Even Though You Don’t Want My Feedback, Ms. Newspaper Editor…

Jay Rosen, Columbia University Journalism Professor, posted a picture of a print-editorial piece in The Valley Press, a small local newspaper in Connecticut. It was an intriguing read into the minds of many in traditional media.

For the hard of eyesight (it’s small), let me transcribe this fascinating editorial from editor Abigail Albair:

As a reporter I try to keep my opinions to myself, but as an editor who has in recent weeks observed a disturbing trend in journalism, I feel compelled to come out from behind my computer screen and speak out.

Some of our fellow Connecticut newspapers and news websites have developed a tendency toward an over-involvement of the public in their work. You, our readers are of incredible importance to us and we welcome your story suggestions and your thoughts and opinions on our work and the subject matter which we present to you. Just as we respect your suggestions and comments, we hope you equally respect our ability to do our jobs.

There is a local and arguably national trend developing of publications giving readers the chance to roam newsroom floors and offer tips and guidance on not just what we write, but how it is written. As your local newspaper, we will always welcome suggestions from our readers to allow us to grow and transform. If you have a suggestion to offer, we welcome it, though there is a time and place for it.

In most cases, no one committed to a craft is comfortable with an outsider, with none of the training they’ve had, to successfully do their job, sitting over their shoulder critiquing every move. Everyone needs some perspective and guidance at times, but the fact that other organizations are inviting this into their newsroom on a daily basis suggests to me that they have lost all faith in themselves to adequately fulfill their obligations to the public.

In too many cases, readers are being told at the conclusion of each story printed that what you may have just spent three minutes of your life reading could have contained factual inaccuracies because “everyone makes mistakes.” It is our goal for you to never need to submit “corrections” to this publication, and we find it troubling that other publications would call on the editing skills of their readers.

We hope you will choose us as your newspaper and trust our employees to do their job for you, not the other way around. Truth in journalism is a core principle for those of us who have chosen this profession. It is our objective to offer that to you every day.

It will always be a part of our mission to be approachable. We do welcome feedback from readers, as well as suggestions. We do welcome feedback from readers, as well as suggestions. You can be the source of some of our best topics, but there always come a point where we can “take it from here.” Our staff is dedicated to producing quality journalism whenever a story reaches print.

It is upsetting that some news sources are eager to turn to gimmicks rather than solid, old-fashioned reporting and hard work to sell their product. We are eager, as well, to make you part of our product by reporting on the events in your lives. To that end we pledge to stay plugged into happenings of our communities.

We believe in what we do. We hope we have proven to you that you can believe in us too.

-Abigail Albair, Editor

First of all, apologies to the Valley News for the entire reprint. I could not find it in your online archives so please feel free to link me in comments and I will excerpt for Fair Use.

Now to the heart of the matter… I can see that Ms. Albair is clearly an intelligent woman. According to LinkedIn, she is Co-Editor in Chief at a newspaper less than two years after she graduated Wagner College. Her credentials are strong for being so young and inexperienced. And I mean that kindly.

It’s no secret that I don’t have a degree, much less a journalism degree. I’ve made it to the point of my success through hard work, ambition and going after what I want. However, I don’t think of my self as less-competent than others in my industry who have graduated with Engineering degrees from MIT or Carnegie Mellon.

Ms. Albair’s denigrating look at the public is less than becoming. While I respect anyone with a craft and their ability to do it, we do not live in a vacuum and, in fact, attempting to live in one lacks accountability. The Third Estate has every right to critique the Fourth Estate and absolution of that right, not only empowers an irresponsible press, but abdicates our responsibility to give and receive meaningful input.

The timeline for that abdication of responsibility by the public follows a path like this:

  • Newspaper prints inaccurate story
  • Public accepts story without question
  • Fallout from inaccurate public perception ensues

This is never more appalling than when self-proclaimed news agency, Fox News, implants biased stories with no real objectivity, into the minds of a significant portion of American culture. Because the public questions, there is a “check” in place to cause doubt. But so many others take their “reporting” at face value.

