Jetpack: Like WordPress.com, But Without the Hosting

When new features are introduced into WordPress.com, some of the people with WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere ask when and how the features will be available to them. The new Jetpack plugin makes a bunch of WordPress.com features available for self-hosted blogs.

Jetpack has its own site, Jetpack.me, and of course its own blog. In the blastoff post, Matt announced that some of the largest hosts have made Jetpack part of the WordPress install. There is coverage elsewhere (e.g., TechCrunch), but not as much I’d have expected.

Jetpack 1.1 (I’m not sure how it differs from 1.0) bundles eight features, including the shortcodes available at WordPress.com. It will make it easier to migrate from .com to another WordPress host. The Intense Debate comment management system/plugin in not part of Jetpack 1.1. I’m not sure whether it will be included in a future release.

I’ll probably try out Jetpack next time I do some admin on one of my excessive number of self-hosted WordPress blogs.

WordPress Plugins: Abundance and Curation

One of the main plots in the story of the web is the replacement of scarcity by abundance. For example, you want to find restaurant reviews? Go ahead, knock yourself out, but try to finish with the reviews before the restaurants close for the night. As that example shows, abundance is itself a problem.

Abundance isn’t just a problem for consumers of web content. It’s also a problem for content creators. For example, what plugins should you use for your WordPress site?

The official plugin directory currently lists over 10,000. You can search by keyword, but that doesn’t solve the abundance problem. Searching for the keyword analytics yields 270 plugins.

So we need selection, or ordering, or, to use a currently fashionable term, curation. The plugin directory does this by sorting; you get to choose the criterion (Relevance, Highest Rated, Newest, Recently Updated, or Most Popular).

Weblog Tools Collection recently asked “WordPress Genuises” for the top 5 plugins they use in every site they set up, and published the results. I’ve been guided by those results in setting up the PTA website I’m working on.

I’m interesting in approaching plugin curation from another direction. There are several value-added WordPress hosts, such as page.ly and WP Engine. They use plugins. I’m interesting in their selection of plugins, since it provides a sort of implicit curation of plugins. I’ll contact them, and see what I can come up with.

Meanwhile, any comments on plugins and how to select among the abundance are welcome.

Choosing an Analytics Plugin

I’ve been looking for plugins for the WordPress blogs at the new and exciting WanderNote site. In particular, I’ve been looking at analytics/statistics plugins. One such is WordPress.com Stats, a plugin that essentially provides a self-hosted blog with the stats and reports available at WordPress.com.

I’m familiar with those stats, because I have this and other blogs at WordPress.com. But I wanted to try something different and maybe get to know Google Analytics. Searching the plugin directory at WordPress.org for analytics yielded 150 results: there’s no shortage of plugins these days.

The two big analytics plugins, in terms of downloads from the directory, are Google Analyticator and Google Analytics for WordPress. Each has over 700,000 downloads, and each was updated within the last month or two. Those statistics are I believe more telling than the average rating, provided the average is 4/5 or more, and indeed the rating is right around that mark for each plugin.

So I installed each of the two in a different WanderNote blog, in order to see some differences. There were mainly similarities: set up a profile in Google Analytics, tell the plugin about that profile, wonder why things don’t seem to be working, realize that it takes hours for Analytics to get going…

A difference showed up right away on the blog dashboards. Analyticator added an analytics summary which, by the way, started showing visits before the Google Analytics site itself. Analytics for WordPress added the latest news from Yoast: the feed from the plugin developer’s blog. Score one – probably the decisive one – for Analyticator, and for its developer, Ronald Heft.

Mobile Themes For WordPress

If you’re reading this on a mobile phone, you won’t be seeing this blog’s Simpla Way theme. That’s because WordPress.com automatically uses a mobile theme when displaying blogs on a mobile device.

What about self-hosted WordPress? I went over to the WordPress.org theme directory, searched for mobile, and was shown just one theme: Carrington Mobile. The thing is, a mobile theme isn’t much good without code to select it when appropriate.

So the mobile hotspot for WordPress is plugins, not themes. Of the many plugins tagged with mobile, here are those relevant to mobile themes (with at least a thousand downloads).

  • WPtouch iPhone Theme (299,390 downloads) “transforms your WordPress blog into an iPhone application-style theme… when viewed from an iPhone, iPod touch, Android or BlackBerry touch mobile device.” This theme in plugin’s clothing is used (with modifications) by WordPress.com for such devices.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition (100,296) seems similar, and is used (with modifications) by WordPress.com for mobile devices other than those on the WPTouch list.
  • MobilePress (38,818) allows device- or browser-specific themes, and allows development of custom mobile themes.
  • WordPress Mobile Pack (18,108) includes a selection of mobile themes.
  • Wapple Architect Mobile (6,186) sounds interestingly different. “Other mobile plugins for WordPress use a default mobile style… Wapple… retains the styling of your site from web to mobile.”
  • MoFuse (4,074) allows creation of, and redirect to, a mobile version of the blog.
  • Mobilize by Mippin (3,425) is similar to MoFuse in that it involves a mobile version of the blog.

My most mobile-focused blog, Android Icon, currently uses WordPress Mobile Edition. I plan to use that blog for a grapple with Wapple, and maybe a try of some of the other plugins listed above, soon.

WPPlugins: Commerical Plugins for WordPress

WordPress App Store: that’s WPPlugins, as described by the folks behind it (and by Daniel of TechCrunch). Buyers from the store are looking for premium plugins, and are willing to pay for them. Sellers are developers looking to make money from their plugins.

WordPress plugins are available from many places, including the Extend section of WordPress.org. You can get plugins and themes from there. There’s an area for commercial themes: “GPL themes with extra paid services available around them.” There isn’t one for commercial plugins.

So one way of looking at WPPlugins is as the commercial plugins area, detached from the main WordPress/Automattic continent. That commercial plugins area is run, not by Automattic, but Incsub. I respect Incsub and its CEO, James Farmer, and I’ll draw their attention to this post and to the following questions about WPPlugins.

  1. Does WPPlugins have the blessing/support/tolerance of Automattic? WPPlugins does seem to plug a gap (pun intended and apologized for) in WP.org.
  2. WPPlugins people “assess, check and scrutinise every plugin on the site.” That’s good. What about combinations of plugins? If you buy two plugins from WPPlugins, are you assured that they will play nicely together?
  3. Then there’s the complicated followup to the previous question. Does the service include any guidance as to which plugins work with which of the many themes out there? With which of the many plugins out there, most of which aren’t suitable for WPPlugins?

    I’m not suggesting that the WPPlugins people can check the plugins in their store against every theme and plugin out there: that’s just not possible. But against a list of popular or otherwise prominent themes and plugins? That might be a useful service for the plugin/app store to provide.

WordPress 2.5

Since WordPress 2.5 was released over the weekend, there’s been an avalanche of posts. This is my little snowflake of a contribution.

As Reuven Lerner remarked, the emphasis of the new release is on usability. That’s usability for the blogger/admin: usability for the reader depends on the theme, and on other administration choices.

I’m running 2.5 on one of my other blogs. I still find the interface a lot cleaner. I can even see how categories and tags being shifted down the post page, which I don’t like, can be seen as part of the spring cleaning.

I really appreciate the upgrade to plugin management. The plugins screen told me that a new version (1.1) of the Yahoo Media Player plugin was available, and a few clicks later, I was running the new version, with no need for any explicit downloading and uploading.

Usability has long been considered a weakness of free/open source software. It’s good to see GPL’d projects, such as WordPress, making usability a priority. WordPress.com, where this blog lives, should be getting 2.5-ized soon.