Wordpress News

WPTavern: Bringing Back Blogs in the Age of Social Media Censorship

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 15:41

You’ve probably never heard of Robert B. Strassler. That’s OK, you’re not alone.

Early in his career, Strassler worked in oil fields, but he always had an interest in the classics (the formal designation for the studies of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations). Eventually, Strassler’s hobby became an obsession. He went so far as to author his own translation of Thucydides, the Athenian historian of the Peloponnesian War.

The problem was nobody wanted to read Strassler’s book. This was in the 1990s. It was more difficult to publish to the web and there was no social media. Strassler approached every Ivy League institution he could find. Nobody was interested in reading a manuscript about Thucydides penned by an oilman with no formal credentials. That was the situation until Strassler contacted Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist professor in Fresno, California. Hanson agreed to look at the manuscript and was astounded by Strassler’s work: a brilliant, highly readable translation of Thucydides including maps, diagrams, and charts. Hanson helped the disconnected oilman get in touch with a literary agent. Strassler’s landmark edition became the standard translation of Thucydides. Still read today, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War is as successful as any book on the classics can be—in the age of Twitter.

Those of us who take the idea of democratic publishing seriously rejoice at how the field has opened to include anyone who has something to say and is willing to write it down. That’s why we should be more alarmed when we see social media companies crowd the spaces once occupied by blogs and do-it-yourself content creators. We see a decline in diverse opinions as the web quickly becomes less free and more autocratic.

How many Robert B. Strasslers are being stifled today by biased algorithms and arbitrary “community guidelines”?

In March, as COVID-19 exploded into a worldwide panic, the web gatekeepers we’ve come to rely on quickly massed around a singular interpretation of events and stifled dissenting voices—even mild ones.

YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world, demonetized all videos that mentioned “COVID-19,” “Coronavirus,” or any term related to the pandemic, and herded viewers away from content creators and toward the Center for Disease Control (CDC) — the same CDC that first advised against wearing masks. Even medical practitioners who deviated slightly from the prevailing vision were removed from the platform after gaining millions of views.

Experienced journalists who questioned official decrees (surely, the role journalists are expected to perform) were targeted with hit pieces and character assassination by their own peers.

As author/professor Cal Newport noted in an op-ed for Wired, much of the dissenting viewpoints and on-the-ground data have become part of the mainstream conversation even after being suppressed by a small group of decision-makers:

We don’t necessarily want to trust engineers at one company to make the decisions about what topics the public should and should not be able to read about.

How many times have you clicked on a link in a tweet and received a message as shown in the following screenshot?

Twitter unsafe link warning.

Adults should be trusted to determine what kind of content is harmful (if such a thing exists) without the assistance of Twitter employees and their “partners.” And, are these warnings actually meant to protect people or simply to shield Twitter from corporate liability? I think we can guess what the answer is.

It’s not only those without official-sounding credentials who are being barred from sharing content. Creators who clearly have experience in their fields of study are also facing arbitrary censorship.

The Great Courses Plus, a streaming service that produces college-level video courses taught by actual professors, was threatened with a ban from Google if they did not remove COVID-19-related content from their app. In an email to subscribers, the team wrote:

Google informed us they would ban The Great Courses apps if we continued to make [Covid-19] in-app content available. We are working with Google to ensure that they understand our content is factual, expert-led, and thoroughly vetted, so that we can remedy this misunderstanding as soon as possible.

The videos in question included content from Dr. Roy Benaroch, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine; Dr. David Kung, Professor of Mathematics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; and Dr. Kevin Ahern, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Oregon State University. How or why these scholars were found unworthy of Google’s imprimatur is a mystery. As the public does not presume to give Google programming advice, perhaps Google could return the favor by not pretending to be experts on epidemiology, immunology, and virology.

The only way to see these offending videos is on the Great Courses website, where Google’s authority is not absolute. It happens to be a WordPress-powered site. For intellectuals and laymen who value free expression, having your own website is becoming the only way to make sure you can keep it.

The problem of pitting credentials against experience in a zero-sum conflict is fixable, and WordPress is a big part of the solution.

WordPress allows capable scientists, economists, and medical professionals in other fields to write at length about their ideas without fear of being blocked by arbitrary restrictions. Also, the five-minute install (which does take a little more than five minutes for many people) imposes enough of a barrier to entry to discourage cranks.

We like to think of the internet as a true egalitarian system, where every voice is given equal consideration, but deep down we know that’s not exactly how it works. Network effects tend to form hubs of concentrated influence around a handful of websites. This isn’t always a bad thing. A recipe blog with poor taste and no pictures deserves fewer readers than a blog with great-tasting recipes and high-resolution images.

There is still room enough in the network for certain nodes to grow in size and influence based on the quality of their content. A node with enough backlinks, good organic search rankings, and high-quality content will gain an audience, and be able to keep it, without fear of corporate reprisals or aggressive algorithm updates.

If we really care about democratizing publishing, we won’t always like what we read. There will be disagreements, but democracy requires a literate population eager for debate. We can challenge, discuss, and learn.

There are a lot of Robert B. Strasslers out there in the network, waiting patiently to be heard.

WPTavern: Bringing Back Blogs in the Age of Social Media Censorship

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 15:41

You’ve probably never heard of Robert B. Strassler. That’s OK, you’re not alone.

Early in his career, Strassler worked in oil fields, but he always had an interest in the classics (the formal designation for the studies of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations). Eventually, Strassler’s hobby became an obsession. He went so far as to author his own translation of Thucydides, the Athenian historian of the Peloponnesian War.

The problem was nobody wanted to read Strassler’s book. This was in the 1990s. It was more difficult to publish to the web and there was no social media. Strassler approached every Ivy League institution he could find. Nobody was interested in reading a manuscript about Thucydides penned by an oilman with no formal credentials. That was the situation until Strassler contacted Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist professor in Fresno, California. Hanson agreed to look at the manuscript and was astounded by Strassler’s work: a brilliant, highly readable translation of Thucydides including maps, diagrams, and charts. Hanson helped the disconnected oilman get in touch with a literary agent. Strassler’s landmark edition became the standard translation of Thucydides. Still read today, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War is as successful as any book on the classics can be—in the age of Twitter.

Those of us who take the idea of democratic publishing seriously rejoice at how the field has opened to include anyone who has something to say and is willing to write it down. That’s why we should be more alarmed when we see social media companies crowd the spaces once occupied by blogs and do-it-yourself content creators. We see a decline in diverse opinions as the web quickly becomes less free and more autocratic.

How many Robert B. Strasslers are being stifled today by biased algorithms and arbitrary “community guidelines”?

In March, as COVID-19 exploded into a worldwide panic, the web gatekeepers we’ve come to rely on quickly massed around a singular interpretation of events and stifled dissenting voices—even mild ones.

YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world, demonetized all videos that mentioned “COVID-19,” “Coronavirus,” or any term related to the pandemic, and herded viewers away from content creators and toward the Center for Disease Control (CDC) — the same CDC that first advised against wearing masks. Even medical practitioners who deviated slightly from the prevailing vision were removed from the platform after gaining millions of views.

Experienced journalists who questioned official decrees (surely, the role journalists are expected to perform) were targeted with hit pieces and character assassination by their own peers.

