Sonny Stitt, WordPress 3.3 and Getting out of the Way

sonny stitt - what's newJazz Wax just posted a timely piece on Sonny Stitt on his interesting use of the experimental Varitone or Electric Sax. The goal of this 1965 instrument was to integrate the organic reed vibration sound generation process and electric manipulation and amplification of the sound. The instrument would provide a suite of on-board tools and would “get out of its own way” during performance – no tripping over microphone stands, fiddling with outboard effect patching or trying to double lines with a synthesizer to make a custom “modern” sound. Instead, the musician would have these options built into the instrument itself and these processes would be integrated into act of playing. Sonny Stitt was a daring experimenter and a believer in this idea. He was able to make some interesting music with this instrument despite its many technical limitations.

The overarching goals of the WordPress admin has seemed to me to be similar – integrate the content creation process with the web publishing and layout process such that the tools “get out of the way” and creative workflow is not only not compromised but at times enhanced. These are lofty goals and they are never achieved in one iteration. Many of the problems that were so difficult to solve for the Varitone would be trivial to solve now but others are still persist. I own a digital piano that is in many ways a superior instrument to most analog pianos, yet at times it still is not a real piano and then it fails badly. Technology is not cool in and of itself but only if it improves something. Sometimes complex technology goes largely unnoticed because it is so well integrated into something that someone already does. WordPress 3.3 is an important release because it smooths out a lot of rough admin usability edges, gets out of the publisher’s way more than ever, and makes it more fun to publish stuff.¬† Sonny would enjoy playing with his release namesake I am sure.

WordPress 3.1 is Awesome

Django Reinhardt would have liked WordPress

Yes WordPress 3.1 is out. I have upgraded to 3.1 on every WordPress install I run including the 100% wp popdust. We have been using the 3.1 RC versions on our dev boxes for weeks so this transition has gone smoothly. While the admin bar and new internal linking feature are getting a lot of press, I am most excited about being able to more easily create archive pages of custom post types and to query custom types and taxonomies more easily. We also intend to be banging on get_users for some ‘related users’ features we are working on.

This was a challenging release for the WordPress core team and contributors and my hat goes off to them for their efforts and for making careful decisions about what to pull from this release in the interest of stability. Two yeas ago I was fortunate to be on the team at CBS that spearheaded the migration of 120 of the CBS Radio sites over to WordPress. Despite the fact that WordPress was already powering CNN blogs and a massive piece of NYTimes Traffic among countless others, the WordPress migration was still considered to be a bold and aggressive move in the snakeoil-polluted¬† ‘enterprise CMS’ world. You are using WordPress to power the whole site? Are you crazy? Guess what – it worked great. Thanks to some great consulting from a top WordPress agency, we found that WordPress could handle anything we threw at it (and we threw a lot of crazy business rules at it let me tell you). There was no downside. Editorial started to enjoy creating lots of content, users became more engaged and loyal and jaded developers were suddenly inspired to be building on sophisticated open source software instead of putting in support tickets and devising ugly hacks to wrangle proprietary systems.¬† Such a decision would be positively mainstream today. WordPress is simply a great content platform and it the features that just came out in 3.1 only further enhance its flexibility.