ooh, shiny new features that don’t exist!

Yawn. I’m really not sold on this new policy of doing three or four new releases a year just for the sake of it. Widgets in core? What, do you think your target audience for widgets is finding it too much of an intellectual challenge to a) download the plugin or b) stick to wordpress.com? And you’re trumpeting the fact that you’re finally deigning to support Atom 1.0 as a new feature? If your reader knows enough about Atom to care, they’re hardly going to be taken in by that one. Ditto that there’s a new Blogger importer (because Google messed with their site and stopped the old one from working).

You’d really make a better impression saying it was a bugfix release. The product is mature enough now that you shouldn’t have to try desperately to invent kewl new features every time you want to bump things up a point. OK, so maybe nobody other than the most dedicated fanboys will bother upgrading without kewl new features, but that’s their decision. You could have just waited till the next security hole and done the version bump then. ‘If you don’t upgrade your blog is at risk’ is a much better selling point than ‘ooh, shiny new features that don’t exist!’

At least sanity prevailed and Matt’s last-minute attempt at implementing tags was junked in favour of doing it properly in some later version. To be fair to Matt, nobody else was going to get started on tags without prior approval, and had he not waded in with his copy-pasted category code it would have been left to drift indefinitely. One wonders why they couldn’t just clean up UTW a bit and stick that in, but then only the Automattic plugin drawer gets raided for kewl new features nowadays. (Expect the stats plugin to be bundled in 2.4 if not earlier. However unenthralled you may be by the prospect of giving Automattic all the data from your self-hosted WP blogs, most newbies are sufficiently obsessed by stats that it will be worth their while.)

19 Comments »

  1. Scott said

    The Atom API is pretty slick. Though, yes, not terribly new, it is much better than what Movable Type (what’s that?) came up with.

    I still cannot understand why the “Classic” theme is still in there. Kubrick, grudgingly, yes.

  2. abelcheung said

    — new policy of doing three or four new releases a year
    To be fair, time based release has its share of problem, but at least better than featured based release, which could end up like the Debian motto:

    Q: When will it be released?
    A: When it’s done.
    Q: So when do you expect it will be done?
    A: Only when it’s done.

    Many dying projects share similar characteristics.

    — nobody else was going to get started on tags without prior approval
    Whom does WordPress belong to? You know the answer.

  3. Debian’s policy sounds exactly like WP’s from 0.71 to 2.0. Throughout that time the developers consistently refused to commit to release dates. I think what prompted the change is that WP is now pretty feature-complete (with the obvious exception of tagging), so if they’d continued only releasing when they had a kewl new feature we would be looking at nothing until 2.5 sometime in 2008. The investors might not have been overjoyed about that.

  4. AJ said

    TGA, don’t forget the anticipated threat from Habari. It was what triggered the change😉

  5. Lloyd Budd said

    Wow, seems like a pretty good release if those are the things you have decided to wank about😉 (Not stability or performance or problems with any of the experience changes.)

    widgets: I think you have a disconnect from what is a useful experience. A plugin that is widgetized is much more easily added and removed from my sidebar than one that is not.

    Scott, I am also excited about the ATOM API, and the clean up to the XML-RPC API.

    Some of my favorite new features are the widgets, “infinite comment stream” and “plugin” (sandboxing) protection, and love how many niggler bugs have been fixed. Robin is awesome!

    I am very happy with a regular release cycle — it eases more people staying involved when their work has more immediate benefit by others.

    I can’t read your posts without appreciating the irony that your blog is on WordPress.com .

  6. adam said

    I can’t read your posts without appreciating the irony that your blog is on WordPress.com .

    you came in late, i think you missed the part about wank having matt’s full approval because she’s on wordpress.com

  7. adam said

    However unenthralled you may be by the prospect of giving Automattic all the data from your self-hosted WP blog

    no shit. given that matt uses those stats for his own amusement, rather than improving the service, i’d damn well rather trust google with my data (much to my libertarian friends’ dismay)

  8. ttancm said

    I’ve been kind of worried about the WP Stats plugin since it was released. The whole “in order to take the load off your server” thing never sat very well with me, and I notice a distinct lack of disclaimers and such about what they will or will not do with the data.

    I’ve actually been switching all my sites to open web analytics, which is all self-hosted and has WP integration built in. (http://www.openwebanalytics/) for anyone who is interested.

    As for the regular release schedule, I can’t really say that I am looking forward to having to fix problems with broken plugins and themes every 3-4 months or having to upgrade several installs of WP =P

  9. Dead_ said

    The investors might not have been overjoyed about that.

    Apple, Microsoft, hell, even Adobe, can go two, three years without a major new release. The timeline for web apps is smaller, but I don’t see why a major release couldn’t be a yearly goal, or every 6-9 months, and not please the investors. WordPress has become a large program that’s almost feature complete save for tags, a near-yearly major release with REAL changes – not some bundled security patches and a new gimmick – would not be an awful thing. It doesn’t mean they can’t release security patches, of course, but it wouldn’t be a huge thing for them to cut back on major releases to do make some real, noticable differences.

  10. Lloyd Budd said

    adam, the irony has nothing to do with approval, it is that “that girl again” chooses WordPress while constantly crying foul.

    I am also a subscriber. I find it entertaining and there are nuggets of insights amongst the constant negativity about most thinks Automattic.

    Dead_ , your assertions assumes that the release frequency affects the ability to do “real, noticable differences”. I have no reason to believe that is correct.

