Secrets Revealed: WLTC and WPTavern

A picture I took at WordCamp Dallas 2008.

There has been a lot of speculation on the “shady mystery buyer” of Weblogs Tools Collection and WPTavern (here), which has been funny to watch. It’s me.

Why on earth? Well, it’s the same and different for each one. Jeff wanted to step back from WPTavern and had an offer but I thought it wasn’t really fair given the years and effort he had put into the blog. Even if he wasn’t going to be part of the WordPress world anymore I wanted him to go out of it with the best deal possible. For Mark, the context was similar except I don’t think he talked to any other buyers because his priority was having it in good hands – someone who would keep it around. I have a high regard for the great historical context WLTC provided, being there with WordPress from pretty much day one. So each was purchased by Audrey and went into hibernation.

Neither was done to be a business or make any money and there are no plans for ads or sponsors on either site.

In 2008 when I also first met Mark.

Why haven’t I posted anything until now? Well, I’ve been very busy — Automattic, WordPress, et al. Also the original plan was to just archive them both.

Convinced by Scott, I reached out to see if Jeff would be interested at taking another crack at making a first rough draft of history for the WordPress world. I recall fondly the days when I used to be more nervous about doing an interview with Jeff than the NY Times because I knew he’d have much more in-depth and nuanced questions given his deep understanding of WP. I’m looking forward to seeing that again in the WP blogosphere.

What’s the plan? Currently: put WLTC into archive mode, and reboot Tavern to be a “third place” for the WP community. We’ll show off the latest and greatest with bbPress and some newer WP features like post formats. Longer term it might make sense to roll Jeff’s (and anyone else who is interested) work into some official news resource, but haven’t really decided anything there yet. Consider this a grand experiment which I’m as interested to see the results of as I’m sure you guys are.

Any questions I could answer?


81 responses to “Secrets Revealed: WLTC and WPTavern”

  1. This just confirms my initial assumption when Jeff said the Tavern had been sold. I figured it was you. I think it’s great. A really nice gesture to reward the owners of 2 sites that provided a lot of value to the community in their own ways.

  2. I laughed when I saw the title :) But to be clear, it is Matt Mullenweg that bought WPTavern?

    If so that is so cool because WP Tavern was really the first podcasts (remember when they had podcasts?) that I listened to and helped get me hooked on WordPress.

    Anyways, I am happy to see WPTavern back!


  3. Matt,

    “reboot Tavern to be a “third place” for the WP community.”

    … does this mean WP Tavern will be one of the 3 most important sites in WordPress? Can we get a 250×250 ad in the sidebar that proclaims that important status? :P

  4. Matt! That is great news indeed.

    Looking forward to seeing future posts out here and hopefully you can kick start WLTC as well. It will always be close to my heart especially since I blogged there for quite a while!

  5. Well no surprise there. I talked with Mark about acquiring WLTC, and I knew the only person who would pay that price tag would be you. As for Tavern, I had my doubts that it was you from the start :)

    Congrats on both acquisitions, and I wish you all the best.

  6. Concerning WordPress Weekly, I’m on the fence with what I want to do. I definitely want to produce more audio content and take advantage of the built in audio player that will be shipped with WordPress 3.6. I’m not sure if I will continue to do a dedicated hour a Week for the show or use audio as a complementary piece of content to the various articles that are published during the week. Or I’ll be using the audio Post format and if I perform a short audio interview, use that as content instead of lumping everything together for a one hour show.

    I know one thing, the show will not be live every week, at least not starting out and I won’t be using Talkshoe as I did for every other episode. As I’ve seen with other shows, I’m looking into doing a Google Hangout but I’m not interested in doing video. So starting out, I’m going to try and do at least one live, Google Hangout show a month to see how it goes and what the turn out is like.

    Asides from all of that, I need to purchase better audio equipment as the boom mic setup just isn’t going to cut it. Also, I need the equipment for better sounding Skype interview recordings.

    So audio will definitely be a major factor of the site going forward.

