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WordCamp 2007: Day 2

WordPress developers returning for day 2 mostly arrived bleary-eyed and tired (and possibly a little hung-over) from the previous day’s activities, yet promptly launched into some heavy-duty geek-speak.

First up was Barry Abrahamson and Matt Mullenweg discussing the high-end server tuning that makes WordPress.com and other high-volume multi-user blogs hum. Abrahamson explained that WordPress installed on an un-tuned LAMP system could be expected to handle as many as 691,200 page views per day or roughly 8 requests a second. This type of installation is adequate for about 99% of the WordPress installs. He also explained that if you were to implement APC you might expect roughly 1,036,800 page views per day or about a 50% performance increase to about 12 requests per second.

Abrahamson recommended the installation of WP-Cache, saying that most users have no reason not to install it. His benchmarks demonstrated that a WordPress install using WP-Cache could handle 300 requests per sec or roughly 25,920,000 page views per day, yielding an increase over 25 times as fast as an un-tuned system. He later went on to discuss alternatives to Apache, PHP 4 and 5, load balancing, caching and memcache.

Mullenweg came on stage to discuss HyperDB, accentuating that HyperDB could be “dropped in” with only a modified config file. Abrahamson then returned with some very impressive statistics for WordPress.com. Slides for this presentation have also been made available.

Jeremy Zilar of the New York Times followed with a discussion of his work there. The Times currently operates about 100+ blogs of which about 40 can be considered active. They receive about 13 million page views per month and enjoy over 500 registered users. He then went on to discuss the interactivity blogs afford with the Times and even mentioned that a typo could be considered a good thing because it gives readers the opportunity to comment on the error and a follow-up “thank you” shows you actively encourage and value their feedback.

Next up was Rashmi Sinha whose “Iterative Design in Agile Environments” session was renamed to “Designing Massively Multiplayer Social Systems.” Her session focused on the psychology behind user experience and, to be honest, most all of what she said went right over my head. She did, however, publish her slide show of her session for us to review.

After gorging ourselves on good BBQ from Memphis Minnie‘s, we returned to hear Dave Winer speak about his history with blogging and syndication, along with his thoughts on technology in general and specifically the Open Source movement.

After this, we were treated to a discussion of design and user-testing with Liz Danzico as it related to the redesign of WordPress’ administration interface. One aspect that I found very interesting is that WordPress is designed around nouns whereas other blog and CMS systems are designed around verbs, that is, our admin panels have tabs and links with titles like “Posts”, “Pages” and “Categories” where others use verbs like “Write” or “Publish”, yet when she tried a design where WordPress switched to verbs, people were confused and flustered, and the idea was dropped as unsuitable. She also let the cat out of the bag by mentioning that version 2.4 of WordPress would be the first to sport the redesigned admin interface.

Matt Mullenweg led a very casual and often funny “State of the Word.” He started by premptively answered his most frequently asked questions, then pointing out features that have been added to WordPress since WordCamp last year:

  • bbpress
  • WordPress MU
  • Autosave
  • Tabbed Editing
  • Ajax
  • Extension to XML-RPC
  • Pseudo-cron
  • Custom headers
  • Widgets

He then started explaining major numbers: 713 different user suggestions for features from the ideas forum garnering 36,676 total votes; 10 different releases; 1,090 commits to the codebase; 2,849,349 downloads; 1,041,846 new blogs, 20,212,994 posts and 1,648,046,157 page views on WordPress.com; and over 2 billion spams caught by Akismet.

Mullenweg then compared what was emphasized as top priority at last year’s WordCamp: Making installation even easier, to which the developers did not follow up on; Making upgrade notifications and upgrades themselves easier, to which which the developers again did very little; Reorganizing and reinvigorating the WordPress Codex, to which the team did nothing; and finally establishing a directory of themes and plugins, to which they successfully followed through on.

Other disclosures:

  • 2.3 will be released in September
  • The developers are committing to releasing 3 versions per year on a 4 month cycle.
  • WordPress is evolving into a content management system.
  • Mike Adams continues to extrapolate core functions of WordPress (user system, login system, formatting, sanitization, script building) into a library code-named BackPress.
  • Possible inclusion of WordPress Caching Proxy (WPCP) a more application-aware proxy server suitable for a cluster of boxes.
  • A built in API for using S3, Flickr, or other storage sites.
  • Better localization of languages.
  • Improvement of Akismet, particularly how it deals with comments when the Akismet server is unavailable.
  • Improvements to the Visual Editor.
  • Improved support for images, sounds (i.e., podcasts) and videos.

