PressRow on Death Row

The selection of themes at no longer includes Cutline. Why not? Here’s how staffer Themeshaper explained in the support forum.

When we first added the Cutline theme to it was free software. That means the users of that theme had the freedom to use, share, and modify that theme as they wished—as long as they passed those freedoms on when they shared it. That freedom let us bring the Cutline theme here to and it’s the same freedom that’s made WordPress so popular…

Cutline was sold a few years ago and had a more restrictive license placed on it. The original author of the Cutline theme has gone on to produce other themes with more restrictive licenses. Using Cutline has been seen as a promotion of that work and that’s not something we want to do

Posting on the replacement of Cutline with Coraline, I closed with a thought on another theme.

If I were using PressRow at, I’d be wondering how much longer I’d have it for, and what might replace it.

One comment on the post provides confirmation that PressRow is on death row. Another identifies PressRow as the theme of choice if you want Cutline and can no longer use it. That’s not surprising, since the two themes share a designer (Chris Pearson) and hence a certain look and feel.

I hope that will handle the endgame for PressRow more gracefully than it handled the Cutline cutoff. In other words, I hope that PressRow users won’t suddenly find that they are using a different theme.

I fear a worse than that case scenario, in which:

  • Most, or many, PressRow users get no advance warning.
  • They are switched to a theme they didn’t choose, had never heard of, and, in many cases, dislike.
  • They find their widgets, as well as their theme, gone.
  • They just switched to PressRow, and did so when Cutline went away.

All except the last of these happened during the Cutline cut. The last could happen, especially given the similarity of PressRow to Cutline, and the fact that PressRow is a prominent theme at if you sort themes on popularity, PressRow is on the front page.

The number of PressRow blogs at may well be in six figures. I arrive at that noting that it is the 14th most popular theme, and that hosts millions of blogs.

I’d like to see a retirement plan for PressRow, stating things like how to forwarn every PressRow user, how much notice to give, etc. I’d like to see the plan itself posted, so that the community can comment on it.

If PressRow/death row isn’t handled better than Cutline/cut, we may see one of’s competitors advancing the proposition: come to us, we won’t cut your theme or put it on death row. That said, the most recent and aggressive attempt to get migrants from WordPress came from Posterous, which has more recently had downtime woes. The most likely migration destination from is still self-hosted WordPress.

Coraline: The WordPress Theme

CoralineCoraline is the story of a girl who finds herself in a different reality. I like the original Neil Gaiman novel, and the movie (and this photo, by origami_potato, of a Coraline doll).

Another Coraline story concerns users who find themselves with a different theme. Coraline is a new theme at, where it has replaced Cutline. I think that this is the first time that has removed a theme and switched all sites from that theme to another, without prior warning.

Is it surprising that this particular theme – Cutline – has been retired from Yes and no. Yes, since Cutline was one of the most popular themes at No, given the recent controversy involving Cutline designer Chris Pearson.

I’m not the only person who thought that Cutline might have been retired because of its designer. This thought is expressed in one of the many forum threads protesting the abrupt replacement of Cutline with Coraline. Other such posts include: YOU changed my theme without my knowledge; Cutline is Gone!?@(!(!(; WordPress deleted my theme w/out notification.

I note that there is another popular theme designed by Chris Pearson: PressRow. If I were using PressRow at, I’d be wondering how much longer I’d have it for, and what might replace it.

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 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. 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. Themes and Team now has an official Theme Team, according to Ian Stewart of said team. There’s an impressive manifesto, starting with:

Every user should feel like there’s a theme that fits them perfectly.

My first reaction was that means highly customizable themes, and some of the discussion in comments on Ian’s post supports that.

Ian also mentions “web standards,” which I of course support. I’m hoping that new themes will also adhere to some kind of “WordPress theme standard.” For example, new themes should all the same html tag for post titles. Consistency would make a lot of things easier: changing themes when you have the CSS upgrade; responding to some of the posts in the forums; applying Typekit to blogs.

I’ll follow the work of the theme team with interest. I’m happy with Simpla, as CSS’d and widget’d for this blog, but I could be tempted by a clean, customizable theme.

Automattic, Tired of Saying No, Adds DNS Editing to

To be more specific, it’s been added to the domain mapping extra for Domain mapping is the reason you see this blog as, rather than as (which it also is). It’s also the reason you can email me (as andrew) at

With the addition of DNS editing, domain mapping is also the reason you can see other outposts of the empire. Or rather, it would be if there were such outposts. Right now there aren’t: there’s just blog and email.

Andy Skelton, posting for Automattic, explains DNS editing as follows. “The ability to add some common DNS records (MX, TXT, CNAME, A) opens the door for services hosted elsewhere to work under the same domain as your blog.” He uses the examples of email (already available, but I think that DNS editing makes it more flexibly available) and wikis.

Another aspect of Andy’s explanation is interesting: “we tired of saying “no” to users wanting email on their blog domains so we added limited support for Google-hosted email… we tired of saying “no” to users wanting DNS control so today we deployed a DNS editor.”

So Automattic can get tired of saying no, and enhance a product so that the answer is yes. I’m explicit about this because some seem to doubt that it ever happens.

