Sandbox CSS Competition

The Sandbox Designs Competition for WordPressSandbox is a WordPress theme, the distinguishing feature of which is that one can customize it with CSS alone—no need to bother with other files. So an entry in the Sandbox Design Competition can be simply a CSS file. It can also include images. It may not include PHP or HTML, since these are provided by Sandbox itself.

Good things about the competition include:

  • It’ll generate a lot of good design (yes, and some bad design as well). Hence it will make the theme options available to WordPress bloggers even
  • It’ll be fun.
  • There’s prize money: $500 for first place.
  • Scott, the organizer of the competition, is one of the designers of the theme. The theme and the competition have the support of Automattic/WordPress, in several ways: Andy co-designed Sandbox; Matt contributed to the prize fund; Sandbox is one of the themes available at WordPress.com.

I can see only one bad thing about the competition. I thought that I’d spent all time on theme design I was going to this year, barring the occasional tweak to the design for this blog. This competition might make me rethink that.

Google Owns My…

Adam Ostrow’s post at Mashable makes me think about how much of my stuff lives or happens at Google. Let’s see, there’s most of my searches, an increasing proportion of my email, my feed reader,…

I was going to be all superior to Adam, and say that Google doesn’t own my soul, and all superior to Mashable, and say that my blog doesn’t carry Google AdSense. Then I realized that since I’m now at WordPress.com, this blog might sometimes carry AdSense.

Mark on WordPress/b5, Me on Automattic

The relationship between free/open source software and business is a fascinating one. Now that I’ve driven away most of my readers from this post, we can get on with it…

Mark Jaquith is one of nine active developers of WordPress (according to the About page at wordpress.org). The tagline on his blog is “WordPress puts food on my table,” and the sidebar tells us that said food is due to Mark’s work as “a freelance provider of web consulting and services, primarily services based on WordPress.”

Some of the above will cease to be true on Friday June 1, when Mark will start work for b5media, a WordPress-powered blog network. He emphasized in a recent post that: I wasn’t interested in taking the job if b5media was going to use me to influence the WordPress project in ways that would be bad for the community.

This is far from the first time that a prominent contributor to a free/open source project has joined a firm with heavy reliance on the project in question. The best example is perhaps Alan Cox, the prominent Linux developer employed by Red Hat.

I think that it’s the first time it’s happened with WordPress being the project in question. I also think that it’s an implicit vote of confidence in Automattic. Five of the nine developers work at Automattic, including Matt Mullenweg, founder of both WordPress and Automattic. I don’t think that Mark would be so protective of the WordPress community if he thought that the folks at Automattic were not of similar mind.*

I realize that Automattic (like b5) is a for-profit firm. But I think that the people at Automattic, including CEO Toni Schneider, see it as in their best interests that the WordPress community prospers. In other words/cliches, it’s better for Automattic that the WordPress pie is big than it would be for the firm to get the biggest piece of a smaller pie. If you want to be fancy about it, you can replace pie with ecosystem and piece with niche.

Of course I could be wrong about Automattic, Automattic could be wrong about pies (they do, after all, tend to go for BBQ), and you could leave a comment to set us straight…

* Update, relating to the sentence marked *. This was badly written, as the puzzlement that Mark expressed in his comment shows. What I meant was that, the more Automattic works to expand the WordPress pie (rather than fight for the biggest slice), the greater the motivation for other members of the WordPress community to contribute.

WordPress.com Domains: Now With Email

As of a few minutes ago, I have a new email address: andrew at changingway dot org. This is because the WordPress.com domain mapping upgrade has just been upgraded to include email.

Here are some specific aspects of this good news:

  • The FAQ provides simple instructions on how to use this feature.
  • Since the feature has been added to the domain mapping extra, rather than to the domain name extra, so it’s not fussy about who you get the domain name from.
  • It uses Google Apps.

I think that the changingway.org email will become my main email. I am weary of Yahoo mail and, in particular, the lousy job it does filtering out spam.

Poll: What to Call… WordPress…

… as opposed to WordPress.com or WordPress Multi-User?

One of the standard threads on the WordPress.com support forums goes something like:

  • How do I X? (Use AdSense is perhaps the most frequent value of X.)
  • You can’t do X here at WordPress.com. See the FAQ. See the many previous threads on this. (Different veteran volunteers have different ways of saying this.
  • But you can do X with a certain other flavor of WordPress.

The problem is, what to call that certain other flavor of WordPress? It’s sometimes called WordPress.org, but that can seem to imply that WordPress.org hosts blogs. It doesn’t; it hosts the code you can download to set up your own blog.

I thought I’d use such a poll to ask you your preferred term for the type of blog you set up with code you download from WordPress.org. I was prompted to do so when I saw that timethief has just pointed out a means of putting a poll on a WordPress.com blog: LuckyPolls.

What is your preferred term for the type of blog described above?
1) WordPress.org
2) A self-hosted WordPress blog
3) A blog set up using software downloaded from WordPress.org
4) WordPress Classic
5) Original old-school gangsta WordPress
6) WordPress Single-User
7) WordPress
8) Other: please comment to specify
View Results
Make your own LuckyPoll

Update: poll closed, results announced.

WordPress.com: The Hundred and the Million

Next week will probably see the creation of the millionth blog at WordPress.com. Michael Arrington noted this, along with some other numbers. I won’t comment here about Michael’s numbers, since I want to move on to one of my own.

