WordPress Planet

June 05, 2020

Matt: Follow-up Questions from WCEU

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

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

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

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

by Matt at June 05, 2020 06:39 PM under Asides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Sarah Gooding at June 05, 2020 04:36 PM under WordCamp Europe

June 04, 2020

WPTavern: Blockify the WordPress Dashboard with the Mission Ctrl Plugin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Mission Ctrl Works

Custom boards added to the dashboard screen.

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

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

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

Creating a custom video board for training clients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Justin Tadlock at June 04, 2020 08:31 PM under Plugins

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

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

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

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

by Josh Smith at June 04, 2020 05:31 PM under Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Automattic Take Decentralized Communication Tools Mainstream?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Sarah Gooding at June 04, 2020 07:37 AM under social networking

June 03, 2020

WPTavern: Automattic Launches Malware and Vulnerability Scanning Service for Jetpack

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

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

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

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

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

Jetpack Scan Features and Interface

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

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

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

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

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

by Justin Tadlock at June 03, 2020 07:54 PM under jetpack

HeroPress: Beyond Software: Meeting the WordPress Community

Pull quote: I have been able to live a lot of transforming experiences that have shown me the meaning of the words “community” and “volunteerism”. He podido vivir un montón de experiencias transformadoras que me han enseñado el significado de las palabras

Este ensayo también está disponible en español.

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

First steps on the web: from hobby to employment

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

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

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

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

Working full time as freelancer

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

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

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

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

Meeting the WordPress community

WordPress Guarenas-Guatire logo designed by Bragniel Jimenez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My personal experience with the community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Más allá del software: conociendo la comunidad WordPress

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

Primeros pasos en la web: del hobby al empleo

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

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

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

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

Trabajando a tiempo completo como autónomo

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

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

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

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

Conociendo a la comunidad WordPress

Logo de WordPress Guarenas-Guatire diseñado por Bragniel Jimenez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mi experiencia personal con la comunidad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Yordan Soares at June 03, 2020 06:00 AM

June 02, 2020

WPTavern: The Show Must Be Paused

George Floyd

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

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

The Show Must Be Paused

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

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

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

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

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

Update: The Show Must Be Paused plugin is available in the plugin directory.

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

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

by Justin Tadlock at June 02, 2020 07:26 PM under Plugins

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

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

Gutenberg 8.1 and 8.2

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

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

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

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

Gutenberg Phase 2: Steps Towards Full Site Editing

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

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

Theme Review Team Rebranding

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

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

Online WordCamp Program Announced

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

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

BuddyPress 6.0.0 “iovine’s”

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

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

WordCamp Spain Online Concludes Successfully

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

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

Further Reading:

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

by Angela Jin at June 02, 2020 07:36 AM under Month in WordPress

June 01, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Sarah Gooding at June 01, 2020 08:33 PM under WordPress

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

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

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

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

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

How the Plugin Works

Adding the Popular Authors widget to a footer sidebar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future Plans and Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Justin Tadlock at June 01, 2020 08:28 PM under Plugins

May 29, 2020

Matt: Stream Like a CEO

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

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

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

Illustration by Steve Hardie

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Matt at May 29, 2020 11:54 PM under livestreaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Positioning for the Cover Block

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

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

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

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


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

Categories for Patterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Block Widgets Almost Ready

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

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

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

by Justin Tadlock at May 29, 2020 08:48 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: Google Search to Introduce New Page Experience Ranking Signal in 2021

Google is preparing to introduce a new ranking signal for Search, based on page experience as measured by Core Web Vitals metrics. This includes factors like page speed, responsiveness, and the stability of content as it loads. The upcoming update will combine these signals with previously announced UX-related signals for mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security, and intrusive interstitials.

Google is also updating its requirements for the Top Stories feature. It will no longer be limited to AMP pages – any content will be eligible:

As part of this update, we’ll also incorporate the page experience metrics into our ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile, and remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility. Google continues to support AMP, and will continue to link to AMP pages when available. We’ve also updated our developer tools to help site owners optimize their page experience.

Mobile friendliness, HTTPS, and other UX signals listed in this update have long been included in best practices for WordPress sites. The Core Web Vitals items are a newer area that site owners will want to dig into when preparing for the new page experience signal.

Measuring things like the unexpected layout shift of visible page content and the experience users get when first interacting with a page are not easy. In anticipation of this ranking signal update, Google has updated the Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights tools to give information and recommendations on a site’s Core Web Vitals. Google Search Console also provides a dedicated report, and developers can also get more information from Chrome DevTools, web.dev’s measure tool, and the Web Vitals Chrome extension. There are also several WordPress plugins that incorporate some of these tools, notably Site Kit by Google and Google Pagespeed Insights.

While this is a major change to ranking, Google noted that it will still prioritize pages with the best information overall. Better page experience scores will help a site rank better among multiple pages with similar content.

Developers who focus on delivering a high quality user experience reacted positively to Google’s announcement, since this means that UX work is getting validated as a valuable aspect of a site’s ranking.

Google plans to put the ranking changes into place sometime in 2021 and will provide at least six months notice before rolling out the update. This will give site owners time to improve their scores on the various page experience metrics. The company also plans to add more page experience signals on a yearly basis.

by Sarah Gooding at May 29, 2020 06:47 PM under google

May 28, 2020

WPTavern: WooCommerce Is Testing a Block-based Cart and Checkout

As part of an ongoing initiative to convert the plugin’s existing shortcodes to blocks, WooCommerce core developers are testing a new block-based cart and checkout experience. This major architectural change has also been redesigned to improve conversion rates for stores.

An initial preview release of the blocks can be tested using the WooCommerce Blocks feature plugin version 2.6.0, which was released yesterday. WooCommerce designer Gary Murray shared screenshots of the new design inside the editor, where store owners can now manipulate a live preview of the cart. It automatically loads demo products in the preview and users can switch between the full cart and the empty cart states.

Cart block

So far, the block settings for the full cart include the option to hide/show the shipping calculator and hide shipping costs until an address is entered. The empty state allows users to do things like change the size of the empty cart icon or replace it with a custom image, edit the “continue shopping” text, and add more blocks.

Store owners can also preview the entire checkout form in the editor, allowing them to immediately see how any settings changes affect the checkout process.

“In some areas we have made incremental improvements (like the cart) while the checkout sees much bigger changes,” Murray said. “Alongside these design changes we have also started the initial ‘migration’ of core cart and checkout settings to block settings and have also included a few new features within the block settings to give merchants more ‘direct’ control of their stores checkout experience.”

One of the major benefits of the new blocks is that it instantly gives store owners more customization options. This is much more user-friendly than the prospect of having to customize specific theme templates for the cart and checkout pages. This implementation of blocks in WooCommerce is another reminder of the magic of blocks to put more power in the hands of users.

