40 Responses

  1. How the state of WordPress tutorial writing can improve more - WP Realm

    [...] How the state of WordPress tutorial writing can improve more [...]

  2. Siobhan

    Thanks for mentioning me in your post! You should include yourself in that list as you keep knocking out the insightful posts.

    Blogging used to constitute 100% of my income but ever since launching Words for WP, it’s become very much a side thing. Here’s why I keep it up:
    - I love writing for Smashing Magazine, and I feel very privileged to be doing so. When I first started out working on the web and I used to read SM and think that I’d never get anything published on there. I still get excited when a new post goes live.
    - I get a kick out of promoting WordPress businesses and people on such a huge platform, and promoting WordPress more generally. It’s a fantastic platform and the people who make it deserve a lot of credit.
    - I like writing long, well-researched, posts. Writing at SM lets me go as deep into a subject as I like.
    - 90% of all my web traffic for Words for WP comes via SM. It is the dream showcase for what I can do.
    - The Smashing Mag team are awesome and cool, and I love working with Jeff Starr as my editor.

    Of course, it’s only a side-income for me. My day-to-day income comes from Words for WP. However, it constitutes my WordCamp fund. I’ve been to 4 WordCamps this year: Lisbon, NL, Edinburgh and New York. So, I get to write for the best web design magazine on the planet which gives me a huge amount of promotion and I get to go to WordCamps because of it. Isn’t that completely awesome? If anyone is thinking about writing for something like WP Tuts+ I would suggest approaching it with this attitude.

    On the issues of tutorials – I rarely write tutorials, or, at least, I rarely write them for blogs. Like you, I’m wary of giving out the wrong information, especially on a huge platform. As a requirement when I’m writing docs for Words for WP clients, I have a developer available who I can bombard with dumb questions and who will do a final check on everything before it goes public.

    I do have a few technical tutorials in mind for SM, but I need developers that I can bother for info. I guess that’s the trick – if you don’t have the technical info, just know who to ask. A great side-effect of going to WordCamps and writing for SM, is that developers and other are happy to a) talk about what they do for my articles, and b) sanity check things for me. This is why my articles are more interview-based than tutorials. I was worried when I published a High Traffic WP post as I was concerned that I might have screwed something up (until I wrote it I knew nothing about caching, servers, CDNs) but having asked the right questions to the right people, and having a developer sanity check + the SM review process, it all turned out well in the end.

    Smashing Magazine has a fantastic peer review process. I have no idea about wptuts+, but if they don’t that’s something they might want to think about bringing in. I’d love to see WP Tuts+ become an important WordPress resource. It has so much potential.

    If anyone is thinking about writing tutorials for WordPress and they’re not WP geniuses, implement your own peer review process. Ask for a second opinion. In fact, even if you are a WP genius, it’s a good idea to get a second pair of eyes as someone else will pick up on something that you have missed, it could just be a matter of improving an article’s clarity or fixing some typos.

  3. Paul

    Hello Brian

    First of all thanks for the mention in this post, was not expecting that at all.

    I started reading this post and thought it would quite interesting and where do I place myself in the WordPress community.

    As I was reading this I actually placed myself in the “aha” category as most of my tutorials come from me finding out something and writing a tutorial about it. I find that the best way for me to learn about a subject is to write a tutorial about it. I’m always learning something new about WordPress everyday so I never run out of stuff to write about. I’m not too concerned if it’s been said 100 times before as I use this to help me learn more.

    But I guess I could fit into side blogger plus category as I do earn a bit of a side income from the website, but that just mainly pays for my hosting. You are right though I do make more income from client work and article writing. But I guess my tutorials could lead to more client work.

    As for the quality of the tutorial, I always try to learn as much about the subject before writing the tutorial. I don’t mind if I don’t know all about the subject as I hope someone who does can comment on my post and teach me a better way of doing it, I can always update the post after. This is why it’s great when someone like you or Pippin can read my tutorials and teach me a better way of doing things.

    As for the articles on WpTuts I think it’s great they are trying to improve the quality of the tutorials there. I think they are now the number 1 place for WordPress tutorials. Toms posts about unit testing in WordPress development have been really helpful.

    I understand what some people saying about the quality of articles on there could be better. But WpTuts needs to cater for both novice and advanced WordPress developers.

    I would love to write for WpTuts again one day it’s good to be able to teach other developers something awesome you’ve found out.

    Thanks
    Paul

    1. Japh

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the unit testing tutorials, Paul! It was a topic I felt was sorely lacking around generally, and Tom did a great job filling the brief.

      I’d love to have you writing for us again any time!

