2014 State of the Word with Matt Mullenweg

state of the word

What’s more important than the State of the Union address?  The annual State of the Word address given by Matt Mullenweg, created of WordPress, at WordCamp San Francisco.  This is if you like open source software and are a fan and user of WordPress. :)

You might have read my 2013 State of the Word round-up last year or my WordPress 10th Anniversary post which summarized the 2012 State of the Word.  Well since WordPress gets better each year so will this State of the Word summary.

2014 State of the Word

 

Notably for this year’s State of the Word Mullenweg is wearing tie and plaid jacket perhaps showing that him and WordPress are growing up?  Also he has cut his hair.

Whether or not Automattic is “growing up” WordCamp San Francisco is getting bigger and better too.  The last year WordCamp San Francisco is going to be held at the Mission Bay conference center since the venue is too small, “We are literally bursting at the seems here.” said Mullenweg.  For next year’s WordCamp they will move to a new location and rename it.  A date, time, and location will be announced but they are going to do something along the lines of WordCamp Europe.

One of the things Mullenweg talked about during the 2014 State of the Word was making WordPress more internationalized for users who do no speak English. Language Packs will be coming in 2015 which will allow plugin and theme developers to automatically get their WP products translated.  This means you do not have to speak other languages to make a WP contribution available to the world.  This is potentially a huge development with the introduction of full International Domain Names (IDNs) this year. I assume these IDNs will have a much wider adoption worldwide if WordPress can be easily used in non-English and Roman based languages.

Automattic is working on making searches within WordPress more localized experience for those that speak other languages as well.  What does that mean?  If you speak Spanish you can see plugin and theme reviews in Spanish and search in Spanish in addition to other languages.  This will make it easier for non-native English speakers to use WordPress.

Mullenweg also talked about how people making a living with WordPress.  “People pay their mortgages, feed their families, send their kids to school with WordPress.” he commented proudly.

Something Mullenweg attempted was to get a new post for 39 days everyday.  I’ve wanted to do this too… but failed… life. :)

Better Stats for plugin and theme authors will be introduced.  I assume these improved stats will help authors figure out and understand who actually uses their plugins rather than who just downloads it.

Updates  will be getting major improvements soon.   “Work like Chrome” is something Mullenweg said this year and he even said he was “Jealous” of the way Chrome worked at the 2013 State of the Word.  Basically they want to make updates more of a backend thing rather than attaching numeric versions to them.  He mentioned competitors, if you can even call them that, such as SquareSpace, Wix, and Weebly.  (You should definitely switch from Blogger to WordPress by the way.)

“The hosts have been pioneers at this.” said Mullenweg regarding automatic WordPress updates.  He emphasized help keep web hosting companies servers secure and make it so that less WordPress sites can get hacked.  Mullenweg pointed out it is a PIA if you do get hacked and that you need coding skills to really clean it up.  Automattic is going to use their relationship with hosts to get more people upgraded to the latest version of PHP, the coding language WordPress is written in, which will help with compatibility.

The new default Worpdress theme, 2015, looks pretty slick. “Book like typographer, book like feel.” commented Mullenweg about the themes look and feel.

Automattic will not be using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) as a primary communication method.  They are moving to using Slack since it is easier to search old conversations and it works on multiple devices.  Also anyone will be able to sign-up to Slack and see what’s going on with WordPress chats.  Visit – chat.wordpress.org – to get an idea of what’s happening with Slack and WordPress .

Mullenweg is encouraging “Five for the Future” which means they are encouraging 5% of their time to the core WordPress community.  This means Wordcamps, meetups, or contributing in the forum.

There was a lot of discussion about mobile developments.  Mullenweg pointed out that there are more mobile phones on the planet now than people.  Kind of scary but show you just how much people love their phones.  “The web capabilites of these devices are getting better, and better, and better each year.”  He believes WordPress not only need to ride the wave but be active contributing to mobile.