The blocks currently support only the following payment methods: Stripe Payment Request (ApplePay, ChromePay), Stripe CC payment method, PayPal Standard, or Cheque. They also do not yet support third-party plugins that integrate with regular cart and checkout shortcodes. The WooCommerce core team is working on making these blocks more extensible but developers should still consider them as being in the experimental stage for now. Check out the initial preview announcement for more information on how to test the new cart and checkout blocks.

by Sarah Gooding at May 28, 2020 09:47 PM under woocommerce

WPTavern: GretaThemes Releases Lightweight, Block-Ready eStar WordPress Theme

GretaThemes launched its eStar theme yesterday. The team’s goal was to build a lightweight theme that focused on the block editor. However, it works alongside other page builders such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, and more.

GretaThemes is a project of eLightUp, which is the same company behind the popular Meta Box framework, WP Auto Listings, and FitWP. The site’s focus is on selling WordPress themes, many of which are pro versions of its free theme offerings. For now, eStar is merely a free theme with no direct commercial upsells.

eStar is promoted as a multipurpose theme that is suitable for various types of sites. In my tests, I found it to be best designed for businesses that need a clean and professional look. However, with enough tweaks via its numerous customizer options, end-users can get a lot of mileage out of this theme.

With gzipping enabled, the theme’s scripts and styles add less than 10 kb of data to the page load. That is reasonably lightweight and should result in a speedy website, assuming nothing else causes issues.

The theme recommends and integrates with the Meta Box and eRocket plugins, both of which are available for free in the WordPress plugin directory. The Meta Box integration will add extra per-post settings, which are primarily related to the layout on the front end. These can be configured globally in the customizer. The plugin integration merely provides the ability to do so on the per-post level. The eRocket plugin adds a contact info and recent posts widget along with social sharing buttons. The eStar theme has additional styles for making these fit into the design on the front end.

eStar ticks many of the boxes that would make it a great go-to option for people who need a reliable theme that supports the block editor. It does not push any artistic boundaries. It is not the type of theme that has an incredible wow factor. It is simply a solid offering that gives users a lot of freedom to take an almost boring default configuration and turn it into something special with a mix of font and color options.

Check out the eStar theme demo for a picture of what the theme looks like.

Build Landing Pages Like a Pro

eStar theme landing page.

The GretaThemes team has designed eStar to get out of the way for users who want to build full pages with either the block editor or a third-party page builder. It offers several post and page templates as a starting point:

  • Blank Canvas: Displays only the post content.
  • Narrow Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which is in a narrow column in the center of the page.
  • Full Width: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.
  • Wide Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.

No, there is no typo or copy/paste mistake for those final two templates in the preceding list. There seems to be no difference between the Full Width and Wide Content templates. I am unsure why both are included, except to wonder if one or the other is there for backward compatibility with other themes.

What makes the theme great at building landing pages is not its four custom templates. Those are nice additions that provide an open canvas. However, it is the theme’s block styling that provides the customizability to build these landing pages. Its block styles will not blow you away with unique design takes. They simply work.

The one thing that would bring this theme to the next level would be the addition of custom patterns. The Patterns API is not available in core WordPress yet, but it will likely land this year. Now is a good time for the team to get on top of this feature, even if it is a part of a commercial offering.

How Does the Theme Handle Blogging?

Single post view with custom options selected.

The theme markets itself as suitable for blogging. However, it falls short of being a great blogging theme with the default configuration. For long-form content, single posts have far too many characters per line for comfortable reading. For short, media-rich blog posts, it would work well.

To get the most out of eStar as a blogger, users will need to make some adjustments. Fortunately, this is one area in which the theme shines. It provides a slew of customizer options that provide enough flexibility to make it work. By heading to the Fonts section in the customizer and bumping up the Font Size in the Body section, it would transform the theme into something suitable for long-form content.

There are some other adjustments worth considering. If you routinely use the same image within post content as you do as a featured image, the theme will show that same image twice on single post views — a common issue in many themes. eStar does provide a customizer option to configure or disable the featured image on single posts. Using the featured image as the header background is also another useful option the theme provides and can make your posts stand out.

I also recommend disabling the sidebar for blog posts if you enjoy wide or full-width media. The theme’s design stands out when it can make copious use of the page.

The biggest issue — and would be a deal-breaker for me if I could not code — is the theme adds a custom design to the first paragraph of the post content. The font-size is increased and given a light gray color. It is not easy to read. The theme should leave this bit of customization in the user’s hands. WordPress provides block-level customization via the editor if the user needs to do something special with the intro paragraph.

I also recommend switching the archive layout to either grid card or grid, which is used in the theme’s demo. The grid card option looks a little better and is a concept likely lifted from Tailwind’s component documentation.

Grid Card layout option for archive pages.

Final Thoughts

The theme is not without a few trivial issues. For example, the site title and description feel a little cramped. I would love to see some extra whitespace above and below it.

With the default configuration of the theme, I would recommend it to anyone who needs a solid design for a business website. By throwing in a custom logo and adjusting a couple of colors, the average end-user would have all they need to launch a business site. With the power of the block editor or a third-party page builder, costs to setting up shop would be minimal.

For people who do not mind a little legwork and need something better suited for blogging, the theme can handle it. It will simply take some minor customization to make the text a bit more readable.

Overall, it is nice to see another good option land in the official WordPress theme directory that caters to the block editor. I look forward to seeing what GretaThemes does in the future with its themes and hope to see other theme companies follow suit with block editor support.

by Justin Tadlock at May 28, 2020 08:47 PM under Reviews

WPTavern: New Carbon Offset Plugin Aims to Make WordPress Sites More Eco-Friendly

photo credit: Valeriy Poltorak

As developers and internet users become increasingly aware of the CO2 footprint of their data usage, renewed interest in carbon offsetting programs has cropped up in recent years. These programs allow individuals and organizations to “offset” their carbon dioxide emissions by funding environmental endeavors, which range from planting trees to clean energy projects, with lots of variety in between.

Carbon offsetting schemes remain controversial, as they do not actually directly cancel out emissions. The programs allow corporations to appear “environmentally friendly” with their contributions while continuing to burn fossil fuels. Ideally, corporations will work on both reducing their emissions and “neutralizing” the damage done with projects that renew the earth.

For web developers, awareness of your product’s CO2 footprint is the first step, and carbon offsetting programs are usually fine-tuned to make this data relatable. This awareness is especially critical if the software you are building is used on millions of devices. Aris Stathopoulos, a WordPress developer known best for authoring the Kirki Customizer Framework, has created a plugin called Carbon Offset that calculates the greenhouse emissions from your website visits and integrates with the Cloverly API for offsets and payments.

“The internet is a huge machine consuming vast amounts of energy,” Stathopoulos said. “The whole chain from server farms to ISPs to client devices are usually powered by non-renewable sources of power. What really rang the ‘danger’ bell in my mind was reading Mozilla’s Internet-Health report two years ago.

“Since then I’ve been trying to help make the web a bit more sustainable. Sometimes that means converting a script to vanilla JS, building a theme, or just talking to people about things they can do to make their site more performant and more eco-friendly/sustainable. Carbon Offset is my latest effort on that front.”

The first version of the plugin includes a details page with the calculated impact of your site’s carbon footprint, displayed next to the weight of the carbon offset. I could see this page evolving to be more visually compelling in the future. The settings page is where users can hook up their sites the Cloverly API.

