Notes for September 10, 2020

Footnotes #412

The Gutenberg plugin is out with a new update. In version 8.9, the block-based widgets screen is enabled by default and replaces the default WordPress widgets screen.

Other enhancements include adding a character count to the info panel. You can add links to featured images now too. ๐Ÿ”—

Birgit Pauli-Haack published a resource list useful to anyone creating small or big block patterns. This is a good starting point for learning how to make block patterns available in your themes or plugins. ๐Ÿ™

This made me smile ๐Ÿ˜„ โ€” something a bit different for virtual WordCamps: WordCamp Austin 2020 has put out a call for musicians along with its call for speakers. ๐ŸŽถ

Austin Ginder recently launched Stackable โ€” which soon was rebranded as WP Freighter. The product offers “fast duplicate copies of your WordPress site with no need to wait to deploy to separate environments.”

Upon returning from a sabbatical, Josepha Haden wrote about some skills and leadership lessons she picked up from tending to her garden. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŒพ

Two clear and simple lessons: Plant today what you need tomorrow and give them space to grow, or create space later. ๐ŸŒฟ

At the end of the day though you are leading and managing flawed human beings:

“The plants are not picture perfect… and shouldnโ€™t that be true for those we lead, too? That perfection shouldnโ€™t be measured on what we wish someone could do, but rather on what they were built to do.”

Troy Hunt explains what “hashing” means for passwords, and what site owners mean if they say they “didn't encrypt your password but hashed it.”

It's a lot to digest, but Troy makes it easy to understand what password hashing is and why you are asked to change your password when hashes are exposed. ๐Ÿ‘

Ben Kuhn offers an excellent reminder that attention is your scarcest resource. Programmers and managers both make key decisions about when to devote energy and focus on a problem or project. Sometimes it's best to take a break or tackle it another time. ๐Ÿ˜ซ

One of Ben's tips is to have a “bullshit timebox.” ๐Ÿ’ฉ Like Ben, maybe you “somehow always end up with a bunch of minor chores to doโ€”responding to emails, deflecting secondary obligations, etc.” Well that BS can all be shoveled into “a one-hour period a few times a week” devoted to “all the things life is too short” to waste more time on than this!

Ben also tries to trim down his “open loops,” which are “projects or processes” you've started and not finished. โ˜‘๏ธ

Lisa Charlotte Rost offers some helpful tips on how to pick more beautiful colors for your data visualizations. ๐ŸŽจ

The depth of this post makes it worth a bookmark even if you aren't building a visualization. I found it helpful in how I look at other areas of design too.

Antonio Villegas ponders whether WordPress has a “bright future.” While the WordPress market share is currently on the rise, “the future of blogging (and its platforms) is today more threatened than ever.” โŒ›

Antonio points to two areas we should be concerned about. The first comes from yours truly, David Bisset, about our youth involvement youth in the WordPress community. The second concern comes from Morten Rand-Hendriksen.

Morten's “Blogging is dead. Long live ephemerality” post from a few months back is referenced, and as we said then, it's a good read. Antonio comments, “I find it very difficult for my parents to start writing in WordPress. But they do use WhatsApp to share everything they want… we have a lot of work ahead of us to make WordPress attractive again.” ๐Ÿ’ฆ

Mack Male details how he transferred his self-hosted WordPress blog to with WordPress Premium to start.

Normally (at least in my world) you hear of the transfer from to self-hosted, so it was a new experience to hear about it happening the other way around. It's pretty straightforward, but Mack explains a few potential pitfalls that are helpful to plan for in advance. ๐Ÿ•ณ๏ธ

Mark Krynsky shares his experience of trying to replace the OceanWP theme and Elementor on a with Astra Pro and the block editor on an existing site. Mark looks at the cost factor, simplicity vs. complexity, and performance considerations.

Mark concludes he will stick with the block editor for simple sites, but he also warns us to “take careful consideration as to what your requirements are and then select the best tools as necessary.”

Matt Zeunert from DebugBear attempts to answer the question, “Is the web is getting slower?” Starting by interpreting the HTTP Archive data, Matt looks at how devices and the web have changed over the past 10 years and what those changes have meant for web performance. :

He doesn't think the web is truly slower overall but, our software is nowhere near optimal efficiency:

“On the one hand, the web is slowly getting faster. On the other hand, the improvements in networks and devices represent a missed opportunity for more significant performance improvements.”

Michal Bugno writes about the hidden cost of constantly shipping new things, using his experience in launching a company called Pulse. ๐Ÿ’—

Michal shares some lessons he learned, like “no matter how much time you put into your product design, iterate again.” He also makes some good points about technical debt and voicing concerns earlier rather than later.

Ohad Eder-Pressman recently wrote an “open letter” to Matt Mullenweg on the subject of JamStack. This seems to come in response to Matt's comments in an email exchange with Richard MacManus in which Matt didn't find favor with the technology at this time.

There are several people in the WordPress community who have had an enjoyable experience with JamStack technologies. It is a trendy technology right now that is not without its pitfalls and challenges โ€” some of which are being handled by for-profit and non-profit organizations.

I tend to side with Matt in his view that the technology isn't there yet, and I am not convinced it would replace WordPress and non-JamStack technologies in terms of market share. But I do want to see the technology move forward, and I think there are some in the WordPress community doing great things with it in conjunction with WordPress and without it. ๐Ÿฅž

I recently stumbled uponย Jamhur Mustafayev‘s curated list of private businesses publicly sharing their expenses. This is a good place to see the tools used by startups and small private companies and what they cost.

Jamhur's curating goes pretty deep. Some of the list items link to archived pages because the posts or sites are gone or have been removed. ๐Ÿ‘

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • The FemTechConf is an event “for empowering women in the tech world” that is expecting 30,000+ attendees on September 25th. Mary Job might have a few free tickets available if you are a woman and interested in attending.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • This isn't a single video, but a list of videos I found on YouTube focused on general programming and development. Nothing specific to WordPress here, but it's quite the rabbit hole if you like learning through videos.

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are a few podcasts I recommend this week:

Notes for September 4, 2020

Footnotes #411

WordPress 5.5 was released last week and quickly followed by 5.5.1 on September 1st. ๐Ÿ’จ

In 5.5 several global JavaScript objects were removed without being deprecated. WordPress 5.5.1 adds a backfill for these globals so they no longer cause errors.

If you are a developer, take note that the new WordPress environment types introduced in 5.5 will no longer be possible to override. This brings the number of types down to four: production, staging, development, and local.

It appears that Yoast founder Joost de Valk and Yoastโ€™s current CEO Marieke van de Rakt have a stake in WordProof, which is building a Timestamp Ecosystem that will support multiple blockchains to verify online content.

Wordproof explains the SEO angle: “timestamping content on the internet combined with search engine optimization” creates “opportunities to fight fake news and fraud on the internet.” โ˜‘๏ธ

A discussion has been started about support for commercial users on the WordPress forums as the support team looks for “a good baseline for how to distinguish between what is considered commercial support, and also be more transparent about the process that occurs when commercial support is discovered.”

The WordPress forums are effectively a free service run by volunteers. Paid support in this location might hurt developers of paid plugins as well. These are real pain points, so I'm glad to see this discussion in the open. ๐Ÿ‘

If you're using the popular File Manager plugin (700k+ installations), be sure it's upgraded to the latest version. A recently discovered vulnerability allows “unauthenticated users to execute commands and upload malicious files on a target site.” ๐ŸŽฏ

A patch was released this morning on September 1, 2020. Some WordPress managed hosting companies are scanning sites and contacting customers.

Jamie Tanna has some good thoughts about the dangers for developers using online tooling sites (like and online JSON validators.

I agree โ€” using an online tool always runs the risk that critical information might be stored or intercepted, so you should avoid using these tools with sensitive data like passwords. Best to run tools locally if possible. ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ

Dave Lynam reveals the steps he took and the lessons he learned from a side project that pulled in $1k/month a year ago and has become his full-time gig now. The project is Bookmark OS, an online desktop for managing your bookmarks. ๐Ÿ“‘

There are always more than a few developers and individuals in the Post Status and WordPress community thinking of starting a side project to bring in additional revenue โ€” or they already have one. Dave's experiences could easily apply if you're on a similar path.

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • The FemTechConf is an event “for empowering women in the tech world” that is expecting 30,000+ attendees on September 25th. Mary Job might have a few free tickets available if you are a woman and interested in attending.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Allie Nimmons interviewed Hans Skillrud from Termageddon about the basics of sales. Allie hosts a regular “WP AMA,” so you can subscribe to her channel for more interviews with folks from our industry.

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Sadly due to an injury, I haven't had the chance to listen to many podcasts this past week. But here is one I enjoyed:

  • Doo The Woo: Bob Dunn interviewed Shanon Shaffer and got her thoughts on WooCommerce as a woman who runs a ten-person agency specializing in membership sites.

Notes for August 28, 2020

Footnotes #410

Appropos of Nothing

Matt Mullenweg posted on Twitter on August 21st that updates to the WordPress mobile app have “been absent” because “we were locked by App Store.” The reason: Apple wanted in-app purchases to be available, although the app itself does not sell anything. ๐Ÿคท

Matt told The Verge and commented on Twitter that he “wasn't going to fight it anymore” and would add brand-new in-app purchases for WordPress.comโ€™s paid tiers, which include domain names, within 30 days.

Fast forward to the next day, and Apple was backing off. The company provided a rare on-the-record apology. Hereโ€™s Appleโ€™s full statement:

We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved. Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused.

Apparently, this was news to Matt who posted his surprise on Twitter:

I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course.

There have been some other conversations asking if in-app purchases were intended all along or if very recent changes to the mobile codebase sparked confusion on Apple's part.

It was a brief yet wild ride… and it comes at a bad time for Apple as they are dealing with potential investigations into anti-trust violations and activity regarding their mobile app store along with legal action from Epic Games. โš–๏ธ

On August 25th Dave Rodenbaugh completed the sale of two WordPress plugins: Business Directory Plugin and Another Classified WordPress Plugin. The buyers belong to Strategy11 โ€” Stephanie Wells and Syed Balkhi. Strategy11 is part of WPBeginner Growth Accelerator companies. ๐Ÿค

If you would like more background on the sale, check out the podcast recommendations below. ๐Ÿ‘‡

With the sale of his plugins, Dave is now free to “focus more” on his SaaS, which helps store owners on many eCommerce platforms bring customers back to abandoned carts. Dave says “is still experiencing strong growth and has massive potential to become a strong 6 or 7 figure business.” ๐Ÿ›’

According to this recent update, a WordPress 5.5.1 short-cycle maintenance release may appear on September 1st to deal with some “particularly inconvenient” bugs. ๐Ÿ›

StudioPress recently announced it is rebranding the popular Atomic Blocks plugin it acquired from Mike McAlister in 2018 as Genesis Blocks. There is a free version still, and the pro version of Genesis Blocks is available in the Genesis Pro package. โš›๏ธ

Carolina Nymark notes that she has updated the WordPress block pattern guide and added new tips and a resource page at This is a tremendous resource; check it out!