But I don’t want to descend into politics.

Input from the public is very important in 2011. Would we know anything about the coup in Tunisia if it wasn’t for “citizen journalists”? Would we have eyes on the ground in New York City when US Airways 1549 crashed in the Hudson River?

No, Ms Albair. We wouldn’t. While the angst you portray is proper in many respects, the problem is not as you describe. The problem is not public input into your precious protectorate. The problem is editorial oversight. There needs to be more editorial oversight to prevent CNN iReporters from inaccurately reporting Steve Jobs having a heart attack and causing Apple stocks to sell off like wild.

Your job, Ms. Albair, is of utmost importance, because you hold the power to appropriately filter information to the general public. We need more of you. Not less of us. You need more of us because, with your budget shortfalls and attrition in the ranks of fine journalists due to the economy and woo of the internet, you need boots on the ground. You need the general public being your eyes and ears and feeding information into your newsroom. Not the other way around.

But I can see how you see more editorial need being a threat to your job. Not everyone can have an Editor-in-Chief title having graduated Wagner College in 2009. Not everyone. Only the elite.

Pre-order WordPress Bible: 2nd Edition

The time has come when Amazon has updated their listings to include the WordPress Bible: 2nd Edition, available April 12, 2011.

This edition has been updated for WordPress 3.1 and includes detailed information on WordPress, WordPress Multisite, Post Formats, Post Types, Advanced queries, new APIs and more. The 1st edition, which you can buy today, has already sold thousands of copies. It only covered up to WordPress 2.9. So much has happened since then.

Some reviews from 1st Edition:

I have been developing websites on the WordPress platform for a few years. Most of what I have learned has been learned by experimentation, lurking in forums and reading the WordPress Codex. I’ve been hoping that some day, a book that would delve into the inner-workings of WordPress would appear. The WordPress Bible is that book and it does not disappoint. ~M. Erb, Syracuse, NY

This is the perfect companion to your keyboard and mouse as you dive into WordPress to not only write blog posts, but create plugins, create themes, work with functions, create widgets and more. This is very easy to read, it’s updated up to 2.9 version and nothing will be different when 3.0 comes out as it does cover other things like WordPress MU and buddypress. I love this book and was looking forward to it so bad, I drove across the state to pick up the only copy left in NJ. ~Manny Gongora, Melbourne Beach, FL

Overall, the second edition has been much improved from the first, both in content and, I hope, approach. Go pre-order now and lock in your price-point!

Sobering “Green Book” Reminds us of Where We’ve come Since Civil Rights… And Where we still need to go.

Gawker Media auto blog Jalopnik had a fairly sobering post up, in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, that described “The Green Book”, a publication that ceased publishing in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act.

The book was created to assist black travelers, by listing businesses and establishments around the country (and later some other countries) that were open and friendly to blacks.

The ideal, as it’s described, would be that the book would no longer be needed at some point. To a degree, that occurred during the civil rights movement, but we can all agree that even in 2011, equality has not entirely arrived. Yes, it’s better than it was but there is still a long way to go.

And not only in civil rights. Employment equality is still not entirely “there” yet for minorities and women. There are still areas of the south that unofficially (because officially is illegal) do not welcome black people. I’ve seen some here in Texas. GLBT groups are still looking for equality in a variety of areas for gays and lesbians. Hell, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was just finally repealed a few weeks ago.

The Green Book is sobering but it’s a reminder of where we have come in the process to create a more perfect union. It is hosted by the Henry Ford Museum and you can download the [very large at 91MB] PDF of the entire 1949 guide here.

