Notes for March 27, 2020

Footnotes #391

BRIAN'S TAKE ✏️

It’s been a heck of a week. While nationalism seems to be rising from a political perspective, I can’t help but feel an increased sense of global togetherness at a human level. We are all in this together. No country is spared. No country is immune.

Nations worldwide are organizing various relief packages to help families and corporations handle the sudden economic shock — a completely separate endeavor from the massive demands on healthcare systems.

The Tax Foundation — who has a nice WordPress site, I’ll add — has a handy guide for how each country is handling COVID-19 related relief programs.

The US just signed into law the CARES Act, in which Americans can see exactly what’s in the $2 Trillion package by reading the bill directly. I read the bill, and the Tax Foundation summary is a very good companion to better understand it.

Many of your businesses (incorporated or sole proprietors) in the US may have access to some of the Paycheck Protection Program funds. There are several caveats, but affected businesses will be able to both receive loans and also later apply for forgiveness of some expenditures, like those related to payroll or office rent. I hope anyone who is interested in these loans is careful though — there are no sure things here yet and more guidance is both necessary and pending. It’s a step, though.

Many, many people have been laid off, furloughed, lost hours, or otherwise had wages reduced. And we’re early in this. Some of us in the webspace have been affected already. Most of us (directly or our businesses) will eventually feel it, to some degree — though there might be a delay versus businesses completely shut down due to the response to COVID.

It’s an important time to be in a community, to know you’re in this with other folks, to share your experiences with trusted friends, and to let others help when and how they can.

Good will come of this experience. We don’t see it all today, but it will come. Until then, stay strong and I am hopeful for each of your safety and well-being.


WordPress 5.4 RC 4 was released a few days ago. Expect to see the final release on March 31. If you want to catch up on all the changes, check out the official field guide. 🐕


Gutenberg 4.7 has been released. Highlights include the Block UI redesign and new APIs — including an API to register custom Block patterns from themes and plugins. The API is still a work-in-progress and may change before entering WordPress Core. ✨


Yoast is offering a new online training course focused on the WordPress block editor. This is more than just a blog post — it's very well done and will “hand guide you through the process of creating a post with the block editor through practical screencasts, PDFs and assignments.” ✋


Juliette Reinders Folmer notes that some updates are proposed for implementation in WordPress Coding Standards 3.0.0:

“With the change to PHP 5.6 as the minimum PHP version for WordPress Core, and with the outlook of a minimum version of PHP 7.x in the (near) future, even more interesting language features will soon become available for use in WordPress Core, plugins and themes.”


This weekend marks one of the first WordCamps that have transitioned from an in-person event to a virtual one: WordCamp San Antonio. All speakers will be live streaming, and there's a rumor that there might be a “gameshow” event to cap off each day. Tickets are free. 📺

WPCampus 2020 is making that transition too — they have decided to become a virtual event. WPCampus 2020 Online will be July 15-17. The in-person event in New Orleans will be postponed to 2021. 🏕️

The call for speakers for WordCamp US 2020 (October 27-29) has been issued. 🤙


Brad Williams, John James Jacoby, and Justin Tadlock on April 22 for a special AMA on WordPress Plugin Development with Post Status partner Cory Miller. Our guests are the co-authors of the upcoming 2nd edition of Professional WordPress Plugin Development, 2nd Edition, which will be coming out in May. 📗

The webinar will happen on Apr 22 at 11:00 AM CST. You can register here »


Rahul Bansal and Joel Abreo of rtCamp share lessons from their fully-office to fully-remote transition. 👨‍💻

“The bedrock of remote work is mutual trust…. along with async communication.”

If you are a business owner or agency going through a similar transition, you'll want to read this.


Big news! Github has acquired npm, Inc. the company behind the Node package manager registry. 📦

Github claims npm will “always be available and free.” They will integrate GitHub and npm to “improve the security of the open-source software supply chain.”

Sadly, I'm already hearing of layoffs from npm — but that could be related to COVID-19, not the acquisition.


Pantheon shared how they are supporting organizations on the COVID-19 front line. If you host with them, this is especially recommended reading. 🙏


Convesio, a new WordPress hosting company, explains how they raised over $1M from 850 investors using Wefunder for their campaign. They also discuss the challenges ahead, and how they are planning for 2020. 🗺️


If you develop Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) then this announcement from WebKit about third-party cookie blocking may have appeared on your radar recently. Now, Aral Balkan says he believes Apple is “killing” offline web apps in the name of privacy. It seems others agree. ⚰️


Delicious Brains shared some great ideas they had for adding more creativity and context with testimonial styling at SpinupWP. 🧠


A new version of the Perfmatters WordPress plugin was released recently and features an entirely rewritten form submission process for the Script Manager. 🎛️


Google has published Schema.org 7.0, which includes schemas for Coronavirus special announcements, Covid-19 Testing Facilities and more. 🏥


Emma Goto has some great notes on how to take smart notes as a developer. Emma's tips are based on the Zettelkasten method and Sönke Ahrens book, How to Take Smart Notes. 🗒️


DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video and Podcast Picks of the Week

📹 Here are my two video picks of the week:

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:

  • How I Built It: Nathan Ingram talks about managing client relationships and a new project he recently launched to help freelancers.
  • Geek 2 English: The second episode of this new podcast from SiteGround has Cal Evans looking at what a plugin is, what it does, and what site owners need to know before installing one.
  • WPMRR Podcast: The latest episode includes advice for remote work drawn from guests on previous episodes.
  • #PressForward Podcast: Kathy Zant reflects on a stressful time in her life and how it forced her to re-evaluate the way that she approaches her work and life, a method she calls a “Hacker Mindset.”

