Wordpress News

Collective Theme

Drupal Themes - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 18:21

Theme used by the Collective Directory distribution.

WPTavern: Flywheel Relaunches Local Pro with Revamped Live Links and New Host-Agnostic Pre-Launch Tools

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 22:34

Flywheel has relaunched Local Pro, the commercial upgrade for its free local WordPress development product. The first version of Local Pro, launched in July 2019, was heavily geared towards Flywheel customers, but the tool has gradually evolved to be more host-agnostic. This major update focuses on pre-launch features that allow developers to check links, optimize images, share a live link, and make changes with live reload.

“We saw an opportunity to build new tools into Local that pivot away from focusing on Flywheel customers and towards solving common WordPress developer pain-points,” Local product manager Jack Sellwood said.

“Our focus from here will be helping developers with pre-launch tasks like gathering feedback, testing, and optimizing their site before they go-live.”

More than 300,000 developers have tried Local since it first launched in 2017 and active users are up 90% year over year.

“We attribute that increase  to Local ‘Lightning’ which is the more reliable, performant version of Local that we launched last year,” Sellwood said.

This update also expands Local’s MagicSync capabilities to include both Flywheel and WP Engine. MagicSync allows developers to push or pull the files and/or database from staging and production environments. It gives an overview of which files are different and includes controls for ignoring certain files.

“We’d love to bring this to other hosts and we continue to explore how to do that, but the biggest challenge in doing this is maintaining the same, quality experience Local users have come to expect from Local Connect,” Sellwood said.

Live Links Revamped, More Cloud-based Services Coming in 2021

Local Pro also introduces a completely revamped solution for sharing local sites, built specifically for WordPress. For the past 12 months, the team has been building an alternative to ngrok to power its Live Links feature.

“We explored a few ways to improve the existing Live Links experience and found that this was a core technology, and we needed to own the whole stack of technologies involved,” Sellwood said. “A similar notion pushed us to build Lightning, which gave us better insight and ability to tackle bugs. VirtualBox was a black hole.”

Flywheel launched hub.localwp.com for users to manage their Local subscription for services like Live Links Pro that require a cloud component to function. The team plans to launch more later this year and in 2021. The Local Hub is a Laravel project that connects to custom infrastructure on Google Cloud.

“Local’s tunnel, like Local itself, is written in Node.js,” Sellwood said. “As a result, Live Links Pro handles 2x the number of HTTP requests in 50% less time. Live Links Pro is also secure by default with SSL and Privacy Mode (aka basic auth).”

The image optimizer and live reload features are coming soon to the Pro subscription. Building these pre-launch tools into Local allows users to leverage the power of their local machines, instead of relying on plugins. The image optimizer will be able to work offline and can tap into the user’s available computer resources.

Over the past three years, Local’s popularity has largely eclipsed that of other local WordPress development apps and packages like DesktopServer and InstantWP. Sellwood said the app’s most formidable competitors are advanced developer tools like Laravel Valet or custom Docker/VirtualBox setups.

“If you’ve invested a lot of time in a custom stack or setup, it’s hard to abandon that sunk cost,” Sellwood said. “Local abandoned virtualization completely in Lightning, and we knew, before we even launched, that some users would miss virtualization, so we’re exploring Site Environments powered by Docker as an option for advanced users.”

In addition to supporting more advanced development tools, the Local team aims to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler and more approachable.

“Local has always been about providing an elegant UI that helps people dive deeper and level up as developers,” Sellwood said. “For example, WordPress developers might manage their database or interact with WP-CLI for the first time in Local because these advanced capabilities are available without any configuration. We’ll continue to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler.

“Obviously, there’s a lot happening in WordPress right now with FSE (Full Site Editing) and headless, so we’re working with the other teams at WP Engine and elsewhere to help Local support this new future.”

WPTavern: GiveWP 2.7 Adds Donation Form Templates and Per-Form Stripe Connections

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 21:37

Earlier today, Impress.org released version 2.7 of its popular donation plugin GiveWP. The update focuses on laying the foundation for donation form templates, handling per-form Stripe accounts, and allowing users to view fundraising reports in multiple currencies.

“GiveWP 2.7 is not just a release,” wrote Devin Walker, the co-founder and CEO of GiveWP, in the announcement. “It’s also the start of even more amazing things to come in future updates. This update paves the way for an even better donation plugin experience with form templates and per-form stripe accounts. We’ve also added to our new reporting dashboard so you can toggle your view to show different currencies.”

Overall, version 2.7 is a solid update. The new form template system is something the team can build upon and continue improving the user experience over time. The per-form Stripe connections will make the plugin more enticing to organizations with multiple chapters, locations, clubs, and more.

It is turning out to be a good year for the GiveWP team. So far in 2020, people have used the plugin to process over $100 million in donations, which is on par with the numbers for the entirety of 2019.

View a quick video for GiveWP 2.7:

Donation Form Templates
Multi-step donation form template.

The most exciting thing about the version 2.7 release is the new form template system. Rather than having a single template for all types of donation forms, the team at GiveWP has created the foundation for niche templates in the future.

The current release has merely two template options: a new multi-step donation form and a legacy donation form.

For some, this simple addition may be exciting. For others, they may be wanting to see more. The good news is the team is well on its way to making that happen.

“Form Templates was made to pave the way for all kinds of form types,” said Matt Cromwell, Partner and COO at Impress.org. “Not just ‘Obama Style’ forms, or ‘Charity Water’ forms, but also how forms function, like implementing Event Fundraising, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer fundraising. It’s an exciting new feature that we’ll be investing into continually going forward.”

Form templates do not currently offer a wide range of customization options. That can sometimes be both a good and bad thing. The good is that the development team can add some quality control to the output, making for a better experience in most use cases. However, there are times when a few extra options could go a long way. For example, with a few themes I tested, the multi-step donation template did not expand the width of the content area. With no way to tweak the width via the UI, it meant doing a little code work to get it perfect.

