By stern on Oct 05, 2008
What would make 130 bloggers, mySQL hackers, PHP coders, writers, journalists, photographers, and other assorted geeks come into a midtown New York office building on a rainy Sunday morning when the Big Apple is more traffic impaired than usual?
And it was worth every bit of logistical challenge -- even for those of us who just got to hear WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg go apolitical about the "State of the Word," including an update on WordPress 2.7, how plugins become part of the core, how the WordPress community is thriving, and why he does what he does (and he's becoming more of a softspoken Jimmy Wales and less of a PHP hacker elite, and I think that's A Good Thing).
First principles: Sun was a sponsor of this event, which was held in our midtown NY office, and the obvious question (asked by a few people) was "Why Sun?" In my opening, caffeine-addled comments, I tried to outline three reasons:
(1) mySQL, the database on which WordPress is built, is part of Sun, and therefore WordPress users are indirectly Sun software users, whether by intention or default
(2) WordCamp epitomizes the sharing of good ideas. Sun has always believed in building on the ideas of others and sharing our ideas with others, whether through standards work (think NFS), open source projects like GlassFish and OpenSolaris or direct employee participation in a variety of smaller open source projects like noodling around with WordPress plug-ins.
(3) The digital divide is an information one. Bloggers help bridge it daily. Every great consumer technology - cell phones, printers, GPS systems, digital cameras - had its start as a very high end, professional (read: sometimes military) version which came down in price and up in accessibility, empowering an entire host of users to apply the technology in new ways. WordPress gives the power of a rich publishing system (not just word processing, but producing something with a vibe) to individuals.
But in the words of Marty Debergi, 3 minutes was enough of my yacking - Matt Mullenweg provided data points that had me scribbling as fast as I was nodding and remembering to keep my mouth closed.
- WordPress has 3 core developers and about 90 contributors. It defines "good community" and "global" - the core team lives in England. And Florida. And Vancouver - one each.
- WordPress has hit the big time - it powers the NFL blogs and CNN's blogs, the latter of which provided the best up to date Hurricane Ike information available. With over 230M daily page hits, wordpress.com aggregate content is a "significant percent" of Internet viewership.
- There have been over 11M downloads of WordPress, with 2.38M new blogs this year, 35.8M new posts and a run rate of about 4M posts a month. In larger units of measure, that's the equivalent of two full English Wikipedias a month.
- There have been 18 WordCamps this year, with 9 more planned. Matt showed pictures covering the spectrum from a hotel venue that surrounded an outdoor pool to a restuarant to a formal lecture hall. My note to other-selfs: local organization is key; without Jonathan Dingman driving this in NY, there would not have been a WordCamp, and his able team of volunteers made this fly. Thanks, guys.
- WordPress, like OpenOffice and Firefox (nice company!) is a widespread consumer open source phenomenon. I had to think about this - but it's a very strong statement about the permeation of "that open source stuff" into not only the broad market, but the next broad market that matters: the people who have grown up empowered by consumer technology.
- Great distribution enables great customization. With an average of 4.96 plugins per blog, but a very long tail of plugins available, nearly every WordPress instance is unique. If I was looking for a powerful statement about mySQL, that was one that fulfilled the wish in an unexpected way. The underlying database schema, database tables, and interfaces are the same through (nearly all) of that dynamic range of plugins, but the combinatorial possibilities are measured in scientific notation. This isn't a case of powerful being good -- as Matt later commented, simple is good. Simple but solid enough to do the job worked -- which is why they chose mySQL and PHP to power WordPress.
- Akismet, the anti-comment spam tool, remains the most popular plugin, attesting to the widespread nature and depth of the issue. Matt's take: Spammers are clever, and if AI is going to be invented, spammers will do it first.
Nothing like hard data to make my hastily scribbled notes look good =- and get us thinking about WordCamp NJ this summer.