There were 33,378 responses to the WordPress survey this year from 179 countries. “We don’t promote it that much, we just put a link to it on WordPress.org” said Mullenweg at the beginning of the 2014 State of the Word.

For those that don’t want to spend the 45 minutes watching the State of the Word address I’ve summarized some important stats.  (You should watch the State of the Word if you are interested in WordPress or web development though.)

2014 WordPress Stats

  • 23% of respondents from US
  • 77% of respondents from outside the US
  • 2014 – first year that non English downloads surpassed English downloads of WordPress.
  • 87% of people said that used WordPress “Mostly as a CMS”
  • WordPress usage as a Content Management System (CMS) has declined since 2012.
  • 20% of respondents said they used WordPress “Mostly as a blog”
  • 6% stated they used WordPress “Mostly as an Application Framework”
  • 25% of respondents to the survey make a full-time living from WordPress.  That is 7,539 people.
  • Those who make a living from WordPress make up over 1 billion dollars in economic activity per year.
  • The Good about WP – 1. Easy 2. Plugin 3. Community
  • The Bad about WP – 1. Plugins 2. Themes 3. Updates
  • Almost 1,100,000 sites have been built on WordPress from survey respondents
  • 6% said they had only built 1 site with WordPress
  • 91% of these sites took less than 200 hours (4-5 weeks) to build
  • Since the last Wordcamp San Francisco there have been 5 major WordPress releases (3.6 Oscar3.7 Basie – , 3.8 Parker – 3.9 Smith – 4.0 Benny)
  • 785 contributors over the 5 major WordPress releases
  • 23% of the Web runs on WordPress
  • 6,459 plugins were added to the WordPress plugin repository, a 26.5% increase since last year.
  • There are now 34,061 available WordPress plugins in the repository.
  • 684 themes were added, a 36.5% increase
  • 2,781 themes are now available for free on WordPress.org
  • 1,000,000 WordPress VIP commits
  • The WordPress Android app received 2 updates
  • The iOS app received 5 updates
  • 100 meetup and Wordcamp organizers at Wordcamp San Francisco, 21 different countries represented, 105 meetup groups active
  • Only 25% of people are currently using the latest version of WordPress, 4.0
  • All mobile apps are developed on GitHub now

Pretty impressive huh?  The WordPress goal to “Democratize Publishing” becomes more of a reality each year.

Also watch this Question and Answer session that Matt Mullenweg conducted after his State of the Word address.

WordCamp San Francisco Q&A – Matt Mullenweg

 

If you have any opinions about these WordPress stats, the 2014 State of the Word, or WordPress in general please leave a comment below.  Answer this, how has WordPress changed your life and made it better?  I’d love to hear answers to this as I know it’s made my web experience better.

Best Free Forum Software to Start a Community

Looking to start an online discussion forum?  What is the best free forum software though?  There are a lot of software and script options out there that are free and open source (FOSS) but these are the 4 that I would recommend to a friend.  Since all my readers are my friends, these list should help you, my reader friend. :)

MyBB

best free forum softwareOut of the box MyBB, My Bulletin Board, has many great features. This includes calendars and events, user promotions, mass email newsletter, moderation tools, reputation management, and more.  It also allows users to easily correspond via private messages. There are also a healthy amount of plugins to help you extend the functionality of your MyBB forum.

While MyBB is my first choice for free forum software there are some drawbacks.  The developers will claim it is “easy to use” but I’m going to tell you from experience it is not.  The disadvantage to MyBB is that it has a somewhat steep learning curve.  I personally do not find the administration interface and backend intuitive.  If you decide to use MyBB you will have to spend time reading the documentation and figuring out how to do a lot of things.

Luckily what makes MyBB the most ideal choice is what makes forums great, the community around it.  If you have questions or issues about MyBB you’ll get them answered in the support forums in one day or a few hours most of the time.  You will find people are helpful and eager to answer questions to help out fellow MyBB administrators having trouble and needing advice.

