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WordPress WordCamp 2008

WordCamp, Utah
September 27, 2008.

Matt Mullenweg, one of the founding developers of WordPress was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s WordCamp event in Provo, Utah. His speech included a summary of WordPress developments this year and included a large list of what’s next for the fast-growing, free blogging service.

The WordPress blogging service started with only 5 developers and 2 blogs. In the beginning the developers focused on building a system for friends who were not technical in order to help them join the web community. The goal was to develop something that was both simple and user friendly. Currently has about 4 million new posts and 6.5 billion page views per month. WordPress has had a strong development schedule which has continued to accelerate.

WordPress 2008 Year-in-Review

In 2007 there were 1090 commits made and so far in 2008 there are already 2840. WordPress has made 11 releases in the last year alone which is much higher than normal. The WordPress team also just added 3 new core developers increasing the development team back to five full time members. The upcoming WordPress 2.7 release is currently scheduled for November 2008.

In the year 2007 there were 2,849,349 downloads of WordPress tracked and in 2008 they have already surpassed 11 million downloads. This number does not include the number of downloads and installs from hosting companies which would significantly increase that number.

Combating Blog Spam

Over 5 billion spams were caught in the last year with 99.925% accuracy using the WordPress Akismet plugin. This shows that Akismet is staying very high on accuracy. There is a new type of spam that is now getting through due to spammers being very clever. They are starting to copy comments on other posts and change the URL referenced to gain a free link. Spammers are also paying people to go in and leave relevant comments and spam you with their links in them. The most common is spammers leaving kind remarks and compliments and having the webmaster approve the messages due to them feeling flattered by the positive remarks.

WordPress Mobility

Due to the website friendly nature of the iPhone and the success of the iPhone application (over 100k installs) WP is considering the creation of some new apps for other platforms as well including the blackberry and other mobile handsets.

WordPress Plugins

WordPress plans on improving their observance of plugin stats. Mullenweg mentioned there is a plan to watch the bottom 1000 plugins to find the new and upcoming trends. It is easier to see what is gaining fast popularity when monitoring the tail end of the plugins. He also mentioned the use of intelligent tails or the monitoring of the use of plugins and packages in order to gain valuable intelligence from the free market. Currently there are a huge number of features brought in via plugins. He mentions a few examples such as one that does real estate management and another that is an independent record label system.

Thoughts on PHP5

Matt Mullenweg predicted that PHP5 would fail early on due to its lack of major changes. He was wrong and fully admits it. PHP5 is now being used to host WordPress in 79% of WordPress installs. This means that when PHP4 usage falls below 10% or so they will pull the trigger and move ongoing development and support to PHP5 only. This will allow them to speed up and optimize the WP system.

The Future of WordPress – WordPress 2.7 Live Demo

Included during his speech was a live demo of WordPress 2.7. Version 2.7 is expected to be released sometime during November of 2008 and currently has 13,000 blogs testing it.

One of the key features of 2.7 will include a dashboard redesign. Mullenweg began by apologizing for a lack of tests regarding usability with a previous dashboard redesign. This time there is much more focus on ensuring that there won’t be issues such as the large number of user complaints which came with the removal of the edit feature in comments.

Version 2.7 also introduces a number of major changes with one of the largest being the dashboard navigation being moved to the left hand side. This new navigation has expandable categories that can be viewed in real time when you click them (i.e. no waiting for the page to reload etc.) The right side of the default dashboard setup has a quick blog post and the center features an inbox. The dashboard still has stats and other dashboard features WordPress blog owners will be familiar with. The whole dashboard has been built in ajax which allows changes to be made on the fly. Users will therefore be able to, for example, drag a section in between columns to move stuff over and around as well as the ability to hide or show specific sections.

Other key changes include:

A new sticky posts feature which will allow bloggers to keep important or interesting posts at the top of their blog’s homepage.

An insert media button has been added which allows for one click uploading of pictures, video, audio, etc. WordPress will automatically know what to do with the media uploads and will set them up appropriately.

Inline editing - you can see your actual blog and quickly edit tags, categories etc, or mass edit an entire batch of posts at once to add new tags etc.

Comments API - most commonly people edit comments and check stats, now you can moderate, approve, delete etc. and reply to comments via your mobile phone as well as the dashboard. Comments can now be threaded (you can enable it and have limits set etc.) which allows you to have conversations without the current hacks that people do to keep a conversation linear.

Keyboard Shortcuts introduced for moderating comments

Automatic plugin installation and upgrades via the browser. This includes the ability to search, upload, upgrade, install, and manage plugins from within the dashboard. It will also allow for one click installs for plugins that are in the library. Mullenweg also mentioned a goal of including this same feature for themes in the future (i.e. search, install, upgrade etc. all with a simple, intuitive interface).

Upgrades - one click installers built into the website.

Security is an increasingly important aspect of WordPress development. Currently there are over 20 US government entities using WP including: Air Force, Army CIA, Coast Guard, Department of Energy, Homeland Security, State Treasury, DEA, Marine Corps, FBI, National Security Agency, Navy, National Reconnaissance Agency, Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Mullenweg also discussed what he considers to be upcoming blogging trends. The use of media, namely photo galleries and videos are going to become more main-stream in blogs. Additionally this includes bloggers making posts that can just be a comment, a video or some small item on its own, and the ability to include the media content inline with your post. This will allow WordPress become a more complete hub of information.

He continued to discuss WordPress as a hub noting that people’s blogs will become their best possible social profile and they intend to make it so when you post something on another social site such as Twitter or YouTube it will work on WordPress. Of important note there he mentioned that your data will live on your blog and in your database so you don’t have to worry if the other site goes down, you will still have all the data and stay in control. This hub system is a long term goal of their team.

BackPress is another system he discussed which will help show the underlying framework for WP and Theme Press, their user systems, internationalization, security systems, etc. making it easier for developers to make use of the WordPress base.

Another exciting development in the works is BuddyPress. This will allow users to have take a group such as a Boy Scout, church, or team and build a small “Facebook in a box” type of system in which you can have a full set of plugins and extensions that build a small social network with activities, profiles, interests, photos, groups etc. - all in a small private group. BuddyPress will allow small groups the ability to develop their own public or private social-networking site.

Mullenweg also discussed an improved feedback loop - trying to incorporate user feedback and testing earlier in the process of making updates. A core goal with this is the desire to incorporate more "normal" people in the process of development.

Mullenweg also mentioned how he feels that this is the year of themes. While everything used to be plugin driven, themes are really taking off with new automatic plugins built into them. They are being used for things such as a monotone theme which can make your site change the backgrounds to be complimentary to the photos you are updating.

What Else if Coming Up for WordPress?

Launching sometime in the near future will be which will be a video site with screencasts that will show WordCamp videos including key speakers. This service will be searchable, include tags, and will also include HD video content.

Some Interesting WordPress Statistics

WordPress Usage Statistics:
5,671,649 Blogs - also includes (multi-user version that hosts multiple blogs)
4,831,429 blogs on the system have run updates are now using the most up to date version.

WordPress Plugins

The average WordPress blog has 4.96 active plugins per blog.

Some Popular WordPress Plugins

Some of the currently most popular plugins are:
1. Akismet (anti-spam)
2. all-in-one-seo-pack
3. google-sitemap-generator
4. nextgen-gallery
5. stats
6. wp-db-backup
7. wp-cache
8. WP Automatic Upgrade
9. wp-polls
10. cforms (contact forms)

If you're looking to try a wordpress blog we suggest using Bluehost. Their service includes the very easy to use SimpleScripts system which allows one click wordpress installation and updates.

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