WordPress Meetup Wrapup

Had a good time at the WordPress meetup in NYC last night. Finally met Matt Mullenweg and various other people. It was surprisingly reminiscent of the early days of the Web, circa 1995. Most of the user group meetings/meetups/conferences I’ve been going to lately are very heavily weighted toward techies and programmers. This one was a real mixed group of programmers, artists, writers, sysadmins, VCs, and business folks. I haven’t run into a group like that for a while.

One idea that came across was that there’s a lot of interest in using WordPress as a complete content management system, not just a blogging engine. There’s quite a bit of concern about its scalability, though. Some people are using WordPress for high-volume sites with no problems. Some of us (myself included) are using it for low-volume sites with major problems. It’s not clear where the problem lies. I’ve ruled out my network connection, but otherwise I don’t have good enough profiling tools to tell where my bottlenecks lie. Suggestions are appreciated. Upgrading my blogs to 2.1.3 does seem to have made some improvement. I get fewer timeout errors than I used to, but they still occur far too frequently. Possible issues include Mac OS X, PHP, WordPress itself, MySQL, and mod_rewrite.

User interface is another concern, though one that has not been fully recognized yet. Blogs in general and WordPress specifically work because they remove hierarchy and page placement from the list of things a site author has to worry about. Remember that most non-technical users still can’t reliably navigate a file system. They do not understand nested folders and directories. If end users haven’t learned how to do this in the last 25 years, there’s no reason to expect them to start now.

When publishing blogs, end users do not not have to think about these things any more. They simply write a post, push a button, and it goes somewhere. They don’t need to decide where it goes. That’s very powerful, and it’s why blogs succeeded in allowing end users to publish on the Web when content management systems failed.

Possibly the answer to the problem is a Wiki plugin for WordPress. Every 404 page shown to a logged in user should have an option to create this page. However, that still requires the user to link to or type a hierarchy into the location bar, so I’m not sure that’s really the right answer. (Then again,. it ight be a very nice plugin for more techie users like me. Plugins are a very string feature of WordPress. One size does not need to fit all.)

The Pages functionality looks like a good start. It could use a little cleanup, attention, and love. It’s the ugly stepchild of the WordPress system. However it’s heading in the right direction. An end user can write a new page without worrying about where it goes in the hierarchy. The only thing I think we might need to add there is a way to not have a page show up automatically linked from the front page. That may be a theme issue. I’ll have to look into that.

Yep, it does seem to be a theme issue. They show up as a result of this code from Kubrick:

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This code lists all pages, but the theme could change so only pages tagged with a certain category such as “sidebar” would be listed in the sidebar. The user interface for indicating which links go where should be able to be improved. I don’t think that any deep changes are necessary, though.

Hmm, that’s weird. I can pass a category name to wp_list_pages(inlcude="sidebar") but I can’t actually assign a page to a category such as sidebar. This may need a little more work than I thought. Maybe in 2.2 with tags? Seems I’m not the only one who wants this.

The venue, Heartland Brewery Times Square, was better than most. We got a reasonably quiet back room where we could actually hear each other. Beer was OK. Food was mostly hideous though. Next time I go I think I’ll just drink my dinner.

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