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August 23, 2019

WPTavern: Chrome 76 Adds Native Lazy-Loading, WordPress Contributors Continue Discussion Regarding Core Support

lazy cat – photo credit: Kate Stone Matheson

The latest version of Chrome (76) shipped with a new “loading” attribute that allows developers to specify resources, such as images and iframes, to defer loading until the user scrolls nearer to them. In the past, developers have used third-party libraries to achieve lazy loading but soon this will no longer be necessary, as more browsers adopt the loading attribute. Chrome developers published a compelling, in-depth explanation of how browser-level native lazy-loading can improve performance.

Given Chrome’s seemingly unshakeable, staggering market dominance, it will not be long before the loading attribute is supported for the vast majority of the web’s users. Firefox has an open ticket for implementing lazy loading using this syntax and the feature is also supported in Chromium 76-based browsers. It even works when the user has disabled JavaScript. In the meantime, Chrome recommends developers continue to use a third-party library along with loading=”lazy” is to provide a polyfill for browsers that do not yet support the attribute.

Morten Rand-Hendriksen filed a trac ticket 14 months ago, recommending WordPress introduce a lazy-loading API for media and other elements. Millions of WordPress users already have have some form of lazy loading on their sites using popular plugins like Jetpack, Autoptimize, Smush, WP-Optimize, and others.

Rand-Hendriksen contends that lazy-loading should be added to core because it is a performance best practice that WordPress should not require site owners to implement on their own. Without a core standard for lazy-loading, themes and plugins are all taking different approaches to solve this problem, which can cause conflicts and unexpected behavior. Contributors working on the ticket are still discussing the specifics of how WordPress core can best support lazy loading.

Meanwhile, WordPress developers who are excited about taking advantage of native lazy-loading are sharing their their own functions and custom plugins on GitHub, WordPress.org, and in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group.

Peter Shaw created a plugin called LH Native Lazy Loading that adds the “loading” attribute to IMG and IFRAME tags detected when filtering the_content(), post thumbnails, and oembed. It does not add any extra CSS or JavaScript and is compatible with JavaScript-based image lazy loaders, in case you want to use one as a fallback for browsers that don’t support the attribute.

Chris Franchetti shared a gist for a function that adds lazy loading to it to anything with a src. Chris Zähller published a set of functions on GitHub called WP Lazy that work in a different way. It adds the loading=“lazy” attribute when inserting new media or displaying a gallery via the WordPress gallery shortcode.

If there is a long delay on the core trac ticket, there will inevitably be a proliferation of native lazy-loading solutions that allow WordPress users to implement what several major browsers are already supporting. Existing lazy load plugins may also change to add support for the “loading” attribute, with their previous solutions as a backup for browsers that don’t yet support it.

by Sarah Gooding at August 23, 2019 08:27 PM under lazy-loading

WPTavern: Popular WordPress Themes Remove Obtrusive Admin Notices to Conform to New Theme Directory Requirement

Last month the WordPress Theme Review Team took action to curb obtrusive admin notices, requiring all themes to use the admin_notices API and follow the core design pattern. Prior to this rule going into effect, many themes would commonly display a large, branded notice upon activation. Sometimes these came with a prompt to install more plugins or instructions for getting started.

The Theme Review Team began prompting the authors of themes already known to be in violation of this guideline, to change their notices as soon as possible or risk suspension. Popular themes are rolling out updates that include cleaned-up notices.

Storefront, WooCommerce’s flagship theme, was one of the themes the team cited during the meeting as an example of the notices that the team was looking to discourage with this new requirement. Its large post-activation notice took up half the screen and was previously displayed on every page. Storefront 2.5.2 replaces the notice with one that conforms to the new rule.

The Noto theme from Pixelgrade, which previously had nearly a full-page branded onboarding screen with a call-to-action, has updated to a smaller notice that appears in the designated area for admin notices. Futurio has also scaled back its post-installation footprint and now displays a simple, compliant message with a “Get Started” button.

Theme authors are still finding creative ways to brand their notices, but they are now much less obtrusive and confined to the expected area. They are still able to communicate the necessary information for getting started, without cluttering the admin by taking over half the screen.

by Sarah Gooding at August 23, 2019 04:21 AM under News

August 22, 2019

WPTavern: WordPress 5.3 Development Kicks Off: UI Polishing, Editor Improvements, and New Twenty Twenty Default Theme

WordPress 5.3 release dates were confirmed this week. The timeline has the official release arriving November 12, 2019, with a decent margin of time to avoid WordCamp US (early November) and the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday week at the end of November. Beta 1 is expected September 23 and a Release Candidate is scheduled to follow on October 15.

The scope for this release is squarely in line with Matt Mullenweg’s 2019 goal of tightening up the software to improve existing features.

“The focus will be polishing current interactions and making the UIs more user friendly,” WordPress 5.3 release coordinator Francesca Marano said in the schedule announcement.

Another major part of this release is the editor improvements that have already been pushed to the Gutenberg plugin over the past few months. Riad Benguella, WP 5.3 Editor Tech lead, said these improvements “go beyond ‘polishing things,'” and will include more than 10 previous releases of the plugin.

After speaking with component maintainers, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden posted a summary of updates that could be included in the release during the proposed timeframe:

  • Grouping: support for dividing your page into sections
  • Motion: support for visual motion when moving/arranging blocks
  • Column patterns and widths: support for fixed column widths, and predefined layouts
  • Big images: support for saving progress after a big image fails to upload
  • Media accessibility: some fixes and a lot of polish as a result of the a11y audit
  • PHP 7.4: support for the new version coming late in November
  • And also: Build/Test updates, better administration of emails, and a lot of under the hood improvements

WordPress 5.3 to Introduce Twenty Twenty Default Theme

Earlier this month, Haden confirmed that WordPress 5.3 will include a new bundled default theme. Twenty Twenty development is taking a different route from previous default themes in that it will not be designed from scratch.

“I think something that would be cool is taking a theme from the community that is already doing cool stuff with the features we’ve been introducing, and modifying it to fit with the 5.3 release,” Haden said.

The lead for the default theme project has yet be announced, although Mark Uraine, a designer working on Gutenberg, will be facilitating the effort behind the scenes.

“I know people are looking at themes that make good use of Gutenberg and have theme developers that can dedicate some time to this,” Uraine said.

WordPress 5.3 will be the last major release of 2019. Contributors plan to land a minor release in the meantime. WordPress 5.2.3 RC 1 was released today. Jeffrey Paul, who is helping to coordinate this release, said the focuses for 5.2.3 include the PHP version bump coming in 5.3, backporting some block editor features, and improving accessibility and RTL issues. The official 5.2.3 release is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT.

by Sarah Gooding at August 22, 2019 07:05 PM under WordPress 5.3

August 21, 2019

WPTavern: WordPress Poised to Begin Implementing Proposal to Auto-Update Older Sites to 4.7

photo credit: Ryan McGuire

WordPress contributors from around the world joined in a lively meeting yesterday to continue the discussion regarding the proposal to auto-update old sites to version 4.7 in a controlled rollout. The idea is that sites would gradually update from one major version to the next (not all at once). The discussion was led by WordPress 3.7 release lead Andrew Nacin with help from Ian Dunn and security team lead Jake Spurlock.

Based on the participants’ responses during the meeting, there were a handful of dissenters who are not comfortable with updating old sites without the site owner’s explicit consent, which is difficult to acquire when emails and admin notices will not reach everyone affected.

The majority of contributors are leaning towards finding the best implementation for moving forward with the proposal, which essentially makes a bold decision for regular users who may not know that they are not on the latest version of WordPress and those who have abandoned their sites. Site owners who are actively choosing to hang back on older versions have most likely already opted out of auto-updates, and those decisions will be respected by the update system.

Dunn said his goal for the discussion was to “listen for ideas, and hopefully move closer to some kind of decision.” At the beginning, it kicked off with more of a focus on marketing and implementation details, rather than the matter of whether or not WordPress should auto-update sites to major versions.

“I think that a major marketing push is needed around this,” Spurlock said. “We want to be ahead of any news about WordPress breaking sites, and in a position to frame this update as a major benefit for the millions of sites that are being updated.” After encouragement from WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden, those eager to discuss the rollout process pulled back to engage the more central matter of the auto updates themselves. Spurlock summarized the three options the security team has for older sites:

1. Abandon security updates for older sites
2. Continue security updates, at great cost
3. Manually update sites, leaving older sites without updates.

“It’s worth pointing out that these site owners have already had up to six years of admin notices,” Nacin said. “The oldest sites likely received north of 30 emails. The way we might communicate a new feature (in say 5.3 or 5.4) to add support for major release auto updates might be drastically different than how we might handle an old site running 3.7 that we’d like to move to 3.8 and higher.”

Contributors Weigh the Consequences of Leaving Older Sites Without Updates

Core contributor Zebulan Stanphill was one of the more vocal opponents of auto-updating to major versions without consent.

“The auto-update feature in 3.7 was not advertised as including major updates, so it seems deceptive in my opinion to suddenly change it to include that,” Stanphill said. “It feels like assuming more control over a website than the owner had originally given to WordPress. I’m fine with auto-major-updates becoming the default in new versions of WordPress, but retroactively applying that to old versions seems wrong to me.”

Gary Pendergast, a full-time sponsored contributor to core, countered that the problem is potentially millions of site owners will not see the notice and will be stuck on old versions that will eventually become insecure. Stanphill argued that it’s not WordPress’ responsibility to update people’s sites for them if they did not give permission.

“It is our responsibility to not lay the groundwork for a botnet of a sizeable portion of the internet,” Pendergast said.

WordPress has a much larger footprint on the web than it did in 2013 when the auto-update system was put in place in 3.7. The platform’s marketshare has grown to 34.5% of the the top 10 million websites as of August 2019. Sites running 3.7 have been informally estimated at around 2 million but a definitive count has not been confirmed.

“If we unwittingly give someone a platform to do real evil, we’re big enough that could have consequences,” Core contributor Mary Baum said.

Lack of explicit consent and the possibility for breakage were the top two concerns for those opposed to the plan. Those in favor believe it can be done without breaking millions of websites. Former security team lead Aaron Campbell highlighted the advantages of a tiered update rollout:

Speaking of starting at 3.7 users as a test base (which is part of the plan Ian proposed), one of the great things we can offer users that they have a hard time doing themselves, is a slow update from version to version. The button in the dashboard of a 3.7 site will update the site to 5.2, which is understandably scary. We’d be updating 3.7->3.8, then 3.8->3.9, etc etc until 4.6->4.7. It’ll offer a smoother path from 3.7 to 4.7 AND give us plenty of places to improve on the process along the way if it’s needed.

