WordPress Hosting: WP Engine and Page.ly

WordPress hosting: does the world need more options? Perhaps it does.

WP Engine seeks to serve what they believe is a large market: businesses that need more customizability than WordPress.com hosted accounts offer at low-end prices but more ease of use and scalability support than the millions of WordPress.org users get running open source installs on their own or rented servers.

For $50 a month, the service will offer premium support, automatic security upgrades, recommended plug-in curation and some original software. Scalability durring traffic spikes is one of the company’s biggest sales propositions.

I think that the WP Engine folks are on to something. Follow the above link, or see Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post at RWW, if you want to see who these folks are. As I write this, the comments on Marshall’s post are an amicable exchange between the WPE folks and their counterparts at Page.ly, who offer a similar service.

Page.ly seems to be a little further along than WPE, particularly with respect to partnerships. Page.ly has an affiliate program in place (yes, that is an affiliate link in the previous paragraph) and explicitly encourages resellers. But, without turning this post into an over-optimistic echo chamber, I think that there is room for multiple strong competitors in the premium WordPress hosting space, so all the best to WPE as it launches and invites.

WordPress Theme Thesis Now GPL'd

Thesis is now under the GPL. That is, the PHP code that forms the bulk of the WordPress theme Thesis is now under the GPL, the same free software license as WordPress itself.

A week ago, I posted on the Thesis licensing controversy, closing with the wish that it wouldn’t go to court. Well, that wish was granted. I am “glad that Pearson saw fit to respect the GPL and that no blood was shed in the process” (to quote Jolie O’Dell, who has moved to Mashable from RWW).

Why should WordPress themes (not just Thesis) be GPL’d? WordPress core developer Mark Jaquith made a thorough argument that: Theme code necessarily derives from WordPress and thus must be licensed under the GPL if it is distributed. There’s lively discussion at Mark’s blog and at Reddit.

Restaurant Presence on the Web

Every restaurant has a presence on the web. It’s up to the restaurant to manage that presence. In fact, that’s true of every organization, but this post is about restaurants.

The restaurant may be represented on the web by review at sites like Yelp, and by mentions on blogs and at other social media sites. It makes sense for the restaurant to add its own web site. I jotted down some thoughts on restaurant web sites earlier this year.

  • A simple front page is key, especially since potential customers may be mobile, hungry, and impatient.
  • Current content is good. Customers want to know that the restaurant is still good and is doing interesting things. Search engines like current content too.

While rich and extensive content may be good, especially for upmarket restaurants, I don’t think it deserves a place on the above high-priority list.

With these thoughts on the back burner, I was interested to read about Chompstack in a RWW article by John Paul Titlow. Chompstack is a tool to build mobile sites for restaurants.

First thought: great idea, given the importance of mobile for restaurants. Second thought: is it necessary to focus specifically on mobile? The restaurant also needs a site that works well on laptops, desktops, etc., as well.

Like most people, I think of the hammer with which I’m most familiar. I could use WordPress to build a restaurant site that works well for the mobile customer and for the not mobile right now, but still impatient, customer. Such a site would of course have a built-in blog for current content such as reviews, specials, etc.

Restaurant web presence seems like a huge opportunity. I don’t see many restaurants with really good web sites. I see many without a web site, or with site with more bloat than good information.

What do you think? Can you provide examples of restaurants with good web presence?

Books About WordPress (3.0)

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, the GPL, and Thesis

WordPress is open source software, licensed under the GPL (as its About page tells us). The question is: does the fact that WordPress is under the GPL mean that WordPress themes must also be under the GPL? This question of WordPress theme licensing has come to a head recently, as what Mitch Canter calls the great Thesis vs. WordPress theme debate.

Thesis is the flagship theme at DIYthemes. It is one of several WordPress themes developed by Chris Pearson. It is not under the GPL, because Chris doesn’t want it to be, and doesn’t think it has to be.

Why should a WordPress theme use the GPL? One way of making the argument is to use the following quote from the GPL FAQ. Combining two modules means connecting them together so that they form a single larger program. If either part is covered by the GPL, the whole combination must also be released under the GPL. A WordPress theme is a module that combines with WordPress core and with plugins to form a single larger program.

That’s the argument advance in a comment on the above-referenced great debate post. The comment is by Dougal Campbell, whose own post on the issue includes a good collection of links. Talking of links, my way in to this discussion was a post by Chris Cameron at RWW. That post focuses rather more on a specific exchange between Chris Pearson and Matt Mullenweg than on the wider issue.

I lean toward the view that WordPress themes (and plugins) are modules that combine with the core code. So they should be under the GPL, and hence free (as in freedom). If that makes a developer uneasy, well, maybe they should have thought of that before developing modules that combine with GPL’d code.

On the other hand, I think that reasonable people can disagree on this issue. So how to resolve it? Through the courts?

I have a few questions about the legal route. First, who has the best standing to bring suit? Would it be the WordPress Foundation (an organization of and from which I’ve heard little since its founding)?

Second, is this particular case too clouded by issues specific to Thesis to provide a good test of the basic question of theme licensing? (I’m thinking of statements that Thesis includes some code lifted from WordPress core.)

Finally, would a lawsuit be a good use of anyone’s resouces? I strongly suspect not.


WooThemesWooThemes is Bootstrapped, Profitable, & Proud, according to 37signals’ Matt. As its About page/comic illustrates, Woo is in the WordPress theme business.

Woo has much in common with Automattic, the firm behind WordPress, and with 37signals. All three firms are distributed: Woo has three principals, one each in South Africa, England, and Norway.

As someone who has written about the WordPress ecosystem, I was struck by this quote from Woo founder Adii Pienaar.

We have created a niche, micro-economy, where a lot of our users — specifically the designers and developers — are selling add-on services that relate to our themes in one way or another… So we’re finding that users are helping each other on our support forums, while also building their own businesses using our themes.

Woo didn’t just find a niche for itself: it created an ecosystem within the WordPress ecosystem. It is now exploring other publishing platforms/ecosystems. For example, there are now Woo themes for Drupal.

Woo particularly impresses 37signals by being like 37signals. Neither firm took venture capital, and each has grown “organically,” from profits, without taking investment from outside.

Woo’s About page/comic refers to WordPress default themes as boring. I’d say that has ceased to be true now that WordPress 3.0 comes with Twenty Ten as the default theme. But it looks as though Woo, its brand, and its ecosystem have arrived at the point at which it doesn’t need other themes to be boring in order to stand out.

Talking of the Woo brand, I came across what I think of as a neat bit of brand-building when I was upgrading blogs at WanderNote, which lives at BlueHost. Use of Simplescripts there is “sponsored by WooThemes Get a fresh new free or premium WordPress theme!” Upgrade and installation are good times to tell WordPress admins about theme options.

I’d be interested to read your impressions of WooThemes: the themes, the organization, the way in which it has grown? Mine are fairly positive, although I’ve yet to use any Woo themes myself.

WordPress 3.0 Released

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.com User Wanting to Try WordPress 3.0?

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, and Now .com: Custom Menus

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.

WordPress and Joomla: Smashing Comparison

Once upon a time, choosing a Content Management System was a matter of finding the CMS that could do what you needed it to (if you doubt this, you might want to see the fussy notes at the bottom of this post). Over time, though, CMSs have tended to become more capable and more similar to each other. And so, according to Marco Solazzi at Smashing Magazine:

Picking the right CMS is then a matter of “mental models”: choosing the one that best fits our vision of how a Web application should work and what it should provide to users and administrators.

Marco goes on to compare the respective models of WordPress and Joomla, with particular emphasis on themes and extensions. I skimmed and nodded my way through the WordPress parts, and had some “that’s… different” thoughts on the Joomla parts. My reaction, of course, backs up the above quote from Marco.

Looking at the comments on Marco’s article, many of them are similar to mine: I’m used to WordPress (or Joomla), and so lean towards it. There are several What about Drupal? comments. There are also a some links to other comparisons between CMSs. By the way, I compared WordPress and Drupal recently, but not in any great detail. Summary: the two are becoming more similar.

That brings us back to, and reinforces, Marco’s above-quoted point about how CMS choices are made these days.

Fussy footnotes:

  1. I suspect that developers have long tended to go with their favorite CMSs. People in general tend to use the tools they know and like.
  2. I still consider CMS to be a very strange term.