Notes from New York Word Camp 2008

I enjoyed attending New York Word Camp 2008, which attracted about 150 avid WordPress users. My notes follow:

Matt Mullenweg, CEO, Automattic, “State of the Word”: NYC Edition

WordPress was born from a blog: I posted that a prior open-source blogging platform really needed to be taken forward. Someone contacted me, and it grew from there. There are now over 90 contributors to the core code, plus thousands of plugins.

Asked audience split between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It was roughly 50-50.

Mentioned WordPress.com is blocked in China, because WordPress.com doesn’t cooperate with China’s censorship requirements.

Notes from the subversion repository: the place where people document their changes
2007: 1090 changes
2008: 2,840 changes to date, which lead to 11 releases (He apologizes for that number.)

We are at a historical high in # core developers for WordPress. This team reviews contributions of outside developers into WordPress.

2007: 2.8m downloads
2008: 11.1 m downloads

WordPress.com:
2007: 1m blogs , 20m posts, 1.6b page views
2008: 2.4m blogs , 35.8m posts, 6.5b page views

Akismet has caught 5b spam, with 99.925% accuracy, which is much better than success rate of email spam blockers.

Spammers are going to invent artificial intelligence, because they have motivation and $ to do it.

New technique they use: leave complimentary post and link it to a URL that looks like a church or school, but is really a spamfront. Sometimes, the post is copied from a legit comment a few months ago.

I created Akismet to save my mom from reading offensive spam, when she started a blog

I’ve been to 18 Wordcamps, 9 upcoming.

We only organized one; the rest are community-organized.

Three major releases this year: 2.3, 2.5, 2.6

100,000 installs of WordPress iphone app. Coming soon: stats and comment moderation on your iphone.

Most popular page on WordPress.com: stats page. “You guys reload your stats like hamsters on crack.”

Behind the scenes, new changes coming: theme directory. All themes will be vetted for safety/security.

There were spammers who bought ads for ‘free wordpress themes’; created a beautiful ‘free wordpress themes’ website; but every theme would have a backdoor or spam links in the footer.

We’re getting 100 theme submissions/ week. They’re all being manually vetted for safety. Now over 100,000 downloads.

Also launching WordPress Zeitgeist. We’re following the Firefox model. We want to make it one-click easy to upgrade.

6m WordPress.org blogs (including WordPress MU, multi-user). About 4m of these are multi-user blogs. I was surprised, because WordPress MU is much harder to use.
Of these, 5.1m are secure

Plugins are a free market of features.

On a list of activated plugins, here are the most popular:
#145 OpenID
#24 Adsense-manager
#12 Hello Dolly, my favorite
#10 cforms (contact forms)
#9 wp-polls. Lightweight forms of interaction with audience increase likelihood of commenting
#8 WP Automatic Upgrade
#7 wp-cache—performance upgrade
#6 wp-db-ackup
#5 stats
#4 nextgen-gallery. I frequently get asked how do plugin authors feel when you move the plugin into the core. We usually simplify it when we bring it in.
#3 google-sitemap-generator
#2 all-in-one-seo-pack
#1 Akismet

This list is a very good indicator of what WordPress will look like in the future. By tracking this, we can build features for people before they even know it.

We acquired Intensivate (commenting system) a few weeks ago

Average of 5 plugins per blug. The record is 800 plugins. Therefore, essentially everyone in this room is running their own version of WordPress. This makes it very hard for people to compete with WordPress. It’s easy to compete with features (just pay some developers), but hard to compete with community.

Going forward:
-better plugin stats

Hardest part of my job: deciding what should be in core? We believe core should be small, light, fast. It should be faster with every release. Look at popularity of plugins. Look at what bleeding-edge blogs are doing. Sometimes I put in things that I just want. I’m a photographer, so I like the galley feature.

Some people were gaming the download feature; that’s why we don’t consider it the most meaningful feature.

WordPress 2.7 will include: Dashboard redesign, dashboard comment replies, keyboard shortcuts.

We created a “Bizarro WordPress”, Crazy Horse, which was the opposite of everything WordPress does. Very popular.