Piotr Gaczkowski has offered a crash course on the bare essentials in command line developer tools for developers who want to get more comfortable in them. He also recommends checking the Awesome Shell curated list of some of the best command-line tools available. ๐Ÿงฐ

Several WordPress companies continue to offer paid positions for those wanting to work on WordPress core fulltime. Recently Syed Balkhi and WPBeginner announced their search for a qualified developer to take on this role. ๐Ÿ‘

Collis Ta'eed has announced he is stepping down as CEO of Envato after 14 years.

A replacement hasn't been announced yet, but Collis notes, “I think weโ€™ve found someone really great, with just the right mix of global outlook, community ethos, marketing at scale background, and humility to take it further than I can.”

Collis will still be involved with Envato and is staying on as Chairperson of the Board. ๐Ÿช‘

FooEvents recently hit a milestone of 1 million attendee check-ins. โœ”๏ธ

It seems the pandemic this year played a big part:

“Check-ins that were performed using our apps have increased by more than 50% this year and account for close to a third of the total check-ins ever performed using the apps.”

Joe Casabona is working on a fantastic content project called WordPress: Year in Review “to help put out more WordPress content in lieu of WordCamp talks.”๐Ÿ•๏ธ

The whole Year in Review package will include “an eBook that goes over how WordPress and the WordPress Ecosystem has changed in the last year” as well as “an interview series with WordCamp speakers on the How I Built It podcast.”ย  Finally, there will be “a video tutorial series focused on things you can do with WordPress thanks to changes made in 2020.”

Joe is looking for some help via a generously priced crowdfunding campaign you won't want to miss. ๐Ÿ‘ˆ

I learned a lot from this post by Chris Weigman on how he went back to WordPress after a year with Hugo. Other technologies may be attractive, but WordPress still pays the bills.

Chris also mentions that “the block editor has come a long way in the past year.” When he switched to Hugo he “found it almost unusable.” Now, he sees it as “a solid tool for writing and blogging.”

I tend to agree with that statement โ€” Gutenberg is still rough around some of its edges, but it's vastly improved and improving all the time.

Marius Jensen offers an introduction to updating jQuery code in an unmaintained WordPress plugin or theme. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Marius covers jQuery functions that are deprecated and the most common problems that have emerged after the upgrade to WordPress 5.5, which dropped support for jQuery Migrate.

๐ŸŽ‚ Congrats to Linux which turns 29 this month, or in October, depending on how you look at it:

ย “Not everyone in the Linux community is celebrating Linuxโ€™s birthday on August 25th, as some believe we should celebrate it on October 5th, when the first public release was made, but Linus Torvalds thinks both of them are valid.”

Here's an interesting read about a Google Chrome feature that is nice to have, but it's creating enormous load on global root DNS servers. ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ

Tom MacWright makes a case for a “clean start for the web,” spurred at least in part by the monoculture in browser engines and Mozilla's recent layoffs. ๐Ÿงผ

What made me think and look more deeply into his proposals (which you'll have to read for yourself) was this setup:

“Not only is it nearly impossible to build a new browser from scratch, once you have one the ongoing cost of keeping up with standards requires a full team of experts.”

At the same time, for creators, “The web has gotten much harder to develop for.” ๐Ÿ˜–

Justin Sainton explains in this case study how to power BuddyPress with WebDevStudiosAlgolia search-as-a-service engine. He shares a bootstrap file, walks through several code snippets, and offers a video at the end.

In addition to BuddyPress and the Algolia, Justin credits “the expert partnership of the good folks at Mission Lab and Sales Hacker” for making it possible to build a “super-charged social network.”

Alain Schlesser documents the best ways of setting up exceptions and using them in PHP โ€” and “how to avoid creating a mess while doing so.” ๐Ÿ‘Œ

๐Ÿ†• Commerce Journey ๐Ÿ›’

Learn how to choose the right domain name and get your WooCommerce store set up by listening toย Cory and GoDaddy Proโ€™s Justin Neely at Commerce Journey! ๐Ÿ›’

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • Google Open Source Live is a new monthly recurring event โ€œfocused on different open source technologies.” The kickoff event theme is “The new open source: Leadership, contributions and sustainability.”
  • WordSesh is happening on September 2nd. Registration is free! Take a close look at the schedule โ€” it might start very early if you live in North America. This time around there will be thirteen sessions that touch on topics like plugin development, static WordPress, business development, and leveraging WordPress for growth. ๐Ÿ“ˆ
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some good podcasts I've enjoyed this week:

Notes for August 21, 2020

Footnotes #409

WordPress 5.6 planning is underway, and, notably, this release will feature an all-women release squad. Josepha Haden hopes this experience will make it more likely that those who are involved will “return as contributors to Core and elsewhere.” ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Meanwhile, there have been some snags reported by people upgrading to WordPress 5.5 that has to do with themes and plugins that have outdated JavaScript dependencies. I appreciated this simple and easy to understand post by Kristen Wright from iThemes explaining the problem and how to deal with it.

If you have a broken site after updating to WordPress 5.5, install the jQuery Migrate Helper plugin on your site. It will re-enable the jQuery Migrate tool that was removed from core with WordPress 5.5.

Matt Mullenweg closed a ticket opened by Juliette Reinders Folmer about four days ago. The ticket had to do with ending support for PHP 5.6, which was a milestone within the original release scope and is currently the minimum required by WordPress.ย  Juliette proposed ‘bump[ing] the minimum supported PHP version to PHP 7.1.26.” In the comments, Matt explained:

“Just so we don't cherry-pick stats to make a point, it's worth noting that the PHP distribution across all WP sites we track is the same as … in 2018: 85% are 5.6 or above. Only about 66% are 7.1 and above.”

There has been some discussion of this on Twitter, with Andrew Nacin commenting:

“This is _obviously_ a key philosophical decision that should be made by the project lead. And for what it's worth, our philosophies and standards on this have been consistent for more than a decade. The numbers strongly suggest itโ€™s too early to drop PHP 5.6… Last I checked: 25% of sites running WP 5.5 were < PHP 7.1. Way too early to do this.”

Gravity View recently announced, a new website dedicated to providing courses and other helpful materials for users of Gravity Forms. is launching with courses created by Michelle Hayes, a Gravity Forms power-user and creator of Additional instructional content is coming from others too, including the authors of Gravity View and Gravity Form plugins and addons.

Congrats to Zack Katz for the launch. ๐Ÿš€

Lindsey Miller has announced a new endeavor called Content Journey which “provides high-quality, search engine optimized content for small businesses” and aims to be โ€œan extension of your marketing team.โ€ As Lindsey states on the homepage, “We spend a lot of time getting to know you, your business, and your goals so we can create custom content that gets results and best represents your brand.”

I know quite a few people who find it harder to create content than develop highly custom features for their sites. I imagine this service will be invaluable to you if you struggle with content too.

Congrats to Lindsey on the launch.ย ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿš€

SpinupWP recently added a useful page about troubleshooting situations where WordPress won't load โ€” perhaps a โ€œ504 Gateway Timeoutโ€ or a โ€œ403 Forbiddenโ€ error โ€” due to a DNS or server issue. ๐Ÿ”ง

Last week, the Community and Training teams went live with Learn WordPress. Now the discussion is focused on the full launch of the website and growth of its workshops. Some suggested ideas include full courses and non-English content. ๐ŸŽ’

If you want to get a fundamental understanding of SEO but don't know where to start, then this recent guide to “The World Of Search Engine Optimization” from Frederick Oโ€™Brien might be worth a look. ๐Ÿ”

I recently stumbled on this JavaScript library called handwritten.js that converts typed text to “realistic handwriting.” Then there's this Python script from Tristan Hume that does it with OpenType fonts, nicely explained by Julia Evans. โœ๏ธ

If you are a designer, front-end developer, or just someone looking for some design ideas, ColorDoo is a tool site that shows โ€œtrendingโ€ color collections and gradients. ๐ŸŽจ

SEJ notes that Google Chrome 86 will show two warnings to users submitting insecure forms over the HTTPS protocol. โš ๏ธ

Users who ignore an initial warning and then try to submit the form will receive a final warning that blocks them from submitting the form unless they take action to enable the submission. Will Safari, Firefox, and Edge follow suit?

In related news, it appears that Google is experimenting with hiding its browser's URL bar, something I am not crazy about. ๐Ÿ™โ€โ™‚๏ธ

Justin Ahinon has a proposal for a new approach to Gutenberg developer documentation. Justin recently volunteered to be the Gutenberg developer documentation team representative. In his proposal, he asks for feedback in the comments.

I have heard from several developers that the Gutenberg documentation is lacking in some areas, so it's good that this is getting the attention it's due. ๐Ÿ‘

Timi Wahalahti reviewed some of the changes and improvements that have been happening at over the past half-year. ๐Ÿ•๏ธ

Ellen Bauer, a front-end developer at Elmastudio, announced the release of Aino Blocks.

This plugin brings you a collection of page building blocks for the Gutenberg editor that can optionally work with a free Aino theme. Ellen is looking for feedback; she writes “It would be amazing if you try it out and let us know what you think.” ๐Ÿ“ฃ

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • WordSesh is back and happening on September 2nd. Registration is free! Take a close look at the schedule โ€” it might start very early if you live in North America. This time around there will be thirteen sessions that touch on topics like plugin development, static WordPress, business development, and leveraging WordPress for growth.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Fabio Pacifici has a series on How To Install WordPress using WP-CLI, starting with this video on the first steps, including how to download WordPress using the wp core download command. This series looks great for beginners or those new to WP-CLI.

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some good podcasts I've enjoyed this week:

  • Voices Of The ElePHPant: If you are a developer wondering what lies ahead with PHP 8, I can't recommend this episode enough! It features Cal Evans, Sara Golemon, and Gabriel Caruso.
  • Unplug Tech: Learn from Michelle Frechette how she started her WP Coffee Talk podcast. Michelle has some suggestions for you if you're getting into podcast production.
  • WomenWP: I enjoyed this episode with Meg Phillips discussing how education is changing with COVID-19 and how WordPress as a product and a community can help people who might otherwise be left behind.
  • Mac Power Users Not directly WordPress related, but if you wanted to get into Markdown through a good podcast try this episode.

Notes for August 12, 2020

Footnotes #408

WordPress 5.5 Release

WordPress 5.5 “Eckstine” was released this week, and so far it has been getting good reviews and feedback. The top three areas of focus were speed, search โ€” with a new sitemap addition to core โ€” and accessibility. Security and block improvements also shone during this release. โญ

Matt Mullenweg, Jake Spurlock, and David Baumwald led the 5.5 release. It represents the work of 805 volunteer contributors who dealt with more than 523 tickets on Trac and over 1,660 pull requests on GitHub! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Right before the release, wp_cache_get_multiple() was added to core. It can improve performance retrieving cache objects. ๐Ÿ’จ

The WordPress 5.5 field guide should be required reading for active developers; check it if you haven't yet.๐Ÿฆฎ

Also, Carlo Daniele from Kinsta has a nice, visual roundup of what's new in this release.