Notes for March 23, 2020

Footnotes #389

WordPress 5.4 RC2 is available now with the final release still on target for March 31. 📅

Eileen Violini reports on the progress being made toward block-based themes.

Jb Audras has an update about progress toward auto-updates for themes and plugins.


Earlier this week Cory Miller sat down with Dr. Sherry Walling to discuss her tips and advice for managing fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Some highlights:

  • Get some big deep breaths — Four slow seconds in, four slow seconds out. 😤
  • Refocus on gratitude — What are you thankful for? 🙏🏻
  • Have your inner voice of worry make an appointment — Put it on a schedule that’s not 24/7. Listen to it; it’s there to protect you, but once its time is up, move on. 🗓️
  • Connect with others daily — Social distancing doesn’t mean losing connection. Do lunch or a snack or a quick break. Try virtual coworking. 👩‍💻
  • Have playtime — Maybe that's Legos, cooking, or pulling out your old musical instruments. 🎺
  • Get your heart rate up with exercise — Like a family dance competition, yoga, or pushups. 🤾‍♀️
  • Limit your news consumption to 15 minutes a day. 🔇
  • For single people living alone and missing physical touch: Find a soft comfortable and perhaps heavy blanket, take a hot bath. 🛀
  • For entrepreneurs: Remember, you can’t do everything yourself and you can’t fix everything by yourself. In fact, we’re all in this together, especially your team. “Leadership means you're hosting the conversation. You're listening. you're engaging, it doesn't mean that you are the ultimate decider.” 👂

Today Cory's friend and psychologist Dr. Nick Wignall is also offering Office Hours and Q&A.


Rebecca Gill offers some COVID-19 communication suggestions for your clients.


🏕️ The call for speakers for WordCamp US 2020 (October 27-29) has been issued. 🤞


mycamp.rocks has a growing directory of virtual WordPress meetups and conferences.

🤙 If you are a meetup or conference organizer, please reach out to David Bisset and he'll add your event to the list.


Gutenberg Hub recently launched a collection of block templates with 100 section templates spread over 12 section types. Just copy and paste them into the editor.


Many companies and individuals — both inside and outside the WordPress space — recently offered reduced or free versions of their products. 🎁

  • Igor Benić made his WordPress developer course for free using this link for a limited time.
  • The Events Calendar folks are making Promoter free through June 1, 2020. This is an automated email marketing tool for events.
  • Mendel Kurland is opening his time to help anyone with WordPress and WooCommerce sites.
  • Mailster.co is offering 50% off of all its products.
  • ElegantMarketplace is offering a 25% discount on everything until March 22nd.
  • Yoast is currently offering its All-Around SEO Training course for free.
  • Jeseph Meyers is offering “WordPress, PHP, CSS and other work for free (small projects, significant discount for large projects) to any small business through the end of April, no strings attached.”
  • Angela Bowman is offering LearnDash and membership plugin install services.
  • WPmobile.app, a mobile app theme, is 70% off. Discount code: STAYSAFE.
  • Elegant Modules is offering a 60% discount on products which include modules for Gutenberg and several page builders. Discount code: HELPING2020.
  • Chris Lema is offering his eBooks for 90% off.
  • SliceWP is offering a free one year premium license over the next two months. Discount code: TOGETHER.
  • WP Trads has kindly made the French translation of the WordPress extension of LMS Learndash available for free.
  • WPOwl is offering your first month of hosting for £1. Discount code: COVID19.
  • Rough Pixels has set up a 50% discount on any purchase. Discount code: RP50.
  • Zoom is temporarily offering a free version of their pro tier for K-12 schools.
  • Sling TV is offering free streaming for some content — including youth programming. (Great if your kids are home while you are working at home too.)

📣 Some companies are currently hiring, such as Pagely. Make sure to check out the Post Status Job Board for open positions as they emerge.

👉 Check our continuously updated “discounted tools” page on Post Status for more special offers as they are being shared with us. If you have something to share, let us know.

Also, be sure to check out the Post Status Deals page.


Working from home, running online meetups, and teaching remotely have been hot topics lately. I enjoyed Benedikt Lehnert‘s take on suddenly working from home:

“Working remotely is much less scary than it may feel like at first. It’s much less about the tools than it is about the people.”

Check out remote.tools too — a directory of products for remote workers. 🛠️


The Clone Page Tree plugin adds an action to the page row actions for duplicating the entire hierarchy of parent and child pages. 🌳


Wordfence has launched Fast or Slow, which was born from the idea “to develop a way to measure real-world performance from around the world, and an easy way to read and interpret the results.” 💨

This free online service provides you with an overall score of your site's performance along with a summary and breakdown of factors impacting performance.

I took a few moments to kick the tires, and I was impressed with the information I got. It was easy to see the differences visible to visitors in the United States versus those in Brazil, India, or South Africa.


Drupal‘s founder and project lead, Dries Buytaert, asks, “Is  open source is recession-proof?” Looking back over the past, Dries think open source “will continue to grow and win.” He is “optimistic” it “will continue to grow and expand, and that it can help many individuals and organizations along the way.” ✌️


Ben Pines of Elementor suggests four ways to prepare for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on your business:

  • Keep expenses to a minimum.
  • Sort and prioritize your portfolio.
  • Learn new skills.
  • Find alternate ways to connect with clients.

DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video and Podcast Picks of the Week

📹 Here's the video pick of the week:

🎙️ With everyone that has happened, I haven't had time for many podcasts. But here is one I recommend this week:


Notes for March 18, 2020

Notes for March 13, 2020

Footnotes #388

WordCamp Updates

WordCamp Europe is the latest (and the largest) WordCamp to be canceled due to COVID-19. 🦠

Angela Jin has posted a list of WordCamps that have been canceled or postponed. As WordCamp organizers make further announcements, this list will continue to be updated.

Lindsey Miller noted in Post Status Slack that WordCamp Kent is still happening on May 30-31, but it “will be completely virtual.” (At the time of this writing, their website hasn't yet made this official with an update.)


My Default

The second release candidate for WordPress 5.4 is available now. The release is still targeted for March 31st.

Riad Benguella announced that fullscreen mode will be activated by default in the visual editor starting with this release:

“Note that for now, that’s a local setting, which is why it’s going to reset when your preferences do, including incognito mode. Future releases will store the setting in the WordPress database.”

This late change generated a lot of questions and pushback, especially after Matt Mullenweg took responsibility for it as his decision. 🗯️

Personally, I found the experience to be jarring after my site auto-updated to the latest beta release. I might get used to it, but I right now I feel something is missing in fullscreen mode, and it wouldn't be my default choice.


An Admin After My Own Cart

WooCommerce 4.0 was released this week with over 740 commits from 21 contributors. This includes the new version of the Admin interface, which is a “first step towards a more modern JavaScript-driven experience.” 🛍️

Note that this is a “major release” and not fully backward-compatible with previous WooCommerce versions.

Bob Dunn has a good overview of the highlights of the 4.0 release including the new Admin.


Block Test Patterns

Rich Tabor explains why block patterns are the future of page building in WordPress. He also describes what a Block Patterns API may look like. 🏗️

Right now you can copy whole templated sections of block patterns from Munir Kamal‘s block template library at Gutenberg Hub and paste them in any site's block editor. There's a Chrome browser extension to make it easier to use the block template library inside WordPress.

Justin Tadlock has a great post on Munir's work over at the Tavern.

Nick Hamze has a nifty Chrome extension too —Detective Wapuu — for identifying blocks on any site you visit. 🕵️

WordPress.com is using block patterns in a templated Page Layouts feature now.


Beta Quarantine

Shopify is giving its employees a nice stipend for office equipment while they work from home. 🏘️

The Canadian company already has over a thousand remote employees, but starting March 16, the whole company (~5,000 people) will be in their home offices to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

While a $1,000 stipend sounds really nice, an unexpected transition to remote work for whole teams that may have no experience with it will probably require some careful management.

, Director of People Operations at Human Made, offers some really good advice about keeping your people happy and effective when they're suddenly working from home.

As always, good, proactive communication is key. Assume best intentions, be open and transparent, and know the signs of burnout. 😫


Jeff Matson examines the benefits and drawbacks of WordPress' open source ecosystem, including the dangers of a “nulled” copy of a theme or plugin whose licensing has been stripped. ⚖️


If you are interested in how the Just In Time (JIT) compiler works in the upcoming release of PHP 8, read this very accessible post from Níckolas Da Silva. ⏰


Matt Shaw explains why delivering WordPress media directly from S3 is a bad idea. Try using WP Offload Media to deliver assets via Amazon CloudFront instead. ☁️

Due to recent changes in certain browsers, Barry Pollard advises “setting width and height attributes on your images to prevent layout shifts and improve the experience of your site visitors.” 📐


Josepha Haden hopes to see “a release squad comprised entirely of people who identify as women” by the end of 2020:

“We’ll be able to increase the number women who have that experience and (hopefully) become returning contributors to Core and elsewhere.”

If you can help realize this goal, please read this post and join in the comments.


DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video and Podcast Picks of the Week

📹 Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Women in WP spoke with Birgit Pauli-Haack about her history as a developer and her involvement with many Gutenberg-related aspects of the WordPress community. 🌟

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:

  • Solopreneurs will benefit from this episode of the Matt Report featuring Cory Miller and Brian Krogsgard on a key question: When is it a good time to get outside help with your startup? You can also learn “how the sausage is made” at Post Status. 🌭
  • Don't forget to check out Cory Miller's conversation with Ken Wallace on Masterminds: what they are, how they work, and the good they can do for you.
  • This episode of Pressing Matters has Elliot Condon in for a deep dive into Advanced Custom Fields blocks. 🤿

The rubber band recession

I am not a professional analyst of the economy. But even for the professionals, there are significant uncertainties. I don’t mean to strike fear with this post. I mean to encourage preparedness — or at least as much as we can in the short time we have available. Please do not take my words as gospel or financial advice.

The economy is screeching to a (temporary) halt. This happens. Economic systems go through periods of expansion and contraction.

Typically, real impacts on economic productivity are gradual with periodic spikes based on fear and uncertainty, often as triggers are hit, and the worst is finally realized. (Think of the mortgage and real estate fallout of the last global financial crisis, for example.)

Even in times of extreme economic stress, the world keeps spinning, businesses operate as long as they can, and everyone adjusts.

This time, in many countries around the world, the rapid expansion of COVID-19 cases has brought economies to a halt. Immediately. And completely. Entire cities on lockdown. Full travel bans. Every store closed. Europe is in the throes of crisis just as much of Asia is getting a grip on the worst of it. From the metrics I've seen, the United States is two weeks away from what Italy is going through now.

This creates an immediate and crushing stoppage to regular economic activity.

Corporate debt is at record levels, and these shocks to regular money flows could easily force a whole bunch of businesses into insolvency without significant and imminent intervention. Even with temporary debt forgiveness, real cash flow could be cut in half — or more — for many types of businesses.

I do not mean to spread fear, but the web industry is not immune! It is an important time for every one of us — employer, employee, and self-employed — to consider our capacity to manage our lives in case we lose some, or all, income for a period of time.

The real impact on business could be significantly different depending on your line of business. I fear that consulting agencies are at the greatest risk, as a non-core expenditure simply gets “put on hold” until more certain times.

But subscription businesses are hardly an exception. Will people keep spending as normal on plugin licenses, SaaS products, and support? I don’t know. There’s a chance that people stuck at home get to work online or via entrepreneurship endeavors. That is what kickstarted many of the businesses thriving in the WordPress ecosystem today — people who began their own business in the depths of a recession.

Could this happen today? Yes. But WordPress today is different than WordPress twelve years ago. We’re a more mature space. The companies are less flexible. We don’t benefit as much from the exponential growth of a nascent web platform on its way to being a standard technology. We’re more susceptible to global contraction, I believe.

We must plan. Consider our reserves. Discuss things openly and honestly with our teams. Do not panic, but do not ignore the threat of severe and rapid global economic contraction.

I believe the recessionary effects have a good chance of being like a rubber band. If you can survive the cash crunch from halted economic activity, the likelihood of business activity returning to some level of normalcy is quite high after a few months of virus wrangling. I pray I’m right.

I’m trying to prepare myself for a rubber band recession. A deep hit, and a rapid bounce back. It’s certain we will see some lasting effects, but I believe the worst is about to hit us very quickly — as income streams dry up and the world hits pause.

Notes for March 12, 2020

The Power of Small Peer Groups

In the latest episode of Post Status Draft, I talk with Ken Wallace of Mastermind Jam about… Masterminds!  We cover what they are, how they work, and the benefits they have for entrepreneurs and other professionals. Check it out!

Here are our own notes on the ways Masterminds and small peer groups have helped us.

CORY'S TAKE 💥

While the small groups I've been a part of and facilitated for more than 9 years have not been traditional “masterminds,” they have exponentially and positively changed and improved my life.

Entrepreneurship, in particular, is a lonely gig.

Since 2011, I don't go it alone … I go together … with a group of like-minded peers on similar journeys with the same values, meeting regularly, consistently.

Three benefits of peer groups:

  • Learn and Grow, Together
  • Camaraderie and Connection
  • Support and Encouragement

Keys to successful peer groups:

  • Meet regularly. Have a schedule, and then start on time, end on time, every time!
  • Have a designated member-moderator or facilitator. Someone must be tasked with wrangling invitations, schedules, agendas, and keeping the group on track.
  • Have an agenda. The basic one I use reviews highs and lows, successes and struggles since the last meeting, and then we look ahead to the next meeting.
  • Mutually agreed upon expectations:
    • Show up.
    • Trust and respect others.
    • Absolute confidentiality.
    • Share parallel experiences rather than offer advice.

BRIAN'S TAKE ✏️

I second what Cory says. I've been in a Mastermind for years. While the core group has been just me and one other person, we've had 1-2 others rotate in and out for 1-2 year stints. It's been incredibly helpful. Planning for the “end of life” of a Mastermind is really good advice because change is inevitable. We essentially evolved ours to a two-person weekly meeting, which I still love, but it's not the same format as the 3-4 person Mastermind that we used to have. We just evolved it to something new.

Notes for March 10, 2020

Events and Cancellations this Week

🎓 The call for WPCampus 2020 session proposals closes at midnight tonight! This summer the conference is coming to New Orleans at Tulane University from July 15-17, 2020.


📚 This Friday at 12pm CST, Cory is hosting the first Post Status Book Nook discussion. Sign up on Zoom and join our #BookNook Slack channel if you haven't yet.


🦠 WordCamp Postponements and Cancellations

Several more WordCamps have announced cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19, including WordCamp DC, WordCamp Jacksonville and WordCamp New York.

WordCamp San Antonio and WordCamp Europe are currently still on, but keep an eye out for changes at any events you are planning to attend.


Notes for March 9, 2020

The Text Renaissance and the Eighth Death of Blogging

The always-interesting Venkatesh Rao has a fascinating and (for him) relatively brief take on the present moment as a “text renaissance” for the web and online publishing. It's a good thought-provoking post about the implications of several new tools and platforms rooted in old methods and ideas for publishing written content:

  • Roam — a hypertext idea-organizing and publishing platform Vannevar Bush would love, since it seems to fulfill the vision of a “Memex,” as Sarah Constantin beautifully explains.
  • Substack — a freemium subscription-based content blogging and email newsletter alternative to WordPress+Mailchimp+Membership system “Frankenblogs.”
  • Threaded Twitter — a “user-pioneered hack-turned-supported feature that has wonderfully revitalized the platform.”
  • Gatsby, Jekyll and static websites.

Gatsby gets a lot of praise from Rao, especially in connection with WordPress. He sees Gatsby as the first “real, serious alternative” to WordPress, so he expects it will disrupt the entire ecosystem. As part of that disruption, Rao predicts the “8th death of blogging,” in the sense that blogging — like a cat — will have at least nine lives. It keeps dying and coming back.

I'm not sure why Jekyll and other static site generators were mentioned alongside Gatsby. Since Jekyll produces static HTML and Gatsby outputs a single-page, dynamic React app, they are fundamentally different. I don't see static site generators as game changers the way Gatsby probably will be. Static has always have been around; WordPress can be used as a static site generator. But Gatsby offers a way to decouple your front-end from your back-end and still dynamically push and pull content and other data from it.