I think there are some benefits to rolling up. One of those is the DB changes, which would be rolled out in chunks the same as they happened over the last 6 years rather than batched all in one update. It seems like it would cause fewer memory and time limit errors as well.

As he has stated in previous P2 discussions, Nacin reiterated that the core team’s plan has always been to bring auto updates for major versions:

I want to share a bit of history and context: Only the latest version of WordPress is, of course, officially supported. Automatic background updates in 3.7 (October 2013) completely changed the calculus—for the first time, we were able to ship security releases to older branches. But we didn’t announce or document these older versions, offer them for regular download, or expose them to the Dashboard → Updates screen. There was no intention—and still isn’t—to change our often stated policy that only the latest version of WordPress is officially supported. What we realized, though, if we are building the ability to quickly push security fixes to older unsupported sites, we’d be out of our mind to not use that feature.

We expected to make quicker progress on automatic updates for major releases, improving the safety and resiliency of those updates. That would have then enabled us to update these older sites, all the way back to 3.7, to more recent versions of WordPress. That was always the plan. We just didn’t expect it’d take us six years to get there.

Eventually, the long term goal is to change the default for major updates to “opt-out,” once they have proven stability. The proposal for auto-updating older versions to 4.7 would be the next step towards gradually moving in that direction. Nacin contends older sites “are already opted-in by virtue of being on an install of WordPress 3.7+.”

At a certain point in the meeting, the discussion surrounding the ethics of auto-updating older sites to 4.7, broke down into analogies involving car maintenance, vaccinations, rotting corpses, and anything contributors could pull from the real world to make their opinions more relatable to the topic at hand.

“It’s hard to talk about ‘autonomy’ for sites that have effectively been abandoned,” Mark Jaquith said. “Like, if you drop dead on the street, society doesn’t just let you rot there because you haven’t consented to burial.”

Core contributor John James Jacoby said he is not entirely comfortable with the implied consent of opt-out vs. opt-in but ultimately agreed that it is “something that needs to happen.”

“But to paraphrase Mark from earlier, I guess I feel like WordPress shouldn’t be cleaning it’s own carcasses from the web unless it includes a big’ol meta-box in the Dashboard that says ‘Hey we had to do this for you and here is why,'” Jacoby said.

Others are more strongly opposed to WordPress changing files on users’ servers, after having originally communicated that 3.7 would only perform automatic security updates unless they decided to opt into major updates.

“I am very much against pushing an unattended major update to any software,” Gabor Javorszky said. “WordPress Core does not have the authority to change code on my server without my explicit ask. I’m okay with it updating itself for minor versions, because that’s what I signed up for, and that’s how the current auto updater works by default. I can change it to allow major updates, and I can change it to not allow any updates at all, but WP overriding that choice is wrong.”

Michael Panaga contended that users would be more willing to understand that their old websites have been hacked, rather than find out that their sites have broken because of an unauthorized automatic update. Opponents of the proposal do not believe that it is WordPress’ responsibility to keep people’s sites from being compromised, even if millions of sites get hacked. They see this as the user’s problem or something hosting companies should handle.

“Reasonable people can and will disagree on this, but our philosophy is that we do not think it is solely the user’s responsibility if their site is hacked,” Nacin said. “We feel that responsibility too, and we’re going to do absolutely everything we can to make sure their site stays updated and they are running the latest and greatest version of WordPress.”

No official decision has been announced but those who have the power to implement the plan are firmly decided and seem to have gained a consensus through yesterday’s meeting.

“At the end of the day there’s only a few people who have the ability to push the change to the auto-update server to make this opt-out instead of opt-in and sounds like their minds are made up, so no point in continuing P2 [discussions], might as well move into the implementation phase and try to minimize the destruction,” WordPress developer Earle Davies said.

Nacin thanked contributors for lending their voices to the discussion and said there will be some follow-up posts and possibly a roadmap published to make/core in the coming days, documenting previous decisions back to 2007.

“I’m really glad you all showed up to talk about this topic,” Nacin said. “Even after 10 years, I remain deeply impressed with the WordPress community and how much it cares about its users. The web deserves it.”

by Sarah Gooding at August 21, 2019 08:07 PM under WordPress

HeroPress: WordPress and Customer Support, A Perfect Match

I don't have to commute to work and risk my life every day.

My adventure with WordPress started back in the days, circa 2006, when I tried to use WordPress.com in a local area network at the company I was working for at the time. I soon realized WordPress.org was a better fit and began experimenting with setting up multiple sites for different purposes. Fast forward to 2015/2016, I decided I would no longer work for the company I was working with for the past 10 years and I started looking for opportunities to either work from home or create my own company. I tried to do both at the same time as neither would exclude the other and so I went the self-learning path with MeteorJS and WordPress.

As a little bit of background, I have worked in support for as long as I can remember. I was the school’s computer lab technician at the age of 10, and trust me all I did was dust-off computers, install MS-DOS and Prince of Persia. In 2005 I got my Computer Sc Engineer degree and since then I worked for Venezuela’s national oil company (PDVSA 2006-2016) as a Workflow Support Engineer helping engineers with oil drilling and completion engineering tools, but I also filled many temporary roles such as a PHP developing project as a contractor, creating extensive SQL queries to pull data out of Oracle databases and even led team members at different times for specifics developing projects, software implementations I developed myself, or for projects to help design a database model for a third party software.

I was very stuck in an office with an every day commute time of 92 minutes.

As the living conditions in Venezuela worsened, the job did not longer fit my needs. I decided I would no longer wait to secure another job or have established a running business to leave, so I left with the uncertainty of what I was going to do next. A year before I actually left, I resumed my journey with WordPress by building websites for a couple of local businesses and tried luck with a viral news website I eventually gave away to a friend of mine. The more I looked into moving to WordPress as my go-to developing tool for work, the more I realized I was still better at providing support, at helping colleagues develop better products or at helping business owners decide a route to have a successful online presence. I often found myself supporting web development rather than developing or building sites. But conditions in Venezuela started to deteriorate faster than one could adapt, businesses closed their doors and working with local clients was becoming harder and not the best option to support a large family.

How WordPress Changed My Life

I live in Venezuela and let’s say this is not the safest place in the world, among other things.

Millions has left the country looking for better work opportunities and to improve their living conditions, including most of my friends and my closest family relatives, so in a way WordPress changed my life for the better. Leaving a job in a country in crisis were personally difficult times and a tough decision to make. In the meantime, I kept submitting countless resumes to different distributed customer support positions, unsuccessfully. I also joined Support Driven in Slack to get familiar with current trends in customer support and to build relationships and even though I wasn’t as active as I wanted to, I was able to find an open position for a Happiness Engineer role at Automattic. It was at my second try with Automattic that I was able to secure an interview for the role. I did a 5-weeks trial and finally joined Automattic full-time by the end of 2016.

I choose to work from home so I can be next to the people I care the most, my wife, my kids, my parents, but equally importantly to me and my immediate family is the fact that I don’t have to commute to work and risk my life every day as I did in the past.

WordPress is as big as you want it to be, you are always learning and never stuck. Find your niche within WordPress, there are more work opportunities that I can count where you can insert yourself and continue doing what you are best at. If you are a software developer, a database administrator, a lawyer, a musician or an event organizer, it doesn’t matter: WordPress is still for you, it changed my life and it can change yours too!

The post WordPress and Customer Support, A Perfect Match appeared first on HeroPress.

by Aniello Forlini at August 21, 2019 12:00 PM

August 20, 2019

WPTavern: University of Helsinki Publishes Free Intro Course on Modern JavaScript-based Web Development

The University of Helsinki is offering its “Deep Dive Into Modern Web Development” course online for free. It provides an introduction to JavaScript-based web development with React, Redux, Node.js, MongoDB, and GraphQL. Participants will learn the basics of building single page applications with ReactJS. This course is the same as the Full Stack course that was offered at the university’s Department of Computer Science in Spring 2019.

The material is available in both Finnish and English and is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0. It is structured into nine parts:

  • Fundamentals of Web apps
  • Introduction to React
  • Communicating with the server
  • Programming a server with NodeJS and Express
  • Testing Express servers, user administration
  • Testing React apps, custom hooks
  • State management with Redux
  • React router, styling app with CSS and webpack
  • GraphQL

The University partnered with seven companies to provide participants with an “interview promise” if they complete the course with full credits and the practical work. This offer, which is only available to those with a Finnish social security number, is similar to coding bootcamps that offer job interviews after completion.

The university issued a call for companies to join the “Full Stack Challenge,” encouraging their employees to take the course and build upon their expertise:

Our objective is to encourage learning. We offer a fully-assembled and purposefully-scoped Full Stack course that lowers the barrier of entry for learning about new state-of-the-art and production grade technologies. The course is free of charge and you can participate from anywhere at anytime, at your leisure.

The course is built by coders for coders, and offers something for both newcomers and seasoned industry veterans alike.

All participants who finish the course can download a certificate of completion. Those with a Finnish social security number can take an exam and get official credits from the University.

WordPress developers who have yet to jump into the world of React-based JavaScript development may find this course to be a useful, structured introduction. Participants should have a a basic understanding of programming and databases, as well as decent grasp of working with Git.

by Sarah Gooding at August 20, 2019 11:15 PM under react

WPTavern: A Nofollow Option for Links Is Coming to Gutenberg

Gutenberg users are requesting an easy way to add a nofollow attribute to links in the block editor. Users can currently toggle a setting to designate a link to open in a new tab, but a similarly user-friendly option for adding a nofollow attribute is not yet available.

Requests have come in across multiple issues on GitHub, as well as in the WordPress Gutenberg Editor group on Facebook. For example, one blogger asked for advice today after not finding any Gutenberg-compatible nofollow plugins:

Has anyone found an easy way to add a nofollow attribute to links using Gutenberg other than editing the HTML for every single link?

I used to have a checkbox for nofollow plugin but it seems that none of the plugins I’ve found are compatible with Gutenberg.

As a blogger, I need to add nofollows often to remain compliant with FTC requirements for sponsored/affiliate links.

Others requesting the feature in issues filed on the Gutenberg repository are looking for an easier way to make their links compliant with Google and other major search engines’ requests that marketers add nofollow to links that are part of an endorsement or commercial relationship.

“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who make money with their website with affiliate programs and sponsored content: please, make it easy for us to add the nofollow rel attribute to a link,” Renee Dobbs requested in her first ever issue opened on Github.

“I honestly don’t know why it isn’t a part of WordPress core. Every WordPress commercial I see lately is about having your business on WordPress, yet WP is making it difficult for business owners to be compliant with Google’s guidelines on paid/affiliate links. We shouldn’t have to add yet another plugin to handle something so basic and widely used. Just have a checkbox or similar (like open to new window) to add the nofollow rel attribute for a link.”

Gutenberg contributors have worked on a couple different solutions for getting this feature added to the editor. Alexander Botteram, a developer at Yoast, opened a PR that adds a new “nofollow” toggle setting to the core link modal. Gutenberg phase 2 lead Riad Benguella recommended this as a first step towards making links more extensible.

The PR is still undergoing review but it looks like a promising solution with the UI that users are requesting.

by Sarah Gooding at August 20, 2019 07:51 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: Fabrica Dashboard Plugin Brings a CMS Overview to Multi-User Editorial Sites

Fabrica Dashboard is a relatively new plugin released earlier this year by the team at Yes We Work, after a long beta and extensive internal use on their own projects. The plugin revamps WordPress’ default Dashboard screen to display information that is useful for multi-user editorial sites, highlighting content, activity, and engagement. New dashboard widgets include a high level overview of the following:

  • The Posts, Pages, Blocks, and custom content types that make up your site
  • Recent activity and updates across content, media, and comments
  • Upload sizes / formats and possible security issues

Fabrica Dashboard was built to be content-aware without any configuration. It automatically detects the different types of content in use on the site, including custom post types and custom taxonomies, and populates the dashboard widgets accordingly. The display respects user roles and privileges and the screen can also be customized using the Screen Options tab. Fabrica Dashboard is also compatible with other dashboard widgets, which can be mixed in and moved around.

“The plugin aims to make the dashboard more useful as an ongoing tool for managing site content (rather than a first time user’s guide to the wonderful world of WP, that more experienced users will be forced to skip over),” Yes We Work director Thomas Eagle said.

The Editorial Overview and Content Activity widgets are particularly useful for distributed, multi-author teams that are working in different timezones. It makes it easy for users to catch up on editorial activity across all content types, with a filter for activity by post type, user, or time period. There is even a direct link to view each post’s Compare Revisions screen.

“The Dashboard also means that as an external developer or site maintainer, only logging in occasionally, you can quickly get up to speed on the evolution and growth of a client site, and spot potential problems ahead of time,” Eagle said.

Fabrica Dashboard also works seamlessly with the team’s new plugin, Fabrica Reusable Block Instances. It is a plugin that provides an inventory of all the reusable blocks that are being used in content across a site on a separate management screen that displays the number of instances. This plugin is useful for sites where Reusable Blocks are sometimes updated and it’s important to know where they are in use.

Better management capabilities for Reusable Blocks is a feature that has been indirectly requested several times in Gutenberg support topics. A solution for this may soon be coming to core, as a screenshot of a similar Reusable Blocks screen was published in July with the Block Directory design prototypes. In the meantime, Fabrica Reusable Block Instances is a lightweight plugin for managing these types of blocks. It doesn’t modify the database in any way, nor does it come with any settings.

Fabrica Dashboard and Reusable Block Instances are some of the best CMS plugins I’ve seen recently that have been designed to include Gutenberg block content. While they are targeted specifically at multi-user editorial installations, the plugins may also be beneficial for highly active, single-author blogs. Both are available for free on WordPress.org. Users who want support can purchase the commercial version that also comes with the ability to remove the Fabrica branding from the dashboard.

by Sarah Gooding at August 20, 2019 06:04 AM under cms

August 19, 2019

WPTavern: WordCamp London 2020 Organizing Team Eyes September Dates Due to Brexit Uncertainty

photo credit: Benjamin Davies

The Joomla World Conference in London, planned for November 2019, has been cancelled. Joomla’s Board of Directors announced the cancellation at the end of July, citing the updated October 31, 2019, Brexit deadline as the primary reason:

Last week the new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been elected with a mandate to ensure Brexit happens on 31st October, even if that means without any form of deal with the EU.

Sadly, for an international conference planned for the weeks after Brexit, there is considerable doubt and uncertainty around travel requirements to the UK and what (if any) visas may be required. This coupled with the huge workload already on the limited resources of the community with Joomla 4 at an advanced development stage, the Board has very reluctantly taken the decision to postpone JWC2019 to some date yet to be announced.

The directors did not want to risk international attendees purchasing travel not being able to attend. They are issuing refunds for tickets already purchased.

WordCamp London, which has traditionally been held in early April or late March, is also not exempt from Brexit-related planning challenges. The lingering uncertainty bleeds into other aspects of planning, such as recruiting sponsors and speakers.

“The uncertainty that Brexit brings when trying to organize an international conference adds huge pressures to the organizing team, creates many additional logistical problems for sponsors, and creates uncertainty for volunteers and attendees,” WordCamp London organizer Dan Maby said. He and co-lead Barbara Saul are currently in the early stages of planning the 2020 event. They faced similar issues this year with the original Brexit date set for March 29, 2019.

“The WordCamp was planned just one week after this date,” Maby said. “As an organizing team we faced unanswerable questions from the outset. We planned to develop a dedicated team within the organizers to support questions, but we soon realized this wasn’t possible because even at governmental level the answers to questions we had were not answered.”

Since WordCamps are designed to be focused on the local communities where they are produced, Maby and his team adopted a mindset that they would send a message by keeping the 2019 camp running as planned: “Let’s do our small part in demonstrating that the UK is open for international business.” The event ended up selling out of both tickets and sponsor packages. Although WordCamp London historically attracts an international audience, the marketing team for the 2019 event focused heavily on the local community.

Maby said it saddened him to read that Joomla World Conference 2019 has been postponed due to Brexit and that he empathizes with their team.

“We’re in early discussions regarding WordCamp London 2020 and considering delivering the event later in the year,” he said. “Part of the reason is to allow the unknown of Brexit to start to settle.”

With a lack of definitive information about who will need visas and how Brexit will affect international travelers, Maybe said his team is still mostly in dark. The biggest complication is not knowing if sponsors or attendees will be able to legally enter the country. This makes planning a budget and selling sponsorship packages and tickets more tricky. WordCamp London co-leads have yet to put the application in but are eying September 2020 for the next event.

“We are investigating September as a potential alternative,” Maby said. “We’ll be 11 months post-Brexit (if it happens in October) so we will hopefully have a better idea of what to communicate to attendees, volunteers, and sponsors traveling into the UK. It also sits well between the European and US regional WordCamps.”

by Sarah Gooding at August 19, 2019 09:18 PM under wordcamp

August 16, 2019

WPTavern: Attend the Great WP Virtual Summit for Free: August 19-23

For five days next week, from August 19-23, the inaugural event of The Great WP Virtual Summit will be taking place.

Conceived by South African based WordPress developer Anchen le Roux, the summit aims to bring together experts from various fields within the WordPress ecosystem to share their knowledge over the five days

I reached out to Le Roux, to find out why she came up with the idea of the summit, and what her goals are for the event.

“Being an organiser of WordCamp Johannesburg for the last few years, I’ve been very aware of how only a small number of people are actually able to attend an event like WordCamp. 

Obviously there are a lot of reasons, but for the most part travelling, accommodation, and other logistical items seemed to be the biggest hindrance.”

Being based at the tip of Africa, Le Roux also realized that many other African countries don’t even have a WordCamp, and started wondering what she could do to bring WordCamp to them. The idea for the summit was born.

“I’m hoping an online summit can introduce aspects of WordPress, and being part of the WordPress community, to those living in areas where it’s not easily accessible. It’s also my hope that this will plant a seed with folks, to start their own local communities around WordPress, and ultimately lead to more local WordCamps.”

Anchen is hoping to recreate some of the atmosphere and energy that takes place at a local WordCamp, at this online event.

“I know nothing can substitute for the in-person experience of a WordCamp but I’m trusting that some bits of what makes WordCamps awesome can be recreated in what we do. I’m hoping for this to be the first of many. This first one is very much an experiment but I’m anticipating for it to grow into something that more people can be involved in.“

I asked Le Roux what she hopes attendees will take away from the event.

“Firstly, the goal is to allow folks to learn from top authorities in the WordPress realm on a variety of topics. We have four different tracks catering to all types of  WordPress users. Topics range from branding and design, development, and running your business with WordPress, to running a WordPress agency or being a WP freelancer. 

Above and beyond that, I’m hoping that folks who are new to the community, or are operating on the fringes of our community, are encouraged to become a bigger part of the WordPress community, by giving them the opportunity to chat with other community members, ask questions and/or share ideas.

We have 20+ experts over 5 days, who will teach you strategies you can use to both improve and scale your WordPress business, no matter which stage you’re at, or what type of user you are.”

The Great WP Virtual Summit is happening August 19 – 23 and you can get your free tickets to the event right now by visiting the tickets page.

by Jonathan Bossenger at August 16, 2019 11:16 PM under News

WPTavern: Automattic Acquires Zero BS CRM, Considers Rebranding it as Jetpack CRM

Automattic has acquired Zero BS CRM, a free plugin with more than 30 commercial extensions that provide deeper integrations with third-party services. Zero BS was co-founded by a two-person team that includes Mike Stott and Woody Hayday. The team marketed the plugin as a “no-nonsense CRM” and have been operating it with a successful subscription-based model for bundles of extensions.

With just 1,000 active installs on WordPress.org, Zero BS was not previously a very well-known plugin but it caught Automattic’s attention based on the strength of the product.

“Automattic reached out to us after being a happy customer,” Stott said. Former Automattic executive John Maeda had used Zero BS CRM and recommended it to the company. Stott said the main appeal for the acquisition was “strong advocacy of the product.”

It started with a support ticket Zero BS CRM received from a user, asking about Mail Campaigns and how best to set up sequences for customers.

“What we didn’t realize was this user was linked to Automattic, and was becoming a strong advocate for our product within the company,” Stott said. “What followed was a series of conversations with leaders from different parts of Automattic.”

Talks regarding the deal began in February and carried on at WordCamp Europe 2019 in Berlin.

