Bryan Ruby


Thoughts, Words, and Deeds

WordPress

WordPress 4.8 introduces four new widgets

New WordPress 4.8 widgets

WordPress 4.8 is named "Evans" in honor of jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans.

WordPress 4.8 is now available and introduces users to new content management tools including three media widgets covering images, audio and video. The "Evans" release also includes link improvements, an updated text widget that supports visual editing, and an upgraded news and events section in your dashboard. 

When Matt Mullenweg announced the release of WordPress 4.8 he mentioned that this new version was built with you in mind. While the updates seem minor, he indicated that users will find that the improvements intuitive enough that "you’ll welcome [the changes] like an old friend".

New Widgets for WordPress

As mentioned, Wordpress includes three new media widgets and one rich text widget. Below is a description of all four widgets:

1. Image Widget

Adding an image to a widget is now a simple task that is achievable for any WordPress user without needing to know code. You simply insert your image right within the widget settings and see it appear automatically.

2. Video Widget

You can now add any video from the Media Library to a sidebar on your site with the new Video widget. WordPress gives examples of how this widget could be used including "to showcase a welcome video to introduce visitors to your site or promote your latest and greatest content".

3. Audio Widget

Despite the increased popularity of video in content, interest in podcast creation is making its own comeback. WordPress sees their new audio widget being welcomed by podcasters, musicians, and avid bloggers. Users just need to upload their audio file to the Media Library, go to the widget settings, select your file, and the page is ready for listeners.

Uncle Sam Wants You To Update Your WordPress Plugins

In times of war, you may be asked what you can do for your country. In modern times, your country may be asking you to do your part by updating your WordPress plugins.

The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), issued a public service announcement last week recommending website administrators to update their Wordpress sites. More specifically, the bureau wants you to update your third-party WordPress plugins.

Why is the FBI worried about your content management system? Apparently, continuous website defacements are being perpetrated by individuals sympathetic to the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL) a.k.a. Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS). According to the FBI, the defacements have affected website operations and the communication platforms of:

  • News organizations
  • Commercial entities
  • Religious institutions
  • Federal/state/local governments
  • Foreign governments,
  • A variety of other domestic and international webites.

While one wouldn't expect WordPress to house national or company secrets, all this unwanted disruption translates to cost in terms of lost business revenue and expenditures on technical services to repair infected computer systems.

But why is the FBI focused on WordPress and not another CMS? In part, it's because Wordpress is popular and used by many. The more sites vulnerable to known and specific exploits, the easier it is for hackers to find their target. All victims of the defacements identified by the FBI shared common WordPress plug-in vulnerabilities easily exploited by commonly available hacking tools.

WordPress 3.9 Refines Media Experience

WordPress 3.9 has been released with a number of refinements that WordPress hopes you'll "love". The changes and new features are solid but perhaps not as many as we've come to expect given past WordPress point releases. Some of the new features that can be found in WordPress 3.9 include improvements in the media editing experience, gallery previews, and live editing of widgets and headers.

Media Editing Improvements

  • Improved visual editing - The updated visual editor has improved speed, accessibility, and mobile support. Filtering out excess code from your word processor such as from Microsoft Word has been improved.
  • Image Editing - Quicker access to crop and rotation tools and you can now also scale images directly in the editor.
  • Drag and Drop - Uploading your images can be grabbed from your desktop or file system and dropped directly into the editor.

Gallery Previews

Galleries display a beautiful grid of images right in the editor, just like they do in your published post.

Audio and Video Playlists

Similar to how WordPress has handled images with galleries; WordPress now has included a simple audio and video playlists to embed your music and clips within the content.

Live Widget and Header Previews

Those familiar WordPress widgets can now be added, edited, and rearranged right in the theme customizer. It's "live editing" where you can preview your changes without having to save and publish.The improved header image tool also lets you upload, crop, and manage headers while customizing your theme.

 

The Photographer's CMS: WordPress 3.5 plus Photocrati 4.5

Photocrati 4.6 Admin Screenshot

A few days ago, WordPress 3.5 was released and I originally planned to write the typical "what is new in WordPress" article similar to what I've done in the past for CMS Report. However, I thought this time around I would also discuss how I'm using WordPress to support the website of one of my favorite photographers, Karen Ruby of Dakota Imagery. Certainly, in this article there is no cause for you to suspect my opinions are biased with regard to her photography skills despite the fact we've been married for 11 years and she is the mother of my child. In this article, my goal is to not only provide WordPress and CMS users something interesting to read but also to point photographers to a WordPress package that my wife and I have found works quite nicely to support her photography business.

Screenshot of WordPress 3.5 site: DakotaImagery.comAs I'm writing this article, I'm currently in the process of updating my wife's WordPress website from WordPress 3.4 to WordPress 3.5. My wife is a photographer that over the years has evolved from amateur status to professional. When it was time to build her a new website (she had been using a SaaS site heavily weighed in Flash) we decided to keep it simple and use WordPress. Updating WordPress to the latest version only takes a click of the "Update Now" button and you're good to go. The process is generally painless and she usually doesn't require my assistance, but this time around we needed to wait on the availability of a newer version of Photocrati compatible with WP 3.5 before updating.

Open Source CMS, Market Share Report, and White Elephants Bryan Ruby Wed, 11/30/2011 - 00:17

Last weekend, digital agency water&stone, released their 2011 Open Source CMS Market Share Report. I consider this report one of the few non-bias and detailed surveys that come across my desk each year. The report isn't perfect, but the report does help give a good snapshot on the state of who's who in the world of open source content management systems.

You are most definitely going to want to take a look at the details in the report. The findings in this year’s report were based on a survey of more than 2,500 CMS users and additional research into a wide variety of measures of market share and brand strength. I'm still combing through the survey and taking note of the interesting individual nuggets of information that can be found in the results of the survey.

WaterandStone's 2011 Open Source CMS Markert Share ReportNot surprisingly, the report confirms the ranking position of open source's three most dominate Web content management systems in the market. The press release itself summarizes the results this way:

PHP-based systems WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal continue to dominate the web content management space. But, while the Big Three remain unchanged from last year, the Report concludes that WordPress retains a clear lead in the face of decreasing competition from Joomla!.

The decreasing competition from Joomla! can be seen most noticeably in the decrease of installations reported by the survey respondents in 2011 compared to 2010. The survey does note that this dramatic drop is likely due to the Joomla! community aggressively promoting the survey last year. This year, the promotion efforts were not coordinated and less influential. I only point this out because this is an example of where the report isn't "perfect" via inconsistencies in the yearly survey sample introducing  a margin of error in the trend comparisons. 

Judging Five Overall Best Content Management Systems

This year, I had the privilege of participating as a member on the judging panel for Packt Publishing's Overall Best Open Source CMS Award. As I mentioned last month, WordPress was declared the winner of the award followed by MODx, SilverStripe, DotNetNuke, and finally XOOPS. Since the award announcement, I've had a lot of inquiries asking me how and in what order did I rank the content management systems. I decided to wait for a month before my posting my rankings of the Web applications because I wanted focus to remain on the declared winners and not my individual choices.

My rankings for the Overall Best Open Source CMS (with number one being the highest) were:

  1. WordPress
  2. DotNetNuke
  3. SilverStripe
  4. MODx
  5. XOOPS

Each of the judges on the panel, selects their top three CMS from the five included in this category. The judges are given a lot of reign for how they rank the CMS and may consider a number of factors such as performance, usability, accessibility, ease of configuration and customization, scalability and security. Despite the criteria given, the fact is the best CMS is the CMS you determine is best in meeting your project requirements. In other words, you may find that all five CMSes in this category meet your project needs or in some cases none of the given applications will meet your requirements. Despite how I ranked the CMS you still need to do your own homework before choosing what your "best" CMS.

More...are they blogging applications or CMS?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Wordpress 2.6 is more than a blog and is quickly evolving into a full-fledged Web content management system.  While they're a little late, some of my competitors (CMS Watch) also recently noted the trend of blogging applications such as Wordpress taking on more CMS-like duties.

I wish I would have expanded on my own thoughts about blogging tools continuing to add more CMS functions into their software.  However, I'm not so sure I could have written it better than Irina Guseva's post at CMS Wire.  She takes the story even further by asking whether the trend from blog to CMS is a good thing or not.

It’s not impossible to turn a blogging tool into a proper CMS, but is this really the point? We would argue that there’s a need for a middle ground between content and enterprise focused Web CMS products and rapid fire, publishing focused blogging tools, and that the blog tool vendors should careful define and shoot for this.

Irina's point is valid.  There are reasons why users of blogs have chosen to use blog-only applications over a CMS.  Generally, blogging applications have better usability and are simpler to maintain than a multi-functional Web CMS.  If blogging software are developed to become a big CMS, those developers may lose the very customer base that made their software popular in the first place.

The Dangers of Reviewing Open Source CMS

The April issue of Adobe Edge contains the article, Review of open source content management systems. The article provides an overview of what the author describes as "five of the top open source software (OSS) solutions". The five open source CMS included in the author's list are CMS Made Simple, Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress, and XOOPS. After reading the article, I found myself wondering how we "reviewers" can actually improve our reviews of open source CMS. More importantly, I've come to the realization that I can no longer claim to be non-biased in which CMS I believe is the best out there.

The author does a fine job in the article describing the similarities and differences between the CMS being reviewed. However, one of the issues I have in this article and many others I've read that review CMS is the big jumps in the conclusion:

Drupal, Joomla!, and XOOPS are best for building an e-commerce site because all three offer:

  • Inventory management
  • Support for third-party payment processing mechanisms (such as PayPal)
  • Modules for shipping and sales tax calculators
  • Shopping cart functionality

While it is true that Drupal, Joomla! and XOOPS can do e-commerce, none of these CMS can do that straight out of the box. I can just imagine a shop owner or design company trying Drupal, Joomla!, or XOOPS for the very first time and wondering, "how the heck do I get a shopping-cart into the CMS?". While the author does hint in the article that third-party modules are needed to make the e-commerce work, I think the author would have been better off better explaining that "some work is required" to get those features into the CMS.

WordPress goes social

Matt Mullenweg, founder of the WordPress blogging application, recently announced on his own blog that his Automattic company has hired Andy Peating. Andy Peating is the creator of BuddyPress which is a WordPress Multi-User based social network platform.

It’s clear that the future is social. Connections are key. WordPress MU is a platform which has shown itself to be able to operate at Internet-scale and with BuddyPress we can make it friendlier. Someday, perhaps, the world will have a truly Free and Open Source alternative to the walled gardens and open-only-in-API platforms that currently dominate our social landscape.

This is significant news in a number of aspects and indicates the direction many of today's content management systems are taking or need to take (more discussion from me on this at a later date). A number of bloggers haven't missed the significance of this move by Automattic either. This TechCrunch post talks about the possibilities I'm also thinking about when mixing open source with social software:

It is easy to dismiss this as completely unnecessary given the abundance of social networks already out there, as well as application development platforms like OpenSocial. But an open-source social network does present some intriguing possibilities. New apps and
features could be added simply by creating new plugins. And there would be no lock-in to any proprietary code or development environment.

The Power of Free and Many?

I came across another one of those "top ten" lists, this time, "Ten Reasons to choose Wordpress". Among the ten reasons to choose Wordpress were:

  • Wordpress is used the world over
  • Famous bloggers use Wordpress
  • Wordpress is free

I've used Wordpress before and I have to say I chose it for its functionality and not whether a million zillion people used it.
I know there are people who use, join, and buy something because it is popular. However, I have thankfully never been one of those people.

In fact, I can honestly say, I have never chosen any content management system for a project due to its popularity or because the software was free. If you're one of those people, I think it's time for you to reevaluate your priorities.

If you want real success...look for a Web application that fits all your needs, is well supported, and perhaps an unknown but rising star. Go against the grain and let your content sell your site not the software itself. If you still end up with Wordpress, that's great too but hopefully by then you'll find that you are using it because it is a great blogging application and not because you think it helps you win a popularity contest.