Cloverly offers offsets on demand, which means that users fund clean energy for one of the projects the company has selected. These include initiatives that do things like capture fugitive gas emissions, improve forest management, and convert methane from manure into renewable energy.

Browsing the WordPress.org plugin repository, it seems the platform only has a handful of plugins designed to raise users’ awareness about carbon emissions. The Website Carbon plugin gives users a broad overview of the impact of their site’s emissions, including reporting on if the data center the site is hosted in is powered by renewable energy. CO2ok for WooCommerce is another plugin that integrates with a service for purchasing offsets.

Stathopoulos wants to expand his plugin to integrate with additional services so that users have more choices in offsetting their websites’ carbon footprints. He has no affiliation with Cloverly. He said the only reason he chose to integrate with it is because they have a great API that is easy to work with. He made his implementation extensible so that adding extra services will be easy when he finds another one with a good API.

Breaking Website Owners Out of Complacency: Awareness Is the First Step Towards Reducing Emissions

“There are sites out there that measure a site’s carbon footprint and they give an idea of how much carbon is generated whenever someone visits a webpage,” Stathopoulos said. “If you start testing websites you see some good, some bad and some shockingly costly. Take for example w.org: Each visit produces 0.68g of carbon emissions, and that’s one of the good sites. NYTimes.com generates 3.2grams of carbon every time someone visits their site.”

Stathopoulos wants to use his plugin to raise awareness among WordPress site owners, since the software is so widely used but oftentimes weighed down by third-party extensions.

“With WordPress powering 30%+ of the web, we’re talking about millions of daily views,” he said. “In the unlikely optimistic scenario that all of them generate no more than 0.5g per page-load, WP sites generate no less than 500 metric tons of carbon/day. This has nothing to do with WordPress. Instead it’s about the 5MB image that the user wants on their frontpage, the fancy wiggling JS animation that requires that extra 5kb of JS, developers insisting on using jQuery in their themes and plugins, the unused 300kb of CSS that a site has, the Facebook widget, social sharing buttons than use 100kb of JS, or the horrendous use of images of text instead of plain text.

“It’s all data that gets downloaded every single time and each time it does, the server runs a few milliseconds more, the browser takes a few more milliseconds to render. It all adds up to wasted energy, energy that took real resources to generate and in the process of doing that, it generated some more carbon emissions.”

It’s easy for anyone to get complacent when the data usage seems to run on magic and doesn’t immediately impact the site owner. Plugins like Carbon Offset aim to make wasted resources more of a reality. Stathopoulos is currently working to add e-commerce support that will allow customers to offset the carbon footprint of their purchases’ delivery, or even allow shop owners to fund the offset instead. He said this will usually amount to a few cents per sale, but it can make a meaningful impact if done on a large scale.

“One of my hopes is that it will help increase sensitivity and awareness,” Stathopoulos said. “Hopefully, some people will understand that their website is part of the problem. Hopefully, it will urge them to rethink how they build their sites and want to be part of the solution – ideally by striving to lower the carbon emissions of our websites.

“But since for various reasons that is not always possible, the plugin will show how much our website costs the environment, and some may choose to give something back.”

Stathopoulos said that purchasing offsets was “surprisingly cheap.” He purchased offsets for 50kg of CO2 for approximately $4, and his website ‘burns’ 0.2g/visit.

“This means I’m good for the next 2.5 million visits,” he said. “If my site was as heavy as the NYTimes, then that would buy me 15k views worth of damage to the environment, which would be a pretty good indication that I have to change some things on my site.

“The cost is not the point. The point is being conscious about what we build, how much damage we do, and helping undo that damage as much as possible. After all, a sustainable website is a lot faster and more performant than a non-sustainable one. Everyone wins.”

by Sarah Gooding at May 28, 2020 01:48 AM under Plugins

May 27, 2020

WPTavern: Happy 17th, WordPress

Seventeen. It is almost a lost year between sweet 16 and the adulthood that comes along with 18. For many, 17 is a rebellious age when they feel like they have already reached grown-up status but still have some hard lessons to learn, some growing to do. The past year of WordPress’s life has felt much the same. Our community has worked and is still working through some rough patches. We are still learning. We are still growing. For better or worse, we are still coming together to build a better web.

By its next birthday, we should expect to see a much different WordPress. It will have grown from a simple blogging platform to nearly a full site builder. The community will likely stumble a few times as users and developers acquaint themselves with an evolving platform. With luck, we can work through most of the kinks before that day arrives. For now, we will need to suffer a bit through this messy teenage rebellion.

Teens often see the world differently than those of us well into adulthood do. We must be there to temper the worst ideas but encourage the hopes and dreams that accompany the vision of youth. It is this vision that will change the world. I expect no less from WordPress in the coming years.

Currently, WordPress powers 36.7% of the top 10 million websites. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings as the basic fork of B2/cafelog that Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little kick-started in 2003. It has brought online publishing to millions and provided careers for 1,000s — I have been blessed with a 12-year career thanks to WordPress.

The first official release of WordPress landed on May 27, 2003. The platform included texturize (so good it’ll make your quotes curl), a link manager for building blogrolls, improved automatic line breaks, manual excerpts, XHTML 1.1, new default templates, and a fresh admin interface. Needless to say, the software has changed since its first release — can we make blogrolls cool again?

Perhaps the saddest part of WordPress’s 17th birthday is that most of us cannot celebrate it together in person. No slices of birthday cake will be passed to WordCamp attendees. We cannot share a hug or a handshake. We cannot clink our glasses together in a toast. However, we can still celebrate in spirit.

In Celebrate Seventeen, Mullenweg urges the community to enjoy this day:

If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.

My addition to his list would be to hop over to your WordPress website and write a blog post. It can be anything. Write in celebration of WordPress turning 17. Write about your children, cats, or dogs. Share your feelings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever it is, just write. The best celebration of WordPress is to use the platform to do the one thing it was meant to do 17 years ago — publish something on the web.

Then, take a moment to appreciate the ability that we have to share our thoughts with the world. WordPress represents the most important, inalienable right that all humans share — freedom of expression. It has provided an avenue for people all over the world to share their thoughts for 17 years. That is not something to be taken lightly. So, let today be a celebration, despite the rough patch the world is going through. Let today be a celebration, regardless of our weekly arguments about the project’s future. Let today be a celebration of the people from all walks of life who have come together to build this amazing piece of software.

Most of all, take time to appreciate that we have an even brighter future to look forward to. WordPress may be a bit of a dinosaur in this fast-paced world of technological advancement, but it is not done yet. It may be going through a huge transitional phase at the moment, but we are not to the halfway point. We are just getting to the good stuff.

Buckle up. Look for the next 17 years to be an even wilder ride. I welcome the adventure.

by Justin Tadlock at May 27, 2020 07:53 PM under birthday

Matt: Celebrate Seventeen

May 27th, 17 years ago, the first release of WordPress was put into the world by Mike Little and myself. It did not have an installer, upgrades, WYSIWYG editor (or hardly any Javascript), comment spam protection, clean permalinks, caching, widgets, themes, plugins, business model, or any funding.

