WordPress.com CSS Upgrade

A few months ago, there was a topic in the WordPress.com forums in which the nature of the CSS Upgrade was clarified. The question was: what happens if you decide not to renew the upgrade?

To illustrate it using this blog: I purchased the CSS upgrade about a year ago, for $15. I had to decide whether to renew it. I learned from the above-linked forum topic that, if I didn’t renew the upgrade, my existing CSS edits would stay in place, but I wouldn’t be able to make further CSS edits without the upgrade.

What I learned then now turns out to be wrong. What actually happens is that although the CSS is ‘retained’ in the system… it is no longer displayed on your blog.

So: “Purchasing the upgrade entitles you to use Custom CSS on one blog for one year.” That’s what the Custom CSS page currently tells us. It used to tell us that “Purchasing the upgrade entitles you to edit CSS on one blog for one year.” The emphasis is mine. The old quote comes via Mark of Automattic.

I’m disappointed. That’s not because I feel forced to purchase the upgrade for another year. I purchased it before seeing that the rules have changed. I was thinking of making a few more tweaks to my custom CSS and then giving up the upgrade, but decided that I’ll probably want to make a few more in the coming year, and that it’s only $15.

No, I’m disappointed that we clarified the policy, were pleased with both the policy and the clarity, and now find that the policy is less favorable to users than we thought it was.

Portadentity: All Right Then, Data Portability

Your portadentity is your identity, portable across web services. You probably haven’t heard the term before, because it just occurred to me, and Googling it yields no hits. The concept may well be familiar, since it has received a lot of coverage in the last month or so. A recent example comes from yesterday’s Financial Times.

It is a frustrating fact of modern internet life. Users of websites such as Facebook and Google spend hours building up and maintaining friend lists and e-mail address books, but when it comes time to move such social information to another online service they frequently find it impossible to get their data back out. Instead, they must start re-entering their personal details from scratch.

Another statement of the problem is the Smashcut video. It provides part of an argument for “data portability.” I don’t find that term very useful, but suspect that we are stuck with it, and regard it as a price worth paying for the achievements of the Data Portability Working Group (DPW).

At the heart of data portability is your identity. The DPW, consistent with its policy of using existing standards, uses OpenID for digital identity. Your OpenID, together with the data attached to it, is what I’d call your portadentity.

Today’s big news about the DPW is that Microsoft has joined. Read/Write Marshall reacts as follows. Microsoft’s joining the group is an event of sufficiently complex historical meaning that I’m hesitant to try and interpret it here. I won’t try to interpret it either.

I’m more inclined to spend my interpreting energies on Matt’s statement yesterday about Automattic’s vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more. I added the emphasis on identity.

Here’s what I hope Automattic will do about portadentity… all right, data portability.

  • Appoint someone to the DPW.
  • Make WordPress.com a consumer of OpenIDs. It’s currently a producer only.
  • Make it clear where Gravatars might fit in to all this.

WordPress.com, TypePad, Storage, and More

On WordPress.com, everyone’s free upload space has been increased 60x from 50mb to 3,000mb. Matt followed up the news with some competitor comparisons.

To get the same amount of space at our nearest competitor, Typepad, you’d pay at least $300 a year. Blogger only gives you 1GB. We’re doing the same thing for free.

I thought of following up on the comparison with TypePad, then forgot about it. Then I saw that Justin interprets Matt’s announcement as “FU” to Typepad and decided to do the comparison after all.

The table shows that the comparison is a tricky one, in that WordPress.com and TypePad are packaged differently. Automattic offers free, ad-supported, hosted blogging at WordPress.com, and offers a few specific paid upgrades. Six Apart offers paid, ad-free blogging at TypePad.com in the form of different packages: Basic and Plus are the “smallest.”

