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WordPress 3.5 Media Changes

The next major version of WordPress, version 3.5, is scheduled to be released sometime in the next fortnight. By far, the most significant and noticeable change in 3.5 is a complete re-vamp of the WordPress media uploader/inserter.

The old, familiar media upload/insert popup screen looks like this:

The new, improved media upload screen will look like this:

The good news

The new UI looks like a pretty big improvement over the old style. It’s much bigger, more usable, and has some cool built-in features like gallery reordering, multiple image selection. It even allows you to insert multiple images directly into your post at one time with a single click. Why the heck didn’t we think of that? Oh wait, we did, that’s been in ProPhoto for nearly 4 years as the much-beloved “Insert all” feature.

The bad news

Ah, but there is a bit of bad news. The new media uploader is so fundamentally different from the old one that it breaks almost all of the custom functionality that we’ve built into the upload process. That means just about everything related to creating, editing, managing, and inserting ProPhoto galleries doesn’t work in the new screen.

So now what…

We’ve known about the upcoming changes to WordPress for weeks, and it was clear early on that we would have the major issues we’re now facing. The way we looked at it, we had two options going forward:

  • hurry to develop a patch that would make ProPhoto play nice with the new uploader
  • force the use of the old uploader until the feature stabilizes and a solid patch is ready

Ultimately, we decided on the second option. What does that mean exactly? It means that right before WordPress 3.5 is released, we are going to push an auto-update to ProPhoto that completely disables the new media uploader, and substitutes the old one. Everything will work exactly as it always has, including all of your ProPhoto gallery management features. The only downside is that you won’t get to use the new and improved uploader for a time, and any plugins you are using that hook to the new uploader will not function correctly.

Then, in about 3-5 months, whenever WordPress 3.6 is ready (the next major version after 3.5), we will also be ready with another auto-update which will re-enable the new media uploader and make ProPhoto full compatible with the new UI and features. So you will get all the shiny new goodness of version 3.5’s new media uploader, just a few months behind the rest of the world.

But why not now?

The reason we are opting to wait a WordPress release cycle before supporting the new media uploader is that this new functionality represents the one of the most significant changes to WordPress that we’ve seen in 5 years. It’s not just an incremental improvement over the last upload screen, they threw everything out and started over, which we think was a good idea. It also means, however, that the feature is likely to be a tad unstable for the first few months. We expect to see a number of bug-fixes, enhancements, changes, and theme/plugin integration hooks added within the first couple months after 3.5 is released.

Because of that expectation, we felt it would be a waste of our time and development resources to code for the new feature now, when in all likelihood it will be evolving pretty fast even after it’s release. Much better, we feel, to wait for them to work the kinks out and then thoroughly prepare a robust patch that works well and will be stable and as bug-free as we can possibly make it.

What you need to do:

Basically, you don’t need to do anything. Sometime in the next week or two you’ll see that WordPress 3.5 is released. When you see the notification, you can upgrade right away. We will have pushed an auto update within hours of the release, so your ProPhoto site should have already updated. You can then take advantage of some of the other features of 3.5, but the media upload will just silently go on functioning as it has for all of time. Then, sometime next spring when WordPress is about to release 3.6, you’ll see an auto-update that will enable the new media uploader.

Changes Coming to Twitter Integration

We want to give you all a little bit of a heads-up that some changes are in store for ProPhoto’s twitter integration.

Twitter recently announced that they are changing their API and will be preventing the anonymous consumption of public twitter data. Unfortunately, much of our Twitter integration relies on being able to consume this public data without authentication. This means that as of March 2013, the following areas of Twitter integration in ProPhoto will no longer work:

  • Twitter feed menu dropdown item
  • ProPhoto Sliding Twitter widget
  • ProPhoto Twitter HTML widget

We’re exploring possible options to workaround the problem, but ultimately, we may have to discontinue these features. The ProPhoto Twitter.com widget will still work, but it is very limited in terms of its customizability because it is just an iFrame into Twitter.com. We may be able to walk users through a process of setting up a Twitter “app” so that they can make authenticated requests to the Twitter API, but we’ll have to see how complicated this is, or if possibly we can route all of our users through a central ProPhoto application that we create and maintain.

