The one big mistake in his premise, however, is that only 34% of WordPress users are blogging, the actual percentage is much higher. The survey he quotes me talking about was of mostly people who make their living building WordPress sites (over 20,000) and mostly WordPress.org users. This community naturally focuses (and contributes) more on the CMS and application framework side of WordPress.
On WordPress.com, however, the vast majority of its millions of users blog, and are blogging more every day. If you visit WP.com you will see a simplified and streamlined user experience that is boldly different from the traditional wp-admin dashboard. Already we've seen huge boosts in user engagement from this new experience, and while it's a few dozen iterations from being ready I'm confident the best concepts will make their way back into WordPress core when they are ready.
But overall, I love seeing different people's takes on what the next generation of WordPress will look like, and I wish more people did blog posts like this. We've had 3 dramatic shifts in our evolution before, and the shape the next one will take is a topic that occupies most of my waking hours, mind space, and creativity. And don't even get me started on mobile... :)
You can still access the full nuts-and-bolts dashboard via a drop-down menu, but it's deliberately harder to find, and editing happens in the simplified area by default. I've recommended WordPress.com accounts to a few people recently; I was surprised by this change, but they - having never used WordPress - seemed delighted by the simplicity of it. This can only be a good thing, and I can see this working in WordPress.org blogs too.
I run a collaborative writing forum and, newly obsessed with markdown at the time, I figured that since users were mostly writing many paragraphs of text, they could pick up the markdown basics if a toolbar + cheatsheet helped them out. In my head, it was going to be some sort of amazing improvement and my forum community would begin chanting my name as they experienced the splendors of markdown.
Yeah, sure -- the writers could certainly grasp markdown #headers, how two linebreaks become a new `<p>`, and even `()` vs `()` links (with toolbar/cheatsheet help). Great! But nested elements and pretty much anything more complicated were a real monkey wrench or just plain unsupported.
Writers would put great effort into their posts (just like a blogger would), changing colors, right-aligning, center-aligning, changing font sizes. -- Things that markdown just doesn't support without some extending or post-processing that would turn into something far more confounding than the intuitive bbcode you started with.
Everyone just understands:
[center][size="6"][color="red"]My Cat, Mittens:[/color][/size][/center]
[size="3"]Mittens says: [i]"Meow!"[/i][/size]
What did your cheatsheet look like?
Also, other communities that deal with a similar audience had the same problem with Markdown and moved back to BBCode. For example, these guys (http://guildwork.com/forum/threads/4e46f3d5205cb22721000765-...) moved from BBCode to Markdown and then ended up moving back and writing their own BBCode parser in Python.
Markdown is good when users have limited syntactical/formatting options. But BBCode makes it easier to extend features with an intuitive syntax that nobody seems to have trouble with.
One example would be Markdown's dependence on character glyphs:
I am currently writing a forum CMS (http://pygm.us/IbkgNZ4d), and I, too, have wondered how to expand the number of tags within a rigid nomenclature. Using a lexer that automatically converts links to tweets and YouTube videos to embedded scripts seems like an unintuitive solution, but on the other hand, people unfamiliar with the commands will automatically display the embeds in their posts.
For commands that don’t convert links, I was thinking about something like ':<COMMAND>:' with an expandable list of whatever people prefer. Something Awful already use this model for their emoticons, and it could be extended to things like images in general like states for election conversation and such.
I have always found the `[url]` solution to be incredibly bothersome and to some extent unintuitive, and with the advent of mobile devices, letting people write their posts in as few characters as possible is a big advantage to be taken into consideration when weighing the pros and cons.
Lots of vBulletin forums use the `:<string>:` syntax because vBulletin's default smilie set ships with that form of syntax (even though you can use arbitrary strings like setting "lol" to display a laughing gif) so everyone just piles onto it. Basically, direct string replacement seems to be universally understood by all users.
But the real riddle here is devising a syntax superior to bbcode that transcends string replacement and does things like take arguments and act like functions.
