WPMu: State of the Union Here and Abroad

Well, I have been deep in my toy blogging and out to sea in many regards, I become a home owner tomorrow, and just got back from an exhilarating talk in West Virginia that has my spirits up about a way of thinking about some things. The Me/We web, from Muhammad Ali to Walt Whitman, the possibility and promise of framing a model that empowers faculty and students to own and manage their own digital spaces and feed them back together—a me/we proposition. And to see the work Alan and D’Arcy are doing with their experimentation with real time publishing, and just dreaming about capturing the work happening around UMW out in the open in real time. A visualization of learning. And then there are all the things that Google Analytics will tell us about who’s visiting what sites, with what search terms and how long will they stay and read. A look into how open education done through blogs and sites that are part of community will begin to echo out into the ecosystem of the web. Feeding it positively, and building networks effects beyond the school. It excites me!

And then to think that Novak Rogic and his award winning development team at UBC’s OLT is starting to openly blog the unbelievable work they’ve been doing of the last year and a half. For example, Novak will be talking about how they’re running a large WPMu install for a school with 30,000+ students! That is such an essential narrative, and it starts here. When I stop and think about it for a second, this group has fueled a steady flow of plugins that realized everything from the bliki to the syndication bus. This all was developed there and they are going to tell us all about it! “Rich as kings!”

And UMW Blogs has been back up and running smoothly after an emergency move to a new server to keep up with how hard it was being hit. And special thanks to my guru Zach Davis of Cast Iron Coding fame, who brought the whole thing over on a minute’s notice to a new server in less than two hours one late Tuesday night while he had a million other obligations. Both Zach and his partner Lucas have been such solids for us at DTLT over the last two years. I am constantly reminded, but most acutely in times of crisis, jut how much depends on the work of so many. And not only does Zach have to put up with my crap on a daily basis, but his imagination has helped fuel UMW’s innovation on levels we could only dream of without him—a vital piece to the puzzle.

I even have the specs for the new server Zach has UWM Blogs on, which is beautifully handling the syndication bus with 3,000+ users and almost 3,000 blogs, a so far not a hitch (I know so little about hardware that I’m not even sure I copied what’s below correctly):

ver CPU: Dual Intel Xeon-Harpertown 5420-Quadcore 2.5GHz
MOTHERBOARD: SuperMicro X7DBU Intel Xeon QuadCore DualProc Sata
DRIVES: 2 SATA 250GB Drives with hardware RAID 1 NETWORK: 100MBPS

The education community and sharing is solid, but recently a cloud has settled in over at wpmu.org, where James Farmer is bemoaning the “Discontinuation” of WPMu, a project Matt Mullenweg refers to as “a tragedy of the commons,” and notes the development and sharing between of WPMu is a small fraction of that for the core WP, quite possibly because a fraction of the people administer WPMu. But the larger points that the organization of the community is so deeply locked into the development at INCSUB that is increasingly locked behind a pay wall for plugins that aren’t always maintained (the first problem with our 2.7+ to 2.8+ upgrade in August related to multi-db). And I just don;t know why the pay wall development like the WPMu Global Tags plugin is just a pay version of Donncha’s Sitewide Tags Pages Plugin and Simple Tags—which together can do that and so much more. All of which makes Matt Mullenweg’s point that the development is now being duplicated—half of which is locked behind a pay wall, and the other half often languishing—that much more poignant. WPMUDev has almost doubled in price over the last year, and while they have developed some good stuff, fact is that the code of WPMuDev’s plugins is suffering from the pay model—and we here at UMW have not renewed. Quite frankly, I don’t disagree with Matt, and I am increasingly thinking the merging of WP and WPMu will hopefully make the whole process that much easier. But at the same time I wonder what features will disappear, will the possibilities be curtailed? But then I wonder if that specifically matters all that much, the community that is dedicated to thinking and experiment in teaching and learning must develop according to ideas and larger visions of sharing and collaborating between people openly and freely. A new possibility for education that makes institutions people.

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy
But really I am neither for nor against institutions;
(What indeed have I in common with them?–Or what with the
destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every city of These
States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel, little or large,
that dents the water,
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

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12 Responses to WPMu: State of the Union Here and Abroad

  1. Matt says:

    Thank you for writing about this.

  2. I never viewed the proposed WP-WPµ merger as anything other than AWESOME! No longer a separate project? No longer requiring additional time after a WP upgrade for the fixes and improvements to be migrated into WPµ? A much larger community hacking on the code? How are these things anything other than completely fracking AWESOME.

    Nothing is being discontinued. It’s being embraced, and pulled into the core. I have to wonder why anyone could possibly find that something to complain about – unless their business model is somehow tied to WPµ remaining marginalized, (relatively) neglected, and difficult.

  3. I have to agree with D’Arcy. I am excited as the prospect of having WP and WPµ merge. Shouldn’t this mean that just about anything you can think of doing with a regular WP blog will work for WPµ ones. Won’t it mean better plugin compatibility (though this is much better than the very early days)?

    Wooster started its site on alpha versions of WPµ and was one of the first schools in the country to do so. It was the vast number of differences between WPµ and WP that kept it from growing into what D’Arcy and Jim have been able to develop. I didn’t have the time/skill to keep the code working in those early days. So I am overjoyed at the prospect of the merger. I also find the amount of duplication between stuff on WPMUDev and WPMUDev Premium disturbing. Bring on the merger and let’s stop duplicating our efforts.