Verizon iPhone Raises New Predicaments

For as long as the iPhone has been out, I have been opposed to it. Not because of the iPhone per se. In fact, it’s a great looking device with intuitive design. But over the years there have been fundamental flaws that have prevented me from buying it. These flaws, in my mind, have been:

  • Doesn’t allow native apps
  • Apple tries to control too much
  • Not open source
  • AT&T-only
  • Lack of like-kind competition
  • Antenna/reception issues
  • Crappy mic
  • Crappy camera

Photo by Witer

There are other concerns I’ve raised but the reality is, most of this has been resolved now.

For instance, the iPhone 3G introduced the App concept. They’ve put a better mic and camera in. The antenna situation for the iPhone 4, well… that still exists but at least there’s a lifehack to prevent it.

Some things won’t change. The OS will never be open source like Android. That’s probably not a deal-breaker for me. Apple will still try to control how app developers and users use their device, but whatever.

Here’s the thing that changes the paradigm and makes me re-examine my suppositions… Verizon now has the iPhone 4 as of this morning. Presumably, this means no more silly lack of coverage in major metropolitan areas like NYC and San Francisco. Supposedly, that means that events like Inauguration, ACL Fest and SXSW won’t be dark as a result of weak coverage.

And of course, that bodes well for AT&T and their network load as well because, perhaps up to half of their iPhone customer base will migrate to Verizon. Their customers have been clamoring for this day.

But now what do I do? With all of the paradigm shifting, I’m now placed in an awkward position. Should I buy the Verizon iPhone or not?

Updated: I should add… no one knows yet how the iPhone will behave on Verizon’s network. My recommendation is to treat it like all Rev A Apple Hardware… don’t buy it on Day 1 and don’t wait in line. Let the idiot early adopters work out the kinks before jumping in. You’re already probably in a contract so just wait a few minutes.

Reason Number 834 Why Bloggers Are Not Necessarily Journos

The question of whether bloggers are journalists is a tired debate. So I’ll make this point short and brief.

Wired has a pretty good article about the FCC launching a new competition to develop apps that would allow consumers to “spy” on their mobile carriers to ensure that the carriers are not throttling or limiting bandwidth and services. This is important in the Net Neutrality debate, for sure, but let me point out something that just sits entirely wrong with my journalistic mind.

Author Ryan Singel does a very good job describing the situation, reporting the facts and injecting very mild bias (I’m okay with that) into his post. Then he gets to the last line of the second to last paragraph (bolded mine):

Hackers and thinkers have until June 1 to submit their work. Both a jury of experts and the public will get to decide the winners, who, as a prize, get to visit D.C. on the FCC’s dime and eat at a banquet with FCC head Julius Genachowski — if he’s not been eaten alive by then by the ascendant Republican congress for imposing rules on the nation’s powerful telecom companies.

Whaaa? Did I miss the point in the article where Wired moved from describing an entirely appropriate tech policy story to angsty political hyperbole? Credibility lost. Try again.

INFOSEC 101: Breaking Down Scary Terms and What They Mean

I am not a hacker. But I understand the information security world. It’s a scary place, unfortunately, to people who have no exposure to it. Yesterday, WordPress 3.0.4 was released as a critical release… and it was. Matt explained the reason for the release in this way:

Version 3.0.4 of WordPress…is a very important update to apply to your sites as soon as possible because it fixes a core security bug in our HTML sanitation library, called KSES. I would rate this release as “critical.”

Simple enough. He goes on to refer to the vulnerability as an XSS vulnerability which caused a bit of angst on Twitter about what that means and if non-technical users should be given more information due to the terminology.

So, as a public service, I give you some basic definitions and concepts of web security and what we mean. These concepts are rightly scary, but the names tend to be scarier to those who don’t understand them.


XSS means cross site scripting. Cross site scripting attacks are generally attacks that occur because something is injected into a URL or “event” on a site to make the site do something else. Do something else can mean “hijack” a site so all visitors are sent somewhere else, or special HTML is injected into a site (often in the form of hidden links that diminish Google search results for the site, etc). This was the nature of the vulnerability fixed in WordPress yesterday.