“The customization is really focused on the colors, messaging, and media at the moment,” said Cromwell. “But we are working on ways that templates can be more extensible programmatically, and also more drag-and-droppable. For now, we wanted to get the core user-interest feature out the door for our core users, and then extend it further for more developer-oriented users later.

Thus far, Impress.org and its team working on GiveWP have made smart, calculated moves toward improving their product. Unlike some product-makers, the team did not try to wow everyone with 100+ form templates out of the gate. Instead, they have focused on slowly and methodically creating an underlying system that they can iterate on. It’s the quality over quantity mantra that has been a staple in how the team has approached development.

Form templates are a big deal. They are the missing link for potentially frustrated users who want something that better aligns with their organization than the old, legacy design that every plugin user had on their site. We are still a bit away from seeing this potential play out. However, as the team continues to release templates into the future, they will add value to the product.

Right now, some free templates are coming down the pipeline. The team teased upcoming templates specific to events, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer campaigns. But, the possibilities are limited only by what users need.

Some templates may come as part of paid packages. “How we offer more advanced templates is a bit up for grabs at the moment,” said Cromwell. “We are still very much committed to the add-on model, and not necessarily a marketplace model, but there will be new paid add-ons that have advanced types of form templates for sure.”

Per-Form Stripe Accounts Override the global Stripe account on a per-form basis.

GiveWP’s second big feature, which may excite some users more than form templates, is the ability to set the Stripe account for each form. By default, forms will connect to the global Stripe account added via the plugin’s Stripe gateway settings. However, users can overrule this on individual forms.

Admittedly, I have not seen many plugins that accept payments or donations take this route. It is not something I have ever needed in the past. However, I can now see how it may open up a ton of possibilities for organizations with different chapters or schools with different clubs and fundraisers.

Beyond just GiveWP and donation plugins, I would like to see this become a standard feature for any plugin that accepts payments.

If nothing else, this feature should continue making GiveWP stand out as the top donations plugin for WordPress. This missing feature in the previous version may have been a holdup for charities that needed the more fine-tuned control of multiple account options. Perhaps it will make some reconsider and make the move to GiveWP.

What Is In the Pipeline?

In the short term, more form templates are definitely in the works. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for what lands in the coming weeks and months.

Beyond that, the team will primarily focus on adding PayPal Commerce support to the free plugin. That is expected to land in version 2.8.

“PayPal has actually done tons of work to improve this new product from all their others (Standard, Express, Pro, Payflow, etc), and it offers a lot to developers specifically,” said Cromwell. “We think it will be a very in-demand option for donors and organizations as well. PayPal is still a highly recognizable name when it comes to payments and within the nonprofit space. We always intend to be leading when it comes to online donations so we want to offer this to our users quickly and effectively.”

BuddyPress: BuddyPress 6.1.0 Maintenance Release

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 21:29

Immediately available is BuddyPress 6.1.0. This maintenance release fixes 6 bugs related to the 6.0.0 release, and is a recommended upgrade for all BuddyPress installations.

For details on the changes, please read the 6.1.0 release notes.

Update to BuddyPress 6.1.0 today in your WordPress Dashboard, or by downloading from the WordPress.org plugin repository.

Many thanks to 6.1.0 contributors 

Ray, N33D, comminski, etatus, ExoGeekRenato Alves (espellcaste)Boone Gorges (boonebgorges) & Mathieu Viet (imath).

Dropsolid Rocketship Minimal theme

Drupal Themes - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 09:13

Built to work with Dropsolid Rocketship Install Profile.
Requires Dropsolid Rocketship Core.

A theme for building Rocketship websites.
Comes with some very basic styling and Sass/Twig files to get you started.
The most bare-bones of the Rocketship themes

This theme relies mainly on node/npm and Gulp.

Some things the theme does:

  • Templates, CSS and JS are component-based
  • Provides font loading options
  • Uses Sass (with globbing) to make CSS
  • Can provide Sourcemaps for CSS and JS
  • Can generate favicons
  • Can generate critical CSS files
  • Can generates a custom icon font or icon sprite
  • Has better responsive tables
  • Can override colors for the Rocketship Paragraphs background-color palette
  • Adds styling for Rocketship content types

All information on how to use the theme can be found in its README.md file

Dropsolid Rocketship Starter theme

Drupal Themes - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 08:56

Built to work with Dropsolid Rocketship Install Profile.
Requires Dropsolid Rocketship Core.

A theme for building Rocketship websites.
Comes with some basic styling and Sass/Twig files to get you started.
Contains a bit more pre-defined styles that the Rocketship Minimal theme but less than the Rocketship Flex theme or Rocketship Demo theme

This theme relies mainly on node/npm and Gulp.

Some things the theme does:

  • Templates, CSS and JS are component-based
  • Provides font loading options
  • Uses Sass (with globbing) to make CSS
  • Can provide Sourcemaps for CSS and JS
  • Can generate favicons
  • Can generate critical CSS files
  • Can generates a custom icon font or icon sprite
  • Has better responsive tables
  • Can override colors for the Rocketship Paragraphs background-color palette
  • Adds styling for Rocketship content types

All information on how to use the theme can be found in its README.md file

Dropsolid Rocketship Flex theme

Drupal Themes - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 08:51

Built to work with Dropsolid Rocketship Install Profile.
Requires Dropsolid Rocketship Core.

A theme with some pre-defined styling for current Rocketship components, such as Rocketship Features and Paragraphs.
Styling follows the standards and structures for Dropsolid's 'Flex' projects.
Contains more styling that the Rocketship Starter theme but less than the Rocketship Demo theme

This theme relies mainly on node/npm and Gulp.

