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Open Source Communities Function Best With Strong Leaders. Perfect Leaders Do Not Exist.

Matt Mullenweg

Finally the news has hit the scene, while being as overdue as this post probably is: there finally is a WordPress Foundation. But this entry is not about the WordPress Foundation but about the weakness of communities and their need for strong leaders, using the WordPress community as a perfect example.

More than two years ago, during the heated sponsored themes FUD debate, I wrote that it was time to return the WordPress trademark to the Community and was also called out, by Matt himself, for it being an attack post. I have been a critic of Matt for a long time already but there is one thing ‘the community’ must understand: Matt has the guts most people would not have. Every community needs their Matt Mullenweg.

Period. Read More

Categories: Opinion
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Triggers That Make People Click

One of the books I’ve read in 2009 that I think is very helpful to bloggers is “Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click” by Susan M. Weinschenk. Although the title suggests a focus on web design, there’s a chapter there that talks about three triggers that enables web folks to”speak” to the unconscious mind. It may sound like psychobabble, but the the thing is, it is grounded on psychological research.

The three triggers are danger, food, and sex. If you notice, these are the basic elements that fire-off red flags in our collective instincts. This is because the way our brains are configured due to millions of years of evolution. All three items relate or our self-preservation instincts.

The premise is that the brain is hard-wired to get immediately attracted to words, images, and videos that pertain to danger, food, and sex. And if people are aware of these content, there is a higher likelihood that interest will be developed and the desired action, which is clicking (if it’s a hyperlink), will follow.

Here’s a few suggestions in incorporating the triggers:

  • Danger - Make the wordings of your links to be more active and, if appropriate, place “threatening” images or images that convey cautionary measures.
  • Food – The author of the book says that people pay attention to food (and that’s why there are plenty of food bloggers out there). If possible, place food items or benefits people can derive from your blog and blog posts.
  • Sex – I’ve mentioned this is in the past and that sex is always a powerful attention getter.

2010 is just around the corner and it may be a good new year’s resolution to make your content more interesting. Just rememebr the three key triggers: danger, food, and sex.

Happy New Year!

Categories: Blogging Tips, Opinion
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In a Giving Mood? Focus on the Benefits Your Blog Offers

In the spirit of the holidays, it’s a good time to focus on the warm, fuzzy feeling of giving.

But as a blogger, how do you get into the whole “spreading the wealth” business?

But let’s get some things straight first: for a lot of professional bloggers, the content being written is focused on a particular niche.  So try putting yourself on your readers’ shoes and ask the question “What’s in it for me?

This may sound too mercenary-like (and the last thing about the holidays), but think about it– why should your readers care about your blog? If your blog is one thing that leads to benefits, such as wealth, a better life, or  more informed way of doing things, then there are reasons people will come back.

So, as a blogger, be generous in pointing the benefits and making sure your readers know that there is a benefit to reading your posts. Here are three ways to highlight the benefits:

  1. State the Obvious – If there’s a benefit your readers should find worth getting, say it! This may entail having an approach that’s more direct to the point and being clear with the benefits. Apple is very good in this because they are able to put the key benefits of their products very concisely.
  2. Reinforce with Images – Blog posts will always look a little shinier and spiffier with images (provided the image will provide the proper context.) The images can also reinforce the tangible benefit your readers can derive.
  3. Make the Benefit Scarce – Create a sense of scarcity with what you are offering because people respond to loss and scarcity in a more natural way than abundance. If you think the information contained in your blog post is only good for a season, then make it clear.

Remember, make the benefits clear, obvious, and worth getting. The benefit for you may be a better performing blog.

Happy Holidays!

Categories: Blogging Tips, Opinion
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WordPress Announces Canonical Plugins. Some Thoughts On proposed Names.

The WordPress Core Commit Team ended their meeting after WordCamp Orlando and has announced on the development blog that there will be canonical plugins in the future.

What are ‘canonical plugins’?

The first question which comes to mind is ‘What are canonical plugins?‘. The team has provided the following definition:

Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution. These plugins would be GPL and live in the WordPress.org repo, and would be developed in close connection with WordPress core. There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility.

Canonical plugins will not be developed by one plugin developer anymore but by the community. They will also have their official web presence on the wordpress.org plugin repository instead of on website of the (original) developer.
What does this mean for several plugin developers? If you have a popular plugin and your plugin contains a ‘Donate’ button, be prepared to ditch this button if you want your plugin to be taken in consideration. This would be the case for example for. Arne Brachold’s Google (XML) Sitemap Generator and Donncha’s WP Super Cache plugin.

How to name ‘canonical plugins’?