๐Ÿ WordPress 5.6 release planning is already underway! Led by Josepha Haden, this will be the first all-women release squad. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Ad Astra Per Aspera

Last week, the popular Astra theme was suspended from the theme directory for five weeks because it was “violating prohibitions on affiliate links.โ€ Search Engine Journal talked to the theme review team and Brainstorm Force (the owners of Astra) about the suspension. ๐Ÿ˜•

Here is the particular comment in Trac that many people have been focused on. Ronald Huereca explains the technical details and discusses the official response from Astra on their Facebook group. ๐Ÿ’ฌ

Although Astra was removed from the WordPress directory, a few days later (on August 10th) it was back but not listed anywhere in the popular theme lists. Alexandru Cosmin, the Themes Team Lead, stated on Twitter that they “found a hacky way to get them off the Popular list (for 5 weeks).” Alexandru points to a newly opened Trac ticket to “Add delist option to theme directory” and noted at the time that “if this patch is ready by then, we'll use it on Astra too.”

Sujay Pawar, CEO and Co-Founder of Brainstorm Force, issued a public apology letter but didn't include any new information or propose any course of action.

There is a new discussion taking place now about what should happen when a theme in the directory doesn't “follow the guidelines,” no doubt instigated by Astra's situation.

Mozilla vs. The Bottom Line

Sad news from Mozilla โ€” the company has laid off 250 people. If that wasn't bad enough, it appears that certain features in Firefox that many developers treasure may be vastly reduced or simply eliminated soon. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

This tweet from Kat Marchรกn, if accurate, reflects what is known at the time of this writing:

…the following teams at Mozilla have been either eliminated or gutted to oblivion: Firefox devtools, Firefox incident/threat management team, Servo, MDN, WebXR/Firefox Reality, and possibly DevRel/Community.”

Mozilla is also going to stop trusting SSL certificates issued for more than a year. This applies to new certificates issued on or after 1 September 2020. If you have an existing two-year certificate, you can continue to use it until it expires. ๐Ÿ”’

๐Ÿงช A proposal from Francesca Marano aims at bringing E2E (End-to-End) testing to WordPress core:

“E2E testing tests the higher-level functionality of an application that the user sees, typically including the interface and the inputs and controls that the user interacts with.”

After WordCamp US was cancelled, Joe Casabona shared some thoughts on virtual event fatigue. He says he starting noticing it during his webinar series. ๐Ÿ˜ซ

Joe proposes a way to solve virtual event fatigue โ€” make the events asynchronous and more portable:

“If people donโ€™t feel like they need to be tied to their computer at a specific time, for hours on end, theyโ€™re more likely to consume the content at their leisure.”

Joe Howard explains at Torque how to begin developing headless WordPress sites. The main advantages are flexibility and control, easier multi-channel content publishing, and better security and speed. ๐Ÿ‘ค๐Ÿช“

Joe names three tools to help you get started: GraphQL API, GatsbyJS Framework, and Static Fuse‘s Gatsby themes and plugins.

Troy Hunt is open-sourcing the “Have I Been Pwned” codebase. He explains his reasoning and what it will take for this massive project to continue. ๐Ÿ”’

Iain Poulson recently launched Plugin Rank, an SEO tool for developers who want to monitor their rankings and performance relative to competitors. ๐Ÿ‘€

A similar freemium plugin exists in the WordPress repo from Rank Math.

Laws of UX is a collection of established maxims and principles from Jon Yablonski that designers should take to heart when building user interfaces. โš–๏ธ

Nexcess has a new resource page focused on getting your WooCommerce store up and running. ๐Ÿ›’

๐Ÿค Recently Joomla developers from JoomUnited handed off the Advanced Gutenberg plugin to Steve Burge and PublishPress. Looking ahead, Steve says:

“PublishPress has focused on the admin area of WordPress… With the addition of Advanced Gutenberg, we're also going to focus on the front-end. We'll keep improving Advanced Gutenberg with a strong focus on publishers. So we'll add blocks that focus on content.”

Jill Binder โ€” who (among other things) leads the Diverse Speaker Training group in the Community Team โ€” has been selected as a finalist for a major technology prize, the BraveIT Award.

This comes as a well-earned accolade for Jill's work in WordPress and other technologies that empower people from underrepresented and marginalized groups around the world to become inspiring speakers and leaders. ๐Ÿ™

If you would like to take a few seconds to vote for Jill as a way to say “Thanks!” for her work in the WordPress space, you can do so here. ๐Ÿ‘ˆ ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • ๐Ÿ”Œ Brad Williams and Cory Miller will be holding a webinar on “Building Your First WordPress Plugin” on August 20, 2020, at 01:00 PM CDT (UTC -5) in North America. You can RSVP here for free. Based on the popularity of our first webinar on this topic, we're bringing it back. It's an extension of Brad's awesome, newly updated book, Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Very, very practical and helpful for anyone getting started.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Courtney Patubo Kranzke and Cami Kaos from the WordPress Community team lead this introduction to the WordPress open source project. They cover all the contributor teams and how you can join one. As part of Learn WordPress, there's a discussion group on Meetup to go with this workshop. This is a good one to share it with someone new to WordPress or for discovering something you didn't know about the project and its history. ๐Ÿ†•

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some good podcasts I've enjoyed this week:

  • Matt Report: Matt Medeiros has a take on the Astra incident in his latest podcast. I don't agree with all of his points, but I think I agree with him about Jetpack.
  • Exceptions Welcome: This is a new podcast focused on brand new or early-in-their-career software developers. A recent episode has an interview with Chris Ferdinandi on vanilla JavaScript.
  • C2C Podcast: Here's a good interview with Sal Lucatero, on how he found ways to retain and add value for members who could no longer attend his in-person C2C events.
  • WPMRR Podcast: In episode #106 Joe Casabona talked to Augustin Prot about co-founding WeGlot, a service that helps you make your website multilingual. They cover the reasons why premium subscriptions should offer more, and how community support adds value to a business service. Another recent episode I recently enjoyed featured Joe and Christie Chirinos talking about running the podcast itself, including cost and their equipment.

Notes for August 7, 2020

Footnotes #407

New in 5.5

WordPress 5.5 Release Candidate 2 landed this week, and the final release date (August 11) is next Tuesday. Here are the latest updates and news about it:

  • There is more support for modernized JavaScript i18n, which Justin Ahinon explains. Take note: “some previously globally accessible localization variables could stop working and cause breaks in your code.”
  • We will be getting the latest version of Gutenberg (version 8.7.0) in core, which focuses on stability and accessibility. According to Riad Benguella, this particular release “saw a lot of improvements to the Post block suite that constitutes one of the important bricks for the Full Site Editing project.”
  • Isabel Brison explains there are some new responsive styles your custom blocks can use in the editor, along with new editor preview options for different screen sizes. Replacing the old preview button there is now a dropdown with โ€œDesktop,โ€ โ€œTablet,โ€ and โ€œMobileโ€ sizes, as well as the existing front end preview option.
  • It's possible to register default values for metadata. According to Jonny Harris on Twitter, it took over two years of work to get this into core. Jonny thinks “this is going to be massively useful for developers when using metadata.”
  • Anne McCarthy has a rundown of the a11y improvements with some helpful screenshots and videos.

With new development on WordPress 5.5 coming to a close, there is already a need for feedback on the wishlist for WordPress 5.6. ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ’ฆ

Chloe Bringmann has some specific questions, including one directed at Component Maintainers: “what tickets of yours do you think will be ready to ship in 5.6 and need some review/feedback/approval/etc?”


Big Step for BigCommerce

BigCommerce has become a public company on Nasdaq. CEO Brent Bellm commented that “as a public company weโ€™ll be able to provide all our stakeholders more transparency than ever into our size, momentum, and industry leadership.” ๐Ÿ™Œ

Although BigCommerce is not an exclusive WordPress company, one can imagine that with additional funds, they might be able to devote more resources to the WordPress project โ€” headless eCommerce perhaps?

We discuss this story more in our latest Commerce Journey newsletter. ๐Ÿ“จ


โ€œI started using BigCommerce for WP in March and like it. The best eCommerce solution is the one you hate least โ€ฆ and I hate it least! The pricing worked well for us. No transaction fees. Iโ€™m excited to see them grow.โ€

PHP 8 is in feature freeze, and Beta 1 has been released. There are also new security releases for stable PHP versions 7.2.33, 7.3.21 and 7.4.9. ๐Ÿ”’

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽจ Theme developers, take note of the new admin menu page requirement:

Themes can add a page under the Appearance menu using add_theme_page. If they need to have subpages (e.g., documentation, FAQs, donation links, etc.), then they are allowed to use add_menu_page and add_submenu_page, provided they follow additional requirements.

The WP Admin Gallery is a growing collection of settings, patterns, and pages added to the WordPress admin interface by commonly used plugins.

Even if you aren't a plugin developer trying to get inspiration for your settings screen, the gallery is full of interesting (some good, some less good) examples of interface designs. ๐Ÿค”

BuddyPress has a maintenance release (6.2.0) that will get you ready for WordPress 5.5 โ€” it “is a recommended upgrade for all BuddyPress installations.” โ˜๏ธ

A New P2 Debut has launched an updated new beta version of P2. In the past, P2 was a WordPress theme that has been used for “blogging at the speed of thought.” It was adopted for internal communications between teams at Automattic in 2009. A successor, O2, emerged in 2015 as a plugin rather than a theme. O2 was shared on GitHub, but that project has been quiet. So has P2, until now.

This P2, despite the same name, is significantly different from the old P2 that has been available for download at without updates in over two years. The new P2 adds Gutenberg support and likely many other under-the-hood modernizations.

Ben Gillbanks took a look and says the new P2 makes use of both the O2 plugin and the P2 theme with a lot of code.

The new P2 is “free to use” at now, and “current P2s will always be free to use” there, but a “paid version … is in development.” Sarah Gooding reported the commercial tiers will offer extended features and include an “enterprise” option, as described by P2 launch lead Jon Burke.

Currently you “cannot use custom domains,” and the FAQ says you can't self-host it “at the moment.” The code does not appear to be available, but Automattic “plan[s] to offer this option in the future.”

There is a blog post by Miguel Lezama about P2's debut with a link to the demo. ๐Ÿ†•โœจ

I enjoyed the first chapter of Jay Hoffman‘s new series for CSS Tricks on the history of the web, with a special focus on Tim Berners-Lee.