We’ll post again closer to March and give you a more concrete idea of what our approach will be to the API change.

Earn Money Talking About ProPhoto

Here at ProPhoto, we’ve never really done any advertising. We figured out early on that if we just focused on making a great product and supporting it like crazy, that our customers would do our advertising for us. One thing we have done almost since the beginning however, is offer our customers cash rewards for referring their friends and colleagues to us.

If you love ProPhoto and naturally find yourself recommending it to friends and online acquaintances, then you could be saving your friends money and earning a bunch of referral money at the same time. Many of our customers have earned back the cost of purchasing ProPhoto many times over just by giving out their personalized discount code.

How it works

Here’s how it works: if you don’t already have one, you need to go to this page and fill out a simple form so that we can generate for you what we call a “Quick-buck” code.

Once you submit your information, the next screen will show your custom referral code, plus a bunch of tips on how to use it.

Using your code

You can hand out your code anywhere you like. If you tell a friend about ProPhoto, give them your code. You earn $7 each time it is used. It doesn’t just earn you money, but it also works as a $10 discount code for them.

At the beginning of every month, you’ll receive an Email letting you know how many times your code was used, with the money being sent directly to your PayPal account.

As described on the screen shown when you sign up for your code, you can send or post links directly to our site with your quickbuck code embedded in the link. They look like this:

http://prophotoblogs.com/?qbr=YOUR_CODE_GOES_HERE

If anyone clicks on your link and then purchases ProPhoto in the next two weeks, your referral code will be credited for their purchase.

Ideas for sharing your code

Writing up a detailed review of ProPhoto on your website that includes your code is something that a lot of our customers have done with great success. Many of them have earned back the price of their purchase several times over just from a posted review.

Other common places for sharing your code:

  • Faceboook friends
  • Twitter followers
  • Forums you participate in
  • Google groups
  • skywriting
  • tatoos

Just be careful not to be spammy with where and how you share your code. Only give it out or post it where you’ve earned permission to share great resources with those that care about your opinion and might benefit from using ProPhoto.

Banner images

Over the years, many people have asked us for some advertising-type banner images to use when promoting ProPhoto with their quick buck referral link. If you want some of those, click here to download a zip file with a bunch of images.

Using your sites “ad banners” area

Your ProPhoto site actually makes it pretty darn easy to make some money promoting ProPhoto. If you want, you can always download the banner images linked above, and upload one of them as an ad banner under “ProPhoto” > “Customize” > “Footer” > “Ad Banners”. Set the link URL to your custom code link, as shown below:

The image will then appear in your site’s footer area, and every time a user clicks through that link and purchases ProPhoto, you’ll earn $7.

Embedding the video tour:

If you’re posting a post on your blog or on a forum with your code, you might want to embed the video tour. It will probably convince more people to use your code and buy the blog. Just copy and paste one of the embed code below:

Size Large:

<iframe width="853" height="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/GOID2JrzkiY?rel=0&amp;hd=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Size Medium:

<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/GOID2JrzkiY?rel=0&amp;hd=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Size Small:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/GOID2JrzkiY?rel=0&amp;hd=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

If you’re posting your quick buck code on a WordPress blog and want to embed that video, just switch into HTML mode (it’s a tab in the upper right of the post-writing area) and paste the embed code in.

Directly linking to video tour

Or, if you’re not in a situation where you can embed the video tour, you can link directly to it using this link:

http://youtu.be/GOID2JrzkiY?hd=2

I got a code once, but lost it

If you got a quick-buck code at some point, but forgot what it was and can’t find it, you don’t need to get a new one, you can look up your existing code on the bottom of this page.

