Flickr is having a “Best Photo of 2009” contest where group members are encouraged to share one and only one photo from 2009. I’m torn so I’m turning it over to you. Which one should I submit?
If I Jump, Will I Slide?
Taken atop Baltimore’s World Trade Center of the National Aquarium. This photo is special to me because of the conflicting angles and lines. The color is nice as well.
Taken on January 20, 2009 at Inauguration Day, this picture to me represents the change in America, yet also how much things are the same. In this case, commercialism reigns supreme. The figure is shrouded in a dark hooded jacket and is selling tee shirts, and carries a suggestion of the Grim Reaper.
Ben & Jerrys
Taken in San Francisco in the Mission District, this picture conveys a sense of “classic America” as an old man purchases ice cream from an icre cream cart vendor.
The Bridge of War
This photo has an antique quality to it and is a picture of one of America’s most famous civil war landmarks – Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield. The picture is iconic, yet conveys a sense of solitude and foreboding. Without knowing what, an outside observer would say, “Something bad happened here” just by looking at the picture.
This question, posed and somewhat answered by Kevin Kelleher of GigaOm. In the article, Kevin suggests that with M&A (Mergers and Acquisition) activity up, among other things, some 17,000 jobs in the past month have been lost.
From an investment standpoint, founders and venture capitalists have good reasons to cash out now. Market caps of public tech giants are rising “” the Nasdaq gained 15 percent last quarter alone ““ and so are their cash stockpiles: Microsoft is sitting on $49 billion in cash; Google, $24 billion. The IPO market is coming back to life, but not enough to meet the pent-up demand. And high-profile deals like the ones we’ve seen recently have a way of spurring on other acquisitions.
The risk is that, just as the quality of IPOs tends to deteriorate the longer a market boom lasts, a wave of M&A deals will bring on marriages that make less and less sense.
I think it’s more than M&A though. I don’t claim to be anything more than an armchair economist, but I think there’s some sense that this recession isn’t over yet, even if the key indicators (sans unemployment) are heading north. For one, I think there’s a sense that as long as key Fed interest rates are maintained at a 0% or near-0% level, companies can continue to cut staff and pocket more money. Less money going to interest means more revenue in a trickle-down sense. More revenue means more cash on hand. Slashing jobs provides cover for higher profits. Wall Street likes higher profits. Stock prices increase. Especially since Wall Street sees no end in sight for 0% lending rates.
Additionally, there continues to be a risk of a whiplash recession resulting from hyperinflation. With an influx of newly minted cash into the market thanks to bailouts and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill, the economy runs the risk of quickly reaching a point where over-inflation becomes a very real risk. In an over-inflated market, the cost of goods, services and products increases while the value of money inversely decreases creating a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. A company with $10B in costs suddenly needs $15B or $20B for those same costs. Meanwhile, the value of a single dollar declines in a proportional way feeding the frenzy.
In my non-expert opinion, the companies laying more people off are both reading the writing as well as feeding the lion.
These companies see the potential danger ahead and as any good, economically conservative, risk-averse company is, they are choosing to mitigate their risks in a completely legitimate and sensical way – cut costs via layoffs and other cost saving measures.
The danger this approach takes is that by doing so, they are feeding the Wall Street monster that looks for the increasing profit margins with little end to 0% rates. These investors buy the stocks, increasing the net worth of the company while simultaneously encouraging a pattern of layoffs and non-hiring.
Though companies will need to hire again (because you can’t just take artificial profits forever), there is little incentive to do so now, especially with the risk of a whiplash recession.
Community events have become very common these days. Ever since the days of the first BarCamp – an unconference event that caters mainly to developers and techheads and is organized around attendees picking time slots to speak in on the day of the event – and transitioning to other similar style events, Â like PodCamp, WordCamp, and now Gov 2.0 Camp, these events have become a catalyst for grassroots movement in the areas they focus in.
As a WordPress guy, my roots are with the WordCamp events that are held around the country. I just got back from WordCamp NYC 2 and we’ll be announcing details on WordCamp Mid-Atlantic 2010 around the new year. I’ve been to a ton of these kinds of events. I flew to Boston for PodCamp Boston 2, attended the inaugural PodCamp Philly a few years ago (still the best of its kind, in my opinion) and been involved with a variety of other events like it.
One thing I can say is that through a variety of events, in a variety of communities, with a variety of organizers… the same consistent lessons about community always shine through. If you have a motivated community that is supported by each other and encouraging each other to champion on and grow; if there is a sense of collaboration and alliance; then and only then, the greater community of artists, developers, innovators, business owners, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts can thrive.
To this end, I’m disappointed by the negative turn that has been aroused around the Gov 2.0 Camp LA.
Mark Drapeau, referred to commonly as @cheeky_geeky, has been the target of many blog posts around the ether including on this blog. He comes out swinging hard at Gov 2.0 Camp LA for no apparent reason that is suitable or conducive to growing community:
My opinion can be briefly summarized as the following: I think it’s thrown together. I think it’s careless. I think it’s Mickey Mouse. I cannot figure out what the objective is beyond getting a bunch of hyped up people together in one place to drink kool-aid, despite seeming to promise the opposite. I see blanket statements and marketing slogans, but very little original thought. I see remarkably little tie-in with the mainstream conversation about what Government 2.0 means philosophically, experimentally, and practically. I don’t believe the word “policy” is even mentioned in the blog post above that describes the event – how can you describe a Gov 2.0 event and not mention policy? When what the conference stands for is dissected, it is difficult to determine how anything will be advanced by it, or how it will truly differ from numerous other mundane events sprouting up around this hot topic.
I understand Mark is passionate about Government 2.0. He wears that mantle very publicly and seems to, after a regression into a fairly normal existence in the greater community, rear his head again to slap down a localized community event suited for the LA government community, not DC.
A major problem here is that community is not built through attack. Through this entire article, he seems to be on the defensive in what can only be described as a territorial fear for the loss of stature. Or perhaps, it’s his affiliation with the O’Reilly Media folks who put on a competing event. Either way, Mark’s position in the Government 2.0 community is perceived to be threatened here. There can be no other explanation for the vitriol that goes into the intentional effort to relegate another Gov 2.0 community event into a vilified event. Is there a blacklist that future events can sign onto in advance?
Instead of attacking, which is apparently the modus operandi in this particular fight, let me offer some constructive criticism from my experience as a community event organizer. Mark, since this will undoubtedly appear in front of your face, let me go on record and say that you have publicly asked for people to respond to your comments and not ad hominem. I cannot do that because I can’t speak with any authority on your comments. I can speak with authority on community and community events, though, and that is what I will do.
Local events are local events. Unless there is a foundation or organization of some sort, as is the case with Social Media Club, that dictates formats and expectation, leave the local event to the local organizer.
The local organizers know their communities better than you ever will.
Local events are meant to be local. Not national. Not international. If you want national or international, throw a full conference, not an unconference.
Lead by example. If you want your event to be the model for other events, then make sure the public face on the event is approachable and well-liked. It’s not a popularity contest, but people shy away from polarizing people. Like me, trust me.
Yield the floor to any competing views or events. What’s good for the Gov 2 community somewhere is probably good elsewhere. It may not be what we need in DC, but maybe it’s exactly what is needed in LA.
Support other organizers. Don’t shoot allies. You may need them at some point.
The coworking communities of Independents Hall in Philly, New Work City in NY, Citizen Space in San Francisco and the Beehive in Baltimore all thrive because, as communities, they all recognize that they feed each other and are built in that way. What one person lacks, someone else brings to the table. Innovation and collaboration birthed out of working together.
Now that I have criticized (hopefully constructively) Mark’s reaction, it is only fair that I make some (hopefully constructive) observations about the Gov 2.0 Camp LA effort. First, they do seem to take the approach that G2CLA is the same event as G2CDC and that it is just “going on the road”. This is not the case. They are two different events. Fix this and remove any question. The LA event is the LA event. The DC event is the DC event.