On the other hand, Automattic will keep on saying no to the “make everything free of charge” requests that seem to follow its every move. Andy refers to DNS editing as a “free enhancement,” and it is – but it’s an enhancement to a premium (as in costs money) feature. DNS editing will make the domain mapping feature more valuable to some.

Freemium and Fencing

Freemium mashes up free and premium:you can use a freemium service, such as, at zero cost; you can pay for premium features. I pay to add two such features for this blog. One of the features maps the domain to

The other paid feature I use is custom CSS (see one of this blog’s first posts for an account of how I use it).

The fence between zero and any positive cost is perceived as high. So some users of freemium services seek means of effectively getting a premium feature without paying the price for it: these “loophole-lookers” seek holes in the fence.

The custom CSS upgrade seems particularly prone to attract loophole-lookers. I base this mainly on posts in the support forums, some of which include arguments such as: some other hosted blogging services don’t charge for CSS; I only want a little bit of CSS, so why should I be hit with the full charge?

One particular forum thread started about a week ago with a question about changing the background color of a theme. Responses so far include:

  1. You need custom CSS to change the background color.
  2. No you don’t. Here’s some code you can include in a text widget to style the background color of the whole blog.
  3. That loophole is going away soon.

The 3rd response is particularly interesting because it’s by Matt Mullenweg. He does use the word loophole.

This raises the question of how will change with respect to inline styling. And indeed, that question has its own forum thread.

I hope that will not, as one response in the thread suggests, use the blunt instrument of stripping out all inline style attributes. I think it would be reasonable to allow the occasional use of inline styling for things like using a font or image positioning appropriate to a particular post.

It would also be interesting to watch. The fence between free of charge and paying for custom CSS would see a fencing match. will plug the loophole of style code in a widget to style the whole blog. The riposte might involve putting similar code in a sticky post.

What do you think will do? What do you think it should do? I’d welcome comments addressing either or both of those different questions. Downtime Lowdown

This blog, like millions of others, is hosted at I’ve been very happy with the service.

I’m still happy with it, despite today’s downtime. I have to applaud Matt’s downtime summary. He didn’t attempt to downplay the downtime. He quantified it, to the tune of 5.5 million lost pageviews (not all of which are mine, I must admit).

I had to smile when I first saw the news about the downtime. It was a Mashable post about “tweets pouring in.” That just reinforced to me how much more robust is than Twitter, which I still think functions best as the home for the fail whale.

WordPress and Google Buzz

Google Buzz is a platlication: it’s both an application and a platform on which applications can be built. It’s been a busy application, seeing millions of people and posts in its first couple of days.

It’s also been a busy platform. I have a particular interest in the applications that bridge Buzz and WordPress. So does Mashable, as we can see from today’s post. It’s mainly a roundup of the plugins that put Google Buzz buttons on self-hosted WordPress blogs. As such, it doesn’t live up to its title: HOW TO: Integrate Google Buzz Into Your WordPress Blog.

I’m interested in an aspect of blog/buzz integration that the Mashable post doesn’t cover: having my WordPress posts show up in Google Buzz. There is a way to do this that works both with blogs hosted at (as this one currently is) and with WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere (such as Andrew’s Wanderings).

In short: you tell Google Webmaster Tools that you own the blog in question; then Google Buzz will allow you to add the blog to your list of connected sites. I found out about this at the forums, which in turn linked to an amusingly untitled blog for details.

By the way, there does seem to be a way of putting a Google Buzz button in a post at, but I haven’t tried it. Builds Inroads has recently added a couple of inbound highways. A couple of weeks ago, Brian Colinger announced the Vox importer. Today, he announced the Posterous importer.

The particularly interesting thing about these two roads is that they come from very different directions. Hence the implication is that wherever you are, might be a better place for you. Vox bills itself as “everything you want in a blog.” I don’t think that it has lived up to Six Apart’s hopes for it.

Posterous, on the other hand, bills itself as “the dead simple place to post everything.” As Jennifer Van Grove points out at Mashable, Posterous has offered an import from WordPress for some time.

I’d be interested to see a traffic report on export/import and migration between the various blogging and other social media services.

Conversion Rates and Funnels

The freemium model relies on enough users paying for premium services to meet the cost of servicing all users, including those who use take the free option. One of the key metrics for a freemium service is conversion rate from free to premium.

Toni Schneider notes that this rate is about 2% for, for, for Evernote, and for many other freemium services. He wonders if there is some kind of “2% rule” at work.

This reminded me of Funnel Analysis, as described in a Mashable guest post by Tim Trefren. Funnel analysis is about conversion rates, is a more general sense. A funnel is defined in terms of user actions, such as visiting a site, signing up for a service, becoming a premium/pay user, and so on.

Conversion rate, in this broader sense, is the percentage of users taking a particular action. Hence a firm’s funnel has multiple conversion rates/actions as it narrows. A freemium service using funnel analysis would probably define a payment action, marking the transition from a free user to a premium customer.

Tim is CEO of Mixpanel, a web analytics startup. (See Mixpanel for more about Funnel Analysis and the API.) Mixpanel itself uses the freemium model; I signed up for a free account.

Funnels can be transparent: a firm can publish its conversion rates. Funnels could be aggregated: Mixpanel could, with the cooperation of its client firms, publish aggregate data on various conversion rates. It could make it worth the clients’ while by, for example, offering early or deep looks at the aggregated data.