If you want to see what you can do with MyBB go visit HaraJuJu, a community for Japanese fashion.  While the site has an extreme amount of customization it is still built on MyBB.  It is absolutely mind blowing how good HaraJuJu looks and it is one of the best designed forums I’ve ever seen.

MyBB is quite stable, has been around for a long time, is actively developed, and should be a top consideration if you are looking at free forum software.

PhpBB

Probably the oldest and best known free and open source software out there is PhpBB, php Bulletin Board, which seems like it’s been around forever.  That’s mainly because it has been and likely if you’ve joined any forums, at least one of them was running on PhpBB.

PhpBB is powerful and has nice features but it is somewhat tricky to learn to use.  Ideally you should have someone help you setup the forum and help maintain and upgrade it when needed.  PhpBB upgrades from what I’ve read can be tricky especially when there is a lot of customization with plugins and modifications.  If you are completely new to building a website, I don’t think PhpBB is ideal.  If you love coding in php, then you’ll probably no issues.

Other issues regarding PhpBB is that spammers delight in hitting forums running on PhpBB.  Attempting to deter forum spam is quite hard but doable if you are diligent.  MyBB suffers from some of the same problems but I hear with PhpBB it is worse.  I’ve also read there are some security issues with PhpBB but I’m really not sure what they are as I’ve never run a phpBB forum.

The advantage to PhpBB is that it’s been around forever and it is easy to find people that know the ins-and-outs of this forum software.  There are also tons of modifications and hacks that people have built over the years for this forum software.  In addition phpBB can handle incredibly large communities like the Ars Technica boards.  If you check out Gaia that is another extremely large forum community and its probably one of the better designed phpBB forums out there.

Overall I’m not a fan of phpBB because of it’s complexity but lots of sites use it.

Simple Machines

Simple Machines (SMF for short) is a another good choice on this list of best free forum software.  What’s good about SMF is that it that the administration panel is easier to use out of all the forum software on this list.  It’s intuitive and those new to the platform shouldn’t have any issues with it.

Even though SMF is nice for beginners it doesn’t seem to be as actively developed as phpBB and MyBB.  While installing plugins is easy and they are some great free ones available, I just don’t see a lot of the plugins as actively maintained by developers.  Some Simple Machines modifications are kind of tricky or the plugins I wanted to use were too outdated.  So when I considered building a SMF board, I searched for a forum web designer to build out this with the features I wanted.  Too build this SMF forum with all the features I wanted the quotes I was getting back were so high due to the customization and modification work it would have made more sense to buy an IPBoard or XenForo license honestly.

You could probably live with having some issues with SMF since the backend is better than phpBB or MyBB but help with in the SMF community can be sparse.  If more developers maintained plugins, they were easier to implement and there was more active support, I’d prefer to use SMF.

The largest scale SMF board I’ve seen is run by the Czech security software company, Avast, for technical support.  It’s not well designed but it works flawlessly and handles lots of posts and users well.

Fluxbb

Want a forum that is lightweight?  Does not have a lot of added bloated code?  Is extremely light on server resources?  FluxBB, Flux Bulletin Board, is your most ideal option.

Designed to have unfeatures FluxBB is good for those that need a forum without having to worry about something not working.  Obviously the more cool features the more likely something will go wrong.  (Any web developer will tell you this.)  Still there are many FluxBB modifications if you want.  Just the idea here is that are not included in general installs and you add features you want yourself.

FluxBB is not nearly as popular as the MyBB, phpBB, or SMF.  There is still a strong dedicated FluxBB community though.

FluxBB won’t win design awards but if you just need something simple this will work.  Keep in mind standard FluxBB forums look much better than a lot of the other lightweight options out there.  The best FluxBB forum I’ve seen goes to TextPattern, an open source content management system (like WordPress), by a far mile.