As author/professor Cal Newport noted in an op-ed for Wired, much of the dissenting viewpoints and on-the-ground data have become part of the mainstream conversation even after being suppressed by a small group of decision-makers:

We don’t necessarily want to trust engineers at one company to make the decisions about what topics the public should and should not be able to read about.

How many times have you clicked on a link in a tweet and received a message as shown in the following screenshot?

Twitter unsafe link warning.

Adults should be trusted to determine what kind of content is harmful (if such a thing exists) without the assistance of Twitter employees and their “partners.” And, are these warnings actually meant to protect people or simply to shield Twitter from corporate liability? I think we can guess what the answer is.

It’s not only those without official-sounding credentials who are being barred from sharing content. Creators who clearly have experience in their fields of study are also facing arbitrary censorship.

The Great Courses Plus, a streaming service that produces college-level video courses taught by actual professors, was threatened with a ban from Google if they did not remove COVID-19-related content from their app. In an email to subscribers, the team wrote:

Google informed us they would ban The Great Courses apps if we continued to make [Covid-19] in-app content available. We are working with Google to ensure that they understand our content is factual, expert-led, and thoroughly vetted, so that we can remedy this misunderstanding as soon as possible.

The videos in question included content from Dr. Roy Benaroch, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine; Dr. David Kung, Professor of Mathematics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; and Dr. Kevin Ahern, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Oregon State University. How or why these scholars were found unworthy of Google’s imprimatur is a mystery. As the public does not presume to give Google programming advice, perhaps Google could return the favor by not pretending to be experts on epidemiology, immunology, and virology.

The only way to see these offending videos is on the Great Courses website, where Google’s authority is not absolute. It happens to be a WordPress-powered site. For intellectuals and laymen who value free expression, having your own website is becoming the only way to make sure you can keep it.

The problem of pitting credentials against experience in a zero-sum conflict is fixable, and WordPress is a big part of the solution.

WordPress allows capable scientists, economists, and medical professionals in other fields to write at length about their ideas without fear of being blocked by arbitrary restrictions. Also, the five-minute install (which does take a little more than five minutes for many people) imposes enough of a barrier to entry to discourage cranks.

We like to think of the internet as a true egalitarian system, where every voice is given equal consideration, but deep down we know that’s not exactly how it works. Network effects tend to form hubs of concentrated influence around a handful of websites. This isn’t always a bad thing. A recipe blog with poor taste and no pictures deserves fewer readers than a blog with great-tasting recipes and high-resolution images.

There is still room enough in the network for certain nodes to grow in size and influence based on the quality of their content. A node with enough backlinks, good organic search rankings, and high-quality content will gain an audience, and be able to keep it, without fear of corporate reprisals or aggressive algorithm updates.

If we really care about democratizing publishing, we won’t always like what we read. There will be disagreements, but democracy requires a literate population eager for debate. We can challenge, discuss, and learn.

There are a lot of Robert B. Strasslers out there in the network, waiting patiently to be heard.

WPTavern: WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 20:52

Managed web hosting company WP Engine launched the new Genesis Pro add-on for customers of its hosting service today. The add-on brings additional block editor features for users who are using a Genesis-based WordPress theme.

Genesis is a parent theme developed by StudioPress. WP Engine acquired the theme development company in 2018. Later that year, the company took the first steps toward adding compatibility with the block editor for Genesis customers, becoming an early adopter of the new editing experience.

“Beyond just being ‘compatible,’ Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First,” Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine, said of future plans nearly two years ago. “That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.”

Today’s Genesis Pro launch is another step on that journey. WP Engine is currently rolling out the add-on as part of its managed hosting service. The cost is $30/month ($360/year) for an unlimited number of sites.

The current plan is to also make the Genesis Pro plugin available via the StudioPress website in the early summer. The company is not formally committing to that timeframe yet, but users not on WP Engine’s hosting service should expect it this year. The price for Genesis Pro will be available for $360/year, which is at the same rate as the hosting add-on.

The reason behind the early launch for web hosting clients seems to be twofold based on the announcement post. David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy for WP Engine, said the company could launch the product faster and increment with the launch for its hosting customers. They are also able to make sure the payment system scales, which StudioPress now uses.

“Genesis Pro’s capabilities are expressed in a single plugin today, but may be provided in multiple plugins, WP adjacent services, or other means in the future based on architectural decisions of any particular feature,” said Vogelpohl.

Watch a quick video on Genesis Pro:

Genesis Pro Features Example layout from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on includes a robust set of options that are primarily aimed at helping users build their webpages with custom blocks and designs. The following features are the foundation of the add-on:

  • Block Library: Includes 17 custom blocks, such as a testimonial and pricing block.
  • Page Layouts: Offers 22 full layouts for product, portfolio, team, and other pages.
  • Content Sections: Adds 38 customizable content sections.
  • Permissions System: Allows admins to set editing permissions on a per-block basis.
  • Customization: Users can create and share custom sections and layouts with content creators.

Most of the options seem to be under a pop-up modal on the post-editing screen that should allow users to insert blocks directly into their post or page content. More blocks, sections, layouts, and other content-creation tools are currently in the works.

Layout selector from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on features are mostly standard fare in comparison to many of the block libraries and suites available throughout the WordPress ecosystem. Of course, these will have the StudioPress spin on them and likely be of high quality based if past work is any indication. With the launch out of the way and the foundation in place, it should be much easier for the team to churn out more customization options for end-users.

The most unique feature is probably around the block permissions system, which few companies have truly tackled. For site administrators who work with multiple creators, setting up editing permissions for individual blocks can be useful. If the user experience for this system works well, it will be a huge selling point for some site owners.

Block permissions settings for Genesis Pro. Genesis X

Vogelpohl teased another project the team has been working on titled “Genesis X,” which is separate from the Genesis Pro project. It is an experimental plugin version of Genesis that will be available to StudioPress customers at no additional charge. The work thus far has centered on what Genesis will look like in a world where full-site editing is available through WordPress itself.

“The current version of Genesis X focuses on helping site creators easily manage global styles across their site, customize and manage blocks, as well as other capabilities to help users win with full-site editing in WordPress core,” said Vogelpohl. “Genesis X is being built core-adjacent and is not a replacement for the block editor. It is designed to work with the block editor.”

Vogelpohl said the first objective of the project is to provide analogs for features in Genesis that would not work in a parent theme structure within the full-site editing context. “After achieving that parity in ways that make sense, we will be focused on the advanced block capabilities as well as other features currently on our roadmap,” he said.

The company is putting a lot of weight and resources behind the transition from pre-block WordPress and the upcoming features that WordPress will offer via the block system. Right now, they have a team of 15 employees working on solutions with Genesis.

“The overarching theme is that Genesis X is being architected not to just help the Genesis community adapt to full-site editing in core, but for any user of WordPress to adopt full-site editing in a way that sets them up for the best chance of success,” said Vogelpohl.

WPTavern: WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 20:52

Managed web hosting company WP Engine launched the new Genesis Pro add-on for customers of its hosting service today. The add-on brings additional block editor features for users who are using a Genesis-based WordPress theme.

Genesis is a parent theme developed by StudioPress. WP Engine acquired the theme development company in 2018. Later that year, the company took the first steps toward adding compatibility with the block editor for Genesis customers, becoming an early adopter of the new editing experience.

“Beyond just being ‘compatible,’ Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First,” Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine, said of future plans nearly two years ago. “That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.”

