WPTavern: Chrome 76 Adds Native Lazy-Loading, WordPress Contributors Continue Discussion Regarding Core Support
lazy cat – photo credit: Kate Stone Matheson
The latest version of Chrome (76) shipped with a new “loading” attribute that allows developers to specify resources, such as images and iframes, to defer loading until the user scrolls nearer to them. In the past, developers have used third-party libraries to achieve lazy loading but soon this will no longer be necessary, as more browsers adopt the loading attribute. Chrome developers published a compelling, in-depth explanation of how browser-level native lazy-loading can improve performance.
Morten Rand-Hendriksen filed a trac ticket 14 months ago, recommending WordPress introduce a lazy-loading API for media and other elements. Millions of WordPress users already have have some form of lazy loading on their sites using popular plugins like Jetpack, Autoptimize, Smush, WP-Optimize, and others.
Rand-Hendriksen contends that lazy-loading should be added to core because it is a performance best practice that WordPress should not require site owners to implement on their own. Without a core standard for lazy-loading, themes and plugins are all taking different approaches to solve this problem, which can cause conflicts and unexpected behavior. Contributors working on the ticket are still discussing the specifics of how WordPress core can best support lazy loading.
Meanwhile, WordPress developers who are excited about taking advantage of native lazy-loading are sharing their their own functions and custom plugins on GitHub, WordPress.org, and in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group.
Chris Franchetti shared a gist for a function that adds lazy loading to it to anything with a src. Chris Zähller published a set of functions on GitHub called WP Lazy that work in a different way. It adds the loading=“lazy” attribute when inserting new media or displaying a gallery via the WordPress gallery shortcode.
If there is a long delay on the core trac ticket, there will inevitably be a proliferation of native lazy-loading solutions that allow WordPress users to implement what several major browsers are already supporting. Existing lazy load plugins may also change to add support for the “loading” attribute, with their previous solutions as a backup for browsers that don’t yet support it.
WPTavern: Popular WordPress Themes Remove Obtrusive Admin Notices to Conform to New Theme Directory Requirement
Last month the WordPress Theme Review Team took action to curb obtrusive admin notices, requiring all themes to use the admin_notices API and follow the core design pattern. Prior to this rule going into effect, many themes would commonly display a large, branded notice upon activation. Sometimes these came with a prompt to install more plugins or instructions for getting started.
The Theme Review Team began prompting the authors of themes already known to be in violation of this guideline, to change their notices as soon as possible or risk suspension. Popular themes are rolling out updates that include cleaned-up notices.
Storefront, WooCommerce’s flagship theme, was one of the themes the team cited during the meeting as an example of the notices that the team was looking to discourage with this new requirement. Its large post-activation notice took up half the screen and was previously displayed on every page. Storefront 2.5.2 replaces the notice with one that conforms to the new rule.
The Noto theme from Pixelgrade, which previously had nearly a full-page branded onboarding screen with a call-to-action, has updated to a smaller notice that appears in the designated area for admin notices. Futurio has also scaled back its post-installation footprint and now displays a simple, compliant message with a “Get Started” button.
Theme authors are still finding creative ways to brand their notices, but they are now much less obtrusive and confined to the expected area. They are still able to communicate the necessary information for getting started, without cluttering the admin by taking over half the screen.
WPTavern: WordPress 5.3 Development Kicks Off: UI Polishing, Editor Improvements, and New Twenty Twenty Default Theme
WordPress 5.3 release dates were confirmed this week. The timeline has the official release arriving November 12, 2019, with a decent margin of time to avoid WordCamp US (early November) and the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday week at the end of November. Beta 1 is expected September 23 and a Release Candidate is scheduled to follow on October 15.
The scope for this release is squarely in line with Matt Mullenweg’s 2019 goal of tightening up the software to improve existing features.
“The focus will be polishing current interactions and making the UIs more user friendly,” WordPress 5.3 release coordinator Francesca Marano said in the schedule announcement.
Another major part of this release is the editor improvements that have already been pushed to the Gutenberg plugin over the past few months. Riad Benguella, WP 5.3 Editor Tech lead, said these improvements “go beyond ‘polishing things,'” and will include more than 10 previous releases of the plugin.
After speaking with component maintainers, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden posted a summary of updates that could be included in the release during the proposed timeframe:
- Grouping: support for dividing your page into sections
- Motion: support for visual motion when moving/arranging blocks
- Column patterns and widths: support for fixed column widths, and predefined layouts
- Big images: support for saving progress after a big image fails to upload
- Media accessibility: some fixes and a lot of polish as a result of the a11y audit
- PHP 7.4: support for the new version coming late in November
- And also: Build/Test updates, better administration of emails, and a lot of under the hood improvements
Earlier this month, Haden confirmed that WordPress 5.3 will include a new bundled default theme. Twenty Twenty development is taking a different route from previous default themes in that it will not be designed from scratch.
“I think something that would be cool is taking a theme from the community that is already doing cool stuff with the features we’ve been introducing, and modifying it to fit with the 5.3 release,” Haden said.
The lead for the default theme project has yet be announced, although Mark Uraine, a designer working on Gutenberg, will be facilitating the effort behind the scenes.
“I know people are looking at themes that make good use of Gutenberg and have theme developers that can dedicate some time to this,” Uraine said.
WordPress 5.3 will be the last major release of 2019. Contributors plan to land a minor release in the meantime. WordPress 5.2.3 RC 1 was released today. Jeffrey Paul, who is helping to coordinate this release, said the focuses for 5.2.3 include the PHP version bump coming in 5.3, backporting some block editor features, and improving accessibility and RTL issues. The official 5.2.3 release is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT.
photo credit: Ryan McGuire
WordPress contributors from around the world joined in a lively meeting yesterday to continue the discussion regarding the proposal to auto-update old sites to version 4.7 in a controlled rollout. The idea is that sites would gradually update from one major version to the next (not all at once). The discussion was led by WordPress 3.7 release lead Andrew Nacin with help from Ian Dunn and security team lead Jake Spurlock.
Based on the participants’ responses during the meeting, there were a handful of dissenters who are not comfortable with updating old sites without the site owner’s explicit consent, which is difficult to acquire when emails and admin notices will not reach everyone affected.
The majority of contributors are leaning towards finding the best implementation for moving forward with the proposal, which essentially makes a bold decision for regular users who may not know that they are not on the latest version of WordPress and those who have abandoned their sites. Site owners who are actively choosing to hang back on older versions have most likely already opted out of auto-updates, and those decisions will be respected by the update system.
Dunn said his goal for the discussion was to “listen for ideas, and hopefully move closer to some kind of decision.” At the beginning, it kicked off with more of a focus on marketing and implementation details, rather than the matter of whether or not WordPress should auto-update sites to major versions.
“I think that a major marketing push is needed around this,” Spurlock said. “We want to be ahead of any news about WordPress breaking sites, and in a position to frame this update as a major benefit for the millions of sites that are being updated.” After encouragement from WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden, those eager to discuss the rollout process pulled back to engage the more central matter of the auto updates themselves. Spurlock summarized the three options the security team has for older sites:
1. Abandon security updates for older sites
2. Continue security updates, at great cost
3. Manually update sites, leaving older sites without updates.
“It’s worth pointing out that these site owners have already had up to six years of admin notices,” Nacin said. “The oldest sites likely received north of 30 emails. The way we might communicate a new feature (in say 5.3 or 5.4) to add support for major release auto updates might be drastically different than how we might handle an old site running 3.7 that we’d like to move to 3.8 and higher.”Contributors Weigh the Consequences of Leaving Older Sites Without Updates
Core contributor Zebulan Stanphill was one of the more vocal opponents of auto-updating to major versions without consent.
“The auto-update feature in 3.7 was not advertised as including major updates, so it seems deceptive in my opinion to suddenly change it to include that,” Stanphill said. “It feels like assuming more control over a website than the owner had originally given to WordPress. I’m fine with auto-major-updates becoming the default in new versions of WordPress, but retroactively applying that to old versions seems wrong to me.”
Gary Pendergast, a full-time sponsored contributor to core, countered that the problem is potentially millions of site owners will not see the notice and will be stuck on old versions that will eventually become insecure. Stanphill argued that it’s not WordPress’ responsibility to update people’s sites for them if they did not give permission.
“It is our responsibility to not lay the groundwork for a botnet of a sizeable portion of the internet,” Pendergast said.
WordPress has a much larger footprint on the web than it did in 2013 when the auto-update system was put in place in 3.7. The platform’s marketshare has grown to 34.5% of the the top 10 million websites as of August 2019. Sites running 3.7 have been informally estimated at around 2 million but a definitive count has not been confirmed.
“If we unwittingly give someone a platform to do real evil, we’re big enough that could have consequences,” Core contributor Mary Baum said.
Lack of explicit consent and the possibility for breakage were the top two concerns for those opposed to the plan. Those in favor believe it can be done without breaking millions of websites. Former security team lead Aaron Campbell highlighted the advantages of a tiered update rollout:
Speaking of starting at 3.7 users as a test base (which is part of the plan Ian proposed), one of the great things we can offer users that they have a hard time doing themselves, is a slow update from version to version. The button in the dashboard of a 3.7 site will update the site to 5.2, which is understandably scary. We’d be updating 3.7->3.8, then 3.8->3.9, etc etc until 4.6->4.7. It’ll offer a smoother path from 3.7 to 4.7 AND give us plenty of places to improve on the process along the way if it’s needed.