Choosing Forum Software

One of the issues I’ve seen with choosing forum software is that is it hard to know what you like, or don’t, about any of the above mentioned forum software options until you have built an active and engaged community.  Only after you have used the software for awhile do you truly know if it fits your needs. For anyone that has tried to start a discussion forum from scratch you know it is not easy to build a critical mass and that’s why most people don’t do boards.  Also I showcased what the best examples of what you can with MyBB, phpBB, Simple Machines, and FluxBB.  Those examples took a lot of work and take a lot of upkeep.

If you go with one of these and you are not happy, you can always switch between forum software.  Luckily all the forum software I’ve talked about in this article is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database.  Since all these forum software uses the same underlying technology switching is easier between SMF, MyBB, phpBB, and FluxBB if needed.  Still dealing with moves can cause headaches and issues depending on the size of the forum and complexity of add-ons.  Somebody might have experience dealing with thees problems. :)

The “best free forum software” is a misnomer as it depends on your goals and what you need out of a discussion forum.  Also keep in mind that fans of these forum software still have issues and complaints with them too.  The guy who runs HaraJuJu believes that MyBB is in desperate need of a “humanization project” meaning it needs to built for regular people.  I totally agree with this.

Like I said above I prefer MyBB even though it’s not entirely intuitive as it at least I feel I can ask questions and get them answered when needed.  Others have different preferences for different reasons.  A lot of these scripts can be installed via 1-click auto installer by the way.  It depends on what web hosting company you use but this allows you to easily give them ‘test run’ to see what you like.

Don’t let anyone tell you that forums are dead because they are not.  (These are the same people that say email marketing is dead, which is also not true.)  Forums can be better than social media if done properly and they can earn revenue which is always good.  Hopefully whatever you choose it will allow you to culminate in having the best forum possible.

If you feel I’ve missed mentioning a feature or want to add your opinion about what you feel the best free forum software is, please leave a comment below.  What do you like or don’t like in the open source community?  Can you explain why?

Shutting a Website Down

shutting a website downShutting a website down is never easy but recently I went through this process.  I downloaded all the files for this site, zipped them, and then deleted them from the server on my web hosting account.  I recommend anyone who is going to shut down a website do this since if you have all the files backed up, you can put them up again.

It was kind of sad for me to shutdown the site honestly.  Why?  As a web developer you essentially feel like a failure that your project, which you invested a lot into, did not work.  I sort of blamed others for the fact it didn’t work.  However it really was my fault and there is not anyone else to blame.

I could have tried to redesign the site and make sure to keep adding new content everyday but deep down I knew the niche wasn’t going to work and it was a waste of time.  By that I mean it wasn’t going to make any money and my original monetization plan was misguided. Even if it the site had made money and had worked I wouldn’t have made enough to cover the investment into running and maintain the site.

Checking the stats I could see that it still the site still had traffic from long tail keywords.  When I closed it down a few days ago I actually was contacted by someone who liked the site asking what happened.  I explained the issue, like most web projects is, resources.  I can’t invest time into websites that won’t produce decent revenue.  I wish I could see everything through till a project works but hey life just doesn’t work that way.

I decided for now to keep the domain name if I want to revisit this niche in the future.  I just renewed the domain but I doubt that I will have the time, energy, or to tackle this niche again.  I guess we will see once I’m an internet millionaire. :)

If you have gone through the process of shutting a website down, how did you feel about it?  Relieved, bad, angry, or did you just accept it was the right thing to do?

HostGator Review – Terrible Web Hosting

hostgator reviewQuite often I get asked about HostGator as a web hosting company since a lot of people use and still recommend them.  What you are about to read is a an honest HostGator review about how they are a terrible web hosting company.

Adam’s HostGator Review

Let first start off by saying that I have used HostGator before the company’s founder, Brent Oxley, decided to sell his web hosting company to Endurance International Group (EIG).  Before the buyout they were a great web hosting company with pretty much unbeatable customer service, servers, and uptime.  However, since the EIG buyout things have gone downhill like all web hosting companies they acquire.