Today’s Genesis Pro launch is another step on that journey. WP Engine is currently rolling out the add-on as part of its managed hosting service. The cost is $30/month ($360/year) for an unlimited number of sites.

The current plan is to also make the Genesis Pro plugin available via the StudioPress website in the early summer. The company is not formally committing to that timeframe yet, but users not on WP Engine’s hosting service should expect it this year. The price for Genesis Pro will be available for $360/year, which is at the same rate as the hosting add-on.

The reason behind the early launch for web hosting clients seems to be twofold based on the announcement post. David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy for WP Engine, said the company could launch the product faster and increment with the launch for its hosting customers. They are also able to make sure the payment system scales, which StudioPress now uses.

“Genesis Pro’s capabilities are expressed in a single plugin today, but may be provided in multiple plugins, WP adjacent services, or other means in the future based on architectural decisions of any particular feature,” said Vogelpohl.

Watch a quick video on Genesis Pro:

Genesis Pro Features Example layout from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on includes a robust set of options that are primarily aimed at helping users build their webpages with custom blocks and designs. The following features are the foundation of the add-on:

  • Block Library: Includes 17 custom blocks, such as a testimonial and pricing block.
  • Page Layouts: Offers 22 full layouts for product, portfolio, team, and other pages.
  • Content Sections: Adds 38 customizable content sections.
  • Permissions System: Allows admins to set editing permissions on a per-block basis.
  • Customization: Users can create and share custom sections and layouts with content creators.

Most of the options seem to be under a pop-up modal on the post-editing screen that should allow users to insert blocks directly into their post or page content. More blocks, sections, layouts, and other content-creation tools are currently in the works.

Layout selector from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on features are mostly standard fare in comparison to many of the block libraries and suites available throughout the WordPress ecosystem. Of course, these will have the StudioPress spin on them and likely be of high quality based if past work is any indication. With the launch out of the way and the foundation in place, it should be much easier for the team to churn out more customization options for end-users.

The most unique feature is probably around the block permissions system, which few companies have truly tackled. For site administrators who work with multiple creators, setting up editing permissions for individual blocks can be useful. If the user experience for this system works well, it will be a huge selling point for some site owners.

Block permissions settings for Genesis Pro. Genesis X

Vogelpohl teased another project the team has been working on titled “Genesis X,” which is separate from the Genesis Pro project. It is an experimental plugin version of Genesis that will be available to StudioPress customers at no additional charge. The work thus far has centered on what Genesis will look like in a world where full-site editing is available through WordPress itself.

“The current version of Genesis X focuses on helping site creators easily manage global styles across their site, customize and manage blocks, as well as other capabilities to help users win with full-site editing in WordPress core,” said Vogelpohl. “Genesis X is being built core-adjacent and is not a replacement for the block editor. It is designed to work with the block editor.”

Vogelpohl said the first objective of the project is to provide analogs for features in Genesis that would not work in a parent theme structure within the full-site editing context. “After achieving that parity in ways that make sense, we will be focused on the advanced block capabilities as well as other features currently on our roadmap,” he said.

The company is putting a lot of weight and resources behind the transition from pre-block WordPress and the upcoming features that WordPress will offer via the block system. Right now, they have a team of 15 employees working on solutions with Genesis.

“The overarching theme is that Genesis X is being architected not to just help the Genesis community adapt to full-site editing in core, but for any user of WordPress to adopt full-site editing in a way that sets them up for the best chance of success,” said Vogelpohl.

WPTavern: WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 20:52

Managed web hosting company WP Engine launched the new Genesis Pro add-on for customers of its hosting service today. The add-on brings additional block editor features for users who are using a Genesis-based WordPress theme.

Genesis is a parent theme developed by StudioPress. WP Engine acquired the theme development company in 2018. Later that year, the company took the first steps toward adding compatibility with the block editor for Genesis customers, becoming an early adopter of the new editing experience.

“Beyond just being ‘compatible,’ Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First,” Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine, said of future plans nearly two years ago. “That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.”

Today’s Genesis Pro launch is another step on that journey. WP Engine is currently rolling out the add-on as part of its managed hosting service. The cost is $30/month ($360/year) for an unlimited number of sites.

The current plan is to also make the Genesis Pro plugin available via the StudioPress website in the early summer. The company is not formally committing to that timeframe yet, but users not on WP Engine’s hosting service should expect it this year. The price for Genesis Pro will be available for $360/year, which is at the same rate as the hosting add-on.

The reason behind the early launch for web hosting clients seems to be twofold based on the announcement post. David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy for WP Engine, said the company could launch the product faster and increment with the launch for its hosting customers. They are also able to make sure the payment system scales, which StudioPress now uses.

“Genesis Pro’s capabilities are expressed in a single plugin today, but may be provided in multiple plugins, WP adjacent services, or other means in the future based on architectural decisions of any particular feature,” said Vogelpohl.

Watch a quick video on Genesis Pro:

Genesis Pro Features Example layout from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on includes a robust set of options that are primarily aimed at helping users build their webpages with custom blocks and designs. The following features are the foundation of the add-on:

  • Block Library: Includes 17 custom blocks, such as a testimonial and pricing block.
  • Page Layouts: Offers 22 full layouts for product, portfolio, team, and other pages.
  • Content Sections: Adds 38 customizable content sections.
  • Permissions System: Allows admins to set editing permissions on a per-block basis.
  • Customization: Users can create and share custom sections and layouts with content creators.

Most of the options seem to be under a pop-up modal on the post-editing screen that should allow users to insert blocks directly into their post or page content. More blocks, sections, layouts, and other content-creation tools are currently in the works.

Layout selector from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on features are mostly standard fare in comparison to many of the block libraries and suites available throughout the WordPress ecosystem. Of course, these will have the StudioPress spin on them and likely be of high quality based if past work is any indication. With the launch out of the way and the foundation in place, it should be much easier for the team to churn out more customization options for end-users.

The most unique feature is probably around the block permissions system, which few companies have truly tackled. For site administrators who work with multiple creators, setting up editing permissions for individual blocks can be useful. If the user experience for this system works well, it will be a huge selling point for some site owners.

Block permissions settings for Genesis Pro. Genesis X

Vogelpohl teased another project the team has been working on titled “Genesis X,” which is separate from the Genesis Pro project. It is an experimental plugin version of Genesis that will be available to StudioPress customers at no additional charge. The work thus far has centered on what Genesis will look like in a world where full-site editing is available through WordPress itself.

“The current version of Genesis X focuses on helping site creators easily manage global styles across their site, customize and manage blocks, as well as other capabilities to help users win with full-site editing in WordPress core,” said Vogelpohl. “Genesis X is being built core-adjacent and is not a replacement for the block editor. It is designed to work with the block editor.”

Vogelpohl said the first objective of the project is to provide analogs for features in Genesis that would not work in a parent theme structure within the full-site editing context. “After achieving that parity in ways that make sense, we will be focused on the advanced block capabilities as well as other features currently on our roadmap,” he said.

The company is putting a lot of weight and resources behind the transition from pre-block WordPress and the upcoming features that WordPress will offer via the block system. Right now, they have a team of 15 employees working on solutions with Genesis.

“The overarching theme is that Genesis X is being architected not to just help the Genesis community adapt to full-site editing in core, but for any user of WordPress to adopt full-site editing in a way that sets them up for the best chance of success,” said Vogelpohl.

