If you’re a long-time member of WordPress.com, you might remember when the Prologue theme was introduced with great excitement back in 2008. In Matt Mullenweg’s blog post about it from that time, he described it like this:
Prologue is a new WordPress theme that’s probably best described as a group Twitter, ideally for 3-15 people to let each other know what they’re up to. It has comments, permalinks, RSS feeds, Gravatars, XML-RPC, everything you’d expect. The front page shows the latest update from each person.
Several iterations later, P2 (seen in the Featured Image above) matured into the internal workhorse for Automattic, WordPress.com’s parent company, replacing email correspondence, Skype and IRC with hundreds of P2 sites and hundreds of participants per P2. In the WordPress.com community forums, volunteers regularly recommended P2 to members as a forum, since it was the only WordPress.com theme where members could create new posts from the front/homepage of the site and display comments there as well. Then, last year, WordPress.com quietly retired P2 as a theme that could be activated on any existing WordPress.com site1 and turned it into a standalone product using the Block Editor.
Say hello to P2 v2020!
The latest iteration of P2 uses the WordPress.com backbone and for the moment can only be run here on WordPress.com. For some this may prove a disadvantage as the P2 Privacy settings, user roles and commenting permissions are the same as on all free, Personal and Premium WordPress.com sites, without the ability to install plugins or use custom code. (Eventually the plan is to make the new P2 available to standalone WP sites as well.) On the plus side, WordPress.com has unmatched security and unparalleled uptime, as well as all backend updates being handled directly by WordPress.com’s Happiness Engineers.
Why would I want to use P2?
“Ideally for 3-15 people”
- Have friends and/or family living around the world and want an easy way to keep in touch and share photos that doesn’t involve email or messaging (or involving the FB)?
- Volunteer with a group and need to coordinate efforts or broadcast updates?
- Need to coordinate a project with your team where asynchronous communication is the norm?
- Have a team that needs a convenient way to keep past communication available for new people joining your team?
P2 is ideal as a small to medium group or team site, whether it’s your club or family, your apartment building or neighborhood, your coop, your work group, your student group, or one-on-one communication with clients but still being able to temporarily bring in 3rd party consultants. P2 can handle it all, including sites with hundreds of members, like the official P2Feedback site.
P2’s unique features include:
- The ability to publish posts and comments from the site’s front/homepage
- The ability to @ mention other members of the same P2 as well as @all members
- The ability to cross-post to multiple P2s
- Real-time browser notifications of new posts and comments
- A separate sidebar for “Documents” (AKA Pages)
- A Project Status block
- A Task block
- An Applause block
- A Figma embed block
- An interactive glossary (not yet publicly available)
- and more features being added
Features not yet available, but needed going forward:
- The ability to @ a specific sub-group of members
- The ability to limit commenting on a Public P2 to only members of that P2 (a must!)
- The ability to turn off Likes globally (they can be turned off per post)
- Notifications of pending Contributor posts (another must!)
- A subscription/follow widget (workarounds are available)
While P2 is free, allows an unlimited number of members and has no advertising, there is also a paid upgrade available and in the snapshot below you can see what’s on offer per plan:
Managing the P2 Life
All new P2 sites are Private by default, limited to invited members only, and you may wish to keep it that way depending on your site’s purpose. If you choose to make your site Public, it will be visible to both casual site visitors and search engines. As an example, a Public site might be your neighborhood P2 that needs to be viewable by everyone in your neighborhood, but only 3 or 4 members publish new posts, while everyone else can view and comment.
Once the number of members on your P2 gets past 20 or so, it takes a firm plan to keep things workable.
From a member2 perspective, using @ mentions, following specific posts (you are automatically subscribed to posts you start), subscribing to a daily digest of posts (rather than individual posts) and using the search feature can all help you maintain focus. If you are logged in to the WordPress.com website, you will also receive notifications in your browser via the notifications bell in the Admin bar.
From an Administrator perspective on a public P2, I recommend inviting your new users in the Contributor role until you get to know them, as contributors need to have their posts approved prior to being published. After a trial period, Admins or Editors may consider elevating Contributors to the Author role so they can publish their own posts and media.
In my opinion, comments on a public P2 should be moderated in order to assist in eliminating human-generated spam. While Akismet, WordPress.com’s anti-spam plugin, is excellent at catching most spam, the currently available P2 Discussion settings allow anyone to comment on a public P2 site if they are logged in to their WordPress.com account. (This is a little different from regular WordPress.com discussion settings which also allow site visitors to comment without being logged in to WordPress.com.) There are two comment moderation settings that can help:
The first setting requires every comment to be manually approved by an Admin or Editor of the site before it will appear. The second setting holds the first comment by a visitor in moderation to be approved by the Admin or Editor, but any subsequent comment by that same username/email will be approved automatically.
On a private P2, the understanding is that you know who you are inviting to your site and this should lessen the possibility of spam posts or comments. In this case, P2’s default discussion settings work best.
If it becomes necessary, a site owner or Admin can remove or downgrade other Admins, Editors, Contributors or Authors on both Public and Private sites and should previously innocuous commenters go sour, the full range of comment moderation is available to site Admins and Editors. On a Private site, unruly members or viewers can have their site access revoked.
Other P2 specific settings:
On P2, comments are nested 10 levels deep and Infinite Scroll is enabled by default.
Administering a P2 site, whether Public or Private, means managing Notifications. By default, you will receive an email each time someone:
- Accepts your invitation to join your P2
- Requests access to your Private P2
- Follows your site
- Publishes a new post
- Posts a new comment
- Posts a comment that is pending approval (set up in Discussion settings)
- Likes your post (on by default and currently can only be changed on a per-post basis)
- Likes your comment
- Replies to your comment
- Mentions your @ username
If you have the WordPress App installed on your mobile phone (available for both iOS and Android) you can also opt to receive notifications there. This comes in handy for very active websites or new websites that need nurturing at the start. You can even opt to receive browser notifications while logged out of WordPress.com. Regardless, as a P2 site owner, as you become familiar with your and your members’ work flow, you’ll soon understand how you can best adjust notifications to suit your needs.
Where can I get help?
As an internal work tool, WordPress.com/Automattic heavily invested their efforts to document both how a P2 works technically and also how to get the most out of a P2 and created two guides available to everyone: P2Help and P2Guides. In addition, any newly created P2 comes with a convenient “infopost” right on your site’s front page to get you started.
P2 v2020 is an ongoing project and the P2Feedback site is the place to discuss issues and ideas with other P2 site owners alongside Automattic employees, as well as troubleshoot issues specific to P2.
So, think you have a group that would benefit communicating via P2? You can get started here
Credit and many thanks go to Thiago for his prompting and for presenting me with some interesting P2 puzzles to solve.
As always, the information in this post is correct as of publication date. Changes are inevitable.
UPDATE: With the changes to WordPress.com upgrade plans in March-April 2022, free P2’s now have 1GB of storage rather than the previous 3GB. By default, P2’s are Private and do not display advertising (according to the FAQ here).
1If you are currently using the old P2Breathe theme on your WordPress.com website, you should be able to continue using it. Be forewarned, however, do not activate a different theme on your P2 site as you will not be able to return to the older P2 theme.
2Member: any person in a designated User Role on your P2. For the purposes of this post, site visitors, followers and subscribers are not members.