  7. […] Which let’s face it has been annoying enough (especially if you get on the wrong end of it) and has even led the CEO of Envato to publicly stress about “where Automattic ends and the Foundation begins” (respectfully, of course ;) but felt like too much work and pain to get upset about, until today, when after quite a bit of pressure we also discovered that Mullenweg had done the ‘ridiculous‘ thing by buying up leading WordPress news sites Weblog Tools Collection and WP Tavern. […]

  8. @Jeffro – It’s good to hear you’ll still be including audio in some form or another.

    For all its issues I think Talkshoe helped WPWeekly feel more like a community conversation with being able to listen live and call in to the show. Hangouts could really serve that same function, even if video isn’t the focus you can still stream it live and allow people to jump into the show, using the audio later for a podcast feed.

    I hope this means we’ll see you at some WordCamps this year!

  9. @JLeuze – Yep, in the long run, Talkshoe helped more than it hindered the show. I really liked having the IRC chatroom with a button to listen live near the last few episodes of the show, that was working out rather well. I’ve never used Google Hangout so I may need someone that already has experience to walk me through it one day.

    As for WordCamps, I have to get the expenses figured out and then I can start traveling to a few more WordCamps a year.

  10. This is great news. Glad WP Tavern is in good hands and that @Jeffro is part of the future of the site.

    Listening to @Jeffro on the WP Weekly podcast was probably the most important thing in helping me understand what was possible with WordPress. An hour a week sounds pretty demanding, but I’d be happy with a monthly round-up or interview. Your interviews with core dev team and plugin authors always came from the great perspective of a WordPress site owner constantly looking to improve his site and gain a deeper understanding of the tools. You helped me out a great deal in my early WP days – it’d be great to have you back!

  11. @Jeffro – It’s possible to do hangouts as just audio, though the video integration with YouTube is nice too. YouTube does let you download the recorded video from the Hangout, and extracting the audio from that is relatively easy. Certainly worth a try.

  12. @Ryan Hellyer – Trust me, I’ve noticed. In the back-end I normally see POST admin-ajax.php just stop loading after I leave the Post Writing panel open for a long time. Then I get disconnected and it takes forever for anything to work. I have no idea what’s going on. This just started recently from what I can tell. Was that heartbeat stuff added to WordPress 3.6? or 3.5?

  13. Just wanted to say this is great. Jeff has made great stuff in the past and I see great stuff in the future now.
    Really miss WP Weekly so if it can be resurrected in some form that would be great. Actually one of the very few podcasts I’ve listened to live and also interacted in the chatroom at the same time. Good old days,

  14. @Rob Lawrence – It is possible to love WordPress and make money from it. All the commenters of this post make a living through WordPress in someway, including Matt himself.

    Designers don’t work for free, coders don’t work for free…even the people who work at Cinemas and get to watch films at work get paid for being there (lucky sods!). Should bloggers work 12 hours a day without being compensated? Of course not. The implication that bloggers should write for nothing is absurd.

    Jeffros passion for the WordPress platform cannot be questioned. I hope Jeffro continues to blog, however I hope that he makes good money doing so. He deserves it.

    The world doesn’t operate on sunshine and rainbows. We all have bills to pay and families to support :) :)


  15. @Kevin Muldoon

    In addition to a strong interest in WordPress, I also maintain passions for sex, gardening, hiking, electronics and nuclear power. The last is the only one at which I ever made any money. That we have a passion for something doesn’t imply that our involvement with it should be monetarily rewarding.

    Indeed, many of us make a private sport of seeing how many (non-paying) passions we can nominally maintain, without creating painful problems for ourselves. This Matt Mullenweg character – he plays the saxophone, and takes 10s of thousands of photographs, but he needs to go do something else for money, to financially support those passions.

    And so it is with the profoundly overwhelming majority of all those who have an interest in WordPress (and other coding, computer activities … with which WP-interests are nearly always heavily intertwined/inseparable).

    There are specific problems & issues that arise, when WordPress is viewed & posed as ‘rightfully & properly’ a money-making opportunity … or when a WP-related forum like this WPTavern website is held forth as a place that is more or most-appropriately about those who do or aspire to make money with WP.

    For example, why should WPTavern be promoted on the Dashboard/Admin of every WP installation, shown to millions & 10s of millions of users for whom WP will never have any monetary role? To provide an august bully-pulpit for a relative handful of commercial operators? To crassly spam the masses, on behalf of (commercial) developers?

    People who would like to make a living doing something with WordPress (very commonly, put in other words, hoping to avoid having to go get a real job), obviously are or become oriented to a model in which it is normal, desired & expected, that those who would use WordPress for anything, will – well, yeah – have to spend some money in order to get it to actually do so.

    If the product is easy for anybody to use, and to achieve the kinds of things they have in mind to do, right out of the box … where does that leave the commercial aftermarket community?

    A common pitfall of developers of Free Software, who also want to somehow make money off it (i.e., not get a real job), is to take advantage of the traditionally crappy documentation that (doesn’t) come with it. They themselves know the software inside & out, so when users find that they are unable to actually use the product, can’t understand it and have no effective learning-materials, they must turn to the experts for help. For a fee, of course.

    This practice of oh-so cleverly obfuscating the “free” software-product, and then requiring money in order for users to get it to actually perform as advertised … is EXACTLY how & where Matt Mullenweg got his big break. This is precisely why WordPress was able to defeat whole genera of fire-breathing website-software dragons that formerly terrorized the user-base countryside with impunity.

    Volunteers and hobbyists are the main actors who hold up & power the WordPress phenomenon. And so it is with all large, successful Open Source, Free Software enterprises.

    It is a weakness and imperfection of the WPTavern resource, that its usual clientele tend to be experts, and business operators. There should be a lot more people here who are more representative of the huge cultural base who actually make the product a success.

  16. @Ted Clayton

    It is a weakness and imperfection of the WPTavern resource, that its usual clientele tend to be experts, and business operators. There should be a lot more people here who are more representative of the huge cultural base who actually make the product a success.

    I’m working on it.

  17. @Ted Clayton

    Fantastic comment Ted.

    “I also maintain passions for sex, gardening, hiking, electronics and nuclear power” -> In that order?? Sex and gardening all day!!!

    To address one of your points, I do not think it is fair that WP Tavern is being linked to on all my WordPress websites. It’s an abuse of power. I didn’t like that WebTools Collection was linked for several years too. All it did was post summaries of the latest themes and plugins – they did not even review them. I suspect most posts took less than 15 minutes to write. Why could these links have not come directly from the directory itself?

    Also, why aren’t websites such as WP Lift, WP Mayor or WP SQuared being linked within the admin area? When I run I was writing 3,000 word articles every day and I submitted my site to be linked there, but it was not. WP Tavern is a great blog, but I can think of a dozen other WordPress blogs that should be listed too.

    Likewise, of the seven featured plugins that are linked in the official plugin directory, five out of the seven listed are from Automattic. And one of the other ones (Hotfix) was designed by people who develop the WordPress core. Is that fair? No, not really. I could list 50 better plugins that should be listed in that section.

    Of course, this is a big discussion in its own right. It is not something that concerns me too much if I’m honest. Their game, their rules :)


  18. @Kevin Muldoon – To be clear, WPTavern was added long before it was purchased by Matt. I was just as shocked as anyone to discover one day that my little WordPress centric site had reached the ranks of I think you make a good point about WLTC and their theme and plugin posts but believe it or not, those were the posts people kept coming back for and expected to see on a routine basis. Collectively, they brought in the most traffic. They didn’t need to be reviewed they only needed exposure so that people knew they existed. Everyone is always looking for that next free, cool looking WordPress theme. I can honestly say that some of the best WordPress content I have ever published was during my time writing for WLTC in December of 2007 through 2008.

    As for the dashboard feed, I can understand your gripes, especially as a WordPress centric site author. At this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Other WordPress News dashboard widget disappear so all that was left was the official WordPress Development blog. This way, I wouldn’t feel so bad about cluttering up so many dashboards.

    On the other hand, I think it would be cool if WPTavern generated so much traffic, that I could push that traffic to other people in the community like the Digg effect. I hope as the site continues to grow and the community around the site strengthens, I’ll be able to do that.

    As for the big discussion, most of what you have pointed out is stuff that has been discussed before. However, I’d have to do some research to see how the Featured Plugins area is calculated. It would be nice to see a variety of plugins in those spots every day, or every week.

  19. There are some odd plugins showing up in the featured plugin list. Jetpack stands out in particular. It’s one of the plugins I hear most commonly being listed as an example of how not to build a plugin, so including it in a list of featured plugins seems like a bad idea to me.

  20. @Jeffro – I didn’t realise WPTavern was added before. I made the assumption it was since Tom brought it up, so it looks like I was incorrect.

    “I think you make a good point about WLTC and their theme and plugin posts but believe it or not, those were the posts people kept coming back for and expected to see on a routine basis. They didn’t need to be reviewed they only needed exposure so that people knew they existed.”

    However, all those posts did was list the latest themes and plugins that had been added. The same information could have been pulled from itself. It really didn’t offer any value. All good WordPress bloggers spend a lot of time testing and reviewing products for others, which is very time consuming. Simply writing a brief one line description of a new theme is not; yet this was the site that WordPress linked to. Without doubt, if WordPress hadn’t linked to that site in the dashboard, it would have died off many years ago.

    You could argue that all people need to know is that a theme has been released. If that is the case, why doesn’t WordPress simply link to the latest themes and plugins directly from There is absolutely no need for them to add links to that website from millions of websites if it does not add any additional value.

    I appreciate we’re kind of arguing the same point here. I sold my WordPress a site a little over a year ago, so it is not something that directly affects me anymore, but I still think it is wrong. I would rather see WordPress blogs that review products thoroughly linked there than. Currently, all the links are going to websites owned by Automattic or Matt.

    I know you will do your best to link to others within the WordPress community. You always have.

  21. @Kevin Muldoon

    Thanks Kevin.

    I’m sure there is order & priorities with passions, but you know, they seem like a bunch of feudal fiefdoms, all doing their own thing and not paying much attention to that guy who claims to be king.

    At least, that’s my experience. ;)

  22. I’m late to the conversation, but I wanted to congratulate Jeff and Mark on this great news. They’re definitely deserving of this ratification of their worth and community contributions. So thanks to Matt for making this happen!

    Regarding the people complaining about WPTavern having a special place within WP Dashboards, it’s deserved — Jeff for the longest time was consistent and thorough in reporting on WordPress, from these posts to the forums to his podcast. And the reason it’s been appearing lately in your dashboards isn’t because of being recently included — it’s likely been due to a renewed effort to post. And after all, if you don’t like it, just hide the WordPress News from your dashboard; no one makes you keep it on.

  23. @Matthew McGarity – I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Jeff worked hard on reporting WordPress, however he isn’t the only one doing so. There are many other WordPress related blogs that report news today. I’ve personally written between 2,000 and 3,000 articles on the subject of WordPress and when I run a dedicated WordPress blog I worked in excess of 50 hours a week (yet my blog, and many others, was not included). I know of many other people who continue to cover WordPress every day yet their blogs are not included. All we were talking about was WordPress being fair to everyone across the board. :)

  24. @Matthew McGarity – Complaining is a patriotic act, ya know. It is our duty to complain! ;)

    In addition to the excellent point of @Kevin Muldoon, above, there is the problem that WPTavern is not a welcoming environment, of the great unwashed masses to whom it is presented.

    The problem I tend to complain about, is that the Tav is too much about & for cool people, and too negative on plebes. This is a place for power-hitters, real contributors, and those who manage to (good on ’em!) or fantasize about skimming a buck off WordPress.

    And that’s fine. I’m a capitalist myself. And I daresay, I defend a nice little elite niche, with my own benefit primarily in view. It’s not a big downer, in & of itself, that that’s the main thrust at WPTavern. In fact, the experts (not the noobs) make the page worth looking at.