Some things the theme does:

  • Templates, CSS and JS are component-based
  • Provides font loading options
  • Uses Sass (with globbing) to make CSS
  • Can provide Sourcemaps for CSS and JS
  • Can generate favicons
  • Can generate critical CSS files
  • Can generates a custom icon font or icon sprite
  • Has better responsive tables
  • Can override colors for the Rocketship Paragraphs background-color palette
  • Adds styling for Rocketship content types

All information on how to use the theme can be found in its README.md file

Dropsolid Rocketship demo theme

Drupal Themes - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 08:42

Built to work with Dropsolid Rocketship Install Profile and demo content generation.
Requires Dropsolid Rocketship Core.

A demo theme with extensive styling for all current Rocketship components, such as Rocketship Features and Paragraphs.

This theme relies mainly on node/npm and Gulp.

Some things the theme does:

  • Templates, CSS and JS are component-based
  • Provides font loading options
  • Uses Sass (with globbing) to make CSS
  • Can provide Sourcemaps for CSS and JS
  • Can generate favicons
  • Can generate critical CSS files
  • Can generates a custom icon font or icon sprite
  • Has better responsive tables
  • Can override colors for the Rocketship Paragraphs background-color palette
  • Adds styling for Rocketship content types

All information on how to use the theme can be found in its README.md file

WPTavern: Smash Balloon Joins Awesome Motive

Wordpress Planet - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 21:09

On June 23, Awesome Motive announced it had acquired Smash Balloon, a company that focuses on a family of social feed plugins for WordPress. John Brackett, the founder of Smash Balloon, is now a partner at Awesome Motive through the deal. His entire team will be staying on as part of the larger company.

Currently, Smash Balloon’s plugins are installed and active on around 1.3 million WordPress-powered sites. The team has thus far built social feed plugins for Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed, its Instagram plugin, is by far the company’s most popular plugin with over a million active installations, a feat it surpassed in April.

Brackett launched Smash Balloon in 2013. Since then, the company has specialized in creating plugins that allow users to display social media content on their websites.

“With Awesome Motive’s vast resources and deep understanding of the WordPress industry, I know we’ll be able to bring even more powerful solutions to the Smash Balloon community,” said Brackett in the announcement on the Smash Balloon blog.

“I’m really excited and proud to now be a partner at Awesome Motive,” he said. “They have a really great group of partners there and I’m really humbled to now be a part of the team. I’ll be continuing in my role leading the Smash Balloon business unit.”

Brackett said the biggest factor in making the deal was the expertise and experience that Awesome Motive brought to the table in the WordPress plugin space. “They’ve built a proven model for plugin growth, which is evident from their large user base of 15 million websites,” he said. “Of course, there were other factors too, such as the AM growth playbooks, back office resources, various operational/marketing processes, etc., which make it easier for us to grow and scale as a business.”

Awesome Motive is the company behind WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, and more. It has a history of buying smaller businesses and growing them into larger, more successful endeavors. In February this year, the company acquired the All in One SEO Pack plugin.

“Adding social proof is crucial for business websites,” said Syed Balkhi, CEO of Awesome Motive. “In WPBeginner support, we see many readers asking for ways to display their social media content on their site, especially Instagram and Facebook. Displaying social media content on your site can not only help you grow your social followers, but it can also help you improve your sales conversions on your store.”

Balkhi said his team at WPBeginner has been recommending the Smash Balloon plugins all the way back to 2016. “When I was presented with the opportunity to join forces with John and the Smash Balloon team, it was a no brainer,” he said.

“Smash Balloon is the market leader when it comes to creating custom social media feeds in WordPress,” said Balkhi. “Over 1.3 million website owners use Smash Balloon plugins to display custom Instagram feeds, custom Facebook feeds, custom Twitter feeds, and custom YouTube feeds. The best part is that the plugins are always reliable, and they come with a very smart feed backup / caching which keeps your site loading fast even when the social API is down.”

What Does the Future Hold?

Awesome Motive is actively hiring developers, support staff, and writers. At least some of those hires will be working on Smash Balloon’s product line.

Balkhi doesn’t like to talk about team size, remaining humble as ever as the leader of his continually growing company. “What’s more important for us is to make sure that we adequately serve our growing customer base while continuing to add new features that they’re asking for,” he said.

He does have big plans for Smash Balloon’s products. “We’re of course going to update the existing plugins to add new features that users are asking for, and we will be adding seamless integrations with our other products such as MonsterInsights (analytics), RafflePress (contests & giveaways), SeedProd (landing pages), etc.,” he said.

A large part of the company’s plans is to continue making the process of creating custom social media feeds easier. The team will be doing this through more detailed tutorials and product education going forward.

However, there are no plans at stopping there. New projects are in the pipeline. “We’re also working on a brand new product that a lot of WPBeginner readers and Smash Balloon customers have been asking for,” he said. “I can’t share too much details, but it’s going to be awesome.”

WPTavern: WooCommerce 4.3 to Introduce New Home Screen

Wordpress Planet - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 20:12

As the pandemic and lockdown measures have caused major shifts in consumer behavior, accelerating the trend towards e-commerce, many WooCommerce-powered stores have seen a significant boost in sales. Major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target have strained to meet the increase in consumer demand, creating an unprecedented opportunity for independent stores.

According to the latest ACI Worldwide report, e-commerce sales are up 81% year over year in May 2020. Transactional volume has also increased 23 percent compared to May 2019. Despite the pandemic’s devastating blow to the hospitality, travel, and entertainment industries, merchants selling products catering to the homebound population are doing more business than ever. This prompted the WooCommerce team to begin publishing tips and resources for store owners who are managing a sudden surge in sales.

