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NERCOMP Event: Edu Wordcamp: keynote by Jane Wells February 23, 2009

Posted by ficial in conference, NERCOMP, NERCOMP20090202wordcamp.
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On February 2nd I went to a NERCOMP event about WordPress, and found it quite interesting. It started out with a brief introduction by the organizer, Randall Rode. He talked a bit about his impetus for putting together the event. It boiled down to two main things. First, he feels that WordPress is a good tool, and even a good model of good tools. Particular points of note are its extensible architecture (via plugins and the customization that an open source product allows), its accessible technology (it’s very easy to use, even for people who normally find technology intimidating and/or challenging), and its very active and engaged user community. Second, he felt that the existing WordPress gatherings / conventions are very blogging oriented (e.g. with topics like How To Monetize Your Blog) rather than focusing on the ways higher education might use the tool.

The keynote was by Jane Wells of Automatic (Automatic is a company founded by one of the original creators of WordPress as a way to monetize it, and thus let him work on it full time). She gave an overview of WordPress and talked about the relation between Automatic and the WordPress community. This talk had a lot of very useful information. I’ll cover a few of the high points:

  • the relation between wordpress.org, wordpress.com, and WordPressMU :
    • .org is the original, self-hosted version of WordPress
    • .com is mostly the same product, but hosted by Automatic (base is free, advanced features cost money/month)
    • WordPressMU is the multi-user version of WordPress that Automatic uses to run wordpress.com.
  • WordPressMU is likely to be especially useful to universities : WPMU can run millions of blogs
  • WordPress has 5 core developers, three of whom are employed by Automatic. It also has 100s of contributors, and 10,000+ active beta testers.
  • Automatic has about 35 people, and no central offices (interesting – it’s a true distributed company). Automatic are the people behind Akismet (anti-spam plugin). Automatic also has these features / plugins: Stats, IntenseDebate (a comment platform), and PollDaddy.
    • In addition to it’s hosting service revenue stream, Automatic has deals with some universities (if any in particular were named, I missed it).
  • WordPress is quite secure : many security-conscious government agencies use it
  • two good places to look for wordpress info / idea:
    • wordpress.org showcase – sites taht do interesting things with wordpress (and you can submit sites here)
    • wordpress.tv – a repository for videos related to WP (conference presentations, how tos, etc.)
  • two new features / products to look at/for
    • BuddyPress – “facebook-in-a-box” – a suite of social networking tools for WordPress
    • bbPress – forum software that integrates with WordPress

An especially interesting aspect is that WordPress is presenting itself (to this crowd) as a possible Learning Management System. This gets an appreciative laugh from everyone in the audience “All distance e-learning / online course systems are terrible, and BB is especially terrible”. This general topic was covered a bit more in a later presentation.

Then some audience feedback:

? Where do ideas come for as to what to work on, and who decides what’s done next and how?

  • 2.5 was designed by a hired company, but Automatic didn’t do indep testing
  • there very polarized feedback from users on 2.5, much of it negative
  • they did a lot of usability testing for 2.7
  • they got good feedback (itracking (NOTE: check this out!), user surveys, word camp discussion)
  • for 2.8, often surveys on WP development blog, as well as discussion/conversation at cons, and standard open source approach
  • no one makes a decision on their own. Things go through the open source community. Lots of dev conversation via public IRC – look for WP dev channel

A comment from someone: “one of the great things about 2.7 is the great customizeability of the admin interface”

  • Jane notes that a guiding principle behind the screen design was to let people create their own UI instead of trying to create the one, perfect system. She also drops this nice tidbit : “The future [of software] is towards self-designed design.”

? What are the new features and when will we see them?

  • the typical WordPress release cycle is typically every 3-4 months
  • they’re trying to put more hooks in for plugins
  • they’re very concerned about bloat; a big focus is making it possible to have a plugin rather than adding everything to the core
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1. RodeWorks » Blog Archive » WordCamp ED — follow-up posts - March 9, 2009

[…] NERCOMP Event: Edu Wordcamp: keynote by Jane Wells « f i c i a l An especially interesting aspect is that WordPress is presenting itself (to this crowd) as a possible Learning Management System. This gets an appreciative laugh from everyone in the audience “All distance e-learning / online course systems are terrible, and BB is especially terrible”. […]


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