Server Speed

HostGator has moved a majority of customers using shared and VPS hosting from the Softlayer datacenter in Dallas, Texas to the the Bluehost datacenter facility in Provo, Utah.  HostGator Outages at the Provo datacenter have been often and really annoying for EIG customers which includes other web hosting brands like HostMonster, JustHost, and BlueHost.

Speed tests I’ve run using WebPageTest.org show that on average AdamYamada.com takes roughly 9-10 seconds to fully load the homepage while a second pass shows it usually takes 5-6 seconds.  Google PageSpeed Insights is not any better and my mobile speeds are pretty horrendous with HostGator.

Checking Google Webmaster Tools I can see that ever since the move to the Provo datacenter it takes Google much longer to crawl my websites too.  For anyone that does Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you know that Google only allots a certain amount of crawling time each site.  So server response time is important and Google has said that speed is a factor in search rankings.

I did try to improve this my subscribing to MaxCDN but if you read my MaxCDN review you will see that didn’t help.

Uptime

I use UptimeRobot and StatueCake to monitor my websites in addition to clients websites.  HostGator tends to have constant downtime which is expected from

Sometimes when I manually tell the Googlebot to crawl this site I get “Temporarily Unavailable” errors even though the site is up.  This isn’t reassuring to tell me that HostGator isn’t overpacking servers and my websites probably look down in the eyes of Google which I assume isn’t helping my SEO rankings.  In my opinion downtime hurts search engine rankings.

Server Errors

Having overpacked servers leads to tons of server errors. I got these “internal server errors” on HostGator all the time now.

hostgator error 500 internal server error

HostGator Customer Support

Dealing with HostGator customer support now feels like I’m doing karaoke during amateur hour.  Response to tickets can take a full 24 hours and mostly they will not reply with any helpful advice that isn’t canned or regurgitated from something they said before.  Chat times before the EIG buyout were minimal but now they are usually 30+ minutes so what is the point?  Phone support is terrible so I wouldn’t even try calling.  Only call HostGator if you believe you idiot and they will treat you like one.

Final Thoughts about HostGator

I’m definitely not sticking around with HostGator and I’ve already begun the process of searching for a new web hosting company.  I’ve been looking at shared hosting plans mostly from LiteSpeed web hosts which do not promise “unlimited” storage and bandwidth and have better uptime, server speed, and customer support.  I’ve stopped recommending HostGator altogether and no longer do I send any affiliate traffic their way.  Another thing to be aware of is that HostGator parks domains of customers using their DNS.

If you still want unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth on a shared hosting plan, I would recommend you go with Site5.  You can read my Site5 Review to get an idea about Site5 as a web hosting company.

If you have any thoughts about my HostGator review, please leave them in the comments below.  I’d be interested to hear others experiences with HostGator and Endurance International Group web hosting companies.  Has it been good, bad, or really awful and terrible?

Text Spam? Actually a Really Bad Domain Name

text spamDon’t you hate text spam?  How do these people even get your phone number?  Oh, wait… it’s actually just a really bad domain name and text spam.

Let me explain what happened.  Over the past few weeks I was getting text spam, or that’s what I thought, from what could only be described as a spam texts from a spam domain.  Here was the email – sh5@smile.ms – what am I supposed to think?  This is something legit?

I deleted most of these texts on my phone and then made attempts to actually block this annoying email from sending anything else my way, unsuccessfully.  A few weeks later when I when I had an appointment to get a teeth cleaning I learned at the dentist’s office that this was a service they use to actually confirm appointments.  Apparently these SMS services are a new and popular tool among medical offices.

Good idea but lets analyze this for a second.  Why would dentists pay a SMS service that uses a terrible domain name like Smile.MS? I’m a tech-savy individual that knows what a country code top level domain (ccTLD) is and I still thought this was text spam.  I’m sure there are thousands of non-tech inclined people that don’t know anything about domains and automatically assumed this was text spam as well.