Thinking About ProPhoto 5

ProPhoto version 4 was released to the public a little over a year ago, in September of 2011. It’s been a phenomenal success, with tons of well-received new features like mobile sites, non-flash slideshows, grids, custom fonts, Facebook comments, a new menu system, and much more. Maybe the most important new feature of P4 was automatic updating, which allowed us to seamlessly push bug fixes, enhancements, and loads of free new features to our users throughout the year, with no complicated update process.

Internally, as of last month (September 2012), we have officially stopped putting new features into ProPhoto4 and are beginning to work on the next major release of ProPhoto, version 5 (P5). ProPhoto4 will still be supported for a long time to come, and we’ll keep pushing auto-updates as needed to fix bugs or ensure compatibility with newly released versions of WordPress, but there will be no major new functionality added to ProPhoto4. New features will be going into P5 instead, which, when it is ready, will be a paid upgrade, as usual.

Why do we charge for major upgrades?

You might be asking why you should pay to upgrade ProPhoto — why we don’t release all upgrades for free? The reason is pretty simple. In a nutshell, our business model would very quickly become unsustainable if we never charged for upgrades. And that’s because of how fanatically we do support. We spend a ton of time, resources, energy, and money supporting our users. We figured out early on if we kept adding new customers and continuing to support all of our old customers without ever requiring them to upgrade, we’d probably have to either go out of business or drastically reduce support quality. So, we instituted our long-standing policy of releasing large, paid upgrades about every 12-18 months, and only actively supporting users on the two most recent releases. That means, for instance, that we currently only support P3 and P4 users (although we’re softies and still help out the occasional, rare P2 user). That also means that if you choose not to upgrade at all (which, of course, you’re completely welcome to do) you’ll still get about 3 years of fanatical service from us at the minimum.

All in all, our upgrade policy has worked well. A few people always complain about having to pay for major upgrades, but it’s allowed us to steadily grow and add awesome employees, always maintaining the same level of customer service you’ve come to expect from us. We’ve never tried to compete on price anyway — we’re not interested in racing to the bottom. There are other services and products out there that are cheaper. At the end of the day, we’d rather have fewer customers that pay us a little bit more so we can give them our full attention and enjoy our lives while we do it.

The problem with our upgrade cycle

All that said, I’ve grown a bit frustrated with some aspects of our current model of releasing major upgrades. My main frustration is that our current model causes us to go through a 6-9 month period where no new major features are released to our users. This is because we branch off and start working on the new version, putting all the new features we’re working on into the unreleased development version. We feel we need to do this in order to store up a bunch of cool new features in the unreleased new version so that when we eventually do release it, it has a lot of “wow” factor and presents a pretty compelling value proposition to our users for purchasing the upgrade.

Again, this has worked pretty well for us, but it does have it’s drawbacks. The main drawback is our users don’t get the new features immediately as soon as they’re completed. There might be a great feature you’d like to use, and it might be the first feature we complete for the next version, but since we save it for the upgrade, you don’t get that feature for a number of months. This drawback is even more pronounced now that we have the ability to push out new features so easily using our auto-updater. It frustrates us to think that from the outside, ProPhoto development seemingly stagnates for a lengthy period while we finish enough new features to justify releasing a paid upgrade.

What we’re considering

Because of the above-stated problem, this time around we’re at least considering making a change to our basic release cycle. After a lengthy internal meeting to discuss the issue where we discussed pros and cons of several possible scenarios, we thought we would solicit your opinion. In the sections below I’ll describe the three main options we’re currently considering. We would love it if you would take a few minutes to carefully and thoughtfully read and consider these options, and then vote in the poll widget below. You can also add any further feedback or discussion into the comments area on the bottom of the post.

Option 1: Normal release cycle

In this scenario, we stick with what we’ve always done. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Taking this approach, we would spend probably the next 6-9 months putting in a bunch of cool new features and capabilities into P5 and plan on a release date of late Spring or Summer 2013. When the release is ready, we’d stop selling P4 and only sell P5, and we would contact all P4 users letting them know that a major upgrade was ready for them to purchase.