The main feedback we got at the time was that the blogging software market was saturated and there wasn’t room or need for anything new.

WordPress did have a philosophy, an active blog, a license that protected the freedom of its users and developers, a love of typography, a belief that code is poetry, fantastic support forums and mailing lists and IRC, and firm sense that building software is more fun when you do it together as a community.

We have relentlessly iterated across 38 major releases since then, and here we are.

If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.

by Matt at May 27, 2020 03:48 PM under WordPress

HeroPress: How the WordPress community contributes to human development

Pull Quote: WordPress and the open-source community in general seem to reflect the “ubuntu” ethics.

In the beginning WordPress being an “open-source” platform concept was only an idea by Matt Mullenweg that was supposed to gather people to contribute for free for a greater cause with no guaranteed success. The idea to gather people around a vague and non-profit cause would not have succeeded without the generosity of WordPress pioneers, believing in humanity and transferring their knowledge to others for free.

Nowadays, the WordPress community gathers millions of professionals worldwide. 

WordPress enthusiasts have changed the world we live in and contributed to human development from many aspects.

In the later text we will explain how contributing to WordPress would be considered contributing to humanity development, similar to “ubuntu” African philosophy.


So, let’s start from the beginning.

Many socio-economic theorists condition the survival of humanity by their members’ regular contribution. So, physicists or chemists work jointly as professional communities contributing to overall science development. Farmers work closely with the agricultural industry in finding the solution to resolve the issue of hunger worldwide, etc.

All those community members contribute in many different forms; either by revealing their discoveries to other members, or testing their new hypotheses. Sustainability and survival of communities depend on the contribution of their members.

Thanks to Internet development and its ease of access, breakthroughs in human development are just a click away from us.

As such, web designers and developers play an important role in numerous web data systematizations and content design of each website, enabling a wider global audience to find relevant information and apply those new discoveries in their activities.

Sometimes one-click localization is required, or a plugin/theme code change. Very often those requests  are repetitive and come from different territories, and this is where the WordPress community jumps in with their skills relevant to resolving those requests.

Roughly there are 6.500 different languages in the world.  If there were no WP community efforts, each WordPress developer would have to localize or translate each plugin for themselves for instance. Just imagine the amount of time each of us would have had to spend in order to create a desired website.

WordPress group contributions save significant amount of time for #MakersOfTheWeb, assisting the global non-tech community to present their business or philanthropic achievements worldwide. Timely published information or findings could change people’s lives.

Deductive conclusion could be that efforts related to WordPress development are the direct assistance to human sustainable development.

Time of crisis

Nowadays more than ever, solidarity and compassion have become building blocks of humanity. One could say that hard times bring people together; or perhaps could bring out the best in them, consciously or subconsciously. The current world health crisis has surfaced many social and economic problems, but also has led us to understand new and, perhaps, some forgotten values.

Joining forces, creating new values or adding to the existing ones are critical to community sustainability in general, similar to the concept of “ubuntu.” 

What is the digital “ubuntu” of WordPress?

For all the tech geeks out there, the free, open-source Linux distribution is not the center of our pledge. The “ubuntu” concept, as said by Nelson Mandela, is the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others. If we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others”.

WordPress and the open-source community in general seem to reflect the “ubuntu” ethics.

The number of WordPress contributors have been increasing over the time, surging in the past couple of weeks, aiming at providing ease for groups or individuals worldwide in the time of crisis. Companies and individuals are joining forces to support each other in crisis time proving the postulate that humanity can only exist if individuals join forces.

How can you contribute?

Choose your own way.

  1. You might want to share knowledge, expertise or perhaps come up with new tech solutions and there are plenty of opportunities out there. Each WordCamp hosts a number of tracks which you could join; Polyglots, WPTV, Marketing, Community, Core, etc. Your contribution might look insignificant to you from the perspective of what should be done in general, but combined efforts do make change. After all, Rome was not built in a day.
  2. You might be creative enough and propose a new business model within a certain industry. Challenging times bring out the leaders with unconventional visions. As Roy. T Bennett said: “Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.”
  3. You might want to assist elderly in your neighborhood, or provide online support to vulnerable communities.
  4. You might want to save strained animals, or feed those while searching for new owners.

Everything you do, regardless of your intention has a much larger reach that you can even imagine.

Now is the time to adopt new habits and start understanding the consequence of our behavior and intentions. It’s about achieving “ubuntu”, and not getting the recognition for contribution or efforts made.

We found our “ubuntu” and we were not surprised when we learned that WordPress is all about it.

The post How the WordPress community contributes to human development appeared first on HeroPress.

by Maja LoncarNoah PlumbPredrag Zdravkovic at May 27, 2020 08:00 AM

May 26, 2020

WPTavern: Diving Into Automattic’s Block Experiments

One of the repositories I have been keeping an eye on over the past few months is Block Experiments. It is a monorepo of blocks in various stages of development from Automattic. In total, five of the team’s block experiments are now available for download from the plugin directory. Three others seem to still be under development.

My interest was first piqued when I saw the company’s Starscape Block plugin. The plugin essentially did something that I had needed on a separate project more than a year ago. If it had existed at the time, it would have saved me from a headache or two, attempting to mix custom HTML into a page that was mostly made from blocks. Since then, I have taken a few moments to check in on what the team has been building.

Except for Bauhaus Centenary Block, which is likely only of interest to designers as something fun, most of the block plugins should be useful for many users.

Surprisingly, the team has failed to add the “block” tag to all of its block plugins, so not all of these are listed in the official block directory. It is likely an oversight that will be corrected at some point. For now, it just makes it a little harder for those of us looking for standalone block plugins to find them.

Starscape Block

Configuring the Starscape block.

The Starscape Block plugin creates a container with a background of moving stars. End-users can control the density and speed of the stars. The block provides two gradient background options (linear or radial) along with 12 predefined gradient colors to select from. Users can also control the color of the single text input it provides.

The biggest downside of this block at the moment is that it does not behave the same way as the core Cover or Group block. There is no way for users to add anything but a single line of text through a rich text field. If the team would open it up to allow for nested blocks, it would be far more useful.

There is a lot that is possible with this block if the team pushes the envelope a little more. For example, it would also be interesting to have the ability to layer the stars over an image background, such as a cityscape or forest.

Waves Block

Adding custom content within the Waves block.

Similar to Starscape Block, the Waves Block plugin creates a container block with a moving background. Instead of stars, the background is made up of — you guessed it — waves. It is not a simple copy of a plugin that does the same thing. The Waves block is a more robust solution. It works almost the same as the core Cover block and allows other blocks nested inside.

End-users can control the complexity, mouse speed, and fluid speed of the waves. They can also set the minimum height of the container and choose the four colors that create the effect of flowing waves.

This block was fun to play around with. Users could create some interesting hero-style page headers with this plugin, especially when WordPress treats the post title/header area as a block container in the future.

Event Block

Setting up a custom event with the Event block.

