Why Blog? – WordPress Sheffield Talk

Events and Talks | WordPress

If everything has gone according to plan when this is published I will hopefully be talking at WordPress Sheffield. WordPress Sheffield is a gathering of WordPress users from around South Yorkshire who meet once a month to discuss WordPress. This month is a bit of a special occasion as at the end of the month WordPress Sheffield will be playing host to WordCamp Sheffield. For those not familiar, a WordCamp are conferences all about WordPress that occur around the world.

Normally when I speak at user groups I try to pick an unusual or quite technical subject, but this time I thought I would talk about timnash.co.uk. Why I got back into blogging, Some of the goals for the site, a bit of the behind the scenes bit and how I would really like people to get involved!

You can see the slides for the talk here:


The talk covers a range of topics, from why I have tried to get back into blogging, to what my goals are for the site. This is in terms of site metrics and sign ups, but also some more broader goals and some very vain goals such as regaining the number 1 spot for my name.

Behind the scenes

How it works slide
The main chunk of the talk is looking at what is powering timnash.co.uk as it is sitting on a very tiny dedicated box.

The setup is not particularly unusual in the WordPress world, with perhaps the exception of two elements – HipHop Virtual Machine replacing PHP-FPM and Gearman Queue manager.

The site sits on Nginx/HHVM with fast CGI support and makes heavy use of a modified BatCache to do full page caching. The modifications have been made to allow Gearman workers to generate, destroy and invalidate caches. This means when a post is not cached, rather than the user wait for the box to generate the cache before returning the result it returns the result from MySQL and then adds a job to the queue for the cache to be built for that post.

Gearman creeps in all over the place, for example comment emails are queued so when a comment is made, rather than firing direct to Mandrill the emails are put in a queue and then sent by the worker.

The combination of using HipHop Virtual Machine to speed up the performance of PHP, Memcached through BatCache to reduce expensive hard disk reading and MySQL querying that normally occurs. With the added support of Gearman means the little box can take a reasonably high load far more then your average £2/month box.

The slides also included a list of plugins and I highlighted a couple – Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is the only plugin on the list you would regularly find in a Top 10 plugin list. It is a great plugin and I use it mainly for the Social Media features but it’s pretty bloated and does have a performance hit. Ultimately I’m slowly replicating the features I want to use inside the theme and in other smaller plugins.

Another plugin I’m trying to get rid of is the inDepth Article Schema plugin, which I am replacing with a custom post format. InDepth Article rich snippet
This plugin generates the relevant schema markup to allow InDepth article rich snippet results. The reality though is it generates spurious content on every page so I’m replacing it with a dedicated post format.

A plugin that is only going to vanish when it’s moved into core though is the WordPress JSON API. This is a project I have been following with interest when it was proposed as a Google Summer of Code project. The API is now a pretty mature project and I’m using it currently to support some internal tools and experiments but plan ultimately to make heavy use of it over the coming months.

The last section of the talk is looking ahead to the future, both in terms of goals and what I’m planning to do on the blog. A few of the highlights include:

Content wise

  • Switch regular blogging from once to twice a week
  • Email Newsletter being sent every other week
  • New Video material

The switch from blogging once to twice a week won’t happen just yet, I’m trying to build up a least two months worth of articles sitting in drafts as historically I have written intensively for a few months and then faded away. To help counter this problem, I’m not hitting publish when something is written – instead it’s going into drafts to be scheduled in.

The Email Newsletter is one of the things I’m excited about, as I have some great ideas for exclusive content. Every couple of weeks the newsletter will hit peoples inboxes with some exclusive content, recap of any posts you missed and give a preview of what’s to come. If you are not on the mailing list, you can add yourself by filling in the form on the left. Do it today as the first newsletter will be going out next week!

Video is something I really want to include. I love editing and filming but I am not an actor and don’t really like being in front of the camera, so don’t expect Game of Thrones! My goal is to produce a fair chunk of video content – as this is fairly new (at least for the blog) its going to take some time to settle on a style, work out video length and if the videos will support or be standalone to some articles.

New Features

On the technical side, I am trying to introduce a new feature a week. This week I’m working on better Email Sign-ups and also a custom post format for InDepth Article Schema so I can replace the Virante In Depth Article Schema plugin. Longer term plans include a custom Elastic Search related posts plugin along with an improved faceted search results and several new custom post formats for styling posts.

How can you help?

How can you help?
If you have read this far thank you!
Can I ask for your help? This site is still very new and a lot of people haven’t found it yet so if you haven’t please consider sharing an article with your friends on social networks and other groups. It may seem like a small thing but it’s a massive help.

Also I am looking for article ideas – I want to hear what you want to see on timnash.co.uk and really would like you to comment either here or via email or a social media site of your choice about what you want.

Once again, as I don’t say it often enough thanks for reading! I wouldn’t be writing on timnash.co.uk if it wasn’t for the encouragement of friends and readers and it’s people like yourself who will help focus me into keeping the blog going.

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