Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category

Early Theme Adopters: Bushwick

Bushwick has become the theme of choice for tens of thousands of bloggers since we launched it a few months ago. It’s easy to see why: its typography and layout make posts highly readable, while the vertical custom header image adds a distinct, easy-to-customize design touch.

Bushwick also allows you to create custom excerpts, and to tuck non-essential elements into a neat slide-out widgets area. All these features make it a perfect theme for bloggers of all stripes. Take a look at the sites below for some inspiration.

Call of the Wild Geese

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Blogger Anne created Call of the Wild Geese to document her thoughts and adventures during a six-month period of self-imposed unemployment.

The airy feel of her site perfectly echoes the blog’s evocative title. Anne’s uncluttered design focuses the visitor’s attention on her writing, which is complemented by beautiful custom drawings in the header area and in each individual post.

Fashion Backwards

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In Fashion Backwards, Liz, a history-minded fashion blogger, takes a look at the origins of some of today’s most popular styles, showing how the past lives on through our clothes. She’s created a witty logo for her site, which is prominently displayed in the vertical header area.

One of the greatest elements in Bushwick‘s design is the splashy display of featured images. Liz is making the most of the theme by giving each post a smart, customized look with well-chosen featured images.

Jeff Schneider

Jeff Schneider Bushwick

On his personal site, avid traveler and marketing professional Jeff Schneider showcases his writing and photography from his journey across Southeast Asia. Bushwick‘s crisp design and generous layout make his images really shine.

Jeff has turned his site into more than a travel blog, though: drawing on the theme’s versatility, he’s made it easy for colleagues and potential employers to view his résumé and portfolio, both an easy click away in his streamlined custom menu.

If you’d like to learn more about Bushwick or give it a try, visit the theme’s Showcase page.

Filed under: Customization, Design, Themes
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UX for Good: Can We Harness Emotions to End Genocide?

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do when not in front of a computer.

London-based Davide Casali is a speaker and mentor, but above all he designs experiences for our users. This year, for the second time, he returned as a team lead at UX for Good, a project that calls on designers to tackle complex social challenges. Here’s a brief journey through the events of these six days.

One hundred days to kill a million people. This is the magnitude of the genocide that began on April 7, 1994, in Rwanda. A genocide that the Western world tried to ignore, but that today has a valuable lesson to teach us.

This terrible event has been the central topic of the 2014 challenge of UX for Good, a project founded in 2011 by Jason Ulaszek and Jeff Leitner. This year the project brought together ten designers to support Aegis Trust, the nonprofit organization that manages the Kigali Genocide Memorial, as well as educational activities across Rwanda, the UK, and the US.

The challenge? How to bridge “the gap between the way we remember the genocides of the past and how we act to prevent the genocides of the future.” Surely an ambitious goal.

Harnessing the power of design

This was the second year for me, but the experience I had didn’t make me feel any less irrelevant facing such an enormous challenge. How can ten designers begin to make a step forward in such a huge undertaking? This question kept appearing not just in my mind, but also in the mind of all my fellow designers.

But this is exactly the kind of bet that UX for Good makes year after year, and it repeatedly manages to give back value to the charities involved in the project. UX for Good was founded with designers’ core skills in mind: their ability to connect human needs with solutions that have lots of moving parts across different disciplines. Extracting simplicity from complexity. This is where design can — and does — give back to society as a whole, even if in more normal scenarios the benefits are hidden inside commercial products or services.

On the ground in Rwanda

I flew to Kigali on the 30th of May, and the following evening I met all the other designers for the first time. This started three full days of field research, dawn to dusk. The intensity of this part was breathtaking, not just for the amount of activities conducted in a completely foreign place, but also for the emotional investment of this challenge.

The first day we went through the Kigali Genocide Memorial itself. It was an incredibly draining morning, emotionally. In the words of Matt Franks, one of the designers:

As hard as it is to summarize the feelings you have while standing there — it’s even harder to capture them in a manner that can be conveyed to others. You feel sick — yet emotionally detached. You know what you are hearing is awful… Yet you are unable truly to understand it.