More often than not, on most projects that I have worked on that posted events, it was typically a single event once in a while. Many of the event management plugins were overkill. Several times in the past, I have built a widget or a simple shortcode to output a basic event notice. For end-users who need a basic method of outputting an event notification on their sites, the Event Block plugin may be the best option.

It is a standalone block that allows users to enter an event title, date, location, description, and image. It is a simple, no-fuss solution.

One missing component I would like to see with this block is the ability to add both a start and end date. For multi-day events, users must provide that information in the description box, which would be acceptable for most use cases. However, the full event date would be better served via the “when” field.

Layout Grid Block

Creating a book section with the Layout Grid block.

We have previously covered the Layout Grid Block plugin in a post on whether core WordPress should include a grid system. However, it is worth noting this block is a part of Automattic’s experimental block repository. The plugin has also been updated and improved since the Tavern’s last look. It worked well before, but some minor bug fixes have drastically improved its usability.

Layout Grid Block is quickly becoming one of my favorite plugins for creating columns. It is easy to set up between two and four columns of content and change how the content is displayed based on the screen size. Some of the other plugins I have tested are more powerful. However, some of those tend to be more complicated than what the average user may need. This plugin will likely fit the bill for many use cases.

by Justin Tadlock at May 26, 2020 08:34 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: WordCamp Europe 2020 Announces Schedule, Plans to Debut Networking Rooms and Virtual Sponsor Booths

The 8th annual WordCamp Europe is only 9 days away and organizers have just announced the schedule. Friday and Saturday sessions are split into two tracks that will run 30-minute talks simultaneously. Each talk is followed by a 10-minute Q&A. The schedule also mixes in a few 10-minute lightning talks, with 15-minute breaks every hour.

The WordCamp will feature a variety of topics of interest to WordPress professionals and enthusiasts, including freelancing, code review, art direction with Gutenberg, website security, growing communities, and the challenges of headless WordPress. The online schedule allows users to save their favorite sessions and then email them, share a link, or print the customized schedule.

In converting the event to be fully online, WCEU PR Team co-organizer Evangelia Pappa said they had to re-work some of their original plans for speakers. Not all previously scheduled speakers were available for an online session. The organizers also had to start from scratch in planning the event, determining the platforms and tools to use, as well as figuring out a new routine for working together from home.

For the first time in WCEU history, both the networking activities and sponsor booths are going virtual using Zoom. Organizers are planning to have two networking rooms, which can also be used for speakers who want to continue Q&A times with attendees following their sessions. Sponsors will have their own schedule of activities and webinars, expanding the event to 3-4 total tracks.

Pappa said the organizing team was inspired by WordCamp Spain, which has so far been the largest online WordPress event. The camp used Zoom to support 5,515 online attendees.

More than 5,650 people have already registered for WCEU 2020. Tickets continue to be released in batches, and organizers say they have an unlimited number available. Tickets for the virtual Contributor Day, which precedes the camp on June 4, are also still available. Attendees can indicate interest by checking the box for Contributor Day during the regular ticket signup process.

by Sarah Gooding at May 26, 2020 03:03 PM under WordCamp Europe

May 25, 2020

WPTavern: Shinobi Blocks WordPress Plugin Adds How-To and FAQ Blocks

Shinobi Works, a web development and illustration company based in Japan, released Shinobi Blocks last week. It is the second plugin the team has added to the WordPress plugin directory. The plugin is a block collection that currently has two blocks for creating how-to and FAQ sections on a site.

Overall, the blocks work well. The developers also make sure to only load any scripts or styles on the front end when the blocks are in use, so it should not add any weight to page speed across the site.

The largest downside of the plugin is that neither of its blocks has wide or full alignment options. This is one feature that I am hoping more block developers begin to add support for. It takes minimal code and would make blocks more flexible for end-users. The workaround is to wrap the blocks in a core Group block and add alignment to it.

As a user, I would like to see the How-To block split into its own, single-purpose block. It would be a nice addition to the official WordPress block directory as a standalone solution for users.

Right now, there seems to be a bit of a mad race toward who can build the biggest block collection plugins. It is unclear what the future of Shinobi Blocks holds. Given that it is early in its life as a plugin, I would urge the plugin authors to consider building single-use blocks. This way, users can install only the blocks they need on their sites.

In this particular case, the How-To block would make a good option as a single block plugin. As for the FAQ block, users can find such blocks in several other plugins with more options.

How-To Block

Adding step-by-step instructions via the How-To block.

The plugin’s How-To block is what drew me in. Its purpose is to allow end-users to provide step-by-step instructions with both a text block and an image for each step. It is a pattern that is common on sites such as wikiHow and other tutorial websites.

The design of the block is well thought out and easy to use. For more complex tutorials, users can split their how-to into multiple sections, each with their own steps. In tests against several themes, I ran into no issues inputting custom content in the editor and it appearing correctly on the front end.

The plugin provides an option to change the dot type, which is the number for each step. Users can choose between displaying numbers or using an icon for individual steps. The available icons are from the core WordPress Dashicons set. The color of the dot type can also be customized. By default, it displays a gradient, but the user can select a solid color if preferred.

The downside of the available color options is the block does not make use of the active theme’s color palette if registered. Using this would help the block better blend into the user’s current site design.

One option that I would add is to allow the user to input optional, additional text below the image while using the main text as a sort of headline. This would provide more flexibility for how-to instructions that need more information. However, it would also add an extra layer of complexity that may not be desired.

FAQ Block

FAQ block accordion on the front end.

The FAQ block almost feels like an afterthought. It does not have the level of detail that was put into the How-To block. There are no color or other options for changing the design. It is basically a bare-bones tabbed accordion. The block works well enough for what it needs to do. Nevertheless, it still feels like a letdown after tinkering with the plugin’s first block.

Inputting content on the admin side is simple. Both the question and answer inputs are rich text fields, which allow the same formatting as a standard Paragraph block.

Each inner block for the FAQ block offers a single option that allows users to choose whether to display the tab in an open state. One issue I ran into with disabling this option is that it closes the tab in the editor, which essentially disabled editing the answer’s content for the item, at least until I re-ticked the checkbox.

It is not a poorly-designed block. For the most part, I would rather see the How-To and FAQ blocks split into separate, standalone block plugins. They serve two different purposes and would allow users to install just the pieces that they need.

by Justin Tadlock at May 25, 2020 08:34 PM under Reviews

May 22, 2020

WPTavern: Local Brings Back Support for Apache and Site Cloning

Flywheel’s Local development app has received several major updates during the past month. The most recent release brings back support for Apache as a web server choice (version 5.5.1), in response to user feedback. This was the most highly requested feature on the app’s community voting board.

Although nginx is the leader in web server market share for the top 10k, top 100k, and top 1M sites, Apache is still used by more of the web. Lack of support for Apache was a deal breaker for many Local users who support clients on shared hosting, which often runs Apache and MySQL. It was also a blocker for potential new users switching from MAMP. Having the option to choose the web server on a per-site basis makes Local much more flexible.

