Hi everyone !

Welcome to our new Publisher blog - written by various team members here at Automattic.  Our goal is to help all publishers get the most out of WordPress.

We’ll cover features that are often overlooked, we’ll highlight plugins that extend WordPress functionality, and we’ll showcase interesting sites being built with WordPress.

If you are a publisher working on an innovative project using WordPress,  or just have a questions, please contact us and let us know how we can help.


Blogs are a perfect way to spark conversation and engage your audience in a meaningful exchange of ideas.

It’s great when people participate by commenting, and when readers begin to regard to the comments area of the blog as a must-read. But having spam show up in the comments area is the quickest way to kill a conversation and turn your readers off.

As you can see in this chart below comment and trackback spam is growing at a very quick pace.
spam chart

A great solution to this web spam problem is to use our Akismet service. The Akismet service is a “a collaborative effort to make comment and trackback spam a non-issue and restore innocence to blogging, so you never have to worry about spam again.”

Lots of information here about how Akismet works, and if you are using WordPress.com or are hosted with us in the VIP program then you are already using Akismet since it’s bundled in. For those of you hosting WordPress on your own servers, or at a hosting provider, Aksimet is likely already installed you just have to enable it with your WordPress.com API key. If it isn’t installed, you can download the Akismet plugin, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Akismet is also available for many other publishing platforms and forum stoftware.

Also worth noting that there are other tremendous plugins for WordPress that fight spam using a variety of methods. You can browse those other plugins at the WordPress.org plugins directory.

Leave a Comment

You may have seen the news about General Motors, on of the largest corporations in the world, using WordPress to power their new site GMnext. Their usage of WP is great, but just as interesting is this comment from Trevor Linton at McCann on the process:

I’m the lead developer for the blog.gmnext.com. When we looked to select the best blogging system out there we went through several both closed-source (cheap to fairly expensive) blogging tools to all the open source variety. We ended up choosing WordPress not because of the cost but simply because it was the best tool for blogging out on the market. The project is just the beginning, we’re in the process now of localizing the blog into a variety of languages. Well done on one of the best designed systems I’ve seen in a long time.

(Emphasis mine.)


Plugins are tools to extend the functionality of WordPress. In an email exchange I asked a leading plugin developer, Brian Groce of Watershed Studio, his thoughts on developing WordPress Plugins and how publishers should approach having a plugin created.

How did you get started working with WordPress?

I was part of the exodus from MovableType back in 2004 due to the sudden licensing changes that occurred. After looking around at all of the PHP based open source blogging and content management options I opted for WordPress since that appeared to be the direction most people were headed and the development community seemed to be pretty strong and focused on delivering a solid product that didn’t add any fluff to the core code.

What is a plugin? And what are the advantages to using a plugin?

Plugins are extensions to the main WordPress functionality which enable the use of additional features. The advantage to using plugins is that you can easily add new features that you need while leaving the core WordPress code as simple as possible, which in turn allows for easy future software upgrades of both the core WordPress software and plugins.

In what circumstances should someone use a plugin or have a developer build a custom one?

Plugins should be used when there is a feature you’d like to see added to either the administration or presentation side of WordPress. There are numerous freely available WordPress plugins, but in the event that you can’t find what you’re looking for, having a developer create a custom plugin is your best bet unless you are already familiar with PHP and possibly SQL.

What are the biggest misconceptions about plugins?

I think the biggest misconception about plugins is that if you can think it, it can be done. While that is often the case, there are instances in which a certain feature isn’t available to be “plug into” via the API. Luckily the WordPress development team is on top of it and is adding new “hooks” as versions are released. Also, there seems to be a misconception that every plugin will work on every server setup, which isn’t necessarily the case. If a plugin uses a PHP or MySQL function that is not available or activated on the server, it will not function correctly. Related, plugins may work with one version of WordPress and not another.

Which plugins have you developed?

Of the plugins we have developed, the WordPress Email Notification plugin is by far the most popular, and we’re currently working on a new version which adds a handful of new features and improved functionality. We have also developed and maintain the WordPress Category Posts plugin & WordPress Versioning plugin and assisted in the creation of the Sphere Related Content Widget. Beyond those plugins, we have created custom plugins for clients.

In your experience what are the biggest mistakes publishers make when looking to build a plugin?

The biggest mistake from what I have seen is not looking at the big picture and painting yourself into a corner. Take the time to brainstorm and think about any possible future updates and additions that you’d like to make. By doing so, the plugin can be built with the future in mind and you’ll be able to avoid adding unnecessary additional development time down the road.

What are your favorite plugins?

My favorite plugin by far is PodPress. Anyone who has ever gone the non-plugin route to setup a podcast/vidcast can tell you how much time this plugin saves you. I also like Alex King’s Share This plugin as it is very helpful in allowing readers to share a particular post with others.

Plugin update notifications are now built into WordPress. What impact will that have on developers of plugins and their users?

I think that this will help out tremendously in allowing developers to inform users of new updates. Previously this was a manual process unless the plugin author built in a mechanism to check for updates.

From a plugin developer standpoint, what improvements or changes would you like to see with WordPress?

I would love to see some more hooks added to the API. Specifically, I would like to see a hook which easily allows for the addition of buttons to the editing toolbars in both the WYSIWYG editor and in the Code View editor. Also, I would love to have a way to see what blogs are actually using your plugin(s). With the new update notifications built into WordPress 2.3, this information should be fairly easy to collect.

What tips would you give publishers looking to have a plugin developed?

First, I would suggest looking to make sure that what you’d like to do hasn’t already been done, or at least check to see that something similar hasn’t been done. If you need some additional features or tweaks to an existing plugin, contact the plugin author to see if they can create a custom version for you and if so, how much it will cost. If they can’t (many plugin developers have full-time jobs), get in touch with a seasoned developer who can. Since most WordPress plugins are licensed under the GPL, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Second, if you need to have a plugin developed from scratch, be sure to write down and possibly diagram how you want the plugin to function. Once you have that completed, contact a plugin developer and let them know what you need. Additionally, if you have a delivery deadline, budget requirements or any other special considerations, you should share these with the potential developer as well.

Typically, how long does it take to develop a plugin from start to finish?

It truly depends on a multitude of factors, but in general the total development time depends upon the complexity of the plugin and the communication times between the client and the plugin developer. It is possible that simple plugins can be written, tested and “shipped” within a week. More complex plugins can take weeks to months before the final version is in hand and quality communication is especially vital when working on more complex plugins.

What should publishers be expecting from a cost perspective when hiring a plugin developer?

The cost of having a plugin developed comes down to the amount of time involved, thus a simpler plugin will cost less that a more complex one. In addition, developer rates and time estimates may vary quite a bit. With that said, you should expect to set aside a minimum of a few hundred dollars (USD) for a simpler plugin and into the thousands of dollars for a more complex plugin.

Thanks Brian !  You can read more technical information about plugins on the WordPress Codex site and browse hundreds of plugins in the WordPress Plugins directory.

Brian Groce photoBrian Groce is the founder, President and CEO of Watershed Studio, LLC. Watershed Studio specializes in installing & customizing WordPress for blogs, podcasts and as a content management system (CMS)