No major announcements, but nice to hear straight from the project leader a recap of the past year and a look toward the future.

The day ended with a “developer duke-out“, with Matt calling developers Mark Jaquith, Donncha O Caoimh, Mike Adams and Andy Skelton. A few of the more relevant issues batted around:

  • Sandbox will likely be included in the installed themes, unlikely as the default.
  • PHP 5 offers no reason to support it only; WordPress will continue to be PHP-agnostic for the foreseeable future.
  • 3/4 of the developers agreed some sort of Tumblr functionality would be nice.
  • The panel was ambivalent about including “asides” in the core.
  • Donncha wrote a PayPal class for the WordCamp blog, and he was goaded into committing to release it as a plugin.
  • Future versions of WordPress will include a more intuitive way ot resizing images from within the visual editor.
  • Most developers didn’t care one way or the other for the default blogroll, but everyone agreed a possible solution is to move the developers and links to their blogs to some sort of credits page accessible through the dashboard.

WordCamp then closed with a whimper, with some people leaving while the duke-out went on, and others, like myself, at least staying long enough to share goodbyes with new and old friends we all hope to see again next year.

My recommendations for next year:

  1. Start planning it now! :)
  2. Dividing the days into general user and developer worked well.
  3. Wireless mics for questions, possibly one in the balcony as well.
  4. Apparently, less water. :)
  5. I’ll be sure an bring a jacket or a coat next year.
  6. Each speaker should publish his or her slides before thir presentation begins.
  7. Name tags should be more legible, with fonts being larger including the attendee’s primary URL.
  8. Is streaming video feasible?
  9. What about recording and later releasing the audio? (I volunteer to help you do so as a series of podcasts spread out over the months.)
  10. A much larger whiteboard for job announcements.

Although this old man is exhausted from 3 days of keeping up with you young whippersnappers in a city where nothing is on a level plane, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and can’t wait to see much of what was discussed come to fruition. Getting to meet people I admire, participating in discussions and podcasts and chatting with listeners of The WordPress Podcast was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Thanks to Matt Mullenweg and everyone at Automattic, Inc. for the planning and hard work that made WordCamp possible, thanks to the sponsors and particularly my sponsor, Bloggy Network for making my attendance there possible.

Charles Stricklin is the president of Four-Oh New Media, LLC, a podcast and new media production and consulting company. He produces and co-host The WordPress Podcast and Podcast Planning.

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Comments

  1. rslux says: 7/23/2007

    One more note for next year: MORE COFFEE!! The afternoons were long and having nothing caffeinated on-site was a drag.

    Reply

  2. Andy Ford says: 7/23/2007

    Regarding recommendations for next year…

    I whole heartedly agree with #3:
    Wireless mics for questions, possibly one in the balcony as well.

    Also, it would be a really nice touch if they could have speakers in the restrooms so you could still hear the speaker while you “take a break”

    And speaking of restrooms, the Men’s room trash can was continually overflowing and the paper towels were often all out.

    But I really had a great time. Kudos to everyone who put their hard work into making WordCamp 2007 great!

    Reply

  3. Charles Stricklin says: 7/23/2007

    I doubt the speakers in the restroom idea is doable, but everything else is spot on.

    Reply

  4. maya says: 7/23/2007

    Thanks for the suggestions. These are all do-able. I asked for wireless mics in the hall but apparently they don’t sound very good in the hall. The hall is very old so I don’t know about speakers in the restroom. Since I’m not a guy I didn’t know that the trashcan was overflowing and paper towels had run out. Please mention it to one of the WordPress team or volunteers next time.

    Reply

  5. totti says: 7/25/2007

    Thank You

    Good

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    Reply

  6. Manuel Pulido says: 9/7/2007

    Glad to see everyone’s enthusiasm.

    Reply

  7. Iakovos says: 9/16/2007

    Interesting…

    Reply

  8. CowDir says: 10/31/2007

    Pretty awesome article. Thanks! – CowDir

    Reply

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    Reply

  10. Quinn Obrien says: 5/18/2011

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    Reply