Jetpack CRM is a Strong Consideration for Rebranding

Zero BS CRM will be rebranded as the team comes under the Automattic umbrella. The original name was somewhat polarizing in that potential customers either loved it or hated it.

Although the product’s founders have built extensions that connect WooCommerce stores to a CRM, Stott said the acquisition was not driven by Zero BS’s potential use with WooCommerce specifically.

“Variants will fit in well to Woo, Jetpack, as well as serving the standalone market,” Stott said. “If our users outgrow us, we will want to help them find the next step (similar to the Basecamp model).”

Yahoo Finance is reporting that Automattic will be rebranding the product as “Jetpack CRM,” but Stott said that has not been confirmed yet. He said Jetpack CRM is “the favorite so far internally but still open to discussion.” This may be a strong indication of what Automattic intends to do with the product.

Stott said they are not looking to compete against the likes of Salesforce or Hubspot but rather are focused on providing the basic concepts of a CRM – “knowing who your customers are, getting leads, and helping businesses grow.”

The Entrepreneur bundle is Zero BS’s most popular pricing plan, which includes all of the extensions and priority support for $17 per month, billed yearly. It accounts for approximately 75% of the company’s ARR. Stott said they do not have plans to stop the subscription model and will continue with their current pricing.

“We had planned to increase the price with v3.0 because with the updates and mail campaigns we felt we weren’t charging enough for the product,” Stott said. “But we’ve also found a good price point and Automattic didn’t want to change what was already working price wise.”

Next on the roadmap the team plans one of their most requested features: smart inbox linked to CRM data. They are aiming to release version 3.0 in September.

“I’m excited to reach more customers and just keep on building to help people and SMBs achieve the best they can,” Stott said.

by Sarah Gooding at August 16, 2019 06:59 PM under CRM

August 15, 2019

Post Status: Chat with a WordPress skeptic

I talked with Kira Leigh, a full-stack creative entrepreneur and consultant. Skeptic may be too strong of a word, but she makes it clear that she thinks WordPress is too often used when it’s not necessary.

Kira handles every part of her projects, which typically stem from marketing and copywriting, but she takes on design, development, and whatever is required to get the job done. She is the type of person who WordPress should be able to serve quite ably. But more often than not, she would rather steer clear.

In this episode of the Draft Podcast, I talk to Kira about her work, why she is pained by WordPress, and I try to come to some conclusions. I am not sure if I accomplished much, but I do feel like I am better able to see where she’s coming from.

This conversation stemmed from a friend sending me a post Kira wrote that was (to my mind) a bit aggressive toward WordPress — and while perhaps not 100% accurate, it is 100% her perception of the reality of working with WordPress.

Links from the show

Sponsor: Pagely

Pagely offers best-in-class managed WordPress hosting, powered by Amazon’s Cloud, the Internet’s most reliable infrastructure. Pagely helps big brands scale WordPress. Their new platform NorthStack is a completely serverless solution for managed application hosting. Thank you to Pagely for being a Post Status partner! 👍

by Brian Krogsgard at August 15, 2019 09:30 PM under Planet

WPTavern: Gutenberg 6.3 Improves Accessibility with New Navigation and Edit Modes

Major accessibility improvements are the headline feature of this week’s Gutenberg plugin release. Version 6.3 introduces new Navigation and Editor modes to address long-standing problems navigating the block UI with a screen reader. The editor is now loaded in Navigation mode by default. Riad Benguella described it as “an important milestone in terms of accessibility of the editor” and explained how it works:

It allows you to move from block to block using a single Tab press. You can also use the arrow keys to navigate between blocks. Once you reach the block you want to edit, you can enter the Edit Mode by hitting the Enter key. The Escape key allows you to move back to the Navigation Mode.

These modes are still early in their development and will require more testing.

At WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville, Accessibility Team contributor Amanda Rush gave me a demonstration of what it is like to navigate Gutenberg with a screen reader. Using the editor was painfully difficult for even the simplest tasks, such as setting a title and writing paragraph content.

Since that time, the Gutenberg and Accessibility teams have made great strides towards improving this experience. The new interaction flow in the Navigation mode is one example of their progress. The teams have also worked together to tackle a collection of 84 issues that Tenon created on GitHub in May, based on the findings in WPCampus’ Gutenberg Accessibility Audit. To date, 54 of those issues, many of which were related to screen reader accessibility, have been resolved and marked as closed.

Other notable updates in Gutenberg 6.3 include support for text alignments in table block columns, border color support for the separator block, and improvements to the BlockPreview component, which allow developers to preview blocks in any context. Check out the release post for the full list of all the changes in 6.3.

by Sarah Gooding at August 15, 2019 08:27 PM under gutenberg

Post Status: Is Tumblr a social network?

What the heck is Tumblr, anyway? I’ve never done a particularly deep dive into the platform, though it is recently relevant for my line of work.

I created a Tumblr back when WordPress was debating post formats — before they died. I also did a small client project on Tumblr — which ended up being a tedious experiment of much custom HTML and CSS inside a customizer-like interface.

I never stopped to think what kind of platform Tumblr is. Is it a blog platform? A site builder? A social network?

Of those three particular options, I would’ve leaned on blog platform with a dose of light-CMS for tiny site building. I probably would’ve mostly dismissed a notion that it’s a social network. But perhaps that’s where it can be best.

When I visit Tumblr, I see tons of different content formats, mostly short-form and ephemeral — whether a meme, funny pic, quote, or news link. None of the gamified restrictions on the type of content exist on Tumblr, as is so well known on Instagram. It is a fairly simple feed based on the content posted or engaged with by the people you follow.

Tumblr feels like the whimsical side of blogging. Too often, when I blog, I feel like it better mean something. So usually I tweet, or I do something else that feels less permanent. This is a sad outcome, as I loved blogging in the weblog sense — before the arrival of “big-thought” blogs finely tuned to the desires of Google algos, carefully crafted with just the right CTAs, sub-heads, and content plans, all within a well-defined site structure.

All that serious businessy stuff is great, I guess. It makes sense. The “investment” in our content “strategies” — these words are making my old-school web self puke — are totally reasonable. For our businesses, personal brands, stores, and whatnot, we want a good ROI on our blogging. We have strategies.

What is fun about the Tumblr vibe is that it feels strategy-less. It feels social.

I’m gonna try to Tumbl for a while, see how it feels, how it works, and what happens. Am I worried about my brand, my audience development, my influence, my monetization strategy? Nah. I can do that on this site, or web-Twitter, or YouTube, or Instagram. I just want to have fun.

Maybe that’s where Tumblr can shine.

by Brian Krogsgard at August 15, 2019 05:42 PM under Planet

August 14, 2019

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Team Scraps Trusted Authors Program Due to Gaming and Inconsistent Reviews

After several months of discussion, WordPress.org’s Theme Review Team has decided to discontinue the Trusted Authors (TA) Program that launched in April 2018. The program, which was controversial from its inception, allowed certain authors to bypass the normal theme review queue after demonstrating an ability to submit themes with fewer than three issues. Trusted Author theme submissions went to their own dedicated queue that was handled by team leads.

The objective of the program was to streamline the review process and lessen the burden on reviewers. When it failed to deliver the intended results, the Theme Review team leads made a unilateral decision behind closed doors, implementing a change requiring TA participants to join the team and perform a minimum number of reviews in order to continue having their own themes fast tracked through the review process. This was loudly decried by other members of the Theme Review team who were blindsided by the decision.

“We are removing the Trusted Author Program,” team lead William Patton announced in the most recent meeting. “It has not fulfilled the intended plan and has caused more problems than it is solving.”

Fellow team lead Sandilya Kafle outlined the reasons in a post published today. The entrance requirements for the program did not ensure that participants were truly “trusted” authors, as many had to be removed for gaming the system. Reviewers also reported that there was a group of people releasing clones of themes every week.

“We got lots of help from the TA authors – for which we’d like to thank them,” Kafle said. “However, there was still gaming from some of the authors – which resulted in their removal from the TA program. One of the intentions of the TA program was to reduce the gaming by the use of multiple accounts. However, we still saw some authors having multiple accounts so this intention was not realized though the program existing.”

The TA program’s entrance requirements also did not ensure that participants were prepared to review themes at a high level, which resulted in inconsistent reviews.

“We strongly believed that TA members were highly familiar with the requirements but we found that was not the case for all of them,” Kafle said. “Additionally, some authors did not feel confident enough in their own understanding of all requirements to perform reviews and set themes live. Instead many TA reviews went to the admin queue after approval. This was an indicator that the quality of the themes by TA’s may not be as high as expected.”

Most of the Theme Review team members present in the meeting were generally agreed on shutting the TA program down. Alexandru Cosmin, the former team lead who introduced the program, was the only vocal outlier, whose acrid responses to scrapping the program reflect a long-standing frustration with the slow queue.

“Honest opinion, and I could bet on this: by the end of the year we’ll have 5-month queues and multi-accounters,” Cosmin said. “We’ll see how fair it will be when you have guys with 15 accounts and authors complaining in the main chat about how long the queue is.”

Today’s decision to discontinue the TA program restores the natural order to the queue, with all theme authors receiving the same treatment. Tying an incentive program to the review system was ineffective for taming the queue.

Long queues and gaming the system have proven to be continual struggles for the Theme Review Team, but the existence of these problems underscores the significance of the official themes directory for theme shops. Companies continue to use WordPress.org to gain users for their commercial versions, and the directory remains an important distribution channel for WordPress themes.

by Sarah Gooding at August 14, 2019 10:01 PM under wordpress theme review team

Matt: On Vergecast

If you’d like some more background and context on Tumblr and Automattic coming together I had a chance to have a short but nuanced conversation with Nilay Patel and Julia Alexander on The Verge’s podcast, Vergecast. I love how great journalists are able to really dive into the heart of issues, and I really enjoyed the conversation.

by Matt at August 14, 2019 07:59 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Write for WP Tavern

WP Tavern is hiring full-time writers. We are looking for reporters with the ability to write WordPress news every day, covering a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) Gutenberg, core development, community, open source software, plugin and theme ecosystems, Tumblr, developer trends, and the open web.

The position requires the ability to discern the immediacy of stories that need to be told, attention to accuracy, and the ability to cultivate sources. Applicants must have a commitment to serve the public interest and remain impervious to a constant barrage of companies wanting to influence the press. A deep knowledge of the WordPress ecosystem is helpful for this position.

WP Tavern is, by reputation, WordPress’ newspaper of record. We are looking for writers who can approach this community with a critical and unbiased point of view, preserving the independent and provocative spirit of the Tavern. Interested applicants should use the contact form to get in touch, and be prepared to submit at least three writing samples for consideration.

by Sarah Gooding at August 14, 2019 04:34 PM under News

August 13, 2019

WPTavern: New mycamp.rocks Newsletter Launches with Tips for Conference Organizers, Speakers, and Attendees

David Bisset launched mycamp.rocks today, a newsletter targeted at conference organizers, speakers, and attendees. The WordPress newsletter landscape is currently dominated by general industry and developer news digests, such as Master WP, WpMail.me, Post Status, and The WP Daily. mycamp.rocks is the first newsletter to drill down into community event topics and will be sending out new tips every Tuesday.

Bisset has helped organize WordCamp Miami, meetups, and other events for more than a decade. He has accumulated a large store of knowledge, resources, and experience managing all the minutiae of conference organization. The first edition of the newsletter includes tips on badge design, lanyards, dealing with rejection as a speaker applicant, communicating special diet requests, and other miscellaneous topics. He is intentionally keeping the focus broad and not limiting it to WordPress events.

Bisset said he decided to go the newsletter route, as opposed to creating a blog, because he was inspired by some developers experimenting with the same format. Newsletters tend to get mixed into an inbox management routine and are more likely to receive attention than websites that broadcast their posts to social media.

“Perhaps with busy lives people are appreciating small emails,” Bisset said. “For some it’s hard to keep checking a website and I think people are avoiding social media (or filtering it down). So email once again is becoming a good solution for delivering tips, especially if the emails are short and happen once a week.”

Bisset said the email format is an experiment, since the website is updated with the newsletter information anyway. He plans to evaluate after a month to see if more people are visiting the website versus opening the emails.

The newsletter has already received some feedback that Bisset plans to implement, such as separating the tips that work best for small events, like meetups, and larger conference-type events.

WordCamp US announced last week that it will host a dedicated track for community-related topics, such as meetups, diversity, inclusion, and kids camps. Bisset said he sees this as a significant development in support of community members and event leaders.

“Community is the biggest strength of WordPress itself,” Bisset said. “Many people have asked for and needed some direction, tips, or general knowledge on how to better run meetups, contributor days, WordCamps, and kid’s events. I think we’ve also seen over the past year or two some communication problems in the community itself, and I think addressing all of these things on a national stage like WCUS leads us down the road of educating people on how to improve our interactions with fellow community members. Those members could be fellow organizers, fellow contributors, or just anyone that we interact with – regardless of their gender, background, or age.”

by Sarah Gooding at August 13, 2019 10:37 PM under community

Matt: Tumblr the Day After

It is not surprising that the news about Automattic buying Tumblr has picked up a lot of coverage. I especially appreciated the notes of support from Tumblr founder David Karp, former CTO Marco Arment, and investor Bijan Sabet. I am beyond excited to see what the Tumblr team creates next, and I will definitely be connecting with alumni to hear their perspective.

There has also been a lot of speculation on the purchase price, which I think is missing the real story. I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect for Verizon and how they approached this entire process. They inherited Tumblr through an acquisition of a merger, a few steps removed from its initial sale; it’s probably not a company they would have bought on its own, but they nonetheless recognized that there is a very special community and team behind the product. It’s also worth noting at this point that Verizon is a company that will do over $130B in revenue this year and has over 139,000 employees.

First, they chose to find a new home for Tumblr instead of shutting it down. Second, they considered not just how much cash they would get on day one, but also — and especially — what would happen to the team afterward, and how the product and the team would be invested in going forward. Third, they thought about the sort of steward of the community the new owner would be. They didn’t have to do any of that, and I commend them for making all three points a priority.

Automattic is still a startup — I’m sure there are deep-pocketed private equity firms that could have outbid us, but the most likely outcome then would have been an “asset” getting chopped up and sold for parts. (This is a caricature and there are PE firms I like, but it’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination.) Instead, Tumblr has a new chance to redefine itself in 2019 and beyond. Its community is joining with WordPress’ 16-year commitment to open source and the open web.

by Matt at August 13, 2019 09:38 PM under Asides

WPTavern: Automattic Acquires Tumblr, Plans to Rebuild the Backend Powered by WordPress

Automattic has acquired Tumblr, a long-time friendly rival company, for an undisclosed sum. Just six years after Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, the company is said to have been acquired for “a nominal amount” from Verizon, who indirectly acquired Tumblr when it bought Yahoo in 2017.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg declined to comment on the financial deals of the acquisition, but a source familiar to Axios puts the deal “well south of $20 million.”

Tumblr is Automattic’s biggest acquisition yet in terms of product users and employees gained. The microblogging and social networking website currently hosts 475.1 million blogs, for which Automattic will now assume operating costs. All 200 of Tumblr’s employees will be moving over to Automattic, bringing the company’s total employee count over 1,000.

Mullenweg took to the Post Status community Slack channel for an impromptu Q&A this afternoon where he discussed more of Automattic’s plans for Tumblr. He outlined a brief roadmap for Tumblr’s future that includes re-architecting its backend with WordPress:

  1. Move infrastructure off Verizon
  2. Support same APIs on both WP.com and Tumblr
  3. Switch backend to be WP
  4. Open source Tumblr.com client similar to Calypso

“WordPress is an open source web operating system that can power pretty much anything, including Tumblr.com, but it’s also a large property so will take a bit to figure out and migrate,” Mullenweg said.

Automattic doesn’t currently have plans to change the frontend Tumblr experience. Mullenweg said the Tumblr mobile app gets 20x more daily signups than the WordPress app. “It’s working amazingly well, despite being fairly constrained in what they can launch the past few years,” he said.

Tumblr changed its adult content policy in December 2018, banning pornographic content which reportedly accounted for 22.37 percent of incoming referral traffic from external sites in 2013 when it was acquired by Yahoo. Automattic has a similar content policy in place for WordPress.com and Mullenweg confirmed that the company does not plan to lift the ban on adult content.

“Adult content is not our forte either, and it creates a huge number of potential issues with app stores, payment providers, trust and safety… it’s a problem area best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there,” Mullenweg said in response to questions on Hacker News. “I personally have very liberal views on these things, but supporting adult content as a business is very different.”

Automattic’s Tumblr Acquisition Opens Up New Possibilities for E-Commerce, Plugins, and Themes

Beyond this initial roadmap Mullenweg outlined, he also said he thinks “e-commerce on Tumblr is a great idea,” with simpler features developed first. In the past, Tumblr users who wanted to add e-commerce to their sites would need to use a service like Shopify or Ecwid and generate a Tumblr-compatible widget. Users would have to move to a self-hosted site on another platform in order to get more full-featured e-commerce capabilities. Automattic has the ability to build e-commerce into the platform using WooCommerce or any number of other existing solutions for simpler sales features.

An emerging Tumblr/WordPress plugin and theme ecosystem is also a possibility but may not affect the wider WordPress ecosystem as much unless Automattic opens up the Tumblr marketplace to third-party developers. Mullenweg said once Tumblr’s backend is on WordPress, the idea of plugins can be explored. Whether that is on a private network, like WordPress.com, or a new breed of self-hosted Tumblr sites, is yet to be seen.

Automattic’s apparent bargain basement deal on Tumblr is good news for the preservation of the open web, as the company is committed to supporting independent publishing. Migrating Tumblr’s infrastructure to WordPress also expands WordPress’ market share with a significantly younger user base. A study conducted by We Are Flint in 2018 found 43 percent of internet users between the ages of 18 to 24 years old used Tumblr.

Tumblr’s primary demographic thrives on community and its current feature set is built to support that. If Automattic can preserve Tumblr’s distinct community and convenient publishing, while invisibly re-architecting it to use WordPress, users could potentially enjoy seamless transitions across platforms to suit their publishing needs. This improves the likelihood that this generation of internet users will continue to own their own content instead of tossing it away on social media silos that feed on users’ most important thoughts, writings, and memories.

“I’m very excited about Tumblr’s next chapter and looking forward working with Matt Mullenweg and the entire team at Automattic,” Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio said. “I’m most excited for what this means for the entire Tumblr community. There is much more to do to make your experience a better one, and I’m super confident that we are in great hands with this news. Tumblr and WordPress share common founding principles. The plane has landed on a friendly runway. Now it is time to freshen up the jets.”

In the announcement on his Tumblr blog, Mullenweg said he sees “some good opportunities to standardize on the Open Source WordPress tech stack.” This migration will undoubtedly be a formidable technical challenge and Mullenweg promised to document the team’s work after it is complete. In the meantime, the Tumblr team has new functionality they plan to introduce after the acquisition is officially closed.

“When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive – and, frankly, more fun web,” Mullenweg said. “I knew we had to do it.”

by Sarah Gooding at August 13, 2019 03:18 AM under tumblr

August 12, 2019

WPTavern: WooCommerce 3.7 Introduces New Blocks, Updates Minimum WordPress and PHP Requirements

WooCommerce 3.7 was released today after four months in development. This minor release is backwards compatible with previous versions. Despite containing more than 1,290 commits, 3.7 is smaller than previous releases, as the WooCommerce team is working towards delivering more frequent releases to improve the stability of the platform.

WooCommerce 3.7 bundles updates from the WooCommerce Blocks feature plugin version 2.3, including the following new blocks and enhancements to existing blocks:

  • A new focal point picker on the Featured Product block
  • A new Product Categories List block
  • A new Featured Category block
  • A new Products By Tag(s) block
  • Featured Product now allows for featuring a product by variation, linking to the product page with the variation pre-selected

Here’s an example of the featured category block, which lets store owners stay right inside the editor to select the category and see an instant preview of the content.

WooCommerce developers are working on creating more block editor capabilities for store owners. Future versions of the WooCommerce Blocks plugin will include new blocks for product filtering and for displaying product reviews. These will be tested first through the WooCommerce Blocks feature plugin before being added to core.

WooCommerce 3.7 Requires WordPress 4.9+ and PHP 5.6+

This release bumps the minimum required WordPress version to 4.9 and the minimum required PHP version to 5.6. There are new upgrade nudges in WooCommerce 3.6, alerting users who will need to to upgrade WordPress and PHP versions in order to update their stores to WooCommerce 3.7.

