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HeroPress: How Contributing To WordPress Empowers Me

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 06:00

One of my favorite WordPress memories is standing in line to register at WordCamp London 2018. Upon saying my first name, no one looked surprised or asked me to say that again, please? Where I live, in the Netherlands, Siobhan is definitely not a common name. Also, the pronunciation is quite different from the spelling. For most languages obviously, I’m guessing in Irish it makes sense! This really gave me a welcoming feeling. At this event, I wasn’t going to be spending time explaining my name. Although I love my name, explaining it does get a bit old sometimes.

To me, this feels like a metaphor for the WordPress community. I’ve always felt very welcome without having to explain myself, or pretend to be someone different. Disclaimer: I do realize not everyone does, but this is me sharing my personal experiences. I understand that I come from a place of privilege. Not in the least by being employed by Yoast, a company that takes contributing to WordPress very seriously. I get to allocate part of my hours to contributing, which is a luxury. I also literally have lunch with a lot of knowledgeable people that can provide context when I don’t understand something, or share their opinions when I ask.

On the other hand, working for a company well-known within WordPress, has also felt like a possible pitfall. For a long time, I have felt the need to prove myself. To show that I’m capable of getting somewhere on my own merits, not just because I have a magenta hoodie.

Reaching Out

So at my first contributor day, I purposely joined a team that none of my coworkers were in. The WordPress marketing team. This makes sense anyway, as my regular job is in social media marketing. I joined the marketing team on Slack, as they weren’t physically at this WordCamp. At the time, I didn’t have one of the super recognizable Yoast avatars. I just dove in, read up on the team and the work they did, and asked some questions. To be honest, I found it hard at first to actually get to work, as I was lacking context.

After attending a few Slack meetings, I felt bold enough to take on the meeting notes. It’s a relatively easy job that doesn’t feel meaningful (it is, though!), but I loved having made my first contribution. The team was so welcoming and took the time to acknowledge me and the work I’d done. That motivated me to ask if there was any project or task I could join. Things moved quickly from there. I wrote a piece of content and got some very useful feedback from a native English speaker. They didn’t just correct my text, they explained what they’d change and why. I try to do the same now, as it makes so much sense. I still learn a lot every time I get feedback from someone in the team. Over the next months, I kind of accidentally led a few marketing tables at contributor days. I remembered how I’d struggled myself, so I enjoyed on-boarding people and getting them excited about the team. After a while, the team reps asked me to join them. Such an honor!

Understanding What Worked

All it took for me to join the team was taking that first step. Speaking up and just saying ‘hey, I’m here, what can I do?’. The team didn’t ask for any references of my work, or need to know who I was. I felt trusted, and that made me want to deliver the best work I could. Of course, after a while, I actually got to meet the people in real life. And if you’ve ever been at a WordCamp that Yoast attended, you probably know we take branding seriously. You won’t see me there without my Yoast shirt or hoodie! I’m proud to work for such a company and I get to meet a lot of awesome people because of it. But that also meant, people now couldn’t not know that I am part of Team Yoast.

Being recognizable definitely made it easier for me to move within the community. We have a lovely community team at Yoast that took the effort of introducing me to a lot of people. That helped me meet people outside of the marketing team, which has proven to be pretty valuable for my work within the team as well. So, a lot of perks come from the company I work for. What I’m trying to get at though, is that I feel that other contributors appreciate me for who I am. For my work, my knowledge, my commitment, my personality. I’d like to believe that even though my day job has made it a lot easier for me to find my place within WordPress, a large part of it is down to my own strengths.

When our founder, Joost, became marketing lead at WordPress, we worked together regularly. As team rep for the marketing team, I had experience within the team and already knew the people. Some people out there were only noticing the marketing team for the first time then. Sometimes when I spoke to people, I realized they assumed I’d gotten my position as team rep through Joost. They didn’t know I’d already been a team rep for at least a year. This annoyed me, but it also motivated me to show them this wasn’t the case. I enjoyed working on this with Joost, but I also made sure to keep doing my own thing. I’m currently on maternity leave, but I’m looking forward to returning to the team in a few weeks!

The Value Of Being On A WordPress Team

The greatest learning experience I’m having within WordPress, lies within being a team rep. I learn so much from working closely with the other reps, who come from around the world and from all kinds of jobs and companies. I learn to see different points of view, and take things into account that I’d never have thought of myself. I learn to communicate with people from all types of jobs and cultures. I learn a lot about themes I didn’t know of before, like inclusiveness, and accessibility. All of this helps me grow as a person and as a professional. And the other way around: I get to use skills and knowledge I’ve learned at Yoast to help empower the team.

I love the combination of my regular job and the work I do in WordPress. Both teach me different things as the job, the people, the context, the means of communication, basically everything, is different. It’s definitely a win-win situation for me. I also take pride in what I’ve done for myself, by taking opportunities and making the most of them. I’ve been running international meetings, getting up on stage, spoken during an online event, leading discussions on- and offline, and so on. The people in WordPress have been so encouraging and are always there to cheer me on.

Lifelong Friendships

And another thing: valuable friendships have come from it. During WordCamps, I love to spend the evenings having a drink with other attendees. I’ve met such diverse people and have had the most interesting conversations, way outside of my own bubble at home. And more recently, Abha and Yvette (two of the other team reps) were even going to come visit me at home, to meet my newborn baby girl! Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a stop to that.

Finding my way within the WordPress community, being backed by Yoast, helps me develop myself in several ways. It’s making me take steps and do things I never thought I would. I hope to make my company proud, and I’m proving to myself that I have skills to bring to the table. I’m not just at the table because of where I work.

Of course, I still feel overwhelmed sometimes, or like I’m just not getting it. But I know we’re a team, and I can ask for help. I got to where I am today, by just diving in and making myself known. Taking that step back then has brought me a lot. I’d be happy if my story inspires someone to do the same. Anyone can contribute, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you work. At all times, a lot is happening and contributors are working hard. They might not notice you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Reach out, introduce yourself, you never know where it’ll take you!

The post How Contributing To WordPress Empowers Me appeared first on HeroPress.

WPTavern: PHP Marks 25 Years

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 00:16

This week the web is celebrating 25 years since Rasmus Lerdorf released version 1.0 of his “Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools).” PHP is now used by 78.9% of all the websites whose server-side programming language W3Techs can detect. (This includes sites in the Alexa top 10 million or in the Tranco top 1 million list.) WordPress makes up a large portion of these sites (37.3% of websites), but many popular sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Yahoo, still use PHP in some form.

Although PHP may not be the most fashionable programming language, it is still dominating the web, albeit on a slow decline. It may have already hit its peak usage at 80.6% in January 2015, but PHP keeps getting faster and better with each release.

In a 2017 interview on the Mapping the Journey podcast, Matt Mullenweg explained some of the reasons he was first attracted to PHP.

“PHP is amazing in its ubiquity,” he said. “Part of the reason I switched to it from Perl and Python and other things that I wrote early on, is…its integration with Apache web servers, which is so darn easy. You didn’t have to mess with file permissions and everything else in the same way, and then every web host supporting it also makes distribution easy.”

The ease of finding hosting for PHP-based sites is one of the contributing factors to its large marketshare among server-side languages. Mullenweg said he appreciated how PHP and MySQL provided a platform on which people could easily run WordPress from anywhere in the world.

“Even to this day, even though a lot of Automattic’s work is now in Go, Node, or JavaScript or different things, it’s still nothing beats PHP for its server-side scalability and distribution,” Mullenweg said. “So, we still plan for the server side of WordPress to be in PHP for the foreseeable future.”

Mullenweg reaffirmed his dedication to PHP during a Q&A session at WordCamp Europe in 2019. When he was asked how he plans to balance chasing the new and shiny with all of WordPress’ existing legacy APIs, he said, “PHP is going to be crucial to us for many years to come.”

Although WordPress site owners have historically been slow to adopt newer versions of PHP, the Site Health infrastructure that was put in place last year has brought greater awareness to users about the importance of upgrading. The PHP update instructions, along with better protection for fatal errors, makes it easier than ever for users to contact their hosts about getting on newer versions.

Juliette Reinders Folmer, a prolific contributor to a number of widely used, PHP-based open source projects, including WordPress, wrote a short tribute to the programming language on the make.wordpress.org/core blog on its 25th birthday.

“PHP has evolved hugely, with the Zend Engine seeing the light in PHP 4, much improved support for object-oriented programming being added in PHP 5, and huge performance improvements being gained with the rewritten engine in PHP 7,” Reinders Folmer said.

“By now, PHP is a fully featured programming language and developers are eagerly looking forward to the release of PHP 8, expected towards the end of this year.

“The WordPress community owes a massive debt of gratitude to PHP, so please join me in thanking all the developers behind PHP and in wishing PHP a happy birthday and many happy returns!”

WPTavern: Begin Prepping for Full-Site Editing With New Course on Block-Based Themes

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 19:16

Full-site editing is a mere half a year away from becoming a reality. The feature is expected to land in WordPress 5.6, scheduled for release in December. To prepare theme authors for this upcoming change, Carolina Nymark has created a new website and training course, aptly titled Full Site Editing.

Nymark has been a long-time theme author and contributor to the WordPress Themes Team. She has been a team lead or representative for several years and is one of the leaders behind the push for more accessibility-ready themes.

There are two major roadblocks that theme authors face right now. The first is that full-site editing is still in an experimental phase. The second is that there is not enough documentation, tutorials, and courses that do deep dives into this evolution of theming for WordPress. At least for the latter issue, Nymark has enough experience to do something about it, which is exactly what this new undertaking is all about.

After losing her job due to COVID-19, she wanted to use her free time to contribute back to the block editor. “At the same time, people around me started asking questions about full-site editing, and with the testing that I had done, I knew how to get started,” she said. “If I could share that, I could ease the process for others.”

Her representative role with the Themes Team also provided a unique insight into the uphill battle that theme authors would be facing. Nymark said she felt a sense of urgency with full-site editing looming ahead. “I only see a very small portion of the ecosystem — the WordPress themes that are submitted to be included in the WordPress theme directory; but most of the themes I see do not take advantage of blocks,” she said. “The themes do not style blocks, and the editor does not match the front. We as theme authors have not adapted fast enough to the block editor, and now there is another big change coming in six months.”