  4. Tom McFarlin

    This is a great post, Brian. I could probably write several entire blog post in responses to some of the stuff that you’ve mentioned but ain’t nobody got time for that :).

    First, I don’t think there’s a need to apologize for pigeonholing or stereotyping anyone – I think you broke it down accurately.

    Secondly, this whole conversation is something that I believe has been coming to a head for a long time and I’m glad people are actually starting to say something about it.

    I’ll be the first to admit that there are bad tutorials and there probably always will be. I think it sucks that a site becomes notorious for being known for having bad content, and then has to work to turn the reputation around, but I love what Envato is doing in trying to improve (in fact, I’m kicking ideas are with Japh in the Envato Basecamp for a few ideas for just that), but they can only do so much: It’s going to require other writers – and critics, even – to step up.

    I said it in my post (thanks for the link, btw), but if money is a person’s motivation, then stop. Don’t write. Don’t contribute. You’re pushing waste into an ecosystem that already has enough.

    But if a personal genuinely cares about writing and helping others, then go for it – that’s exactly what we need.

    Oh, and one last thing. Regarding your point on the various blog types (“Do X with Y,” and “Here’s 21 Things For jQuery”): I think this is a trend that is finally fading away.

    As a professional developer, I’ve always hated them because it promotes copy/paste programming, and not true learning. You can’t completely stop people building stuff that way because those people will always Google, find the code snippet, and paste, but we can definitely present content in a way that teaches while providing code, I think. And maybe that’ll help breed other, better developers.

    1. Japh

      I think it sucks that a site becomes notorious for being known for having bad content, and then has to work to turn the reputation around

      Exactly! This is a tough spot to be in, for both Wptuts+ and ThemeForest. It’s easy to lose trust, it’s a heck of a lot harder to regain it.

  5. Konstantin Kovshenin

    Howdy! I think reviewing is the key. If Envato hired several *great* WordPress developers to review, edit or trash articles before they’re published, everyone will benefit. This is also true for ThemeForest.

    That said, I think Smashing has some lousy WordPress content too, but nobody’s perfect. I cry when I browse archives on my own blog.

    K

    1. Tom McFarlin

      K – that’s exactly what Japh and I are talking about setting up. Just in the beginning stages of that, though.

      But you’re right – blogs are like code. Browse back far enough and you want to forget that you ever published / coded that :).

      1. Japh

        What Tom said! We should have peer reviews in place within a month or so. We’ve begun internal planning, budgeting, etc. and now in discussion with some key authors (i.e. Tom!) to implement it.

  6. Rarst

    Since we keep clashing about wptuts I could as well answer in one place.

    1. wptuts gives to community.

    For giving to community they displayed pattern of arrogant and uncaring approach to what they publish. They openly prioritized “need to churn out any posts we can get” over “need to have qualified editors and publish good content”.

    In my opinion WordPress ecosystem is desperately lacking in educational materials. Throwing garbage into it is not merely not helping. It’s actively harming by teaching crap that people learn and propagate further.

    As far as I am concerned they dug themselves into a very deep hole and “but they are not thaaaat terrible anymore” is meek improvement. The harm that had been done has not disappeared. Especially since the posts from earlier days are still up and keeping that harm going.

    2. $150 is good rate.

    It’s not. $150 is 3 hours of average developer time. Neither 3 hours is enough to write a quality material or average developer is the one that should be writing it.

    I am amazed how there are constantly conversation about hourly rates and people undercharging… But move it to wptuts context and suddenly those laughable below average rates become good money? Would you quite your job and earn living writing tutorials for wptuts if the money are so great?

    Yes, some people do it for themselves, produce good content and treat money like a bonus. However others do it for money and produce accordingly horrible content, for which wptuts got its foul reputation. The former is happy accident (and borderline spec work), the latter is what that “good” rate really gets you.

    1. Andrea_R

      “In my opinion WordPress ecosystem is desperately lacking in educational materials. ”

      I totally agree with this part. So how to improve it? One way is to offer more money so the people who are better coders consider writing the materials.

      And not all writers of tutorials are coders. ;) This would be me here. :D It does take a special skill to look at code an explain it so anyone can understand it – but it’s not the same skill level at the same pay scale as an actual coder. Remember the ecosystem is now growing large enough we have specialists.

      On top of the tutorial writing, of which I have done plenty, the long term part of what everyone misses is the comments and questions afterwards. Often the support on a single post take 4 times as much time as actually writing the post did.

      For things that complex? Those are ones I definitely lean towards either not being free, or the writer and support person should be compensated heavily. The increased rate is a good start.

