The age of Gutenberg

Gutenberg was the talk of town at WordCamp US, as you may expect. Most people have their own thoughts on the product itself, the necessity of its existence, the process in creating it, or a variety of other things.

I am pleased to see the progress that’s been made on the product itself. And I think it is the right thing in the long run for WordPress. However, there will be many challenges in dramatically changing the most frequent activity in the WordPress experience.

There are a few really great posts about Gutenberg:

At WordCamp US I had a conversation that was interesting, with a couple of other things that we should be thinking about.

First, businesses with customer support burdens (like hosts) will need resources, processes, and lots of documentation on this drastic change. As soon as WordPress 5.0 rolls out, the likelihood is there will be a flood of support for hosts, maintenance companies, and support forums everywhere.

Some hosts are already working on this kind of documentation, but it’s a good opportunity for the community to work together to create the materials that will help users with the transition.

Second, documentation for developers is reportedly lacking right now. I talked to several people who have tried to keep up with development through Github, and they noted that it’s incredibly difficult to do this. The pace of development is rapid, and keeping up with the various technical aspects of the project can be a real challenge β€” even for highly skilled JavaScript developers.

While this is a community project, there is a whole team of Automatticians working on it, and there is a feeling by some that it is boxed off a bit from the rest of core development. It’s going to be important to make sure as many core committers and contributors as possible are involved.

I remember when the new media editor went into WordPress. From my point of view, it felt like Daryl Koopersmith and a couple others went down a deep rabbit hole and came out with the finished code. And then it languished for a long time relatively undocumented before anyone else started to figure it out. The editor is much more important and needs much better documentation than this.

Additionally, there are still conversations around how to handle meta data, meta boxes, and other information. Without digging into every issue on Github and the Slack logs, it can be a challenge to decipher what’s planned functionality and what’s not. I still have to do this myself.

Finally, I’m glad there’s a “classic” editor plugin coming, but I’m afraid of the possible Basecampization of the editor. When Basecamp came out with a new version, they kept the old version for a long time for people who didn’t want to switch for a variety of reasons. This could go on for quite some time and be unwieldy. The new editor will need to be able to support highly structured data input like is often done with custom content types now, but as far as I know, there’s still a lot to figure out there.

I have a lot of unanswered questions β€” mostly because I haven’t dug in like I should. I’m asking some of these questions openly so you can see my own thinking. The answers may already exist, but I know all of these questions were being asked in various conversations at WordCamp US.

I’ll be digging more into the details of Gutenberg development and decision making. Hopefully this provides a good baseline for the kind of thing I’m trying to find out, and you can follow along with me.

The next age of writing in WordPress should be a great one. It is a much needed change. But it’s hard work, and there is much to figure out between now and April, 2018 when it’s slated to go into WordPress core.

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