WordPress 2.5 – Not coming here soon

Just a note – if you’re looking for the week in walks, they’ll be up tomorrow, pictures and all. However, WordPress 2.5′s release is more recent news, and an issue that I believe is worth pushing my normal schedule back a day for. :)

I bit the bullet and installed WordPress 2.5 on my testing blog, and I’ve been playing with it for a few hours now, and my impression is that the number of things I don’t like far outweigh the number of things I do like. Before I get to my critique, however, I have a couple of important questions.

First, why was this released on a Saturday? Every other major release of software – free or not – has happened on a weekday. To have something as seemingly major as WordPress 2.5 released on Saturday suggests to me that the folks at Automattic almost wanted this release to be as low-key as possible, as most of the “major” web writers usually go at a more relaxed pace on the weekend.

The next question I have is pointed at everyone who is raving over the new interface – what specifically about it makes this particular version superior to the old interface? All I’ve seen are generalities. Something tells me that a lot of this is related to a disease known as “fanboyism” (which I know doesn’t exist, but is noted by the almost-fanatical praise heaped by certain people whenever something comes from one place, no matter how poor it is), and that is never a good thing as it allows hype to take over real substance.

The last question I have, and this is something that I’ll keep coming back to throughout my discussion of dislikes, is about this supposed research that they did. Who exactly did they ask for input? It seems like they’ve asked some quite inept people to get their suggestions when it comes to getting an opinion on the current dashboard’s so-called downfalls.

I’ll be reasonable, however, and let you in on the couple of things that I do like -

Things I like

First, is that in the Theme editor (under Presentation Design -> Theme Editor), they’ve split up the template and style files into their own groups. Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t try to prettify that and manage to totally screw it up in the process. Sure that’s a dumbed-down option that they did, but it’s quite useful when you consider that currently, all the files are listed in one big list.

Another thing that I like is the addition of a link to edit a newly-published post. Also, the fact that they did make the size of the fonts smaller wasn’t a bad idea either.

And that’s about where this ends.

Things I don’t like

Where do I start with this? There are a lot more things that I don’t like about the new admin panel, but let’s start with the most obvious one -

New-look menus

Instead of sticking with the normal set of menus, they decided to split the main toolbar into two parts – with the connections between them being loose at the best. Thankfully, it’s easy to hack the admin-header.php file to get the Plugins, Options Settings, and Users down with the rest of the menu items, it’s something that shouldn’t have to have been done in the first place (not to mention that cForms and Polls are now to the left of these other sections). Also, the dashboard is an integral part of the WordPress admin panel – why is the link to that relegated to a teeny-weeny link in the upper left that almost blends into the background?

Widget redesign

Pardon my French, but what the fuck were they thinking when they thought this one up? Actually, what the fuck were they smoking and/or drinking at the time? I’d like to have a sample. ;)

Since I’ve been using WordPress, the Widget page has been a straight-forward drag-and-drop affair where you could take the available widgets (at the bottom of the page) and drag them up to either sidebar. You could also have multiple text widgets at your disposal, and if you wanted to take one away for a short while, all you had to do was drag it out of the sidebar and it’d be saved.

Now? Well, now you can only work on one sidebar at a time, and those saved text widgets you had off of the sidebar before you upgraded? Gone. Hope you saved the code to them.

Oh, by the way, if you remove a text widget from a sidebar – you can say goodbye to whatever text was in there before. It’s not saved. It was something important? Sorry, but it’s not OK to take text widgets away anymore; game over, you lose.

The other thing that is completely ass-backward is that they show you all available widgets, including those you already have activated. How useless is that?

Like whitespace?

If you’re a fan of completely wasted space on a webpage, then you’ll love a lot of the pages in WordPress 2.5! Why? Well, on most of them, there’s a maximum width of just less than 1000 pixels. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was centred on the page, but infinite wisdom was used to put it all aligned to the left. Fortunately, if you’re using Stylish, you can create a new style for your URL and put this in between the curly braces -

.wrap, .updated, .error {
max-width: 100% !important;
}
.narrow {
width: 100% !important;
}

That will fix one of the few things you can actually fix on your own.

Categories are dead. Long live tags.

Or that’s what they want you to believe when you look at the write screen. Instead of the current setup of having categories at the top of the right hand column, easily accessible, they put them at the bottom of the write screen (where you can’t move the elements anymore, like you used to), under tags. The message here is clear – categories are less important than tags.

Gaping security hole

One of the more ballyhooed new features in this new version is the ability to automatically upgrade plugins from your plugin page. On my site, I had tried out a different plugin that allowed me to do just that, but it didn’t work because of server permissions that there are.

However, WordPress have made a great decision to usurp any server’s security when it comes to running zip files by including its own unzipping program in the WordPress install – that’s got to be part of the reason why the zip file is 30% larger than it was previously. By doing this, anyone running a plugin has the potential of opening themselves up to a major problem with their server by upgrading to a new version of a plugin that has a malicious file in it.

The chances of this happening are slim, but it is not outside of the possible realm of things that can happen. Fortunately, there is a way to fix this and to break the plugin upgrade function – set the permissions of the wp-content/plugins folder to 555, thus making it read only, and forcing an error on the update page.

Lazy time

The last item I have on my list of dislikes is that they’ve changed the way you select your timezone – it used to be that you just typed in a number, say, -6 for Central Standard Time, like you would on a forum run by SMF. However, apparently in these supposed interviews, they discovered that people had a hard time typing in a simple combination of a plus or minus sign and a number between 0 and 14. It’s been replaced with a drop-down box with selections for timezones, with minor half-hour intervals.

Overall initial verdict

If I had to give a grade to their efforts in regards to what they did, I would give them a grade of about 60/100, or just barely a D-minus in school grading terms. The biggest thing that they lose points for is the rule of “don’t fix something that ain’t broke”. The Admin interface in previous iterations of WordPress worked perfectly, and were, after a bit of a learning curve, very intuitive.

However, doing patently stupid things like splitting the options panel into two distinct menus, making the dashboard into the least important thing in the dashboard (by the way, where can you see the stats for your blog? the stats sub-panel under the dashboard has gone missing.), and making everything fixed width only goes to hurt the cause further.

Unfortunately, it seems that the folks who are at the head of WordPress are only more concerned with glorifying their latest release, but don’t be surprised if there are urgent updates to 2.5 coming out as soon as a week from now, as it seems that they’ve gotten creative with the roadmap, making up nearly 30% of the overall progress in their planning within a week or two.

As far as my site is concerned, I’m going to stick with 2.3.x series WordPress releases for at least the near future. Maybe if someone comes out with an admin theme that looks like the old version, and maybe fix the widget issue (come on, they seriously fucked up there).

What do you all think about this release? More importantly, do you know anyone who was interviewed to help them out? I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there who would love to know how they came to the conclusion that this was “needed”.

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13 Comments

  1. Stephan Miller said,

    March 31, 2008 @ 8.41 am

    I am glad I didn’t install it yet. My worry was plugins. I use a lot and weren’t sure that they would work on the new version. After this post, I am going to wait a lot longer.

  2. Jude said,

    March 31, 2008 @ 6.16 pm

    Thanks I was thinking about installing this version, but wanted to see what others had to say first and I’m glad I read your post because others were saying they liked it so far, but you give a much better in-depth view so I think I’ll wait awhile. Wow I tried to submit this and because my url has info it wants to block me. This is basically one of the reasons I leave so few comments especially on blogger because there are always to many hassles.

  3. WordPress 2.5 Issues Roundup at Facibus On Blogging said,

    March 31, 2008 @ 7.16 pm

    [...] says WordPress 2.5 – Not coming here soon – he’s looked at the security model and will not [...]

  4. MrCorey said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 5.09 am

    I think that WordPress traditionally gets released on Sundays, as does NetBSD. Usually, I’m a tester for WordPress from the get-go, running a nightly build all the time. But, since 2.3 was released, I’ve stuck with stable releases. Maybe I’ve upgraded to 2.5. Maybe I haven’t…

  5. Wordpress 2.5 - I hate it. | Snoskred - Life in the Country said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 6.48 am

    [...] wrote a great post about WordPress 2.5 – Not coming here soon. A lot of his thoughts on the subject are similar to mine. It is highly disappointing to see a huge [...]

  6. alyndabear said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 1.37 pm

    I upgraded … and hate it. I even hate the colouring of the new dashboard. Why did they feel the need to even change THAT? I feel like a twelve year old what with all the pastels. Bleh.

  7. Lorelle said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 8.43 am

    You’ve made some good points, but I thought I’d let you know about the release timing that I heard straight from Matt Mullenweg. When he comes to a WordCamp, he likes to make a big special announcement to add to the celebrity of the event. This time, since it all came together beautifully, they announced WordPress 2.5 at the event. MrCorey is right. Most of the releases happen on Sunday, or whenever there is a major security issue, but they are not bound by any rules or regulations that prevents them from releasing any day they want.

    Many are holding back, waiting for the bugs to be worked out, but the support forums are getting mostly human mistakes reported and very little true bugs. There are, however, some very serious security vulnerabilities that have just been announced in past versions, which 2.5 fixes. That’s a serious reason to upgrade sooner rather than later. A lot of blogs, some by just normal folks with little traffic, are getting hacked. WordPress is not alone. I’m reading about a lot of security issues with Drupal and other blog programs, too. Some days I think it’s war out there to get all us bloggers. So upgrading for that reason might be reason enough.

  8. Snoskred said,

    April 5, 2008 @ 9.53 pm

    Well it didn’t look that way to me in the support forums – it looks like they have some very serious issues especially with people not being able to upload images.

    Security is not enough to make people upgrade to something that is a major step backwards, Lorelle. And WordPress 2.5 is a major step backwards. Just one look at the text widget screen is enough to tell anyone that. Plus WordPress 2.5 comes with some rather large security holes of its own, perhaps you did not read Sephy’s post to see the point he made about that.

    They have now put it on wordpress.com, and are having some serious issues with it there too.

  9. Sephyroth said,

    April 7, 2008 @ 3.53 pm

    Thanks for all the comments; I’m actually going to reply to y’all ;)

    Stephan – On the test setup I have, the only plugin that didn’t work was Popularity Contest, which is a good sign from that particular standpoint. However, the downsides that I’ve got do keep me from upgrading all the way around.

    Jude – First, the reason your comment kept getting hit by the spam filter has to do with the unfortunate fact that there are tons of spammers who use the .info domain for their sites, so I’d added it to my spam blacklist, which is why you got the message. I’m not so sure why others (especially those who are very much in favor of the new version) don’t do such an in depth review, but it might be something along the lines of if someone’s happy, then they’re more willing to just mention it, but if you’re not happy, you will make more comments about it…

    MrCorey – I think you’re seeing more and more folks just sticking to the stable releases, but it’s always good to have folks willing to test out newer versions. Also, have you upgraded? What do you think of it if you have?

    Aly – I know that you can change the colours, but they really hide it away (in the user profile section), but to be honest, the “classic” colours aren’t that hot either…

    Lorelle – That’s a fair reason to have the new version released when it is, and to be honest, I haven’t followed the exact dates of previous releases, so if the weekend is the “normal” release time (outside of security updates), then you’re just following suit.

    While your points about security are quite valid (and the reason that I’d upgrade from 2.3.3 to another version in the 2.3 branch, which is only fair to keep open because in my opinion, 2.5 is a completely different product to the 2.3 branch; kinda like what Firefox did with maintaining support for 1.5 for a period of time after releasing 2.0), the fact that so much that didn’t need to be changed was changed, along with totally borking the Widgets page, with little to no actual explanation as to the reason it was changed, makes me a bit leery to upgrade my main blog.