Some older folks might remember how primitive the web was then, but there are very few in the WordPress community who go back to the days that Jay writes about here. If you want to know how things got started and the thinking that went into the early internet, sit down for a few minutes to learn about the tech past. ๐Ÿ‘ด

Justin Gagne has a nice piece on accessible drop caps and how to code them. He proposes a simple, semantic structure with an alternative text pattern that works well with screen readers. You can simulate them in the demos on his post. ๐Ÿ‘

We are WordPress

As recently reported by The Tavern, Automatticโ€™s marketing team has updated the companyโ€™s press page with a notice to journalists who are writing about Automattic:

Automattic owns and operates, which is a hosted version of the open source WordPress software with added features for security, speed and support. Please append โ€œ.comโ€ when referencing our product name.

WordPress is open source software, which is written, maintained, and supported by thousands of independent contributors worldwide….

This is an attempt to clear up some of the branding confusion often seen in the media where WordPress โ€” the project, code, and community we often refer to as โ€” and are not distinguished.

Sarah Gooding reports, “This update was prompted by a recent conversation on LinkedIn between Caspar Hรผbinger, who works as a digital marketer at Human Made, and CMO Monica Ohara.” ๐Ÿ˜„

Flywheel‘s latest (5.6.8) release of the free version of Local, a popular development tool, has added a push/pull feature for staging and not just production sites at Flywheel or WP Engine. Previously, this feature was included only with the “pro” edition. ๐Ÿ‘

If you work in CSS you may have heard of the CSS content-visibility property, which offers rendering performance benefits by skipping off-screen content. This article from Una Kravets and Vladimir Levin shows you how to leverage this new CSS property for faster initial load times, using the auto keyword. ๐Ÿ’จ

Matt Shaw shows how to set up Visual Studio Code and xDebug for WordPress development in a recently updated post. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Matt also touches on important extensions such as Git Lens (which adds simple git blame annotations to the line that youโ€™re currently working on), PHP DocBlocker for simple docblocking, and the Prettier extension for cleaning up your CSS, JS, and HTML code.

In a recent interview, Ben Gillbanks, a long-time WordPress developer, shares his thoughts on how to stay relevant in a “quickly shifting WordPress landscape.”

Ben says (1) avoid selling themes because it's a “really hard business to get into, and the quick bucks that used to exist are long gone;” (2) learn JavaScript; and (3) try to do something different that hasn't been done before with WordPress.

He's right. Even a relatively new concept, like block collections, quickly finds a crowded market.

Learn how to sell products online without an audience in our latest video/podcast at Commerce Journey ๐Ÿ›’

Jonathan Bossenger posted a recent update about the WP Notify project. It looks like things are off to a good start: the GitHub repository has been created. Code and design decisions are being made. ๐Ÿ‘

โ˜€๏ธ As part of a summer of updates, Beaver Builder recently released a new version with a focus on new modules and accessibility. They also rolled out a feature request and roadmap board.

Don't Stress, Decompress

๐Ÿ˜ท Check out the data on remote work during COVID-19 collected by the US National Bureau of Economic Research: The average workday increased by 48.5 minutes, as did the number of meetings (up 13%). ๐Ÿ˜ซ

Yikes! Thank you to Christelle Rohaut โ€” who rightly raises the question of burnout โ€” for bringing this to my attention.

๐Ÿงก Speaking of stress and burnout, please take Big Orange Heart‘s Remote Work Wellbeing and Mental Health Survey before it closes on August 31st.

Founder Dan Maby reports their 2019 results turned up some really grim statistics. Respondents reported experiencing acute emotional distress at twice the US average, and nearly half of all respondents said their workplace made them feel anxious.” And that was pre-COVID. ๐Ÿ˜”

๐Ÿ“… Conference and Event Updates

  • ๐Ÿ”Œ Brad Williams and Cory Miller will be holding a webinar on “Building Your First WordPress Plugin” on August 20, 2020, at 01:00 PM Central Time (the US and Canada). You can RSVP here for free. Based on the popularity of our first webinar on this topic, we're bringing it back. It's an extension of their awesome, newly updated book, Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Very, very practical and helpful for anyone getting started.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th). Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • ๐Ÿ•๏ธ WordCamp Europe 2021 (TBD, Online). Ticket Sales are not open yet, but the Call for Organisers is. Looking ahead with hope to an in-person WCEU in 2022, the Super Bock Arena (Pavilhรฃo Rosa Mota) in Porto, Portugal has been booked for June 2 โ€“ June 4, 2022.
  • ๐Ÿ˜ข In case you missed it from last week: WordCamp US 2020 has been cancelled. You can read the organizers' response to questions about their decision not to hold an online event as originally planned in April. Online conference fatigue and doubt about their ability to meet community goals were among the reasons given for the cancellation.
  • ๐Ÿฆ  This week all in-person flagship events โ€” large, regional WordCamps โ€” have been cancelled for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • React creator Jordan Walke‘s “React to the Future” talk from ReasonConf last year is a good overview of Reason, which “takes the ideas of React to the next level” by “allow[ing] you to learn one language that improves the user experience across a wide variety of use cases and constraints.”

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some good podcasts I enjoyed recently:

  • Women in WP: An interview with 21-year-old WordPress Enthusiast Swaahili M. You can also check out her WordCamp Kent 2020 on “Transitioning From Hyperactive Kid to Full-Time Content Marketer.”
  • Gutenberg Changelog: The latest episode covers Gutenberg 8.6, Block Patterns for WordPress 5.5, active development, and a Live Q&A Announcement.

Notes for July 31, 2020

Footnotes #406

As the WordPress 5.5 release date (August 11) approaches, more news about it has emerged.

Justin Ahinon lists nineteen miscellaneous developer-focused changes to themes, taxonomy, comments, and more. Some of these changes may have escaped your attention, like the way updating a plugin or theme by uploading a ZIP file works. ๐Ÿ—๏ธ

Jonathan Desrosiers noted in the comments that a separate post will be coming out to explain changes to wp_cache_get_multiple().

Developers should also check up on the changes to WordPress React components in addition to this update about Opcode Cache invalidation.

The proposed Block Directory, another new feature coming in WordPress 5.5, has had its guidelines revised. Of note: “This set of guidelines would not apply to general plugins that happen to include blocks โ€” plugins in the main plugin directory need only follow the standard plugin guidelines.”

Finally, there's a brief mention of some new block tools: Custom Line Heights and Custom Units. ๐Ÿ“

Munir Kamal has written up a comparative examination of “HTML Bloat” in Gutenberg and Elementor. Munir created two versions of the same page layout in both Gutenberg and Elementor to compare the amount and quality of the code they each generate. Munir's collection and presentation of the data from this experiment are well done. ๐Ÿ‘

Of course, while the amount of markup and JavaScript (which affects page load, among other things) is an important factor it's not the only factor in page bloat. I've seen some responses to Munir's results from Elementor users, and to be fair, some of their arguments are valid. It's also impressive how far Gutenberg has come in a relatively short time. ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ

Over in SpinupWP‘s impressive and broadly useful documentation pages, there's a great new mini-tutorial on the best way to set up scheduled events in WordPress.ย  It also explains why the default WP-Cron configuration is truly “terrible.” โฐ

TLDR: For something more reliable than WP-Cron, you might want to consider something like a Unix cron in conjunction with WP-CLI.

Helen Hou-Sandรญ has written a thoughtful piece on some valuable things software teams can learn from music masterclasses. As I learned from Helen, masterclasses are when musicians perform a piece for an established artist, and the master artist gives them feedback in front of an audience. ๐ŸŽป

Helen touches on managing feedback in group settings, arriving prepared, and cross-discipline knowledge. Her points on feedback are the ones I liked the most: “Not only does feedback need to be inclusive of a group while also targeted to each individual; it needs to be clearly contextualized.”

Bonus: Relax and listen to a 45-minute Bach cello suite in a masterclass at the end of the post. ๐ŸŽผ

Bing recently launched its first official plugin for WordPress that “enables automated submission of URLs from WordPress sites to the Bing index.”

In their announcement, they note the plugin “detects both page updates and new pages” created in WordPress and automatically submits the URLs behind the scenes to their Bing Webmaster Tools API. ๐Ÿ”

Congrats to the Paid Memberships Pro team โ€” their plugin recently passed 100,000 active installs! ๐Ÿ‘

Human Made‘s latest Word on the Future newsletter discusses the rise of Content as a Service (CaaS) and asks whether this trend is going to edge WordPress and other traditional CMS platforms out of the market. CaaS “is the ability of a CMS to allow content to be created and managed in one place, and then be distributed to a variety of channels โ€“ apps, websites, social media, VR and IoT touchpoints, etc.,.. โ€“ via API.”

Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) is not a new concept, but it has never been easy to do. Gartner reports 80% of marketers “will continue to struggle to seamlessly connect more than three channels of the customer journey” through to 2022. ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ

Nathan Baschez wrote an insightful business-related post on the “lifecycle of a business.”

According to Nathan, businesses often are born simple, grow complex, and then die of something he calls โ€œComplexity Convection.โ€ Nathan argues this is a natural process that drives many companies up-market and leaves them open to disruption. โšฐ๏ธ

Applying his theory to WordPress and other CMS platforms, Nathan writes:

Wix and Weebly were created as simpler alternatives to WordPress and Drupal. Now, theyโ€™re the complex ones. The market is being invaded by new entrants like Universe and Carrd. Some people even use Notion to build websites! And, for the ultimate simplicity, thereโ€™s always No website needed! Just the nav.”

Add this to the list of crappy things in 2020: Ben Martin at Sucuri shares another newly discovered variation of a credit card swiper he found on a WordPress WooCommerce site. ๐Ÿ’ณ

Ben says, “2020 appears to be the year of the credit card swiper, and more and more of this malware seems to be targeting WordPress.” ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Tom McFarlin reminded me that Alain Schlesser has an excellent guide to WP-CLI. This would be a good primary reference point to bookmark if you haven't seen it.

Alain's guide includes some great links to tutorials, other guides, and it explains how to search for third-party packages you can use with WP-CLI. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Here's a closer look at named parameters in PHP 8.

Native iframe lazy-loading is now an HTML standard and is currently supported in Chrome. As the name implies, this technology defers loading offscreen iframes until a user scrolls near them. ๐Ÿ’ค

For example, by default, the Facebook Like plugin (using their JavaScript SDK) pulls in ~215KB of resources to embed their “like” button in a page. 197KB of this is JavaScript. Now that code doesn't have to load until you scroll and see it:

“The plugin may appear at the end of an article or near the end of a page, so loading it eagerly when it's offscreen may be suboptimal.”

KPIs for WordPress Agencies with Virtual CFO Jeff Meziere

๐Ÿ”‘ Join co-founders Jeff Meziere and Cory Miller as they walk through the Key Performance Indicators for professional service companies, particularly agencies.