  11. Dead_ said

    It doesn’t, no. But by giving themselves more time to polish shit like that off, we’re not left with 2.5 followed mere months by 2.6 because, oh, they finally implemented tags in core. Atm, WordPress quarterly releases seem to be just adding a new gadget, and changing little else, apart from security patches and under the hood stuff only geeks care about. Inbuilt WYSIWYG, while bloated, was an example of a real addition to the software, solid enough to make people care to upgrade. Tags would be as well, if they finally got around to implementing them. Widgets in core isn’t something so amazing to make thousands of people upgrade to the new major release, especially if their current WP installations work fine with Widgets as a plugin.

    Apple, MS, etc pace releases cause they know they need to make noticable improvements to the layman user, and put in the extra effort to do so. WordPress releases new major releases with few new things to entice people to upgrade, usually, even for the tech crowd. I know it’s hard to make big, noticable changes in an almost feature-complete blogging package like WordPress, but if they gave themselves more time to create innovate new ideas, and implement them in a way that isn’t decidedly half-arsed (see: widgets), they’d get much more enthusiasm from the community when it came time for a major new release.

  12. The basic problem is that tags were originally (over-ambitiously, as it turned out) scheduled for 2.2, and when it became apparent that a decent framework for tagging wasn’t going to happen anywhere near the release date they were faced with a choice between a) waiting until tags were ready or b) releasing anyway, with widgets thrown in at the last minute in a desperate attempt to make it sound a little less feeble.

    I don’t think a) was seriously considered because this would mean admitting that the timed-release strategy had failed. And, as has already been pointed out on this thread, frequent releases are necessary to hold the attention of the guys on wp-hackers and prevent them either defecting to Habari or setting up their own forks-which-are-not-forks😉

    I don’t think it’s ‘ironic’ that this blog is on wordpress.com, no. This is an argument I cannot win, since if I had stayed on livejournal or switched to blogger I would be getting ‘what right have you got to comment on a service you don’t even use?’ Suggesting that one cannot use wordpress and be critical of it is akin to suggesting that only Mac and Linux users are in a position to whine about Windows.

  13. The basic problem is that tags were originally (over-ambitiously, as it turned out) scheduled for 2.2

    Big features need to go in in the first quarter of the development cycle. We hadn’t even finished reaching a community consensus on the best way to implement tags until 2.2 was almost done. Hopefully that’s a lesson learned.

    2.2 is part bugfix release (as it is a mandatory security upgrade for 2.1.3 users), and part feature release (although the marketable feature set is slim). It’s not super-sexy, but it’s faster, more secure, and it does a few clever things that make using it more enjoyable (e.g. making sure in-WP plugin editing or activation won’t result in a PHP fatal error, and refilling the comments list when you delete or spam one).

    I’m not too bothered by more releases that happen to be less sexy than previous releases. And I’m pretty apathetic about whatever marketing “ooh look, shiny!” jazz goes on to convince people that less sexy releases are in fact, moderately sexy.

    I do, though, wish that it was mentioned in the announcement post that 2.2 has security fixes that 2.1.3 lacks and that the 2.1.x branch is closed (making 2.2 a required upgrade for 2.1.3 users). There’s a lot of confusion on that point.

  14. Lewis said

    @ttancm
    I did pose this question about stats privacy and got an answer from Mr Mullenweg that really wasn’t an answer at all

    Yes, the last minute tags implementation was dropped from 2.2 – probably/perhaps because it broke UTW as it stood…?

  15. My guess is, Matt lost track of what was in the release and didn’t know it was a security upgrade. This is more charitable than assuming he actually believes ‘ooh, shiny new features that don’t exist!’ is a better selling point than ‘if you don’t upgrade your blog is at risk’.

    I mean, yeah, if there are security fixes you need to do anyway, you may as well throw some extra stuff in there. And once you’re adding extra micro-goodies, you probably do have to bump it up a point. That makes sense. Instead, it was marketed as a feature release which happened to have lots of bugfixes, rather than a bugfix release which happened to have a couple of minor features. The only reason the latter would have been better is that it would have sounded more convincing.

  16. ttancm said

    I’ve actually removed the stats plugin from my sites in favor of the system I mentioned above. There is definitely a noticeable load difference, but at least now I know who looks at my stats.

    I’m not crazy with most 3rd party/off site services and would rather host everything I can myself (that’s why I use the self-hosted installs, rather than WP.com), so it would be nice if they release a non-wp.com hosted version of the stats plugin, until then I’ve decided to give it a miss.

  17. Lloyd Budd said

    “that girl again”, you seem to be twisting my words when you write that I suggested that one cannot use WordPress and be critical of it. Maybe, irony is not the correct term. I can’t imagine using software that I don’t think is the best or that I am required to use. As I previously describe, I am happy that you feel so vested in WordPress.

  18. I can’t imagine using software that I don’t think is the best or that I am required to use.

    That’s a really nice position for you to be in, but there are a lot of other factors which determine the choices made by others (such as convenience and not having the time to learn how to use alternative software at the same level). I originally chose b2 not for any killer features, but for the fairly arbitrary reasons that it was easier to install than MT and I could take it for a test run in a free account on lycos.co.uk. Nowadays, many people choose WP because their host offers it as a one-click install, or because their friend has a blog on wordpress.com, or because it was the first page they clicked from Google. Even if their original choice was uninformed, in the absence of any compelling reason to move they’ll stay where they are because it’s too much trouble to do otherwise. Inertia is a powerful force.

    I always used to counsel against having an emotional investment in the tools you used, because a) the tools should be secondary to the activity of blogging itself and b) it makes it harder to move on when things go bad. I still believe this, even though I have failed spectacularly to live by it.

  19. Jenny said

    I hate using widgets. It clutters up everything and makes me feel out of control. I like the simple “I’ll do the sidebar myself” way of handling it.

    As for tags, I’d like to have them. UTW is a pain in the ass to use. Maybe if they do put it in later, it will look nicer and not be all over the place and NOT have every fucking tag ever made underneath the post window. That’s the one reason I deleted it.

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