The WooCommerce core development team is also keeping pace with new features that help administrators see store activity at a glance. Version 4.3, expected to be released July 7, will include a new home screen, featuring an inbox, quick access to store management links, and an overview of stats on sales, orders, and visitors.

WooCommerce plans to enhance the new Home screen with the ability to complete basics tasks, such as fulfilling orders or tweaking settings without having to leave the screen. As WooCommerce is a complex plugin with menus that drill down several levels deep, this screen will become the store owner’s command center by simplifying access to important stats and commonly performed actions. It will set as the default screen for new stores when version 4.3 of the plugin is released.

The new Home screen will not be turned on by default for existing store owners. They will need to enable it under the Advanced > Features setting in the plugin.

WooCommerce received positive feedback after sharing a preview of the new Home screen last week. A few users requested that it integrate with third party plugins, such as Woo Bookings, and provide better support for stores primarily selling digital products. If WooCommerce makes it easy to extend, plugin authors can make the screen more useful to a diverse range of stores. Users are encouraged to submit their ideas for core improvements on the WooCommerce Ideas Board.

WPTavern: The Best Documentation Is No Documentation

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 21:34

Hear me out before telling me how wrong I am.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read a few different articles on writing good user documentation from a software developer’s perspective. It is an area I was always told I excelled at by people who read the docs I wrote through the years. However, by the time I stepped away from my WordPress business of over a decade, I had almost completely stopped writing user documentation. Few users seemed to have noticed or questioned why there were no step-by-step explanations of certain features.

Like many WordPress plugin and theme developers, I am a firm believer in having documentation on hand. As someone who has been fiddling with code since 2003, documentation has been my best friend. I have written at least a few hundred tutorials or pages of docs throughout my career. I have published two development books and was a technical editor on a third. I am fairly certain I have created a plugin or two with more inline documentation than actual code.

However, I also ran support for end-users for over a decade. The one thing I learned with any surety is that many users simply do not read the documentation. Even if they were reading it, they should not have needed to most of the time.

Despite iterating, redesigning, and trying my hand at everything to lead users to documentation before running to the support forum with every question, repeat questions never failed to land in the support queue every day.

It took me years — far more than it should have — to realize that the solution was not in the documentation and the problem was not in the user’s ability to read it. The problem was the product. If users were asking repeat questions, it meant there was something wrong with the user experience. Eventually, I shifted my focus. Instead of writing more docs, I focused on addressing the problems that continued to crop up in the software.

The activity that I had failed at was listening.

One of the best skills a developer can obtain is the ability to listen and then translate what users are saying into better code, user interfaces, and user experiences.

In my younger years — and I suspect many developers were the same when starting — I felt like I knew the answer to every question and was always right. I was highly skilled, and I knew it. For a young, 20-something developer, that tends to mean trouble. It means that you believe the problem is not with the things you have built. No, the problem was that the user was doing something wrong. These are the types of developers who say, “RTFM,” and point a user to an overly technical document that does not solve their problems.

Some lessons are learned the hard way, but learn them we must to build better products.

I promise if you do this one activity — listen, really listen — to users, you will spend far less time explaining how something works. The question you need to ask yourself is why a piece of documentation needs to exist in the first place. If it takes 500 words to explain a feature, there is a good chance the feature does not make for an ideal user experience.

When building products, we should always strive to build them so that there is no need for documentation. Or, at least build them so that reading the manual is a last resort for addressing problems.

For practical purposes, as a fulltime developer in the past, I kept a simple text file with a list of repeat questions. This could be a more elaborate setup for a team, such as creating GitHub issues. My text file worked fine because I was a one-person show. I would make it a habit to routinely go through the list and ask how I could improve each point. Some items were never scratched off the list. However, more often than not, I learned important lessons about building for end-users first. I could see the things that made sense in my head but were confusing to others.

The biggest improvements were not in finding solutions to existing problems but in recognizing problems within new products that I was building based on past experience.

Over time, most of my documentation became geared toward developers. These were primarily tutorials on using APIs, hooks, and other developer-related features — things that were not exposed through a plugin’s UI. I was writing far less for end-users because I was updating projects based on their feedback and questions. Yes, I absolutely failed from time to time, but I was getting better at being someone who listened to problems and made changes based on what users were telling me in their own way.

When I say that the best documentation is no documentation, I do not mean that you should skip it altogether. I want you to ask the question about why the documentation needs to exist. Are there things you can do to make the user experience easier? Are you actively tracking support questions and addressing those in the product itself?

In development, we often talk about writing “self-documenting code.” This is a way of saying to write code in a way that you should not have to explain it to another developer via inline documentation. For example, the wp_insert_post() function in WordPress tells you that its purpose is to insert a post. The goal of any software should also be to create self-documenting interfaces and other elements that a user interacts with. Users should be able to automatically understand the purpose of a button, text field, or checkbox without consulting the docs.

The next time you sit down to write a new user-oriented piece of documentation, make sure that you are not using it as a crutch to prop up a poor user experience.

WPTavern: WordCamp Tulsa 2020 Canceled

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 19:13

Tulsa’s first ever WordCamp, which was scheduled for August 29-30, 2020, has officially been canceled due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The event would have been the second WordCamp in Oklahoma in four years, following WordCamp OKC in 2016.

“We were trying to go for a hybrid event that was live streamed and included an audience,” lead organizer James Bullis said. “This was something that hadn’t been tried before and with Oklahoma opening up it was a possibility.”

The six-person organizing team had already selected speakers and were going to notify them but had not yet set the WordCamp schedule.

“Unfortunately we were told that due to uncertainty we had to choose to do a virtual event or postpone it,” Bullis said. He said WordCamp Central cited a few reasons why a hybrid event would not be possible: social distancing, cleaning requirements throughout the day, the extra cost of a local crew to film, and the quality of the stream with live audience elements.