Site cloning is another highly requested feature that was brought back in version 5.3.3 at the end of April. Users can now right-click on a site in Local’s sites sidebar and click on “Clone Site.” This feature is useful for using one site as a jumping off point or even for setting up a “blueprint” for future sites to use.

Flywheel is gradually adding back a list of features after rebuilding Local’s core architecture in 2019. The “Local Lightning” update moved the app away from virtualization in favor of native, system-level software for running WordPress locally.

“Feature parity with Local Classic is the top item for us in our Q2 roadmap,” Local creator Clay Griffiths said. So far his team has already brought back 64-bit PHP binaries for Windows, site cloning, and Apache support as part of this process.

The app has become an indispensable development tool for many WordPress developers. In February, WP Engine reported that Local is used by more than 50,000 developers. The company has a long-term roadmap that aims to make it easier for users to customize their development environments.

Local has a fairly transparent development process with community feature requests highly prioritized. The app’s community feedback site gives users an overview of all the features that are currently planned, in progress, and complete. Updates currently in progress include a setting for a default browser and improvements to the Live Link feature. The team is also exploring a Local CLI as part of the Q2 roadmap.

by Sarah Gooding at May 22, 2020 10:21 PM under News

WPTavern: Should WordPress Provide an API for Third-Party Editors?

Imagine a future where you log into your website’s admin. You head over to the editor. This particular editor has all the tools and features in place that make you more efficient at producing whatever content you put out for the world to see. You immediately start tapping keys or dragging your mouse around the screen, satisfied with what the software you’re using has to offer.

Today, that editor may be the default block editor for WordPress. Some may be running the Classic Editor plugin for a familiar writing experience. Others will be crafting beautiful layouts with the Elementor page builder.

As of this week, people are finding themselves at home with Iceberg, an interface built on top of the block editor for folks who prefer a minimalist environment and love Markdown.

Some bloggers post by email. Others use apps from their phone. And, an entire class of people works in third-party, offline editors such as Microsoft Word, Atom, and plain ol’ Notepad.

If there is one thing I have come to realize over the years it is that editing environments are as varied as the people who use them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The experience I am looking for is not necessarily the same experience you need.

Given the freedom to choose, most people would rearrange their desk, use a different notepad, and opt for a different writing utensil than their neighbor. Even if starting with the same tools, we eventually make tweaks to accommodate our personal tastes.

Throughout most of its history, WordPress has had a single editor that its users shared. It has changed over time — even the addition of TinyMCE was once controversial. However, the default editor has never been sufficient for every user. Personally, I abhorred the classic editing experience. It led me to write in various Markdown editors over the years for efficiency and a true distraction-free experience. It has also led to developers taking on the challenge of creating alternative experiences for large swaths of end-users.

As much as many people love the classic WordPress editor, it was a pain for many others. Otherwise, all of the tools that have cropped up over the years would have been unnecessary.

In much the same way, the block editor is often a love-it-or-hate-it experience. It is the ideal editing environment for many users. For others, it is a roadblock at best. At worst, it is worthy of a gasoline soaking and a book of matches.

The promise of WordPress is to provide an editing experience that allows people from all walks of life to publish their content on the web. The promise is to make that experience as pain-free as possible and to continue iterating toward that unattainable-but-worthwhile-goal of perfecting the publishing process.

WordPress — any publishing platform for that matter — is only as good as its editor.

It is a predicament. There is no way to make the ideal editor for all people.

What’s the next move?

An Editors Registry and API

In the comments of the Tavern’s Iceberg editor coverage, Phil Johnston proposed a solution for WordPress going forward. “With all of the amazing publishing experiences coming out, I wonder if it’s time for WP to include the concept of ‘Editors,'”, he wrote. “Like an official registry of installed Editors.”

He later created a feature request that called for an API that would make it easier for plugin authors to create new editing experiences on top of WordPress. The proposal is a high-level idea about how the editing screen could allow users to choose their preferred editor.

Potentially, users could install and use various editors, depending on what type of content they are building. A user may want something akin to a Markdown editor for blog posts but switch over to a page builder for their site’s pages. eCommerce plugins might have custom editing interfaces that are ideal for shop owners. Ultimately, the possibilities are endless. But, it all starts down at the WordPress level.

The idea is not about dropping the default WordPress editor. It is about creating a flexible framework for plugin developers to cater to more users’ needs. Additional methods of editing content would make WordPress a stronger CMS, drawing in users who would otherwise prefer a different experience, regardless of the type of site they are building.

It is possible to do this now. However, what could WordPress be doing to improve this process for developers?

Jeffrey Carandang, co-creator of Iceberg, believes that core could open the editing space to more third-party solutions. “Creating our own editor mode was challenging but a super exciting experience overall,” he said. “Gutenberg is still far from being extensible compared to other parts of WordPress, but we managed to hack on some areas that needed to work.”

Carandang identified a few hurdles his team had to overcome when building the Iceberg editor:

  • Limited hooks and filters outside of block development, such as the top and bottom areas of the editor and wrappers.
  • Little-to-no options to remove editor components, relying on CSS hacks to hide them.
  • The core editor’s reliance on localStorage.

In addition to the primary issues, his team had to develop against multiple versions of the block editor to ensure a seamless experience for users. Despite the issues, he still believes in a future where the block editor project can open up “potential innovations” in the space.

Today, I am composing this post in an offline Markdown editor. I will copy and paste my second or third draft into the block editor, which does a great job of converting Markdown into blocks, before final edits. On other days, I work directly in WordPress, depending on my mood. However, my preferred writing experience is as simple as it gets and often happens in Atom. It is what I am accustomed to.

I wonder if there will one day be an editor that will convert me to writing full time from within WordPress. I eagerly await the plugin developers who will make the attempt. My hope is that WordPress cultivates these ideas without standing in the way.

by Justin Tadlock at May 22, 2020 07:05 PM under Opinion

May 21, 2020

WPTavern: Molly Burke on the Power of Universal Design

In a 2017 speech titled “Stop trying to fix disability,” YouTube and motivational speaker Molly Burke says, “I live in a world that wasn’t built for me, but what if it was?” Burke was born with a rare, genetic eye disease that caused her to go blind. In this short but moving 8 minute video, she contends that making the world accessible helps everyone. She introduces the concept of universal design to her audience in simple terms:

“Universal design [is] designing and building everything to be accessed, enjoyed, and understood to its fullest extent by everyone, regardless of their size, their age, their ability, or their perceived disability.”

Burke identified Apple as one company that exemplifies universal design.

“Every product they release, I could buy at a store, open up, and use on my own independently, with no extra cost and no assistance needed,” she said. “I ask you to imagine how liberating, how empowering it is to be shown by a company that they view you as belonging to their customers, when so many others tell you the exact opposite.”

