Down to SF for WONTFIX Cabal

Flying down to SF for the day to attend WONTFIX Cabal, an unconference on open source project maintenance. The topics I’m struggling with most right now are: support burden (where to draw the line helping end users), and new feature development (how to decide what gets built). Even though open source has been around a while, it still feels very much like the early days.

Pressnomics

Off to Pressnomics in sunny Phoenix for my first time ever. Looking forward to a couple days packed with thoughtful conversations about doing business with WordPress.

Two proposed sessions for SRCCON 2015

SRCCON was my favorite conference last year, and in the running for favorite conference of all time. I liked it so much I’ve submitted two proposals for this year. You should too! Submissions are open until April 10th.

Continous Integration for Content

There’s lots of little attributes which define the “quality” of a piece of content — just like there are attributes which define code quality. Developers have continuous integration to run automated checks on their code, but journalists have editors — who are prone to human error. It’s easy and quite common to forget to add a photo credit, or spell the SEO title incorrectly. What are some ways we can automate these errors out of existence? Let’s get together, present some real world “quality” problems to work on, prototype, wireframe, and define algorithms, and then share our results.

Code review takes two

Code review is single-handedly the best way to level up your development skills. It’s also really hard! Let’s discuss code review methodologies as a group, and then pair up to practice.

Status

Off to Philly today for SRCCON, a gathering of some of the nerds who make the technology behind the news. I am so excited! For years, CMSes, publishing workflows, and the unsexy but very mission critical technologies have been my passion. Yet most of the conferences, online discussion, etc. have skirted around the topic, in part because legacy organizational structure hasn’t let the hackers get to work.

Funny how things go if you stick at it long enough. Washington Post and Vox have made great leaps forward, and convinced executives everywhere that change is possible. Hell, even The New Yorker relaunched on WordPress two days ago. NBD.

Back to Portland Saturday night, off to Sunriver Sunday through Wednesday, and then to New York for WCNYC Thursday through the following Wednesday. REST API retooling here we come!

The conference I want to attend this year

Blogging about the conference I want to attend this year because I don’t have the bandwidth to put it together. Let’s call it AgencyCon.

The key idea is to bring together a bunch of agencies that build on top of WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and whatever other frameworks. Personally, here’s what I’d like to get out of it:

  • Learn how others are turning their agencies from guns for hire to experts in developing particular types of projects. For instance, with Human Made I would love to see more inbounds that refer to the product work we’ve done (e.g. Happytables and WP Remote) and want to hire us for similar. Rather than just doing work with a particular type of tool because you’re good at it, we be doing more work that we have proven ourselves leaders of.
  • Hear horror stories of situations other agencies the gotten themselves into, and want for no one else to ever repeat.
  • See the cool projects other agencies have been building but can’t publicly discuss. I want to be inspired.

Ideally, it would be a two or three day retreat-like event in some great location. Solid presentations, but lots of time for networking. I’m a fan of conferences as a model for continuing education largely because many of us are making this up as we go along, and they’re high-bandwidth opportunities for sharing knowledge.

Let me know if you know of any events like this, or are up for planning it yourself. I’d really love to see this conference happen.

Status

Hitting up Write The Docs for the next two days. Considering it’s only four blocks away, it already has serious points towards its awesomeness.

Conference goal: obtain necessary ideas to get the WordPress Plugin Developer handbook back on track.

Webstock: Karen McGrane, Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Karen McGrane has made a career of dragging media companies kicking and screaming onto the internet. She’s helped with projects like a redesigned NYTimes.com, Atlantic Media’s web properties, and TIME’s new responsive redesign. “It’s tempting to think that mobile is a design and development problem,” but the real challenge of mobile is content.

To kick things off, compare NPR and Conde Nast. The latter has spent tremendous effort replicating print editions into iPad apps. When the iPad first launched, Karen asked Paul Ford what the effect might be on the publishing industry. This is what she heard:

We’re about to usher in a golden age of PDFs on the iPad.

Conde Nast has gone even as far as make print designers produce two layouts for the iPad: portrait and landscape. The 1980’s aren’t coming back, though.

NPR has taken an alternative approach: Create Once, Publish Everywhere. The story is created once, and let each platform determine how it should be presented. NPR’s CMS captures just the right structure for the content. All of this data is available through the API.

iPad issue sales are on the downswing for Conde Nast. For NPR, viewership has grown by 80%. They attribute it solely to the API and it’s downstream effects on how they produce editorial products.

Thirty years ago, TV Week made the decision to produce multiple versions of their content, and assign meaningful metadata to it. Thirty years later, that content still has value because it’s reusable in new or uninvented contexts.

“News organizations already have structured content […] So many problems in mobile would be solved if everything had a dek.”

One of the biggest challenges in digital is the notion that content and form are closely coupled. That how something looks has a significant influence on what it means. That there’s a “primary platform” for a given piece of content. For many news organizations, this primary platform is still print.

Adaptive content doesn’t mean content prepared for print and then moved to other devices. Nor does it mean content prepared for the web, then pushed to print and mobile. It means focusing on structured content that can live anywhere.

Here’s how it can be done:

  • Write for the chunk – Many CMSes give writers WYSIWYG editors where they can dump in whatever they want. They should not be permitted this.
  • Demystify metadata – The Guardian’s iPad application uses an algorithm to read editorial decisions from the InDesign layout to determine story priorities. Brilliant reuse of existing effort.
  • Better CMS workflow – Writers hate fields and checkboxes because the interface is terrible. “CMS is the enterprise software that UX forgot.” E-commerce checkout flows are analysed to the pixel — content creation flows should receive just as much attention.

“Metadata is the new art direction.” – Ethan Resnick. The more work you put into structuring your content now, the more opportunities you’ll have in the future.