When presented with the choice to either go full virtual or postpone the event, the organizing team took advice from WordCamp Central’s approved streaming company. Having free virtual tickets available would likely limit the in-person ticket sales and put a greater burden on local sponsorships.

“Since this was the first WordCamp in Tulsa, the organizing team felt it would be better to postpone until 2021,” Bullis said.

Oklahoma is currently in Phase 3 of reopening, with businesses back to operating normally for the most part. Despite COVID-19 cases steadily rising in Oklahoma, along with hospitalizations, Governor Kevin Stitt, said he has no plans to scale back the reopening process. While there is a chance that Oklahoma would be open at the end of August, the situation is too precarious for WordCampers to pin their hopes on an in-person event.

Although many WordCamps are opting to go virtual and have attracted record numbers of online attendees, it’s not easy to measure attendees’ engagement without comprehensive streaming data broken down by hour/session. Bullis and his team decided against holding Tulsa’s inaugural WordCamp as a virtual conference, because they didn’t think it would hold the same value without the in-person interaction.

“We noticed that other WordCamps had gone virtual,” Bullis said. “People on our organizing team registered for these virtual WordCamps but didn’t go to them, or they left early. We felt like this was a pretty common response. We felt that a virtual WordCamp wouldn’t be as effective and would take away from the real value of a WordCamp.”

WordCamp Tulsa is technically canceled but the organizers plan to attempt an in-person event next spring. They will have to start the application process over again to plan for 2021 but hope to host the WordCamp on the first weekend in March or May.

Matt: Combating Epidemics With Internet

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 18:41

In 2006 David Eagleman, who wrote one of my favorite books, Sum, wrote a letter published in Nature:

Kathleen Morrison, in News & Views (“Failure and how to avoid it” Nature 440, 752–754; 2006), notes that societies have often prevented collapse by adopting new technological strategies. In today’s world, where one of the most-talked about prospects for collapse is an epidemic of infectious disease, it is worth remembering that perhaps we already have the technological strategy to avoid it — the Internet.

Remote working, made possible by the Internet (‘telepresence’), is already a key component of national and business pandemic plans. Telepresence can inhibit viral transmission by reducing human-to-human contact. Prepared organizations can leverage telepresence to allow continued productivity and functioning of supply chains during an outbreak.

He explores these ideas as well in his Long Now talk in April 2010, in which he talked about Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization. Here’s an excerpt from that talk covering telepresence and telemedicine. Both videos have had under a thousand views so far. When you watch this remember that it was April, 2010!

This is the topic of his new book, The Safety Net: Surviving Pandemics and Other Disasters.

WPTavern: Add Per-Block Notes and Create Draft Blocks With the Wholesome Publishing Plugin

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 20:58

Matt Watson, through his Wholesome Code brand, released a plugin called Wholesome Publishing on the WordPress plugin directory on Tuesday. Version 1.0 of the plugin adds a couple of simple but useful editing features that should help teams of writers or content designers. The plugin allows users to add nested comments on a per-block basis and mark individual blocks as drafts.

At this point, the plugin is not a fully-fledged pro editing plugin. However, its basic features go a long way toward improving collaborative publishing. It is a good first showing for a version 1.0. I hope that it continues to grow and bring new editing features to the block editor.

The plugin works with both core WordPress and third-party blocks. Overall, it performed well in my tests, but I did find a few minor issues that could be easily addressed in a future update. If you are looking for such a plugin, it is well worth a test run to see if it fits into your publishing workflow. I am seriously considering it for use here on WP Tavern, if that provides an indication of its potential.

Nested Block Comments Adding nested comments to a Cover block.

The primary feature that drew me to this plugin was the ability to leave simple notes via the block editor. Even here on the Tavern, we have an old editorial notes system, but it is no longer a user-friendly option with the block editor. Notes are tucked away at the bottom of the editing screen along with other old-school meta boxes. A new system, particularly one that allowed comments on a per-block basis, was definitely worth exploring.

Block comments — not to be confused with post comments on the front end — are simple to add. On the post editing screen, users merely need to click the comment button in the toolbar, which will open a comments sidebar panel. The panel will show a text box to add a new comment for the currently-selected block.

Comments belong to individual blocks. However, it is not clear in the comments sidebar panel which block a comment is for when there are multiple comments. Clicking on a single comment selects the block in question, which helps, but the user experience would be better with two additions:

  • The selected block’s comments should be highlighted while unrelated comments fade out.
  • There should be an indicator in the comments sidebar that points out the block each comment is assigned to.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to see or leave a comment unless you are an administrator. I am unsure if this is intentional or a bug. It is at least a user experience issue because the comments sidebar panel still appears, regardless of whether the user can read the block comments.

Despite the need for a bit of polishing to improve the experience, this feature was reasonably easy to pick up and use right away.

The plugin does clean up after itself. If a user deletes a block, its comments are also deleted.

I do have one big feature request for the plugin author. An opt-in setting for enabling an email system would be a nice touch. The post author and anyone who leaves a comment on the post should be notified when a new comment is made.

Create Draft Blocks Setting a Gallery block to draft status.

The second plugin feature goes hand in hand with the first. Wholesome Publishing allows end-users to mark any block in the post as a draft, which means the block will not appear on the front end of the site. The reason it works well with the comments feature is that users can explain why the block was marked as a draft. This could be particularly useful on teams of multiple writers.

In the block options panel, users should see a new tab titled “Publishing.” The tab will have a single on/off switch for setting the given block as a draft. Unlike the block comments system, any user can put an individual user into draft mode as long as they have access to edit the post.

I did run into one issue with draft blocks. When clicking the on/off toggle, all of the block options tabs would reset to the default open or closed state. It is a trivial issue that might become irritating for some. Outside of that, the feature worked well.