In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I wanted to highlight this video that tells just one person’s story on the powerful impact of technology that is built with everyone in mind. Burke’s speech is a poignant reminder of how designers and builders can extend a sense of belonging to their customers by making their products accessible.

by Sarah Gooding at May 21, 2020 11:03 PM under accessibility

Matt: Gradually, Then Suddenly

The two main theses of my professional career have been that distributed is the future of work, and that open source is the future of technology and innovation. I’ve built Automattic and WordPress around these, and it’s also informed my investments and hobbies. Just today, we announced an investment into a distributed, open source, and encrypted communication company called New Vector.

On the distributed front, the future of work has been arriving quickly. This week, a wave of companies representing over $800B in market capitalization announced they’re embracing distributed work beyond what’s required by the pandemic:

Change happens slowly, then all at once.

The forces that enable working in a distributed fashion have been in motion for decades, and if you talk to anyone who was working in technology in the ’60s and ’70s they expected this to happen much sooner. Stephan Wolfram has been a remote CEO for 28 years. Automattic has been distributed-first for 15 years.

What’s been holding us back is fear of the unknown, and attachment to the familiar. I can’t tell you how many of the investors I see espousing distributed work once told me that Automattic would never scale past a few dozen people unless we brought everyone into an office. Or the CEOs who said this would never work for them, now proclaiming their company hasn’t missed a beat as tens of thousands of people started working from home.

What’s going to be newsworthy by the end of the year is not technology companies saying they’re embracing distributed work, but those that aren’t. Those who thought this couldn’t work have been forced by the pandemic to do it anyway, and they’ve now seen that it’s possible.

It was probably terrible at first, but now two or three months in it’s gotten better. We’ve learned and adapted, and will continue to do so. Necessity breeds invention. I promise you if you stick with it, you’ll progress through the levels of distributed autonomy. Over time people will be able to move houses, tweak furniture, buy equipment, upgrade their internet, and otherwise adapt to being more productive in a distributed environment than they ever could be in an office. Products and services are being developed all around the world that will make it even better. I’m so excited about how a majority of the economy going distributed will improve people’s quality of life, and unlock incredible creativity and innovation at work. (They go hand in hand.)

At some point, we’ll break bread with our colleagues again, and that will be glorious. I can’t wait. But along the way we’ll discover that things we thought were impossible were just hard at first, and got easier the more we did it. Some will return to physically co-working with strangers, and some employers trapped in the past will force people to go to offices, but the illusion that the office was about work will be shattered forever, and companies that hold on to that legacy will be replaced by companies who embrace the antifragile nature of distributed organizations.

by Matt at May 21, 2020 08:28 PM under distributed work

WPTavern: PHP and WordPress Version Checks Coming to Themes

PHP and WordPress version checks are coming to the WordPress theme system — finally. The feature was pulled into core WordPress three days ago. It will prevent end-users from installing or activating a theme that is incompatible with their current version of PHP or WordPress. The change is slated to land in WordPress 5.5.

This feature has long been on many theme authors’ wish lists, particularly PHP version checking. Plugins authors gained the ability to support specific PHP versions starting with WordPress 5.2. However, theme authors were left feeling like the second-class citizens they usually are when it comes to the addition of core features, waiting patiently as plugin authors received the new and shiny tools they were looking forward to.

Previously, the code for manually handling version checking within individual themes was more complex than in plugins. Theme authors needed to run compatibility checks after theme switch and block theme previews in the customizer using two different methods, depending on the user’s WordPress version. That is assuming theme authors were covering all their bases.

Users had no real way of knowing whether a theme would work on their site before installing and attempting to activate it. It was a poor user experience, even when a theme gracefully failed for the end-user.

This user experience has also held back some theme authors from transitioning to newer versions of PHP. For years, many were supporting PHP 5.2. Slowly, some of these same authors are now making the move toward newer features up to PHP 5.6, which is now the minimum that WordPress supports. However, not many have made the jump to PHP 7 and newer.

Until now, there has been no mechanism for letting the user know they need to upgrade their PHP to use a particular theme.

Some theme authors may choose to continue supporting older versions of PHP, such as 5.6, for a potentially wider user base. However, developers who want to switch to newer features can now do so with the support of the core platform.

Changes for Users

New WordPress and PHP versions added to Twenty Twenty theme.

Users who are browsing the WordPress theme directory may begin to notice new information available for some themes. Similar to plugins, visitors should see a WordPress Version and PHP Version listed for some themes. For example, the Twenty Twenty theme now lists the following minimum requirements:

  • WordPress Version: 4.7 or higher
  • PHP Version: 5.2.4 or higher

Not all themes will have these numbers listed yet. It will take some time before older themes are updated with the data required to populate these fields.

In WordPress 5.5, the admin interface for themes will change. When attempting to install or activate a theme, WordPress will prevent such actions. If a user searches for a theme that has an incompatible WordPress or PHP version, the normal installation button will be replaced with a disabled button that reads “Cannot Install.” If a theme is installed but not activated, the activation link will similarly be replaced with a disabled “Cannot Activate” button. Users will also not be allowed to live preview incompatible themes.

Cannot activate Twenty Twenty theme with incompatible PHP version.

The feature works the same from within the customizer interface as it does via the themes screen in the WordPress admin.

Changes for Theme Authors

The WordPress Themes Team recently announced two new required headers for theme authors to place in their style.css files. The first required field is Tested up to, which is the latest version of WordPress the theme has been tested against. The second is a Requires PHP field, which is the minimum PHP version the theme supports.

It is unclear is why the team decided to require those two fields but not the Requires at least field, which represents the minimum WordPress version needed. Most likely, theme authors will want to place all three headers in their themes.

Theme authors who will still support versions of WordPress earlier than 5.5 will want to continue using their old compatibility checks. However, this is the first step in phasing such code out.

by Justin Tadlock at May 21, 2020 07:57 PM under Themes

WPTavern: WordCamp Kent Online Features Business and Marketing Tracks, May 30-31

One of the exciting things about WordCamps going virtual is the community gaining access to more events and presentations than ever before, from anywhere in the world. Even in this new online-only format, local camps still retain their unique character as they feature speakers from their respective communities.

WordCamp Kent (Ohio) is one of these upcoming events that has been forced online by the pandemic. Organizers will be broadcasting all sessions on the weekend of May 30-31, and tickets are free for anyone who wants to attend.

The schedule for this particular event runs heavy on the business and marketing side of working with WordPress, with very few talks geared towards developers. If you are a freelancer, run an agency, or have a WordPress product business, you will find WordCamp Kent’s program more tailored to topics that help you improve client services.

The schedule on the first day of the event is divided into two tracks: Freelance/Business and User/Marketing. These sessions will run alongside live Q&A and a Help Desk managed by volunteers in the #wp-help-desk channel in the NEO WordPress Slack workspace. The second day of the event will be also be split into two tracks: Freelance/Business/Developer and WordPress 101/User.

Topics include designing websites for generating leads, improving your business model for freelancers and small businesses, client consultations, content marketing, and customer support.