Secondly, stop posturing against G2CDC. As mentioned above, the two events are connected in that they are both catering to government professionals and contractors as well as vendors and others looking to revolutionize the government interaction with citizens. This should not be toned in an us and them (LA vs DC) framework. LA should take what makes sense from DC and put their own spin on it. Leave what doesn’t make sense.
If I were the LA organizers, I’d keep the whole event tightly focused on state and local politics – specifically California and southern California. Additionally, with no offense intended toward whoever designed the official site, it needs work including schedule, sessions, etc. We will not go live with WordCamp Mid-Atlantic’s new site until we’re good and ready for it.
Community is only as good as the participants in it. Pissing on fire hydrants and shelling people based on personalities? Not so much.
The other day, I wrote the popular 10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.9. As usual, most people are very excited about the new release which is now in beta and available for testing. In the article, I made a few fundamental errors which I have since corrected.
Notably, I mentioned that WordPress 3.0 would be going to PHP 5. This was based on conversations I had with a core developer which I now realized I misunderstood. Kinda. WordPress will probably not be dropping PHP 4 support in WordPress 3.0 but as core developer Mark Jaquith suggests:
Some things already require PHP 5, like time zone support or oEmbed. There are no plans that I know of to remove PHP 4 support in 3.0 “” last I checked we still had 12% of WP installs using PHP 4.
I see more of a natural and gradual deprecation of PHP 4. We’re very much open to making new features require PHP 5 if it would be a pain to make them PHP 4 compatible.
As a PHP developer, I am on board with calls for PHP 5 support. PHP 4 has been end of life (EOL) since August 8, 2008. That basically means that there will be no more releases, no more security patches, no more nothing. It’s done. Stick a fork in it. However, as Matt mentioned on stage at WordCamp NYC this weekend, there are still 12% of WordPress installations using PHP 4 hosting. He breaks that down as approximately 2M installs, the size of a major American city. More precisely, that’s approximately the size of Philadelphia.
This is not to defend WordPress development. I’d leave Philadelphia behind in a minute if I could get access to real object oriented PHP, reliable XML parsing, better HTTP transports and so much more. Yes, Philadelphia… I just threw you under the bus. That’s for signing Mike Vick. However, as Mark suggests, increasingly more features are being added to the core that require PHP 5.
oEmbed, which will ship in WordPress 2.9, requires XML or JSON parsing. XML parsing sucks in PHP 4. JSON ships by default in PHP 5.2. It is easier to backport JSON support to PHP 4 than try to engineer XML parsing for PHP 4. Some in the PHP community feel like backporting a PHP 5 feature to PHP 4 disincentivizes PHP 5 movement. It may, I’m not here to argue that.
Time Zone support is handled via the PHP class DateTimeZone, a PHP 5 class. Of course, on PHP 4 hosts, the user simply has to set the UTC offset (say, UTC-5 for Eastern Standard Time) manually. Graceful degradation.
I personally was one of the first people to write code for the SSH2 portion of the one click automatic upgrade feature. I, of course, did not go very far with it, but I was the one who first took a stab at creating that.
It is not worth it for PHP developers to throw mud at WordPress developers and the PHP 4 requirement if they are not willing to write code to make it better. Writing code does not, of course, mean that your feature will be incorporated. But this is an open source project. If you want to see new features, and the developers have indicated willingness through not only words, but also action, to include PHP 5 features, then you need to be the champion of those changes. In other words, you need to write the code, submit the ticket and state your case. Even if you can’t write the code, open a ticket and be a champion for the case.
Effective arguments, however, do not include holy wars over PHP 4 or PHP 5. Effective arguments do include security, usability, and feature requests that reflect “must have” features. Is it plugin territory or should it be a core feature? Why? State your case.
I will admit not being overly active in the ongoing development of WordPress. I have client work built around WordPress, so that takes up most of my time. Understanding that, I also have no room to throw mud unless I’m willing to step up and write code too. It’s sort of like voting. If I don’t bother to go vote, then I can’t complain about my elected officials.
