up helped Intercom transition from ‘blog’ to ‘publication.’ They also spoke at React.js in Capetown and sponsored WordCamp Islamabad.
  • Alley created a sleek interactive map for Kaiser Family Foundation and launched a new Style section for the New York Post’s Page Six.
  • Dekode launched Oppsiden.no, a social knowledge sharing platform for the Down Syndrome community. Launch party special guests included Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg.
  • Human Made helped Greenpeace reinvigorate their global web presence, realigning with open technology and principles along the way. They also updated and re-released the extensively researched whitepaper, “Headless WordPress: The Future CMS.”
  • You can now start testing the first release candidate (RC1) of the AMP Plugin thanks to work from XWP and Google, who recently celebrated AMP’s third birthday. Here’s how to make AMP run even faster.
  • Inpsyde published a video guide on installing MultilingualPress.
  • Reaktiv Studios released Design Palette Pro 1.5
  • A team of 6 rtCampers attended the AMP Roadshow Mumbai 2018 where Pradeep Sonawane delivered a talk about “WordPress with AMP.” Up next? Nirmal Desai will attend WordCamp Kochi and share his experience working with Enterprise publishers.

Platform Updates

Spotlight

A beautiful translucent cube with rich organic texture
Honoring the best site, solution, style of 2018 – Enter by November 16!

Submit your best work in site, solution, and style categories for the brand new Automattic Design Award, recognizing the very best in Gutenberg-ready, accessibility-enabled projects from 2018. A truly amazing panel of judges includes Khoi Vinh from Adobe, Kat Holmes from Google, and Jeffrey Zeldman from A List Apart. Representatives of the VIP family include Sarah James of 10up, Ant Miller of Human Made, Rahul Bansal from rtCamp, Joshua Wold of XWP, and Simon Dickson representing VIP.

What We Read

Upcoming Events

  • The next BigWP Meetup takes place November 13 at the New York Post headquarters featuring enterprise WordPress talks from speakers at the New York Post and VIP partners Setka, Human Made, and 10up. Tickets are now all gone, but we’ll have coverage on the blog. Join the meetup group to be the first to hear about the next event.
  • WordCamp US is coming right up, Dec. 7-9 in Nashville. Organizers recently released the full speaker schedule. You might notice several familiar faces from Automattic, 10up, Human Made, XWP, Yoast, and many more. See the full speakers list here and grab your ticket while you still can.
  • The Computer-Assisted Reporting conference offers story ideas, inspiration, and tools to power data journalism. It’s slated for March 7-10 in Newport Beach, California. Get more details here.
  • Have you gotten your ticket for WordCamp Europe? It goes down June 20-22 in Berlin. While it may seem like a long time from now, tickets always sell out, so grab yours fast.

The Sun’s World Cup Coverage Shines with WordPress

Two years on from joining the VIP program, The Sun’s WordPress-powered website has grown steadily to become the UK’s biggest digital commercial news website, with over 30 million unique users each month – that’s fast approaching half the UK’s total population.

Sport, and specifically soccer, has always been a key part of The Sun’s offering; and with England headed to the summer’s World Cup in Russia, the newsroom were keen to make the most of the opportunity.

In a characteristically cheeky talk at our recent London BigWP event, The Sun’s head of newsroom systems, Joel Davies described how they were able to create a new destination section, with the ambition to cement The Sun’s brand as the ‘home of the football fan’.

The new section, built and launched in three months, incorporated a new mobile-first design, reflecting the fact that 90% of traffic was mobile, with full-screen teasers, interactive on-page components, plus new commercial slots and navigation.

Joel explained some of the design elements and special content features the team developed, making full use of the flexibility offered by the WordPress platform. They used the Shortcake plugin, a precursor to the new Gutenberg editor’s block concept, to construct complex page layouts, rendered on the front end by React components.

They produced just under 100 articles per day during the tournament, and almost 1,000 videos, viewed a total of 11.5 million times. The World Cup section alone drew 23 million unique visitors over the course of the competition, with a return rate of 45%. (Sadly, the England team returned empty handed.)

Entries Now Open for the First Automattic Design Awards

Automattic is putting together our first ever Design Awards, and we want you to be a part of it.

Earlier this year, in his talk at WordCamp Europe, John Maeda announced plans for an Automattic Design Award, to highlight and encourage examples of great design work in the WordPress ecosystem.

With WordCamp US fast approaching, we are now inviting entries at automatticdesignaward.blog. Submissions need to be in by November 16, with the announcement of the winners on December 3.

There will be nine awards in total, with three trophies presented in each of three categories – Best Site, Best Solution and Best Style.

We aren’t just looking for your prettiest pieces of work. At WordCamp Europe, John talked about the need for ‘deep design’ – rather than just sprayed-on design, added as an afterthought. Too often we focus simply on shipping; and whilst that may have been acceptable in the past, today’s users know they can and should expect more.

So we’re looking for work which demonstrates thorough processes of discovery, consideration, delivery, and listening to users’ responses.

 

There are two core eligibility requirements. Submissions must be ready for the arrival of Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor; and they must demonstrate accessibility as a ‘need to have’, not just a ‘nice to have’.

At VIP we’re fortunate to work with some of the most ambitious design and development teams in the WordPress space. We see many examples of smart, sophisticated design in the projects we support; and we’ll be encouraging our clients to put themselves forward. But we’re particularly excited to see what’s happening elsewhere in the ecosystem, especially behind the scenes.

Full details of the awards, the assessment criteria, the judging panel and the beautiful trophies can be found at automatticdesignaward.blog.

Photo: Ivan Gatic, via Flickr, CC BY-SA

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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.