We barely had time to recover before proceeding to other activities. During these three days of field research we visited different places and interviewed experts, officials, and survivors. Their stories, like the testimony of Grace and Vanessa, were terrible to hear (you can watch their interview here):

As we walked along a path, I heard a woman agonizing. She has been hacked and her baby is still breastfeeding. She had been cut with a machete on the forehead, at the back of the head, and on one arm and leg. Once I reached the woman, she said ‘please do me a favor and take my baby, with God’s help you both might survive’. So I took her. If I have to die for this baby I will.

Over and over, we began to notice how these tragedies all showed another side, one of of rebirth and reconciliation. Heroes emerged. Hope appeared. From another woman we heard a testimony so terrible I’m unable to repeat it here, and it made us wonder how it was even possible to still trust and talk to other people after so much madness. She greeted us thanking us for taking the time to hear her memories, and she went away thanking us again for sharing a moment with her.

These two aspects, pain and hope, emerged as key elements in Rwanda’s healing.

Finding inspiration in tragedy

When we moved to London for the synthesis and design phase, the energy of the team was vibrant. We were eager to start making sense of all the insights collected in the field and do something ourselves.
Roberta Tassi, designer and UX for Good participant

In the following three days we worked at the Red Bull offices in London and distilled our findings. We wanted to provide Aegis Trust with a model they could reuse to build activities and educational programs, as well as with a set of different ideas mapping and showing the power of that model.

Inzovu Curve Model

All of this is a consolidation of the successful activities Aegis and Rwandans are already engaged in to support healing and drive action. The model defines a sequence of painful memories, reflective moments, stories of hope, and inspiration to act — and shows how people can convert individual experiences to understanding and action.

This model echoes the one suggested by the mindfulness studies conducted by neuroscientist Tania Singer, where people train and learn to switch from empathy to compassion. It’s a necessary shift to avoid burnout and promote a healthier confrontation with difficult topics.

These two dimensions — the experiential and the personal — are intertwined in the model we called the Inzovu Curve. “Inzovu” means “elephant” in Kinyarwanda; we chose that name because the curve resembles the shape of a rising elephant trunk.

Inzovu Curve Logo

We finally consolidated all our findings in a presentation that we gave at the Aegis Trust the following week, with an excellent reception from their side.

A challenge to remember

For me, this has been for the second time a transformative experience. Understanding different cultures is something that surely makes me a richer person, but it also informs my everyday design with a better perception of different people and behaviors. It gives me an incredible sense of hope to see how, in just a few years, a country managed to heal and build a renewed unity, and how countless everyday heroes worked and are still working toward that goal.

It’s also incredibly empowering to see us, designers, starting as ten strangers, able to put our egos on the side and work effortlessly together on a common cause.

We concluded UX for Good 2014, but these efforts are ongoing and require additional resources. Aegis is already doing a great job, but more people need to get involved. Maybe you could consider a visit to Rwanda to see more than just the gorillas, or at least take a peek at Aegis’ work.

Either way, I hope this story gave you something to think about.

Filed under: Automattic, Community, Events
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Around the World (Cup) in Eight Photos

Whether your country is playing in Brazil this year or not, joining in the fun of this monthlong global festivity is hard to resist. Thanks to bloggers and photographers on the ground in Brazil and around the world, we all get to have the best views.

Just before their team dispatched the outgoing champion, Spain, these Chilean fans found time to hit the beach in Copacabana, where they were captured by Rio-based photoblogger Cristina.

Across town, in a favela called Acari, Dutch student Steef Fleur watched the Brazil-Mexico match with some new friends. This photo is part of Steef’s ongoing project to document the World Cup across local communities in Brazil.

Fans on the other side of the equator watched the same game between the Mexican and Brazilian teams. Blogger Vonn Scott Bair joined the action in San Francisco’s Civic Center, where football fanatics and lunch breakers alike can watch the games together.

Of course, not only humans enjoy a good game of soccer; Zeke, David Kanigan‘s four-legged friend, was just as ready for the fun to start on June 12, when the first match took place.

All this excitement invites intensive, nonstop coverage. British photographer Simon Stacpoole is flying around Brazil this month, trying to capture the perfect shot of players in action. In this photo, taken in Manaus’ Arena Amazonia, he turns his attention to his fellow photographers in the moments before the England-Italy match.