    It becomes an eyebrow-raiser, when a version of WPTavern that is not for the millions who see it in the Admin page, see it in their Admin page, anyway. In other contexts, this is readily identified as garden-variety spam. (I don’t freak out over a little benign spamming, either … just keep in mind what’s what.)

    Average users are notably unwelcome in the Tav. When one wanders in unawares, those who figure they own the place are quick to toss a jacket or shirt onto any unoccupied barstools, pull any empty chairs around their own table … and put on their best cold-shoulder.

    If the thing is going to be pushed to the masses, it can’t legimately be reacting to the inexpert, confused and marginally-informed like they’re something the cat dragged in.

  25. @Ted Clayton – I think a bigger concern is that many people are feeling there is a conflict of interests.

    I was really pleased for Jeff when WP Tavern was acquired. I’m also a big fan of Matt and Automattic however I did wonder what his intention was in buying two of the most popular WordPress news blogs online.

    The question is: Can these websites be impartial when reporting WordPress?

    I do not raise this question to criticise Jeff or Matt in anyway. I just do not believe anyone can be impartial about their own product. Take Oli from WP Lift for example. In addition to running on of the best WordPress related blogs online, he also runs a popular WordPress theme store called Theme Furnace. Do you think he would ever criticise Theme Furnace through WP Lift? Of course not. How could he. I know I couldn’t be impartial in the same position.

    The same could be said of Matt’s position. Automattic are a very profitable company and WP Tavern is not monetised in any way. So why buy WP Tavern and WTC? He already has a personal blog to share his thoughts with the community.

    I hope Matt can be transparent about this and share his long term goals for these sites.

  26. @Kevin Muldoon

    I was really pleased for Jeff when WP Tavern was acquired. I’m also a big fan of Matt…

    Absolutely, on both points. It was a sharp loss when Jeff & his site went inactive, and a major asset to have them back. Everything I’ve ever heard or seen about Matt Mullenweg is a big confidence-builder, for WordPress. He himself is the overiding recommendation for the product, in my book.

    The Feeds on our WordPress Dash/Admin have a hefty “historical” component. This is stuff that evolved & came together piece-by-step … rather than as an icky scheme to dink with people or the user-public at large.

    And you’re right, Kevin: perceptions of conflicting interests are a weightier matter than that the peons are treated like peons … which mostly they won’t even notice, much less cop an attitude about. My own indignation notwithstanding.

    Once a higher-level entity that we all must depend upon, like say the IRS, clearly shows that they are acting out of a conflict of interests, then yeah, it’s serious stuff. We won’t be able to relax now for another couple of election-cycles, at least.

  27. @Kevin Muldoon – Matt answered your questions already in his post. The biggest reason for purchasing WPTavern and WLTC was for archiving purposes. By purchasing both sites, he insured that the content on those sites would not be lost forever, or be put into the wrong hands. The content on each site is like a WordPress time capsule covering specific periods of time. WLTC was instrumental in the early days of WordPress while WPTavern became an important destination in the later years. If I decided to walk away from WordPress, I can guarantee you that and WLTC would simply stay online and just server as time capsules. But I was able to work out a deal to continue on with WPTavern, which is why I’m still around publishing content.

    Regarding being impartial, I’ll paste a response I left at WPDaily on the same topic.

    If people on the outside come to and automatically think it’s a Mullenweg property, then that means I have failed at my job. Other than being funded, Matt’s primary role as it relates to WPTavern is like an adviser. Helping me direct the ship in the right direction. Sure, every now and then he’ll suggest a plugin, theme or service that I should look into reviewing as he did with WooCommerce on it’s release but outside of that, he does not tell me what to write and how to write it. That’s my job

    The interesting thing about this relationship between me, the tavern and Matt is that if Matt starts telling me what to write, how to write it, etc, then the Tavern will fail. I’ve already proven in the past 4 years that I know what I’m doing, it’s just that I ran out of money and time. That’s not an issue anymore. Now that I have both, I have been put into a position to accomplish my goal of turning WPTavern into a large, friendly community of both new WordPress users and enthusiasts.

