John EckmanThe entire team at The CMS Myth would like to extend heart-felt congratulations and good luck to friend and  long time collaborator, John Eckman. This week John started the next phase of his career as the CEO of 10up. In case you’re wondering where else you heard that name this week, yes…It is the 10up that launched Nate Silver’s all new fivethirtyeight.com on WordPress this Monday.

In addition to his incredible contributions to The CMS Myth, John was most recently the Managing Director of ISITE Design Boston, where he spent the last 3 years. In this role John successfully led up delivery with a combination of deep digital expertise, strategic thinking, and a genuine understanding of how to get the best out of his team. He is already sorely missed.

However, anybody who knows John knows his passion (aside from great Vegan food) is open source content management, most specifically WordPress. John has been one of the organizers of WordCamp Boston for 8 years. He’s also a plugin contributor and has spoken at many WordCamps, DrupalCamps, Gilbane, CMS Expo, and more. The team John now leads at 10up specializes in WordPress and counts many plugin and core contributors among their team.

On a personal note, John and I joined the CMS Myth team together and it’s impossible to quantify how much I’ve learned from him. Over the years he’s contributed many great articles to the myth. Here are a few of our favorites:

While we’re sure John’s going to be very, very busy in his new role at 10up, we’re hopeful he’ll still have time to share his thoughts with us here! In the meantime, you can keep up with him on Twitter @jeckman. Best wishes John!

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wiredhome

How does a venerable publisher like WIRED.com evolve a website and CMS platform two decades in the making? That’s the challenge WIRED.com’s Director of Engineering Stefan Antonowicz described in a recent blog post foreshadowing changes happening under the hood to make WIRED.com “faster, more stable” and better able to support future ambitious projects.

While the post was a courtesy heads up alerting WIRED.com readers of potential hiccups, the comments included fascinating details on the process as Antonowicz generously engages with readers. The conversation also continues this morning, as apparently, a final load test uncovered enough potential issues to wave off the planned Sunday launch. It’s rare to get such raw, real-time commentary from a large-scale CMS replatforming.

Antonowicz describes WIRED.com’s platform as “a mix of really old stuff pre-2007″ that include flat files, PHP and Perl as well as a WordPress install that dates to around 2007 (although I found a blog post from Matt Mullenweg dated 2009). One of the big challenges, according to Antonowicz, is consolidating 17 separate WordPress blogs into one.

He comments on the difficulty of trying to update a site in so many different places every time there’s a change. A challenge anyone managing large, legacy content platforms knows all too well.

Scaffolding got put over the whole shebang to try to tie everything together, and that worked OK in terms of being able to maintain the site, but new stuff was a Herculean task trying to figure out how the 17 code forks would coordinate.

When asked about the choice to stay with WordPress, he acknowledges it may have made sense to explore alternatives, but the realities of resources, politics and knowledge of the existing platform made sticking with WordPress more realistic path.

From my experience, sometimes reinventing the wheel can cause more headaches than the problem you set out to initially solve. WordPress, for its shortcomings, is something that’s been worked on for many years by large teams of developers – so by hitching my oxen to that wagon I get to reap the time and resources other folks put into it. Additionally, we were in [WordPress] already – so I get to reap some of the benefits of all the devs before us that have put time into the system – which is more currency in the sack for me.

Accordingly to Antonowicz (and to the apparent chagrin of many passionate commenters), this project is purely focused backend architecture — A necessary first step to clean up the house and enable bigger and better front end changes. What’s interesting is that, while keeping WordPress, Antonowicz and team appear to be working to decouple WordPress further in separating the author experience from the front end website and publishing. He comments:

So philosophically I want [WordPress] to do the thing it’s good at (be a CMS that manages data) and separate that from what it’s maybe not great at (displaying that data in a way users can interact with that I can scale limitlessly). This particular project is the first step in making that a possibility – hopefully we can one day pull the display and input of that data completely apart, and then we can do what we like by just writing APIs that interact with the CMS as one of potentially many endpoints.

He also drops some CMS wisdom in the process:

At the end of the day, it gets devs out of the way of everyone else – and I think that’s the key to the job we do. Get Technology Out Of The Way.

A big hat tip to  Antonowicz for engaging WIRED.com’s readers in an honest and transparent (and patient) conversation about the changes happening with the platform. And best of luck with the performance tuning. No small issue when you’re managing a publishing juggernaut like WIRED.com.

Oh, and does anyone still not believe WordPress is a CMS? Didn’t think so.

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Wrangling websites post launch at the Now What? Conference

I’m excited to be taking part in the 2014 Now What? Conference April 23-24 in bustling Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The two-day conference is exclusively focused on what happens after you launch a website. Longtime readers of the CMS Myth know this is a near and dear topic. Our agency even launched a Day 2 practice to help organizations with these challenges. The [...]

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The design and build myth

Conventional wisdom about CMS-driven redesign projects says there are two primary phases to the work. First you design it, and then you build it. The design work includes important parts like user research, visual design, content, and information architecture. The build phase includes the heavy lifting of technical architecture, front end development, CMS customization, third [...]

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Content Strategy and Content Marketing Myths and Musings

Earlier this month, the Content Strategy Forum published an article of epic proportions (12 contributors from 7 countries) to provide a definitive look at the work of the content strategist and content marketer. Major kudos to Kelly Harbaugh for facilitating the creation of this mammoth piece. As you might expect, the collaboration produced much lively [...]

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Are you publishing quality content?

Perhaps it’s because the Winter Olympics started this week, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about high performance and quality. Naturally, this leads me to our constant obsession here at the CMS Myth: Making web content management work. It’s no secret that our perspective is that highly successful content strategy is about much, much [...]

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The role of web content management in an exploding marketing technology landscape

Scott Brinker recently published the third version of his incredibly useful Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic plotting 947 vendors in 43 categories across six classes in a single infographic (pictured below). Scott, who blogs at Chiefmartec.com, has been an influential thinker (if not the influential thinker) and writer on the rise of technology in marketing. Beyond [...]

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Harvard University’s Mike Petroff on building more sustainable content management platforms

Harvard University Digital Content Strategist Mike Petroff gave a fantastic interview last fall with Jeff Eaton on the podcast Insert Content Here. Mike works across social, content and analytics to help support Harvard’s digital strategy and communications from within the central Public Affairs and Communications department. The interview dives into details on empowering authors, using analytics to inform content [...]

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Redefining success for web CMS project teams

It’s been about two weeks since I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Hilary Marsh while presenting our thoughts and ideas about content strategy as it relates to CMS projects at the 2013 Gilbane Conference. The deck from our talk is available on Slideshare and it includes seven content related project risks and [...]

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