The popularity of soccer has long transformed it into much more than a mere sport — it’s a global cultural, political, and economic phenomenon. The bloggers at Amsterdam Cycle Chic are documenting Orange Fever in Amsterdam, for example — here showing proud fans sporting their team’s jersey after their successful opening game against Spain.

As the lead photographer of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, Joel Robison has witnessed the power of the game to make a change in communities worldwide. He’s visited more than 80 countries in the run-up to the World Cup, taking photographs of players along the way — like these young members of the Palestinian Football Association.

Photographer Tony Burns is currently in Brazil documenting scenes in and around the games, but few shots channel the game’s beauty and visceral appeal as the ones in this photo essay from January, showing how it’s played in a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar.

Are you currently in Brazil or viewing the games from home? Share your World Cup stories with us!

Filed under: Community, Wrapup
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Early Theme Adopters: Pictorico

Launched last month, Pictorico is a free theme that combines a dynamic portfolio-style home page with a simple, single-column layout for posts and pages. It’s great for pro photographers, casual photobloggers, and anyone who wants a sleek space for personal blogging.

Let’s take a look at a few sites using Pictorico:

A Feast for the Eyes

British blogger Issy shares recipes at A Feast for the Eyes, a name that perfectly captures the focus of the site: food and photography. Pictorico‘s front-page grid displays her mix of dishes beautifully — her images are crisp and bold, while her plate setups are stylish and carefully considered.

Issy sets featured images on individual posts, adding color and sophistication to the header area. She also takes advantage of the theme’s clean, single-column layout, letting her images shine on the page:

Ubuntu

The traveler and outdoor enthusiast at Ubuntu sets a wide custom header image, which changes the homepage look of Pictorico. The panorama of snowy, jagged peaks is the first thing you see, and captures the blogger’s wandering, adventurous spirit. Pictorico‘s custom header area accommodates images of at least 1180 pixels wide, so the visual effect is dramatic.

Shine Studios

New Zealand-based photographer Blair Quax of Shine Studios uses Pictorico to publish his wedding photography, much of which captures the beauty of Waiheke Island. The front-page portfolio design of Pictorico allows Blair to showcase distinct wedding day collections at a glance. Single post layouts are elegant and uncluttered, so the focus is entirely on the couples celebrating their special days.

Blair activates the theme’s post slider as well, which adds another layer to the front page:

More Pictorico examples

Visit the Pictorico page for details, other examples, and to preview or activate the theme.

Filed under: Community, Design, Themes, WordPress.com
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Veterans’ Blogs Offer a Glimpse into Life on the Front Lines

Last week was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the start of the Allied landing in Normandy, France, that contributed to the end of World War II.

While some marked it with (deserved) pomp and circumstance, we observed it by reading the latest from some of our favorite veterans’ blogs on WordPress.com:

Carrying the Gun

Then-infantryman Don Gomez served two tours in Iraq with the US Army in the early 2000s. After a stint in graduate school and a dissertation on the experiences of Iraqi soldiers during the Iran-Iraq War, he re-upped and heads to Afghanistan later this summer as a Second Lieutenant.

carrying the gun

His blog, Carrying the Gun, is a mix of  thoughtful essays on everything from modern soldiering to women in combat to the transition from soldier to civilian. Sprinkled throughout are photos and letters from his Iraq deployments — a fascinating portrait of the life on the front lines.

O-Dark-Thirty

O-Dark-Thirty is a literary journal for veterans, current military personnel, and their families. Created by the Veterans Writing Project, it helps those who have served tell their stories — and makes sure those stories are accessible to the rest of us.

o-dark-thirty

The magazine is home to The Report, which publishes unedited fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and The Review, an edited quarterly journal presenting the best literary writing on the veterans’ experience. Browse the latest entries for a poetic take on the forgotten veteran, a fictionalized encounter between German and Russian troops, and a writer’s memoir of a day spent driving his wounded brother to yet another hospital.

O-Dark-Thirty accepts submissions year round — find their guidelines here — and the Veterans Writing Project holds workshops around the US.