Last week saw the 100th day of this blog, which I created on Feb 1. It wasn’t my first WordPress blog, or even my first blog at WordPress.com, but it is my current blog, and it is only since Feb 1 that WordPress.com has been the home for my main blog.

So how is WordPress.com for someone who has previously used other blogging tools, including WordPress classic, and other hosts? It is excellent for my current purposes.

Right now, I want to focus my blogging time on blogging itself, rather than on running the blog. So, after doing the initial choice of theme, customization of CSS, and setup of sidebar widgets, I’ve just been adding content. At WordPress.com, I haven’t had to bother with installing new versions of the software, and the hosting has been robust.

WordPress.com is not for people who want complete control over their blog. It’s not meant to be. That’s what WordPress classic is for.

Having said that, I do have my wishlist for WordPress.com, and some of the things on it are there because I miss them from my WordPress classic days.

  • Tagging. I really miss the tags plugin I used to use. The case that tags and categories are different has been made by Lorelle, and by many others, so I won’t restate it here.
  • Easy links to, and images from, Amazon. Again, this is something for which I used to use a plugin. For example, when I blog about a book, I think it’s helpful for readers to see an image of the cover with a link to a page providing reviews. I understand WordPress.com’s policy against ads and the like, but it’s something I hope will become less draconian.
  • How about allowing links to approved affiliate programs, with a split of revenue between WordPress.com and the blogger?
  • I’d like more extensive support for OpenID. I made quite a few posts about this a couple of months ago. WordPress.com produces OpenIDs, but does not currently comsume OpenIDs (i.e. you can’t comment or post on WordPress.com using an OpenID produced elsewhere).
  • There are a bunch of other things, but they are less important. For example, I support the thumbnail and image resizing idea under consideration via the WordPress ideas forum, but it’s not nearly as big a deal to me as tagging.

To WordPress.com, thanks for the hundred days, and congratulations on the million blogs.

Bibliolescence: WordPress 2

WordPress 2WordPress 2 (Visual QuickStart Guide) was published just under a year ago. It was good to see, for a couple of reasons. First, WordPress gains legitimacy from books being published about it. Second, the Visual Quickstart Guides, in my limited experience of them, tend to be pretty good at doing what they set out to do.

One of the problems with books on software is that they tend to age quickly. I suspect that’s why the title of the book is WordPress 2 rather than simply WordPress. But the title betrays the fact that it’s about 2.0, and 2.1 added some significant new features.

WordPress isn’t just rapidly-changing software; it is, for many people, software as a service (SaaS) at WordPress.com. There are no version numbers there, simply the current version of the software. So, although the book does cover the difference between WordPress.com and the WordPress you download and install yourself, WordPress.com has moved on quickly since the book was written.

To the authors’ considerable credit, they actively maintain a blog related to the book (running on WordPress). Their book is pretty good, as dead tree account of growing software go.

The book does serve as an example of a book that was out of date soon after it was published. Although obsolete might be too harsh a word, this is an example of how books related to SaaS are at particularly high risk of early bibliolescence.

Moleskine dot Blog

With all the talk of Web 2.0, digital culture, and so on, what hope is there for ultra-analog products? Helen Walters, in Business Week, poses that question, and follows it up with: what could be more defiantly analog than notepaper?

Contrary to what these questions imply, Moleskine notebooks are selling very well, especially among the young and trendy. Moleskine (I’ll call the firm that, although it’s officially Modo & Modo SpA) now has a product line going well beyond basic notebooks.

It recently launched a line of city notebooks. I bought my wife the one for Paris, but have yet to buy the plane tickets to go with it. I’ll get the one for Boston. In fact, I’ll probably get one for us and one for my parents. Moleskine also has a line of city blogs to go with the notebooks.

Its aim is for these blogs to be more than merely a branded Web presence of the Moleskine notebooks… while readers can currently only comment on the posts, the idea is that soon they will spin out into wiki-style pages of user-generated content, with travelers, visitors, and locals all contributing tips and information. Tapping into the notebooks’ target market of those with an interest in contemporary culture, the blogs talk up art, design, technology, and city life.

Now that I see the Molekinecity.com blog site, it seems like a logical move. Many bloggers have posted about Moleskines, as a look via tags at Technorati and at WordPress.com shows. Talking of WordPress, it provides the foundation for MoleskineCity.

Moleskine is an excellent case study in branding, in product line extension, and in the power of the conversation on the web. An interesting contrast is provided by another recent BW article on Hyundai. It provides another extreme case of branding, although not in a good way.

Walt, WSJ, WordPress, etc.

Last week saw the launch of All Things Digital, a mainly-blog site featuring Walt MossbergKara Swisher, and other WSJ writers. I note this, not only because of the content,* but because of the form of the site.

Alex King posted about setting up the site, and about the people and software involved. The main software is WordPress Multi-User. I should therefore add it to the list of WPMU sites I maintain in the sidebar of one of my other blogs.

I haven’t been as thorough as I should have been when it comes to WPMU sites run by large organizations. I intend to fix that in the May update to the sidebar. Toni Schneider has done a rather better job. In particular, Toni’s post on All Things Digital was rather more timely than the current post.

* For a good example of good content, see Walt’s recent post on the current tendency of firms such as Microsoft and Sony to become hardware/software firms, rather than sticking almost exclusively to one side or the other.

New WordPress.com Features

WordPress.com has recently added the following features:

This video summarizes the responses I’ve seen so far from WordPress.com users to the new features. I’m using a previously-existing WordPress.com feature to embed the video, which I found via a site powered by WordPress (although not hosted by WordPress.com).