This Kent, Ohio, WordCamp may not have made it on your radar in the past, but the pandemic has opened up events in some ways. It forces a greater number of camps online and allows attendees to join any event without the travel expenses that would ordinarily be prohibitive. In the past, many people who were not local would simply opt to save their money for the bigger camps. The WordPress community has a greater potential to accelerate their learning opportunities, as more smaller camps gain a global audience online.

by Sarah Gooding at May 21, 2020 05:19 PM under wordcamps

May 20, 2020

WPTavern: CampusPress Releases Accessible Content Plugin in Time for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

While it is still Wednesday here in the U.S., some parts of the world are already awakening to the third Thursday in May, which is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of the event is to get more people discussing, learning, and addressing issues related to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the digital world. That is what CampusPress hopes to do with its new plugin.

The CampusPress team announced its Accessible Content plugin for WordPress last week. The goal of the plugin is to help end-users address accessibility issues on their sites. Many tools are built for developers and designers, but the team wanted something to put into the hands of users to allow them to take the extra steps necessary in creating an accessible website.

The plugin is currently available through GitHub, but the team plans to submit it to the official WordPress plugin repository soon. The developers are gathering user feedback from customers and the community first.

“Our Accessible Content plugin was developed specifically to help with training and putting real-time information into the hands of those creating WordPress pages and posts,” said Ronnie Burt, General Manager at CampusPress. “There are a ton of site checker tools out there, and many work quite well. But all of them will spit out false positives and list issues on a page that have nothing to do with the content (navigation issues and the like). So as a bit of a disclaimer, by design, this plugin will not find or help with all potential accessibility issues on a site. But if used over time, it will help train content creators to understand many of the best practices that they should be following and avoid mistakes.”

CampusPress is a managed WordPress hosting and service provider for organizations in the educational sector. It is a sister service to Edublogs.org, which originally launched 15 years ago.

“In that time, we’ve been quietly catering to the unique needs of schools and universities that use WordPress in various ways,” said Burt. “Historically, that was more on the blogging and learning side, but as WordPress has grown into the CMS of choice, we’ve moved along with it to high-level main websites too.”

Development of the Accessible Content plugin will help the CampusPress team’s customers in education, particularly when diving into the world of accessibility guidelines.

“Overall, awareness around accessibility has improved considerably in recent years, but for many, the topic is overwhelming,” said Burt. “In our case, school administrators know they need a ‘compliant’ site, but when you go to read the compliance standards, some are subjective and, at best, really complex. The biggest hurdle that we see is that we are still in a place where accessibility expertise is left up to specialists or tools that are usually brought in after the fact or at the end of a project. In an ideal world, we’ll get to where the expertise is shared by all developers, content creators, and anyone else working on the site. This is because accessibility is so much better and easier when it is built-in and thought about from the beginning and continuously.”

The team is releasing this plugin not only to its customer base but as a free tool for all WordPress users.

How the Plugin Works

The plugin is simple enough for most people to use. When previewing a post, it labels and points out issues that need attention. The goal is not to focus on larger accessibility issues that may be coming from the theme. Instead, the plugin lists issues directly with the post content.

The interface on the post preview screen is simple enough to understand without documentation. Preview a post and the plugin provides buttons on the sides of the screen to navigate through each issue found. At the bottom of the screen, it leaves a full description of the problem. Users can also access this feature via the toolbar on the site front end when viewing a post.

Accessible Content plugin’s output on post preview.

In some cases, such as missing image alt text, the plugin provides a link to directly add the alt text in the admin. This is done through a custom Alt Text sub-menu under the Media screen in the WordPress admin. Users can also use this screen at any time to manage alt text for images used throughout the site in one location.

Burt said the original spec for the plugin had all of the accessibility checks and information within the block editor interface. However, the team hit a couple of roadblocks and ended up moving the plugin’s interface to the post preview screen as a result.

“Gutenberg is still in flux at a pretty rapid pace,” he said. “Just as we were getting our first proof of concept working on the image block, there was a change and it all broke. No fun! But moving to the previewer had some nice unintended consequences. Namely, the plugin works just as well with Classic Editor and with most page builders. The trade-off is that the warnings and helpful text aren’t quite in as real-time as I hope to get them to someday.”

In the long term, the team still plans on integrating directly with the block editor. For now, the plugin works well as part of the previewer. However, instant feedback in the editor would be a huge boost to fixing accessibility issues as they arise.

Community Accessibility Improvements

Burt was not shy about sharing his thoughts about what the WordPress community can be doing to improve accessibility around the web. He praised some of the work that the WordPress project has done thus far. He also shared some concerns.

“One thing I’m worried about — there’s a trend out there with a few WordPress plugins and a growing number of third-party tools to add a little ‘accessibility’ icon to the corner of your website,” he said. “When clicked, these icons open up options for fonts, contrast ratios, and may give an alternative way of navigating the site. I’ve noticed them on bank websites, government sites, and now the schools we work with are buying into them too because it can be tempting to just add a few snippets of embed code to a site and call it a day. To me, this sorta lets all of us that work on websites off the hook to not be responsible for accessible design and development, which really should be our ultimate goal.”

He stressed that using quality themes and plugins as a good step for most users along with being mindful of the content we create. Taking these simple steps should make for a more accessible user experience overall.

“There is lots of good news when it comes to WordPress and accessibility that we should be shouting from the rooftops,” said Burt. “For one, while there’s still a bit of work to be done, the majority of the issues identified in the WPCampus sponsored audit of Gutenberg have been resolved. That was a great example of the higher-ed community leading the charge to impact change. Without the change, simply put, schools, universities, and government agencies may be forced or encouraged to drop their adoption of WordPress.”

The WPCampus-sponsored audit in 2019 resulted in a 329-page technical analysis by Tenon, LLC. It covered user-based testing that included people with various disabilities. Since then, the Gutenberg project has worked to overcome issues identified by the audit.

“As I use Gutenberg more and more, there are some nice little accessibility Easter eggs for content creators, such as warnings about contrast ratios and the Headings block won’t show you the option for H1 by default,” said Burt. “I love it! If our community can just continue to highlight these improvements whenever possible, it will make a big difference. I’m also hopeful that some of our checks from this plugin can eventually not be needed as future improvements to blocks and the editor are made.”

Burt described the best thing the community can do is to be responsive and treat all accessibility issues as a major bug or even a release blocker before plugins or themes go live. In part, it is about being open to communicating and resolving issues that users bring up.

“With so many competing priorities, it can be tempting to just write off a complaint or suggestion as coming from one user,” he said. “But really this is how we continue to make the most progress on all of our tools and services. Feedback from users on barriers and problems they face in using our stuff is pure gold and useful to help ensure we don’t repeat those same mistakes.”

Burt listed some key questions he believes the community should continue having conversations around:

  • Should all new themes to WordPress.org be required to meet the ‘accessibility-ready’ standards?
  • Are there similar standards and checks we could add to plugins? How can plugin authors declare if their plugin may impact accessibility?
  • Is a separate ‘Accessibility’ team for WordPress core still the best way? How do we improve accessible design and development earlier on in practice? It is usually much harder to fix accessibility issues than it is to prevent them to begin with.

These are definitely worth discussing further. For now, his team is trying to do its small part with the Accessible Content plugin.

by Justin Tadlock at May 20, 2020 07:39 PM under accessibility

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