If you want to see change in WordPress, be that change and put your words into action.
It’s now November and almost everything is in the bag for me. I’ve written the book with an average of 20-30 pages per chapter. I’ve gone through Author Review (A.R.), more commonly called “editing”. I’ve taken screenshots. Wrote code. Sifted through pages and pages that have so many changes, from three different editors, that the page appears to bleed. I’ve survived. Sometimes barely. I want to talk about the process of writing that book.
Writing a book is as much mental as it is emotional. Everyday, you evaluate what you have to get done, how much time you have to get it done, and consider the tone and voice in which it is written. I noted in my announcement that I would take on extra work to compensate for the lack of full-time pay the advance money would turn out to be. This became the most difficult part of the process, as it would turn out.
Early on, I spent a tremendous amount of time being very precise and intentional in how I wrote. It was a very slow process but I was pacing myself. I had 4 deadlines at 25% increments that were a month apart (except the last one). I could afford to be deliberate and intentional and pace myself. I had nine chapters to write in 30 days. Done. The first deadline was no problem, but it was a definite time investment.
The second deadline approached in late August. It was the 50% deadline and nine more chapters were due. By this time, I was heavily invested in the two client projects – a corporate redevelopment of Navstar, a federal IT service provider in Northern Virginia and TheCityFix, a WordPress MU/BuddyPress-based project for EMBARQ, a major non-profit in DC. Both of these projects were lagging behind as I went about being meticulous about my book. So when the 50% deadline came, I had my chapters but I was delayed on my clients.
Putting the book on the back-burner at the beginning of the 75% deadline, I spent time catching up on client work. As a week turned into two, and then three and I had not been able to start on the 75% deadline, I had mornings where I would have nervous and mental breakdowns in the shower. I had no idea how I could do it all. I was under intense pressure to do and I simply did not know if I could do it. I hid it well, but exactly one week before I had to have another nine chapters turned in, I began that process of writing those nine chapters. I told my clients I was unavailable. I locked myself away for 12-16 hour writing marathons. At 8pm on the day of my 75% deadline, I turned in my last chapter – a marathon effort that began 7 days before. I headed to the bar for a beer.
We got started on the process late, so although Wiley agreed to push back the 25%, 50% and 75% deadlines to compensate, the final deadline had to stay fixed at October 14. Two and a half weeks. I took a bit of time off to go back to client work because I knew I’d be going to Orlando to keynote IZEAFest, and had intentionally took advantage of the group rate that IZEA had negotiated to get a few extra days in sunny Florida. In theory, I could write the rest of the book by the pool and enjoy the sun. Good idea, but then the wifi was ridiculously poor and I lost six days in the two and a half weeks I had to finish things up.
I came back from Orlando looking at the same situation I had with my 75% deadline – 8 days to go, 9 chapters to write. Up until this point, I had made every deadline even if I was unofficially granted a few extra days here or there if I needed it. I never took those extensions. My editor was firm on the 100% deadline though. It must be done. (She ended up giving slightly in the end but I couldn’t take her up on that because I was leaving for Vegas and Blog World Expo on the day of my final deadline. There was no way to be in Vegas and take advantage of a few more days to write!)
Miraculously, as I flew at 37,000 feet on Virgin America en route to Blog World Expo, I was submitting my final chapter and screenshots. Thank God for wireless internet on flights! I made it. Done. Complete. Breathe.
When I got back from Vegas, however, my editor told me she needed me to rewrite a chapter (or significant portions of the chapter). Sighing heavily, I did just that addressing the areas of concern she had. Then the deluge of chapters began floating back to me for A.R. I had to sort through every single chapter, rewriting some portions, approving code changes from Mark Jaquith, my technical editor, wording and grammatical changes from my copy editor and other generalized suggestions and changes from my lead editor.
I was told that the edit process is grueling. That it is painful. That I better have thick skin. I went into A.R. expecting the worst. Fortunately, it was a fairly painless process. Perhaps after the marathon sprints and my inherent instinct to trust the people around me to make me look good, I rolled with the process. These people make me look good! While I accepted almost every suggestion from all three editors, there were times I vetoed. As the author, I have that prerogative to a point. Generally, however, I trust these people to help me through. It was not as bad as I expected.
Emotionally, I was numb. The book took a toll on me. In most ways, the toll is good. In other ways, perhaps not so much. I still will have to proofread the final product in December and will have a week to do so, but this process is all but over. However, I’m still numb. Does a man achieving what seemed so difficult to do give him an emotional outbreak, as we see when sports teams win the big championship, or does it make us look at life a little more soberly and say, “Wow… I did that. Crazy. Now what?” For me, I think it’s the latter.
From a business perspective, The Navstar project has been wrapped up for almost two months now. TheCityFix is all but wrapped up. When you’re writing, you don’t have time for business development. So now I’ve hit the reset button and rebuilding again. The buzz around the book has already generated enough leads that I don’t think I’ll be hurting for work.
From a book perspective, I can’t wait for this thing to come out. It is available on Amazon on February 15th and you can preorder it now. There will be a book launch in Baltimore and Washington, likely. I will undoubtedly be traveling to many WordCamps next year, including our own WordCamp Mid-Atlantic (which I co-organize). Next time I write a book, however, I will write it about something I want to write about and not something I’m qualified to write about. (kidding).
To aspiring writers, I say:
Find your groove early. Don’t waste time on stylesheets (every publisher provides a style guide). That’s what the editor is for.
Roadmap your book so it’s on paper. Most publishers will require a table of contents before you start. It’s for your good as well as theirs.
Have thick skin during the editing process. Your editors don’t hate you even if their markup seems like they do. They have your best interest in mind.
Have an agent! The agent is there to help navigate through the business process. Sure, they take 10-15% off the top, but they can often get you more money and more concessions. It’s sort of like don’t ever go to court without a lawyer.
Write because you want to write. You’ll never make it rich on writing (unless you’re Thomas Friedman, and even then, you’re probably making money from speaking engagements because of your writing).
Figure out the environment and mode you need to be in to effectively write.
If you need to stop because you’re mentally exhausted, stop… because you’re mentally exhausted. It doesn’t help your writing to be doing so in a robotic, bleary eyed way.
Most of all, have fun! Writing a book is a hard process, but so rewarding. If you treat it like work, it will be work. If you treat it as a way to channel your energies, you’ll have more fun doing it. :-)
Gentlemen, start your engines! WordPress 2.9 is just around the corner. Unlike WordPress 2.8, which Mark Jaquith describes as the Snow Leopard of WordPress since most of the basis of the WordPress 2.8 upgrade was complete rewrites and optimization of the infrastructure that ran WordPress instead of providing lots of new features in the same way Apple’s new OS X release is a focus on improved performance instead of features, WordPress 2.9 brings major new “bling” to the table. As a reminder of WordPress 2.8, you can see the writeup that Jonathan Dingman brought us last time around.
By and large, this release is a plugin developers release with lots of new APIs and abstraction. However, there are significant additions for theme designers and users as well. As a result, unlike previous iterations of this article (I do one for every major WordPress release), I’m going to break this down into sections for each kind of feature.
Theme developers have a new piece of functionality that have become extremely popular in themes these days. As blogs have evolved from journal form into entities that can be very magazine-like, the use of thumbnail images has also grown. Typically, this layout is achieved through the use of custom fields that must be manually created and populated. No more!
As of WordPress 2.9, if you use the built in image uploader, then WordPress handle this for you. Theme designers that wish to support this feature can add the template tag the_post_image() to their themes to achieve proper placement as required by the theme layout. The template tag can optionally take a “size”, which is one of the WordPress default sizes: thumbnail, medium, large, etc. If none is provided, it defaults to your preset thumbnail size.
Conveniently, if a theme is enabled for post thumbnails, the only “feature” currently offering this support in WordPress, then a new “meta box” will be displayed on the Write screen allowing you to assign a post image.