      1. Pippin Williamson

        Providing much higher rates would be awesome to see for truly spectacular education material. Interestingly enough, however, I always find that those who don’t get paid are usually those that write the best, which goes back to Tom’s spot on comment about how you shouldn’t write if you are just doing it for the money.

        1. Andrea_R

          Right – but we can’t all do it for free all day. ;)

          I certainly didn’t do the WordPress All In One for Dummies fo r the pay, but it did pay some bills, you know?

          1. Japh

            Exactly, we certainly don’t expect people to write for Wptuts+ for free! But considering there are a lot of skilled people out there who are writing for free, what we’re offering is a happy addition, surely?

          2. Rarst

            Japh, I don’t suppose you edit wptuts for “happy addition”-level compensation, because you are skilled person who is editing for free anyway? :)

          3. Pippin Williamson

            Oh no, of course by :) I’m all for paying my bills!

          4. Japh

            Rarst, if you’re asking could I be making more money doing WordPress development than editing for Wptuts+? Then the answer is yes.

            I choose to edit for Wptuts+ because I want to help create quality educational material for WordPress developers.

            I wasn’t editing for free before, so this analogy isn’t 100% accurate. This is a better explanation:

            I am a skilled person who wanted to educate others in WordPress development, but I had no audience, so what was the point in blogging? I was involved in Envato already, so I began discussing improvements with the Wptuts+ editor at the time. He ended up needing to step down, and recommended me for the position. I accepted, because I believe Wptuts+ can be an awesome resource!

            Remuneration is essential, because my wife and I like to eat, but I’m not doing this for the money. If I was only interested in money, I’d be developing instead.

        2. Andrea_R

          Exactly! I’m sure you release plugins because you wrote it because you wanted to and then decided to sell it. ;)

          Just like when I make quilts – I do it because I like it, but dang – have you SEEN the cost of cotton batting?

          So it’s more a “this is what I like to do, now how can I get paid for it? or at least recoup a bit of the cost.”

  7. Pippin Williamson

    Fantastic Brian; I’m honored to have been included in that list.

    I agree 100% with what you’ve said about Envato. For starters, they had provided a large portion of my monthly income for a while, so I have to give them some level of respect for that alone. I also genuinely believe that they are interested in contributing to and improving the WordPress community.

    WPTuts+ has published some truly horrendous content before, but so has most everyone else at some point. Was the bad content getting churned out because they didn’t care and just wanted content? I have no idea, but I do know that Japh (the site editor) is very, very interested in getting rid of that bad image, and dang it, he is doing a phenomenal job.

    As Rarst mentioned, WPtuts+ dug their own very deep hole. Was it one person’s fault? Who knows? Should the bad content get removed? Yes! Should we be criticizing them to the level many do? No! Some of the content they put out was deplorable, but they are doing an exceptional job getting out of the hole, and personally, I have a ton of respect for Collis and Japh.

    We should look at the past when placing judgement, but please, please do not discredit the now and the recent past. If WPTuts+ had started two (arbitrary number) months ago (removing all old, bad content), it would be a fantastic site, so do they really deserve all the ridicule today when they are making such great strides? I don’t think so.

    1. Rarst

      To elaborate I am happy to hear Japh is doing good work with it (that’s what they needed at start), however reputation has momentum. He didn’t get clean slate to work with – he got a bottom of that hole.

      It is unfair (and I am not) to criticize work that Japh is doing now, however I have no issue whatsoever criticizing what site “accomplished” overall from the start. As for me it would be unfair to swipe it under the rug and pretend that wptuts is suddenly best thing ever.

      1. Japh

        I’m glad for the clarification that you’re not criticizing my efforts :)

        I agree, our history is a part of us, and we can’t forget it. We need to learn from it, and move forward. Removing all the pre-existing content would be a pretty major thing though.

        Perhaps an alternative would be for us to re-review old content and where there are issues, write a new article, and point the old one to it. Something I’ll think about how we can deal with anyway. Thanks for the push!

  8. Japh

    Thank you so much for this post, Brian! It’s so encouraging to feel like what we’ve been doing at Envato lately is starting to make some progress, and that you (and hopefully others) can see it comes from a good place.

    We’ve been talking about a review system for articles internally for a little while now (how it would work, budget, etc.), and as Tom mentioned above, he and I are now starting to discuss implementation.

    Since I took over editing Wptuts+ in January (which was a huge learning curve), I feel in the last 6 months we’ve begun to really see improvement. I’m hoping that continues, and as you noted from my post looking for more writers, I’m trying to build an even stronger team to make it so.

    Proofing and editing articles and tutorials is a time consuming process, and sometimes the occasional mistake will slip by me. I know this is going to happen here and there, and when it does, I get it sorted quickly and ensure I involve the author in the process. This helps educate them, and mean it doesn’t happen again in future.