I think there are some benefits to rolling up. One of those is the DB changes, which would be rolled out in chunks the same as they happened over the last 6 years rather than batched all in one update. It seems like it would cause fewer memory and time limit errors as well.
As he has stated in previous P2 discussions, Nacin reiterated that the core team’s plan has always been to bring auto updates for major versions:
I want to share a bit of history and context: Only the latest version of WordPress is, of course, officially supported. Automatic background updates in 3.7 (October 2013) completely changed the calculus—for the first time, we were able to ship security releases to older branches. But we didn’t announce or document these older versions, offer them for regular download, or expose them to the Dashboard → Updates screen. There was no intention—and still isn’t—to change our often stated policy that only the latest version of WordPress is officially supported. What we realized, though, if we are building the ability to quickly push security fixes to older unsupported sites, we’d be out of our mind to not use that feature.
We expected to make quicker progress on automatic updates for major releases, improving the safety and resiliency of those updates. That would have then enabled us to update these older sites, all the way back to 3.7, to more recent versions of WordPress. That was always the plan. We just didn’t expect it’d take us six years to get there.
Eventually, the long term goal is to change the default for major updates to “opt-out,” once they have proven stability. The proposal for auto-updating older versions to 4.7 would be the next step towards gradually moving in that direction. Nacin contends older sites “are already opted-in by virtue of being on an install of WordPress 3.7+.”
At a certain point in the meeting, the discussion surrounding the ethics of auto-updating older sites to 4.7, broke down into analogies involving car maintenance, vaccinations, rotting corpses, and anything contributors could pull from the real world to make their opinions more relatable to the topic at hand.
“It’s hard to talk about ‘autonomy’ for sites that have effectively been abandoned,” Mark Jaquith said. “Like, if you drop dead on the street, society doesn’t just let you rot there because you haven’t consented to burial.”
Core contributor John James Jacoby said he is not entirely comfortable with the implied consent of opt-out vs. opt-in but ultimately agreed that it is “something that needs to happen.”
“But to paraphrase Mark from earlier, I guess I feel like WordPress shouldn’t be cleaning it’s own carcasses from the web unless it includes a big’ol meta-box in the Dashboard that says ‘Hey we had to do this for you and here is why,'” Jacoby said.
Others are more strongly opposed to WordPress changing files on users’ servers, after having originally communicated that 3.7 would only perform automatic security updates unless they decided to opt into major updates.
“I am very much against pushing an unattended major update to any software,” Gabor Javorszky said. “WordPress Core does not have the authority to change code on my server without my explicit ask. I’m okay with it updating itself for minor versions, because that’s what I signed up for, and that’s how the current auto updater works by default. I can change it to allow major updates, and I can change it to not allow any updates at all, but WP overriding that choice is wrong.”
Michael Panaga contended that users would be more willing to understand that their old websites have been hacked, rather than find out that their sites have broken because of an unauthorized automatic update. Opponents of the proposal do not believe that it is WordPress’ responsibility to keep people’s sites from being compromised, even if millions of sites get hacked. They see this as the user’s problem or something hosting companies should handle.
“Reasonable people can and will disagree on this, but our philosophy is that we do not think it is solely the user’s responsibility if their site is hacked,” Nacin said. “We feel that responsibility too, and we’re going to do absolutely everything we can to make sure their site stays updated and they are running the latest and greatest version of WordPress.”
No official decision has been announced but those who have the power to implement the plan are firmly decided and seem to have gained a consensus through yesterday’s meeting.
“At the end of the day there’s only a few people who have the ability to push the change to the auto-update server to make this opt-out instead of opt-in and sounds like their minds are made up, so no point in continuing P2 [discussions], might as well move into the implementation phase and try to minimize the destruction,” WordPress developer Earle Davies said.
Nacin thanked contributors for lending their voices to the discussion and said there will be some follow-up posts and possibly a roadmap published to make/core in the coming days, documenting previous decisions back to 2007.
“I’m really glad you all showed up to talk about this topic,” Nacin said. “Even after 10 years, I remain deeply impressed with the WordPress community and how much it cares about its users. The web deserves it.”
My adventure with WordPress started back in the days, circa 2006, when I tried to use WordPress.com in a local area network at the company I was working for at the time. I soon realized WordPress.org was a better fit and began experimenting with setting up multiple sites for different purposes. Fast forward to 2015/2016, I decided I would no longer work for the company I was working with for the past 10 years and I started looking for opportunities to either work from home or create my own company. I tried to do both at the same time as neither would exclude the other and so I went the self-learning path with MeteorJS and WordPress.