WordPress.com WordPress.com upgrades TypePad Basic TypePad Plus
Price (year) Free $50 $90
Storage 3 GB (= 3000 MB) + $20 for + 5 GB,… 100 MB 500 MB
Can store JPG, GIF Yes Yes Yes
Can store MP3, video No With storage upgrade Yes Yes
Bandwidth Unlimited 2 GB/month 5 GB/month
Domain mapping No + $10 No Yes
Ads Yes, by/for Automattic Ad-related upgrade in the works Yes, by/for you if you want Yes, by/for you if you want
Templates/themes Yes Yes Yes
Drag and drop to customize layouts Using sidebar widgets (only within sidebar) No Yes
Customize CSS No + $15 No No

The mapping between features of WordPress and of TypePad isn’t always a neat one. This is borne out in particular by the last rows of the table, and by the notes they prompt me to add. Custom CSS for TypePad requires the Pro package, which costs $150/year. But TypePad plus offers some customization options not available at WordPress.com, even with the CSS upgrade.

The difference is sufficient to prompt the cliche of “comparing apples and oranges.” It might be interesting to expand the comparison to include pears and kiwi fruit: that is, Blogger and Vox. In fact, Matt made the comparison with Blogger’s storage allowance in the above quote. Vox is the most recently-introduced of Six Apart’s blogging services.

For a comparison between Automattic and Six Apart, see my guest post at Read/Write Web. But note that Six Apart has since sold LiveJournal.

WordPress.com: Feed Stats and IRC

Great will be the rejoicing among the WordPress.com tribe over the return of the prodigal statistics. I refer to feed stats.

Assuming that those still reading are fellow WordPress.com bloggers, let me expand on that. Your stats page includes Top Posts and Pages. For each such post (or page) there’s a graph icon. Click on that, and you’ll see, yes, a graph of views for that post. The top layer of the graph gives you a feed statistic: the number of “syndicated views” (as opposed to “on-site views”).

I’m sure that there will be many questions, and requests for more feed stats. My top priority would be stats on clicks from the links in the feed.

This is just the “first manifestation” of the second coming of feed stats, according to Andy’s announcement post. There’s way more to come, according to Matt via IRC.

That reminds me, there is now a WordPress.com IRC channel. There are currently about a dozen people there, including about half of Automattic. The room isn’t buzzing, though. We’re all doing other things (such as writing this post).

WordPress.com: Upgrades

I have two questions for you. I need to lead up to them…

Shortly after starting this blog at WordPress.com, I chose the Simpla theme, purchased the custom CSS upgrade, and customized the CSS. I also purchased the domain mapping upgrade.

That was almost a year ago. The theme-related posts (to which I linked above) have been steady sources of page views ever since.

My WordPress.com dashboard has started to remind me of the anniversary, and that I need to buy Automattic an anniversary present if want to continue the CSS upgrade for a further year. I’m inclined not to purchase it, since the custom CSS already in place will stay. What you purchase is editable CSS, rather than custom CSS; this was clarified in a support forum topic.

So the first of my questions is: are there any further changes to the CSS for this blog I should make before my upgrade runs out at the end of this month? In other words, CSS geeks, is there anything else I should change?

The second of my two questions is: why isn’t the dashboard reminding me of the fact that my domain mapping upgrade is about to run out? It expires at the same time as my CSS upgrade. It may be something to do with the fact that I buy the mapping, and not the domain itself, from Automattic.

Hooked by Hulu

I remember reading about the online video service Hulu. I didn’t pay much attention to it until today, when several of the blogs to which I subscribe announced that they had invites to the private beta. I succumbed to what I think was the third such announcement: the one on ReadWriteWeb. It includes the word unimpressive, but it also includes Simpsons.

The first episode I watched was the most recent return of Sideshow Bob. Hulu allows you to embed a video, either in part or in the form of a clip you can define yourself. I clipped a minute or so toward the start of the show. The Simpsons have a Tivo, Marge has just been guilted into watching the ads rather than skipping over them, and then the main plotline of the episode gets under way.

Hulu includes ads, so my ad-related clip seems like an appropriate first selection. I’ve found the ads tolerable so far.

Due to WordPress.com policy, I can’t embed the clip in this post. By the way, the Hulu support/FAQ page explicitly addresses this aspect of WordPress.com, although it makes it sound as though the limitation applies to all WordPress blogs.

So I embedded it in a post at another blog. I’ve been meaning for a while to set up an annex to house embeds and other animals forbidden by the landlords of this blog. I just got round to it, in the form of Widget Way at Tumblr.

There are several limits on Hulu. One relates to what you can watch; for example, the current season of The Simpsons is there, but there’s nothing from previous seasons. Another limit relates to who can watch. The site is currently invite-only and US-only – but there are ways round that.

All in all, I’m glad to have bitten on the Hulu hook, although I wouldn’t say that I was hooked on Hulu.

Feed Now With Delicious Diggy Stumbleness

If you’re reading this in your feed reader (Bloglines, Google Reader, or the like), many thanks for subscribing. This post is for you. If you’re reading this at the blog itself, thanks to you too, and please consider subscribing: go on, click on that lovely little orange icon in the sidebar.

I’ve just turned on the Enhanced Feeds option, recently offered at WordPress.com. Hence you see that this post has no comments (although you could change that), lots of tags, and so on.

You also see that you could add this post to del.icio.us, Digg, or Stumbleupon without having to leave the comfort of your feed reader. I’m sure that there will be lots of requests to add other social bookmarking services. My own request would be for reddit. Of the three initially provided at WordPress.com, I use del.icio.us occasionally, and have dabbled with the other two without becoming a regular user.

Then it occurred to me that those of us who send blog posts to del.icio.us shouldn’t have to rely on the blogs to which we subscribe to put “add to del.icio.us” in the feed. It should be built in to the feed reader, or it would at least make a good greasemonkey script. So I’ve just installed the del.icio.us Reader script.

WordPress.com and the Millions

The WordPress.com front page gives the number of blogs hosted at the site. It’s approaching two million. But how many of them are active?

There are over half a million active blogs at WordPress.com, according to Matt’s November wrap-up. But what does “active” mean? It means at least one human pageview.

I’m (even) more impressed with the half-million than with the two million. I’ll look forward to the annual wrap-up: 2007 has been a big year for WordPress.com and for Automattic.

Blogger Drafts OpenID

I’ve just left a comment at the official blog for Blogger in draft. I did so using OpenID. For reasons why it’s good that we can do that, just follow the link.

In OpenID parlance, Blogger is now a consumer of OpenIDs. To be more specific, Blogger proper will be a consumer once the “comment using OpenID” feature moves there from Blogger in Draft (beta).

WordPress.com has been a producer of OpenIDs since March, but has not (yet) become a consumer. I hope that this move from Blogger reminds WordPress.com about OpenID…

Widgets, WordPress.com, and Limits

There’s an enthustiastic article in USA Today about widgets. It concludes with a quote from Adam Rifkin: “There’s no limit to what widgets can do.” Joe Wickert, in linking to the article, states that “widgets are the future.”

The above quotes do not seem to bode well for WordPress.com. Blogs hosted there (such as this one) cannot include javascript and the like; such code is stripped out. Hence the support forums frequently see the lament: My code has gone from my widget.

There are a few specific widgets to which WordPress.com allows access. For example, I’ve embedded media from Youtube, Sonific, and other services on this blog. I specify the service and the URI (e.g., Youtube and the URI of the video), and WordPress.com fills in the details.

The more intense “widget-mania” becomes, the less acceptable the restriction on widgets at WordPress.com will seem. It’ll be interesting to see how Automattic, the people running WordPress.com, handle this. Options include:

  • Stay on the current course. Widget-mania may be a passing fad. There may be enough bloggers not afflicted by it. More and more services may provide javascript-free versions of their widgets.
  • Make a wide variety of widgets available. Partnering with a trusted “widget broker might be the best way to do this.
  • Allow javascript and the like. I consider this unlikely.

Some notes on terms, reserved for this point to avoid complicating the above: