The Desktop App

wpappThere’s a new desktop app for WordPress blogs, this time from the good folks at Automattic, the people behind I know many of you have heard me say that and WordPress are two entirely separate entities, so let me clear this up right now. You can use this app with both and self-hosted WordPress(.org) blogs! Despite the app’s name, you can connect your self-hosted WordPress blog to with Jetpack and it’s Manage module, allowing you to work with your self-hosted WordPress blog in both and the app.

The new desktop app is mostly a wrapper for Calypso, the new interface packed full of the latest web technology. Calypso is where the real fun lies, conceived as an answer to “What if we rebuilt WordPress from scratch today?” It’s fast, responsive, and open source, with real-time notifications, the ability to work with multiple sites through the same interface, and a thoroughly re-built editor.

The desktop app brings Calypso to you in a browser-free app, free of occasionally troublesome browser extensions and poor support of the latest web technologies from certain browsers I dare not name, leveraging the processing power and local storage of your computer. It’s a whole new way to experience WordPress, packed into one convenient application.

Try the new Desktop App today, or even just Calypso at itself, you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Back on (again)

It wasn’t too long ago that I moved to after an almost three-year absence, and then quickly moved back to I had a lot going on and just wasn’t ready to take the plunge. Now, I am ready to take the plunge, and here I am, again.

I could re-hash all of the reason for why I want to be self-hosted on vs. staying on, but you should really just read the original post linked to above. Nothing has really changed except for the plugins used and how I’m hosted.

Rather than being hosted on DreamHost’s standard shared hosting service, I’m now on DreamPress, their managed WordPress hosting service. Think of it as a special server which only hosts WordPress and is therefore designed to serve every aspect of it as quickly and perfectly as possible. That is a severely watered down explanation of it, but I figured you could get all of the juicy details from the link. 🙂

Plugin-wise, I’m starting out with Jetpack for tons of features, Akismet for anti-spam, VaultPress for backups, Google XML Sitemaps for sitemaps, and a few different plugins for security which I won’t be disclosing this time around. 😉

Big thanks to Mike Schroder and Mika Epstein for both occasionally encouraging me to go back to being self-hosted and for essentially creating DreamPress, Zandy Ring for making sure that everything was moved properly, and Kathryn Presner, Caroline Moore, Lance Willett, and Ian Stewart for being totally cool with me occasionally ambushing them with theme questions.

Here’s to many more years self-hosted on, filled with the usual combination of fun, mistakes, and self-education.

Back on

WordPress MoveAfter ten days of blogging on, here I am, back on It’s a decision made with both hope and regret, but one that I need to make in order to continue the work I started.

Over the past three years on, my ability to write code (PHP and JavaScript in particular) had degraded quite a bit. I had thought that by self-hosting my blog, I’d be more motivated to try new things, and force myself to learn as I inevitably broke things on my own blog. It turns out that such a tactic had the opposite effect. I had every intention to break things and learn, with daily plans even, but I was too timid to put my rusty skills to the test on a live blog.

Considering that, my main blog is now back on, but I’m keeping a few self-hosted test blogs around so I can break things and learn without fear. I still learned quite a bit in just ten days, like how to have a similar setup to, working with caching, choosing a stats program, and how to work with Genericons (which you can do on with certain themes). I even helped fix two bugs in the Authy plugin.

As for the rest of you still on, if you use Jetpack, I submitted a few bug reports and feature requests you might like. One of those might even be my first patch one of these days.

Back on

So, before I get too far into this post (or perhaps before I even start it), I should point out that there are essentially two recognizable types of WordPress. There’s the main one,, which is blogging software that you install on a hosting provider. You own it and manage it, so there are fewer restrictions, but there are more responsibilities. Then, there’s, a blogging service which offers you a free WordPress-powered blog with the option to purchase additional upgrades. Someone else manages it for you, so there are some restrictions, and additional features cost extra, but you don’t have to worry about anything (like features breaking, incompatibilities, downtime, etc). For a more in-depth analysis, please refer to this handy chart.

I used to blog with, but since joining Automattic about 3 years ago, I switched to, since is an Automattic product. It was great to get down in the trenches with our users and help to put out fires as I found them, but I found that my ability to code in PHP and JavaScript had degenerated quite a bit. There’s really no way to tweak a blog outside of CSS on, so no way eventually lead to no need, which lead to no want, which lead to a severe lack of practice and ultimately a loss of knowledge. Now that we have grown to 190 Automatticians, I figured there’s enough of us in the trenches on that I could go back to Being back on frees me up to experiment with code again and break things on my blog, which I have been doing all weekend.

With the polite prodding of Mike Schroder over the years, I came back to my first-ever hosting provider, DreamHost. A lot has changed over the past nine years at DreamHost, all for the better. Resurrecting a nine-year-old dormant hosting account was no easy task, but Mika Epstein saved the day. It was like moving back into an old and much-loved home. Transferred a blog this size was rather rough and interrupted with frequent errors, but Michael Koenig of the Guided Transfer team had the magic touch and had my blog up and running on in a matter minutes. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial for one of our products, but the ability to sit back and let someone else who does this for a living (dozens of time a day) take charge of the whole situation is well worth the price.

There are a lot of handy built-in features on that are unfortunately left behind when you switch to, but it’s easy to either get them back or supplement them with something else. First, you’ll need Jetpack, which provides many of’s built-in features. Then, it’s just a matter of finding things to provide you with the security and reliability that is known for. Having talked with the folks behind Sucuri several times, I went with them for security. They’re good people, and you can trust them with the safety of your site. I also locked this down a bit more with a two-factor authentication plugin. Choosing what to use for reliable and automatic backups was an easy decision. I went with VaultPress, another Automattic product that’s well worth the price. Finally, you don’t have to worry about updates on, and you don’t have to on either, as long as you’re running the Automatic Updater plugin (from fellow Automattician Gary Pendergast).

In short, if you don’t like breaking things, stick to If you want to experiment, is for you. DreamHost is great, and you’ll want to try Jetpack while securing everything with Sucuri, VaultPress, two-factor authentication, and the Automatic Updater plugin.

Preview the Upcoming WordPress Dashboard

MP6, the future of the WordPress Dashboard, has arrived on

If you have a blog, visit Users -> Personal Settings in your blog’s Dashboard and check “Enable experimental admin design (MP6)” now!

If you follow WordPress development, you may have heard that this was on the roadmap for WordPress 3.6, but was pushed back to WordPress 3.7. So, it will officially become the new Dashboard eventually, but there’s plenty of time to try it out, get to know it, and fall in love with it as much as I have.

MP6 was designed to be less cluttered and more readable with clearer fonts and better contrast, and it’s fully responsive across all devices. To sweeten the deal, MP6 also makes use of icon fonts to cut down on images, thus providing a slightly improved loading time.

You can easily switch back by unchecking the box at Users -> Personal Settings, but I encourage you to give it a day or two. It’s a rather large design change, but it does retain the overall layout that you’re all used to, so I’m confident that you’ll love it too.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can try the experimental Dashboard too with the MP6 plugin.

MP6 on is constantly being improved and you may notice a few spots in your Dashboard that still need to be brought up to MP6’s new design standards, but if you have any feedback, please let us know!

Two Step Authentication on

If you have a blog, now is the perfect time to make your account more secure with our new two step authentication! Two step authentication (also referred to as two-factor authentication) requires you to enter a one-time secret code from your mobile device whenever you log in, after entering your password of course, which is hopefully a strong password (and you should consider changing that if it isn’t). This means that, with two step authentication enabled, an attacker would need to both know your password and have physical possession of your mobile device to gain access to your account.

All you need to use two step authentication at is an iOS, Android, or Blackberry mobile device (it doesn’t have to be a cellphone, but you do need to connect to the internet once to set it up). If you don’t have either, you can also use a cellphone capable of receiving text messages.

We’re looking into ways to bring our two step authentication system to self-hosted blogs soon, and you’ll see an announcement on the Jetpack blog when we’re ready. Until then, try the Google Authenticator plugin with your self-hosted blog.

Farewell Google Reader

For better or worse, Google Reader is gone, and no amount of complaining is going to bring it back. Google has made up its mind, probably because they couldn’t make money off of it, which is kind of important for a free service. RSS, and other less-used feed formats, are simply amazing. They make it easy to consume post titles and content without visiting the website directly. In a sense, you could visit one site (Google Reader, or any other feed reader) to read new posts from hundreds of sites without visiting each of those sites individually just to see if they even had new posts. Maybe the death of one of the most popular web-based feed readers also signals the death of RSS, or maybe it will usher in a new era of web-based feed reader innovation. No one knows for sure.

Plenty of people have shared what they’re doing in this post-Google Reader utopia (or dystopia), so I figured that I might as well share what I’m doing too, and discuss my compulsion-fueled love/hate relationship with RSS.

I have a compulsion to zero-out all of my inboxes by the end of the day. I do it with email, I do it with Twitter and other social networks, and I even did it with the feeds I had subscribed to. When I first started using Google Reader years ago, I was subscribed to 147 feeds. Making sure that I at least acknowledged everything and read what I wanted to usually took a whole hour out of my day. As I came to learn over the years, especially with encouragement from my co-workers, I really wasn’t learning much and it wasn’t a productive use of my time.

Last year, I switched to Fever, a self-hosted web-based feed reader which promised to automatically curate the content that was important to me from my 147 subscriptions. It worked wonderfully, and I still recommend it to this day, but it didn’t work for me. Despite the handy curated list, I was still compelled to at least acknowledge every single feed, just in case I might miss something important. I can confidently say that Fever’s automated curation never missed anything important, but that never stopped me from checking, just to be sure.

For a variety of reasons, none related to Fever, I went back to Google Reader. This time, I only brought with the feeds that had been updated in the past 6 months, dropping my total subscriptions from 147 to 55. I continued to use Google Reader until the announcement of its closure brought with it the cold, hard slap of reality. I didn’t care about all 55 feeds, I didn’t even read articles from most of them, I just skimmed the majority of the headlines, saved the very few (about 5 a day) to Instapaper for later reading, and clicked “Mark all as read.” Now that I had finally acknowledged this important fact, I cut my total number of subscriptions down to 7 and prepared to move on.

Along with Google Reader, I had been using the Reader to follow the blogs of my co-workers (and to actively use more of the service that I was providing support for every day). I really like the Reader. It has a river-style flow of content (no folders, just a stream of posts as they happen) and my co-worker don’t post too often, plus it’s really easy to import subscriptions from other feed readers, including Google Reader’s subscriptions.xml file.

After cutting my Google Reader subscriptions down from 55 to the 7 that I really care about, I bookmarked the 3 with the most recent posts and now visit them once daily to skim the headlines and save the interesting ones to Instapaper. The other 4 were added to the Reader. Beyond that, I’ll trust the folks I follow on Twitter to curate any important news that I might have missed during the day, and Tweetbot makes it incredibly easy to save linked articles to Instapaper for later reading.

Like magic, I not only gained an hour of my life back each day, but I’m still following the things important to me, and I haven’t missed any important news yet. Thank you, Google, for shutting down Google Reader! Part of me will still miss it, but I clearly needed the wakeup call.

Tweet From Your Blog

Are you tired of your Twitter client, or do you just want to turn your blog into your own social media hub? Well, now you can Tweet from your blog!

Yes, I did mention this briefly in my earlier Timepiece post, but I figured it was so cool that I had to mention it again.

If you have a or Jetpack-powered blog with Publicize enabled, posts with no title (typical of the Aside post format) will be sent to your Publicize connections (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) with a 100-character excerpt and a link to your post. Of course, you know what that means, but I’ll say it again anyway. You can now Tweet from your blog!

Any untitled post will send the excerpt via Publicize, along with a link to the post to bring the discussion back to your blog.

If you have a blog, feel free to try it today! If you don’t, there has never been a better time to own and control your own content, and to break your reliance on other social networks.

Off to Vienna

I’m off to spend a week with the rest of the Happiness Engineers in Vienna, as we work together to improve your experience.

If you’re curious about why we travel to work together, check out this great article about what goes on behind the scenes.