WPTavern: WP Engine Launches Genesis Pro Add-On for Customers, More Features in the Works

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 20:52

Managed web hosting company WP Engine launched the new Genesis Pro add-on for customers of its hosting service today. The add-on brings additional block editor features for users who are using a Genesis-based WordPress theme.

Genesis is a parent theme developed by StudioPress. WP Engine acquired the theme development company in 2018. Later that year, the company took the first steps toward adding compatibility with the block editor for Genesis customers, becoming an early adopter of the new editing experience.

“Beyond just being ‘compatible,’ Genesis will play a big role in being Gutenberg-First,” Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine, said of future plans nearly two years ago. “That means not only supporting the software and ideals of Gutenberg but using them for new features. In doing so, it’s our intention to light the way for the countless agencies and developers who use WordPress to fuel incredible digital experiences that are made even easier with Gutenberg.”

Today’s Genesis Pro launch is another step on that journey. WP Engine is currently rolling out the add-on as part of its managed hosting service. The cost is $30/month ($360/year) for an unlimited number of sites.

The current plan is to also make the Genesis Pro plugin available via the StudioPress website in the early summer. The company is not formally committing to that timeframe yet, but users not on WP Engine’s hosting service should expect it this year. The price for Genesis Pro will be available for $360/year, which is at the same rate as the hosting add-on.

The reason behind the early launch for web hosting clients seems to be twofold based on the announcement post. David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy for WP Engine, said the company could launch the product faster and increment with the launch for its hosting customers. They are also able to make sure the payment system scales, which StudioPress now uses.

“Genesis Pro’s capabilities are expressed in a single plugin today, but may be provided in multiple plugins, WP adjacent services, or other means in the future based on architectural decisions of any particular feature,” said Vogelpohl.

Watch a quick video on Genesis Pro:

Genesis Pro Features Example layout from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on includes a robust set of options that are primarily aimed at helping users build their webpages with custom blocks and designs. The following features are the foundation of the add-on:

  • Block Library: Includes 17 custom blocks, such as a testimonial and pricing block.
  • Page Layouts: Offers 22 full layouts for product, portfolio, team, and other pages.
  • Content Sections: Adds 38 customizable content sections.
  • Permissions System: Allows admins to set editing permissions on a per-block basis.
  • Customization: Users can create and share custom sections and layouts with content creators.

Most of the options seem to be under a pop-up modal on the post-editing screen that should allow users to insert blocks directly into their post or page content. More blocks, sections, layouts, and other content-creation tools are currently in the works.

Layout selector from the Genesis Pro add-on.

The add-on features are mostly standard fare in comparison to many of the block libraries and suites available throughout the WordPress ecosystem. Of course, these will have the StudioPress spin on them and likely be of high quality based if past work is any indication. With the launch out of the way and the foundation in place, it should be much easier for the team to churn out more customization options for end-users.

The most unique feature is probably around the block permissions system, which few companies have truly tackled. For site administrators who work with multiple creators, setting up editing permissions for individual blocks can be useful. If the user experience for this system works well, it will be a huge selling point for some site owners.

Block permissions settings for Genesis Pro. Genesis X

Vogelpohl teased another project the team has been working on titled “Genesis X,” which is separate from the Genesis Pro project. It is an experimental plugin version of Genesis that will be available to StudioPress customers at no additional charge. The work thus far has centered on what Genesis will look like in a world where full-site editing is available through WordPress itself.

“The current version of Genesis X focuses on helping site creators easily manage global styles across their site, customize and manage blocks, as well as other capabilities to help users win with full-site editing in WordPress core,” said Vogelpohl. “Genesis X is being built core-adjacent and is not a replacement for the block editor. It is designed to work with the block editor.”

Vogelpohl said the first objective of the project is to provide analogs for features in Genesis that would not work in a parent theme structure within the full-site editing context. “After achieving that parity in ways that make sense, we will be focused on the advanced block capabilities as well as other features currently on our roadmap,” he said.

The company is putting a lot of weight and resources behind the transition from pre-block WordPress and the upcoming features that WordPress will offer via the block system. Right now, they have a team of 15 employees working on solutions with Genesis.

“The overarching theme is that Genesis X is being architected not to just help the Genesis community adapt to full-site editing in core, but for any user of WordPress to adopt full-site editing in a way that sets them up for the best chance of success,” said Vogelpohl.

WPTavern: GitHub Introduces Codespaces IDE, Discussions, and Code Scanning

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:42

GitHub Satellite, the company’s annual product and community event, went virtual this year for the first time but marched forward with the usual major product announcements. GitHub is ramping up its offerings with four new products: an IDE, a discussion platform, code scanning, and private instances.

Codespaces is the platform’s new built-in IDE that lets users code in the browser with minimal setup. The product is based on the VS Code editor and includes terminal access, support for code completion, and extensions:

Codespaces can be configured to load your code and dependencies, developer tools, extensions, and dotfiles. Switching between environments is simple—you can navigate away at any time, and when you switch back, your codespace is automatically reopened.

The IDE was created to facilitate contribution but it also enables better development on mobile devices. GitHub design lead Joel Califa shared a demo of how he uses Codespaces on his iPad:

People have been asking about using Codespaces on the iPad. Here's what it looks like: pic.twitter.com/5UQHtzMwZh

— Joel Califa (@notdetails) May 6, 2020

GitHub plans to implement a pay-as-you-go pricing model for Codespaces, but it will be free during the limited beta. This product should compliment the recent launch of GitHub’s mobile apps for iOS and Android in March, which allows users to manage projects, tasks, feedback, and pull requests.

Discussions is a new feature that stands to have a more meaningful impact on open source communities. GitHub issues and pull requests have long been the home of most conversations, but oftentimes this type of collaboration would be better served with features more tailored to a knowledge base. Discussions offer a threaded format where questions can be marked as answered. Participation in discussions counts towards users’ contribution graphs. GitHub plans to put the feature into beta for public repositories soon.

GitHub also announced code scanning, powered by CodeQL, a semantic analysis engine trained to find vulnerabilities. When code scanning is enabled, every `git push` is inspected by CodeQL for potential vulnerabilities and the results are displayed in the pull request. Code scanning is free for open source software.

Secret scanning, which has been enabled on public repositories since 2018, is now available for private repositories. It scans code for known secret formats and notifies developers upon finding something. At the beginning. of 2019, GitHub announced that it was giving free users access to unlimited private repositories. Adding secret scanning to private repositories is the next natural step, as these have likely grown in number after being added to the free tier.

While many of GitHub’s new features are aimed at free users and open source communities, this week’s announcements also include a new enterprise product called Private Instances:

Today we introduced our plans for GitHub Private Instances, a new, fully-managed option for our enterprise customers. Private Instances provides enhanced security, compliance, and policy features including bring-your-own-key encryption, backup archiving, and compliance with regional data sovereignty requirements. 

After Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018, the company has aggressively worked to make its product more compelling in the highly competitive space of code sharing platforms, starting with the free tier. Pricing has not yet been finalized for any of the revenue-generating products announced this week, as GitHub may be testing the waters to gauge the community’s reaction before launch.

WPTavern: GitHub Introduces Codespaces IDE, Discussions, and Code Scanning

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:42

GitHub Satellite, the company’s annual product and community event, went virtual this year for the first time but marched forward with the usual major product announcements. GitHub is ramping up its offerings with four new products: an IDE, a discussion platform, code scanning, and private instances.

