New Theme: Libre

Happy Theme Thursday, all! Today I’m happy to introduce Libre, a new free theme designed by yours truly.

Libre

Libre

Libre brings a stylish, classic look to your personal blog or longform writing site. The main navigation bar stays fixed to the top while your visitors read, keeping your most important content at hand. At the bottom of your site, three footer widget areas give your secondary content a comfortable home.

Customize Libre with a logo or a header image to make it your own, or use one of two custom templates — including a full-width template with no sidebar — to change up the look of your pages. Libre sports a clean, responsive design that works seamlessly on screens of any size.

Responsive design

Read more about Libre on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Reinvented Video for WordPress

Today, we’re announcing a complete overhaul of VideoPress, the service that has powered more than 3,000,000,000 video plays on WordPress.com and Jetpack-connected self-hosted WordPress sites around the world. We’ve made the next-generation VideoPress dynamic, responsive, and lightning fast to support the ever-evolving needs of content creators everywhere.

Take a peek at what’s under the hood!

Embed anywhere, play anywhere

Out of the box, the new VideoPress is lightweight and responsive for beautiful playback on any screen, from smartphones to desktops. VideoPress works on all modern browsers and devices, and gives blog and site authors the power to engage their audiences no matter where they are.

Not only do videos look amazing on WordPress sites, but you can also embed your videos anywhere on the web — other websites, social media, chat services — by using a permalink or a snippet of code.

Major speed enhancements

VideoPress now takes a fraction of the space it used to and is optimized for speed, so pages and posts with video content load faster. This is a huge plus for viewers who use slower connections or rely on bandwidth-strapped mobile devices.

It’s your content

At Automattic, we believe wholeheartedly that you own your content — video or otherwise.

The new VideoPress puts your content front and center. The player is ad-free and unbranded to ensure your videos look and feel like an integral part of your website or blog, not like they belong to a third-party video platform. Unlike other video hosting services, VideoPress starts and ends on your video, keeping traffic on your site and giving you full control over the content to which your visitors are exposed.

New features, new look

A real-time “seek” feature lets you skim through any video and helps you start playing at the desired point in the video. Here’s a sneak peek that our developer community will particularly enjoy: the player’s skin and behavior is controlled entirely by JavaScript, HTML and CSS, opening up a malleable slate for customizations by themers in the future.

Everything you love, and more

VideoPress embraces the features that users have come to love, like privacy settings and rich stats, but also includes additional enhancements. Every video now features its own permalink, and the sharing pane has been redesigned to offer different options for embedding, like starting playback at specific times, looping, and autoplay.

OpenSource ❤

The rebuild of VideoPress revolves around a robust API for embedding videos easily in WordPress.com and Jetpack-enabled self-hosted websites. Though the API is private at the moment, many components of the new VideoPress libraries have been open sourced, including jpeg-stream, pixel-stack, and video-thumb-grid.

Get the goods

Once a standalone upgrade, VideoPress is now available exclusively in paid WordPress.com Plans to streamline updates, payments, and security enhancements.

To enable all the goodness of video support on your site, upgrade your WordPress.com Plan to Premium or Business. Then, upload and share videos as you please. If you already have a Premium or Business plan, sit back and enjoy. VideoPress will automatically handle the nuts and bolts to deliver an amazing viewing experience for your fans, followers, and friends!

Correction: an earlier version of this post insinuated that the new VideoPress is accessible for Jetpack users who upgrade to WordPress.com Premium or Business. Though videos can certainly be embedded anywhere, the option for Jetpack users to upload videos directly to VideoPress via a WordPress.com Premium or Business plan is scheduled for a future Jetpack release.

#LoveWins! LGBTQ Bloggers Make Their Voices Heard

You might have noticed the rainbow banner across the top of WordPress.com over the weekend — our way of marking Pride month, celebrated by cities across the globe in June, as well as the US Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across all states. (The United States now joins 20 other countries, including my own, Portugal, in fully recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.)