The course is available for free to everyone right now. However, that may not always be the case. Nymark is seeking sponsorship from people within the WordPress community. The idea is that they could fund the ongoing development of the course. If there is not enough sponsorship money available, she will need to turn it into a paid course. If that happens, she said the plan would be to go with a one-time fee model. Because of the frequent updates to full-site editing she wants customers to have access to the updated course material.

Developers who have a working knowledge of theme development are the primary audience for the course. Before anyone dives in, they should understand WordPress functions, PHP, HTML, and CSS.

What’s in the Course? Welcome lesson for the full-site editing course.

Currently, the course is unfinished. That is no surprise as the site editor is still half a year away from inclusion in WordPress. However, it does take theme authors through some of the basics they need to be familiar with before taking the next steps. The site also has an open forum that anyone can join and begin discussions on building themes from blocks.

The course is broken down into the following sections, each with its own lessons:

  • Introduction
  • All About Blocks
  • Block-Based Themes
  • Site Editor

Most lessons have a short video between two and five minutes. Nymark provides full transcripts of the videos for users who prefer to read. Along with the video and transcript, some lessons have downloadable material, such as code examples. At this time, there is only a single quiz for the “All About Blocks” part of the course.

Right now, the course covers only the basics. For theme authors who have already stepped into block-based themes, they might find some of the intro material to be a bit too low-level. However, they should expect more advanced topics going forward. For theme authors who have yet to dive into the block system, now would be a prime opportunity to catch up and begin prepping for the next phase of theme development.

Nymark is ready to add more content to the course soon, but it is an ongoing challenge staying on top of things at this point. “I have recorded content that I cannot use because of how fast the block editor changes, but that was expected,” she said. “My biggest concern is that I don’t want to spread misinformation, and that is difficult in this early stage.”

On the roadmap are example themes and slides that others can download and use for presentations during WordPress meetups. She is also building a parser that will create an improved block reference for theme authors to use in their templates.

The Road Traveled

There is a learning curve, even for someone as experienced as Nymark. She said it is still hard to picture how the template system will work when all is said and done. Because things are changing, it is an educational process as she builds out the course to teach others.

“The biggest confusion for me when I started was how the templates and template parts were saved,” she said. “When you edit and save a template in the site editor, it is saved as a custom post type, and that template will be used instead of the file that you have in the theme. Currently, if you change themes, the block structure that you have saved in the template is used, but it is styled by the new theme. This is why it is so important that theme authors style and test blocks.”

For theming, particularly one-page sites or blogs, the structure of the theme is likely to be much simpler than what we see today. Nymark said the new system, while under active development, still feels familiar enough to make the transition from traditional themes easy. The big difference is between making fewer decisions regarding custom JavaScript and PHP with more work toward design.

“The downside to this is that, in the beginning, I think we will see less variations in the themes,” she said. “Once the first excitement over playing with new toys passes, this might feel limiting. Block patterns will play a major role and I am looking forward to using them soon.”

For theme authors who are dipping their toes into the full-site-editing waters for the first time, she suggests starting by recreating headers, footers, and other small sections as block patterns. It is enough to get your feet wet without diving in headfirst.

Her second recommended step is to start thinking about how to convert customizer options to the block system. For example, when thinking about the various header options that many themes have, it may be worth creating block patterns to expose those user choices through the full-site editor.

The Road Ahead

Nymark identified several areas that need to be addressed going forward, namely documentation. “The general lack of documentation is a problem, not only for full-site editing but for the entire Gutenberg project,” she said. “It makes it difficult for people to learn and contribute.”

One key feature she would like to see is the ability for theme authors to lock templates to keep users from accidentally removing critical blocks that provide functionality to their websites.

She also listed several necessary components that are under development by the Gutenberg team but are not ready yet:

  • Selecting and creating template parts in the site editor.
  • Finalizing the global styles feature.
  • Updating existing full-site editing blocks with more controls.
  • Creating new blocks for remaining template tags.
  • Improving the Navigation block so that it is responsive.

There is still a lot of work to be done and many questions are still in the air. However, there is hope for a brighter future as WordPress moves toward a common design language through blocks.

“It will be easier for designers to create layouts without concern for the code,” said Nymark, “and once templates can be exported it will also be easier to share those layouts as themes. The barrier of entry will be moved; it will be easy to create a basic theme, but it may be more difficult to create complete solutions for users.”

WPTavern: Matt Mullenweg and Matías Ventura Demo New Image Editing Tools Coming to Gutenberg

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 21:13

One of the most exciting parts of Matt Mullenweg’s session at WordCamp Europe 2020 Online was the live demo of the new image editing tools that will land in the next release of the Gutenberg plugin. The video is already available on WordPress.tv (and embedded below). At the 8:30 mark, Mullenweg and Matías Ventura, lead architect of the Gutenberg project, unveil a collection of the latest block editor improvements.

The six-minute demo shows a handful of new features that are coming in WordPress 5.5, which is scheduled for release in August. These include more polished interactions, copying and pasting blocks, block patterns, and new design tools for the cover block.

Ventura also highlighted the team’s progress on adding rich image editing capabilities to Gutenberg.

These new tools allow users to easily rotate, flip, and crop the image inside the block. Cropping with zoom mode (shown in the image below), is particularly useful with the live preview showing the results in context of the rest of the content on the page.

The current iteration only allows for cropping with fixed aspect ratios but contributors are working on adding free-form crop to the lineup. They are also discussing refinements such as adding snackbar notices and queuing up image edits to only apply once all edits are complete.

In the past, WordPress users have frequently had to seek out alternative applications to perform quick image edits, taking them outside of the content editor and interrupting their workflow. With the new inline image editing tools in place, most simple edits can now be handled by the image block, making WordPress a more compelling place for writing content.

image credit: Gutenberg GitHub Repository

Ventura confirmed that these tools change the source image – they do not not just apply CSS changes. He also said the API for image editing will be available in other parts of the editor. The Gutenberg team is working on making the tools more extensible so developers can add things like image filters.

Contributors are hoping the new image editing tools will be ready for inclusion in WordPress 5.5. Users who want to test them ahead of the release can install the Gutenberg plugin and watch for the upcoming 8.3 update.

WPTavern: Build Versatile Layouts with the GenerateBlocks WordPress Plugin

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 20:40

Over the past few weeks, I have had the GenerateBlocks plugin sitting in my test environment. I have built a few layouts with it, tinkering with the plugin between other projects. The one thing I kept thinking was that it had huge potential. Aside from a couple of issues, I began enjoying the plugin more and more as I played around with its options.

GenerateBlocks was created by Tom Usborne. It was built specifically to work along with his popular GeneratePress theme. However, the plugin claims to work with any WordPress theme.

GenerateBlocks is meant to be the block answer to the page builder question. It is meant to take those elements that make page builders so popular and boil them down to a handful of blocks. It is meant to simplify the process of building complex layouts without the need for heavier solutions. The question is whether it holds up — does it do the job it set out to do?

Overall, it works well, particularly in terms of giving more freedom with layout building. It will not likely eat into the market share of page builders any time soon. However, it may make for a few more converts to the block editor, especially with those who are not tied into an existing solution and are looking for something lightweight.

Watch a quick video on how GenerateBlocks works:

The Plugin’s Blocks Using each of the GenerateBlocks plugin’s blocks in a section.

GenerateBlocks’ bread and butter is its Container block. It is the WordPress Cover and Group blocks rolled into one with a gluttonous amount of additional options that cover nearly every need.

The one major area that the Container block falls short is with handling full-width sections. Instead of taking advantage of the standard full-width block alignment option that all themes can opt into, it goes with a custom solution. That solution is to provide a notice that the user’s theme must have some sort of full-width content option (likely via a page template). By choosing this route it means the majority of themes, including those built to style blocks, will not support the GenerateBlocks Container block when set to full width.

For end-users who are using a theme that supports the standard full-width block alignment, there are two tricks to bypass this limitation. The first solution is to enter alignfull into the CSS Classes field under the Advanced block options tab. The second solution is to wrap the Container block with the WordPress Group block and set it to full width. How these solutions work out will largely depend on how the theme handles those elements.

With all the flexibility of GenerateBlocks, this would be the reason that I would not recommend the plugin to users who want full-width layouts. The two tricks are not an ideal user experience. In design, the most important thing is for the user to not have to think. The provided solution should simply work.

If we gave that single element of the plugin a one-star rating, everything else would be an easy five stars.

The plugin’s four blocks can easily replace several other blocks. Instead of creating a library of dozens of one-off blocks, GenerateBlocks adds versatility without going overboard. It is easy to see why users have given it a perfect five-star rating (out of its current 34 reviews).

In total, the plugin adds four blocks to the editor:

  • Container
  • Grid
  • Headline
  • Buttons

Admittedly, I am partial to Automattic’s Layout Grid plugin, primarily because I prefer the visualization of the grid in the background. It puts me at ease. However, the Grid block in GenerateBlocks runs a close second. In practice, it is more flexible, providing more layout options out of the box and fine-grained control. For those who need greater control over column widths and a host of color, typography, background, and spacing options, GenerateBlocks is a no-brainer.

Inserting a new Grid block in the editor.

The Headline and Buttons blocks are essentially recreations of the core Heading and Buttons blocks with all the options that make this plugin useful. Plus, the blocks have an extra icon option, which allows users to choose between entering custom SVG code or selecting from a predefined list of general and social icons. This is a nice touch that I would like to see in core WordPress.

The thing that makes the four plugin blocks so flexible is the bounty of block options. For every block, you will find most of the following options tabs with numerous fields under each:

  • Typography
  • Spacing
  • Colors
  • Background Image
  • Background Gradient
  • Advanced (extra options for the core tab)
  • Icon

The plugin also provides options based on desktop, tablet, and mobile modes. This allows end-users to make changes based on the screen size of the website visitor.