Jeff Meziere is a CPA, as well as a Virtual CFO. Sign up and bring your questions! There will be a live Q&A session at the end. ๐Ÿ“ˆ

Conference and Event Updates

  • ๐Ÿ’ผ WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th). Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.โ€ Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • ๐Ÿ”Œ Gutenberg Times Live (August 6, 7:00 PM EST) Free webinar. Kelly Dawn, Alex Shiels and Samuel โ€œOttoโ€ Wood will discuss how the Block Directory works and how to get your single block plugin into the Block Directory in light of the submission guidelines currently in place.
  • ๐Ÿ•๏ธ WordCamp Europe 2021 (TBD, Online). Ticket Sales are not open yet, but the Call for Organisers is. Looking ahead with hope to an in-person WCEU in 2022, the Super Bock Arena (Pavilhรฃo Rosa Mota) in Porto, Portugal has been booked for June 2 โ€“ June 4, 2022.
  • ๐Ÿ˜ขย WordCamp US 2020 has been cancelled. You can read the organizers' response to questions about their decision not to hold an online event as originally planned in April. Online conference fatigue and doubt about their ability to meet community goals were among the reasons given for the cancellation.


Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some good podcasts I enjoyed recently:

  • Voices of the ElePHPant: An interview with WordPress developer Kim Cottrell about her career and growth, DevOps, and Lando.
  • Distributed Podcast: Matt had a nice chat with Wherewithall founder Lara Hogan on management and leadership. Learn what BICEPS stands for! ๐Ÿ’ช

WCUS 2020 Cancelled

The WCUS team took questions from WP Tavern and Post Status. The below Q&A is what they sent us directly. Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern did an article based on the responses that we were both sent. Be sure to check it out.

Could you tell me what finally put the team over the edge to decide on cancelling instead of going virtual?

The WordCamp US team had decided to move to an online event in April. However, in recent weeks, the team has spent a lot of time discussing the goals of WordCamp US, and whether we can achieve them in the way we want to, through an online format. The goals of WordCamp are to help people learn to use and contribute to WordPress by connecting WordPress enthusiasts to each other, inspiring people to do more with WordPress, and encouraging people to contribute back to the project.

Weโ€™ve been following the latest posts on the Make Community blog, and we see that online WordCamps, as they currently are, are struggling to meet these goals. In addition, thereโ€™s a lot of online conference fatigue out there! The Lead Organizers also took into consideration how many volunteers we have on this team, and how much time we were asking them to invest in an event that didnโ€™t seem to be able to offer the same level of joy or satisfaction that an in-person WordCamp would.

As you might imagine, this was a very upsetting realization, but the whole team spent time discussing together, and we believe that we made the right decision. This organizing team is made up of experienced and dedicated volunteers, who see that the online events are shifting to better suit what the community is looking for. Some organizers will be shifting their focus to hosting a 24 hour contributor day and producing some of the workshop and youth programming content โ€” which is really exciting to see.

Will the State of the Word be held virtually?

Discussions about the State of the Word are still active; our understanding is that it will still happen, but possibly not in association with any other event.

How much money was budgeted for the production company? Can you link me to that public budget? Is that money refundable with this event being cancelled?

Cancellation costs are still being finalized. When the last round of discussions with vendors is complete, the team will publish a full accounting of expenses on the Community Team blog or the event site.

Will the location change for next year, assuming it will be held as an in-person event?

Decisions about WordCamp US 2021 are paused for now, due to the pandemic.

What does this mean for WordCamps not currently on the calendar?

Iโ€™m sure all WordCamps on the calendar are struggling with the same questions that the WCUS 2020 team had, about how to focus their energy in the ways that would make the most impact for our community. Many people are excited about exploring the potential that comes with a combination of asynchronous workshops + live discussions groups, and other online formats that could help welcome more people into the WordPress community in new ways. WordPress community organizers are very adaptable, and we look forward to working with some of them on the projects weโ€™re exploring, or seeing what different things they try.

Can you confirm that the original budget for the event, prior to planning on going virtual, was more than one million dollars?

Yes, the original budget was very close to $1 million, the biggest costs being venue and catering, along with other customary expenses for conferences of the size of WCUS.

How do you feel now that it is cancelled after investing all this time and energy into the event?

Personally, I believe it to be the right decision for all the reasons I shared earlier. The WCUS team did invest a lot of time and energy into this event, but in a year when it is incredibly hard to plan anything, we did the best we could and adapted quickly. And we needed to โ€” to be able to reach this decision. Iโ€™m sad, of course, as I miss seeing everyone at WordCamps, but even if it was time and energy invested in something that didnโ€™t happen, I spent time doing it with brilliant people who care just as much about WordPress as I do. Itโ€™s been an immensely challenging year, and Iโ€™m humbled to have been a part of this team, which has consistently supported each other and grown together in the face of adversity.

Notes for July 22, 2020

Footnotes #405

The debut of Jetpack CRM was announced at the Jetpack blog. It's a “new customer relationship management tool built specifically for WordPress sites.” Jetpack CRM is a standalone plugin — not bundled with Jetpack — and has separate pricing starting at $11 per month.

This is the result of Automattic purchasing Zero BS CRM back in mid-August of 2019 alongside the Tumblr acquisition.

Mike Stott and Woody Hayday first launched ZBS in the plugin repository in 2016. Both co-founders have been working for Automattic since then.


I actually really like what's possible with this. I have in fact been looking to replace Xero, as I only really use it for invoicing now, and do not currently use a CRM. Keeping my CRM inside of WordPress aligns well with the businesses I run. I think Automattic could really do well with this integration, and I'm glad to see it's the Zero BS CRM that is being leveraged in this way.

I saw some complaints about the XBS acquisition being another example of Automattic gobbling up independent product use cases, but I'm not sure what people expect after they acquired a tool that accomplishes this. And given it is not bundled in the primary Jetpack plugin, I don't think this is overly obtrusive. I'm excited to see where it leads.

More information about WordPress 5.5 is surfacing, including news of its ability to pass arguments to template files: “The template loading functions will now allow additional arguments to be passed through to the matched template file using a new $args parameter.”

In addition, there's a new esc_xml() function that came along with the new XML sitemaps feature.

Human Made has a good post about collaborating with Google to bring XML sitemaps to a large portion of the web.

Developers might want to read up on the REST API changes coming in the 5.5 update.

Finally, with the upcoming ability in WordPress 5.5 to have plugins and themes auto-updated, it was inevitable there would be a plugin to add the filters to disable auto-updates. This one is from Jake Spurlock. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Restrict Content Pro released its 3.4 beta. The upcoming 3.4 release promises to include auto-renew toggles, a payments importer tool, new logging functionality, and a bug fix related to renewal expiration dates. ๐Ÿ›

Rich Tabor is encouraging anyone interested in Block Patterns for the WordPress editor to dive in with him and discover how to leverage the new Block Patterns API to “build beautiful patterns.” ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ

Rich shows how you can “block out the pattern” in the editor and then register it, along with additional categories.

Lesley Sim showed off her work on a WordPress plugin she is calling NewsLetter Glue. It lets users connect WordPress to a mail service (currently Mailchimp) and send posts to subscribers. โœ‰๏ธ

Leslie also launched a closed beta; get in touch with her if you want to check it out.

Unsplash has released an official WordPress plugin that integrates their stock image service with WordPress. Features include quick intuitive search, easy insertion of images into posts, native support for the WordPress Media Library, automatic alt descriptions for improved accessibility and SEO. ๐Ÿ“ท

The plugin was built by the team at XWP. They're also working on the next version of the official AMP plugin for WordPress, which is available now for testing.

There is some conflictย on Twitter about the licensing of the photos from Unsplash (not the plugin itself) and's requirements for listing there, which flared up due to comments by Matt Mullenweg. Sarah Gooding has an excellent post about the nuance involved in the discussion and around the Unsplash licensing. I personally agree entirely with Unsplash's side of this.

Claire Brotherton takes a good look at six WordPress form plugins and identifies what might be the best “free” and “premium” options. Of course, your needs and likes might vary. โญ

Christina Hasternath has a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create a custom WordPress plugin that lets content editors rebuild a Gatsby app on AWS by manually rerunning GitHub Actions from the WordPress admin dashboard. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Scott DeLuzio announced that he's found a new home for WP-CRM System, and its new owner is Mario Peshev. Mario has agreed to continue supporting existing customers until their current licenses expire unless they renew. ๐Ÿค

A new study from North Carolina State University and Microsoft discovered that the technical interviews currently used in hiring for many software engineering positions actually test whether a job candidate has performance anxiety rather than whether the candidate is competent at coding.๐Ÿ’ฆ

Even without intending to, these “interviews may also be used to exclude groups or favor specific job candidates.”

Depending on how you do your hiring, this might be a good report to think over.

Matt Medeiros has moved to Castos, a company that focuses on podcast hosting โ€” and also has a WordPress plugin. Matt is the new Director of Podcaster Success. ๐Ÿ‘

It looks like BuddyPress 7.0 is gaining some new features, including a Gutenberg block to share a post/page via the Activity stream. The BuddyPress 6.2.0 Beta is available and needs testers. ๐Ÿงช

Conference and Event Updates

  • ๐Ÿ’ผ Big conference news for anyone looking for a WordPress business conference: WPMRR Virtual Summit is happening September 23rd and 24th. It will be a free online event focused on helping “make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.” Take a look at the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • ๐Ÿ”Œ On August 6th, Gutenberg Times Live will broadcast a webinar featuring Kelly Dawn, Alex Shiels and Samuel “Otto” Wood. They will discuss how the Block Directory works, how to get your single block plugin into the Block Directory, and they will explain the submission guidelines currently in place.
  • ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“ Registration for WPCampus 2020 Online is open. This free event is happening on July 29-30.
  • ๐Ÿ•๏ธ WordCamp Europe 2021 has announced it will be online only. I am glad they went ahead and made the decision. I'm afraid it'll be some time before we're able to be back to normal. ๐Ÿ˜ท


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Check out this series of videos from The Pricing WordPress Podcast โ€” its meant to help WordPress professionals with the pricing of their products and services. Guests include Jodie Riccelli, Jason Resnick, Ben Gillbanks, and Jonathan Stark.

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some nifty podcasts I listened to recently:

  • An interview with Shirley Wu on how she built a career as a freelance data visualizer, how to get started with learning data visualization, and taking data visualization into the real world.
  • Corner Office: Matt Mullenweg was recently interviewed on the subject of remote work by the New York Times. The audio and transcripts are now available.
  • ShopTalk Show: One of their more recent episodes covers a variety of good topics, like using Medium as a platform, accessibility widgets for websites โ€” no, you can't just bolt accessibility onto a product โ€” and other good subjects.

Notes for July 17, 2020

Footnotes #404

WordPress 5.5 Beta 2 is out. The final release is expected to drop on August 11th, 2020 as planned. ๐Ÿ“…

๐Ÿ‘‰ Several tooling additions and improvements have gone into the WordPress 5.5 cycle. Developers should take note of the build and test tool updates.

The WordPress Coding Standards ruleset has been updated from version 2.1.1 to 2.3.0, and the recommended version of PHP specified in the readme.html file has been changed from 7.3 to 7.4.

WordPress 5.5 will include the final update to the Dashicons icon font in WordPress Core. Don't worry: Dashicons isn't going away. As Jonathan Desrosiers explains: “It will continue to be bundled with WordPress in future releases. However, requests to add new icons to the font will no longer be accepted.”

This isn't a surprise; earlier this year Joenย Asmussen announced the short road ahead for Dashicons on the Make WordPress Design blog.

It's nice to see accessibility improvements to widgets outputting lists of links. New CSS styles for buttons with a disabled state are also coming. ๐Ÿ”˜

There are also new and modified REST API endpoints for 5.5. An endpoint was introduced for editing image attachments in the media library, and other endpoints were introduced for managing plugins.

The WordPress 5.5 Beta release thatโ€™s now in testing includes Block Directory support enabled by default, and you can add your own plugins to it. Alex Shiels shows how to get your block plugin added to the directory along with some related, helpful resources.

Alex mentions this new and improved tutorial that walks you through the process of creating a block plugin. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Riad Benguella explains how to register a custom block pattern.

Block Patterns are a new concept that will be introduced in WordPress 5.5, which will come with a number of built-in block patterns. Itโ€™s also possible for third-party plugins and themes to register additional block patterns or remove existing ones.

Sarah Rosso shared ten leadership lessons from ten years of work in a fully distributed and remote company โ€” Automattic. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป

Matt Mullenweg was interviewed by The New York Times on the subject of remote work and the story of how Automattic started down that path. There's nothing very new in this interview if you've heard Matt speak on this subject before, or if you are a listener of his Distributed podcast, but if you want to know more about the early history of Automattic and remote work, check it out.

When asked if Tumblr could be a viable alternative to other large content and social networks, Matt replied that Tumblr “is very active” and “getting 60,000 to 70,000 sign-ups per day from its mobile app.” He feels that there's “an opportunity to create that other place, that could be something that people go to feel that creativity, kind of like Instagram did in its early days.” ๐Ÿ“ธ

Matt Lacey does an excellent job of articulating why it may take a developer quite a bit of time “to only add two lines of code.”

Developers should read this post and share it โ€” perhaps not to clients directly, but reading it helps explain why some developer issues and bugs aren't as straightforward as they appear. ๐Ÿ›

Eric Karkovack breaks down the pros, the cons, and the use cases for going with a pre-built WordPress theme or going down the custom-built path. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽจ

๐Ÿ—‘๏ธ A List Apart shared Chapter 9 of Gerry McGovern‘s book, World Wide Waste, and his take on “useless images” โ€”

“The Web is smothering us in useless images that create lots of pollution… There are indeed many situations where images are genuinely useful, particularly when it comes to helping people better understand how a product works or looks… If you need to use images, optimize them and consider using real ones of real people doing real things.”

Jill Binder shares some tips on how to support Black voices in WordPress. All excellent suggestions. The two that stuck out with me are:

4. Start including Black people in your leadership, particularly in your speaker selection committee. This increases the chances you will have a more diverse perspective in not just selecting speakers, but also what you ask in your speaker calls. [….]

6. Be mindful of microaggressions which may deter participation or make people of color feel unwelcome.

Admin 2020 is a new “clean and modern WordPress admin theme” developed and sold by Mark Ashton. ๐Ÿงผ

It brings a fresh UIkit makeover (and a dark mode) to the WP back end, including the media library, dashboard, and search. Admin 2020 focuses on readability, quick search results, and a “distraction-free interface.” ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

There is an online demo for you to take Admin 2020 for a spin.

Pragmatic, a UK-based enterprise WordPress agency, has merged with Swedish company Angry Creative. Over the next few months, Pragmatic will become Angry Creative UK. ๐Ÿ™Œ

I would encourage you to read Joe Simpson Jr. over at HeroPress โ€” it's a great and personal post explaining how the WordPress community helped heal him emotionally. This is turn allowed him to help others. ๐Ÿค—

If you're a user of All In One SEO pack, there is a reported vulnerability (via WordFence) that โ€œallows authenticated users with contributor level access or above … to inject malicious scripts that would be executed if a victim accessed the wp-admin panelโ€™s ‘all posts' page.โ€

A patch addressing this vulnerability has been released, so make sure you are using the latest version of the plugin. ๐Ÿ”’

Conference and Event Updates

  • ๐Ÿ’ผ Big conference news for anyone looking for a WordPress business conference: WPMRR Virtual Summit is happening September 23rd and 24th. It will be a free online event focused on helping “make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.” Take a look at the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • ๐Ÿ”Œ On August 6th, Gutenberg Times Live will broadcast a webinar featuring Kelly Dawn, Alex Shiels and Samuel “Otto” Wood. They will discuss how the Block Directory works, how to get your single block plugin into the Block Directory, and explain the submission guidelines currently in place.
  • ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“ Registration for WPCampus 2020 Online is open. This free event is happening on July 29-30.


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some excellent podcasts I listened to recently:

  • WPMRR: Here are two episodes I went to highlight. This first is Alex Denning and Tom Fanelli discussing WordPress hosting and investments. Their latest episode covers the subject of podcasting with Joe Casabona.
  • Women in WP: Great interview here with Natalie MacLees about the drive to make websites accessible with insights from her accessibility-focused business.
  • Gutenberg Changelog: Birgit Pauli-Haack and Mark Uraine discuss what's coming for WordPress on the front end โ€” the Gutenberg 8.5 release, the upcoming WordPress 5.5 release, the JavaScript for WordPress conference, a Block Directory Live Q&A, Community Contributions, and the latest in Active Development.

Notes for July 10, 2020

Footnotes #403

Here is an update on the editing features that will (and will not) be included in the WordPress 5.5 release.

So far, the included features make an impressive list: a new block editor design, block patterns, and the block patterns APIs for themes and plugins, a new block inserter panel, and literally over a thousand other additional changes to the editor experience. ๐Ÿ™Œ

Full Site Editing is scheduled to be included in WordPress 5.6. Ari Stathopoulos has some code snippets for developers that show how to revise or build blocks with this feature in mind. ๐Ÿ“

Yoast just released their first update to the Duplicate Post plugin since they acquired it. The update contains several accessibility improvements. โœจ

Additionally, Yoast has released version 14.5 of its own plugin with some fixes and enhancements. Notably, the plugin will disable the XML sitemaps that are coming in WordPress 5.5.ย  Yoast's reason for this is that their plugin's sitemaps “are more sophisticated, integrated, and automated.” They go into further detail about this decision on their blog. ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ

Julia Evans has collected several of her short “wizard ‘zines” and cheat sheets into one area. I find these easy to refer to. If you work with the command line, Linux, SQL, etc. I would recommend a look. ๐Ÿ‘€

Web Stories for WordPress from Google has entered it's first public beta. ๐Ÿ”Œ

If you're not familiar with Web Stories, they are tappable, engaging visual stories on cards powered by AMP technology. They can also appear in Google Images, Discover, and the Google app.

Here's a scary report about how some hackers are using Google Analytics to steal credit cards, passwords, and IP addresses. There's also an explanation for how to tell if you've been targeted by thieves. ๐Ÿ’ณ

Thanks to Miriam Schwab for bringing this one to my attention. ๐ŸŽฉ

โš”๏ธ Chris Heilmann asks why developers don't embrace the obvious benefits of HTML and what we can do about it:

“The job we have now is to battle some of the old prejudices against HTML with facts and good examples… Often the best way is to ask why they chose [JavaScript]. If there is a lack of education or HTML knowledge, we can follow up with good resources.”

Gatsby has announced that its new source plugin for WordPress has launched in beta. Hashim Warren explains it delivers improvements to their headless WordPress integration with Gatsby Cloud and promises “near-instant publishing and live content preview.” ๐Ÿ’จ

There's also a tutorial for the plugin. ๐Ÿ‘ˆ

Iain Poulson and Ashley Rich have created a WordPress news site, They hope it will fill the gap left by ManageWP, which was closed down recently by GoDaddy. ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ

How a Virtual CFO Can Help Your Business

Jeff Meziere of Business Value Academy is hosting a free webinar on the benefits of having a virtual Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on your team. It will take place on July 16 at 11:00 AM (CST). Register Here ยป


I used a CFO for Hire during a significant part of my time building iThemes and benefited greatly from it. In the first year, he saved me at least 5 times what I paid him. Additionally, he helped me know how to read financials and also finetune them for better decision making. My friend and partner Jeff Meziere, who is also a CPA, will be sharing how a Virtual CFO can help you grow in this free webinar.

If you an experienced writer and want to contribute to writing documentation and tutorials for WordPress, M Asif Rahman wants you to take a look at the WordPress projects in Googleโ€™s Season Of Docs 2020.

There are some details to consider, including time commitments, and Google's qualifications for technical writers. โœ๏ธ

Should WordCamp and Meetup volunteers and attendees be acknowledged with badges that appear in the Contribution History section of user profiles? Currently, only event organizers and WordCamp speakers are recognized in this way. ๐Ÿ•๏ธ


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some excellent podcasts I listened to recently:

  • Pressing Matters: In the latest episode, Jack McConnell and Iain Poulson discuss the new WooCommerce navigation concept and how they approach customer support for WordPress plugins. ๐Ÿ›’
  • Women in WP: I love this interview with Afshana Diya which focuses on getting involved in the WordPress community and what itโ€™s like to be the only female organizer for a WordCamp. โ›บ
  • WPwatercooler: This discussion of building an audience with landing pages from SEO to subdomains is a good one. ๐Ÿ›ฌ

Notes for July 3, 2020

Footnotes #402

WordPress 5.5 will update external libraries bundled with the core such as SimplePie, Twemoji, Moment.js, and PHPMailer. Jonathan Desrosiers has put out the call for testing.

If you use these libraries in your themes and plugins, download the nightlies, and report any bugs. ๐Ÿ›

Smash Balloon and Duplicate Post Acquisitions

Yoast SEO and Awesome Motive both made recent plugin acquisitions: ๐Ÿ”Œ

  • John Brackett and his whole team at Smash Balloon are joining Syed Balki at Awesome Motive. John is coming on board as a partner, and they're expanding with five new positions open now. Smash Balloon has been around since 2013 developing a popular suite of social media feed plugins. Congrats to the whole new team! ๐ŸŽˆ
  • Yoast too has picked up a popular plugin in Enrico Battocchi‘s Duplicate Post, which is active on more than 3 million sites and made its debut back in 2008. It will remain free, and Yoast has no plans to develop a premium version at this time. This is an acquihire as well, with Enrico coming on board with Yoast as a Senior Developer. Joost de Valk, Yoast's Chief Product Officer and Founder, says Enrico will “still have an important voice in [the plugin's] future development. In fact, some features we suggested, heโ€™d already wanted to build but simply lacked the time and resources to do so. And thatโ€™s why this transaction happened.” ๐Ÿค

The European Commission has granted WordProof โ‚ฌ1 million by awarding the company first place in a blockchain competition for promoting social good. WordProof's Timestamp Ecosystem aims to prevent fake news and verify sources through their protocol which they hope to establish as a global standard.ย  ๐ŸŒ

In addition to the competition winnings, they also received a grant from (the primary organization behind the EOS blockchain), as well as another loan. They have a plugin available now for WordPress websites, but the protocol can be used by other means as well.