XSS attacks are almost always carried out because of JavaScript injection. WordPress does have security API that makes dangerous characters (that is, special characters that make JavaScript do things) and it is encouraged that all plugin and theme developers use these APIs. [Docs]


CSRF means Cross Site Request Forgery. With CSRF attacks, browsers (and sometimes other things) are hijacked to “do” things to a website without a user knowing. It’s the proverbial trojan horse where there is an inherent trust from a site that the user/browser is doing something trusted and so attacks riding the coat tails of such trust are given the same trust that the user would also get.

A simple example (does not actually exist) would be that an authenticated user in WordPress with admin privileges is tricked into clicking a link (as the authenticated user) and then admin privileges are transferred to the attacker. We’ve seen this kind of attack on Facebook and Twitter before where DMs or messages are spread across Facebook walls or via Twitter DM).

SQL Injection

SQL Injection is an attack that, without going into the technical details, allows an attacker to send special queries to the database that can alter, modify or even delete a database altogether. You don’t see many of these anymore because most apps are built on frameworks or platforms (like WordPress or Drupal) that have built in routines and APIs that prevent this. In WordPress, there is a prepare() function in the database class which ensures that no SQL injection is possible.

0Day Vulnerabilities

0Day (that is Zero, not “Oh”) is a vulnerability that is exploited before it has been disclosed. Many security researchers work closely with web application developers to alert them to newly discovered vulnerabilities before they are publicly disclosed. They then work with the developers to close the hole before disclosing the vulnerability. The term 0Day comes from the idea that the web app developer knows about the exploit on the 0th day after public disclosure (it hasn’t been disclosed yet).

Denial of Service/(D)DoS

(D)DoS is a (Distributed) Denial of Service attack. These attacks are carried out by flooding a site with traffic/requests to the point where the site can no longer handle the traffic and collapses. If the attack comes from a single source, it’s a DoS but if it comes from more than one, it is a DDoS.

Obviously, there are many aspects of security. We could go way complicated on terminology and concepts, but these are some of the basics you should know when you see something about a vulnerability.

Photo Credit: heathbrandon

10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 3.1

Happy New Year, everyone. WordPress development on version 3.1 is wrapping up (Currently it’s in Release Candidate and should be released early in 2011)…. which means, it’s time for another edition of our 10 Things You Need to Know About posts.

This is a bigger release than was originally planned. It was supposed to stay small and set the stage for a larger WordPress 3.2 release later in the year. That release will require PHP 5.2 (make sure your host supports it now… We do at WP Engine. WP 3.1 did turn into a larger release than expected, but I think you’ll be happy. So without further adieu.

Network Admin

if you’re running WordPress in Multisite mode, or have used WordPress MU for a while, you may find yourself alarmed by the conspicuous lack of a Site Admin/Super Admin menu that has been situated at the top of the Admin menu. Never fear, though it looks like this has gone the way of the dodo, in fact it has been relocated into a separate dashboard area accessible from the new “Network Admin” in the top right of the WordPress Admin. Notably, when you click on this link, you are taken to a new dashboard for Network management (and that link then changes to Site Admin to allow quick access back into the normal WordPress admin. Also note that, like the previous Super Admin menu, this link is only viewable (and by proxy, accessible) to users who have been designated as Super Admins. This change allows for additional separation of content production and administration and allows for blogs (Sites) to be managed individually and the Network to be managed separately.

Post Formats

Perhaps one of the most talked about features in WordPress 3.1 are post formats. Post formats have been implemented in a variety of ways for years. The idea that some content is different (and should be rendered differently as a result) has gone way back. A prime example of this was the concept of “Asides” – or little blurbs that were often simply links or short posts that were off topic, not really worth a full blog post or whatever. Now, with a bit of code in a theme functions.php, you can enable any number of 9 different formats: aside, chat, gallery, link, image, quote, status, video, or audio.