As a little bit of background, I have worked in support for as long as I can remember. I was the school’s computer lab technician at the age of 10, and trust me all I did was dust-off computers, install MS-DOS and Prince of Persia. In 2005 I got my Computer Sc Engineer degree and since then I worked for Venezuela’s national oil company (PDVSA 2006-2016) as a Workflow Support Engineer helping engineers with oil drilling and completion engineering tools, but I also filled many temporary roles such as a PHP developing project as a contractor, creating extensive SQL queries to pull data out of Oracle databases and even led team members at different times for specifics developing projects, software implementations I developed myself, or for projects to help design a database model for a third party software.
I was very stuck in an office with an every day commute time of 92 minutes.
As the living conditions in Venezuela worsened, the job did not longer fit my needs. I decided I would no longer wait to secure another job or have established a running business to leave, so I left with the uncertainty of what I was going to do next. A year before I actually left, I resumed my journey with WordPress by building websites for a couple of local businesses and tried luck with a viral news website I eventually gave away to a friend of mine. The more I looked into moving to WordPress as my go-to developing tool for work, the more I realized I was still better at providing support, at helping colleagues develop better products or at helping business owners decide a route to have a successful online presence. I often found myself supporting web development rather than developing or building sites. But conditions in Venezuela started to deteriorate faster than one could adapt, businesses closed their doors and working with local clients was becoming harder and not the best option to support a large family.How WordPress Changed My Life
I live in Venezuela and let’s say this is not the safest place in the world, among other things.
Millions has left the country looking for better work opportunities and to improve their living conditions, including most of my friends and my closest family relatives, so in a way WordPress changed my life for the better. Leaving a job in a country in crisis were personally difficult times and a tough decision to make. In the meantime, I kept submitting countless resumes to different distributed customer support positions, unsuccessfully. I also joined Support Driven in Slack to get familiar with current trends in customer support and to build relationships and even though I wasn’t as active as I wanted to, I was able to find an open position for a Happiness Engineer role at Automattic. It was at my second try with Automattic that I was able to secure an interview for the role. I did a 5-weeks trial and finally joined Automattic full-time by the end of 2016.
I choose to work from home so I can be next to the people I care the most, my wife, my kids, my parents, but equally importantly to me and my immediate family is the fact that I don’t have to commute to work and risk my life every day as I did in the past.
WordPress is as big as you want it to be, you are always learning and never stuck. Find your niche within WordPress, there are more work opportunities that I can count where you can insert yourself and continue doing what you are best at. If you are a software developer, a database administrator, a lawyer, a musician or an event organizer, it doesn’t matter: WordPress is still for you, it changed my life and it can change yours too!
The material is available in both Finnish and English and is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0. It is structured into nine parts:
- Fundamentals of Web apps
- Introduction to React
- Communicating with the server
- Programming a server with NodeJS and Express
- Testing Express servers, user administration
- Testing React apps, custom hooks
- State management with Redux
- React router, styling app with CSS and webpack
The University partnered with seven companies to provide participants with an “interview promise” if they complete the course with full credits and the practical work. This offer, which is only available to those with a Finnish social security number, is similar to coding bootcamps that offer job interviews after completion.
The university issued a call for companies to join the “Full Stack Challenge,” encouraging their employees to take the course and build upon their expertise:
Our objective is to encourage learning. We offer a fully-assembled and purposefully-scoped Full Stack course that lowers the barrier of entry for learning about new state-of-the-art and production grade technologies. The course is free of charge and you can participate from anywhere at anytime, at your leisure.
The course is built by coders for coders, and offers something for both newcomers and seasoned industry veterans alike.
All participants who finish the course can download a certificate of completion. Those with a Finnish social security number can take an exam and get official credits from the University.
Gutenberg users are requesting an easy way to add a nofollow attribute to links in the block editor. Users can currently toggle a setting to designate a link to open in a new tab, but a similarly user-friendly option for adding a nofollow attribute is not yet available.
Requests have come in across multiple issues on GitHub, as well as in the WordPress Gutenberg Editor group on Facebook. For example, one blogger asked for advice today after not finding any Gutenberg-compatible nofollow plugins:
Has anyone found an easy way to add a nofollow attribute to links using Gutenberg other than editing the HTML for every single link?
I used to have a checkbox for nofollow plugin but it seems that none of the plugins I’ve found are compatible with Gutenberg.
As a blogger, I need to add nofollows often to remain compliant with FTC requirements for sponsored/affiliate links.
Others requesting the feature in issues filed on the Gutenberg repository are looking for an easier way to make their links compliant with Google and other major search engines’ requests that marketers add nofollow to links that are part of an endorsement or commercial relationship.
“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who make money with their website with affiliate programs and sponsored content: please, make it easy for us to add the nofollow rel attribute to a link,” Renee Dobbs requested in her first ever issue opened on Github.
“I honestly don’t know why it isn’t a part of WordPress core. Every WordPress commercial I see lately is about having your business on WordPress, yet WP is making it difficult for business owners to be compliant with Google’s guidelines on paid/affiliate links. We shouldn’t have to add yet another plugin to handle something so basic and widely used. Just have a checkbox or similar (like open to new window) to add the nofollow rel attribute for a link.”