WPTavern: WordPress Contributors Propose Updating Trac Ticket Resolutions to Be More Friendly

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 23:23

WordPress contributors are currently discussing adopting friendlier terms for some of the trac ticket resolutions to create a more welcoming environment for participants and newcomers. Since trac resolutions are not set in stone, organizations can customize these terms for different workflows.

During a recent core developers chat, Sergey Biryukov proposed that WordPress trac rename “invalid,” “worksforme,” and “wontfix” ticket resolutions to something more friendly and less confusing. The idea was positively received and is now an official proposal.

“More than a few times I’ve seen someone closing a ticket as worksforme after testing a patch because, well, it works for them. When that happens, the ticket has to be reopened with a comment that the patch still needs to be reviewed and committed,” Biryukov said. This particular scenario clearly illustrates how the resolutions can sometimes be confusing for contributors.

Biryukov proposed the following updates:

  • invalid → not-applicable
  • worksforme → not-reproducible or cannot-reproduce
  • wontfix → not-implemented

Others suggested further refinements in the comments of the proposal. Juliette Reinders Folmer noted that ‘not-implemented’ doesn’t seem to capture the full weight of ‘wontfix’ as a decision, because it doesn’t convey anything about the intention.

“The thing which worries me about ‘not implemented’ is that it can be interpreted as an invitation to implement,” Reinders Folmer said. “It doesn’t convey that there is no intention (at this time) to accept an implementation.”

Mika Epstein said they may want to consider having multiple alternatives to ‘wontfix,’ such as not-in-scope, insufficient resources, or better-as-a-plugin.

Peter Wilson suggested the term ‘support-referral’ as an alternative to ‘invalid,’ since many of these tickets are closed due to support requests.

Goodbye, ‘Wontfix’

‘Wontfix’ is a somewhat polite way to say “forget about it” to someone voicing a concern or a suggestion that doesn’t fit with a project’s goals. It is broadly used and understood throughout the industry, and has sometimes been wielded as a gavel to shut down conversation in heated discussions.

The experience of submitting an issue that is closed with the resolution ‘wontfix’ is so visceral that it is often used in a humorous context outside of software development.

That’s a feature, not a bug. #wontfix

— Chase Combs (@sonicbarber) October 25, 2019

For project maintainers who are handing down ticket resolutions as edicts, terms like ‘wontfix’ and ‘worksforme’ have a certain irreplaceable, incisive charm to them. On the other hand, it’s easy to see how these terms might be particularly irksome, especially for new contributors.

Contributors are still brainstorming alternative ticket resolution terms. Anyone with suggestions can jump in on Biryukov’s proposal. As long as WordPress core is still using trac for development, terminology that is clearer and more welcoming may help make the requirement of using trac more friendly in general.

“I know we plan on moving away from Trac at some point, but we’re not there yet, and I think clarifying these resolutions would be helpful in the short term,” Biryukov said.

Some might argue that moving WordPress core development to a platform like GitHub or GitLab would do a great deal more to make it a friendlier contribution experience. Earlier this month, Matt Mullenweg was asked during a virtual Q&A if there has been any progress in moving WordPress development to GitHub.

“No progress there yet, since a lot of the active development has already moved to Github and the Gutenberg plugin, there’s been less pressure on migrating the Trac-based tickets and workflows,” Mullenweg said.

Honey

Drupal Themes - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 21:39

The Honey theme is a simple theme, based on the Drupal core stable base theme, that was created to use as an example of how to download and install a theme from drupal.org for the Drupal User Guide.

It is colorizable and mobile-friendly.

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.4 Adds Image Editing, Includes Multi-Block Controls, and Enables Block Directory Search

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 21:29

Gutenberg 8.4 landed today with some major user-facing changes, including new image editing tools and the ability to edit options for multiple blocks. The previously experimental block directory search is now enabled for all Gutenberg installations.

Version 8.4 is next to the last major version of Gutenberg planned for integration in WordPress 5.5. The first 5.5 beta is currently on schedule for July 7.

This update includes over three dozen bug fixes, which is several more than typical of a two-week release cycle. It is well worth updating for this alone. It also includes a couple of dozen enhancements, such as support for drag-and-drop in the Social Links block and the ability to transform a Preformatted block into a Code block. Theme authors should enjoy the removal of the canvas padding, which should further improve the ability to match the editor and front end styles.

As usual, this update seems to be an improvement over the previous version. Thus far, I have not run into any regressions in testing.

Upgrade to Get Image Editing Image editing tools in the block editor.

WordPress may be well on its way to replacing one of the extra tools I always use when publishing. For years, I have manually zoomed, cropped, and rotated images in Photoshop, Gimp, or another image editor. I have performed this same action for so long that it feels like a part of the publishing process.

Gutenberg 8.4’s new image editing tools may have me rethinking the need for additional software. The feature allows users to zoom, rotate, or change the aspect ratio for an image directly in the editor.

After selecting an image block, the editor toolbar will display a new crop icon. Once clicked, a range slider will appear below the image in the editor. The slider allows users to zoom in on an image.

After clicking the crop button in the toolbar, two new buttons will also appear. The first button is a simple rotation button, which allows users to rotate the image clockwise, 90 degrees at a time. The second button is for changing the image’s aspect ratio. Once clicked, it will display a dropdown with the following options:

  • Landscape
    – 16:10
    – 16:9
    – 4:3
    – 3:2
  • Portrait
    – 10:16
    – 9:16
    – 3:4
    – 2:3
  • Square

After zooming or changing the aspect ratio, users can also move the image around to change the focal point. The image editor also provides a 3×3 grid for aligning images perfectly, which should be a nice addition for photographers (see rule of thirds).

If nothing else excites you about Gutenberg 8.4, this is the feature you will want to try. The development team put a lot of thought and care behind the user experience.