  4. Terry Hall says:

    It’s interesting to get the “educational” perspective on the topic of WordPress & WPMUdev friction. I appreciate your insights and perspective.

    As a business person, I have struggled with conceptualizing “open source” development. I like the processes and products the open source communities create and develop. I especially like the ability to learn, train and develop myself within the communities.

    Well that’s enough about me. It seems that Open Source Code is like religion in that people interpret the “source” documents & licenses in ways that suit and please them. When there is a difference of opinion, a new group splinters off to “do their own thing” in a way that suits themselves. When it comes to “source” we each have our own individual and personal relationship to that “source” and have to act on our own conscience to guide what we feel is right. Sometimes what is created is better and sometimes both perish.

    As WordPress matures and becomes main stream, there will be more and more people that want to “leverage” it’s source and core to meet their own needs. IMO that’s the intention of the licensing, to allow these freedoms and have a product evolve by and for the community it serves to meet its needs.

    Having said that, WordPress.org and WPMUdev.org both save me time and that is valuable for me and the community as a whole. We each have to determine whether the “cost” whether in time or money is justified to meet our needs. I see that in an open source community, the source/core of the project are related to the commercialization of that source/core like the front and back of my hand are related – non-existent without the other.

    It is also said that businesses are best run by dictators and societies/communities by democracy. When open source communities evolve into “big business” the subsequent power plays are inevitable and predicable. It will be interesting to see where and how this one ends and who benefits.

  5. Michael says:

    Is there an english translation of this?

  6. Ron says:

    “I never viewed the proposed WP-WPµ merger as anything other than AWESOME! No longer a separate project? No longer requiring additional time after a WP upgrade for the fixes and improvements to be migrated into WPµ? A much larger community hacking on the code? How are these things anything other than completely fracking AWESOME.”

    It took us a day or so to adjust to the prospect (similar to when we found out we wer going to have another child). Once adjusted though, we’ve felt pretty much the same way. This is going to be completely awesome 🙂

  7. Reverend says:

    My pleasure, and I feel your pain with the whole premium wpmudev tumor 🙂

    I think you’re exactly right, what the WPMu community has to gain through the merge outweighs any questions of holding on to what we have now. WPMu, as @Jon point out nicely, has always been far slower to get up and running with the average user than WPMu, and the development cycle ha just really caught up since the merge has been announced. There are possibilities here that I am only just imagining, wherein everyone has their own WP/WPMu space (or whatever else), and we really switch gears towards the syndication bus. The easier the better, and the more possibilities for imagining this as aggregation spaces and a community connected through their work that they own and maintain. That’s what we are pursuing here, not some idea of purity and ownership that’s currently being tied up with WPMu by some, namely Farmer.

    Yeah, you are absolutely right, I played with Lyceum early on, a WPMu fork, because it was easier to setup, and it worked with my programming chops, which are nonexistent. WPMu in the early days was a bear, and for some still is. I do love it’s architecture, and they way it provides people their own space, and with the merge I wonder if this just doesn’t amplify WordPress’s power 1000 fold?

    The duplication has been annoying, and I think that is what we get when a few folks are fine-tuning plugins and the like and not simply not sharing it, but charging for work that is often born out of a community. I always thought the open source model for making money was consulting, individual development with clients, and then sharing it back at some point, or not—and just keeping it all on the down low. Who knows, it is a fraught topic, as @Terry points out, and I need to think a bit more about this.

    I don;t think of the open coe/open source/open education space so much as a religion, as it is an important movement which opens up an alternative to the business models we have practiced up and until now. I understand people want to make a buck off this software, and many people can and do, and I am not at odds with that necessarily. What my concern is remains with how one does it? Do you make your money off of development and support off paying clients? Do you develop premium plugins and themes from scratch and sell them to client and keep it on the down low? Do you develop a plugin for a specific client, have them pay you and then release it into the community for general consumption? Or do you set up a pay model where the plugins you developed are premised on the free work of others, by and large, and charge what is becoming an outrageous price for this stuff and at the same time limiting the scope and range of the community through a kind of bifurcation of the community, while at the same time, offer plugins that are rather shoddily coded? WPMuDev Premium does offer a service to may, and many will keep paying for it over the short term, but that will change shortly after the merge. A move that will most likely benefit anyone who is developing and contracting in the program, but not trying to corner the market of that development. Does that make any sense?

    Put a little more clearly, you don’t shit where you eat, and that’s what Farmer is doing.

    I can have it translated into jackass for you, if you like.

    A perfect way to describe my initial reaction, but like with my 3rd child, we are currently preparing and getting excited 😉

  8. Terry Hall says:

    I completely understand “not shitting where you eat” and have not related to this issue in that regard before now. 🙂 Thanks for opening my eyes.

  9. Tom says:

    Would you please create a jackass version?

    I’m thinking it’ll be video based and consist mainly of you braying at the camera. Feel free to wrap it up with cursing, Bono songs, toy references, you repeatedly saying your name etc.

    Bonus points for a donkey costume.

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  12. Tom says:

    Robot cuisine,

    Your words, like poetry, or syrup of ipecac, tickle the back of my throat. SMITTEN! You cry of the new zune, but fantabulous is, no doubt, a stretch. Immensity is, after all, what immensity does. And a scrivener in the hand is worth two (perhaps three) of Jeb Bush.

    But, as you say, that may be the reactionist in me.

    With love and amelioration,


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