wordpress

My #WP10 Story

WordPress is 10 years old today.

I started making websites a few years earlier, but WordPress did something for me that all the HTML framesets, <table>-based layouts, and animated GIFs of the 1990s didn’t: it helped me find my voice.

I encountered blogging in high school. This was when LiveJournal and Xanga were hot, and many of my classmates read each other’s long form posts and left regular comments which sometimes ended up essay-length themselves. (I must admit feeling like an old codger when I reminisce about the rich engagement we had in “my day” compared to the signal-to-noise ratio in today’s knee-jerk status updates.)

I had been a tech geek long before I started blogging, and WordPress wasn’t my first blogging software. But WordPress did give me a completely new perspective on my passion for technology. At its core, it was software that removed the technical complexities from the writing process, providing me with an environment to explore my thoughts and share them with people who were important to me. And that led me to my own passion for technology: tools which aren’t just interesting for their own sake, but tools which enable all kinds of people to speak their voice in a more effective manner than was possible before.

I’m staggered to think of my life since those early days of exploring my own voice with this personal blog. Somehow along the way, I started helping other people and nonprofits use WordPress as well. I got a tech-related degree in college, but since graduating, I’ve paid my bills with open-source publishing software like WordPress and Drupal, and discovered a life where each exciting challenge creates opportunity for everyone involved. What started as a hobby in school has turned into a real pursuit of passion.

The best technologies are the ones which are powered by, and in turn serve to empower, great people.

Facebook Timeline first reactions

I just turned on the new Facebook Timeline as per this howto guide.

I don’t know how much people will use it, but wow, they’ve made memory lane a whole lot richer of an experience. There’s tons of stuff to look back on that I wouldn’t have had thought to document myself.

Also, I was worried that some of the new ways you can share with friends in realtime wouldn’t be implemented effectively. But as soon as I clicked a Spotify “play” action, I was presented with this simple menu:

I was cautious because of Facebook’s previous missteps when sharing data from other services, but it looks like they really understand that people want to make decisions about what to share with whom, and they especially don’t want that decision made for them.

Third party sites and apps that posted things to the Facebook news feed before now were usually limited to just links, or if you had some serious savvy, perhaps some slightly richer media. But there were always rumors and anecdotal experiments which implied that Facebook treated data from third parties like second class citizens, not to be shown as prominently as content posted through Facebook’s own apps. This will clearly change with the new Open Graph and timeline – developers have way more control over how to import their media into Facebook, and can publish third party content to Facebook in a much richer way as well.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but here’s an example that comes to mind: I have a presence on several social networks, but I don’t entrust any of them with the stuff that’s most important to me: my blog and photos. That stuff is so important to me that I host it myself, even when some other companies’ services might provide me a nicer experience or a bigger network of my friends. To compensate for the interaction I lose by putting this stuff on my domain, I use RSS-based tools to post content from ZekeWeeks.com to Twitter, Facebook, and hopefully Google+ soon. But it’s always just a dumb link, perhaps with a thumbnail and an excerpt, whereas my Facebook subscribers would see a rich photo gallery or video if I had decided to put it all in Facebook instead.

Well, no more. With Open Graph, I can choose to exist outside Facebook without sacrificing the rich sharing inside Facebook. I can’t wait to see individuals and groups start taking advantage of this in a way that opens new possibilities to them, instead of locking them into a proprietary platform.

That said, I have no idea how this stuff is going to play out in reality. There are tons of question marks about it still. And Facebook has a huge amount of existing users who may have a trouble with a paradigm shift on an existing network that they’ve already conceptualized in a fixed way.

 

Important security note for WordPress users

There’s a vulnerability in a piece of software called timthumb.php that is used by some self-hosted WordPress themes and plugins for image manipulation (not WordPress.com.)

If you have shell access to your web server, go to your web root directory and run:

find -name timthumb.php

(If you can’t do it through the shell, check your hosting control panel’s file manager for a search function or ask your host to run the search for you.)

If you find timthumb on your server, figure out what plugins/themes use it and delete them for now. (I found that WP Featured Content Slider and Featured Post with thumbnail are among the affected plugins.) If removal isn’t an option, get a developer who knows their way around WordPress to safely delete the timthumb library without breaking the rest of your site.

Find full technical details at Zero Day Vulnerability in many WordPress Themes | mm.

I missed this last week: PicPlz is barely live as a service, and it’s already been spun off in a cash deal so its makers can be done with it.

These little mobile apps combine convenience with effortless social interaction, but the final loyalty isn’t to the user. I’m hoping that the social sharing experience for stuff like this becomes less dependent on proprietary services that try to own the social interaction. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to find more effective ways of recreating these rich experiences on platforms that let me own and control my content.