Codespaces is the platform’s new built-in IDE that lets users code in the browser with minimal setup. The product is based on the VS Code editor and includes terminal access, support for code completion, and extensions:

Codespaces can be configured to load your code and dependencies, developer tools, extensions, and dotfiles. Switching between environments is simple—you can navigate away at any time, and when you switch back, your codespace is automatically reopened.

The IDE was created to facilitate contribution but it also enables better development on mobile devices. GitHub design lead Joel Califa shared a demo of how he uses Codespaces on his iPad:

People have been asking about using Codespaces on the iPad. Here's what it looks like: pic.twitter.com/5UQHtzMwZh

— Joel Califa (@notdetails) May 6, 2020

GitHub plans to implement a pay-as-you-go pricing model for Codespaces, but it will be free during the limited beta. This product should compliment the recent launch of GitHub’s mobile apps for iOS and Android in March, which allows users to manage projects, tasks, feedback, and pull requests.

Discussions is a new feature that stands to have a more meaningful impact on open source communities. GitHub issues and pull requests have long been the home of most conversations, but oftentimes this type of collaboration would be better served with features more tailored to a knowledge base. Discussions offer a threaded format where questions can be marked as answered. Participation in discussions counts towards users’ contribution graphs. GitHub plans to put the feature into beta for public repositories soon.

GitHub also announced code scanning, powered by CodeQL, a semantic analysis engine trained to find vulnerabilities. When code scanning is enabled, every `git push` is inspected by CodeQL for potential vulnerabilities and the results are displayed in the pull request. Code scanning is free for open source software.

Secret scanning, which has been enabled on public repositories since 2018, is now available for private repositories. It scans code for known secret formats and notifies developers upon finding something. At the beginning. of 2019, GitHub announced that it was giving free users access to unlimited private repositories. Adding secret scanning to private repositories is the next natural step, as these have likely grown in number after being added to the free tier.

While many of GitHub’s new features are aimed at free users and open source communities, this week’s announcements also include a new enterprise product called Private Instances:

Today we introduced our plans for GitHub Private Instances, a new, fully-managed option for our enterprise customers. Private Instances provides enhanced security, compliance, and policy features including bring-your-own-key encryption, backup archiving, and compliance with regional data sovereignty requirements. 

After Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018, the company has aggressively worked to make its product more compelling in the highly competitive space of code sharing platforms, starting with the free tier. Pricing has not yet been finalized for any of the revenue-generating products announced this week, as GitHub may be testing the waters to gauge the community’s reaction before launch.

WPTavern: GitHub Introduces Codespaces IDE, Discussions, and Code Scanning

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:42

GitHub Satellite, the company’s annual product and community event, went virtual this year for the first time but marched forward with the usual major product announcements. GitHub is ramping up its offerings with four new products: an IDE, a discussion platform, code scanning, and private instances.

Codespaces is the platform’s new built-in IDE that lets users code in the browser with minimal setup. The product is based on the VS Code editor and includes terminal access, support for code completion, and extensions:

Codespaces can be configured to load your code and dependencies, developer tools, extensions, and dotfiles. Switching between environments is simple—you can navigate away at any time, and when you switch back, your codespace is automatically reopened.

The IDE was created to facilitate contribution but it also enables better development on mobile devices. GitHub design lead Joel Califa shared a demo of how he uses Codespaces on his iPad:

People have been asking about using Codespaces on the iPad. Here's what it looks like: pic.twitter.com/5UQHtzMwZh

— Joel Califa (@notdetails) May 6, 2020

GitHub plans to implement a pay-as-you-go pricing model for Codespaces, but it will be free during the limited beta. This product should compliment the recent launch of GitHub’s mobile apps for iOS and Android in March, which allows users to manage projects, tasks, feedback, and pull requests.

Discussions is a new feature that stands to have a more meaningful impact on open source communities. GitHub issues and pull requests have long been the home of most conversations, but oftentimes this type of collaboration would be better served with features more tailored to a knowledge base. Discussions offer a threaded format where questions can be marked as answered. Participation in discussions counts towards users’ contribution graphs. GitHub plans to put the feature into beta for public repositories soon.

GitHub also announced code scanning, powered by CodeQL, a semantic analysis engine trained to find vulnerabilities. When code scanning is enabled, every `git push` is inspected by CodeQL for potential vulnerabilities and the results are displayed in the pull request. Code scanning is free for open source software.

Secret scanning, which has been enabled on public repositories since 2018, is now available for private repositories. It scans code for known secret formats and notifies developers upon finding something. At the beginning. of 2019, GitHub announced that it was giving free users access to unlimited private repositories. Adding secret scanning to private repositories is the next natural step, as these have likely grown in number after being added to the free tier.

While many of GitHub’s new features are aimed at free users and open source communities, this week’s announcements also include a new enterprise product called Private Instances:

Today we introduced our plans for GitHub Private Instances, a new, fully-managed option for our enterprise customers. Private Instances provides enhanced security, compliance, and policy features including bring-your-own-key encryption, backup archiving, and compliance with regional data sovereignty requirements. 

After Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018, the company has aggressively worked to make its product more compelling in the highly competitive space of code sharing platforms, starting with the free tier. Pricing has not yet been finalized for any of the revenue-generating products announced this week, as GitHub may be testing the waters to gauge the community’s reaction before launch.

WPTavern: Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 21:43

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WPTavern: Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 21:43

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WPTavern: Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 21:43

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WPTavern: Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 21:43

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WPTavern: Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 21:43

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WPTavern: ACF Blocks Provides Assortment of Blocks Built from Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 20:36

Over the weekend, Munir Kamal released version 2.0 of his ACF Blocks plugin, a project that creates a suite of blocks for the editor. The plugin offers 18 custom blocks in its free version and 15 more in the pro upgrade. It is built on top of Advanced Custom Fields Pro (ACF Pro).

The latest update of the plugin added support for typography, including options for using various Google Fonts for in-block text. Kamal also included base styling options for design features like margin and padding for every block in the plugin.

With ACF Pro as a hard dependency, it limits the audience of ACF Blocks. In large part, this plugin will be useful for agencies and freelancers who need to quickly build features for clients within their budget. For that purpose, the plugin does a solid job.

The tight coupling with ACF Pro hurts the user experience for the plugin. However, the ideas behind ACF Blocks and its custom options make up for the shortcomings of relying on its dependent parent plugin. Decoupling the two is unlikely, but it would make for a smoother experience and open the plugin to a wider audience.

Kamal took inspiration for the plugin from ACF and its pro version. He described the process of building blocks with the framework “super easy,” even for an intermediate-level developer. “It has been such an amazing WordPress framework for years to create custom fields,” he said. “And when [Elliot Condon] announced the block creation feature in ACF, that quickly triggered me to build this collection of ready-to-use ACF Blocks.”

The biggest technical limitation is that Kamal cannot build nested blocks, which is a current limitation of ACF. “I have already discussed it with [Condon], and he is already working on bringing that functionality hopefully soon,” he said. “Once that comes to ACF, we may create more amazing and powerful Gutenberg Blocks.”

Watch a short walkthrough of how the plugin works:

Useful Assortment of Blocks

While primarily testing the free version of ACF Blocks, I found that it has several useful blocks that could immediately address common needs for end-users. With 18 free blocks available, users have plenty to work with before deciding whether they want to move along the upgrade path to the pro version.

One of the best blocks in the collection is the Photo Collage block. It is ACF Blocks’ answer to the core Gallery block. The grid options for this block alone make this plugin worth checking out. The block offers between 2 and 15 grid layouts, depending on the grid option the user selects.

Setting the grid for the Photo Collage block.

My second favorite of the assortment is the Testimonial block. Coupled with the typography options, which are available for all blocks, you can have a lot of fun designing a testimonial section.

Tinkering with Google Fonts in the Testimonial block.

This is a small sampling of what the plugin can do. The Price List block can help restaurant sites set up their menu. The Pricing Box block, particularly when nested into the core Columns block, makes it easy to set up a pricing section with multiple product options. And, the Team block makes it simple to create profile sections on a company’s team/about page.

The following blocks are available in the free version (with several more in the pro version):

  1. Scrollable Image Block
  2. Tab Block
  3. Toggle Block
  4. Accordion Block
  5. Image Slider Block
  6. Social Sharing Block
  7. Photo Collage Block
  8. Posts Block
  9. Testimonial Block
  10. Team Block
  11. Multi Buttons Block
  12. Pricing Box Block
  13. Price List Block
  14. Start Rating Block
  15. Progress Bar Block
  16. Counter Number Block
  17. Click to tweet Block
  18. Business Hours Block

Kamal’s favorite blocks from the overall suite are Image Hotspot, which allows users to set an image background with “pointers” to pop up content; Before After Image, which lets users compare two images using a sliding bar; and Photo Collage, the plugin’s grid-based gallery block. The first two are available only in the pro version of the plugin. The plugin creator said he thinks all the blocks are useful but these were the most fun to build.

Room for Improvement

ACF Blocks is a nice concept. It gets a lot of things right. However, there are minor issues that dampen the experience of working with its blocks. These issues are not insurmountable, and I expect Kamal will address them in upcoming versions based on familiarity with his past work and drive toward building great products for users.

The most immediate issue and likely the simplest to fix is the plugin’s styles for left and right margins on every block. The plugin resets these margins to 0 by default. Depending on the active theme on a site, this could shift the blocks to the edge of the screen instead of the content area on the front end. Some themes use left/right margins to align content. This is not an issue with only ACF Blocks. It is prevalent among plugins with front-end output.

One quick solution for the margin issue is to wrap any of the plugin’s blocks within the core Group block. This will put margins back under the theme’s control.

Editing block content happens in the block options panel instead of directly in the block. I am unsure if this is a limitation of using the ACF Pro framework or a design decision on Kamal’s part. It feels odd to jump between editing content in the content area to editing content in the sidebar.

One example of my confusion with block content was with the Photo Collage block. I clicked on the block, hoping to have the media library appear for uploading. Nothing happened. I clicked again because, well, maybe I did not get a good click in that first time. Nothing happened. I eventually found the image upload button under the block’s option panel on the right.

Setting block options can feel a little sluggish at times with the block output in the editor not reflecting changes immediately. This is primarily because ACF Blocks relies on the server-side rendering capabilities of ACF Pro. It is unlikely this can be addressed in the blocks plugin. Some users may find the delayed rendering to be tedious when editing multiple options.

Final Thoughts

Kamal has put together a useful set of blocks that will help many end-users build sections of content they cannot create out of the box. Between the free and pro versions, there is a total of 33 blocks. The creator is committed to adding more blocks over time based on user feedback. In the immediate future, he plans to keep hacking away at bug fixes and improving the code.

I still feel like how ACF Pro works is a hindrance to how good this plugin could be if built from scratch. With that said, the framework helped make Kamal’s plugin a reality. ACF Blocks is a showcase in what is possible via ACF Pro, which should inspire other developers who are looking for solutions built on top of one of the most widely-used frameworks in the WordPress ecosystem.

Kamal understands that some ACF Pro users may try their hands at creating similar blocks but feels like his team’s knowledge and dedication to offering support are the most important parts of the equation. “ACF Blocks saves time and effort for creating blocks yourself for the most common web design elements,” he said.

Note: this plugin review and feedback were requested by the plugin author. Read our post about honest feedback based on genuine experiences for more information on how reviews are handled.

WPTavern: ACF Blocks Provides Assortment of Blocks Built from Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 20:36

Over the weekend, Munir Kamal released version 2.0 of his ACF Blocks plugin, a project that creates a suite of blocks for the editor. The plugin offers 18 custom blocks in its free version and 15 more in the pro upgrade. It is built on top of Advanced Custom Fields Pro (ACF Pro).

The latest update of the plugin added support for typography, including options for using various Google Fonts for in-block text. Kamal also included base styling options for design features like margin and padding for every block in the plugin.

With ACF Pro as a hard dependency, it limits the audience of ACF Blocks. In large part, this plugin will be useful for agencies and freelancers who need to quickly build features for clients within their budget. For that purpose, the plugin does a solid job.

The tight coupling with ACF Pro hurts the user experience for the plugin. However, the ideas behind ACF Blocks and its custom options make up for the shortcomings of relying on its dependent parent plugin. Decoupling the two is unlikely, but it would make for a smoother experience and open the plugin to a wider audience.

Kamal took inspiration for the plugin from ACF and its pro version. He described the process of building blocks with the framework “super easy,” even for an intermediate-level developer. “It has been such an amazing WordPress framework for years to create custom fields,” he said. “And when [Elliot Condon] announced the block creation feature in ACF, that quickly triggered me to build this collection of ready-to-use ACF Blocks.”

The biggest technical limitation is that Kamal cannot build nested blocks, which is a current limitation of ACF. “I have already discussed it with [Condon], and he is already working on bringing that functionality hopefully soon,” he said. “Once that comes to ACF, we may create more amazing and powerful Gutenberg Blocks.”

Watch a short walkthrough of how the plugin works:

Useful Assortment of Blocks

While primarily testing the free version of ACF Blocks, I found that it has several useful blocks that could immediately address common needs for end-users. With 18 free blocks available, users have plenty to work with before deciding whether they want to move along the upgrade path to the pro version.

One of the best blocks in the collection is the Photo Collage block. It is ACF Blocks’ answer to the core Gallery block. The grid options for this block alone make this plugin worth checking out. The block offers between 2 and 15 grid layouts, depending on the grid option the user selects.

Setting the grid for the Photo Collage block.

My second favorite of the assortment is the Testimonial block. Coupled with the typography options, which are available for all blocks, you can have a lot of fun designing a testimonial section.

Tinkering with Google Fonts in the Testimonial block.

This is a small sampling of what the plugin can do. The Price List block can help restaurant sites set up their menu. The Pricing Box block, particularly when nested into the core Columns block, makes it easy to set up a pricing section with multiple product options. And, the Team block makes it simple to create profile sections on a company’s team/about page.

The following blocks are available in the free version (with several more in the pro version):

  1. Scrollable Image Block
  2. Tab Block
  3. Toggle Block
  4. Accordion Block
  5. Image Slider Block
  6. Social Sharing Block
  7. Photo Collage Block
  8. Posts Block
  9. Testimonial Block
  10. Team Block
  11. Multi Buttons Block
  12. Pricing Box Block
  13. Price List Block
  14. Start Rating Block
  15. Progress Bar Block
  16. Counter Number Block
  17. Click to tweet Block
  18. Business Hours Block

Kamal’s favorite blocks from the overall suite are Image Hotspot, which allows users to set an image background with “pointers” to pop up content; Before After Image, which lets users compare two images using a sliding bar; and Photo Collage, the plugin’s grid-based gallery block. The first two are available only in the pro version of the plugin. The plugin creator said he thinks all the blocks are useful but these were the most fun to build.

Room for Improvement

ACF Blocks is a nice concept. It gets a lot of things right. However, there are minor issues that dampen the experience of working with its blocks. These issues are not insurmountable, and I expect Kamal will address them in upcoming versions based on familiarity with his past work and drive toward building great products for users.

The most immediate issue and likely the simplest to fix is the plugin’s styles for left and right margins on every block. The plugin resets these margins to 0 by default. Depending on the active theme on a site, this could shift the blocks to the edge of the screen instead of the content area on the front end. Some themes use left/right margins to align content. This is not an issue with only ACF Blocks. It is prevalent among plugins with front-end output.

One quick solution for the margin issue is to wrap any of the plugin’s blocks within the core Group block. This will put margins back under the theme’s control.

Editing block content happens in the block options panel instead of directly in the block. I am unsure if this is a limitation of using the ACF Pro framework or a design decision on Kamal’s part. It feels odd to jump between editing content in the content area to editing content in the sidebar.

One example of my confusion with block content was with the Photo Collage block. I clicked on the block, hoping to have the media library appear for uploading. Nothing happened. I clicked again because, well, maybe I did not get a good click in that first time. Nothing happened. I eventually found the image upload button under the block’s option panel on the right.

Setting block options can feel a little sluggish at times with the block output in the editor not reflecting changes immediately. This is primarily because ACF Blocks relies on the server-side rendering capabilities of ACF Pro. It is unlikely this can be addressed in the blocks plugin. Some users may find the delayed rendering to be tedious when editing multiple options.

Final Thoughts

Kamal has put together a useful set of blocks that will help many end-users build sections of content they cannot create out of the box. Between the free and pro versions, there is a total of 33 blocks. The creator is committed to adding more blocks over time based on user feedback. In the immediate future, he plans to keep hacking away at bug fixes and improving the code.

I still feel like how ACF Pro works is a hindrance to how good this plugin could be if built from scratch. With that said, the framework helped make Kamal’s plugin a reality. ACF Blocks is a showcase in what is possible via ACF Pro, which should inspire other developers who are looking for solutions built on top of one of the most widely-used frameworks in the WordPress ecosystem.

Kamal understands that some ACF Pro users may try their hands at creating similar blocks but feels like his team’s knowledge and dedication to offering support are the most important parts of the equation. “ACF Blocks saves time and effort for creating blocks yourself for the most common web design elements,” he said.

Note: this plugin review and feedback were requested by the plugin author. Read our post about honest feedback based on genuine experiences for more information on how reviews are handled.

WPTavern: ACF Blocks Provides Assortment of Blocks Built from Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 20:36

Over the weekend, Munir Kamal released version 2.0 of his ACF Blocks plugin, a project that creates a suite of blocks for the editor. The plugin offers 18 custom blocks in its free version and 15 more in the pro upgrade. It is built on top of Advanced Custom Fields Pro (ACF Pro).

The latest update of the plugin added support for typography, including options for using various Google Fonts for in-block text. Kamal also included base styling options for design features like margin and padding for every block in the plugin.

With ACF Pro as a hard dependency, it limits the audience of ACF Blocks. In large part, this plugin will be useful for agencies and freelancers who need to quickly build features for clients within their budget. For that purpose, the plugin does a solid job.

The tight coupling with ACF Pro hurts the user experience for the plugin. However, the ideas behind ACF Blocks and its custom options make up for the shortcomings of relying on its dependent parent plugin. Decoupling the two is unlikely, but it would make for a smoother experience and open the plugin to a wider audience.

Kamal took inspiration for the plugin from ACF and its pro version. He described the process of building blocks with the framework “super easy,” even for an intermediate-level developer. “It has been such an amazing WordPress framework for years to create custom fields,” he said. “And when [Elliot Condon] announced the block creation feature in ACF, that quickly triggered me to build this collection of ready-to-use ACF Blocks.”

The biggest technical limitation is that Kamal cannot build nested blocks, which is a current limitation of ACF. “I have already discussed it with [Condon], and he is already working on bringing that functionality hopefully soon,” he said. “Once that comes to ACF, we may create more amazing and powerful Gutenberg Blocks.”

Watch a short walkthrough of how the plugin works:

Useful Assortment of Blocks

While primarily testing the free version of ACF Blocks, I found that it has several useful blocks that could immediately address common needs for end-users. With 18 free blocks available, users have plenty to work with before deciding whether they want to move along the upgrade path to the pro version.

One of the best blocks in the collection is the Photo Collage block. It is ACF Blocks’ answer to the core Gallery block. The grid options for this block alone make this plugin worth checking out. The block offers between 2 and 15 grid layouts, depending on the grid option the user selects.

Setting the grid for the Photo Collage block.

My second favorite of the assortment is the Testimonial block. Coupled with the typography options, which are available for all blocks, you can have a lot of fun designing a testimonial section.

Tinkering with Google Fonts in the Testimonial block.

This is a small sampling of what the plugin can do. The Price List block can help restaurant sites set up their menu. The Pricing Box block, particularly when nested into the core Columns block, makes it easy to set up a pricing section with multiple product options. And, the Team block makes it simple to create profile sections on a company’s team/about page.

The following blocks are available in the free version (with several more in the pro version):

  1. Scrollable Image Block
  2. Tab Block
  3. Toggle Block
  4. Accordion Block
  5. Image Slider Block
  6. Social Sharing Block
  7. Photo Collage Block
  8. Posts Block
  9. Testimonial Block
  10. Team Block
  11. Multi Buttons Block
  12. Pricing Box Block
  13. Price List Block
  14. Start Rating Block
  15. Progress Bar Block
  16. Counter Number Block
  17. Click to tweet Block
  18. Business Hours Block

Kamal’s favorite blocks from the overall suite are Image Hotspot, which allows users to set an image background with “pointers” to pop up content; Before After Image, which lets users compare two images using a sliding bar; and Photo Collage, the plugin’s grid-based gallery block. The first two are available only in the pro version of the plugin. The plugin creator said he thinks all the blocks are useful but these were the most fun to build.

Room for Improvement

ACF Blocks is a nice concept. It gets a lot of things right. However, there are minor issues that dampen the experience of working with its blocks. These issues are not insurmountable, and I expect Kamal will address them in upcoming versions based on familiarity with his past work and drive toward building great products for users.

The most immediate issue and likely the simplest to fix is the plugin’s styles for left and right margins on every block. The plugin resets these margins to 0 by default. Depending on the active theme on a site, this could shift the blocks to the edge of the screen instead of the content area on the front end. Some themes use left/right margins to align content. This is not an issue with only ACF Blocks. It is prevalent among plugins with front-end output.

One quick solution for the margin issue is to wrap any of the plugin’s blocks within the core Group block. This will put margins back under the theme’s control.

Editing block content happens in the block options panel instead of directly in the block. I am unsure if this is a limitation of using the ACF Pro framework or a design decision on Kamal’s part. It feels odd to jump between editing content in the content area to editing content in the sidebar.

One example of my confusion with block content was with the Photo Collage block. I clicked on the block, hoping to have the media library appear for uploading. Nothing happened. I clicked again because, well, maybe I did not get a good click in that first time. Nothing happened. I eventually found the image upload button under the block’s option panel on the right.

Setting block options can feel a little sluggish at times with the block output in the editor not reflecting changes immediately. This is primarily because ACF Blocks relies on the server-side rendering capabilities of ACF Pro. It is unlikely this can be addressed in the blocks plugin. Some users may find the delayed rendering to be tedious when editing multiple options.

Final Thoughts

Kamal has put together a useful set of blocks that will help many end-users build sections of content they cannot create out of the box. Between the free and pro versions, there is a total of 33 blocks. The creator is committed to adding more blocks over time based on user feedback. In the immediate future, he plans to keep hacking away at bug fixes and improving the code.

I still feel like how ACF Pro works is a hindrance to how good this plugin could be if built from scratch. With that said, the framework helped make Kamal’s plugin a reality. ACF Blocks is a showcase in what is possible via ACF Pro, which should inspire other developers who are looking for solutions built on top of one of the most widely-used frameworks in the WordPress ecosystem.

Kamal understands that some ACF Pro users may try their hands at creating similar blocks but feels like his team’s knowledge and dedication to offering support are the most important parts of the equation. “ACF Blocks saves time and effort for creating blocks yourself for the most common web design elements,” he said.

Note: this plugin review and feedback were requested by the plugin author. Read our post about honest feedback based on genuine experiences for more information on how reviews are handled.

WPTavern: Jetpack 8.5 Adds New Podcast Player Block

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 23:09

Jetpack 8.5 was released today with a new podcast player block for sharing audio content. Configuring the block is as simple as entering the podcast RSS feed URL. This will automatically bring in the cover art and recent episodes. Block options allow for further customization of the display, including the number of episodes, colors, and the ability to show/hide cover art and episode descriptions.

Jetpack’s new podcast player has arrived just in time, as podcasting has gotten a little boost in recent months due to the large numbers of people under stay-at-home orders. iHeartRadio, an American audio company with more than 350 podcasts, reports that listenership for its podcasting network is up 6% month-over-month, with California and New York jumping 13% and 8% respectively. iHeartRadio’s insights also showed that certain genres are more popular than others:

During a time of economic uncertainty, Americans are listening to more business and finance podcasts – for which downloads and streams are up 78 percent week-over-week among the iHeartRadio Original podcasts. Listeners are also turning to music, entertainment and comedy during this time, where iHeartPodcasts have shown an increase in listening as well.

Selling ads and marketing a new podcast may be more of a struggle during this economic downturn, but those with extra time on their hands may have an easier time producing and publishing episodes. Jetpack’s new block makes it easy to share your own episodes or podcasts you enjoy from other websites.

The 8.5 release also includes significant improvements to the new Search feature, which is powered by Elasticsearch, to provide better indexing and a simpler onboarding experience.

Automattic developer Brandon Kraft published a post today that details recent changes to the Publicize feature. In the past, Publicize would attach an image from the post when sending out its automatic tweet to Twitter. This has now been changed for Jetpack and WordPress.com sites so that Publicize no longer attaches a picture but defaults to allowing Twitter to display its Twitter card instead. Developers can use a filter to return the plugin to its previous behavior, if necessary.

Jetpack 8.5 also makes more widgets and embed tools AMP-compatible, expands options for the Revue block, and fixes layout issues with several other blocks. Check out the changelog on WordPress.org for a full list of the enhancements and bug fixes.

WPTavern: Jetpack 8.5 Adds New Podcast Player Block

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 23:09

Jetpack 8.5 was released today with a new podcast player block for sharing audio content. Configuring the block is as simple as entering the podcast RSS feed URL. This will automatically bring in the cover art and recent episodes. Block options allow for further customization of the display, including the number of episodes, colors, and the ability to show/hide cover art and episode descriptions.

Jetpack’s new podcast player has arrived just in time, as podcasting has gotten a little boost in recent months due to the large numbers of people under stay-at-home orders. iHeartRadio, an American audio company with more than 350 podcasts, reports that listenership for its podcasting network is up 6% month-over-month, with California and New York jumping 13% and 8% respectively. iHeartRadio’s insights also showed that certain genres are more popular than others:

During a time of economic uncertainty, Americans are listening to more business and finance podcasts – for which downloads and streams are up 78 percent week-over-week among the iHeartRadio Original podcasts. Listeners are also turning to music, entertainment and comedy during this time, where iHeartPodcasts have shown an increase in listening as well.

Selling ads and marketing a new podcast may be more of a struggle during this economic downturn, but those with extra time on their hands may have an easier time producing and publishing episodes. Jetpack’s new block makes it easy to share your own episodes or podcasts you enjoy from other websites.

The 8.5 release also includes significant improvements to the new Search feature, which is powered by Elasticsearch, to provide better indexing and a simpler onboarding experience.

Automattic developer Brandon Kraft published a post today that details recent changes to the Publicize feature. In the past, Publicize would attach an image from the post when sending out its automatic tweet to Twitter. This has now been changed for Jetpack and WordPress.com sites so that Publicize no longer attaches a picture but defaults to allowing Twitter to display its Twitter card instead. Developers can use a filter to return the plugin to its previous behavior, if necessary.

Jetpack 8.5 also makes more widgets and embed tools AMP-compatible, expands options for the Revue block, and fixes layout issues with several other blocks. Check out the changelog on WordPress.org for a full list of the enhancements and bug fixes.

WPTavern: Jetpack 8.5 Adds New Podcast Player Block

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 23:09

Jetpack 8.5 was released today with a new podcast player block for sharing audio content. Configuring the block is as simple as entering the podcast RSS feed URL. This will automatically bring in the cover art and recent episodes. Block options allow for further customization of the display, including the number of episodes, colors, and the ability to show/hide cover art and episode descriptions.

Jetpack’s new podcast player has arrived just in time, as podcasting has gotten a little boost in recent months due to the large numbers of people under stay-at-home orders. iHeartRadio, an American audio company with more than 350 podcasts, reports that listenership for its podcasting network is up 6% month-over-month, with California and New York jumping 13% and 8% respectively. iHeartRadio’s insights also showed that certain genres are more popular than others:

During a time of economic uncertainty, Americans are listening to more business and finance podcasts – for which downloads and streams are up 78 percent week-over-week among the iHeartRadio Original podcasts. Listeners are also turning to music, entertainment and comedy during this time, where iHeartPodcasts have shown an increase in listening as well.

Selling ads and marketing a new podcast may be more of a struggle during this economic downturn, but those with extra time on their hands may have an easier time producing and publishing episodes. Jetpack’s new block makes it easy to share your own episodes or podcasts you enjoy from other websites.

The 8.5 release also includes significant improvements to the new Search feature, which is powered by Elasticsearch, to provide better indexing and a simpler onboarding experience.

Automattic developer Brandon Kraft published a post today that details recent changes to the Publicize feature. In the past, Publicize would attach an image from the post when sending out its automatic tweet to Twitter. This has now been changed for Jetpack and WordPress.com sites so that Publicize no longer attaches a picture but defaults to allowing Twitter to display its Twitter card instead. Developers can use a filter to return the plugin to its previous behavior, if necessary.

Jetpack 8.5 also makes more widgets and embed tools AMP-compatible, expands options for the Revue block, and fixes layout issues with several other blocks. Check out the changelog on WordPress.org for a full list of the enhancements and bug fixes.

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