I was not aware of this until I looked it up bu the .MS domain extension is for the country of Montserrat.  This is a tiny island in the Caribbean and is a territory of the United Kingdom.  The .MS domain touts itself as a good alternative on it’s website stating;

  • It is almost impossible to get your preferred easy to remember name in the .COM name space.  However, chances of getting a similar if not better name at the .MS name space are still very high.

  • There are only 35,000 one-word domain .com and .net names still available that use English words and phrases.  Get your preferred name with a .ms extension.

Of course then they make this statement;

 

  • Domain names give your company a degree of credibility on the Internet.  If you want to do business on the Internet, a domain name is essential.  Choose .ms

I’ve chronicled in my writings on here about my experiences explaining .CO domains to a relative, who hadn’t heard about them.   As well as how I lost out on consulting work due to mentioning the .IO domain extension.  The executive gave me a funny look when I said, “.IO domains” and I’m pretty sure saying anything about these start-up domains were a mistake.

So what is the angle supposed to be with Smile.MS?  Is this supposed to be cute, funny, or hip?  I honestly don’t understand it.  Matt Cutts doesn’t even really recommend ccTLDs when they are not used for their original intended purpose.  Of course how many people in Montserrat are buying .MS domains?  I imagine not that many.

I should admit I do own one .ME domain name but it’s intended purpose is as a URL shortener, not for building a service or website on.  I feel like alternative domains are as controversial as abortions these days as the debate rages on.

I appreciate this easy way to confirm appointments but again the major problem with this service is that now that I know what it is, I dislike it.  Since others do NOT know what it is they probably dislike it too.

Solution Reach, the company behind the Smile.MS service, clearly has the resources and capabilities to find something better.  They are just trying to save some bucks and are lazy.  They need to spend a ton of money on marketing and advertising to make this bad domain name better known, so people like me don’t assume it is text spam, or look for an upgrade.

Do you agree?  What do you think of getting emails from this terrible email – sh5@smile.ms?  What’s your general opinion of companies with resources opting for bad domains?

Forums are Dead, So Why are you Still on a Forum?

forums are dead

Forums are dead… soooo why are you still on a forum?

I had this question the other day when I was posting on a webmaster and SEO discussion forum because some smart ass dropped this bomb into a thread;

Forums are dead! Everyone and everything is moving to social and social media.

I will concede that online discussion forums have lost some of their luster over the years.  Social media is definitely the “new kid on the block” and this doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

I see these types of comments a lot on bulletin boards all over the web.  Since I was an active member of this particular forum I did what any rational person would do, I quoted him in my reply and said:

Get of this ____ forum then.

The reply I got one day later was;

Oh no, I don’t mean these forums!

Come on, people… really?  Why would you post this statement on a forum and then say you obviously don’t mean this particular forum is dying?  What I find odd is this user had far more posts than I did and was still quite active in the community.  While a lot of his posts and reputation took years to build-up there was no indication he was interested in abandoning his place in this webmaster community.

On this website I once asked, “Are forums better than Social Media?” If you see the study by Social Media Explorer shows they are.  I assume social media gurus like Dave Kerpen might tell you otherwise I still believe online discussion forums have a market and will stay.  Does anyone think text messaging is going anywhere?

While my foray into building online forums and communities hasn’t gone that well, I still don’t think that means there is no interested in them.  (My wide fucking open niche didn’t work out that well.)  Gaming and tech forums are still popular and active.   Hey, I even see some social media marketing forums out there.

Derek Mueller showed us the disadvantage of platforms in his Facebook Fraud video.  On social media you aren’t sure if you are getting bots or real people.  With forums, as long as the spam stays off, you know you are actively engaging in meaningful discussions.

Probably people who believe forums are dead are the same people who think email marketing is dead.  It’s not in case you were wondering and email newsletters have seen a resurgence in the past couple of months.

Anyway I’m unsure where this rhetoric comes from, but what are your thoughts? Are forums dead?  Is social media taking the place of these outlets?  Will some other technology or type of site replace forums?