Themes: Register Support for WordPress Features
Editorial Note: Since this article was published, the code has changed to refer to post-thumbnails, not post-images. As a result, function names have also change. The code and examples included before reflect this change. Sorry for the confusion and sorry specifically to theme devs who have implemented the_post_image() feature already. Just change it to the_post_thumbnail()
This may seem to be an obscure feature, and typically, it’s pretty simple to figure out what I’m talking about just by looking at the header. In this case, it’s a bit more obscure because it suggests a feature that is introduced in WordPress 2.9 and then only for a very niche purpose. I can see this being built out over time, and plugin authors can supply their own use cases.
The concept is simple. If a feature exists “” in the core, the only use case is for the thumbnails I described earlier and it is called ‘post-thumbnails’ “” then a theme can declare support for the feature using the add_theme_support() function in the theme functions.php. It can only be declared in this file and it requires a feature be assigned a name. As I mentioned, with WordPress 2.9, there is only one feature that is named and that is post-image. Plugin authors can provide their own new functionality using the require_if_theme_supports() function.
Themes would then enable support for the feature by including the following in their functions.php file.
if ( function_exists( 'add_theme_support' ) )
add_theme_support( 'my-custom-feature' );
We’ve used the function_exists() check on the add_theme_support() function to ensure backwards compatibility with WordPress installations prior to WordPress 2.9. Similarly (and possibly confusingly in this context), before you would have to check for the existence of a plugin by using a function_exists() or class_exists() piece of logic and loading it if the class or function did exist, but now there are on/off switches to get it done.
Users: The Trash Can
On Windows, they call it the Recycle Bin. On Macs, it’s the Trash. In both cases, the feature exists to help people recover from accidental deletions. We have all had those moments where we nuked something we had no intention of nuking. With WordPress, accidental deletions have been permanent. In WordPress 2.9, everything is recoverable now with a new Trash feature. When you delete a post, page, category, comment, or any bit of content, it is moved to the Trash where you can decide whether to pull it back at a later date.
Trash collection is done every 30 days by default, but it is possible to change this by editing your wp-config.php file. Add the following to your config file to change trash collection to every 7 days. Modify as needed.
Users: Image Editing
One of the hot new features in WordPress 2.9 is image editing. Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t Photoshop. And it only support basic functionality at this time. However, image editing will allow bloggers to crop, scale and rotate images from right within WordPress. From the media library, you can edit images by clicking the Edit link under an image, and then clicking the Edit button on the individual image page. This brings up an interface like what is shown below.
oEmbed, as described at oEmbed.com, is a specification that allows media providers like Flickr, YouTube and others to provide data for consumer applications like WordPress about media. So by including an Embed (Use the File uploader and choose “From URL” and paste the link to the page that contains the media, not the media file itself) in a post or page, WordPress can retrieve the relevant specs on the media file and formulate a properly formatted embed accordingly.
Below is an embed of one of my Flickr photos using oEmbed.
Below, is an oEmbedded YouTube video (Original video removed so here’s the Iron Man 2 Trailer).
If you don’t want to use the GUI for this stuff, you can simply wrap the URL to the media page in embed shortcode tags like this.
The list of supported oEmbed sites in WordPress are as follows:
YouTube (via oEmbed)
Blip.tv (via oEmbed)
Flickr images and videos (via oEmbed)
Hulu (via oEmbed)
Viddler (via oEmbed)
Qik.com (via oEmbed) “” never heard of this site, but it was listed on oEmbed’s website, so”¦
Revision3 (via oEmbed)
Google Video (via an internal handler)
PollDaddy (via an internal handler)
DailyMotion (via an internal handler)
That said, plugin authors can add new providers if they want by using the oembed_providers filter or override altogether with the WP_oEmbed->providers property.
Plugins: Custom Post Types
One of the strengths of Drupal has been its ability to have multiple types of contents contained in objects that all look alike to PHP. WordPress has supported a variety of content types as well, but it has not been nearly as flexible making WordPress a blog platform with some additional support for pages and attachments. Technically, the only post_types that WordPress has supported have been post, page, revision and attachment. While it has technically been possible to add new post_types (like podcast, mp4, or tutorials – they could be anything, really), it has been a chore and required plugin developers to handle quite a few moving parts in order to make it all work properly.
