Footnotes #439

Substacking the Deck πŸƒ

Jared Newman notes over at FastCompany that “writers who crave independence should skip Substack.” He refers to several WordPress-powered alternatives, including Newsletter Glue “which lets me instantly send out WordPress posts as nicely formatted newsletters.” βœ‰οΈ

Personally, I don't find Substack too appealing. It reminds me of Medium back in its early days β€” the hype and the idea of paying people to host exclusive content on the platform. That's great if it profits the platform, but owning your content is usually the best strategy for their users. What writer wants to give up that much control?

Ernie Smith tends to agree with that concern:

“…Substack is pre-paying some famous writers to join the platform without telling the public who got the money and admitting that the pre-payment amounts to editorial influence on the platform.”

Ernie also lists some alternatives to launching an email newsletter, including WordPress with Newsletter Glue or Newspack Newsletters from Automattic. Another reason he has for taking this route is the cost:

“The thing that newsletter creators should know about sending newsletters is that it’s actually very cheap to do.”

As I mentioned on Twitter, whenever experts and larger media outlets cover solutions and alternatives to startups that are gaining market share, if they mention WordPress that is a bigger win than bragging about WordPress powering nearly half the web or more than half of all CMS-driven sites.

People outside the WordPress bubble are more likely to understand, appreciate, and use WordPress if they see the problems it solves or the solutions it offers. That is better for WordPress's lifespan than (almost?) anything else.


Early information about the WordPress 5.7.1 maintenance release schedule has been published. A Release Candidate is set to come out on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 with a final release likely on April 14th. πŸ”§


Anne McCarty, a member of the Developer Relations team at Automattic, explains how performance is measured and prioritized in each Gutenberg plugin release:

β€œWith each release… a performance benchmark is run against the last few releases that compares different response times for a large post (~36,000 words, ~1,000 blocks).”

⌨️ Generally speaking, while the loading time of the editor is important, special attention is paid to typing speed:

β€œThis is a far more important measure when it comes to user experience as this is what allows for the smooth experience when working in the editor.”


Caldera Forms, a WordPress form plugin, will be sunset at the end of 2021. Caldera's customers will be transitioned gradually to Ninja Forms. πŸŒ†

Josh Pollock was the founder of CalderaWP and was the lead developer of Caldera Forms.


The WordPress Youth Events Working Group is reconvening and looking for volunteers to help build and grow. πŸ™‹

Sandy Edwards generally leads the group and its meetings, but anyone can join β€” and if you can't attend, you can comment. Video creation, editing, and research are the main tasks they need help with.


There is a proposal from sarayourfriend for native TypeScript support in Gutenberg.

TypeScript extends JavaScript by adding types. It's hoped this move might “encourage new contributions by community members in this space by lowering the learning curve and leveraging existing knowledge of statically typed languages.” πŸ‘


Matt Mullenweg noticed the Ulysses App now has better support for WordPress. From the Ulysses blog:

The feature is pretty straightforward. You publish to WordPress… [A]fter your blog automatically notifies your subscribers, and the first reactions come in, you notice how you completely misquoted that celebrity you were so viciously attacking on her politics. You can now correct your mistakes inside Ulysses, and simply… publish again. VoilΓ‘ β€” easy as that, no harm done.


Igor Benic offers some great tips for getting better as a WordPress developer. Excellent points about code reviews and just reading the available handbooks. Taking time to learn from others and building extensions for existing plugins are good ideas too. πŸ’―

If you want to learn how a plugin has fared over time, take a look at Igor's project, getactiveinstalls.com. It tells you the number of active installs for any WordPress plugin in the repo as of a date you specify.


Bridget Willard has published a book β€”Β How To Market Your Plugin. It gives developers a framework for marketing their WordPress plugins, with input from Chris Badgett, Anil Gupta, Devin Walker, Marc Benezekein, Adrian Tobey, and Veto Peleg. πŸ“•


The results of WebAIM’s 3rd Survey of Web Accessibility Practitioners are available with some interesting highlights including:

  • 57% of respondents were male, 40% of respondents were female (5 times higher than the broader design/development field), and 3% non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming (twice as high as the broader design/development field).
  • 29% of respondents indicated having a disability (15 times higher than the broader design/development field).
  • The average reported salary was at least $73,000, notably higher than the broader design/development field. Salaries of web accessibility practitioners have increased steadily over time. πŸ“ˆ

Speaking of accessibility, Channing Ritter adds a new perspective to the design team at Automattic on the accessibility features available in the block editor. Channing is also a new core contributor, and her post provides some context for how these features were developed. πŸ‘


Troy Dean shows off his studio and the equipment he uses for live streaming and recording. This is particularly interesting if you are doing the same thing or looking to increase the quality of your recordings or calls. πŸŽ™οΈ


I use and trust Backblaze so I was surprised to learn Ben Cox discovered Facebook tracking the names and sizes of his files when moving them to Backblaze's B2 bucket. 😦

The tracking pixel has since been removed, and even though I choose to believe this was accidental or an oversight, it's a reminder that tracking (even if you opt-out) is something you have to watch out for.


Joe Casabona asks where you draw the line between owning your platform and paying for a service:

“It took two kids and a pandemic to get me to actually pull the trigger and hire more people to do things I felt I could do myself. That change in thinking has also opened my eyes to the great services out there that that save me tons of billable hours.”


πŸ”Œ A few plugins appeared on my radar this week, and if you weren't aware of their existence either, they're worth a look:


The State of California is banning companies from using “dark patterns.” This might be the start of a larger movement to prevent sneaky and just plain bad design or UI decisions β€” like trying to cancel a subscription online only to find it's nearly impossible. πŸ‘

About one out of every ten eCommerce websites uses dark patterns, a 2019 study found. 🀭


Upcoming Events πŸ“†

  • WordCamp Europe 2021 has announced it will take place online, June 7-10, 2021. πŸ•οΈ
  • A Business Value Crash Course led by Cory Miller and Jeff Meziere on April 7th will help business owners work through some key steps to assess value and plan their next move. There's an impressive amount of information covered, along with a Q&A at the end of the workshop. πŸ’₯
  • Speak Up! Black Speakers in WordPress Workshop from WP Engine is accepting signups. It will kick off on June 5th to support “Black voices in the WordPress community” and elevate “community members to leadership roles.” πŸ§‘πŸΎ
  • WordCamp Greece is happening online on April 16 and is free to the public. πŸ‡¬πŸ‡·
  • OKC WordPress Meetup: Topher DeRosia talks about increasing conversions in your eCommerce store on March 23rd. πŸ›’

DAVID'S PICKS πŸ“¬

Video Picks

πŸ“Ή Here are my video picks of the week:

  • The Web Agency Summit is wrapping up today, but you can still get in and see the recorded sessions over the next few weeks. The Summit ran from March 23-26 and featured Chris Lema along with many other speakers. ⛰️
  • Matt Mullenweg recently sat down with Inside writer Sheena Vasani to discuss distributed work, the future of WordPress, the state of Open Source, and how to be your most zen. πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ
  • Underrepresented in Tech: it's great to see Allie Nimmons and Michelle Ames start a vlog with the goal of β€œhelping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech.” 🀝
  • Alex Young reviews WordPress trends for freelancers and agencies.
  • Learn how to speed up your WordPress site with Cloudflare’s Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) plugin for WordPress. 🌩️

Podcast Picks

πŸŽ™οΈ Here are a few podcasts worth listening to that I've enjoyed lately: