WPMU: Closing Time (Again)

December 21, 2011

Is it possible to run multiple WordPress websites with just one install of the WordPress software? The answer is yes. It has been yes since the release of WordPress 3.0. Prior to that, it was a qualified yes.

Prior to the release of 3.0, you could use WPMU (WordPress Multi-User) to run multiple sites on a single install. The folding of WPMU into WordPress core was, in my opinion, the main reason that the release deserved to be 3.0, rather than 2.WhateverWouldHaveBeenNext.

When WPMU was newish, and newly appointed as the official method of multi-site WordPress, I ran a blog about WPMU: How Do You MU? I kept track of WPMU installations.

I also did a survey of WPMU administrators. That was 5 years ago, so it’s ancient history. But ancient history can be interesting, so you might want to check out the posts including the results of the survey.

It would be interesting to see a survey of multisite networks on WordPress. I’ll do one if given sufficient encouragement…

This post is part of an occasional effort to consolidate my blogging efforts. Almost everything new will be here at Changing Way.

Why books about WordPress? There is so much free stuff online about WordPress: the Codex, for example.

An advantage for online is that much of the material there is kept up to date. Books, in contrast, may suffer from bibliolescence: a term I coined to describe a book’s contents becoming obsolete. This risk is particularly acute for books about things that change rapidly or frequently, as WordPress does.

And yet, there’s something about a book: you can read it without having to boot anything up, you can flip through it, etc.

If you’re thinking about getting a book about WordPress, but are concerned about it becoming stale, now is as good a time as any to get one. WordPress 3.0 has just been released, so another major (i.e. deserving of a .0 version number) release is probably a while away.

So how many books are out now, or soon, covering WordPress 3.0? Searching Amazon shows that there are few.

One of them is the forthcoming edition of WordPress For Dummies. As author Lisa Sabin-Wilson posted recently, the 3rd edition, which includes WP 3.0, will soon be shipping. As I wrote in a previous post, the 2nd edition covers a fair amount of ground, despite its title and gentle pace. So I’m inclined to recommend the 3rd edition to those starting from scratch, or don’t mind a book that starts from scratch.

I’d be interested in news and previews and reviews of other WordPress books including the new features that came with 3.0…

WordPress 3.0 Released

June 17, 2010

WordPress 3.0 is out. Matt suggests vuvuzelas. I consider them strictly optional – although Vuvuzela would be a great name for a WordPress theme.

This is a good time to mention:

  • My series of posts on 3.0.
  • WanderNote, a WordPress host where new sites will have 3.0 itself, rather than a 3.0 release candidate. I’ll upgrade existing WanderNote sites to 3.0 soon, unless the owners opt out of the upgrade.

WordPress 3.0 features are appearing here at WordPress.com (yes, chaningway.org does live at WordPress.com). So are the posts in my series on 3.0, such as:

If you’d like to try out 3.0 itself without having to find hosting and install it yourself, there are a few spaces at WanderNote, a little WordPress site I run. You can head on over there to read about WanderNote and/or to sign up. You might be particularly interested if you use Evernote (3 million people do), or are considering doing so.

WordPress 3.0 brings new features including multisite networks, custom post types, a new default theme in Twenty Ten – and custom menus. This post is about the last of these (the links in the previous sentence will take you to prior posts about the other three features).

I wanted to take a minute to tell you about the new custom menu system, which is pretty exciting. Have you ever wanted to have a different title for one of your pages than the label displayed in your site’s navigation? Ever wanted to change the order of the list of pages to an order you chose yourself? Ever wanted to be able to mix pages, categories, and random links in your navigation instead of your theme deciding for you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in luck! The new custom menus feature will do all those things.

The quote is from Jane Wells’ announcement of the introduction of custom menus into WordPress.com. I admire the way in which Jane explains what the new feature is for, and why it’s “pretty exciting.”

I say this as someone who finds custom menus one of the less interesting new features of 3.0. Did you ever hear a song, think that it’ll be a hit, reflect that it’s pretty good in its way, but that it’s not your sort of music? I feel a little that way about custom menus, especially compared with other new features such as multisite. That said, much of the new stuff in 3.0 won’t be apparent to most WordPress (.com or self-hosted) bloggers, and custom menus are more widely visible and accessible.

There are two ways to use the custom menu feature: via the theme, or via the sidebar widget. Custom menus are part of Twenty Ten, and of some of the other, newer, themes. It’s interesting that this feature will be added to some other themes. WordPress.com themes tend not to change much after they’ve settled in.

If I wanted to use custom menus on this blog (Simpla theme), I’d have to go the widget way. I’d create a menu and them use a widget to make it part of the sidebar. If I do that, it’ll probably be to replace the current Categories widget with a customized version, changing the order of the categories and perhaps leaving some of the smaller ones off the list altogether.

Update, a little later, because: I forgot to link to Jane’s post; the more I think about custom menus, the more I think I’m likely to use them.

Drupal and WordPress are often compared. Here’s a summary of my summary of a comparison between the two platforms: WordPress is easier to get started with; Drupal has the advantage when it comes to more complex sites.

That was two years (and two weeks) ago. A lot has happened in those years, and early 2010 is a particularly busy and important time for both communities: Drupal and WordPress. If I had to provide a soundbite (blogbite? tweet?) right now, it would be: Drupal and WordPress are becoming more similar.

The best example of convergence from the Drupal side is Drupal Gardens, the slogan for which is: “Building Drupal websites just got easier.” It was indeed easy to establish a little outpost of the Changing Way empire at Drupal Gardens. ChangingWay.org runs on WordPress.com, of which Gardens is the Drupal counterpart.

Gardens runs on version 7 of Drupal. I love this line from Jacob Singh about developing Gardens on that new version, rather than on version 6: it’s like playing Jenga on a cocaine addled elephant riding a skateboard being jabbed in the ass with a hot poker.

WordPress is also in the midst of a new major release. In fact, this very post is a fringe member of a current and ongoing series about WordPress 3.0. Much of what’s in 3.0 (e.g., multisite) is already in Drupal.

The above account of convergence between Drupal and WordPress is very broad-brush. But it’s also about as long as I like a single post to be.

Comments – especially yours – are excellent for filling in gaps. They are also excellent for asking questions, and for offering me inducements to write more detailed comparisons of Drupal and WordPress and the communities and organizations behind them…

WordPress 3.0 is a major release due to features such as multisite networks, custom post types, a new default theme, and menu management options.

That said, I’m hoping that you’ll be able to upgrade to it without noticing much difference. To refer back to the four features mentioned above:

  • Multisite, and hence the Super Admin stuff, is off by default, with edits to files such as wp-config required to turn it on.
  • Custom post types appear as an option right at the foot of the admin menu sidebar, so they don’t get in the way, and might remain unnoticed.
  • The new default theme applies to new blogs/sites, so you won’t see it if you’re just upgrading an existing install.
  • Menu management, like custom post types, isn’t an obtrusive part of the admin interface.

It seems as though you’ll be able to upgrade to 3.0 without bumping into the new stuff, unless you want to. Put another way, WordPress 3.0 will let you shoot yourself in the foot, but you’ll have to take explicit steps to load the guns.

As I noted in January, WordPress is getting a new default theme: Twenty Ten. Over at WordPlay, where I’m playing with WordPress 3.0, I set up a blog to explore the new theme.

I just posted about how Twenty Ten does header images: IMHO, it does them right. I’ll soon add other posts on other features of Twenty Ten to that test blog.

I’ll also add more posts to this series on WordPress 3.0 here at Changing Way. Changing Way lives at WordPress.com, and so gets the 3.0 features as, when, and if they are folded into WordPress.com.

Twenty Ten is biggish news for WordPress.com. It’ll take over as default theme sometime soon, and it’s a significant improvement.

In WordPress right now, a post is a post (which is different from a page). Version 3.0 allows the creation of custom post types. For example, if I want to use a WordPress blog to manage a course I’m teaching, I might have Lessons, Quizzes, and so on. In V3, I could create Lesson as a custom post type.

An excellent account of custom post types is provided by Konstantin Kovshenin. He makes the point that custom post types are about organization, rather than about functionality. I could, using WordPress 2.x, post lessons to a course blog, but I can organize things rather more neatly using the custom post types.

I have indeed added the custom post type Lesson to one of my test sites. I then added a lesson, and a regular post about what I had to do and some things that came up along the custom post road.

Most bloggers will never create a custom post type. The feature is interesting for the Thing Management Systems that can be built with it. For example, my lesson post type might be a step toward a Course Management System built on WordPress.

To get at custom post types from the dashboard, you have to install a plugin, and to really work with custom post types, you have to edit the WordPress PHP code. I’m not sure what plans are in place to make the feature more easily accessible.

Neither am I sure how custom post types will show up in WordPress.com. My guess is that, if the feature shows up at all this year, it will be in the form of a few new post types (video, etc.), rather than as a dashboard option to add and manage new post types.

If you have better information, or any kind of different perspective on this, feel free to share in the comments. Next up in this series of posts on WordPress 3.0 will be something I’m sure will be in WordPress.com soon: the new default theme.

WordPress 3.0 is due in May (i.e. next month) according to the roadmap at WordPress.org. The Codex entry for 3.0 lists highlights, starting with new menu management.

This posts focuses on the highlights that come at the end of the list: “WordPress and WPMU code merged” and “Configure a Network (multisite/WPMU).” What does that mean? Well, right now, installing WordPress and creating a blog are pretty much the same thing. If you want another blog, you install WordPress again. If you have lots of blogs, you have lots of installations to maintain.

That’s where WPMU comes in. You can run multiple blogs from a single installation of WPMU. The MU stands for multi-user. I’ve always found that rather confusing, because you can have multiple users on a single WordPress blog.

So, starting with WordPress 3.0, you’ll be able to run multiple blogs from a single install of WordPress. Actually, in the terms introduced in 3.0, you’ll be able to run multiple sites, and the collection of sites is called a network. (If you want to read more about the change in terminology, see Dougal Campbell’s post.)

I just tried out the multisite network feature at andux.org/wordplay. First, I installed WordPress 3.0, beta 1. That didn’t give WordPlay the multisite capability. By default, and I think it’s the right default, a 3.0 installation supports exactly one blog. Enabling the multisite network feature is a distinct step, involving the editing of wp-config.php and other files.

It was then easy to create a second blog running off the same install. I now get to be… Super Admin! No, that doesn’t involve a costume. It means that I am the admin for the whole network, and am able to make changes to the whole network of blogs (I should rather say network of sites).

I can create new users for the network, assigning roles per user/blog combination. For example, the user watson is an admin for blog #2 in the network, but only a subscriber for blog #1. Similarly, themes can be enabled on a site by site basis.

Multisite networks is, for me, the most interesting new feature of WordPress 3.0, and the best reason for this release to get a new integer (i.e. 3.0 rather than 2.next). That’s partly because I’ve always been interested in WPMU, and indeed used to blog about WPMU.

That said, I don’t think that the multisite feature of 3.0 will make much difference to WordPress.com, which is where changingway.org lives. WordPress.com currently runs WPMU to host millions of blogs: now that’s multisite!

I’ll try out, and post here about, other features of 3.0. Next up will probably be custom post types.

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