The increased minimum versions allows WooCommerce developers to include new and more performant code in future versions of the plugin. It also enables them to utilize PHP packages. The Product Blocks and REST API functionality have been removed from core and are now loaded via Composer.

WooCommerce Blocks Rebranded

Users may notice some visual changes to how WooCommerce blocks appear in the editor. The blocks have been updated to better reflect the WooCommerce brand. This is becoming more common, as plugins with multiple blocks carve out their own branded spaces in the block inserter.

A few other notable enhancements in WooCommerce 3.7 include the following:

  • Email Settings: New “Additional Content” sections replace the old hardcoded “Thanks” sections so store owners don’t have to override templates to change the wording
  • Coupon admin pages: Automatically generate new coupon codes with the click of a button
  • Performance improvements, new dedicated table for tax classes, reduced number of queries to populate variations, excluding Action Scheduler tasks from comments queries to speed up page load times

The WooCommerce Admin feature plugin continues to make progress and currently has 300,000 active installations. The plugin provides a new JavaScript-based dashboard for monitoring store reports and sales metrics. Recent updates include more data on the Customer Report page, improved navigation bar design, and an improved Stock Activity panel that automatically responds to inventory updates. Store owners who want to preview this functionality in WooCommerce can install the feature plugin.

Version 3.7 should not cause any backwards compatibility issues but the update includes a few database upgrade routines. The WooCommerce team recommends those with large amounts of data in their databases to upgrade using the WP CLI command wp wc update, instead of through the admin. Check out the release post and beta announcement for more details.

by Sarah Gooding at August 12, 2019 08:41 PM under WooCommerce admin

Post Status: Automattic — the maker of WordPress.com — has purchased Tumblr

Automattic — which owns WordPress.com — has acquired Tumblr and about 200 employees from Verizon, according to The Wall Street Journal and confirmed in Post Status Slack by Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg.

Tumblr has had a rocky road since their sale to Yahoo! in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Yahoo! is now owned by Verizon — whose entire content and platform lineup is a mess. The WSJ reported in May that Verizon was shopping Tumblr.

The most recent controversy for Tumblr was a community revolt over the treatment of adult content. Matt says Tumblr’s new adult content policy will stay in place under the new ownership. On Hacker News, he said, “Adult content is not our forte either, and it creates a huge number of potential issues with app stores, payment providers, trust and safety… it’s a problem area best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there. I personally have very liberal views on these things, but supporting adult content as a business is very different.”

Matt tells me the initial goals for Tumblr are:

1. Move infrastructure off Verizon.
2. Support same APIs on both WP.com and Tumblr.
3. Switch backend to be WP.
4. Open source Tumblr.com client similar to Calypso.

Tumblr will remain a separate brand. There is a dedicated Tumblr community even after years of neglect and confusion. Still, Matt says Tumblr’s user base is “several times larger than [WordPress.com’s].”

The Tumblr backend will change its technology, but the front-end experience will stay similar to what it is today, as Automattic “[doesn’t] want to change what’s working.” Matt said Tumblr’s interface is “working amazingly well, despite being fairly constrained in what they can launch [the] past few years.”

There are several potential wins here for Automattic. For one, they gain a committed community for pennies on the dollar compared to the $1.1 billion Yahoo! paid — a classic Yahoo! exit.

While the WSJ called the purchase amount “nominal” for Verizon, Matt says he considers the brand “super valuable, but right now not making as much as they could or should.”

Dan Primack of Axios is reporting a “source familiar” put the price “well south of $20 million.”

Primack later stated the upfront sale price was less than $3 million.

In Post Status Slack, Matt noted that “adding ~200 people and porting all of Tumblr to Automattic is non-trivial and by far the largest investment or acquisition Automattic has ever made.”

While unrelated to the upfront cost, the ongoing costs Automattic is taking on — and Verizon was surely quite keen to unload — is significant. The development and hosting effort will surely cost millions per year, not counting employee expenses. Automattic’s largest previous acquisition — of WooCommerce — was about $30M in cash and stock. Thas is probably not far from the annual cost of the Tumblr employees Automattic is taking on now.

In recent years Automattic has put much more energy into effective monetization, and I have no doubt they can do significantly better than the sprawling Verizon organization Tumblr languished under.

Again on Hacker News, Matt noted, “We’ve been evolving Automattic to be more of a Berkshire Hathaway-inspired model and businesses with a lot of autonomy, and this [acquisition] continues that trend.” This is interesting, particularly as Berkshire is known to let portfolio companies operate quite independently, and of course, Berkshire CEO Warren Buffet is famous for being a savvy value investor. Tumblr is definitely a deep value play at this price.

With Tumblr’s acquisition, Automattic has an opportunity to diversify its own brands — WordPress vs WordPress.com is always very confusing. (Legacy and tech media will surely screw it up talking about this acquisition.) Inevitably different cultures and web communities drift to different spaces online — think Instagram and Facebook, for instance.

Tumblr is a very browse-heavy platform. The potential for eCommerce on such a platform could be significant. Matt said in chat that he thinks “eCommerce on Tumblr is a great idea.” I can also see a world where Tumblr could be shaped into a primarily mobile product — a more direct (and more privacy-focused) implementation of what Instagram is, with a similar, minimal interface.

I would really love this, and Matt hints at some alignment on that front. In response to a comment speculating they’d wind Tumblr down, he said the plan was the opposite because “the web needs open and independent publishing and social media more than ever.” I know from my own conversations with Matt that he’s thinking about this a lot now. The way he plugged “social media” in that statement makes me think it’s at the top of mind inrelation to Tumblr.

If Tumblr is open-sourced, a plugin ecosystem could work there as well. Matt says that “when [Tumblr] is on [WP’s] backend that [idea] … can be explored.” So a plugin market for Tumblr is not off the table, but it doesn’t sound like third-party extensibility is an immediate priority. I think the initial goals is to revive a large community and keep to the basics.

Matt Mullenweg now has a Tumblr himself. He posted his own announcement of the acquisition there, where he wrote:

I have worked on WordPress my entire adult life — 16 years now — and so the democratization of publishing is near and dear to my heart. Tumblr and WordPress have always been very philosophically aligned there.

When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive – and, frankly, more fun web. I knew we had to do it.

Everyone loves to have a say on social media, but this move is well regarded so far in the tech space. It’s nice when a company makes a save-attempt on something good that’s been presumed “dead.”


The CEO of Tumblr, Jeff D’Onofrio, said the following on Twitter:

I’m very excited about Tumblr’s next chapter and looking forward to working with @photomatt and the entire team at Automattic. I’m most excited for what this means for the entire Tumblr community. There is much more to do to make your experience a better one, and I’m super confident that we are in great hands with this news. Tumblr and WordPress share common founding principles. The plane has landed on a friendly runway. Now it is time to freshen up the jets.

There will be more to come from Post Status about Tumblr joining the Automattic family of properties and also how it fits in the broader WordPress ecosystem. To my mind, porting a decaying but massive platform to an actively developed WordPress stack is a huge net positive for the web.

Additionally, the potential to further develop Tumblr, specifically in the social networking space, could be a beacon for a more user-centric web with clear offramps — it’s just WordPress! — for folks to protect and own their own data.

I am optimistic.

by Brian Krogsgard at August 12, 2019 08:15 PM under Planet

August 09, 2019

WordPress.org blog: People of WordPress: Amanda Rush

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Amanda Rush from Augusta, Georgia, USA.

Amanda Rush is a WordPress advocate with a visual disability. She first started using computers in 1985, which enabled her to turn in homework to her sighted teachers. Screen reader technology for Windows was in its infancy then, so she worked in DOS almost exclusively.

After graduating high school, Amanda went to college to study computer science, programming with DOS-based tools since compilers for Windows were still inaccessible. As part of her computer science course of study, she learned HTML which began her career in web development.

How Amanda got started with WordPress

Amanda began maintaining a personal website, and eventually began publishing her own content using LiveJournal. However, controlling the way the page around her content looked was hard, and she soon outgrew the hosted solution.

So in 2005, Amanda bought customerservant.com, set up a very simple CMS for blogging, and started publishing there. She accepted the lack of design and content, and lack of easy customization because she wasn’t willing to code her own solution. Nor did she want to move to another hosted solution, as she liked being able to customize her own site, as well as publish content.

Hebrew dates led her to WordPress

At some point, Amanda was looking for an easy way to display the Hebrew dates alongside the Gregorian dates on her blog entries. Unfortunately, the blogging software she was using at the time, did not offer customization options at that level. She decided to research alternative solutions and came across a WordPress plugin that did just that. 

The fact that WordPress would not keep her locked into a visual editor, used themes to customize styling, and offered ways to mark up content, immediately appealed to Amanda. She decided to give it a go.

Accessibility caused her to dive deeper

When the software Amanda used at work became completely inaccessible, she started learning about WordPress. While she was learning about this new software, Web 2.0 was introduced. The lack of support for it in the screen reader she used meant that WordPress administration was completely inaccessible. To get anything done, Amanda needed to learn to find her way in WordPress’ file structure.

Eventually Amanda started working as an independent contractor for the largest screen reader developer in the market, Freedom Scientific. She worked from home every day and hacked on WordPress after hours.

Unfortunately Amanda hit a rough patch when her job at Freedom Scientific ended. Using her savings she undertook further studies for various Cisco and Red Hat certifications, only to discover that the required testing for these certifications were completely inaccessible. She could study all she wanted, but wasn’t able to receive grades to pass the courses.

She lost her financial aid, her health took a turn for the worse, she was diagnosed with Lupus, and lost her apartment. Amanda relocated to Augusta where she had supportive friends who offered her a couch and a roof over her head.

But Amanda refused to give up

Amanda continued to hack WordPress through all of this. It was the only stable part of her life. She wanted to help make WordPress accessible for people with disabilities, and in 2012 joined the  WordPress Accessibility Team. Shortly after that, she finally got her own place to live, and started thinking about what she was going to do with the rest of her working life.

Listening to podcasts led her to take part in WordSesh, which was delivered completely online and enabled Amanda to participate without needing to travel. She began to interact with WordPress people on Twitter, and continued to contribute to the community as part of the WordPress Accessibility Team. Things had finally started to pick up.

Starting her own business

In 2014, Amanda officially launched her own business, Customer Servant Consultancy. Since WordPress is open source, and becoming increasingly accessible, Amanda could modify WordPress to build whatever she wanted and not be at the mercy of web and application developers who know nothing about accessibility. And if she got stuck, she could tap into the community and its resources.

Improving her circumstances and becoming more self-sufficient means Amanda was able to take back some control over her life in general. She was able to gain independence and create her own business despite being part of the blind community, which has an 80% unemployment rate. 

In her own words:

We’re still fighting discrimination in the workplace, and we’re still fighting for equal access when it comes to the technology we use to do our jobs. But the beauty of WordPress and its community is that we can create opportunities for ourselves.

I urge my fellow blind community members to join me inside this wonderful thing called WordPress. Because it will change your lives if you let it.

Amanda Rush, entrepreneur

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

by Yvette Sonneveld at August 09, 2019 09:23 PM under Interviews

WPTavern: BuddyPress 5.0 to Add Category for Storing BuddyPress Blocks

BuddyPress 5.0 will include a way for developers to organize their blocks under a BuddyPress blocks category. Mathieu Viet shared a code example on the BuddyPress Dev Updates blog, demonstrating how to set the category property of a block to BuddyPress when registering a block type. The blocks registered with this category will appear under the BuddyPress panel in the block inserter.

As the block ecosystem expands, keeping things organized inside the block inserter is becoming more important. BuddyPress having its own designated category helps user find blocks faster, especially if they don’t know the exact block name to search for, or if they are just browsing to see what blocks are available. With the BP REST API set to land in the 5.0 release, blocks will be easier for BuddyPress developers to create.

BuddyPress 5.0.0-beta1 is expected to be released around August 15. Subsequent release dates are yet to be confirmed following feedback on the beta.

by Sarah Gooding at August 09, 2019 07:10 PM under News

WPTavern: Build Customizer Settings Faster by Using the Kirki Framework in Your Project

Kirki is a free open-source (MIT-licensed) framework built for developers who are looking to add Customizer Controls to their themes or plugins.

Aristeides Stathopoulos, Kirki’s lead developer has been working on the framework since 2014. Thanks to the continuous updates and improvements, Kirki has built a community on Github which includes over 1000 stars and 300 forks.

Before Kirki I never touched the customizer. Kirki helped me to understand the customizer and do a lot in less time!

LebCit – WordPress Theme Developer

WordPress Core Customizer Controls

WordPress Core includes a handful of basic Customizer Controls by default. For example: text, textarea, checkbox, radio, select, dropdown-pages, email, URL, number, hidden, and date controls.

Kirki supports the Core Controls too, plus around twenty more. Generally speaking, the Kirki controls cover the more advanced use-cases. For example:

  • Typography
  • Color Palettes
  • TinyMCE Editor
  • Sortable Fields

Kirki also offers functionality not available in Core WordPress, such as the auto-generation of your CSS output and postMessage scripts. These features, which we’ll look at later in this article, can easily cut your development time in half.

Kirki is Slow

One criticism commonly held against Kirki is that it’s slow. In fact, this criticism is used against most frameworks (including WordPress). It makes sense, right? You are loading a lot of code you might never use.

In this case, the reality is that the opposite is true. Most of the time control panels built using Kirki will actually be faster than the same panels built with Core Controls.

This is because Kirki adds an optimization layer that isn’t built into WordPress.

When the Customizer is initialized WordPress instantly tries to load all the controls, even if they are within a section or panel and the user can’t interact with them yet. In comparison, Kirki postpones the loading until just before the user will be interacting with the control.

To see the effect of this in practice, let’s try adding 50 color controls using each method.

Core Method:

for ($i = 0; $i < 50; $i++){
	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'color_setting_hex_' . $i , array(
		'default' => '#0088CC'
	) );

	// add color picker control
	$wp_customize->add_control( new WP_Customize_Color_Control( $wp_customize, 'color_setting_hex_' . $i, array(
		'label' => 'Color Control',
		'section' => 'title_tagline',
		'settings' => 'color_setting_hex_' . $i,
	) ) );
}

With Kirki:

for ($i = 0; $i < 50; $i++) {
     Kirki::add_field( 'config_id', array(
         'type'        => 'color',
         'settings'    => 'color_setting_hex_' . $i,
         'label'       => __( 'Color Control', 'kirki' ),
         'section'     => 'title_tagline',
         'default'     => '#0088CC',
     ) );
 }

The results:

As you can see, the initial load speed is considerably faster when using Kirki. The code required to create the controls is more concise too.

Integrating Kirki Into Your Project

There are multiple ways to integrate the Kirki Framework into your project, the official documentation does a good job of explaining the different methods.

I recommend developers guide the user to install the plugin version of Kirki, rather than including the framework directly within your project’s code. This can be done using TGMPA or the script provided.

The reasoning behind taking the plugin route is that Kirki is frequently updated and improved. By installing the plugin version, your users will have instant access to bug fixes and security updates.

In contrast, when you include the framework as part of your project, users will only receive updates when you update your theme or plugin, which might be less frequently than is required.

Whichever method you use, be sure to check Kirki is initialized before you add your settings:

// Early exit if Kirki doesn’t exist.
if ( ! class_exists( 'Kirki' ) ) {
    return;
}

Fields

In the Core Method example, we first created a setting and then created a control for it. In most cases, the two are directly linked. Kirki simplifies the process and allows us to create a ‘Field’ instead. When a field is created, it builds the setting and control in the background for us.

Fields support all the control arguments you would expect (label, description, section, default), as well as some Kirki-specific arguments.

The ‘type’ argument allows you to choose one of Kirki’s 30 control types: https://kirki.org/docs/controls/

Sections

Customizer Sections allow you to group Controls together. WordPress has six built-in sections that you can add your controls too:

  • title_tagline – Site Identity
  • colors – Colors
  • header_image – Header Image
  • background_image – Background Image
  • static_front_page – Homepage Settings
  • custom_css – Additional CSS


Sections in Kirki work exactly the same as in Core, the Kirki::add_section() method is simply a wrapper for $wp_customize->add_section() and accepts the same parameters and arguments.

Kirki::add_section( 'section_id', array(
     'title'          => esc_html__( 'My Section', 'kirki' ),
     'description'    => esc_html__( 'My section description.', 'kirki' ),
 ) );

Panels

Panels allow you to create another level of hierarchy by grouping Sections together. WordPress Core has one built-in panel, which is ‘Menus’.

Again, the Kirki implementation is simply a wrapper for the Core functionality.

Kirki::add_panel( 'panel_id', array(
     'priority'    => 10,
     'title'       => esc_html__( 'My Panel', 'kirki' ),
     'description' => esc_html__( 'My panel description', 'kirki' ),
 ) );

‘transport’ => ‘auto’

Traditionally when creating Customizer Controls you have two options for the transport argument:

  • Refresh – Each time the user makes a change the preview pane is refreshed to show the changes. This can take a couple of seconds.
  • postMessage – Each time the user makes a change the preview pane is updated using Javascript which doesn’t require a refresh and is near-instant.

postMessage is undoubtedly the superior method for updating the previewer and should be used where possible. However, there is one downside, using postMessage means you need to create write custom JS code for each of your controls. A simple implementation looks something like this:

// Update the site title in real time...
wp.customize( 'blogname', function( value ) {
    value.bind( function( newval ) {
        $( '#site-title a' ).html( newval );
    } );
} );

When you have a lot of settings, this can quickly become repetitive.

This is where Kirki shines, it adds a third option: ‘transport’ => ‘auto’.

‘transport’ => ‘auto’ works together with another argument Kirki adds named ‘output’. When both values are defined, Kirki will auto-generate the postMessage scripts for you. Which means you get all the benefits of using postMessage without having to write any of the Javascript code.

A field using transport => ‘auto’ looks like this:

Kirki::add_field( ‘config_id’, array(
     'type'        => 'color',
     'settings'    => 'color_setting_hex',
     'label'       => __( 'Color Control', 'kirki' ),
     'section'     => ‘colors’,
     'default'     => '#0088CC',
     'transport'   => 'auto',
     'output' => array(
         array(
             'element'  => 'body',
             'property' => 'background-color',
         ),
     ),
 ) );

This time-saving feature of Kirki means that most of the time you will no longer need to write or enqueue your own postMessage scripts.

Frontend CSS Output

Another part of creating Customizer settings is generating the CSS output on the frontend. A simple example might look like this:

/**
 * Output the Customizer CSS to wp_head
 */
function wptavern_customizer_css() {
	$bg_color = get_theme_mod( 'color_setting_hex' );
	?>
	<style>
		body {
			background-color: <?php echo sanitize_hex_color( $bg_color ); ?>;
		}
	</style>
	<?php
}
add_action( 'wp_head', wptavern_customizer_css );

Like the postMessage example, writing this code can quickly become repetitive if you have a lot of settings.

Fortunately, ‘transport’ => ‘auto’ takes care of the frontend output for you too. Even in our simplified example, ‘transport’ => ‘auto’ has reduced the code we need to write by ~50%.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve looked at just the basics of the Kirki Framework and two of its arguments, already we can see how it allows us to create Customizer Controls faster and without compromising on performance.

When you dive into Kirki you will quickly discover the wealth of functionality it adds on top of the Customize API. It’s no surprise that it’s in use on over 300,000 websites and a core part of some of the biggest WordPress themes on the market.

by Danny Cooper at August 09, 2019 04:46 PM under News

WPTavern: Proposal to Auto-Update Old Versions of WordPress to 4.7 Sparks Heated Debate

WordPress contributors, developers, and community members are currently debating a proposal to would implement a new policy regarding security support for older versions. The discussion began last week when security team lead Jake Spurlock asked for feedback on different approaches to backporting security fixes to older versions. Following up on this discussion, Ian Dunn, a full-time contributor to WordPress core, sponsored by Automattic, has published a proposal for moving forward with a new policy:

Support the latest 6 versions, and auto-update unsupported sites to the oldest supported version.

That would mean that the currently supported versions would be 4.7 – 5.2, and the 3.7 – 4.6 branches would eventually be auto-updated to 4.7.

In practice, that’d provide roughly 2 years of support for each branch, and roughly 10% of current sites would eventually be auto-updated to 4.7. Once 5.3 is released, the oldest supported version would be become 4.8.

Dunn outlined a detailed plan for implementing the new policy that involves testing a small subset of sites to identify problems before gradually updating older sites from one major version to the next (not all at once). Site administrators would be notified at least 30 days prior to the automatic updates with emails and notices in the admin that would also offer the opportunity to opt out.

The proposal has received dozens of comments, with some contributors in support, some in favor of modifications to the rollout, and others who are unequivocally opposed to the idea of auto-updating old sites to major versions.