The upside of this option is that when the upgrade is ready, it will feel pretty easy for you to justify the upgrade cost — there will be a bunch of shiny new things the new version can do that you probably want. The downside is that from now until then, your P4 site will only get bug-fixes and compatibility patches — there will be no way for you to start using the features that are going into P5 as they become ready.

Option 2: Instant “soft” release

In this scenario, we would do a “soft” release of P5 as soon as the first relatively significant new feature was ready for primetime — probably around December of 2012. Once we hit that point, we would stop selling P4 altogether, and all new purchasers would be getting P5 (which at that moment would be the same as P4 plus one new feature). The release would be “soft” because we wouldn’t make a big fuss about it – we wouldn’t make a new feature video, tell P4 users to upgrade, or really announce it to the world — because at that point it would really only be an incremental improvement over P4. Also, at our “soft” release, any P4 users that knew about the P5 release and wanted to upgrade right then would be allowed to. They could pay the normal price for the upgrade and get the new version right then. It probably wouldn’t be technically worth the cost at that moment (considering there would only be one new feature), but they would know that they’d get every single new feature planned for P5, pushed via an auto-update, as soon as it was ready.

The big “pro” of this scenario is that P4 users who really want one of the first new features in P4 would be able to upgrade right away. Also, long-standing ProPhoto users who have come to know and trust that we put a bunch of good stuff in every paid release would have the ability to upgrade immediately, and get all of the new features as soon as they’re ready. In addition, brand new purchasers after the soft release would always be getting the fullest feature set available at that moment. P4 users that don’t care to upgrade at the time of the soft release would just go on their way, never really realizing (in all likelihood) that P5 was even released. We wouldn’t proposition them to upgrade because at that point, it’s not really worth the money yet, unless they really want the earliest added features specifically, or they trust that we’ll be adding enough new features as the weeks pass to justify the upgrade. Only later on, when 7-10 new features have already been added to P5 would we notify users still using P4 that they might want to purchase the upgrade. This would be the “full” release – the time when we really tell the world (especially P4 users) that P5 is ready for primetime.

The big “con” of ths approach is that early on some users might feel that we are releasing an upgrade that is not worth the price. If they see that they can upgrade to P5 at a time when there are not very many new features, they might feel that we are releasing an upgrade that is lacking in new features.

Option 3: Public Beta

The third thing we could do is release P5 as soon as the first new feature is ready, but release it along side of P4 as an optional, paid, public beta. Under this option, P4 would still be for sale on our site, but users would also have the option to instead purchase the “beta” version of P5. The beta version would be priced the same (or possibly just marginally less expensive until the actual release), and would make the most sense for long-time users who didn’t mind trading a small amount of instability for the privilege of staying on the bleeding edge of new features and capabilities in ProPhoto. There would be no widespread notification of P4 users directing them to upgrade until a number of new features were ready in P5 and it came out of it’s “beta” period.

The “pro” of this approach is similar to option 2 — users can get the new features as soon as possible and long-term users that know they will eventually upgrade anyway can do so in advance and use each new feature as it is developed. It also mitigates a bit the confusion potentially caused by quietly switching to selling P5 before a large number of major improvements are ready.

The “con” of this approach is that it adds a layer of confusion and complexity – we would be selling two versions at once for a number of months. Also, you could make an argument that there is no reason that brand-new purchasers (not ProPhoto users who want to upgrade) should not get the public beta automatically. Finally, some could find it awkward to be charging full (or nearly full) price for a beta version.

Your thoughts?

We’d really like your opinion on this. We don’t guarantee that we’ll go with the most popular option, but your feedback is very important to us. If you’ve taken a moment to read the above options and carefully consider them, would you quickly vote in the poll below? Also, below the poll leave any additional feedback in the comments section. Thanks so much for reading this far! — your input and feedback really is important and we will seriously consider it as we move forward into the next season for ProPhoto.

The Poll:

-GOTCHA- Note: please only vote if you have carefully read the descriptions of the three options above — they may not mean what you think they mean by just reading the poll options. -/-


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