WordProof was founded in 2019 by Sebastiaan van der Lans. A website using WordProof can offer a clickable link to view the certificate highlighting when it was published and how it changed over time. It is great to see investment going into online content integrity, and I hope WordProof is able to catch on. Some degree of wide usage and network effects is surely necessary for a protocol like this to stick.

Ana Silva explains native personalization and other features of the newly released Altis 4 on the Human Made blog. โœจ

Personalization is the biggest missing feature several major consultants have told us WordPress needs in order to compete with other high-end “enterprise” level CMSs. Altis aims to level the playing field with this feature now part of its core platform.

It's super interesting to see how Human Made is selling Altis as WordPress but for high-end clients.

Austin Ginder has come up with an experimental way to deploy multiple WordPress sites on a single install without using multisite. He calls it “stackable WordPress.” ๐Ÿ“š

“I see this being a good option for small, low usage WordPress sites. Even better if itโ€™s a no usage site. As in WordPress site that has no visitors and is used exclusively as a tool to output static content.”

You can give this a try, although Austin warns it is clearly in the early stages.

I also discovered another nice post from Austin: How to getting notified via email when plugins are updated by hooking into the Simple History plugin.

Joe Howard wrote what I consider to be a must-read if you have input in your company's hiring process โ€” how to access a more diverse pool of job candidates. Joe lists some job boards he used during the last round of hiring at WPBuffs. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ผ

At the end of the day, there are many ways to help make the world a better place, and this is one of them:

“…you can be a WordPress ally and give every potential candidate a fair shot to work at your company. I can tell you from firsthand experience that having a diverse team has helped us solve a diverse set of problems and do pretty well.”

Dave Bailey shares some tips for managers to measure professional development. ๐Ÿ“

Dave recommends question-driven development, clarifying your desired outcomes, and taking the results of surveys with “a bucket of salt.” ๐Ÿง‚

Max Bรถck wonders if we're ready to revisit some of the ideas of the early (1990s) web as things like plain HTML and server-side rendering (SSR) are “stepping back into the spotlight.”๐Ÿ’ก

Max also has an interesting observation about the renewed interest in personal websites, blogs, and niche communities as alternatives to increasingly unpopular and impersonal social media.

In a similar vein, Chris Ferdinandi says Always bet on HTML, and Sijmen J. Mulder posted “a directory of websites that primarily stick with simple, marked up, hyperlinked text.” ๐Ÿ“„

WPGraphQL is turning 1.0 even though it has been production-ready for a while. Jason Bahl notes a little of its history and explains the 1.0.

According to, as of June 30, 2020, there are nearly 50,000 installs of WPGraphQL in the wild. ๐Ÿ“ฆ

If you dabble in CSS animations and CSS scroll effects, Zach Saucier has a great overview of scroll technologies that target specific and more general scroll behaviors. ๐Ÿ“œ

Also from CSS Tricks, Chris Coyier shares some different perceptions of Developer Experience (DX). Not everyone sees it the same way.

Finally, if you aren't deeply into front-end development but you want to be, Chris explains how and where to learn HTML and CSS today. He outlines most of the top destinations โ€” books, courses, sites, and other sources. But, there's still no substitute for just diving in and trying things:

“With learning web design and development, getting anywhere will involve all sorts of ways. Thereโ€™s no silver bullet. It takes bashing on it lots of different ways.”

I always enjoy learning from markets I'm not familiar with, and balloon artists are certainly one of the most unique I've come across. Ziv Raviv used WordPress and LifterLMS to build a course on balloon art that brought in $11,000. In its first year (2019), the business brought in more than $277,000. ๐ŸŽˆ

Sara Soudain‘s guide to inclusively hiding and styling checkboxes and radio buttons has been making the rounds with this important heads-up:

When you hide an interactive element, make sure you choose a hiding technique that keeps it screen reader-accessible, position it on top of whatever is visually replacing it so that a user navigating by touch can find it where they expect to, and then make it transparent.

If you have not seen Sara's takeaways as a designer who dove into accessibility just a few years ago, you should take a look. ๐Ÿ‘

Ethan Marcotte, who coined the term “responsive design,” has released a series of 5-minute tutorial videos about designing for accessibility. The first tutorial is an introduction to the different ways the VoiceOver screen reader can be used to navigate a site. ๐Ÿ“บ

The news site has been shut down by GoDaddy, as Jeffrey Carandang recently observed. was an early source of WordPress news many years ago but was fading even before Godaddy acquired it along with the monitoring and maintenance service. ๐ŸŒ†

If you have ever wondered how Grunt and Gulp differ as task runners and which one might be best for you, Gilbert Pellegrom‘s post on the Delicious Brains blog goes through the basics, listing the pros and cons of each build tool. ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฅค

Flywheel recently relaunched its Local Pro app. It's a solid upgrade focused more on reducing WordPress site development pain points than being just a companion tool for Flywheel users. It syncs with WPEngine now too, and they're actively working to bring in additional hosts. ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ

Sarah Gooding reports at the Tavern, “More than 300,000 developers have tried Local since it first launched in 2017 and active users are up 90% year over year.” ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

Congrats to the Local team on this achievement! I know a lot of developers who have used Local and are pleased with the enhancements so far. ๐Ÿ‘

Jake Archibald from announced on Twitter they've published a report on the most popular build tools including Browserify, Parcel, Rollup, and WebPack. ๐Ÿ“Š


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that I enjoyed:

Notes for June 25, 2020

Selling Your Business Crash Course June 30

Most business owners have never been through an exit and donโ€™t know what to expect. They donโ€™t have confidence when talking to potential buyers and donโ€™t feel like their business is prepared and ready for an exit.

In this two-hour live webinar, Cory Miller and Jeff Meziere, who've both bought and sold companies,ย will share keys to help you, includingย how the acquisition process typically works, common ways businesses are valued, next steps to prepare your business and its financials and leave plenty of room for Q&A.

Signup here for the Selling Your Business Crash Courseย ยป

Building Your First WordPress Plugin: Live Webinar Friday

Join WP core contributor and developer John James Jacoby for this live coding workshop on Friday, June 26, from 1-3 p.m. Central.ย 

JJJ will walk through best practices and steps for building your first WordPress plugin.

JJJ is co-author of Professional WordPress Plugin Development (2nd Edition) and will be joined by fellow authors Justin Tadlock and Brad Williams in the chat during this highly practical webinar.

Register for the Webinar Here ยป

Notes for June 23, 2020

Footnotes #401

Gutenberg 8.4 was released yesterday with some impressive enhancements included image editing, multi-block controls, and the enabling of the Block Directory.

The Block Directory has been a big-ticket item in the WordPress Roadmap and is powered by the Plugin Directory. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Ben Hoyt tweeted about two lightweight alternatives to Google Analytics that launched in the last year: GoatCounter and Plausible. ๐Ÿ

Cory Miller noticed the University of Wisconsin‘s Stevens Point campus has a free, self-paced tutorial for people creating their first WordPress website. Cory: “Whenever I see dedicated classes and learning materials at colleges and schools specific to WordPress it makes me smile.” ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Taco Verdonschot explains why the WordPress community is not just about the software and how this type of culture is sustained. If you are fairly new to the community, this is a good general take on it that may help you find the right places to dive in. ๐Ÿ™Œ

WebDevStudios has built a scaffolding tool that sets up everything you need to build Gutenberg blocks. Michael Joseph walks through the install and major parts of the tool. ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ

Brad Touesnard revised and updated a popular post that explains how to create SSL certificates for local development. Running HTTPS locally without problems has some nice upsides, like matching your local development environment with your production server. ๐Ÿ’ก

Smash Balloon, a social feed plugin for WordPress that has over a million users, has been acquired by Awesome Motive. ๐ŸŽˆ

Apple recently announced WebP image support in Safari 14. That news led me to Johannes Siipola asking the first question to come to mind: is WebP really better than JPEG?

The answer may depend on whether you are using the reference libjpeg library or the improved MozJPEG encoder. ๐Ÿค”

Wholesome Publishing is a new plugin that adds comments to Gutenberg blocks. You can also give any block a “draft” status so it won't appear in the front end โ€” very handy! ๐Ÿ’ฌ

Tobias Ahlin has written an informative introduction to A/B testing ๐Ÿงช that also explains very clearly why testing matters:

“The more users you have, the more damage you can cause by shipping features that, despite your best intentions, happen to make the product worse for your average user.”

Joe Casabona has started a class called Podcast Liftoff. If you are interested in starting a podcast, get in there! David has signed up and can't wait to dive in. ๐ŸŽ™๏ธ

As Pedro Mendonรงa mentions on Twitter, the Translation Tools plugin for WordPress has been updated with its 1.1.0 release. It improves usability, shows the availability of all WordPress Locales, and includes theme and plugin translations for Locales without Language Packs. ๐ŸŒ

Nathan Rice shares some wisdom gained from his experience of “starting over” ๐Ÿ by transitioning from a developer role into management with StudioPress at WPEngine:

Iโ€™ve discovered a new passion, and while it may not be marathon coding sessions experimenting with the newest tech the world of JavaScript, itโ€™s still a passion.

Different can be good.

Conference Updates

  • WordCamp Denver is happening online from June 26-27. There are three tracks and I hear there's even a Yoga session. ๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™‚๏ธ
  • The JavaScript for WordPress event is happening from July 8 to 10th.ย  ๐Ÿ“…
  • Registration is open for WPCampus 2020 Online, which will happen July 29-30. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐ŸŽ“


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • If you missed this talk about prototyping projects with Anyssa Ferreira from WordCamp Europe 2020, it's a must-see. I love how Anyssa approached the topic and used examples that made things clear even to me. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ผ

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that I enjoyed:

Notes for June 20, 2020

Footnotes #400

WordPress 5.4.2 is a security and maintenance release that rolled out on June 10. It features 23 bugfixes and enhancements. Make sure your sites are updated if that hasn't happened automatically. One maintenance update was also deployed back to versions 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3. ๐Ÿ“ฆ

Of note: In 5.4.2, there is only a brief window of time to publicly view a comment that's waiting for moderation after it's submitted. “This change prevents search engines from indexing URLs that may contain spammy messages,” according to JB Audras.

This comes in response to changes in 5.1 that added an โ€œawaiting moderationโ€ screen for new comments. This allowed spammers to get an indexable URL that contained their unapproved messages. ๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿ’ฌ

Gutenberg 8.3 has been released. It features a few additions to the design tools for blocks, including a new padding control on the cover block. This release consolidates a new organization of block categories that groups blocks into text, media, design, widgets, and embeds.

See our video pick below to learn more about what's been happening recently and what's coming up next for blocks.