Gutenberg contributors have worked on a couple different solutions for getting this feature added to the editor. Alexander Botteram, a developer at Yoast, opened a PR that adds a new “nofollow” toggle setting to the core link modal. Gutenberg phase 2 lead Riad Benguella recommended this as a first step towards making links more extensible.
The PR is still undergoing review but it looks like a promising solution with the UI that users are requesting.
Fabrica Dashboard is a relatively new plugin released earlier this year by the team at Yes We Work, after a long beta and extensive internal use on their own projects. The plugin revamps WordPress’ default Dashboard screen to display information that is useful for multi-user editorial sites, highlighting content, activity, and engagement. New dashboard widgets include a high level overview of the following:
- The Posts, Pages, Blocks, and custom content types that make up your site
- Recent activity and updates across content, media, and comments
- Upload sizes / formats and possible security issues
Fabrica Dashboard was built to be content-aware without any configuration. It automatically detects the different types of content in use on the site, including custom post types and custom taxonomies, and populates the dashboard widgets accordingly. The display respects user roles and privileges and the screen can also be customized using the Screen Options tab. Fabrica Dashboard is also compatible with other dashboard widgets, which can be mixed in and moved around.
“The plugin aims to make the dashboard more useful as an ongoing tool for managing site content (rather than a first time user’s guide to the wonderful world of WP, that more experienced users will be forced to skip over),” Yes We Work director Thomas Eagle said.
The Editorial Overview and Content Activity widgets are particularly useful for distributed, multi-author teams that are working in different timezones. It makes it easy for users to catch up on editorial activity across all content types, with a filter for activity by post type, user, or time period. There is even a direct link to view each post’s Compare Revisions screen.
“The Dashboard also means that as an external developer or site maintainer, only logging in occasionally, you can quickly get up to speed on the evolution and growth of a client site, and spot potential problems ahead of time,” Eagle said.
Fabrica Dashboard also works seamlessly with the team’s new plugin, Fabrica Reusable Block Instances. It is a plugin that provides an inventory of all the reusable blocks that are being used in content across a site on a separate management screen that displays the number of instances. This plugin is useful for sites where Reusable Blocks are sometimes updated and it’s important to know where they are in use.
Better management capabilities for Reusable Blocks is a feature that has been indirectly requested several times in Gutenberg support topics. A solution for this may soon be coming to core, as a screenshot of a similar Reusable Blocks screen was published in July with the Block Directory design prototypes. In the meantime, Fabrica Reusable Block Instances is a lightweight plugin for managing these types of blocks. It doesn’t modify the database in any way, nor does it come with any settings.
Fabrica Dashboard and Reusable Block Instances are some of the best CMS plugins I’ve seen recently that have been designed to include Gutenberg block content. While they are targeted specifically at multi-user editorial installations, the plugins may also be beneficial for highly active, single-author blogs. Both are available for free on WordPress.org. Users who want support can purchase the commercial version that also comes with the ability to remove the Fabrica branding from the dashboard.
photo credit: Benjamin Davies
The Joomla World Conference in London, planned for November 2019, has been cancelled. Joomla’s Board of Directors announced the cancellation at the end of July, citing the updated October 31, 2019, Brexit deadline as the primary reason:
Last week the new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been elected with a mandate to ensure Brexit happens on 31st October, even if that means without any form of deal with the EU.
Sadly, for an international conference planned for the weeks after Brexit, there is considerable doubt and uncertainty around travel requirements to the UK and what (if any) visas may be required. This coupled with the huge workload already on the limited resources of the community with Joomla 4 at an advanced development stage, the Board has very reluctantly taken the decision to postpone JWC2019 to some date yet to be announced.
The directors did not want to risk international attendees purchasing travel not being able to attend. They are issuing refunds for tickets already purchased.
WordCamp London, which has traditionally been held in early April or late March, is also not exempt from Brexit-related planning challenges. The lingering uncertainty bleeds into other aspects of planning, such as recruiting sponsors and speakers.
“The uncertainty that Brexit brings when trying to organize an international conference adds huge pressures to the organizing team, creates many additional logistical problems for sponsors, and creates uncertainty for volunteers and attendees,” WordCamp London organizer Dan Maby said. He and co-lead Barbara Saul are currently in the early stages of planning the 2020 event. They faced similar issues this year with the original Brexit date set for March 29, 2019.
“The WordCamp was planned just one week after this date,” Maby said. “As an organizing team we faced unanswerable questions from the outset. We planned to develop a dedicated team within the organizers to support questions, but we soon realized this wasn’t possible because even at governmental level the answers to questions we had were not answered.”