Here at WordPress.com we strive to democratize publishing and empower freedom of speech. It’s amazing to see the thoughtful analyses of the Supreme Court’s decision already being published, like this excellent piece from Tropics of Meta putting the decision into long-term historical context. We’re also proud to provide a platform for all the incredibly talented LGBTQ writers who are advocating for change and sharing their stories, like…

  • Let’s Queer Things Up!, written by transgender activist Sam Dylan Finch. We appreciate how open Sam is about all aspects of his life, from his fraught relationship with psychiatry to the best affordable chest binders.
  • Bully Bloggers, an excellent group blog on “everything queer” from five professors from NYU, Dartmouth College, USC, and the University of Arizona. If you need a break after their analysis of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum, plant your tongue in your cheek and visit their “Freedom to Marry our Pets Society” page.
  • Conner Habib, a writer, public speaker, and sex-workers’ advocate who penned the incredibly popular (and thought-provoking) piece, “Why do gay porn stars kill themselves?“
Image by Pete Rosos, 2812 Photography.

Pride parade, San Francisco. Image by Pete Rosos, 2812 Photography.

WordPress.com bloggers were also out and about with their rainbow flags this weekend, participating in pride parades from Los Angeles to Lisbon and capturing the days in pictures:

  • Key West, Florida, via Ron Mayhew Photography.
  • Toronto, Ontario, via Michelle Bozzette Media.
  • Barcelona, Spain, via Transient Eye.
  • Seattle, Washington, via Seattle to Shanghai. (Bonus: the Seattle Pride website is powered by WordPress, as are Atlanta’s and Vancouver’s!)
  • Istanbul, Turkey, via Quartz (a less-than-joyous occasion that shows just how important it is to elevate LGBTQ voices).
  • London, England, via Paris London Style.
  • And of course, San Francisco, California, via 2812 Photography!
Pride parade, Key West, Florida, USA. Photo by Ron Mayhew Photography.

Pride parade, Key West, Florida, USA.
Photo by Ron Mayhew Photography.

We also had the pleasure of launching a website for Double Duchess, an energetic queer musical duo from the San Francisco Bay Area who just released their latest album. And check out the new tees and tanks added to the WordPress swag store in early June, in honor of Pride month — it’s the first time that we’ve made the same design available in a such wide, inclusive range of colors, fits, and body shapes! All the profits support the WordPress Foundation, which helps ensure that the free, downloadable version of WordPress is cutting edge, powerful, and ready for whoever wants to have a voice on the web.

WordPress Pride Swag

Automattic is committed to diversity as a company (and we’re hiring!), and to providing tools that let anyone use the web to tell their truths and work for equality. Happy Pride!

New Theme: Argent

Today we’re happy to debut a new, free portfolio theme, Argent!

Argent

Argent WordPress Theme

Meet Argent, a new addition to our theme collection, designed by Automattic’s own Mel Choyce. Argent’s clean, modern portfolio theme is perfect for creative professionals like designers, artists, and photographers. Whether you’re showcasing a photo series or a design concept, Argent’s simple homepage template featuring portfolio projects will draw viewers to all of your wonderful work. Plus, the responsive layout allows for a seamless user experience and ensures that your portfolio looks stunning no matter the device or screen size.

Read more about Argent on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Jenny Diski on Writing, Love, and Cancer

Photo by Suki Dhanda

Photo by Suki Dhanda

We’ve been following writer Jenny Diski for many years at the London Review of Books, and more recently on her WordPress.com blog. Just this past weekend Diski was featured in a profile by Giles Harvey for the New York Times Magazine, about a subject she revealed in her own 2014 essays: she has inoperable lung cancer.

Her diagnosis began with a Breaking Bad joke (“So — we’d better get cooking the meth,” she said to her husband at the doctor’s office), and she rejects clichés, refusing to characterize her cancer as a “battle” or let others call her “brave”:

One thing I state as soon as we’re out of the door: ‘Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer. Or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing.’ I will not personify the cancer cells inside me in any form. I reject all metaphors of attack or enmity in the midst, and will have nothing whatever to do with any notion of desert, punishment, fairness or unfairness, or any kind of moral causality. But I sense that I can’t avoid the cancer clichés simply by rejecting them. …

I try but I can’t think of a single aspect of having cancer, start to finish, that isn’t an act in a pantomime in which my participation is guaranteed however I believe I choose to play each scene. I have been given this role. (There, see? Instant victim.) I have no choice but to perform and to be embarrassed to death.