Reflecting on the color of my skin, by Marques Brownlee is worth your time. ๐Ÿง‘๐Ÿพ

PHP is 25! ๐ŸŽ‚ The Register has a nice summary of its history that links to a 2017 talk given by Rasmus Lerdorf. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend this presentation, especially for developers.

JetBrains also has a PHP story worthy of your time with a timeline of important events.

The very first version of PHP was a simple set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries written in C. Originally used for tracking visits to Rasmusโ€™s online rรฉsumรฉ, he named the suite of scripts “Personal Home Page Tools” or “PHP Tools.” ๐Ÿ”จ

Matt Shaw explains how the JavaScript FileReader API can be used to upload large files in chunks and avoid server limits. The API has major browser support now, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 10.

Matt notes, “If youโ€™re going to use something like this in a real app, you should definitely look up any security issues.” ๐Ÿ”’

ProcessKit has a free video course on automating processes in a service business. It explains how to create an efficient standard operating procedure (SOP) and automate project management using tasks. ๐Ÿค–

An effort is underway in PHPCSStandards to encourage inclusive language and throw a warning when non-inclusive terms such as “whitelist/blacklist” and “master/slave” are found. โš ๏ธ

No matter what your budget is, there's a lot to learn from Matt's Guide to Distributed Work Tools. ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ

ReviewSignal, already known for its WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks, recently added a separate performance analysis report for WooCommerce Hosting. Hosts specializing in WooCommerce โ€” like GreenGeeks, Nestify, Pressable, Seravo, Servebolt, SiteGround, and Wetopi โ€” are among those who participated in ReviewSignal's tests. ๐Ÿšค

I won't spoil any of the results, but if you host WooCommerce or have sites with these hosting companies, take a look.

If you are looking for solid guidance on documentation writing, check this post featuring a video from speaker Daniele Procida. Daniele notes there are four kinds of docs: 1) learning-oriented tutorials, 2) goal-oriented how-to guides, 3) understanding-oriented discussions, and 4) information-oriented reference material. ๐Ÿ“š

Timothy Vernon outlines how inlining your CSS can improve site performance. Lots of useful information here. ๐Ÿƒ

Timothy mentions that Chrome has a tool to find unused JavaScript and CSS; he also mentions Penthouse, which generates “critical CSS” for your webpages.

The WordCamp Europe team has shared a list of tips for designing an online WordCamp. ๐Ÿ•๏ธ

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ๐Ÿ“น More and more posts are being written about good audio and/or video setups for working and broadcasting from home. We mentioned a guide for CEOs from Matt Mullenweg in our last issue. Here's two more that have been making the rounds:

  • Matt Stauffer publishes live streams and videos on YouTube and goes into his recommendations for webcam, audio, and video. (Prices range from free to a decent amount of money.) Matt says don't worry about quality too much: “Just get it out there! Worry about audio quality when you start to have enough listeners that they care.”
  • Olivier Lacan also has a good guide with side-by-side comparisons of webcams and lighting. A good tip: don't use embedded microphones if you can do help it.

It appears that we are close to seeing basic, extensible XML sitemaps functionality in WordPress core. ๐Ÿงญ

Preethi Sam shares some techniques for generating creative background patterns using gradients, CSS shapes, and even emojis. ๐Ÿ‘

Here is some interesting advice about picking your tech stack โ€” great for sharing and comparing notes. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป

I appreciated the first point about going on what you know:

“Unless your product has deep technical requirements the only thing you should optimize for is how fast you personally can code. Donโ€™t try something new. Donโ€™t experiment. Write code.”

Stumbled on some interesting advice on picking your tech stack which I found worthy of sharing for conversation.

I appreciated the first point on going on what you know more times than not: “Unless your product has deep technical requirements the only thing you should optimize for is how fast you personally can code. Donโ€™t try something new. Donโ€™t experiment. Write code.”

Conference Updates


Video Picks

๐Ÿ“น Here's the video pick of the week:

  • During WordCamp Europe 2020 Matt Mullenweg had a discussion with Matias Ventura about the features coming to Gutenberg. The video presentation had a well-organized demo of some impressive tweaks and new features. In it, Matt also addressed some questions from the WCEU crowd, including his thoughts on WordPress's position in relation to Shopify.

Podcast Picks

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Here are some podcasts I've listened to recently that I enjoyed:

Notes for June 19, 2020

Employment troubles at Longreads

Note: I don't often talk about employment issues. There are good and bad stories about employment nearly everywhere. I write about this one because it was quite public, and to do with one of the largest employers in our space — one often cited as a great place to work. I believe it merits deeper consideration.

Recently, Sari Botton and Soraya Roberts shared Twitter threads expressing their displeasure with the employment practices and culture at Longreads, which they say deteriorated over time as Automattic continuously cut funding and resources for the site. In the threads, they both say they resigned as long-term “permalancers” at Longreads in protest to their own and others' treatment there.

Acquired in 2014, Longreads is a popular website and platform for discovering high quality (and as the name insinuates) long-form content. The content has changed over the years but has included mixes of curated and original content.

After Automattic acquired Longreads, some members of the team, including founder Mark Armstrong, moved into other parts of the companyโ€™s editorial needs. Mark now manages Automattic PR (and is my own contact for Automattic news). However, they didnโ€™t leave Longreads behind.

Automattic increased Longreadsโ€™ editorial budget to more than $130,000, according to comments from Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg in Post Status Slack. Matt said the strategy, โ€œdidnโ€™t get the results they hoped for, so we had to start bringing it back to the normal range ($30k/mo),โ€ which he says they implemented over the course of half a year.

Matt and Automatticโ€™s official statement both say they continue to be committed to Longreads. However, it is clear that the 75%+ reduction in funding hit the Longreads team really hard.

Automattic is deeply committed to the future of Longreads. The current story fund is at $30,000 a month โ€” this includes about $10,000 directly from readers, and an additional $20,000 in matching funds from Automattic. This will not change, and we will be sharing more details on how Longreads will move forward in the days to come.

Longreads underwent a difficult re-org earlier this year because its previous structure and model proved unsustainable. Over the past two years, during a period of aggressive growth and experimentation, editors and other contributors joined the team on a contract basis and their work was subsidized by Automattic beyond the story fund match.

We will continue to put reader subscriptions toward projects that tell powerful stories, and will focus in particular on those that also have long-term social impact.

In a tweet since the original critique threads, Sari Botton highlights seven total staff (in addition to herself) seeking work.

Soraya said the cuts came seemingly out of nowhere, โ€œI didn't want more money. I just wanted to feel secure in my position. Instead, six months ago, out of nowhere, our budget was cut dramatically. We lost editors, fact-checkers, researchers, copy editors, basically everyone needed to produce great writing (+ podcasts).โ€

Soraya and Sari both square their critique directly on Matt Mullenwegโ€™s control of the organization, citing several poor employment practices and how he โ€œsystematically decimated Longreads.โ€

Again in Slack, Matt responded in more depth to the threads:

I obviously disagree with Sari's allegations, and in fact there's a correction from the editor that she claims was fired. The accusation has thousands of likes, the correction has almost none… that is unfortunately how news works these days. I hope it's obvious because of Automattic's track record on these issues over the past 15 years, including structural aspects like being global, being distributed, doing hiring over chat, all the things we do to open up opportunity for the widest number of people possible. If you believe that the same organization that would advocate for global pay equity would broker discrimination of this type, I'm not sure what to tell you!

Funding journalism in 2020 is as hard as itโ€™s ever been, and itโ€™s never been easy. Longreads enjoyed a respite from traditional ad-driven, attention-seeking publications due to significant big-tech funding, reader funding, and a focus on in-depth pieces that aim for reading engagement over page views. Still, Automattic clearly felt that the increased budget was unsustainable, and despite apparent attempts to slowly adjust back to a smaller budget, you just canโ€™t sugarcoat that degree of cuts.

Sari, Soraya, and several others were clearly caught off guard and soured on Matt and Automattic in the process.

These are difficult issues.

Automatticโ€™s hiring, employment, and payment equity history do indeed speak for themselves. At the same time, as Sari and Soraya note, many Longreads โ€œpermalancersโ€ were not protected under that same umbrella.

This is not unheard of in Mattโ€™s sphere, though it is strange for a company acquired by Automattic โ€” and Automattic has long sought editorial, marketing, and PR talent. The permalancer status and eventual cutoff from tools like Slack and email showcase how separated from Automattic Longreads contractors were.

When I speak of Mattโ€™s sphere of employment, I mostly speak to the various people who work or have worked for him via non-Automattic avenues, like Audrey or direct contracting. Such employees have historically not had the same privileges as Automattic employees. Employees like former WP Tavern writer Jeff Chandler often cited a sense of employment isolation.

Additionally, Iโ€™ve known many people who have cited that working for Matt is a challenge. It is documented in Scott Belkinโ€™s 2013 book, The Year Without Pants, and even nicknamed at least one practice of his as, โ€œMattbombingโ€ โ€” by coming in late in a process with a comment that upturns the entire plan for a team.

I donโ€™t know of any CEO with as wide of an attention span as Matt. He runs Automattic, WordPress, Audrey, and other endeavors. Yet he also reads and interacts more in this ecosystem than anyone I know. Additionally, he has a ton of direct reports between A8C, the WordPress project, and elsewhere. I have long inquired about these direct reports โ€” something heโ€™s told me heโ€™s worked to improve on.

Longreads contractors didnโ€™t really work directly with Matt. Their distaste came from decisions that felt immediate, cutthroat, and discompassionate โ€” whether intended or not. I believe these issues could be related. A team without the full privileges of Automattic, combined with being affected by seemingly rash decisions from top management, could easily spiral into an unhealthy workplace that does not look or feel like the one Automattic is frequently (and I think rightly) praised for.

I believe Matt and other Automattic management think deeply about creating a workplace that encourages employees, builds them up, and supports them deeply. However, even with our best intentions and great efforts, we can still fail to achieve these outcomes all the time.

It is clear to me that the Longreads team got a raw deal. Significant cuts may not have been avoidable in a corporate sense; even a well-funded tech company cannot ignore financial bleeding forever. But the timing was not good for the Longreads team, with at least some of the cuts coming during economic uncertainty.

Somewhere along the line, communication — at a minimum — failed here. I still believe Automattic is a great place for people to work, though, like all workplaces, it is far from perfect. Iโ€™m sure everyone involved here will learn from the experience. I hope Automattic HR is able to fully review this outcome to learn and improve team reduction practices in the future. I hate it for that team and their talents. I wish they couldโ€™ve had a much softer landing.

I think it's important to consider the difference between intentions and perceptions, and between plans and outcomes. I think Automattic, and ultimately Matt, are well intended as employers, and likely planned to accommodate a soft landing for reducing the Longreads budget. The perception internally at Longreads was quite different than those intentions, and the outcome was difficult and also a public affair that I'm sure everyone would've liked to avoid.