Since WordCamps are designed to be focused on the local communities where they are produced, Maby and his team adopted a mindset that they would send a message by keeping the 2019 camp running as planned: “Let’s do our small part in demonstrating that the UK is open for international business.” The event ended up selling out of both tickets and sponsor packages. Although WordCamp London historically attracts an international audience, the marketing team for the 2019 event focused heavily on the local community.
Maby said it saddened him to read that Joomla World Conference 2019 has been postponed due to Brexit and that he empathizes with their team.
“We’re in early discussions regarding WordCamp London 2020 and considering delivering the event later in the year,” he said. “Part of the reason is to allow the unknown of Brexit to start to settle.”
With a lack of definitive information about who will need visas and how Brexit will affect international travelers, Maby said his team is still mostly in dark. The biggest complication is not knowing if sponsors or attendees will be able to legally enter the country. This makes planning a budget and selling sponsorship packages and tickets more tricky. WordCamp London co-leads have yet to put the application in but are eying September 2020 for the next event.
“We are investigating September as a potential alternative,” Maby said. “We’ll be 11 months post-Brexit (if it happens in October) so we will hopefully have a better idea of what to communicate to attendees, volunteers, and sponsors traveling into the UK. It also sits well between the European and US regional WordCamps.”
For five days next week, from August 19-23, the inaugural event of The Great WP Virtual Summit will be taking place.
Conceived by South African based WordPress developer Anchen le Roux, the summit aims to bring together experts from various fields within the WordPress ecosystem to share their knowledge over the five days
I reached out to Le Roux, to find out why she came up with the idea of the summit, and what her goals are for the event.
“Being an organiser of WordCamp Johannesburg for the last few years, I’ve been very aware of how only a small number of people are actually able to attend an event like WordCamp.
Obviously there are a lot of reasons, but for the most part travelling, accommodation, and other logistical items seemed to be the biggest hindrance.”
Being based at the tip of Africa, Le Roux also realized that many other African countries don’t even have a WordCamp, and started wondering what she could do to bring WordCamp to them. The idea for the summit was born.
“I’m hoping an online summit can introduce aspects of WordPress, and being part of the WordPress community, to those living in areas where it’s not easily accessible. It’s also my hope that this will plant a seed with folks, to start their own local communities around WordPress, and ultimately lead to more local WordCamps.”
Anchen is hoping to recreate some of the atmosphere and energy that takes place at a local WordCamp, at this online event.
“I know nothing can substitute for the in-person experience of a WordCamp but I’m trusting that some bits of what makes WordCamps awesome can be recreated in what we do. I’m hoping for this to be the first of many. This first one is very much an experiment but I’m anticipating for it to grow into something that more people can be involved in.“
I asked Le Roux what she hopes attendees will take away from the event.
“Firstly, the goal is to allow folks to learn from top authorities in the WordPress realm on a variety of topics. We have four different tracks catering to all types of WordPress users. Topics range from branding and design, development, and running your business with WordPress, to running a WordPress agency or being a WP freelancer.
Above and beyond that, I’m hoping that folks who are new to the community, or are operating on the fringes of our community, are encouraged to become a bigger part of the WordPress community, by giving them the opportunity to chat with other community members, ask questions and/or share ideas.
We have 20+ experts over 5 days, who will teach you strategies you can use to both improve and scale your WordPress business, no matter which stage you’re at, or what type of user you are.”
Major accessibility improvements are the headline feature of this week’s Gutenberg plugin release. Version 6.3 introduces new Navigation and Editor modes to address long-standing problems navigating the block UI with a screen reader. The editor is now loaded in Navigation mode by default. Riad Benguella described it as “an important milestone in terms of accessibility of the editor” and explained how it works:
It allows you to move from block to block using a single Tab press. You can also use the arrow keys to navigate between blocks. Once you reach the block you want to edit, you can enter the Edit Mode by hitting the Enter key. The Escape key allows you to move back to the Navigation Mode.
These modes are still early in their development and will require more testing.
At WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville, Accessibility Team contributor Amanda Rush gave me a demonstration of what it is like to navigate Gutenberg with a screen reader. Using the editor was painfully difficult for even the simplest tasks, such as setting a title and writing paragraph content.
Since that time, the Gutenberg and Accessibility teams have made great strides towards improving this experience. The new interaction flow in the Navigation mode is one example of their progress. The teams have also worked together to tackle a collection of 84 issues that Tenon created on GitHub in May, based on the findings in WPCampus’ Gutenberg Accessibility Audit. To date, 54 of those issues, many of which were related to screen reader accessibility, have been resolved and marked as closed.
Other notable updates in Gutenberg 6.3 include support for text alignments in table block columns, border color support for the separator block, and improvements to the BlockPreview component, which allow developers to preview blocks in any context. Check out the release post for the full list of all the changes in 6.3.
I created a Tumblr back when WordPress was debating post formats — before they died. I also did a small client project on Tumblr — which ended up being a tedious experiment of much custom HTML and CSS inside a customizer-like interface.
I never stopped to think what kind of platform Tumblr is. Is it a blog platform? A site builder? A social network?
Of those three particular options, I would’ve leaned on blog platform with a dose of light-CMS for tiny site building. I probably would’ve mostly dismissed a notion that it’s a social network. But perhaps that’s where it can be best.
When I visit Tumblr, I see tons of different content formats, mostly short-form and ephemeral — whether a meme, funny pic, quote, or news link. None of the gamified restrictions on the type of content exist on Tumblr, as is so well known on Instagram. It is a fairly simple feed based on the content posted or engaged with by the people you follow.
Tumblr feels like the whimsical side of blogging. Too often, when I blog, I feel like it better mean something. So usually I tweet, or I do something else that feels less permanent. This is a sad outcome, as I loved blogging in the weblog sense — before the arrival of “big-thought” blogs finely tuned to the desires of Google algos, carefully crafted with just the right CTAs, sub-heads, and content plans, all within a well-defined site structure.
All that serious businessy stuff is great, I guess. It makes sense. The “investment” in our content “strategies” — these words are making my old-school web self puke — are totally reasonable. For our businesses, personal brands, stores, and whatnot, we want a good ROI on our blogging. We have strategies.
What is fun about the Tumblr vibe is that it feels strategy-less. It feels social.
I’m gonna try to Tumbl for a while, see how it feels, how it works, and what happens. Am I worried about my brand, my audience development, my influence, my monetization strategy? Nah. I can do that on this site, or web-Twitter, or YouTube, or Instagram. I just want to have fun.
Maybe that’s where Tumblr can shine.
WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Team Scraps Trusted Authors Program Due to Gaming and Inconsistent Reviews
After several months of discussion, WordPress.org’s Theme Review Team has decided to discontinue the Trusted Authors (TA) Program that launched in April 2018. The program, which was controversial from its inception, allowed certain authors to bypass the normal theme review queue after demonstrating an ability to submit themes with fewer than three issues. Trusted Author theme submissions went to their own dedicated queue that was handled by team leads.
The objective of the program was to streamline the review process and lessen the burden on reviewers. When it failed to deliver the intended results, the Theme Review team leads made a unilateral decision behind closed doors, implementing a change requiring TA participants to join the team and perform a minimum number of reviews in order to continue having their own themes fast tracked through the review process. This was loudly decried by other members of the Theme Review team who were blindsided by the decision.
“We are removing the Trusted Author Program,” team lead William Patton announced in the most recent meeting. “It has not fulfilled the intended plan and has caused more problems than it is solving.”
Fellow team lead Sandilya Kafle outlined the reasons in a post published today. The entrance requirements for the program did not ensure that participants were truly “trusted” authors, as many had to be removed for gaming the system. Reviewers also reported that there was a group of people releasing clones of themes every week.
“We got lots of help from the TA authors – for which we’d like to thank them,” Kafle said. “However, there was still gaming from some of the authors – which resulted in their removal from the TA program. One of the intentions of the TA program was to reduce the gaming by the use of multiple accounts. However, we still saw some authors having multiple accounts so this intention was not realized though the program existing.”
The TA program’s entrance requirements also did not ensure that participants were prepared to review themes at a high level, which resulted in inconsistent reviews.
“We strongly believed that TA members were highly familiar with the requirements but we found that was not the case for all of them,” Kafle said. “Additionally, some authors did not feel confident enough in their own understanding of all requirements to perform reviews and set themes live. Instead many TA reviews went to the admin queue after approval. This was an indicator that the quality of the themes by TA’s may not be as high as expected.”
Most of the Theme Review team members present in the meeting were generally agreed on shutting the TA program down. Alexandru Cosmin, the former team lead who introduced the program, was the only vocal outlier, whose acrid responses to scrapping the program reflect a long-standing frustration with the slow queue.
“Honest opinion, and I could bet on this: by the end of the year we’ll have 5-month queues and multi-accounters,” Cosmin said. “We’ll see how fair it will be when you have guys with 15 accounts and authors complaining in the main chat about how long the queue is.”
Today’s decision to discontinue the TA program restores the natural order to the queue, with all theme authors receiving the same treatment. Tying an incentive program to the review system was ineffective for taming the queue.
Long queues and gaming the system have proven to be continual struggles for the Theme Review Team, but the existence of these problems underscores the significance of the official themes directory for theme shops. Companies continue to use WordPress.org to gain users for their commercial versions, and the directory remains an important distribution channel for WordPress themes.
If you’d like some more background and context on Tumblr and Automattic coming together I had a chance to have a short but nuanced conversation with Nilay Patel and Julia Alexander on The Verge’s podcast, Vergecast. I love how great journalists are able to really dive into the heart of issues, and I really enjoyed the conversation.
WP Tavern is hiring full-time writers. We are looking for reporters with the ability to write WordPress news every day, covering a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) Gutenberg, core development, community, open source software, plugin and theme ecosystems, Tumblr, developer trends, and the open web.
The position requires the ability to discern the immediacy of stories that need to be told, attention to accuracy, and the ability to cultivate sources. Applicants must have a commitment to serve the public interest and remain impervious to a constant barrage of companies wanting to influence the press. A deep knowledge of the WordPress ecosystem is helpful for this position.
WP Tavern is, by reputation, WordPress’ newspaper of record. We are looking for writers who can approach this community with a critical and unbiased point of view, preserving the independent and provocative spirit of the Tavern. Interested applicants should use the contact form to get in touch, and be prepared to submit at least three writing samples for consideration.
WPTavern: New mycamp.rocks Newsletter Launches with Tips for Conference Organizers, Speakers, and Attendees
David Bisset launched mycamp.rocks today, a newsletter targeted at conference organizers, speakers, and attendees. The WordPress newsletter landscape is currently dominated by general industry and developer news digests, such as Master WP, WpMail.me, Post Status, and The WP Daily. mycamp.rocks is the first newsletter to drill down into community event topics and will be sending out new tips every Tuesday.
Bisset has helped organize WordCamp Miami, meetups, and other events for more than a decade. He has accumulated a large store of knowledge, resources, and experience managing all the minutiae of conference organization. The first edition of the newsletter includes tips on badge design, lanyards, dealing with rejection as a speaker applicant, communicating special diet requests, and other miscellaneous topics. He is intentionally keeping the focus broad and not limiting it to WordPress events.
Bisset said he decided to go the newsletter route, as opposed to creating a blog, because he was inspired by some developers experimenting with the same format. Newsletters tend to get mixed into an inbox management routine and are more likely to receive attention than websites that broadcast their posts to social media.
“Perhaps with busy lives people are appreciating small emails,” Bisset said. “For some it’s hard to keep checking a website and I think people are avoiding social media (or filtering it down). So email once again is becoming a good solution for delivering tips, especially if the emails are short and happen once a week.”
Bisset said the email format is an experiment, since the website is updated with the newsletter information anyway. He plans to evaluate after a month to see if more people are visiting the website versus opening the emails.
The newsletter has already received some feedback that Bisset plans to implement, such as separating the tips that work best for small events, like meetups, and larger conference-type events.
WordCamp US announced last week that it will host a dedicated track for community-related topics, such as meetups, diversity, inclusion, and kids camps. Bisset said he sees this as a significant development in support of community members and event leaders.
“Community is the biggest strength of WordPress itself,” Bisset said. “Many people have asked for and needed some direction, tips, or general knowledge on how to better run meetups, contributor days, WordCamps, and kid’s events. I think we’ve also seen over the past year or two some communication problems in the community itself, and I think addressing all of these things on a national stage like WCUS leads us down the road of educating people on how to improve our interactions with fellow community members. Those members could be fellow organizers, fellow contributors, or just anyone that we interact with – regardless of their gender, background, or age.”
It is not surprising that the news about Automattic buying Tumblr has picked up a lot of coverage. I especially appreciated the notes of support from Tumblr founder David Karp, former CTO Marco Arment, and investor Bijan Sabet. I am beyond excited to see what the Tumblr team creates next, and I will definitely be connecting with alumni to hear their perspective.
Just wanted to add my congratulations and thank you to everyone at WordPress and Tumblr.
Matt is a visionary, and the team at WordPress has built something absolutely foundational to the Internet. What an amazing home and opportunity for Tumblr.https://t.co/6AVXBVuUr1
There has also been a lot of speculation on the purchase price, which I think is missing the real story. I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect for Verizon and how they approached this entire process. They inherited Tumblr through an acquisition of a merger, a few steps removed from its initial sale; it’s probably not a company they would have bought on its own, but they nonetheless recognized that there is a very special community and team behind the product. It’s also worth noting at this point that Verizon is a company that will do over $130B in revenue this year and has over 139,000 employees.
First, they chose to find a new home for Tumblr instead of shutting it down. Second, they considered not just how much cash they would get on day one, but also — and especially — what would happen to the team afterward, and how the product and the team would be invested in going forward. Third, they thought about the sort of steward of the community the new owner would be. They didn’t have to do any of that, and I commend them for making all three points a priority.
Automattic is still a startup — I’m sure there are deep-pocketed private equity firms that could have outbid us, but the most likely outcome then would have been an “asset” getting chopped up and sold for parts. (This is a caricature and there are PE firms I like, but it’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination.) Instead, Tumblr has a new chance to redefine itself in 2019 and beyond. Its community is joining with WordPress’ 16-year commitment to open source and the open web.