Customize Multiple Blocks at Once Assigning custom text color to two paragraphs.

Have you ever wanted to change the text color of multiple paragraphs? Perhaps you have needed to enlarge the font size for two blocks or a multitude of other customizations that you have wanted to apply to multiple blocks? Gutenberg 8.4 allows end-users to edit the block options for more than one block at a time. The only limitation is that the blocks must be of the same type, which makes sense because each block type has different options.

The process is simple. Select two or more blocks and customize all of the selected blocks via the block options panel.

In the past, I have gotten around this missing feature on occasion by adding multiple blocks to a Group block and editing its options. The limitation with that method is that the Group block only supports custom text and background colors. It is nice to see the Gutenberg development team tackling this much-needed feature. It will at least allow some of us to do away with such hacks.

Search and Find New Blocks Adding a block via the block directory search feature.

In September 2019, Gutenberg plugin users received their first glimpse of the block directory search. The experimental feature first landed in version 6.5 and promised to revolutionize the block installation process. Users would be able to seamlessly add blocks from the WordPress block directory from the editing screen. No need to save the current post and head over to the plugins screen. Just search, add a block, and continue writing.

Now, nearly 20 major releases later, the feature is no longer experimental. It is a fully-integrated part of the plugin and is expected to land in WordPress 5.5. That means it is time for Gutenberg users to begin heavily testing this feature and reporting any bugs. It also means it is time for plugin developers to step up their game and begin submitting more single-block plugins to the directory.

To use the new feature, users merely need to search for a block via the block inserter. If one is not installed, it will search for the block on WordPress.org. If one is found, Gutenberg will display an “Add Block” button. Once clicked, it will install the block plugin and insert the block into the post editor.

For the most part, it worked reasonably well in my tests. However, it was not without a few faults.

One issue I ran into was that the block plugin’s CSS did not take effect without reloading the page. Thinking this may have been a fluke, I tested again and ran into the same issue. Considering this was the Layout Grid block from Automattic, which needs specific CSS to align columns, the experience was not ideal. My content was not aligned in columns.

I also had the issue of installing a new block but WordPress not recognizing it as available to insert into the editor. When clicking the “Add Block” button a second time in this scenario, I received the “destination folder already exists” message. It was only after refreshing the page that I was able to use the block.

For this feature to land in core, it needs to be a seamless experience. Users should be able to add new blocks and use them on the fly. At least in my tests, this feature was not quite there. Maybe it is my environment. Maybe I just had some bad luck for the day, but it looks like there is still more work to be done before this is a prime-time feature.

HeroPress: Why Expand HeroPress?

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 20:27

The goal of HeroPress is to help. It always was and it always will be.

For the last five years we’ve given what we had to give. Between full time work and raising a family, focusing on elevating other people’s voices was the best route, and the essays continued.

But now — motivated by community interest — we have the opportunity to do more.

We have a unique platform that can be used to create equity in the community. One place to come to find information, meet diverse people groups, and ultimately bridge the various WordPress communities across the world.

To do this, we plan to:

  • Raise access to knowledge by removing economic barriers.
  • Enable global conversations that grow WordPress for the future.
  • Educate us all with the richness and depth that can only come from multi-cultural perspectives and experiences.

The WordPress community is vast and life is busy. In the best of times it is difficult to broaden our relationships to meet the ever growing demands of business, and these are not the best of times.

So, we’re looking to help by bringing the world to you. One url with one purpose meeting a variety of needs.

I have always believed that we have the ability to do amazing things together, and through this expansion we hope to do just that.


Subscribe now to be the first to receive updates!

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WPTavern: WordCamp Denver 2020 Online Features Yoga, Coffee, Virtual Swag, and 3 Tracks of WordPress Sessions, June 26-27

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 21:57

WordCamp Denver begins Friday this week and tickets are free for anyone who wants to join June 26-27. The event has been running since 2012, but like many other conferences, it is going virtual in 2020, as the pandemic continues to worsen around the globe. Attendees will have to forego the city’s extraordinary landscapes, friendly summer climate, and legendary beer scene this year, but organizers are adapting to make it a memorable event.

In previous years WordCamp Denver has attracted roughly 300 in-person attendees. Sponsor Wrangler and co-organizer Maddy Osman reports that this year the event has 1,696 people signed up and could reach 2,000 by the weekend.

“There were so many challenges that came with flipping to a virtual event — the biggest one being that the WordPress community loves to be physically together and COVID-19 shutdowns have obviously prevented that in a big way, starting with WordCamp Asia,” Osman said.

“Another big challenge for us was preserving a Colorado feel while opening the event up to people across the world. But we have quite a few surprises planned that feature local individuals and brands that I’m excited to share with attendees.” 

Osman said that although the team didn’t sell as many sponsorships as last year, they had no problem attracting the necessary sponsors to make the event happen. WordCamp Central covers the livestreaming costs, which was the most expensive ticket item for hosting the event virtually.

Sponsors will still have the opportunity to connect with attendees and offer their own unique digital swag. Organizers are planning on doing a password-protected swag bag with exclusive offers for WordCamp Denver attendees.

“Even though we can’t hand out fun swag, this is the next best way to make win-win connections between attendees and sponsors,” Osman said. “Attendees who have signed up for a free ticket will be emailed access instructions prior to the event.”

The WordCamp will kick off on Friday with a yoga session hosted by Denver yogi Lauren Moon of Yogiful who will help participants leave behind the stress of the work week. The schedule features three tracks that will run simultaneously: Beginner, Marketing/Content, and Power User/Developer.  Topics span the whole range of WordPress user experiences, from client relationships to creating blocks and understanding React.js.

“We have speakers from all over the US (and some international) but we prioritized speakers with diverse backgrounds and speakers who represent the local community,” Osman said.