    Also, I still have heard nothing about how the interview process was taken out, or about who exactly got interviewed as well. It goes back to my point of the fact that other than the occasional security breach, 2.3 and all the previous versions of WP that have the current Dashboard weren’t broken, yet it was decided that it “needed” to be fixed.

    Snos – You know that I agree that this is a step backward – plus (because it seems some folks think I have this wrong), the fact of the matter is that you could install a plugin (that is on the WP plugin site), and when you choose to update it using the inbuilt upgrade thing, the author might (for who knows what bizarre reason; I know it wouldn’t make sense to me) try to corrupt a file in there. Yes, it’s an extreme case (and one likely to never happen), but you have to think of all the possibilities when coming up with ideas for features.

    Thanks for all of your comments. :)

  10. WP Thoughts » Blog Archive » WordPress NOT Coming Here Soon said,

    April 9, 2008 @ 6.08 am

    [...] out there are deciding that WP2.5 isn’t the latest and greatest thing, and that they will stick with their older installation of [...]

  11. Matthew Hill said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 8.34 pm

    It might interest you to know that the people tasked to redesign the admin interface were none other than HappyCog, the very well respected webdesign agency helmed by Jeffrey Zeldman.

    I’m a web-designer who’s followed and respected Jeffrey’s career from afar for several years, so it’s very disappointing to see him associated with such a lame release of WordPress, and even sadder to see the fanboys leaping to his blog without taking even a minute to critically assess the upgrade.

    I found after upgrading an ‘in production’ site to 2.5 that It perhaps wasn’t the best idea. This was a shame, because there are some very nice new features in WP 2.5, but unfortunately it’s difficult to see them clearly due to some of the other more fundamental negative changes.

    The biggest part of WordPress, the Write screen, is functionally worse than its forebear. If that screen doesn’t work well, it casts the rest of the upgrade in a poor light.

    My particular concern is that the Write screen has actually slowed down a previously quick and streamlined workflow. It’s now easy to forget to set categories because they are below the fold, so you end up editing posts far more.

    Other elements were moved to below the Write screen from the sidebar, which has created wasted space and means we have to scroll up and down more. Drag and drop ordering of these items has been removed.

    The drafts summary is now missing from the top.

    The permalinks editing initially looks nice, but is flawed. Seems reasonably robust on posts, but for pages it’s broken. It’s created automatically on the first auto save from your title — and if it’s not what I want I have to edit it? Why should I need to edit something I was going to write from scratch? Additionally, if you edit it before publishing, the edit isn’t “real” UNTIL you publish.

    There are serious bugs with custom fields.

    I could go on, but there’s little point, many others have discussed it ad infinitum, and WP don’t seem interested in hearing the voices of the disgruntled user base. I’m very disappointed with the upgrade and won’t upgrading any of my other blogs.

    I’ve been using WP for not quite a year and loved it’s ease of use and extensibility. It’s still a great piece of software, but something went seriously wrong with this update. Too many cooks maybe? I can’t pretend to know a huge amount of what goes into open source development on such a scale, but if the comments from developers on WP Trac are anything to go by, nobody can ever seem to agree on anything! Not a good way to build a market leading product, free or not.

    This upgrade has left me eyeing up Expression Engine and Symphony.

  12. Kaspars said,

    May 1, 2008 @ 3.02 pm

    Sephy, you might might be interested in trying out the Baltic Amber Admin Themes & Schemes plugin which allows you to modify the ‘Write’ panel layout and tweak the admin color scheme.

  13. Where did WordPress go wrong? | Sephy's Platzish said,

    July 20, 2008 @ 12.49 am

    [...] was that 2.3 would no longer be supported. It’s something I hadn’t mentioned when I blogged about it in the past, but it’s something that is important when you have a large [...]

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