    We’re fine-tuning our processes to make them more efficient and allow more time for ensuring quality content. Getting our authors more involved is a big part of this, and I’ve really appreciated the commitment that some in particular have shown (I’d prefer not to list them in case I miss someone, but certainly Tom’s efforts have been immensely helpful).

    I’m really looking forward to seeing some submissions from you, Brian! :)

  9. Dave Donaldson

    Nice post Brian, figured I’d add my two cents…

    First, Rarst is correct about the hourly rate. $150 for a well-researched, well-written post is too low. I wouldn’t write for that amount simply because my time is worth a lot more than that. People have to do a much better job at valuing their time.

    As for the editing and review process, I can speak a little to how Smashing does it because I’ve written for them and am part of their WordPress Editorial Review team. This isn’t gospel, but my take on my involvement with the WordPress articles published on their site (which isn’t all of them). I’m sure Siobhan can lend her experience as well.

    The review process is the single most critical aspect of publishing content on Smashing. When reviewing an article, there is a standard checklist of items we go through to ensure the content is of very high quality, and I can tell you that I’ve given my share of not-so-good reviews because they weren’t up to snuff.

    The review process is definitely time-consuming, but definitely worth it. It can take several weeks for an article to get onto Smashing, and not one step along the way is taken lightly. Many people are involved, and the author usually has to go through numerous revisions before the Publish button is clicked.

    And from what it sounds, if Japh is the only one reviewing for WPTuts+, then sure, things are going to slip past him. Smashing has a number of different reviewers, depending on who’s available and who has time to do a review.

    At the end of the day, writing high quality content is just like writing high quality code – it takes time. And if you’re willing to invest in that time, then the quality of the content will speak for itself.

    1. Japh

      Great feedback, Dave, thanks! I’d love to get a little more insight into how your review process works :)

    2. Siobhan

      You’re one of the Smashing Mag reviewers? Hello! I always wonder who you guys are. :D

      Just to add a bit on the editorial review process from the writer’s perspective. I love the SM process because it gives me a whole lot more confidence in what I write. To know that what I write first goes through an editor, and then to two external reviews, helps me to ensure that what’s going out, under my name, is accurate. Also, it helps me to be a better writer. When you know that something is going through peer review you work your ass off to get good comments from the experts. The reviewers want to help you get better, so any comments are always constructive and helpful. It’s a win-win situation: good content is produced and the writer improves and becomes a better writer.

      In terms of editing more generally – it’s a really important aspect of producing quality web content. It’s something we included from the start at WP Realm – we have a technical editor who checks code and technical aspects, and then myself and Zé look for ways that articles can be improved in terms of structure and language. It’s quite a long process but it pays off.

  10. Dave Donaldson

    And just as a follow-up… Smashing’s review isn’t literally a checklist, that would be too easy. It’s really a questionnaire that makes you think about the quality of the article being reviewed. I actually spend way more time writing comments in the questionnaire than anything else.

  11. Sarah Gooding

    Hey Brian, Thanks for including me in your list. That was very kind of you. :) Being a daily blogger is definitely challenging. At first I struggled to find something to write about every day. But the more I focus on building things with WordPress and recording everything I’m learning, the more content I have to write about. At first I didn’t know many people in the WordPress community but now that my circle has expanded, I find that there’s ALWAYS someone out there somewhere doing something cool with WordPress. Their work is worth writing about. My favorite thing is to find the obscure developers who nobody is talking about and showcase the awesome plugins and themes they have contributed to the community. They are generally thrilled that somebody has noticed their hard work and are encouraged to keep going. That makes me happy. :)

  12. Alex Denning

    If I may belatedly add my thoughts, I’d completely agree there’s a lot of work to be done on making the state of tutorials better. As I see it, the major problem is search rankings; the weight of larger sites (not the WP specific ones mentioned here) writing crappy content outweighs and frankly puts off small outfits from publishing and pioneering quality work.

    I’d very much accept that sites like mine (WPShout) in the past have published mal-informed or misleading tutorials or advice, but I for one have made a serious effort of late to deliver more quality content. I’d be interested to know what the general consensus on my site is, actually :)

  13. Konstantin Kovshenin on Quality Writing | Brent Logan

    [...] Konstantin Kovshenin [...]

  14. Sri Krishna Web Consultants

    Frankly, we have just started to learn writing quality content at our site. I find that you have actually quoted quite important things that would help novices like us. The suggestions made by authors who commented here (whom you included your article) are useful too. Expanded my perspectives… Looking forward to make a good use of your suggestions :)

Leave a Reply