“We tried to prioritize sessions that were super actionable and relevant to the current situation that so many businesses are facing – adapting to the COVID-19 economy. In general, when going through speaker selection, we always try to dig deeper than the surface to provide topics that people wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere.”

The schedule for Saturday morning includes a unique session called “Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee,” hosted by Fort Collins-based WordPress community members, David Hayes and Ann Pohl. They will discuss bean selection, grind methods, and alternatives to brewing, with a live demonstration. They will also be sharing a surprise offer from local sponsors, where attendees can redeem a free cup of coffee from one of three coffee shops in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins. Those attending from further away can redeem a coupon code for $10 off a bag of beans from Harbinger Coffee.

Registration for tickets to WordCamp Denver is still open. The event runs Friday (3-7pm) and Saturday (9am-1pm), June 26-27. It will be hosted on Zoom with live captioning managed by White Coat Captioning.

WPTavern: Control Block Design via the EditorPlus WordPress Plugin

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 19:37

Last week, as I was making the final edits on a review of his Gutenberg Forms project, Munir Kamal was prepping for the launch of another kind of WordPress plugin for the block editor. This one was called EditorPlus, and it would create a design system for blocks. Kamal and his team quietly put the finishing touches on version 1.0 and released the plugin in the WordPress plugin repository a few days later.

Unlike many other plugins that create custom blocks to achieve specific design results, EditorPlus provides users with the flexibility to customize their pages with what they have on hand. It adds a slew of design options to each of WordPress’s existing blocks. On the front end, it leaves a light footprint by outputting only the CSS necessary for that page on the fly.

Perhaps the best thing about this plugin right now is that it lays the groundwork for many design-related features that will likely find a permanent home in Gutenberg and eventually core WordPress. The Gutenberg team can borrow ideas, iterate, and improve upon them. We have already seen the experimental padding control land in Gutenberg 8.3. It would make sense that the development team follows through with additional design controls down the road. The good thing about these controls rolling out in third-party plugins first is that the team can see how users react to them and get a sense of whether they would work directly in Gutenberg before committing to anything.

EditorPlus has no shortage of goodies for those who like to have a lot of design freedom without touching code. Essentially, the plugin is a CSS editor without the need to know CSS. It provides end-users with options for the most-needed CSS features via block options. It is a playground for those who like to tinker with design and powerful enough to create unique layouts without bloating the site on the front end.

How EditorPlus Works Editing a Gallery block’s background and padding.

After activating the EditorPlus plugin, end-users can start using its options right away by heading over to the post or page editor. After inserting a block, the plugin makes the following eight tabs available under the block options panel (each is preceded by a + symbol):

  • Border
  • Box Shadow
  • Sizing
  • Background
  • Margin
  • Padding
  • Border Radius
  • Extras

These tabs will appear only for the core WordPress blocks and not third-party plugin blocks at this time. Aside from the Extras tab, each tab corresponds to its CSS counterparts. The Extras tab provides a more advanced “Display” option, which allows users to change the block wrapping element’s display value in CSS. This option is best left to more advanced users. It also provides a transition option that would work well with hover styles.

Each of the block options tabs also has mysterious “R” and “H” buttons. The “R” button allows users to enable responsive options, which means they can change block styles based on desktop, tablet, and mobile screens. The “H” button lets users change the design based on mouse hover state.

Adding a shadow to a Pullquote block on hover.

The plugin packs a lot of options in a little bit of space. All of the new design tabs can feel a little overwhelming at first. However, with a little use, it is easy to gain some muscle memory and quickly blast out custom layouts.

Each of the plugin’s options is fairly straightforward. And, when they are not, you get the benefit of instant feedback via the block editor.

There are a few areas that could prove problematic for some users, depending on how their theme styles certain blocks. For example, width settings under the Sizing tab may not always work. Some themes will add a maximum width to blocks, which will constrain the overall width no matter the size. It is possible to overrule this via the plugin, but Kamal has chosen not to do this in version 1.0.

Be careful with margins. Depending on the theme design, it may use left and right margins to place content. Even when setting just a top or bottom margin, the plugin will automatically output 0 for the left and right margins. This could break the content layout for some themes.

One problem I encountered with the plugin was my active theme’s styles overruling the plugin’s styles in general. For example, the default Twenty Twenty theme targets p.has-background in its CSS to add custom padding. Therefore, it overrules the EditorPlus plugin’s CSS with higher specificity. This problem was expected, and the plugin developer added a solution for it in the form of an “important” checkbox for each design option. If a user ticks this box, it adds !important to the style rule on output, which will allow it to overrule the theme styles. It is not a 100% fool-proof solution. Your mileage may vary, depending on the theme, but it should work for the majority of use cases.

I don’t like the idea of an important checkbox in the UI. It is not something a user should have to worry about. However, it is the reality of a world where themes and plugins have no real way to communicate which design rules are more important than others. Despite not wanting this in the UI, it was a smart decision to include it. Otherwise, far too many themes’ style rules would have overwritten the plugin’s CSS.

Final Thoughts

For a version 1.0 release, EditorPlus is off to a solid start. In my tests, I found few flaws. Any problems for the average user will likely come in the form of theme conflicts, and those conflicts will most likely be around themes using high specificity or !important in their CSS.

Kamal makes it clear on the plugin’s webpage that there is more to come from this plugin. I am unsure what features he has in mind, but I look forward to seeing them. I would like to see a text-shadow option for text-related blocks such as Heading and Paragraph. It would also be nice to see some design options for the images within the Gallery block rather than just the wrapping element.

Whether you should use EditorPlus will depend on whether you need additional design controls. EditorPlus is geared toward people who need something more akin to a lightweight page builder but want to stick to native WordPress. This plugin is a nice showcase of what’s possible and is a good indicator of potential design options that may one day land in WordPress.

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