WordPress business Podcast

I’m moving my business to a new office at the end of the month, which is going to involve a 15 minute drive every morning and every evening.

Now I used to listen to lots of podcasts back when I commuted to London every day. But for the last 4 years I’ve not done any regular journeys long enough to get a proper listen in.

So you can appreciate my surprised at how many WordPress specific podcasts there are. And so many are of great quality.

But I’d like to single one out today as the one that’s top of my list for my new commute…

The MattReport.com

For those who don’t know, it’s a rather excellent interview format podcast focused on the business of being in business in the WordPress economy.

Matt Medeiros, the host, has a relaxed approach and puts his interviewees at ease, which really enables him to draw deep detail out of them.

Most importantly though he asks really interesting questions, which, as someone at the early stages of building a WordPress oriented software business myself, are spot-on of interest to me.

Props to Matt & the MattReport.com

A couple of days of A Year Without Pants

I brought my most expensive eBook a couple of days ago – A Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun as a kindle book.

At £11.01 it costs many times more than the next most expensive one I’ve brought up until now. But up until now I’ve only been buying SciFi books.

A Year Without Pants is an ‘inside’ view of working within Automattic, the private company behind the WordPress.com website. Automattic is unique in the way it operates. All staff are remote employees, and the management hierarchy is incredibly flat.

This is of particular interest to me as I’ve been pretty much constantly over-subscribed with work in my business for about the last 4 months. I need to change how the business works, and one obvious possible change would be to spread the workload over more people than just me!

I’ve only read about 30% of the book so far, but can say it’s very well written, with a very easy to read style, and a good mix of humour and information.

I’m stunned, so far, at how different Automattic’s structure is – especially compared to the many Investment Banks I’ve worked with in the past. And yet Automattic continues to operate in an incredibly lean way and consistently pushes out reasonably high quality product.

There’s lots to learn from Automattic, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper. And I recommend A Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun to anyone interested in exploring new models of employing staff.

Taking on WordPress software development work

I’ve been doing many and varied things over the last 3 years down here in Devon, most of it has involved software development in some form or another, and more than 50% of that has involved WordPress.

Now WordPress and I fell out a couple of years ago. I was (and still am) managing many installations of it, but despite doing everything humanly possible to lock it down, I had several episodes of hackers injecting phishing pages onto sites which cost me many unhappy hours to clean-up. I’ve always kept the sites as up to date as possible, but plugins inevitably lag behind which can preclude updating immediately.

Anyway – things have changed significantly over the last year or so. I have been increasingly impressed with WordPress and can say hand-on-heart I haven’t heard about a single site hack (to my knowledge!) in over 12 months on my or anyone I know’s sites.

The stability and security is a fantastic step forward, and with the releases since V3 it has become, more and more, a platform on which I’ve enjoyed developing.

What I’ve realised recently is, that a significant portion of our income is now coming either directly or indirectly from WordPress, and where-as before that would have worried me, now I find it quite exciting.

So I’ve taken the decision to actively position the Software / Web side of the business directly toward WordPress.

I’ve tested this by doing some freelance work on People Per Hour for the last few weeks focused exclusively on WordPress, and have been pleasantly surprised to discover there is enough WordPress development work on there to keep me very busy.

Now that I’ve proved to myself that the field is so active, and now I’m happy that the environment is stable, I’m going to dedicate a significant portion of the business time and money into developing WordPress plugins and doing bespoke and semi-bespoke software development for WordPress.

The work we’ve been doing recently has been so diverse it’s been a fascinating process and I’ve been able to work with some seriously interesting people.

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For example, when Paul from AutoRaceSponsor.co.uk gave us 5 out of 5 stars, he left this feedback for

me:

Dave is great operator – seriously talented in my view. Understands concepts up front and communicates solutions with great clarity and visualization prior to going ahead with code that delivers!

It’s nice to know the efforts are appreciated 🙂

So if you, or someone you know, needs a website to work ‘just-so’, then we’d be happy to develop a solution to your problem at a modest rate with great quality and fantastic service. http://www.davelopware.com/

BuddyPress activity streams vs forums

I’m generally happy with the way that WordPress / BuddyPress combo is working for the new community website I’ve put together (Ivybridge Matters)

But one thing I think our users generally find confusing is understanding the difference between posting comments directly into the activity stream for a group, versus going into the forum and creating posts and replying in there.

Generally comments in the activity stream disappear quickly for all but the quietest groups, and yet it’s the first thing users are presented with, and the most likely way they are liable to try to post updates and questions – which are soon lost ‘off the bottom’.

To encourage (force?) users to use the Forum, I’ve tweaked the BuddyPress code so that only a groups’ Admins and Moderators can post comments directly into a groups activity stream. WARNING: This is not a generic solution. The code change, changes it for all groups and I’ve only tested it (and only expect it) to work for BuddyPress 1.5.

The tweaked file is available for download here and is a variation of the file
wp-content/plugins/buddypress/bp-themes/bp-default/activity/post-form.php

Given that I’m using BuddyPress 1.5 (with Forums for Groups installed), and the theme ‘BuddyPress Colours‘ (version 1), to get this to work I simply had to:

  1. Create the directory wp-content/themes/buddypress-colours/activity
  2. Extract post-form.php from the zip file and copy it into the directory created in Step 1
All seems to be working well for me. Feel free to use this as you will from my point of view. Let me know how you get on, and I’d appreciate any comments or suggestion.
Ideally it would be driven from BuddyPress / Settings / ‘Restrict activity stream comments to Admin & Moderators only’ yes/no. But I haven’t the time now to look into that for now.