If I had one other nit-pick about the plugin it would be that its color options do not take advantage of the theme-defined color palette. For design consistency, it would be nice to be able to use those without using a color picker or entering the hex code.

Final Thoughts

Would I recommend the plugin? Absolutely.

I would make sure to note the full-width Container block issue with that recommendation. If you are using this with a theme other than GeneratePress, you will need to have a solution for handling full-width sections. For me, this is the most vital piece of what is essentially a layout builder, and it failed to live up to that expectation.

However, one issue does not discount the usefulness of what the developer has built. It is a solid plugin. Under the hood, it is a well-coded and documented piece of software. I have no doubt that it will be serving many more users in the years to come and will only continue to improve.

WordPress.org blog: Equity and the Power of Community

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 17:59

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have been thinking about white supremacy, the injustice that Black women and men are standing up against across the world, and all the injustices I can’t know, and don’t see. 

The WordPress mission is to democratize publishing, and to me, that has always meant more than the freedom to express yourself. Democratizing publishing means giving voices to the voiceless and amplifying those speaking out against injustice. It means learning things that we otherwise wouldn’t. To me, it means that every voice has the ability to be heard, regardless of race, wealth, power, and opportunity. WordPress is a portal to commerce; it is a canvas for identity, and a catalyst for change.

While WordPress as an open source project may not be capable of refactoring unjust judicial systems or overwriting structural inequality, this does not mean that we, the WordPress community, are powerless. WordPress can’t dismantle white supremacy, but the WordPress community can invest in underrepresented groups (whose experiences cannot be substituted for) and hire them equitably. WordPress can’t eradicate prejudice, but the WordPress community can hold space for marginalized voices in our community.

There is a lot of racial, societal, and systemic injustice to fight. At times, change may seem impossible, and certainly, it’s been too slow. But I know in my heart that the WordPress community is capable of changing the world. 

If you would like to learn more about how to make a difference in your own community, here are a few resources I’ve gathered from WordPressers just like you.

WPTavern: On Politics and WordPress

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 20:39

I wish we lived in a world in which we could discuss code each day, not allowing political opinions to seep into the discourse. We could talk about the next exciting project around the corner. We could chat about a small startup getting its first big break or new investments into WordPress companies.

However, I also wish we lived in a world where a developer did not have to create a plugin in support of black Americans who have lost their lives to those charged with protecting us.

I wish we lived in a world where we had no unsavory comments to delete on a post about an all-women WordPress release squad.

I wish we lived in a world where WordPress.com had no Sandy Hook conspiracy theory blogs to boot from its platform.

I wish we lived in a world where major restaurant chains complied with accessibility laws without being sued.

I wish we lived in a world where Newspack-run Chilean publication El Soberano had no need to defend citizens’ rights.

I wish we lived in a world where the Women in Tech Salary Transparency Project was unnecessary.

I wish we lived in a world where governments did not block its citizens from viewing websites that support freedom of speech.

Each of these stories may not be important to you as an individual reader. However, they are important to some of our readers. We are a community made up of vastly different opinions, and we must represent this wide array of views as they relate to WordPress.

Sometimes, we will publish stories that do not jive with your personal viewpoint. Sometimes, you will tell us to not post anything political. The answer to that is that we cannot simply separate the code from the politics. As much as many of us would like to, that is not the world we live in today.

WordPress itself is inherently political. From its license to its mission statement, WordPress takes some political stances.

The platform is founded on the bedrock of free software, an idea that is as much political as anything else. It is an idea that has shaped the foundation of the web. The concept that users have the freedom to run, copy, alter, improve, or even distribute software is a political statement. It is a political statement in direct defiance of major corporations and governments controlling software through proprietary licenses.

Politics play a part in how we shape our community. We do not have to agree on all things, and different things brought us together. However, there are some foundational elements that we all must agree on to some extent.

It is a generally accepted principle that all people are born with the inalienable right to free expression. I wager that the majority of our community would agree with this statement. Given that the software we all use is built upon that idea, I would hope so. The idea of democratizing publishing is not just about providing a tool to people who can already freely express themselves. It is also about reaching to the dark corners of the globe and being a beacon of light to those who do not share in our freedom. It is about exposing the horrors of dictators. About newsrooms publishing the wrongdoings of politicians. Citizen bloggers fighting for the oppressed.

No, do not tell me that WordPress is not political.

What you really want to say is to not post political views that you disagree with. You really want us to not share plugins or projects that make you uncomfortable.

While the code itself may not hold political views, the people who use the code do. Politics is woven into the fabric of our lives. It is woven into the licenses of the software we use, the communities we choose to join, and the web we dare to create.

When you tell us to stay away from politics here at the Tavern, the only reasonable answer to provide is that it would be impossible to do so.

We will continue writing about the next companies to receive VC funding, blocked-based WordPress themes, plugins that push the envelope, and every other project that makes WordPress fun. However, at times, we must open the floor to tough discussions. We must be a source for sharing projects in our community that have their own political slant, regardless of whether we agree.

When the day comes that The Show Must Be Paused plugin, the Women in Tech Salary Transparency Project, and a multitude of other important projects no longer need to exist — on that day — we can celebrate. We can discuss code, WordPress, and kittens without politics getting in the way.

Matt: Follow-up Questions from WCEU

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 18:39

Matias and I just finished up the discussion and Q&A for the online WordCamp Europe that is going on right now, which was originally happening in Porto.

As soon as the recording video is up I’ll put it right here.

There were more good questions than we had time to get to, so at the end I suggested that we continue the conversation here, in the comments section! Comments are the best part of blogging.

So if you have a question we didn’t get to, please drop it below. If you don’t have a Gravatar yet now’s a good time to make one.

WPTavern: WordCamp Europe 2020 Online Draws 8,600 Registered Attendees, Following Record-Breaking Contributor Day

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 16:36

WordCamp Europe 2020 Online kicked off yesterday with a record-breaking contributor day. More than 2,500 people signed up to participate. The pandemic may have forced the event to go virtual but an enthusiastic flock of contributors, both seasoned and brand new, joined from their homes to carry on supporting the open source project that connects them.

“The world is literally on fire, but today I am focusing on WordPress,” Francesca Marano said. “WCEU contributor day is on. I am literally crying in my living room: so many familiar faces, so many new faces. Missing people and also feeling this is a huge opportunity.”

Missing anything happening around #WCEU was never an option! Everything ready for @WCEurope!

How does your setup look like? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/7FHQZvSgRz

— Milan Ivanović #WCEU (@lanche86) June 4, 2020

This is what online emceeing looks like! #WCEU behind one of the many scenes pic.twitter.com/CxjDEZz3jW

— Monique Dubbelman (@mdubbelm) June 5, 2020

First-time contributing to @WordPress at @WCEurope #WCEU #WCEUFamilyPhoto pic.twitter.com/7Y9lEVUnFw

— Fabian Todt (@gaambo_no5) June 4, 2020

Representatives from 16 Make.WordPress.org teams coordinated contributors for a productive day. Organizers tweeted out progress reports on a variety of initiatives:

  • The CLI team had a very successful day: they merged 46 pull-requests, as well as restructuring the handbook on the WordPress content side.
  • The Meta team updated the Cookie Policy page, created a new ticket about unexpected redirects, and worked on a WordCamp.org ticket.
  • The Training team made several enhancements to the lesson plan “Setting Up E-Commerce” including a new slide presentation.
  • The Polyglots team is making headway in Italian and French localization: 4 plugins translated and 2 new PTEs (Project Translation Editor Request).
  • WPTV is having a great time and discussing improvements for outreach, documentation, and possible project status tools. They have also been sharing some great ideas for tutorials on the various video editing tools for future implementation.
  • The Marketing team is working on a number of guides to help the community in topics like podcasting and live streaming.
  • The Hosting Team has implemented a new contribution process and is working on a new Hosting Handbook.
  • The Core team has committed 4 patches and propped 10 different individuals on those commits.

An astounding 8,600 people from 138 countries registered to participate in WCEU online. Opening remarks kicked off day 1 of talks with a poignant and timely reminder of how WordPress publishing can amplify voices that may not otherwise be heard.

The music attendees are hearing throughout the event was written by designer Angel de Franganillo.

“When WCEU asked me to make the tune, it was a bit challenging since I only play piano for fun and I’m not a professional,” de Franganillo said. “I usually work with graphics, so I just follow the process I’d use for a graphics project, but with an audio piece.

“After some research and talks with WCEU, my main goals were: TechEurope, and Community. So I sat down in front of my piano to play some chords that suited those concepts and made a loop with them. Later, I looked for some synths to dress the loop and finish the piece.”

Attendees are also sharing selfies using the #WCEUFamilyPhoto hashtag on social networks. Organizers are gathering these to create a giant WCEU “family photo” collage.

Hey #WCEU Friends 👋🏼

Connecting @WCEU Family Virtually 🤗

Happy to be part of #WCEUFamilyPhoto 😍 pic.twitter.com/iqY0Bg8pEw

— Chetan Prajapati ⓦ (@iamchetanp) June 4, 2020

If you did not register in time for WordCamp Europe, you can still watch live by visiting the site and clicking on any of the tracks to join the broadcast on YouTube. Registered ticket holders have access to exclusive Zoom rooms dedicated to networking with speakers and other attendees, watching sponsors’ presentations, and visiting sponsors’ virtual booths.

WPTavern: Blockify the WordPress Dashboard with the Mission Ctrl Plugin

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 20:31

Nick Hamze makes it no secret that he loves the WordPress block system. He has spearheaded several unique blocks on the fun side of things as well as made more practical blocks through his Sorta Brilliant brand. It is his website for funding ideas for the block editor. For his most recent project, he has taken blocks outside of the post-editing screen, and this project is, well, sorta brilliant too.

Mission Ctrl is a WordPress plugin that blockifies the WordPress dashboard screen. The plugin allows users, developers, agencies, or even hosts set up the dashboard with custom widgets (called boards) that are built through the block editor.

It is just brilliant enough to make me ask myself why I did not think of the idea first.

It is also low-hanging fruit that took little code to accomplish. Hamze said his mission is to get blocks everywhere in WordPress. The dashboard was a logical place to begin. “When I start a new site, I change my permalinks and hide all the dashboard widgets, which is sad, and I knew blocks could fix it,” he said.

I would wager that many other WordPress users are in the same boat. The dashboard is essentially a dead-end screen that we all have to live with. Few developers have put much time and effort into revitalizing this admin screen that all WordPress users visit upon logging in.

Mission Ctrl is priced at $29 for version 1.x updates on an unlimited number of sites. While it is not explicitly stated on the site at this time, it appears Sorta Brilliant is taking a more traditional software pricing approach by selling based on major version releases rather than the yearly subscription model that is common in the WordPress ecosystem.

The marketing pitch for the plugin is simple: if the WordPress dashboard screen is useless for you, Mission Ctrl is the solution.

There is huge potential for this plugin. Have a client you want to easily expose training videos to? Create a new board and drop a video in. Want to leave yourself a note? Drop a paragraph block with a bright yellow background to get your attention via another board.

“For me, it’s the perfect place for documentation,” said Hamze. “Either for products you use on your site or for things you want you or your users to remember. Since I’m just a single user who makes regular sites I probably don’t have a wide enough experience to think of all the ideas. This is one product where its future is going to be driven by users.”

Mission Ctrl also serves as a framework for others to build on. Block developers can create dashboard-specific blocks that expose useful information to users. However, it is unlikely that this idea will catch on with the broader development community until core WordPress supports blocks on the dashboard out of the box. At the very least, this plugin can provide inspiration to the Gutenberg team. It is a project worth supporting.

How Mission Ctrl Works Custom boards added to the dashboard screen.

The plugin adds a new screen titled “Boards” under the normal dashboard menu item in the WordPress admin. It is a custom post type, which works the same as any other post or page. Whenever you add a new board, the plugin essentially translates this into a dashboard widget. Users can add as many boards as they want. Boards can also be enabled or disabled on a per-user basis via the screen options tab like any other dashboard widget.

One important caveat is that Mission Ctrl disables all existing dashboard widgets, regardless of whether they come from WordPress or a third-party plugin. The idea is to provide users with a clean slate to build a dashboard screen to their liking.

Adding boards is as simple as inserting your preferred block and publishing it. If you need some inspiration, how about dropping an RSS block into the editor and linking it to the WP Tavern feed?

Creating a custom video board for training clients.

By default, the plugin registers a single block. It provides a recreation of the WordPress “At a Glance” dashboard widget in block form. For now, the rest is left to the user.

However, Hamze does not plan to stop there. He has other blocks under development that will be useful on the dashboard:

  • World Time Block
  • Dictionary/Thesaurus Block
  • Notes Block
  • Weather Block

Mission Ctrl is a product early in its lifecycle. It has huge potential, particularly in helping the development community move forward with adding blocks to other areas in the WordPress admin interface.

However, it is not without its faults, which is expected with a plugin on its version 1.x branch. Currently, there is a question on how to deal with theme styles applied to the block editor but not applied to the dashboard screen, which can make for some inconsistencies with block design. It is not an insurmountable issue, but it will need to be addressed in the long term.

On the whole, Mission Ctrl actually makes the dashboard screen useful. For far too long, the screen has sat in limbo, awaiting someone to actually do something — anything — with it.

Akismet: Version 4.1.6 of the Akismet WordPress Plugin is Now Available

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 17:31

Version 4.1.6 of the Akismet plugin for WordPress is now available. It contains the following changes:

  • Disable “Check for Spam” button until the page is loaded to avoid errors with clicking through to queue recheck endpoint directly.
  • Add filter “akismet_enable_mshots” to allow disabling screenshot popups on the edit comments admin page.

To upgrade, visit the Updates page of your WordPress dashboard and follow the instructions. If you need to download the plugin zip file directly, links to all versions are available in the WordPress plugins directory.

WPTavern: Automattic Invests $4.6M in New Vector, Creators of the Matrix Open Standard for Decentralized Communication

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 07:37

Automattic has invested $4.6M in New Vector, a company founded by the creators of Matrix, an open standard that powers decentralized conversations with end-to-end encryption. Matrix.org is home to the open source project that offers HTTP APIs and SDKs, enabling developers to create their own communication clients on top of the Matrix open standard with open federation. This means anyone can communicate with others on the Matrix ecosystem by deploying their own server.

The protocol also allows for bridging existing platforms like Slack, IRC, XMPP, Gitter, Telegram Discord, Facebook, and many more, creating “a global open matrix of communication.” Matrix is the protocol behind Riot.im, a universal chat app that is often described as “a Slack alternative.” Riot supports groups and teams with chat, file sharing, widgets, and voice/video calls. It is currently the most mature Matrix client and the most well-known New Vector product.

A loose comparison might liken Automattic’s role in the WordPress ecosystem to New Vector’s role in growing the Matrix ecosystem while funding the development of the protocol. Co-founders Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape created the company to keep the lights on for the open source project. Automattic is now one of six investors in the company with voting rights.

In 2017, Matt Mullenweg contributed to Matrix’s Patreon when the project was struggling to stay afloat. On a recent Matrix Live podcast episode, he elaborated on why Matrix drew his interest for an investment from Automattic:

I really like when things solve a real user problem and do so in a technically rigorous and an intellectually and morally pure way. Those are things that attracted me then and now to the Matrix project. I also like to think, ‘What if this is successful?’ What does the world look like if 90% of the messages in the world are sent over the Matrix systems and protocols? That would be kind of amazing….I think that a widespread worldwide adoption of what you all are working on could be amazing for humanity.

A growing dissatisfaction with the ethics and privacy breaches of today’s most popular social platforms has caused a great deal of personal communication and social sharing to shift away from these massive data silos and into a myriad of private messaging apps. Mullenweg has often spoken of his fascination with messaging platforms and their relationship with the independent web. In an interview with Om Malik at WordCamp Europe 2017, he mentioned that Automattic was experimenting with Telegram’s group broadcasting feature. It’s not surprising that the company is making a significant investment in an open, decentralized communication protocol.

Five years ago, at an event in San Francisco, Matt Mullenweg said that Automattic has “flirted with commercializing” P2, its internal messaging system. The Matrix ecosystem offers a more real-time version of these types of collaboration tools that are client-agnostic. With the explosion of companies working from home due to the pandemic, Matrix-powered communication tools might be a strategic addition to Happy Tools, Automattic’s suite of products for remote teams.

The Matrix project boasts 10 million global visible accounts with 20,000 federated servers powering 2.5 million messages per day. More than 400 projects and 70 companies are building on this technology, so it is still relatively obscure but growing rapidly since the Matrix 1.0 release in June 2019.

Matrix is somewhat of an underdog among enterprise communications platforms, but New Vector is working to position its client better with competitors by designing a more modern UI. In Matrix.org’s announcement about Mozilla selecting Matrix as the successor to IRC for its public community, Matthew Hodgson said the Matrix team “are absolutely determined for Riot to have as good if not better UX than the likes of Slack or Discord.” New Vector also hired more designers to work full-time on Riot’s UI and UX, and shifted the product’s focus from being developer-led to design-led.

Automattic Plans to Adopt Matrix-Powered Tools and Build Bridges to WordPress

Given that New Vector is actively developing Riot as a Slack competitor and selling hosted Matrix services, it seems inevitable that Automattic will incorporate some form of Matrix-powered collaboration in the near future. Hodgson’s announcement about the investment stated they do not yet have a concrete project to announce but “at the very least, we should expect to see Automattic’s communities migrating over to Matrix in the coming months.”

Hodgson was also enthusiastic about the many possibilities of bringing Matrix to WordPress’ massive user base:

Imagine if every WP site automatically came with its own Matrix room or community? Imagine if all content in WP automatically was published into Matrix as well as the Web? (This isn’t so far fetched an idea – turns out that Automattic already runs a XMPP bridge for wordpress.com over at im.wordpress.com!). Imagine there was an excellent Matrix client available as a WordPress plugin for embedding realtime chat into your site? Imagine if Tumblr (which is part of Automattic these days) became decentralised!?

Some bristled at the idea of introducing Matrix in WordPress core, but Mullenweg was quick to clarify that the intention was likely to reference WordPress.com and not self-hosted sites.

The same way that WP folks mix up New Vector, Modular, Riot, and Matrix, people outside our community sometimes mix up .org and .com, Automattic and WordPress. I think the intention there was to mean .com, as it would be difficult for most shared hosts to run Matrix.

— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) May 22, 2020

Given the hosting requirements for a Matrix client for WordPress, it would have to be offered through WordPress.com, as a SaaS offering through Jetpack, or as an add-on with WordPress hosting companies to gain widespread use.

Automattic is hiring Matrix.org/WordPress Integrations engineers to “bridge the two software worlds” and explore cross pollination opportunities that “may include building open-source plugins for either platform, enabling real-time chat and collaboration for business websites, blogs, e-commerce stores, or communities, integration of existing infrastructure.”

“I would love to hire a few folks to contribute to the [Matrix] project full-time and help Automattic’s adoption of it, because I think it’s really healthy for the ecosystem if there’s more than one company sponsoring it,” Mullenweg said on the Matrix Live podcast. Hodgson said that currently New Vector supplies an estimated 90-95% of the open source contributions to the Synapse release of the Matrix server implementation and to Riot.

One user on Hacker News suggested that WordPress.org also adopt Matrix-powered communication tools for collaborating on the open source project:

Here’s hoping Automattic has enough influence to move the WordPress.org open source and community discussions (which are currently hosted on Slack, but used to take place on IRC) to Matrix too.

Hodgson responded saying, “That’s the hope – the pressure is on the Riot/Matrix side to ensure that the transition is a no-brainer in terms of UX.” Ideally, any migration away from Slack would preserve both public and private messages, including emoji reactions, files, and the full treasure of collaborative history of the project for the past five years.

Can Automattic Take Decentralized Communication Tools Mainstream?

Although the main commercial thrust for New Vector seems to be centered around enabling enterprise collaboration platforms with Matrix and its necessary infrastructure, Mullenweg had a lot to say about social networking during the recent Matrix Live podcast episode.

“I think communication is at the core of what makes us great and what brings us together,” Mullenweg said. “And the breakdown of communication and separation is the source of most conflict and suffering in the world.”

He used Facebook as an example of how a platform’s massive success can cause it to fly too close to the sun and ultimately miss the opportunity to deliver what users truly want.

“I think as centralized or decentralized systems become ultra successful, what’s made them successful also contains the seeds of their own demise,” Mullenweg said. “When a ‘Facebook’ becomes a social network which sucks up maybe 90 percent of all media we generate in the world, that also then draws in everyone else creating the alternatives. I think the economic inevitabilities of the commercial self-interests of Facebook, in this example, growing from that particularly in a shareholder beholding system – their success is the golden handcuffs which prevents them from doing the thing that the users or the audience might want next.”

The concept of decentralized social networking has so far failed to attract mainstream attention. Most implementations are woefully difficult to set up for anyone who is not technically inclined. A 2017 Wired op-ed contends these types of networks will never work because “we join [social networks] because our friends are there, not for ideological reasons like decentralization.” New social networks can be challenging to navigate. Networks like Diaspora and Mastadon still struggle to gain much traction.

Late last year Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that the company is funding a small team under the project name “bluesky” to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. If successful, the ultimate goal would be to move Twitter to this new decentralized model.

Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard. 🧵

— jack (@jack) December 11, 2019

Dorsey cited challenges that his centralized network struggles to meet, including scaling a centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information. He also credits the advent of blockchain technology for advancing decentralized solutions into the realm of viability.

In response to the thread, many suggested Twitter consider using the existing ActivityPub standard that is already a W3C spec. This spec seems quite narrowly focused around networks built on a simple system of following and liking and not as well suited to more dynamic communities with real-time chat capabilities.

I could imagine Matrix-powered communities pioneering a protocol that accounts for a blog or website as the user’s home on the web, where content originates and can be automatically published to select streams, such as communities or rooms.

Ten years ago there was a project called SocialRiver that aimed to bring decentralized social networking to WordPress and BuddyPress. It was based on the the OStatus specification and promised to allow users to host and control their own stream of information, which could then be merged with others’ streams to make a unique social river. The creators were making a hosted instance as well as a plugin to help site owners create their own SocialRiver instance.

The project was abandoned a few years later. It disappeared without any explanation, but the basic idea seemed to hold so much potential for the growing world of WordPress sites.

Automattic is a company that might be able to take decentralized social networking mainstream with the help of Matrix, freeing users from the clutches of the data silos and their dehumanizing algorithms. The right team of people with enough resources, rooted in the principles of the open web, could change the face of social networking forever.

The Matrix.org homepage calls on visitors to imagine a world:

  • …where it is as simple to message or call anyone as it is to send them an email.
  • …where you can communicate without being forced to install the same app.
  • …where you can choose who hosts your communication.
  • …where your conversations are secured by E2E encryption.
  • …where there’s a simple standard HTTP API for sharing real-time data on the web.

Combining WordPress’ mission to democratize publishing with the Matrix project’s technology for “democratizing control over communication” should yield some interesting products that stand to impact both open source ecosystems.

WPTavern: Automattic Launches Malware and Vulnerability Scanning Service for Jetpack

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 19:54

On Tuesday, Automattic launched Jetpack Scan, an automated malware and vulnerability scanning service. It is a premium service offered to sites connected to a WordPress.com account and the third major add-on launched on top of the plugin in recent months.

Jetpack Scan is available for $7 per month or $70 for an annual subscription. Both options are 30% off the regular price of $10 and $100, respectively. Currently, the feature runs daily scans for security threats. However, the plan is to add a real-time scanning option, presumably at a higher price point.

“It’s like having a security guard monitoring your site,” said Paolo Belcastro, Head of Product for Jetpack. “You can rest easy knowing that someone’s watching out for you 24/7. And if we find any threats, you’ll receive an instant email alert so you can fix it right away and get back to running your business. We can even repair the majority of security threats for you with just one click.”

The service comes on the heels of two other big Jetpack launches in the last couple of months. In April, the Jetpack team re-launched Jetpack Search as a standalone service. The team then opened the Jetpack Backup service in May, which was the first step in selling what is essentially a two-part security solution for site owners — backups and security scanning go hand in hand. The backup service is $30 per year for daily backups and $200 per year for real-time backups. For a complete security solution, end-users will probably combine the Jetpack Scan service with Jetpack Backup, which will run at a minimum of $100 every year. These numbers are based on introductory rates, which are expected to increase in the future.

Backup and security scanning services are major moves. Jetpack is likely to gobble up a huge slice of the security pie in the coming months and years, which is a sector that is currently represented by several other big businesses in the industry. With over five million self-installed WordPress users and millions more at WordPress.com, it will be an easy choice for many to opt into Jetpack’s solution rather than look elsewhere.

Jetpack Scan Features and Interface

Jetpack Scan automatically scans connected websites each day. Once a user sets up the feature, they no longer need to perform any actions for routine security maintenance. The feature offloads the actual scanning to Automattic’s servers instead of running checks directly on the user’s site. This also has the benefit of making scan results accessible even if the user’s site is down for some reason.

If the scanning system finds an issue, it sends an email directly to the user. The system comes with a one-click fix feature. “Just press a button and Jetpack will fix the majority of known malware problems so you can get your site back up and running,” wrote Rob Pugh, Director of Product Marketing at Automattic, in the announcement post.

Jetpack Scan also integrates with the Jetpack Backup service, which will allow end-users to completely restore their site to a previous point in time in the case of site hacks.

For new Scan and Backup customers, they will be able to enjoy a new all-in-one interface on the Jetpack website. The team will bring the upgraded experience to existing customers soon.

“Even the best security tools can become useless if they require advanced skills to configure complicated settings,” said Filipe Varela, of Jetpack Design. “That’s why it was so important for us to build an accessible and streamlined service. We’re proud to announce a fresh, dedicated interface for Jetpack Scan on Jetpack.com. It will be the central hub for managing all your Jetpack Security products. You can scan your website, check the results, respond to issues, and, when combined with Jetpack Backup, quickly restore your site to working order all in one place.”

HeroPress: Beyond Software: Meeting the WordPress Community

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 06:00

Este ensayo también está disponible en español.

The first time I used WordPress I had no idea what was going on behind the software… or beyond it. I knew there was someone making it all work, but I couldn’t even remotely imagine all the people who were making WordPress not just a tool for developing websites, but a whole movement that comes together to share, build, and help make the world better.

First steps on the web: from hobby to employment

Although I have always loved web development, before I started working seriously on it, I earned my income by providing computer technical support and installing computer networks to small and medium-sized businesses.

I started making websites about 15 years ago writing pure code as a hobby: HTML and CSS, but when I understood the concept of CMS, I was impressed: I could make everything dynamic. First I used Drupal, then Joomla, but since a friend introduced me to WordPress in 2010 I haven’t used another CMS.

In 2013 I started a small advertising agency with some friends. We did commercials for local radio and TV stations, but we also developed about 15 websites in a city where business owners did not believe or value the web.

We were working for almost four years, until at the end of 2017 the crisis in Venezuela became too acute, and we decided to close the agency when we stopped making profits. Taking stock of that period, I think we changed the way merchants saw the Internet business in the city.

Working full time as freelancer

It was in 2018 when I started as a full time freelance web developer. My first clients were some of the agency and friends who had migrated to other countries. Then I tried my luck with sites like Workana.com and Freelancer.com.

Making the decision to work as a freelancer web designer or developer while still living in Venezuela is not easy. First of all, it is very difficult to get projects that offer or accept a fair remuneration. On the other hand, almost all over the country there are constant blackouts and Internet connections are very slow or unavailable.

Although I was born in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, I grew up in the western part of the country, in the city of El Vigía in the state of Mérida. This is the area of the country called Los Andes and is one of the areas most affected by poor of lack of public services. This led me to move away from my mother’s family, to the center of the country, looking for stable services to continue working in Venezuela as long as possible.

I currently live in Guarenas, about 30 minutes from Caracas. There are almost no power outages here and I still have an internet speed that allows me to work, but I have not been able to see my family for almost two years.

Meeting the WordPress community

When I moved to Guarenas, I had to begin making friends and contacts again. I started looking for coworking spaces or technology communities nearby and that’s when I met the WordPress community in Caracas.

I signed up for the first face-to-face event, and just after I finished, I talked to the co-organizer to offer to help with some of the group’s tasks, such as designing promotional pieces, managing social networks, and organizing events.

In the different events I organized, I met several people who also lived in Guarenas or Guatire (two sister cities that are next to each other) and a few months later the idea came up: “Why don’t we organize the Guarenas-Guatire group?”.

And the idea materialized in December 2019 when I requested the WordPress community in Guarenas-Guatire from the WordCamp Central team. Only a week later we would have the approval and start scheduling the activities.

Farewell photo of one of the events organized by the community of Guarenas-Guatire

In the first quarter of the year, until just before the Venezuelan authorities prohibited meetings in public spaces because of COVID-19, we organized 5 face-to-face events… but the community was eager to continue meeting.

So, in order to keep the community active and motivated, with the support of mowomo, a Spanish web development company very involved with the WordPress community, we started doing online events under a format we called “WordPress a la medianoche” (WordPress at midnight)

This format was created from a message published in our Telegram group by Alexis Arnal, whose premise is to meet at midnight in order to avoid the low speeds of the Internet that usually improve after that time.

At the time of writing, we have organized 6 events of this type with an attendance of up to 50 people online, something that is surprising since this is a relatively small group and transmitting at an unconventional time.

Javier Esteban at an online event talking about translations in WordPress.

One of the interesting opportunities presented by online events is that we can invite people from other countries. For example, we have already had a special translation event with Javier Esteban, a member of the translation team from Spain, and we have extended the invitation to other people from Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia.

My personal experience with the community

Surely if I hadn’t met the community, I would have continued to work on my own, like a lone wolf, doing the ordinary work of solving problems for occasional customers and paying my bills.

Fortunately, this was not the case and I have been able to live a lot of transforming experiences that have shown me the meaning of the words “community” and “volunteerism”.

I had never participated in a community like this nor volunteered in any similar movement, but since I started to get involved with the community, I have done several volunteer activities to help in different teams, among them:

  • Polyglots as Locale Manager for Spanish Venezuela.
  • WordPress.tv as moderator of the site.
  • Support in the forums helping people with technical issues.

I have also developed some plugins that I published in the official WordPress plugin directory and have given several speeches at different events, including WordCamp Spain 2020.

All this has a boomerang effect. At first, when I told my family and friends about the community and the work I was doing, they would ask me “what do you get in return?” Perhaps they expected me to tell them a specific amount of money, but the answer is more complex.

All these experiences have allowed me to grow personally and professionally. It’s rewarding to know that you’ve helped improve the WordPress ecosystem, the tool you use to work and put food on the table. It also makes you feel good to directly help people when they need it and receive a “Thank you very much, I solved the problem!” This is a two-way learning process, you learn as you teach.

I have met wonderful people with interests and values that are in tune with mine, many of those people are now my friends, business partners or customers. At the same time, I have learned new skills and gained more experience in the ones I already had. I feel that this has increased my confidence as a professional and improved my level of resilience to face such difficult situations as those my country is currently experiencing.


Más allá del software: conociendo la comunidad WordPress

La primera vez que usé WordPress no tenía idea de todo lo que estaba pasando detrás del software… o más allá de él. Sabía que había alguien haciendo que todo funcionara, pero ni remotamente imaginaba todas las personas que estaban haciendo de WordPress no solo una herramienta para desarrollar sitios web, sino todo un movimiento que se reúne para compartir, construir y ayudar a hacer un mundo mejor.

Primeros pasos en la web: del hobby al empleo

Aunque siempre me ha gustado el desarrollo web, antes de empezar a trabajar en serio en ello, ganaba mis ingresos proporcionando apoyo técnico de equipos informáticos e instalando redes de computadoras a pequeñas y medianas empresas.

Comencé a hacer sitios web hace unos 15 años escribiendo código puro como hobby: HTML y CSS, pero cuando entendí el concepto de los CMS, quedé impresionado: Podía hacer que todo fuera dinámico. Primero usé Drupal, luego Joomla, pero desde que un amigo me presentó WordPress en 2010 no he usado otro CMS.

En 2013 comencé una pequeña agencia de publicidad con algunos amigos. Hicimos comerciales para estaciones de radio y televisoras locales, pero también desarrollamos cerca de 15 sitios web en una ciudad donde los dueños de negocios no creían o valoraban la web.

Estuvimos trabajando por casi cuatro años, hasta que a finales de 2017 la crisis en Venezuela se agudizó demasiado y decidimos cerrar la agencia cuando dejamos de obtener beneficios. Haciendo un balance de ese periodo, creo que cambiamos la forma en que los comerciantes veían el negocio de Internet en la ciudad.

Trabajando a tiempo completo como autónomo

Fue en 2018 cuando empecé como desarrollador web independiente a tiempo completo. Mis primeros clientes fueron algunos de la agencia y amigos que habían emigrado a otros países. Luego probé suerte con sitios como Workana.com y Freelancer.com.

Tomar la decisión de trabajar de forma autónoma como diseñador o desarrollador web mientras sigues viviendo en Venezuela no es fácil. En primer lugar, es muy difícil conseguir proyectos que ofrezcan o acepten una remuneración justa. Por otro lado, casi en todo el país hay constantes apagones y las conexiones de Internet son muy lentas o no están disponibles.

Aunque nací en Caracas, la capital del país, crecí en la parte occidental del país, en la ciudad de El Vigía en el estado de Mérida. Esta es la zona del país llamada Los Andes y es una de las más afectadas por la falta de servicios públicos. Esto me llevó a mudarme lejos la familia de mi madre, al centro del país, buscando servicios estables para seguir trabajando en Venezuela todo el tiempo posible.

Actualmente vivo en Guarenas, a unos 30 minutos de Caracas. Aquí casi no hay apagones y todavía tengo una velocidad de Internet que me permite trabajar, pero no he podido ver a mi familia durante casi dos años.

Conociendo a la comunidad WordPress

Cuando me mudé a Guarenas, tuve que empezar a hacer amigos y contactos de nuevo. Empecé a buscar espacios de coworking o comunidades tecnológicas en las cercanías y fue entonces cuando conocí a la comunidad de WordPress en Caracas.

Me apunté al primer evento presencial y, justo después de terminar, hablé con la coorganizadora para ofrecerme a ayudar en algunas tareas del grupo, como el diseño de piezas promocionales, la gestión de las redes sociales y la organización de eventos.

En los diferentes eventos que organicé, conocí a varias personas que también vivían en Guarenas o Guatire (dos ciudades hermanas que quedan una al lado de la otra) y unos meses más tarde surgió la idea: «¿por qué no organizamos el grupo de Guarenas-Guatire?»

Y la idea se materializó en diciembre de 2019 cuando solicité la comunidad de WordPress en Guarenas-Guatire al equipo de WordCamp Central. Solo una semana después ya tendríamos la aprobación y comenzaríamos a programar la agenda de actividades.

Foto de despedida de uno de los eventos presenciales organizados por la comunidad de Guarenas-Guatire.

En el primer trimestre del año, hasta justo antes de que las autoridades venezolanas prohibieran los encuentros en espacios públicos a causa de la COVID-19, organizamos 5 eventos presenciales… pero la comunidad estaba ansiosa por seguir reuniéndose.

Así que, para mantener activa y motivada a la comunidad, con el apoyo de mowomo, una empresa española de desarrollo web muy involucrada con la comunidad WordPress, comenzamos a hacer eventos en línea bajo un formato que llamamos «WordPress a la medianoche»

Este formato se creó a partir de un mensaje publicado en nuestro grupo de Telegram por Alexis Arnal, cuya premisa es reunirnos a la medianoche para poder sortear las bajas velocidades a Internet que suelen mejorar a partir de esa hora.

Al momento de escribir estas líneas, hemos organizado 6 eventos de este tipo con una asistencia de hasta 50 personas en línea, algo que sorprende siendo este un grupo relativamente pequeño y transmitiendo a un horario no convencional.

Javier Esteban en un evento en línea hablando sobre las traducciones en WordPress.

Una de las oportunidades interesantes que presentan los eventos en línea es que podemos invitar a personas de otros países. Por ejemplo, ya hemos tenido un evento especial de traducciones con Javier Esteban, miembro del equipo de traducción de España, y hemos extendido la invitación a otras personas de México, Costa Rica, Perú y Colombia.

Mi experiencia personal con la comunidad

Seguramente si no hubiese conocido a la comunidad, hubiera seguido trabajando por mi cuenta como un lobo solitario haciendo el trabajo ordinario de siempre para solucionar problemas a clientes puntuales y pagar mis facturas.

Afortunadamente, no fue así y he podido vivir un montón de experiencias transformadoras que me han enseñado el significado real de las palabras comunidad y voluntariado.

Y es que nunca había participado en una comunidad como esta ni había sido voluntario en ningún movimiento parecido, pero desde que empecé a involucrarme con la comunidad, he realizado varias actividades de voluntariado para ayudar en diferentes equipos, entre ellos:

  • Polyglots: como «Locale Manager» para español de Venezuela.
  • WordPress.tv: como moderador de la plataforma.
  • Soporte: brindando asistencia técnica en los foros.

También he desarrollado algunos plugins que he publicado en el directorio oficial de plugins de WordPress y he dictado varias ponencias en diferentes eventos, incluyendo WordCamp España 2020.

Todo esto tiene un efecto boomerang. Al principio, cuando le contaba a mi familia y amigos sobre la comunidad y el trabajo que estaba realizando, me preguntaban «¿qué obtienes a cambio?». Quizás esperaban que les dijera una cifra de dinero concreta, pero la respuesta es más profunda.

Todas estas experiencias me han permitido crecer de forma personal y profesional. Es gratificante saber que has ayudado a mejorar el ecosistema WordPress, la herramienta que usas para trabajar y poner la comida en la mesa. También te hace sentir bien ayudar directamente a personas cuando lo necesitaban y recibir un: «Muchas gracias, ¡he solucionado el problema!». Este es un proceso de aprendizaje bilateral, aprendes mientras enseñas.

He conocido personas maravillosas con intereses y valores que están en sintonía con los míos, muchas de esas personas ahora son mis amigos, aliados comerciales o clientes. Al mismo tiempo, he aprendido nuevas habilidades y he ganado más experiencia en las que ya tenía. Siento que esto ha aumentado la confianza en mí mismo como profesional y ha mejorado mi nivel de resiliencia para enfrentar situaciones tan difíciles como las que vive mi país actualmente.

The post Beyond Software: Meeting the WordPress Community appeared first on HeroPress.

WPTavern: The Show Must Be Paused

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 19:26
George Floyd

Natosha McDade, Yassin Mohamed, Finan H. Berhe, Sean Reed, Steven Demarco Taylor, Breonna Taylor, Ariane McCree, Terrance Franklin, Miles Hall, Darius Tarver, William Green, Samuel David Mallard, Kwame Jones, De’von Bailey, Christopher Whitfield, Anthony Hill, De’Von Bailey, Eric Logan, Jamarion Robinson, Gregory Hill Jr, JaQuavion Slaton, Ryan Twyman, Brandon Webber, Jimmy Atchison, Willie McCoy, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford J, D’ettrick Griffin, Jemel Roberson, DeAndre Ballard, Botham Shem Jean, Robert Lawrence White, Anthony Lamar Smith, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins Jr, Trayvon Martin, Wendell Allen, Kendrec McDade, Larry Jackson Jr, Jonathan Ferrell, Jordan Baker, Victor White III, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Kajieme Powell, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Charly Keunang, Tony Robinson, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Brendon Glenn, Samuel DuBose, Christian Taylor, Jamar Clark, Mario Woods, Quintonio LeGrier, Gregory Gunn, Akiel Denkins, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Terrence Sterling, Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, Alfred Olango, Jordan Edwards, Stephon Clark, Danny Ray Thomas, DeJuan Guillory, Patrick Harmon, Jonathan Hart, Maurice Granton, Julius Johnson, Jamee Johnson, Michael Dean…

Organisations that could use your financial support include Black Lives MatterThe NAACP Legal Defense and Educational FundThe Equal Justice InitiativeWe The Protesters, and the George Floyd Memorial Fund.

The Show Must Be Paused

The #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused hashtags have flooded the internet today. Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, senior directors of marketing at Atlantic Records, began The Show Must Be Paused movement. The effort calls for disruption to the workweek and to hold the industry at large accountable for the benefits it receives from the “efforts, struggles, and successes” of black people.

“It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community,” according to The Show Must Be Paused website.

WordPress community member and developer Phil Johnston wanted to show support for the movement in any way that he could. “After seeing the video of George Floyd, I was really shaken,” he said. “I saw the Django REST API help site had blacked-out their site with a message of solidarity, and I thought that might make a good plugin if others wanted to quickly do something similar.”

Johnston put together a quick plugin named The Show Must Be Paused. It is currently available on GitHub and awaiting approval for the official WordPress plugin directory.

The project is a simple blackout plugin that replaces the front end of the user’s website with a message of solidarity (the same opening message of this post). For users who want to use the plugin on their site, they can grab the ZIP file from the GitHub repository and upload it. We will update this story with a link to the plugin directory page once it is available.

While posting a message of solidarity with those who have lost their lives, those who are still living under 400 years of oppression, and those who are continuing to fight for justice is a good first step, it is merely a step. The next question we must allow the oppressed to answer is what we as a society, as human beings, can do next. What steps can the WordPress community take?

“I wish I had the answer to that question, but I’m not sure I know for sure, or that I’m qualified to say,” Johnston said. “All I know right now is that this situation really moved me personally, and I think it is important to be aware of and to really listen to the people in pain right now.”

WordPress.org blog: The Month in WordPress: May 2020

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 07:36

May was an action-packed month for WordPress! WordPress organizers are increasingly moving WordCamps online, and contributors are taking big steps towards Full Site Editing with Gutenberg. To learn more and get all the latest updates, read on. 

Gutenberg 8.1 and 8.2

Gutenberg 8.1 was released on May 13, followed quickly by Gutenberg 8.2 on May 27. 

  • 8.1 added new block pattern features making it easier to insert desired patterns, along with a new pattern. It also added a button to  collapsed block actions for copying the selected block, which will help touchscreen users or users who don’t use keyboard shortcuts. 
  • 8.2 introduced block pattern categories and a `viewportWidth` property that will be particularly useful for large block patterns. There is also a new content alignment feature, and enhancements to improve the writing experience. 

Both releases include a number of new APIs, enhancements, bug fixes, experiments, new documentation, improvement to code quality, and more! To learn the latest, visit the announcement posts for Gutenberg 8.1 and Gutenberg 8.2.

Want to get involved in building Gutenberg? Follow the Core team blog, contribute to Gutenberg on GitHub, and join the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Gutenberg Phase 2: Steps Towards Full Site Editing

Contributors are currently working hard on Phase 2 of Gutenberg! Where Phase 1 introduced the new block editor with WordPress 5.0, Phase 2 sees more customization and includes one of the biggest Gutenberg projects: Full Site Editing (FSE). At the moment, work on WordPress 5.5 has been initiated and contributors decided to include basic functionality for Full sSte Editing in this release. FSE hopes to streamline the site creation and building process in WordPress using a block-based approach. There’s a lot of conversation and new information about FSE, so communication around the project is very important. On May 28th, a conversation was held in the #core-customize channel to discuss FSE and the future of the Customizer. To help everyone track the latest information, this post summarizes ways to keep up with FSE.

Want to get involved with Gutenberg and FSE?  Follow the Core team blog and join the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group. You can also check the FSE pull requests and issues on GitHub.

Theme Review Team Rebranding

Representatives of the Themes Review Team have decided to update their team name to “Themes Team.” This decision reflects changes that the block editor brings to the landscape of themes with the Full Site Editing project. The team has always been involved in projects beyond reviewing WordPress.org themes and lately, the team has been contributing more to themes in general — including open-source packages, contributions to Full Site Editing, the Twenty Twenty theme, and more. You can read more about the name change in the team’s meeting notes.

Want to get involved with the Themes Team? Follow the Themes blog here, or join them in the #themereview channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Online WordCamp Program Announced

To assist organizers with moving their WordCamps online, the WordPress Community team has prepared a new set of guidelines for online WordCamps. The Community Team will cover online production and captioning costs associated with any online WordCamp without the need for local sponsorship. The team also updated its guidelines to cover the regional focus of online events, and modified the code of conduct to cater to the new format. The WordCamp schedule has also been updated to indicate whether an event is taking place online or not. You can find resources, tools, and information about online WordPress events in our Online Events Handbook. They have also prepared a new set of guidelines for in-person events taking place in 2020, in the light of COVID-19 challenges. 

Want to get involved with the Community team? Follow the Community blog here, or join them in the #community-events channel in the Making WordPress Slack group. To organize a Meetup or WordCamp, visit the handbook page

BuddyPress 6.0.0 “iovine’s”

On May 13th, BuddyPress 6.0.0, known as “iovine’s,” was released. This release includes two new blocks for the WordPress Editor: Members and Groups. It also saw the completion of the BP REST API, adding the six remaining endpoints, and the move or local avatar management to the Members component. Beyond that, 6.0.0 includes more than 80 changes, made possible by 42 contributors. 

Want to download this latest version of BuddyPress? Get it here.  You can also help by translating BuddyPress into another language or letting the team know of any issues you find in the support forums.

WordCamp Spain Online Concludes Successfully

WordPress Meetup organizers in Spain joined hands to organize WordCamp Spain online from May 6 to 9, which proved to be a huge success. The event had more than 5,500 attendees, 60 speakers, and 16 sponsors. Over 200 people from around the world participated in the Contributor Day. Matt Mullenweg hosted an AMA for the participants, facilitated by Mattias Ventura’s on-the-spot Spanish translation. 

If you missed the event, you can watch videos from WordCamp Spain online at WordPress.TV. Want to organize a regional WordCamp? Learn more about that here!

Further Reading:

Have a story that we should include in the next “Month in WordPress” post? Please submit it here.

WPTavern: WordPress Names 5.5 Release Leads, Plans All-Women Release Squad for 5.6

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 20:33

WordPress’ Executive Director, Josepha Haden, announced the names of the leaders who will be coordinating releases for the remainder of 2020. Version 5.5, expected to be released in August, will be led by Matt Mullenweg, with Jake Spurlock as the coordinator and David Baumwald on Triage. Haden also named tech and design leads for the editor, media, accessibility, and documentation. This release is set to introduce automatic updates for plugins and themes in core. It will also add the Navigation block and block directory to core.

In November 2019, Haden tweeted that one of her goals was to put together an all-women release squad by the end of 2020, an idea that was well-received by the community. Although WordPress has already had women lead releases, the realization of this idea would be the first time in the project’s 17-year history that the entire squad is composed of women leaders. Haden began recruiting for the team in March.

I have a stretch goal of an all women release squad by the end of 2020.

— Josepha Haden (@JosephaHaden) November 13, 2019

“My hope is that with a release squad comprised entirely of people who identify as women, we’ll be able to increase the number women who have that experience and (hopefully) become returning contributors to Core and elsewhere,” Haden said in her initial proposal. “This doesn’t mean the release will only contain contributions from women. And if our current squad training process is any indication, it also doesn’t mean that we’re asking a squad to show up and do this without support.”

Last Friday, Haden named 50 women to the upcoming 5.6 all-women release squad, set to land in December 2020. This group includes women who have volunteered to participate, first by joining a “ride along” process for the 5.5 release cycle. Participants will join triage sessions and meetings, as well as collaborate on a 5.5.x point release in preparation for steering 5.6.

The proposed scope for WordPress 5.6 includes opt-in automatic updates for major core releases, full-site editing in core, a new default theme, and more. Squad leaders will be named in a separate kickoff post.

WPTavern: Ajay D’Souza Releases Popular Authors Add-On for Top 10 Plugin

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 20:28

Ajay D’Souza released the Popular Authors plugin last week, which is designed to display authors by the number of post views they have reached. It is an add-on for his Top 10 plugin and uses the underlying data to build the popular authors list. Websites with multiple authors could use it to provide further insight into what its visitors should read.

The Top 10 parent plugin is a page-view tracker and allows end-users to display popular posts. However, it also has the potential to serve as a framework for tracking or displaying various WordPress elements by popularity. For example, a developer could build a popular category plugin to show categories with the most-viewed posts. Top 10 includes an API for developers to build upon its data collection, which is what D’Souza has done with the Popular Authors plugin.

The version 1.0 release of Popular Authors is relatively basic. It provides the bare-bones features that are necessary for outputting a simple list of links. The plugin works well enough to provide a solution for users who need an easy way of displaying author popularity.

Both Popular Authors and Top 10 are alternatives to collecting view counts without relying on major companies or possibly running afoul of data tracking laws. All of the data is stored directly in the WordPress database. No personal data of visitors is collected. Both plugins should be compliant with the GDPR and other privacy-related regulations and laws. However, because the data is stored directly on the site as opposed to offloading it to a third party, it will use more resources to save that data on each page load. This is a minimal cost for most.

How the Plugin Works Adding the Popular Authors widget to a footer sidebar.

Using Popular Authors should be simple for the average user. The plugin provides a widget named “Popular Authors” and a [wzpa_popular_authors] shortcode. Both methods of outputting the popular list offer several configuration options.

When installed and activated, the plugin gathers the data collected by the Top 10 parent plugin and sorts that data by post author. The primary options for both the widget and shortcode are the following:

  • The number of authors.
  • Offset (i.e., skip) authors at the top of the list.
  • Whether to display the post view count.
  • Popularity within a time range, which can be further configured by days and hours.

The time range option is arguably the most important. Without setting it, authors are sorted by all-time post views. Depending on the site, all-time data may not be representative of current popularity. Setting this option to use a more recent timeframe will sort authors more accurately on their recent posts.

The shortcode has far more options for configuring its output. For users who need extra control, they will likely find it more flexible than the widget. The shortcode documentation lists all of the available parameters.

It is worth noting that by installing the Top 10 parent plugin, it will add two extra database tables to your site named *_top_ten and *_top_ten_daily. This is necessary for data collection.

Future Plans and Features

While the current 1.0 version of the plugin is basic, D’Souza has plans to build upon this foundation in upcoming versions. Right now, he is taking it one step at a time and listening to feedback from users.

In upcoming versions of the plugin, he plans to add a global settings page that allows users to set up defaults for how the plugin outputs its widget and shortcode. Currently, they must set display options on a case-by-case basis. “From experience, regular users prefer a place they can set and forget global options,” he said.

D’Souza wants to provide users with improved display options. The popular list currently outputs a text-based list. However, the goal is to allow users to show an author avatar and possibly expose a grid-based display.

A couple of versions down the road, he hopes to have a block that is on par with the widget and shortcode. He is also researching how he could add support for the Co-Authors Plus plugin so that post views are counted toward all authors of any given post. Both of these features are slated for the eventual version 1.2 release. For version 1.3, he plans to have REST API endpoints for fetching the top authors list.

“I’m still working out other features, but again very open to receive feedback,” said D’Souza. “A lot depends on the take-up of this plugin.”

Most of these features will be follow-ups to work that is going into version 3.0 of the Top 10 parent plugin. D’Souza has some major changes in the works. “This will include the Gutenberg block to display the top posts with several configuration settings similar to the shortcode,” he said. “Another feature is to also introduce the REST API endpoints for getting the top posts. Plus, I’m also experimenting with how I can use it to update the count which is currently through Ajax. The latter is the more challenging part I believe.”

Matt: Stream Like a CEO

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 23:54

When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was. I had experimented with using a Sony camera and capture card for the virtual event we did in February when WordCamp Asia was canceled, but that Trevor Noah video and exchanging some tweets with Garry Tan sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, even after I was on-record with The Information saying a simpler setup is better.

The quality improved, however something was still missing: I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the person on the other side. When I reviewed recordings, especially for major broadcasts, my eyes kept looking at the person on the screen rather than looking at the camera.

Then I came across this article about the Interrotron, a teleprompter-like device Errol Morris would to make his Oscar-winning documentaries. Now we’re onto something!

Illustration by Steve Hardie

For normal video conferencing a setup this nice is a distraction, but if you’re running for political office during a quarantine, a public company CEO talking to colleagues and the press, here’s a cost-is-no-object CEO livestreaming kit you can set up pretty easily at home.


Elgato Cam Link 4K

Micro HDMI Cable

Retractable 3.5mm audio cable

Elgato Key Light Air LED panel

Ikan Elite Generation 2 Universal Large Tablet Teleprompter

ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone

Sony α7R IV Camera

Sony – FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Wide-angle Zoom Lens

Ultimate Ears UE 18+ Pro: In-ear monitors

Gonine NP-FZ100 AC Power Adapter

Reticam mini tripod

13″ portable monitor

Basically what you do is put the A7r camera, shotgun mic, and the lens together and switch it to video mode, go to Setup 3, choose HDMI settings, and turn HDMI Info Display off — this gives you a “clean” video output from the camera. You can run off the built-in battery for a few hours, but the Gonine virtual battery above lets you power the camera indefinitely. Plug the HDMI from the camera to the USB Camlink, then plug that into your computer. Now you have the most beautiful webcam you’ve ever seen, and you can use the Camlink as both a video source and an audio source using the shotgun mic. Put the Key Light wherever it looks best. You’re fine to record something now.

If you’d like to have a more two-way conversation Interrotron style, set up the teleprompter on the tripod, put the camera behind it, connect the portable monitor to your computer (I did HMDI to a Mac Mini) and “mirror” your display to it. (You can also use an iPad and Sidecar for that.) Now you’ll have a reversed copy of your screen on the teleprompter mirror. I like to put the video of the person I’m talking to right over the lens, so near the bottom of my screen, and voilà! You now have great eye contact with the person you’re talking to. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to horizontally flip the screen in MacOS so all the text isn’t backward in the mirror reflection. For audio I usually just use a headset at this point, but if you want to not have a headset in the shot…

Use a discreet earbud. I love in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears, so you can put one of these in and run the cable down the back of your shirt, and I use a little audio extender cable to easily reach the computer’s 3.5mm audio port. This is “extra” as the kids say and it may be tricky to get an ear molding taken during a pandemic. For the mic I use the audio feed from the Camlink, run through Krisp.ai if there is ambient noise, and it works great (except in the video above where it looks a few frames off and I can’t figure out why. On Zoom it seems totally normal).

Here’s what the setup looks like all put together:

After that photo was taken I got a Mac Mini mount and put the computer under the desk, which is much cleaner and quieter, but used this earlier photo so you could see everything plugged in. When you run this off a laptop its fan can get really loud.

Again, not the most practical for day to day meetings, but if you’re doing prominent remote streaming appearances—or if your child is an aspiring YouTube star—that’s how you can spend ~9k USD going all-out. You could drop about half the cost with only a minor drop in quality switching the camera and lens to a Sony RX100 VII and a small 3.5mm shotgun mic, and that’s probably what I’ll use if I ever start traveling again.

If I were to put together a livestreaming “hierarchy of needs,” it would be:

  1. Solid internet connection (the most important thing, always)
  2. Audio (headset mic or better)
  3. Lighting (we need to see you, naturally)
  4. Webcam (video quality)

We’ve put together a Guide to Distributed Work Tools here, which includes a lot of great equipment recommendations for day-to-day video meetings.

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.2 Includes Editing Flow Improvements, Cover Block Content Positioning, and Pattern Categories

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 20:48

On Wednesday, the development team behind Gutenberg dropped version 8.2 of the plugin. The new release focuses on a better editing flow, includes a new content positioning control for the Cover block, and adds categories to block patterns.

With this release, users can copy an entire block via the Ctrl + C keyboard shortcut or cut a block with Ctrl + X if no specific text is selected. The snackbar popup will appear at the bottom of the screen to show which block was copied.

Hitting the Enter key while editing an image caption will create a new paragraph. For situations where a user wants to continue writing after inserting an image and caption, this is probably a welcome addition. However, it could be a problem for users who need to have multi-line captions — I am uncertain how to add a line break in a caption with this change.

Gutenberg 8.2 includes several other enhancements, such as limiting the most-used blocks in the inserter to six items. Individual buttons within the Buttons block can be split into two buttons by hitting the Enter key or merged by hitting the Backspace key. Users can also test two new block patterns. One adds a hero section with two columns beneath. The other adds a three-column features/services section.

Overall, this is a solid update with numerous enhancements and bug fixes. The editing flow changes are nice improvements, and the new Cover block positioning and Patterns API updates are welcome additions to the editor.

Content Positioning for the Cover Block

The Gutenberg team has created a new alignment control that allows end-users to position the content within the Cover block. I have been waiting for this feature for at least a year after first seeing it mentioned as a possibility in an unrelated ticket.

The new positioning feature adds a matrix control with nine positions the user can choose from. Once a position is chosen, the inner content of the Cover block will move to that location. It is important to note that some content will not look like it has changed position if the Cover block is full. The inner container’s width is set to auto, which means the content inside may already be taking up all the available space. Alignment is more pronounced in Cover blocks with less content inside.

Sure, it was possible to align inner blocks individually in past versions of the plugin. However, it was also sometimes a bit of pain to do on the block level. This new control brings a new level of flexibility to the Cover block.

Theme authors will need to update the CSS in their themes to handle the new positioning classes. There does not seem to be any official documentation for styling these classes, so looking at the source code is the best course of action. The classes are as follows:


It will also be interesting to see what plugin developers do with the new AlignMatrixControl component for their own blocks. This component is used for handling the inner block alignment of the Cover block, but it should be easy to extend to other blocks that could also use such alignment.

Categories for Patterns

Gutenberg 8.2 has nearly ticked all my boxes for the Patterns API. The newest release adds support for categorizing patterns. Currently, the default interface shows the following seven categories:

  • Text
  • Hero
  • Columns
  • Buttons
  • Gallery
  • Features
  • Testimonials

There is also an “Uncategorized” section at the bottom of the inserter, but it is not technically a category. It merely houses any patterns that have not been categorized.

Theme and plugin authors now have access to the register_block_pattern_category() and unregister_block_pattern_category() functions to register or unregister patterns, respectively. Categories can be assigned to a specific block via the new categories argument. More information is available via the Patterns API documentation.

Patterns can be assigned one or multiple categories. Therefore, users may see duplicates of some patterns in the inserter. This is one reason I am holding out hope for the team to bring the tabbed interface or something similar back to the inserter. With categories, that should now be possible for both blocks and patterns. At the moment, my library of patterns is becoming unwieldy.

Slash commands for patterns are still on my wish list, which may cancel the need for a tabbed inserter interface.

Block Widgets Almost Ready

In this week’s editor chat, the team discussed the possibility of bringing the new Widgets screen out of the experimental stage. If this happens before July 7, it could mean users might be able to start configuring their sidebars with blocks as early as WordPress 5.5. This is not set in stone yet, but it is exciting to start seeing blocks truly break out of the post content area.

For the most part, the block-based widgets system works well. It does not yet feel as polished as it should be for merging into core WordPress. However, if the team pushes through any remaining roadblocks in the next month, it is within the realm of possibility. I have my doubts, but we’ll see where this lands soon.

Now is a good time for end-users to begin testing the experimental widgets via both the “Widgets (beta)” admin screen and the “Widgets Blocks (Experimental)” customizer panel. To test this feature, enable the Widgets option under the Experiments settings page for the Gutenberg plugin.