In this paradigm, theme developers can target specific CSS and layout structure to each of these post formats. This enables rich user experience and high quality layout without prejudice toward the most common type of content… text. If you aren’t sure what each of these types of content are, I refer you to the Post Formats section of the Codex which has a list.

In order to enable a theme with one or more of these formats, add the following line to the theme functions.php file:

add_theme_support( 'post-formats', array( 'aside', 'gallery' ) );

This line enables new UI in the post edit
screen that allows for you to designate a post with a specified format. For a thorough write-up on this new feature, go read the post format reference from my friend Lisa Sabin-Wilson.

Internal Linking

Have you ever gone through the torturous process of adding links to your own site to a post you’re writing? You have to go find that post from a different tab or window, usually via search or scrolling through potentially pages of content to find exactly what you want? Yeah? Me too. As a result, WordPress has added Internal Linking as a feature to WordPress 3.1.

This feature, only available when using the Visual Text Editor, allows you to add a link as you always have, or choose from already existing content on the same page. Yeah… that easy. Simply click the typical link button, then click on the arrow to
expand the “Link to Existing Content” section of the pop-up window. Pretty neat!

Import Overhaul

In advance of WordPress 3.2 and PHP5 dependence, we see yet another improvement that rewards WordPress users who utilize hosts using PHP5. The import routine has been rewritten from the ground up with efficiency in mind. While the old importer used regular expressions to parse through the WordPress export file (XML), this caused really bad efficiency problems.

Now, using native XML parsers, the WordPress import can process files much more efficiently. Additionally, similar to the file system transport API that is used by the one click installer and upgrade routines, WordPress goes through a series of checks to find the best method for XML parsing available on the server, thus a progressive enhancement for PHP 5. The first check is for SimpleXML (PHP5-only) followed by XML Parser (used in PHP 4) and, if neither of those two libraries are enabled, it falls back on the old, antiquated regex parsing.

Editorial Comment: I was hoping for a rewrite for 3.2 to both the exporter and importer that would handle everything in JSON (a much more lightweight plain text file format), perhaps optionally, instead of XML. XML parsing by nature, regardless of SimpleXML or XML Parser, is quite expensive in terms of CPU cycles and efficiency.

Theme Filter

WordPress.com users are probably familiar with the theme filter that those bloggers have had access to. With Theme Filters, users are able to quickly drill down on possible themes to install and use based on criteria such as number of columns, features, etc. To access this, simply click on the Feature Filter on the right side of the themes page to display all the options that are available. Note for Theme Developers: In order to make this useful for bloggers, please ensure that your theme style sheet headers include a Tags header similar to this:

Tags: white, yellow, light, one-column, two-columns, fixed-width, custom-colors, custom-header, custom-background

Advanced Taxonomy and Postmeta Queries

WordPress wouldn’t be complete without enhancements for developers as well. In WordPress 3.1, developers have access to powerful new features that provide for robust querying of both taxonomies and postmeta. In previous iterations, developers could target posts with WP_Query (or the Loop) to only those posts that have meta_key=foo or meta_value=bar.

The problem was, the potential for more granular targeting (i.e. get only posts with meta_key=foo AND meta_key=bar AND published BETWEEN Jan 1 of 2007 and Jan 31 of 2002) was not possible. Now it is. Replace meta_key and meta_value with meta_query and feed it in an array of arrays that contain any of key, value, compare (comparison operator) and type (data type). This will cause the query to automatically drill down with more granularity on the content requested.

$query = new WP_Query( array(
'meta_query' => array(
'key' => 'foo',
'value' => 123,
'compare' => '>=',
'type' => 'numeric'
'key' => 'foo2',
'value' => array( 'bar2', 'bar3' ),
'compare' => 'IN',
) );

The same can be done with taxonomy queries. Instead of meta_query, however, use tax_query and instead of key, value, compare and type you would use taxonomy, terms, field and operator. Otto has a good explanation for that on his site.

User Queries Overhauled and Simplified

Anyone who has done plugin development that has needed access to users have had a hodge podge of functions like get_userdatabylogin(), get_user_by_email(), etc. Not a lot of consistency, and definitely something that required frequent referencing of code. Now, from the “Duh! Why Didn’t I think of that?” file, comes the get_users() function that simplifies that API. It also wraps around a more powerful class for user search and querying called WP_User_Query.

To leverage this new API, you simply pass an array to get_users() and it returns an object based on the dataset retrieved. Arguments in the passed array can be:

  • blog_id – defaults to the blog id of the current blog (always 1 when WordPress is in standard mode but maybe another number in Multisite mode.
  • role – administrator, author, editor, subscriber, contributor. Defaults to nothing.
  • meta_key – allows for usermeta comparison and defaults to nothing.
  • meta_value – allows for usermeta comparison and defaults to nothing.
  • meta_compare – allows for usermeta comparison and defaults to nothing.
  • include – an array of user IDs to search. If empty, it searches all users. By default, it’s empty.
  • exclude – similar to include, this is an array of user IDs to not search. By default, it’s empty.
  • search – provides a way to target how columns are targeted. If, for instance, *max* is passed, wildcard searching is done in user_login, user_email, etc. By default, it’s empty.
  • orderby – specifies which column the results should be sorted on. By default, it is ‘login’ which designates the user_login column.
  • order – ASC or DESC. By default, queries are returned in ASC order.
  • offset – Designates a number of records to offset in the resulting dataset. If set to 1, for instance, the data will be returned with the first record skipped and begin on the second. By default, this is empty.
  • number – Designates how many records to return.
  • count_total – if set to true, the number of records returned is included in the dataset. By default, this is set to true.
  • fields – designates which fields to search. By default, this is set to ‘all’

Admin Bar

For those of you who have been WordPress.com or BuddyPress users, you’ll be familiar with the admin bar. The Admin bar is a toolbar that goes across the top of the site that allows users quick access to other parts of their blogs. That Admin Bar has now been brought to WordPress 3.1 as a user setting so it can be turned on or off based on preference
in your user profile.

In Multisite, the default is to show the admin bar in both the wp-admin as well as on the front end. In standard mode, the admin bar is set to only display on the front end by default. The Admin Bar, by default, provides quick access to a User menu providing a quick link to the user profile as well as the dashboard and the ability to logout. There is also a My Sites drop down menu available in Multisite that allows users quick access to blogs they have access to. There is also Admin Bar access to other frequently used areas of the blog and plenty of hooks and filters for plugin developers to add additional access.

Improvements to Custom Post Types

In WordPress 3.0, custom post types were introduced and now they have been iterated on. For one, in WordPress 3.0, custom post types could be declared but a standard set of UI was added to the admin menu. This set of UI was fashioned with an edit menu (called Posts for the standard Posts UI), Add New and, if custom taxonomies were assigned, Categories and Tags (or
whatever those taxonomies were designated as).

Now, developers can add a show_in_menu argument when registering a post type, and designate which menu to display limited UI in. This allows for custom post types to be used with the flexibility of eliminating potentially unwanted UI that would clutter the menu. Andrew Nacin has a great writeup on admin menu changes with post types that is worth the read for any developer working in this area.

Related, when declaring a post type, you have traditionally had to pass an array of labels that designate a singular version of a name (i.e. Post vs Posts) as well as a common name (i.e. Posts). You can now add menu_name to that list of labels if you want to target a specific way of displaying the post type in the admin menu.

Finally, theme developers can now create template files named archive-{post_type}.php to target specific post types to specific templates. Utilize a new has_archive() function to determine what should be displayed when there are actually posts that match the criteria of the query or not. This gives a good way of providing some kind of 404ish or other content if no content for the post type exists.

Filterable Template Hierarchy

Speaking of template files, it’s now possible to designate different template file orders and hierarchy depending on need. The original ticket, patches and ultimate core addition, uses the following example:

Take the author template hierarchy: author-{nicename}.php > author-{id}.php > author.php

Say I want to add author-{role}.php before author.php.

With an ‘author_template_candidates’ hook, I could manipulate the actual hierarchy.

Thus was born the ‘{$type}_template_hierarchy’ filter which can be used by developers to insert author-{login} before author.php in the hierarchy by hooking on the filter ‘author_template_hierarchy’. Pretty Neat!


While WordPress 3.1 is not the biggest release in the history of WordPress major releases, it does add quite a few new toys for bloggers, as well as developers. Remember when upgrading that you should, if you can, test your site in a development area before doing the upgrade. Plugins should most likely work, but you never know. And if something is broke, you can email me a aaron@technosailor.com and, for a fee, I may be able to help you out.

Finally, the second edition of the WordPress Bible will be out sometime this spring and it does, in fact, cover WordPress 3.1. However, the 1st edition is available now and is a great resource if you’re trying to get under the hood. You can buy that today on Amazon.

Credit: Andrew Nacin (@nacin), a Core WordPress Developer, slapped me with a trout several times during the course of writing this article. While I take credit for the article, any inaccuracies are entirely his fault. ;-) #blamenacin

Best Internet Memes of 2010

Pants on the Ground

January came in with a roar with American Idol auditions. One audition, General Larry Pratt, sang a ridiculous song “Pants on the Ground”. See the original audition below:

This spawned remixes, covers and even Brett Favre firing up the Minnesota Vikings after winning the NFC Divisional game.

I’m on a Horse

The Old Spice commercial that took the internet by storm because… well, because it was so damn ridiculously funny. The man behind the I’m on a horse commercial is none other than Twitter user @isaiahmustafa.

Funny stuff.

The meme continued when Old Spice did an Old Spice Questions series on YouTube where Isaiah Mustafa took questions from Twitter users and answered them on YouTube.

After Isaiah Mustafa stepped down as the Old Spice spokesman, Baltimore Ravens lineback Ray Lewis stepped in with a hilarity of his own.


Leroy Stick (fake name) began the Twitter account @BPGlobalPR as a result of watching for over a month as BP Public Relations people spun bullshit to the general public and government after the catastrophic oil catastrophy in the Gulf of Mexico. The account served several purposes. For one, it helped us laugh when he put out content like these:

The second purpose it served was to draw attention to the horrible way BP managed their reputation and brand. At the TEDxOilSpill event, Stick was quoted as saying, “Having a brand means you stand for something. If you lie, than lying is your brand.”

This account has easily become the most retweeted account in 2010 and it’s devastating in it’s satirical impact.

Double Rainbow

The Double Rainbow Meme was hilarious in its own right. A guy in Yosemite National Park witnessed a double rainbow and proceeds to cry, weep, squeal and ask, “What’s it mean?” on video. The video was shared across the internet and even remixed into an autotuned song.

You’re Holding it Wrong

With the release of the iPhone 4, users complained about lack of reception and dropped calls. In an extraordinary press conference shortly after the release of the phone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs commented on how, if the phone was held a certain way, it would interfere with the built-in antenna. This was echoed by Apple and AT&T Support technicians and the phrase, “You’re holding it wrong” was adopted by the masses.

You’re holding it wrong also became a euphemism for other hilarity throughout 2010.

Journos Go All Capitalistic on Wikileaks

Since the release of the State Department cables by Wikileaks, I’ve sat back and watched as the journalism world has gone through convulsions about the morality of capitalizing on these secrets.

It’s been a fascinating, and illuminating, charade. As the fourth estate, the media would like to portray themselves as an unbiased, objective entity that maintains balance in society. Yet, inherently, the media is just as guilty of self-interest as anyone else in this whole mess.

Yes, the State Department specifically, and the United States (and maybe other) governments would like to keep the lid on the memos. They see their credibility in talking with other nations on the line.