The team clearly identified that the term canonical rather niche is and asks the community to vote on how these ‘super plugins’ should be categorised/labelled. The entry on the develop blog offers some names for canonical plugins:

Read More

Categories: Opinion, WordPress News, WordPress Plugins
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For The Case of WordPress, Against Self-Indulgent Promoters Who Were Hacked

Last weekend was filled with controversy and the reason for this was a worm hitting many self-hosted WordPress blogs. We warned and urged everyone to upgrade, although the most recent version of WordPress, 2.8.4, was released almost 3 weeks earlier. WordPress 2.8.4 was the second security update for the 2.8 branch in less than 2 weeks. This update was released only 2 days after the vulnerability was discovered, proving how hard the WordPress community has worked to improve and secure the platform.

Ever since WordPress 2.3, which was released almost exactly 2 years ago, every WordPress blogger receives an update notification whenever a new version available is. The majority of new releases are bug fixes and security updates.
Personally, whenever I see that yellow new release notification I can not hit update now fast enough. If it weren’t for the security aspect then it is for the ugliness of the notification.

Nevertheless, in these days some people are given a megaphone online and can not resist the need to be vocal, even though they were the only ones who were to blame. One of these people last weekend was Robert Scoble. His post I don’t feel safe with WordPress, Hackers broke in and took things quickly went viral Robert received support but also bashing. Gruber even went as far to say that Movable Type safer is. Read More

Categories: Opinion, WordPress News
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WordPress as Social Platform

Cozmoslabs.com has an interesting post up about the future of WordPress as a social platform.

Here’s a little sample to wet your whistle, so to speak.

Right now WordPress can be a forum, multi blogs platform, social media platform, microblog, social bookmarking and these are just a few of the possibilities.

WordPress is slowly making it’s way into the corporate world as well: Yahoo, CNN, New York Times, Ford, Nike are just a few of big names that implemented it for it’s ease of use, fast development times, cost reduction and easy maintenance of the platform. Oh… and U.S. Government Agencies are also using WordPress.

So where do we go from here? Recently it was announced WordPress to merge with WordPress MU. This will probably appear with the 3.0 launch. This seams to be just one of the big steps towards a social web platform. The next step will probably be to integrate more social media features from BuddyPress.

It goes on to discuss some of the implications of the new (and future) changes and additions to WordPress, as well as some of the issues surrounding GPL licensing and themes.

Personally I can’t wait for more social features in WordPress. Allowing the building of a framework for an entire social community within the WordPress platform would be a huge step forward in a lot of ways.

The one major downside to that I suppose would be the idea of “core bloat”. That is to say, the more features built directly into the core, the slower WordPress tends to get. Though I’m conflicted on just how much of an effect that has on most people, it’s certainly interesting to discuss.

All in all I’d say good things are in store for WordPress users in the coming months/years. Especially if you’re looking to use WordPress as the foundation for a site which includes a lot of social features.

Categories: Opinion
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Alice and Kev – A Sims 3 Story

This is a bit different than the usual stuff I post about, but I just have to spread this little gem around.

This morning a few people I follow on Twitter were practically raving about this new blog based on a the story of 2 characters from a play-through of the Sims 3, and after checking it out, I have to say that it’s entertaining, hilarious, and more than the slightly tragic.

It’s called “Alice and Kev, The story of being homeless in The Sims 3“, and it’s being put together by Robin Burkinshaw, who is a student of Games Design (and likely has a glorious future in it if this blog is any indication).

Here’s what Robin has to say about this “experiment”…

This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. It’s based on the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3’s living neighborhood features.

I have attempted to tell my experiences with the minimum of embellishment. Everything I describe in here is something that happened in the game. What’s more, a surprising amount of the interesting things in this story were generated by just letting go and watching the Sims’ free will and personality traits take over.

The resulting blog entries, complete with many MANY screen shots, tell the story of the two main characters and their interactions with the world around them. You really get a sense of their personalities and emotions, which is amazing given that they are semi-autonomous game characters.

I highly suggest checking it out if you want a laugh (and occasionally feel sad for Alice). Whether or not you’re a fan of The Sims, the story of these two characters is surprisingly compelling. I for one can’t wait to see what’s next in store for them on their adventure to survive on stolen apples and live on the digital streets of their virtual town.

Categories: Opinion
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Maryan Pelland Doesn’t Think You Should Trust the Internet

In a recent guest post on problogger.net, Maryan Pelland of ontext.com, talks about how easy it can be to fall into the trap of trusting information online.