She has made peace with writing about cancer (“I could either shut up, that’s the end, get on with dying. Or, get gripped, which is what happened”), and in the past year she’s also written about her time living with Doris Lessing, and on subjects such as love and beauty (“Depp and Desire,” translated from her column in the Swedish newspaper Goteborgs-Posten) and about meeting her husband, whom she calls “The Poet”:

When I was fifty I met The Poet, who is the same age as me. We had each left it until the last minute to find the relationship of our lives. Before that neither of us thought of ourselves as finally committed to a relationship, although we had had marriages and children. Our living happily ever after together, at such a late stage in our lives, is something we both smile at as improbable. It still surprises us, but it works. I don’t really know why. I came across something new, when we met, that both took in and transformed the youthful desire; we had the attraction but built a relationship on top of it that made the already but not quite diminished possibility at my age of looking at someone else in a room, wanting them, seeing it mirrored, and doing something about it, a voluntary surrender thereafter on my part.

For more on Diski, follow her blog, and pick up her books: What I Don’t Know About Animals, Skating to Antarctica, and more.

Posts from Diski’s blog:

“Fish, there Are Fish!”

A humorous sidebar to one of her LRB essays.

“How’s It Going?”

A window into Diski’s life, thoughts and emotions, in between the more formal essays.

New Theme: Cerauno

It’s a beautiful day for a new theme! Today, I’m happy to present a free magazine theme, Cerauno.

Cerauno

Cerauno

Cerauno is a polished, user-friendly theme designed by Mel Choyce.

In Mel’s words:

I designed Cerauno with subject bloggers in mind, like food, fashion, or travel bloggers. I wanted to make a theme for someone who’s been blogging for a little while, but wants to boost their traffic and bring their site into the spotlight with a clean and authoritative design. I’m so excited to see it launch!

With plenty of options to tempt and tantalize, Cerauno is sure to please. Add secondary content in up to five widget areas, brand your content with a Site Logo or Custom Header, include links to your favorite social networks, and add Featured Images to grab your readers’ attention.

Cerauno is also responsive, stretching or shrinking to accommodate any screen size.

Cerauno's responsive design in action

Check out Cerauno on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Early Theme Adopters: Resonar

Resonar, designed by Automattic’s own Takashi Irie, made its debut in March. Created for food and design bloggers to showcase photography and longform posts, we’ve loved watching how you’ve turned Resonar on its head.

Here are five of our favorite takes, from simple and chic to full-color and bold.

Joshua S. Porter

Writer, filmmaker, and musician Joshua Porter transformed Resonar into a stark, high-impact portfolio site:

joshua porter

He opts for a static front page rather than a regular blog, populating it with a single row of monochrome that link to his books, music, and podcast. A simple menu helps visitors get in touch, hear more music, or dig into his blog posts. Open the widget panel — on Resonar, you’ll find it cleverly hidden behind the three dots to the right of the menu — to reveal his social media connections, including Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Japan, Etc.

Jessie Murray is chronicling a summer of travel on her blog, Japan, Etc., and chose Resonar to showcase her photos and reflections:

japan

The widget area displays an Instagram feed, so followers can see where she’s been between posts. Otherwise, there’s nothing to distract from her words and photos — just a custom header displaying her bold title, and a clean layout that puts her content at center stage.

Grow RVA

Resonar also supports site logos. Grow RVA, an organization that supports farmers’ markets and food sustainability efforts in Virginia, takes advantage of that to brand their blog:

growRVA

The menu helps visitors find information on Grow RVA’s full website quickly and easily. Resonar lets them highlight additional photos of food and farmers, and the site logo keeps their branding consistent — so you always know you’re reading about Grow RVA, no matter where you are on their sites.