Julian Assange sees this, as pointed out in the great piece by zunguzungu, where Assange is quoted as saying:

Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self-realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.

Assange sees a world where transparent and open government subvert the power and authority of the same government and so there is a natural tendency (he calls it conspiracy) to hide what happens inside.

I agree that this dichotomy exists in some areas of government, but the diplomatic cables are common sense – for all involved. Keep them hidden as there is a potential that revelation can increase safety risks, decrease operational security and reduce negotiation power. Successful negotiations derive from a position of power and everyone knows this. This is not something that amounts to some great conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the media is on the sideline, their power usurped from this rogue operative with a rogue website. Instead of the New York Times or Washington Post benefitting from the receipt of leaked information as has been the case in their traditional past (see Watergate), an upstart “news organization” is stealing their thunder. Sure the Times and a variety of other media outlets were given the data eventually, but the arbiter of information was no longer them.

While the media wrings their hands over a contrived battle between the morality of publishing leaked, national security documents and preservation of national secrets, the bigger capitalistic battle is happening and that overshadows journalistic sense of responsibility.

The ability to be first is being tainted here. While Wikileaks promises to distribute new information, acting as a benevolent dictator, to news organizations, these news organizations are capitulating their responsibilities simply to make sure they have some crumbs off of Assange’s table.

No one, certainly, is suggesting that news outlets should become a lap-dog, as I have heard toss around, of the government, bowing to their every will and whim. Certainly not, lest we live in a Communist system. However, the media is expected to operate in a suitably responsible way.

In this case, the media knows that they are on the outs. In a last gasp of industry-pride, they have sacrificed themselves in a last-ditch effort to remain relevant. Put in another way, they have come to serve themselves instead of the people they exist to serve.

Of course, this hasn’t happened overnight. No, in fact, many years of budget cuts, acquisitions, mergers and staff reductions have caused the media industry to alter how they operate and approach stories. It’s less likely that you’ll have a Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein hitting the trenches to uncover a conspiracy so deep that it reaches the President of the United States. No, that would require far more time and resources – and frankly, better reporters – than exist in todays media.

So with not a thought to their forefathers, the media of the 21st century makes decisions of national security to protect their own industry than serve the constituents who consume their journalism everyday. I wish it weren’t so.

Photo by Photoserra

Remember When I Did Professional Services? I’m Back.

One of the greatest things about being back in startup life is watching our product evolve? Since WP Engine officially launched back in July, it has been a whirlwind of streamlining the product, listening to our customers and the community, growing with our customers needs and, in general, iterating on our offering.

That was 4 months ago. I’m not going to go into our numbers, but I will say we are on a very healthy up-and-to-the-right trajectory. Our customers asked us for an affiliate program. We gave them an affiliate program where they can earn money for every new customer they refer to us.

Then they asked us for a consultant plan, aside from our standard $49 and $99/mo plan. We gave them that, after talking to consultants and asking what they needed and wanted in such a plan.

Many of our customers have since been saying, “Hey, we love what you guys are doing providing a much needed optimized WordPress platform, but… can you help us with some of our custom plugins, themes and WordPress development projects?”

Obviously, I did WordPress consulting for several years. I was able to work on some great projects and work with some great customers along the way. With my book, I was able to reach into other industries and make a name for myself. I have experience with this.

So now, I’m back in professional services bringing my experience as a consultant and applying the strength of a company at my back. Before it was just me. As a result, I turned away a lot of work that otherwise I would have liked to take. Now, I’ve got the support and organization of WP Engine as we expand our offering to, again, meet our customers demands.

Of course, our new professional services offering is not limited to our hosting customers. Even if you’re not one of our hosting customers, I’d love to talk to you about delivering on a project or to enter into a maintenance or other retainer agreement.

So if you have a WordPress project or you need help on an ongoing basis, drop me an email at aaron@wpengine.com and let’s talk about it.