Here’s a sample from the intro…

Bad and inaccurate information from websites isn’t new. The Internet can be a fabulous tool, but it should not be the sole source of information for any factual writing from blogs, to research for fiction, to magazine or newspaper articles. Anyone can create a website and fill it with text. There’s never a guarantee that information online is accurate or current. That’s why writers and journalists should not rely on the Internet.

I couldn’t agree more that the internet can be a source of misleading information, made all the more dangerous due to how fast information spreads through things like blogs, twitter, etc.

There is a tendency to want to trust sources of information online, and there is good reason for that: There is a lot of great information out there. The problem is simply that literally ANYONE can dump whatever they want onto a website, blog, wiki, etc, and there is often little or no fact checking happening by anyone other than the writer.

It’s all too common to see someone post something to twitter or their blog and then within minutes (or seconds) dozens or more people are tweeting/blogging away about their opinion of the original statement/event/whatever, only to find out hours later that the original poster was wrong, or just seeing who would believe them.

If the internet is truly to become a great source of fast and accurate information (and for the most part is CAN be already), we all have to work a little harder at sifting through the river of information to find the nuggets of truth. Hopefully before the misleading info has spread too far.

Categories: Blogging Tips, Opinion

WordPress and GPL – A Discussion

WPTavern has posted an interesting discussion in the form of a chat transcript pertaining to the issues surrounding GPL(and Non-GPL) licensing of WordPress themes. If you are a theme creator, or just have an interest in the legal aspects of GPL licensing of WordPress themes, I’d recommend checking it out.

It’s a fairly informal discussion between Ryan Hellyer (of PixelPoint.com) and an unnamed “specialist in copyright law”. And while Ryan freely admits to not knowing whether what this “specialist” says is true or not, the discussion is pretty interesting.

They get into some details that often seem to be overlooked when discussing GPL licensing, such as having a copyright to the design of a theme separate from the backend code, and beach of contract issues. Law geeks will probably get the most of out it, but it’s not too full of legalese, so most people should be able to follow it if they are interested to learn more about the subject.

Take it all with a grain of salt though, since the “specialist” is unnamed, and his opinion is just that, HIS opinion.

That said, what are YOUR thoughts on the matter of GPL and Non-GPL licensed themes?

Categories: Opinion, WordPress News

Plugin and Theme Licensing Wars

Since the inception of WordPress there have been fights over licensing plugins and themes. Some people believe that WordPress themes and plugins automatically inherit the GPL license, and others contest this, but does the licensing really matter?

I believe two things matter: what is in it for the developer, and is the community served?

I don’t believe that the GPL is providing for the developers nor truly living up to what the community needs.

Consider this:

You’ve just created an amazing plugin, it took you over a dozen hours, and you’ve given it out to the community for free.

Now they come to you for support, and you try your best to provide them with the answers they need, adding another two hours per week to your “work”. WordPress then changes in some major way, and you have to recode your plugin to work under the new “rules” of WordPress, adding another two hours of development time to your plugin.

All of this time spent is from the goodness of your heart, but it becomes tiring. One day, you decide to start charging for support. Each request is only two dollars, and you go from needing to spend two hours a week to only spending two hours a month on support related inquiries.

The problems didn’t disappear though, instead the WordPress community forums are littered with people asking for help with your plugin, and they are getting answers, thus bypassing your new business enterprise completely.

You feel frustrated that the hours you originally and continue to put have been rewarded in such a way, and in the end you never make back in community currency, links or actual money the investment that you had put into the project.

Where is the benefit to continue? You either end up discontinuing your work or finding ways to try to drive business to yourself, only to have your plugin removed from the WordPress Plugins repository for not being “GPL enough”. Someone else forks your work and continues on, paying no homage to the original idea creator, you.

Sound like fiction? I have no doubt that this has been the case for at least a few WordPress theme and plugin developers as the GPL creates a number of limitations with no business model set up to reward those that spend the time adding to the community.

Flip that around and remove the GPL, and the plugin author could have built a business around the plugin, while still remaining in the forefront of the community. The monetary benefit would have hopefully changed the market in two ways.

The first way would be that the plugin developer would have been more likely to spend time developing their plugin continually. The second change would be that popular plugins would have to compete in the market in both price and features.

I don’t believe that GPL is the great equalizer and protector, and I also believe that within five years, WordPress will see much of their current plugin and theme development rock stars move onto other platforms that don’t have such restrictive licensing.

iThemes now has a Movable Type store. How long will it be until more theme developers follow suit? Habari’s license allows the creators to manage and sell their work under any license they like, allowing for true business to be built around their platform.

Categories: Opinion, WordPress Plugins, WordPress Themes

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