Because, it's this less-straightforward symbolism that requires the higher order of savviness/pattern-recognition that less-experienced users struggle with. Like `!()` turning into an image (but not `! ()`) or why you'd need to indent 4 spaces to resume a bullet point after an empty line.
In other words, where you and I may find it obvious that we're conforming to the rules of a parser (on some back-of-the-mind intuition at least), I found that this concept of mechanical recognition is nonobvious to the user archetype that expressed confusion over Markdown. To them, `! ()` doesn't work because of a negative rule "there can't be a space", not because the token is simply no longer recognizable to the robot behind the curtains that renders their post. That's the crux I've arrived at that makes Markdown suboptimal for my particular community demographic.
The final point I discovered is that users almost always use the toolbar button for anything that comes from their clipboard (namely image and website URLs). Click, paste, and done. Even on smartphones. So essentially all Markdown did there was take cumbersome syntax that was seldom typed-in to begin with and replace it with less intuitive syntax for a benefit that was seldom awarded: being easier to type! Users then had to confront the `()` beast when editing posts or modifying their post's layout.
Fun stuff to ponder. It's always extremely eye-opening and humbling to be so wrong.
Moreover, I can teach people Markdown 10x faster than I can teach them CMS-specific HTML rules. Moreover, WordPress's TinyMCE stuff can break quiet easily (we have to disable it for most of our writers, I'm still allowed to have it because I never use it), so having a readably syntax AND having an instant-preview seems pretty perfect.
As a huge fan of the WordPress community and what the software and platform has empowered, I'm seeing a decreasing amount of interest in blogging as my social network turns toward meme-sharing and 140-character quips simply because they're much more conducive to consumption and sharing on mobile.
It's so bad that there are startups trying to fix this like Blogstand (http://blogstand.co - our project). We know that others are attempting the same (and they should be!)
I would 100% agree with that.
Every time I use my iPhone to browse to Twitter or LinkedIn I'm taken away from the full site and to a silly "mobile" site that resembles the native app. If I wanted the native app. experience, I'd download and use it! Ever try approving a LinkedIn recommendation using your iPhone? Good luck!
It seems to me that many people think that "mobile responsiveness" is such a great thing, but I'm not sure they've really considered whether it's even necessary. I'd bet that most designers who build WP sites on themes that tout "mobile responsiveness" (and have it enabled by default) haven't even considered whether their client needs the second version of their site. Even if they do, I think often times the "mobile" version ends up being an ugly, hardly-tested, bastardized version of the "full site". Just give us the real website, please!
Absolutely. We had the WordPress community summit just last week, and one of the topics we discussed several times was mobile. The WordPress apps are good, but there's improvements that can be made to both the apps and the way they interact with a WordPress install, so plans were made to move this stuff forward. It's definitely something that everyone (especially Matt) is interested in.
the promise of blogging for me has always been the ability to have my own printing press and know that nearly everyone else in the world had access to one as well.
i'm still trying to understand how this "evolution" has actually decreased the quality of communication.
the promise of blogging for me has always been
the ability to have my own printing press and know
that nearly everyone else in the world had access
to one as well.
Then again, this versatility has its drawbacks. We're constantly challenged by the complexity of building a mobile viewport onto WordPress and present it in a way that makes reading, discussing and sharing this kind of content. The options for publishers are limitless and translating that to mobile in a way that makes sense is really non-trivial.
In core WordPress we'll track our progress and discuss over on the Make/Mobile blog. Feel free to chime in there! http://make.wordpress.org/mobile
I remember switching from my first self written CMS to a small blogging platform called wordpress a couple of years ago. I never looked back after that :)
That's fine, as mentioned in the post, but there is a reason that Svbtle (etc) is suddenly the flavour of the month, and it's not just cause Dustin is the coolest kid in San Fran.
This project doesn't need someone who loves WordPress and wants make more plugins for it. It needs someone who thinks they can make a good thing even better. Steve Jobs didn't just make a new cover for mobile phones. He fundamentally proved that communicational devices must become many times better than what they were before and that's what I expect from John.
Even Steve couldn't fix AT&T so don't expect John to fix WordPress core issues. That job is for WordPress itself.