Meet Me in the North

You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to appreciate the lovely site of photographer Garbi:

meet me in the north

Wedding photos, street photography, fashion shoots, mom-to-be portraits — Garbi does it all, and Resonar provides the perfect backdrop. She adds a playful header image, and a focused menu helps visitors navigate her posts. As with all Resonar-based sites, the classic serif typography is easy to read and lends an elegant air without distracting readers from the content itself.

Elsa’s Wholesome Life

Of course, there are still plenty of folks taking advantage of Resonar‘s glorious full-width images. A visit to the home page of food blog Elsa’s Wholesome Life reveals this vibrant beauty:

elsa

Beets, raw fudge, and eggplants have never looked so good!

Interested in giving Resonar a whirl? Learn more about it and explore the demo site in the theme showcase, or activate it on your blog from your Customizer. 

New Themes: Snaps and Gateway

On this Theme Thursday, I’m happy to introduce two new free themes.

Snaps

snaps-landing-portfolio

Snaps, by Graph Paper Press, is a portfolio theme designed to showcase portrait-oriented photographs, illustrations, and other works of art. The simple, elegant design keeps the focus on your projects, and scales to fit any screen size.

snaps-responsive-trio

Read more about Snaps on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Gateway

Gateway WordPress Theme

Gateway, by Rescue Themes, is the perfect mix of class and elegance, a traditional yet customizable home for your content. Reinforce your brand with a site logo, add a bold header image and call to action, and showcase your best posts or a video with a special Homepage template.

Gateway has a responsive design

Check out Gateway on the Theme Showcase, or activate it on your site from Appearance → Themes!

Recommended Reading: Authors on WordPress.com

Looking for summer reading suggestions? Or perhaps winter reading suggestions, should your hemisphere be the Southern one? Look no further than these three authors who — like you — make their online home at WordPress.com.

Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller‘s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, has been called “impossible to put down” by Amy Gentry at the Chicago Tribune.

PreviewClaire began writing at age 40, after co-leading a marketing agency for many years. The book has been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, which is awarded annually to a first novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom.

Claire is a prolific blogger who likes to share her flash fiction and offer writing advice. Why not pick up a copy of Our Endless Numbered Days and then see if your location is on Claire’s upcoming events list?

Here’s a synopsis of Our Endless Numbered Days:

Our Endless Numbered Days is the story of Peggy Hillcoat, who is eight in 1976, and spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano.

After a family crisis which Peggy doesn’t fully understand until later, her survivalist father James, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival and a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Peggy isn’t seen again for another nine years.

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneV.E. Schwab writes fiction for adults, young adults, and middle grade kids. The author of seven books, her latest adult title is called A Darker Shade of Magic.

On her blog, V.E. Schwab shares her books’ origin stories, insight into her writing process, and even short stories. We particularly enjoyed her unique About page adjunct listing her favorite words. V.E. Schwab, too, has list of upcoming appearances.

Here’s a synopsis of A Darker Shade of Magic:

A Darker Shade of Magic is a fantasy series that takes place in a series of parallel Londons — where magic thrives, starves, or lies forgotten, and follows the last of a line of blood mages and a pickpocket from Georgian London as they combine forces to save the worlds — all of them.

John Scalzi

Lock_In_CoverAuthor John Scalzi makes his home on the web at Whatever. A New York Times best-selling author of a whole mess of books, short stories, and nonfiction pieces, Scalzi publishes frequently on his blog, often highlighting other authors in his excellent series The Big Idea. He’s also famous for taping bacon to his cat.

Scalzi’s latest book is Lock In. Here’s a synopsis:

In the exceedingly near future, a virus sweeps the globe, killing some, ignoring most, and for about 1% of the population destroying the neural connections between body and brain. These few are fully aware, but cannot move or respond to stimuli. They are “locked in,” suffering from what’s known as Haden’s Syndrome.

John Scalzi’s got a few upcoming appearances you might want to know about.

And now, over to you

Who are your favorite authors? Which book(s) do you find hard to put down? Share your recommendations in the comments.