    In reality, I’ll never be able to get around the fact that Matt owns the Tavern and Automattic so therefor, some trickery must be afoot, but as long as I don’t focus on that and just do my thing, it won’t be a problem.

    @Ryan Hellyer – I’m still unsure as to why entire site feeds were imported into the Planet Feed. It doesn’t make sense. It makes much more sense to just use their WordPress specific feed. It’s more beneficial to everyone. My hope is that if a sites WordPress category was added to the feed, then only their best WordPress stuff would be published to that category. That would definitely bump up the relevancy/usefulness factor of the planet feed.

  28. @Jeffro – I think that the argument of Matt buying these sites to keep them online is very very weak. Both these websites have content, traffic and a readership. Their value is largely determined by its content and traffic.

    There would have been dozens of people fighting to buy them had they been placed for auction on a marketplace such as Flippa. Do you think someone would have paid $10k+ for this website and then simply deleted the content?

    Websites such as these need to remain impartial and they need to be critical. By placing both these sites in millions of dashboards he can control public opinion of WordPress and Automattic products. That isn’t right.

    For me, that is why WTC was such a poor blog. All it did was list the plugins and themes that had been listed. It never challenged anything Matt or WordPress did. It never added anything new.

  29. @Kevin Muldoon – Did you read WLTC when I was a writer there? I challenged Matt all the time. Established some good cred doing so. I publicly announced that I was selling this website when it happened and not too many people were giving me offers for it. They kept asking for stats, conversions and all that crap I didn’t care for. It was hard to make a sale. I’m glad I sold it to Matt though.

    I invite you to hold my feet to the fire if you think any of the articles I publish are not impartial. Your concern regarding controlling the media is justifiable but only time and my publishing of content will be able to prove to you that it’s unnecessary.

    Of course, I already know a ton of people will jump on me for the first positive article I write about some Automattic service, even if the praise is warranted. Not much I can do there except defend my position and opinion.

  30. I run a really small site and received two supposedly reasonable offers for the domain in the past, but when I asked for more information about what they would be doing with the domain or if I could still participate in content generation, I never received a reply.

    Although I barely had any content – unlike Jeffro et al – I still felt obliged to ensure it wouldn’t “fall into the wrong hands” or be used to promote WordPress in what could be perceived to be a exploitative way, since it was quite a nice domain name. I guess brand loyalty still exists.

    So I fully appreciate why Jeffro would make the decision he did with the Tavern.

  31. @Jeffro – I am not trying to suggest that you will not be impartial. I am just trying to illustrate a point that anyone who runs a product, service etc should not also own the websites that report news about it.

    You shouldn’t have to worry about praising Automattic. That is not what the issue is here. I’m one of the biggest fans of Automattic. I use VaultPress on all my websites and have advised others to use the service on dozens of occasions. Also, I use JetPack and Akismet. I am not trying to criticise Matt, Automattic or anything he has contributed online.

    With regards to you trying to sell your website, it is no surprise you didn’t sell it if you only listed it for sale here. When selling a website, you need to try and reach the biggest audience possible. Your readers are probably not the best people to target for a sale. You should have listed it on a site such as Flippa.

    Sorry, but whether you like it or not, all potential buyers are going to want to know about things such as stats, demographics etc. It might not be crap you care about, though I hope you appreciate why it matters to someone who is spending thousands of dollars on your website. To them, having the right level of traffic could be the difference between turning a profit or throwing thousands of dollars down the drain. :)

  32. @Kevin Muldoon – Yes, I fully respect their wishes of wanting to know all of that information. I’d probably want that info as well to make a more informed decision. But I’ve never been a business type of guy, you have. I don’t care about the business end of things, I only cared about content and community. I hope to tap into your business savvy with an upcoming WordPress interview so you can expand on the points of using Flippa and stuff.


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