I've mostly seen Gatsby as a boon for performance because you're not constantly re-rendering pages and throwing lots of queries at the database. But beyond that, Gatsby seems like yet another turn of the crank in the endless cycle of shiny new things that keep developers interested in their work. Accessibility, usability, and sustainability remain uninteresting and unimportant because you can't usually throw them at clients as the latest sexy thing to invest in.

But maybe there is another upside. Rao is thinking about Gatsby in a way I hadn't considered — as a way to present writing in new ways:

I see several promising young writers already moving away from the blog as the main vehicle for online written expression, and building bespoke sites with weirder, more experimental structures, using Gatsby and its kin as the foundation.

Rao didn't provide examples for that, but it made me think of some of the things The Correspondent is trying on their own membership-oriented CMS, as well as some what-ifs, like what if you could make WordPress more like Roam? One of the interesting things about the idea of a renaissance — a rebirth — is that it means going back to forgotten sources in “the early history of digital text, rediscovering old, abandoned ideas, and reimagining the bleeding edge in terms of the unexplored adjacent possible of the 80s and 90s.” Maybe it's also a way to get off the platform and applications cycle — “commodify the back end, transform and retransform the front end,” as Alex Danco puts it — and actually make some qualitative progress with tools for written expression.

 

Notes for March 6, 2020

Footnotes #386

✨ The upcoming WordPress 5.4 release has a lot going into it:

  • A brand-new, officially supported, npm-based scaffolding package for blocks!
  • New gradient theme APIs that allow your theme to use gradients as backgrounds in the Cover and Buttons blocks.
  • Changes to DOM structure on the block editor. Jorge Costa explains the markup and style changes.
  • REST API changes include taxonomy “OR” relation support in WP_REST_Posts_Controller along with selective link embedding.
  • Privacy features have been updated. The Personal Data Export tool now includes Session Tokens, Community Events Location, and Custom User Meta.
  • Check out the WordPress 5.4 Field Guide for a deeper dive.

😷 The COVID-19 virus is taking a toll on communities and markets worldwide. After the cancellation of WordCamp Asia, we know the WordPress community is not immune.

The livestream that was held partly in place of the cancelled event went on as expected, and you can review the recorded presentations now. (It was done via Crowdcast, so you'll need to click “Join the Livestream” and then select the talk you want to hear from the list near the top left under “Schedule Session.”)

There has been a lot more talk about remote communications an alternative to travel for conferences and business. Zoom has gained more new users in the first months of 2020 than all of last year.

Wordfence CEO Mark Maunder has explained why his company is taking a pause on WordCamps for the time being, and why he is suggesting that WordCamp Europe be cancelled along with “all other WordCamps globally in 2020” until the situation has improved.

At the time of this writing, WordCamp Europe is still moving forward as planned, and they are keeping their site updated with the latest coronavirus news.

Several other WordCamps and community events have been postponed, including WordCamp Geneva and the WordCamp Retreat in Soltau.


Want to learn how to take your in-person event online? Get Cory's take as he joins Brian Richards of WPSessions for a 60-minute Q&A about high-impact 💥 virtual events on March 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. CST.


Joost de Valk has a proposal for improving SEO on WordCamp sites so more of them can be indexed by Google. Judging by the response so far to this tweet, it looks like this is a common problem for WordCamp organizers.


Johnny Harris asked why WordPress core doesn't support the WebP image format, and the reason might be related to Safari not supporting it. 🤔


Bowe Frankema made some interesting predictions about Elementor‘s plans after securing $15 Million (USD) in funding. Bowe thinks the future for WordPress businesses is not selling one-off services: “Recurring revenue is key… look to the cloud to offer up your own recurring revenue SaaS or WaaS solutions.” ☁️


Vlad Olaru wrote a lengthy post on “complex global systems” in block-based websites. People have very different expectations about what it will mean to transition to a block-based WordPress ecosystem, and I appreciate how Vlad has taken up this difficult topic. Unexplored challenges await. 🐉


🥫 Nick Hamze made a great point about developers dogfooding their own Gutenberg blocks:

“…the best you can hope for now is that someone will have a simple blog rocking a Twenty-something theme with a vanilla set of blocks. If we aren’t excited to build with blocks, how the heck can we get other people excited?”


Chris Coyier updated his advice on where to learn WordPress theme development nowadays.


Jason Coleman posted an update about his growing Paid Memberships Pro business, which raked in $810,000 last year and is currently at $3,000,000 in all-time sales. 📈

“By sharing our story, I hope others can learn what to expect when launching a WordPress plugin or a paid support plan around an open-source project.”


James Huff reminded folks on Twitter that neither WordPress nor WordPress.com offers phone support. If anyone claims to offer such support, it is a scam. 🚨


❤️ WP&UP, a registered UK charity that supports and promotes positive mental health within the WordPress community, could use your help with a few easy things you can do to support their mission.

A product or service giveaway, a fundraiser, some proceeds of sales on eBay, Amazon Smile (https://wpandup.org/smile) — and direct donations — are all very welcome.


The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) has published a First Public Working Draft of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.


DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Podcast Picks of the Week

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:


Notes for February 29, 2020

Footnotes #385

The latest beta of WordPress 5.4 has been released, and more information is being shared about developer-focused changes. This version will introduce new hooks to add custom fields to menu items. 🆕

Also, auto-update functionality for themes and plugins may be coming in WordPress 5.5. There's much work still to do, but the animations and screenshots in this post by Jean-Baptiste Audras indicate how it may work in the theme and plugin admin screens.