It doesnÂ’t make sense to download a plugin to your PC and then upload to your server. It should be a direct link between the two servers, each of which is on a 100megabit connection.

Should soon be buttons to add a Google map, photo from Flickr, etc.

When he was in China, as an experiment, he did a search on ‘falun gong’. The search didn’t work, and his internet went down for 5 minutes. He was punished.

Blogging in China is highly self-censored. Your posts can get unpublished if you discuss certain inappropriate topics, so you have strong motivation to self-censor.

When he was there, the Chinese milk story disappeared one day. No blog posts, no news stories.

A lot of people are using WordPress.org . Long term, I think censorship will be less of an issue.

Themes for 2009 development of WordPress:
– Upgrades should be super-easy
– Security. Many US government agencies are using WordPress internally. Showed an impressive list, e.g., Coast Guard.
– Rich Media. I just bought a tool that adds core GPS/bearing data to photos I take. We can incorporate that.
– Multi-modal. Blogging should adopt to whatever you’re blogging. E.g., if you blog a photo it should be formatted differently than just text.
– WordPress becomes a hub. Bring Facebook/Twitter to WordPress.
– Fashion and tattoos. “We’re taking the “W” back.”
– Crazyhorse.
– Year of Themes. Themes can do everything plugins can do, and can even bundle plugins.

I can’t take my data out of facebook and run my own Facebook. But I can take my data out of WordPress and run my own WordPress.

Backpress = shared infrastructure between different systems that are broadly applicable. Includes: user authentication. People will be able to build other systems on back of this.

BuddyPress = rough equivalent of Facebook network but on WordPress system. You never know what will happen with Facebook, Flickr, etc. WordPress can be the safe repository of all that data.

There aren’t that many applications that can get 150 people to get together on a Sunday to meet one another.

Contact information: http://Ma.tt
m (at) mullenweg dot com

We’ll probably always be in PHP and MySQL. Because we’re a platform, we have to be backwards compatible. Apple broke that rule, and it hurt their popularity with developers. I recently loaded a 1992 DOS game and it ran on Vista. That’s amazing.

Buddypress today is not ready.

A prominent musician with hundreds of thousands of users is switching his social network over to BuddyPress.

WordPress MU lags regular WordPress by a few weeks.

We’re seeing a lot of WordPress being taught in journalism schools. I think you’ll see some prominent journalists, e.g., Om Malik, starting their own company and blog. His brand was more important than Web 2.0/Fortune. He has 10 employees now.

NY Times is an investor in Automattic. We’re working with them.

All the CNN blogs are hosted on WordPress.com .

WordPress.org and Automattic have only one link between them, which is me.

Automattic has raised 2 rounds: $1m first round, $30m earlier this year. Everyone around the table is in it for the long term. No plans to sell or IPO. We’re trying to build something generational. Inspiration is Craigslist, with 25 employees, massive pageviews.

WordPress.com now has 230m unique visitors. 30 employees.

When I started WordPress, I feared it would break the open-source model, but it didn’t. People kept contributing. When I started Automattic there was no IP in the firm, which is highly unusual for a software company.

Any of you could download WordPress.org today, and start a direct competitor to WordPress.com . This totally aligns incentives in the long term. There are now about a dozen companies trying to do roughly the same thing.

Aaron Brazell, How to Hit the Blog Big Leagues
Former CTO of b5media
Technosailor.com . 4 writers on this site.

90% of your visitors come from Google. They’re first-time visitors. Important to convert them.

Scoble’s starfish theory: there are people who don’t really know what they want. Scoble is very distributed (Flickr, Friendfeed, etc.), and those different legs touch people with different interests. If you’re a mommy blogger, and there’s a searcher who is visually oriented, you as a mommy blogger will reach her because you have uploaded some good stroller photos to Flickr.

Get to know the top bloggers in your vertical. You’ll learn a lot from that.

Endorses Friendfeed over carnivals as a vehicle to build social capital with top bloggers

PageRank is not as important as subscriber count. (Incidentally, Google doesn’t own PageRank; Stanford does and Google has a perpetual license.)

Problogger has 50,000 readers; very knowledgeable.