Paving the Road Back

For many soldiers, especially those who have served in combat roles, returning to “regular” life brings a new set of challenges. In Paving the Road Back, psychiatrist and Warrior Wellness Unit director Rod “Doc” Deaton gives those who serve our veterans a deeper understanding of the stresses of this transition.

paving the road

Readers seeking information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will find analyses of the ethics of PTSD diagnoses and the relationship between PTSD and other psychiatric disorders, along with the stories of real veterans (fictionalized, to protect their privacy). “Doc” also provides the transcripts of his podcast, “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” and a variety of additional links and resources.

For more reading, check out:

  • Firefight, blog of Rick Kurelo, who served with Canadian forces in Bosnia and Afghanistan and recently published a book on his experiences.
  • Fever Dreams, the official site of Brian Castner, Iraq veteran and author of the bestselling book The Long Walk.
  • Voices from Warwhich provides writing workshops for veterans interested in telling their stories.
  • Jason Lemieux, a former Marine and current human rights advocate.
  • True Boots, the blog of Army vet and frequent NPR guest Kristen Rouse.
  • From the Green Notebook, where current Army officer Joe Byerly discusses military life and leadership best practices.
  • Grand Blog Tarkin, a collaborative blog at the intersection of contemporary warfare and science fiction covering “the full range of war and warfare across the multiverse.”

Filed under: Community, Reading
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Early Theme Adopters: Gridiculous Pro

No matter whether you use WordPress.com to host your blog or your business website, premium theme Gridiculous Pro is a cool, sophisticated, and versatile theme that showcases your creativity.

Firefight

firefight

Rick Kurelo, CD, is a firefighter and Canadian Forces veteran of campaigns in Bosnia and Afghanistan. His site, Firefight — in addition to promoting his book of the same name — collects stories and photos of his time battling fires in Canada and chaos and conflict in theatres of war. The large compelling photo of Rick in full military battle gear, the commanding type, and muted color scheme emphasize the gravity of Rick’s work in the military and in the fire hall.

Delft Big Band

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Jazz lovers will swoon at the smooth clean lines and eye-catching masthead of Delft Big Band, a site for a South African jazz program offering music instruction to disadvantaged high school youth. This stripped-down iteration of Gridiculous Pro highlights the band’s upcoming performances and a photo gallery. You can even watch a recording of a live performance.

Aunty Muriel’s Blog

auntymuriel

Aunty Muriel is the alter ego and online persona of English literature professor and oboist Gaenor Burchett-Vass. Her site, Aunty Muriel’s Blog, collects her writings on the works of Scottish novelist Muriel Spark as well as her comic book, movie, and book reviews. Gaenor takes great advantage of Gridiculous Pro‘s homepage widget feature to help readers navigate to her Spark writings and reviews.

Interested in other looks for Gridiculous Pro? Check out:

  • clutter — a furniture store in Savannah, Georgia.
  • 2RETHINK — a Danish furniture company.

Filed under: Themes
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WordPress for Android 2.9 Has Arrived

The WordPress for Android 2.9 release is now available in the Google Play Store. This release includes some exciting new features, enhancements, and bug fixes.

Blog Discovery

Blog discovery is a new feature in the Reader that lets you:

  • Find new blogs (based on recommendations).
  • Preview a blog and read posts before following it.
  • Manage your tags and blog subscriptions.

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Publish Icon Button

We replaced the publish icon button with a contextual text button. Whether you’re saving a draft, publishing or scheduling a post, or updating one, this new button will display your action, depending on your current task.

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Faster Notifications and Stats Refresh

We updated the Notifications feature to use Simperium technology, which will sync your notifications quickly and efficiently.

We also know you love viewing your Stats, so we improved them to refresh faster than ever before.

Interface Improvements

  • Reintroduction of the refresh button in all refreshable views, along with the pull-to-refresh gesture.
  • Pull-to-refresh tip bar has been replaced by a less aggressive, self-hiding message.
  • Save dialog has been removed, and all posts are now auto-saved when you close the edit post view.
  • Reblogging interface redesign in the Reader.
  • Sharing image, video, text, or link via WordPress for Android now remembers the previous choice.

General Changes

  • Posts and pages auto-save feature has been improved.
  • Fixed bugs related to statistics (only affecting Jetpack users) and image handling.
  • Reader improvements to fill gaps in time between two syncs.
  • As we announced earlier, we dropped Android 2.3 support. Current (2.9) and later versions need Android 4.0 or later.
  • New translations: Hebrew and Basque.
  • SNI (Server Name Indication) support.
  • Minor bug fixes.

What’s Next?

You can keep up with the development progress at http://make.wordpress.org/mobile and can also follow the app on Twitter @WPAndroid. If you need support or want to send us suggestions, please visit our forums.

Filed under: Mobile, New Features
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Introducing Longreads’ Best of WordPress

Today we’re excited to launch a new series with Longreads, the storytelling community that recently joined the Automattic and WordPress.com Editorial family. And we need your help.

We’re looking for the best long-form stories over 1,500 words, across all of WordPress—a quest that will span 22% of the Internet. It will include work from undiscovered writers, as well as the authors and publishers you already know and love.

Help us find and share the best stories

Authors and publishers: When you post something great that’s over 1,500 words, use the longreads tag on your post so we can consider it. You can also share a link to the story on Twitter: Just reply to @Longreads or include #longreads in your tweet. (If your WordPress site is self-hosted, Twitter is still the best way to reach us.)

Readers: If you find something that you love, share it with us! Reblog a link on your own site and add the longreads tag, or share it on Twitter with #longreads.

What we’re looking for

Right now, we’re searching for primarily nonfiction. This can include the following:

  • Interviews: It could be an interview with your grandparents, a Q&A with your best friend about their career, or a conversation with your favorite local business owner.
  • Essays, speeches and big ideas: A personal spin on an important topic, or a transcript from a talk you gave at a work conference.
  • History and research: We love learning about our collective experiences, and what it tells us about the past and the future. Share your personal, professional, or academic research about topics that interest you.
  • Previously published book excerpts and magazine features: If you are the rights holder for a book or magazine feature—old or new pieces are both welcome—share it with the #longreads community.

We’re looking forward to seeing your story picks!

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Here are a few more examples of stories we’ve featured on Longreads from the world of WordPress:

Filed under: Admin Bar, Community, Reading, Tags, WordPress, WordPress.com
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New Theme: Bosco

We have a new free theme to announce today: Bosco!

Bosco

Bosco by Automattic

Amid a sea of sliders, sidebars, and huge header images, Bosco stands alone in its refined focus on content.

Your story is presented in a centered, single column, with sophisticated typography and an adaptive layout that looks beautiful on any device, mobile or desktop. There’s still plenty of room for widgets in multiple sections above the footer, while Custom Menus, Custom Background support, and unique Post Format treatments prove that Bosco is anything but lacking in features.

Bosco by Automattic

Give your readers the distraction-free experience they deserve with Bosco. You can see it in action on the demo site, or activate it on your own blog at Appearance → Themes.

Filed under: Themes
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Reset the Net

A year ago today, we joined the world in shock on learning that governments were spying on internet users around the world. Tapping internet service providers’ undersea cables, intentionally and secretly weakening encryption products,  surreptitiously collecting everything from call metadata to photos sent over the internet by US citizens — nothing was off limits.

Just as troubling as the revelations themselves is the fact that since last summer, little if anything has changed. Despite a lot of rhetoric, our three branches of government in the United States have not made many concrete steps toward truly protecting citizens from unchecked government surveillance.

Automattic has been a strong supporter of efforts to reform government surveillance. We’ve supported reform legislation in Congress, and participated in the Day We Fight Back, earlier this year. More importantly, we aim to make our own legal processes for securing the information our users entrust to us as transparent and protective as possible.

Be the change you want to see in the world — that’s why we’re joining the many other companies who are participating today in Reset the Net. In the face of intrusive surveillance, we believe that everyone in the tech community needs to stand up and do what they can, starting with their own sites and platforms. For us, that means working to secure the connection between users and our websites. We’ll be serving all *.wordpress.com subdomains only over SSL by the end of the year.

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that encryption, when done correctly, works. If we properly encrypt our sites and devices, we can make mass surveillance much more difficult.

We’re happy to be taking these steps and hope that the coming year brings real reform to end mass surveillance.

Filed under: Community
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