The James Farmer Interview: Part 2 of 2

Filed as Interviews on July 22, 2009 2:00 pm

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This is the second part of my interview with James Farmer, of Incsub and Edublogs.org fame. Read the first part here before getting down and dirty with this one, please.

Blogs.mu lets anyone host their own WordPress MU powered site. What’s the idea behind the service? Who should use it?

That people should be able to run a WPMU based blog network without having to find their way around a server.

Anyone who wants a WPMU site but can’t bring themselves to brave the install process!

Although we do offer some very simple and easy guides opn how to use and install WordPress MU at wpmu.org – heck, if I could do it back in the day I reckon most people could do it now.

How many users do Blogs.mu have? Is it pulling its weight in cash yet?

It’s actually undergoing some pretty steady growth and usage – we had a *huge* launch which was really exciting, but like anything else – you’re never going to have a win on day 1.

You’ll see it becoming more refined and focused over the next 6 months I’m sure, and we’ll see if the idea really catches on – as the baby of our offerings it’s interesting to see how it does and doesn’t work.

I’m curious, how have you sorted out the hosting? Theoretically, Blogs.mu’s clients could each be huge blog networks on their own.

Absolutely, we’re going to be using the same hosting platform that we use for Edublogs for blogs.mu as it grows. We certainly faced a lot of challenges as that grew initially, and hosting would be up there with my no.1 headaches, but since we’ve employed our SysAdmin things have been really smooth.

It’s like wordpress.com pre-Barry, they had their own huge speed issues – ours just lasted a bit longer ;)

farmer2.jpgAnother recent venture of yours is WP.mu, the WordPress MU install service. Since WordPress MU can be a bit troublesome to install, I assume there is demand for a service like this?

Absolutely, this was one product that grew entirely out of users demand… although what we think is really cool is that we don’t just install WPMU, but we also add in all the themes and plugins from premium.wpmudev.org and then install BuddyPress and bbPress and sync the user database, cookies and all that jazz.

Now, if you thought WPMU was hard to install, try integration BuddyPress and bbPress :) That’s where our real value prop is – making it dead easy for people to get their own sites!

Then I take it it’s been a good deal for you guys already, launching WP.mu?

Yeh, it’s worked out pretty well, although we’d be happy to hear from new hosting and promotional partners – and we’ve got an unbelievably good affiliate program too which might interest Herald readers.

It’s not without it’s challenges though, the systems we’ve got in place have been massively difficult to set up, but we’re pretty
pleased with it overall.

What kind of services and benefits do you off your WP.mu customers? Or, in short, why should anyone capable of installing WordPress MU on their own consider WP.mu in the first place?

It’ll save them days or weeks of pain, provide them with hundreds of $s worth of themes and plugins and let them benefit from the experience of the most experienced WPMU-ers on the web. We think it’s kinda cool :)

Finally, WordPress and WordPress MU are slated to merge. What are your thoughts on that?

I’m really excited about it to be honest – I mean suddenly having the whole wp.org community as clients is going to be pretty cool, and I think will be a real boost for WPMU… just as long as Automattic don’t decide to rename it or anything daft (when your entire business is based on domain names like wpmu.org, wp.mu and wpmudev.org… you don’t want them to suddenly start calling it multi blogs!)

I can see that! However, we could flip it around too. It would mean that the whole single hosted WordPress community, including the agencies and developers, suddenly enters your sphere too. Does that worry you?

Not at all, I think that’d be brilliant – in fact we’re looking into entering into the single user WP sphere ourselves shortly, so it’ll be a meeting of minds I hope :)

At the end of the day for us, while we love doing client work, Incsub isn’t our main focus – we like running our own projects and working with the community – if we can provide plugins, themes and support for thousands of developers doing MU-style things, then we’ll be much happier (professionally, as much as economically) than just working on a few big client MU projects.

Plus I’m a massive fan of anything that earns while I’m sleeping ;)

Ideally, how would you want WordPress and WordPress MU to merge? MU features as plugins, or what is the perfect setup, do you think?

Well, I think that in the end Matt and Donncha are going to be the people who know how best this will work – but obviously they are going to have to maintain the difference between a regular plugin and an ‘mu-plugin’ (i.e. one that’s auto on and not an option) so I’d expect that there’ll be an installation & post installation option to run the extra databases and site admin menus, and that MU will be a core option.

I did mention I’m not a coder though… right :)

Finally, what’s next for Incsub?

Well, we’re doing a big push and lot of work on Edublogs right at this minute, but that should be complete (in terms of core work) by the end of August.

But after (and possibly during that) we’ve got a really exciting new project that’s aimed more at the single user WP market, and we’re going to be continuing to add to WPMU DEV Premium – especially around BuddyPress themes and plugins, as well as some new commercial applications and the odd CMS style tool.

And one of these days I need to update the Farms theme pack (I’m Farms, btw)… sheesh… there’s a heap of a lot on :)

I’d like to thank James Farmer for taking his time doing this interview. Be sure to check out Incsub, Edublogs.org, the wp.mu install service and the blogs.mu hosting service, as well as wpmu.org and WPMU DEV. Yes, that’s a lot of links, Farmer’s a busy man for sure!

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