No longer. Plugin authors now have API to register new post types, opening up the possibility for even more creativity and uses for WordPress.
The get_post_type() function can only be used in the Loop. It returns the type of post a post is. Keep in mind, I’m using post loosely. All content in WordPress is kept in the posts table thereby inheriting the name “post”, but post is also a kind of content that is associated with blog content (as opposed to page which is a pseudo-static page, attachment which is information about an image or file uploaded with the media uploader, etc).
The get_post_types() function will return a list of all types of post content. By default, this will be post, page, attachment and revision. Refer to the source code for optional arguments that can be used to control what kind of data is returned.
As a plugin author, you can use this function to create a new post type. The first argument is the unique handle you want to assign to the post type – let’s call it podcast – and the second argument is an array that contains additional elements. The key one here is an exclude_from_search, which by default is set to true. You actually probably want to set this to false unless you really don’t want this additional content searchable. See below for example usage.
1 2 3 4 5
register_post_type('podcast',array('exclude_from_search' => false) );
There is currently no user interface for post types. There is a patch in for UI that will likely be included in WordPress 3.0.
Plugins: Comment Meta
There has been a variety of meta tables in WordPress. Meta tables, like usermeta or postmeta, are database tables that contain information about the type of data that is stored in WordPress. It allows plugins and WordPress to assign metadata, such as user roles and capabilities, to pieces of data thus extending that data. Now, there is a comment meta table as well.
Though it is unclear how plugin authors will seek to use this table, the fact that it is available is a major deal as it essentially provides meta tables for every piece of content in WordPress now.
Plugins: Metadata API
With the addition of a comments meta table, it has become effectively redundant to duplicate functions throughout WordPress. You have a get_post_meta() function that does the same thing as a get_usermeta() function except they query data from different tables that also look identical except for the data stored in them.
In WordPress 2.9, there is an entirely new Metadata API that can be used to retrieve data from any of these meta tables.
The add_metadata() function takes a meta type (‘comment’, ‘post’, ‘user’, etc), the ID of the content type, the key and value of the metadata and whether the information should be unique or not (true or false).
You can also use update_metadata(), delete_metadata(), get_metadata() and update_meta_cache() for further wrangling. Refer to wp-includes/meta.php for full documentation.
Themes/Plugins: Theme System Modification
A lot of messiness has been eliminated in WordPress 2.9 theming. For one, new template opportunities exist. Now, instead of looking for a template file called category-x.php, tag-x.php or page-x.php, where x is the ID of one of those types of content types, it will look for these templates second. The first template that is now looked for is based on the slug. So if you have a category, tag or page called foo, the first template to be sought after would be category-foo.php, tag-foo.php, or page-foo.php. If none of these templates exist, then the ID-based template file is looked for.
Additionally, plugin developers can register new directories for themes to be located with the register_theme_directory() function.
System: Database Repair Script
The database occasionally needs a good spring cleaning. Other times, the database needs a repair. WordPress ships with a new script that will do just this. It is housed at /wp-admin/maint/repair.php but in order to use it, you need to create a new (or modify if it already exists for some reason) constant in wp-config.php.
System: Minimum Requirements
PHP 5 is not required yet. That’s coming in WordPress 3.0 will be increasingly implemented over time. But MySQL requirements have been boosted from MySQL 4.0 to MySQL 4.1.2.
Other interesting things in WordPress 2.9.
JSON compatibility, before only beneficial to PHP 5.2, has been backported for use in WordPress
New ‘Undo’ button when using the Visual Text Editor
A new sanitization API (with functions like esc_html())
The emoticon system can be altered using the smilies_src hook. :-)
Bulk Upgrading of plugins
Filesystem optimizations pertaining to FTP/SSH etc.
rel=”canonical” for single posts and pages aiding in SEO
Minify Admin CSS making for quicker (and smaller) page loads