 

Ryan McCue shared this paper about Let's Encrypt SSL 🛡️ usage that has some interesting figures:

  • Squarespace has 4.9M sites using Let's Encrypt for SSL (97% of their customers) and Automattic has 4.3M sites, or 96% of the total.
  • Both are significantly ahead of Wix (3.9M sites, 85%) in their Let's Encrypt deployments.

We often share items about accessibility, which has been a consistent effort for WordPress, but if you wonder how Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly are faring with it, read this review from Terrill Thompson.


Carolina Nymark noted only 11 themes in the WordPress.org theme directory add custom block styles. No themes use the server-side rendering for block styles added in 5.3. Carolina is right: “theme authors need to adopt this faster.”


Riad Benguella presents some performance improvement and monitoring techniques that can be used in any React/Redux application, based on his work and observations with Gutenberg. 💨


Suzanne Scacca shows how to create booking widgets that collect appointments (and revenue) for your clients using the Amelia booking plugin. Her tips about automation are quite insightful too. 📅

If you attended WordCamp US last year, please fill out this survey to let them know about your experience and what you want to see this year in St. Louis. 🏕️


A critical security update was recently issued for Duplicator that Wordfence reported as affecting over a million WordPress sites. 🔓

Duplicator users should update to version 1.3.28 as soon as possible.


Are you working in a “feature factory?” “Just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line?” 🏭

John Cutler explained what signs to look out for three years ago, and now he's reprising that post with the lessons he has learned since then.


The Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain with the launch of a new open-source platform called Open Access. 🖼️


It appears Google users in the UK will be losing EU data protection


Here is a Chrome and Firefox extension that “cleans” URLs by removing parameters such as Google AnalyticsUTM parameters. 🚿

I forgot how UTM refers to Urchin — Analytics' predecessor, acquired by Google in 2005.


If you try to keep up with podcasting, then this article from Tom Webster is a must-read. Tom talks about the newly formed Podcast Academy and shares some market survey data.

Notably, Americans over the age of 12 who listen to podcasts each month grew from 17% in 2015 to 32% in 2019. 🎙️


DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video and Podcast Picks of the Week

📹 Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Beth Livingston, Jessi Gurr, Mickey Mellen, and Nathan Ingram led an interesting discussion on the business panel at WordCamp Birmingham 2019.

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:

  • Mixergy interviewed Pagely co-founder Sally Strebel about “the crazy hours” it took in the early days “to make this business happen.”
  • Bill Jones shares his knowledge about user-centric data, privacy strategies, the GDPR, and more on the Press This podcast.

Notes for February 21, 2020

Churn

Most businesses deal with churn, even the ones that don't call it that. Businesses with recurring revenue deal with churn most directly.

We want to keep the customers we have. We want them to renew over and over again — whether we bill monthly, annually, or on some other cycle.

There are several keys to managing churn:

  • Identify your churn rate and how it's affecting growth overall.
  • Identify what is causing churn — where in the cycle do customers tend to leave?
  • Attempt to forecast and prevent future churn. Find customers who are slipping away and bring them back before they cancel.
  • Offer a quality exit experience to churning customers.
  • Create a winback routine to try to get them back.

I've been listening to a podcast all about churn, called Churn.fm, that I've enjoyed a lot. The host interviews people managing churn at SaaS companies and talks about methods they've used or are using to improve churn to keep more revenue.

Here are a few episodes I liked:

Also, from WordPress Podcast WPMRR — Joe and Christi talk about churn, MRR, and ARR in their latest episode, and it falls nicely in line with these others, but with a WordPress bent.

I would bet most of us aren't paying enough attention to churn. We should be! Give these a listen, and if you aren't tracking and working to improve churn, it's time!

Notes for February 20, 2020

Footnotes #383

Updates Update

WordPress 5.4 Beta 2 is now available for testing. WordPress 5.4 is slated for release on March 31 and contains a number of user and developer enhancements, including updated block editor keyboard shortcuts, favicon handling, and some bugfixes. 🐛

WordPress 5.4 also introduces apply_shortcodes() as an alias for do_shortcode().

A discussion of XML sitemaps in core has started with a focus on gathering more contributors around the feature plugin and soliciting feedback.

CORY'S TAKE 💥

This is a big move for the platform, even if still in discussion. I’m worried about bloat and things already covered well in existing popular plugins. What are your thoughts? Let’s talk in the Club.


If you use the Demo Importer or a commercial theme from ThemeGrill, you should be aware of a security issue that can potentially let attackers wipe out your sites! There is an update available to address this exploit. 😲

Last month, the team at Wordfence revealed a similar issue in the WP Database Reset plugin.


Broad in the Theme

Iain Poulson explains the five ways you can create a plugin settings page: use the WordPress Settings API, a Custom Fields Framework, a code generator, the REST API, or VueJS/React. 🎛️


Mel Choyce explains how WordPress can safely introduce block dependencies into themes. If you plan on building themes in 2020 and beyond, keep your eyes on Mel's blog.


Ari Stathopoulos proposes a way to ease the transition to block-based themes from older themes that were never designed for the new editor. As you can imagine, moving from hardcoded PHP templates to a blocks structure is not an easy problem to solve, but Ari's suggestions and summaries of the discussions so far seem promising. 👍


Vlad Olaru writes about his attempt to understand a WordPress theme’s role and responsibilities so that he can better understand how blocks relate to themes and to each other. He also considers the things themes have been doing in the past and what they've lacked.

It's a difficult post to summarize, but ultimately Vlad is trying to define what makes a “good” WordPress theme and who is responsible for good (and bad) experiences with themes:

“A good WordPress theme is like an onion: layers upon layers of tightly wrapped decisions and options, with a sweet, opinionated core, and some tears in your eye when you try to peel it apart.”


Chris Coyier has a well-written and complete guide to HTML data attributes. He explains what you can and shouldn't do, styling issues, and how to access data attributes in JavaScript. 🐕

CSS Tricks has a nice guide focused on proper HTML for links and buttons as well.


Work Smart

Check out this impressive list of one-on-one meeting questions compiled by Vidal Graupera. If you work on a remote team, some of these questions might make meetings more helpful and productive. 🤝

CORY'S TAKE 💥

This is an excellent, exhaustive list of questions to ask. It reminds me that good leadership is often about coaching, not bossing. And this book — The Coaching Habits — is a great read for this. (By the way, have you joined the #BookNook?)


I appreciate this post from Tiago Forte about taking “smart” notes. It's a deep post rather than a list of quick tips, so there's a lot to chew on.

As I continue to absorb it, here are two points that stand out: “Our tools and techniques are only as valuable as the workflow” and “Writing is not the outcome of thinking; it is the medium in which thinking takes place.” ✍️

Also if you aren't familiar with the Cornell Notes system, that might be worth a look as well.


Here are 101 tips for people attending conferences. This list is especially geared toward WordCamps, but much of it applies broadly to travel and conferences. ✈️


Buffer shared their State of Remote Work report which shares insights and data from over 3,500 remote workers. Among their findings, remote workers say they are happiest “when they spend more than 76% of their time working remotely.” Sadly, “a majority of organizations don’t pay for monthly expenses associated with remote work.” 👩‍💻

CORY'S TAKE 💥

I’ve worked with remote teams since 2008, and a lot of these findings feel like an affirmation of things I've learned from that experience. However, there are big potential personal struggles that come along with the many upsides of remote work, namely social “isolation” and “not being able to unplug” — especially if 80% of your work time is at home. Regarding collaboration and communication, we had a hybrid team — half distributed, half in office. The consistent complaint from our remote team, no matter what we did, was always that they felt like they were out of the loop.


MonsterContracts offers contracts designed for WordPress freelancers, solopreneurs, teams and agencies who work with clients. I've seen a lot of polished contracts shared over the years, but this is the first I've seen it turned into a niche commercial legal service tailored to each specific case where a contract is needed. 📃

CORY'S TAKE 💥

I love this offering as it fills a need for those just getting started with freelancing. I was privileged to work with Nathan at iThemes. He is an incredible teacher/coach/trainer/advisor. He’s got a polished process for how he’s run his agency for years and shares it broadly.


Chris Lema nails it again: how to respond to the question “Is that your BEST price?” from potential customers to your proposal.

Chris reminds us that someone out there will always present a cheaper price, so don't race to the bottom. 💸 His strategy of proposing three prices is well worth a look.


Nick Hamze shares some “weird” WordPress wallpaper (desktop and mobile) via his WeirdPress site. 🤪


DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video and Podcast Picks of the Week

📹 Here's the video pick of the week:

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:

  • How I Built It: Shannon Shaffer of Purple Finch Studios shares tips on systems and automation that she has put in place to make her team more efficient.
  • While this is an iOS development podcast, I recommend this episode of Under The Radar because it focuses on setting plans, goals, and guidelines. It's broadly useful, especially for developers and business owners.
  • A new developer branch of WPwatercooler has started. It's called Dev Branch.

 


Notes for February 18, 2020

Two new and compelling reasons to sign your team up for Post Status

I want to share two new members-only resources for you at Post Status.

Our intention is to load up even more value than you already get from us — and give you two more compelling reasons to sign your team up for Post Status.

1. The Book Nook 📚

You might not know this, but I'm a book addict!

One of my core values is “Learn and Grow, then Teach and Share.”

That's why I’ve started a new Post Status Slack channel for reading books about business and personal growth together. It's called #BookNook, and you can find it here.

To get the conversation started, I’ve shared two resources for you:

I want to help you and your team read for personal and professional growth. Each month, I’ll be sharing the books I’m reading, the things I learn from them, and I hope you will join me.

Get on board with the Book Nook »

 

2. Learn & Leverage Your Strengths Mini-Course 🧠

I just published a new mini-course called Uniquely You where I walk through three strengths discovery tools I used prolifically at iThemes for over a decade.

The goal is to help you as a leader learn more about yourself and then leverage those strengths in your organization.

The videos are short, the slides are all there for you to download, and I give specific examples of how I used them in my business. (And how I still use them.)

In fact, Brian and I talked about this on our latest podcast together around the 26-minute mark.

Every time I talked about my team’s strengths I saw an uptick in their energy and focus. 

We all love talking about ourselves and especially the things we’re naturally good at.

I found that this is an easy affordable way to invest in your team.

To answer questions and spur discussion, I’ve started a new PS Slack channel called #UniquelyYou to discuss the mini-course.

Start Uniquely You Now »

 

Team Memberships

It's time to sign your team up for a Post Status Membership »

If you haven't noticed, we're trying to make this a no-brainer to sign up your team for Post Status.

Our aim is to equip you and your team to be exceptionally informed and WordPress professionals prepared to succeed in whatever you do.

Imagine you write an email tomorrow saying, “Hey team, I just got you something new to help you learn and grow professionally (and personally) and keep up with WordPress in the meantime.”

In addition to the above resources, Brian and I are working to add even more value to your membership — and your team.

Sign up your team »

 

More on the way

We are just getting started. We're working on new features for professional WordPressers, and teams looking to level up their continuous education.

Here are two additional things we're super-excited about that we're working on to roll out next:

  • In-Person ‘Masterminds' — These would be small events (fewer than 20 people along with Brian and I) with laser-focused topics. The first one we're working on is for helping Plugin Authors with  Marketing and Monetizing their product.
  • Bi-Monthly Live Events — These are half-day live & online learning events where we bring in domain specific experts to speak about key subjects you deal with while holding a Q&A chat in Post Status Slack. (E.g., managing healthy remote work environments.)

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback and ideas on all of this.

Reply to this email or DM me in Slack.

We're here to support you!

—Cory Miller
Partner, Post Status

 

PS: If you're not a member yet, these are just a couple of additional reasons you should join the Club.

Notes for February 15, 2020

Video and podcast picks

📹 Here's my video pick of the week:

  • There's an interesting discussion at the Gutenberg Times between Enrique Piqueras and Birgit Pauli-Haack about the highlights of a full-site editing experience and how block-based themes could work.
  • Francesca Marano has two videos (part 1 and part 2 + slides) from the last WordCamp US on how to create a plan that properly represents you and your business. At WCUS she provided some handy worksheets with this talk.
  • The videos from last month's WP Engine DE{CODE} 2020 conference are now available if you register.

🎙️ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that are worth your time:

Also, shout-out to Kori Ashton, featured on WordPress.org's People of WordPress series. She's created a heck of a following on YouTube and has quite a story.

Dev Notes

WordPress developer Jonathan Bossenger shares his 2020 web development setup. He uses Firefox and Chrome along with PHPStorm and a wide selection of GUI and CLI tools. Some may be new to you. 🛠️


Francesca Marano wrote a refresher on what it means to be a component maintainer and who qualifies. (Being a maintainer and a committer are two separate things.) Francesca says “a passion for your component” is “the most important thing” — and making sure you have the time available.

If you passionately believe something should be in core, check out this post. 👷‍♀️


For those who wanted a full list of private functions and classes in WordPress core, Jonny Harris has provided one. He notes: “I created the list to add it to the WP coding standards, to highlight to developers that they should not be using these functions/classes in their plugins.”


Carl Alexander explains why raising the minimum PHP version in WordPress doesn't make it a “modern PHP project.” The also lists the steps that could be taken now to close that gap.

In a follow-up tweet, Carl added, “I think the larger issue is that there's no real desire to make these changes in the first place. There are plenty of people with experience that would gladly help if that was a priority.


Claire Brotherton analyzed the accessibility of two WordPress page builders side by side: Beaver Builder and Elementor. Claire's tests are extensive; they include widgets and UI. Results appear to be a mixed bag, with both plugins still having more work to do. 🚧

In another accessibility comparison, Scott Vinkle looked at keyboard and screen readers in native video players. Scott “found most video players have poor keyboard and screen reader support,” so he recommends using them only “with caution.” 📺


If you ever wanted to develop expertise in browsers, Eric Law has put together an impressive list, from books to tools. 📚


Front-end Futures

🏕️ WordCamp websites now have more “app-like” PWA (“Progressive Web App”) features. This means cached pages and assets are available offline, so if someone visits the schedule page and loses their internet connection they’ll still be able to load the schedule. 📱


Zac Gordon announced the new GatsbyWPThemes.com site, which is devoted to Gatsby themes for use with WordPress. You can preview some of the themes and plugins now, and there will be more to come.


Sarah Drasner over at Smashing Magazine documents how to create a headless WordPress Site “on the JAMstack.” She sets up a Vue application with Nuxt and pulls posts via the WordPress API. A demo with source code is provided. 🗣️


Rich Tabor has posted his reflections on 2019, which included joining GoDaddy and selling CoBlocks and ThemeBeans. His goals for 2020 are “to simply read more,” “produce music,” and “get involved with core Gutenberg on a deeper level.” Rich predicts this is going to be “an even bigger year for the block editor” than 2018 and 2019, and he describes what is probably the only way to make WordPress “future proof:”

“I want to build a WordPress that my children will fall in love with. Will share their adventures with. Will make their mark with.”

In another post, Rich outlines a new look for the Login Designer website. He used the Twenty Twenty theme and Tailwind CSS, noting he “wanted to experiment with a fully utility-based framework and better understand both shortcomings and opportunities with this flavor of site building in WordPress.” It looks nice; you should check it out.


Karolina Szczur explains how to get started with web performance by breaking down the most important performance metrics. 🚄

JavaScript is one of the main obstacles, according to Karolina:

“Avoiding long-running tasks and blocking the JavaScript main thread is one of the most critical performance strategies to employ.”


New releases

If you were looking forward to seeing the navigation block in the upcoming WordPress 5.4 release… sorry, it's not going to happen. Mark Uraine explains why, and I agree it makes sense to wait until more full site editing features emerge. 🧭


Nick Hamze and Aajit Bohra created a plugin that lets you create memes using the block editor in WordPress Just another of Nick's fun ideas put to practice. 🙀


If you or your clients are using the Event Manager Plugin, make sure you update to the latest version as soon as possible. A CSV injection vulnerability was discovered in version 5.9.7.1. 💉


Jonathan Christopher teased SearchWP 4.0 — a major rewrite that's no longer limited to WP_Posts, and his example includes user search, which is great. 🔎

Jonathan puts together a really nice summary of the work that went into this release, including getting rid of a lot of technical debt. It's a great look inside the thought process for a big plugin release.


Scott Bolinger announced AppPresser 4. It's a major release with a completely modernized, native build process for backend apps. This will make your apps “faster and … up to date.” New pricing and beta releases are coming soon. 🔘