One of the prevailing concerns is that many admins will not receive any notice due to non-functioning email addresses or not logging into their admin dashboards frequently enough. Opponents also contend that even though there are fallbacks for sites that fail to upgrade, some sites may be broken in a way that WordPress cannot detect, due to problems with plugins or themes.

“A back-end notice will not even begin to make up for the lack of reliable email communication,” Glenn Messersmith said. “There are tons of site owners who never venture into the back-end once their site has been developed. These are the very people who will not get email notifications either because the email address is that of some long gone developer.

“There is no way any sort of error detection can act as a safety net for those who never saw any notifications. There are all sorts of ways that a site owner might consider their site to be ‘broken’ which an update script could not possibly detect.”

In response to concerns about abandoned sites breaking or administrators relying heavily on a plugin that has been abandoned, Dunn agreed that these types of situations may be unavoidable under the current proposal.

“I can definitely sympathize with that situation, but we have to draw the line somewhere,” Dunn said. “We don’t have unlimited resources, and the current policy has damaging effects for the entire WordPress ecosystem.

“In reality, choices are never between a purely good thing and a purely bad thing; they’re always between competing tradeoffs.

“I definitely agree that it’s bad if a small number of site owner have to do extra work to upgrade their site, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s much, much better than having our security team be hindered by an extremely onerous support policy.”

Proposal Author Claims “Nobody Would be Forced to Update;” Opponents Argue that Requiring Users to Opt Out is Not Consent

In addition to the problem of possibly breaking sites, those opposed to the proposal are not on board with WordPress forcing an update without getting explicit consent from site administrators. Providing users a way to opt into automatic updates for major core releases is one of the nine projects that Matt Mullenweg had identified for working on in 2019. However, the plan for this proposal is more aggressive in that it would require site owners on the 3.7 – 4.6 branches to opt out if they do not want to be incrementally auto-updated to 4.7.

“They still retain agency no matter what, nobody would be forced to update, everybody retains control over their site and can opt-out if they want to,” Dunn said. “Something being on by default is very different from forcing somebody to do something. We would make it very easy to opt out — just install a plugin, no config required — and the instructions for opting out would be included in every email and admin notice.”

Dunn further clarified in a comment regarding who would receive these updates:

Nobody would be forced, it would instead be an opt-out process. If someone has already disabled auto-updates to major versions, that would be respected and their site would not be updated.

If someone clicked the opt-out link in the email, or if they clicked the opt-out button in the admin notice, then the updates would also be disabled.

The only people who would receive the updates are the ones who:

1) Want the update
2) Don’t care
3) Have abandoned their sites or email accounts

Several participants in the discussion asked why the process of getting these sites on 4.7 cannot be opt-in for consent, instead of forcing the update on those who don’t opt out. No matter how convenient the opt-out mechanism is, having one in place doesn’t constitute consent. Many site owners who will be forced into this process thought they would be safe in opting for maintenance and security updates and leaving their sites to perform “updates while you sleep,” as the 3.7 release post described the feature.

“Insecure sites are bad, but arguably, retrospectively enlarging the power granted to oneself by this mechanism is worse,” UpdraftPlus creator David Anderson said. “Potentially it could damage trust + reputation more than insecurity. I’d argue that huge dashboard ugly, irremovable notices on older versions warning of upcoming abandonment + the need to update would be better. Let the site owner take responsibility. Don’t play nanny, abuse trust, break sites and then write blog posts about how it was necessary collateral damage. Nobody who wakes up to a broken site will be happy with that.”

Andrew Nacin, WordPress 3.7 release lead and co-author of WordPress’ automatic background updates feature, encouraged those behind the proposal to clarify that WordPress only supports the latest major version and has never officially supported older versions.

“It takes a lot of work, for sure, to backport,” Nacin said. “But we should still stick to our north star, which is that WordPress is backwards compatible from version to version, that WordPress users shouldn’t need to worry about what version they are running, and that we should just keep sites up to date if we are able.”

Nacin offered more context on the original strategy for introducing automatic updates, which included gradually moving to having major releases as auto updates so all sites would eventually be on the latest version:

First, when we first released automatic background updates, we thought that our next big push would be to get to major release auto updates in the next few years. In practice, we can do this at any time, and, indeed, 3.7 supported this as a flag. But the idea was we would invest energy in sandboxing, whitescreen protection, improving our rollback functionality, etc., so our success rate was as high for major versions as it was for minor versions. (The failure rate scales somewhat linearly with the number of files that need to be copied over, and also gets more complex when files need to be added, rather than just changed.) Once we did this, we’d simply start updating all sites to the latest version and stop backporting. Obviously we still haven’t gotten here.

He commented that overall the proposal is “a great plan” but emphasized the benefits of communicating to users that it is safe to update and that WordPress only intends to support the latest version.

Most participants in the discussion are in favor of the security team discontinuing backporting fixes to older versions of WordPress. The question that remains unanswered for opponents is why is it WordPress’ responsibility to force older sites to update.

“I don’t think it should be WordPress’ decision to update sites that they don’t manage to major/breaking versions, but I think maintaining those branches should be stopped,” Will Stocks said. “You (WordPress) don’t own the infrastructure or business processes, or understand the support in place to manage those sites. There is also a reason those sites are still on that version today and have not upgraded past.”

There are other approaches that can still draw a line to respect the security team’s limited resources without forcing any non-consensual updates to major versions. Rachel Cherry, director of WPCampus, commented on the proposal, strongly urging WordPress to establish consent before updating these sites:

We are getting into the weeds of whether or not forced updates will cause tech issues and missing the real problem altogether.

We are discussing force updating people’s software when they have not given consent.

And for what end? What is the real problem here? Because we don’t want to worry about updating old versions?

There are other ways to solve this problem.

We can make a clear policy regarding EOL support for releases.

We can add a setting to core that lets the user choose whether or not they want auto updates and going forward that is the decision maker. Then we have consent.

We can work on education and communication regarding updates.

We can email people that their site is outdated and insecure and they should update ASAP, along with links to education and best practices. If they still need help, encourage them to reach out to a professional.

We can fix this problem for going forward, but we do not have implied retroactive consent just because we never put a permission mechanism in place.

If someone didn’t update their site, they did so for a reason. Or indifference. Either way, we have no right to go in like this and modify people’s websites.

Participants in the discussion are still wrestling with the potential implications of the proposed policy change. Minor updates have proven to be very reliable as auto-updates. Dunn reported that the 3.7.29 auto-update had only one failure that had to be rolled back to 3.7.28. Using the auto update system to push major updates to sites as old as these has not yet been thoroughly tested.

“Whether or not we do auto-update the 3.7 -> 5.x releases, I fully support making it clear that this is something we expect to start doing for the future (5.x -> x.x+),” Jeremy Felt commented on the proposal. “The work on testing infrastructure and code to support this should absolutely be done either way.” Felt also said he appreciated the staggered rollout scheduling for the proposed releases as well as the plan to provide an officially supported plugin for disabling auto-updates.

Discussion is still open on the proposal, but so far there seems to be a fundamental disagreement among participants about whether WordPress has the right to force major version updates without explicit consent, even if it is with the intention of saving site owners from potentially getting hacked.

“One thing is for sure, it appears to be a majority concern so far, while many of us are fond of these noble intentions, I’m just not so sure being the benevolent overlord of the Internet is a good image for WP moving forward,” plugin developer Philip Ingram said.

by Sarah Gooding at August 09, 2019 05:24 AM under security

August 08, 2019

WPTavern: Jetpack 7.6 Improves AMP Compatibility, Adds Preview and Upgrade Nudge for Blocks Only Available on Paid Plans

Jetpack 7.6 was released this week with several improvements to the plugin’s AMP compatibility. Automattic was one of the earliest publishing partners on Google’s AMP project, as well as the original author of the official AMP plugin for WordPress. This release makes three more Jetpack features compatible with AMP:

  • Related Posts now display on AMP views.
  • AMP images are now rendered via Jetpack’s image CDN if the module is active.
  • AMP plugin is now capable of styling the Jetpack sharing buttons, without loading any additional CSS.

More AMP compatibility improvements are planned for the 7.7 milestone, including AMP support for the WordAds block.

Version 7.6 also fixes a security vulnerability in the Simple Payments description output. This fix only affects those who have Premium or Professional plans and are using the Simple Payments button to sell products or collect donations.

Jetpack is Beta Testing a Preview and Upgrade Nudge for Blocks Only Available on Paid Plans

Jetpack is testing a new way of marketing its Paid plans inside the block editor. One of the more interesting additions to this release is that the plugin now allows for the insertion and preview of any Jetpack block in the editor, even if the block is only available via a Paid plan. Although it was included as part of the 7.6 release, it look like it’s currently only active for sites that have enabled beta testing.

The first iteration was merged as a generic solution that can be extended for all premium blocks but it currently only applies to the Simple Payments block. Prior to this update, users on the free and personal plans would not see the Simple Payments block in the block inserter. This change adds the Simple Payments block to the list of available blocks and allows users to insert and preview it. The block will not show up on the frontend unless the user upgrades.

Clicking on the upgrade nudge takes the user to the checkout with the plan pre-selected and then drops them back to the editor after they purchase the required plan for using the block. After the initial implementation with the Simple Payments block, the Jetpack team plans to do the same for the Recurring Payments, VideoPress, and WordAds blocks.

It’s easy to see why this controversial addition to the plugin was omitted from the release post. It adds new blocks for features that users cannot access without upgrading. The WordPress.org theme directory has struggled with a similar issue, which Justin Tadlock characterized as “crippleware,” where certain features are locked away behind upsells.

If Jetpack’s implementation catches on and other plugins follow suit, it could cause the block inserter to become a frustrating minefield. Users select from existing blocks, not knowing if the blocks they are inserting require a paid upgrade until the upsell pops into the editor. This is one block editor marketing tactic worth keeping an eye on as Jetpack rolls it out for more of its blocks that are restricted to Paid plans.

by Sarah Gooding at August 08, 2019 04:14 AM under jetpack

August 07, 2019

WPTavern: EditorsKit 1.9 Introduces Block Styles, Utility Classes, and Full Height Editor Screen

EditorsKit 1.9 was released this week with a new Block Styling feature for the image and cover blocks. It allows users to change these blocks to be displayed as circular, diagonal, inverted diagonal, rounded corners, or with a shadow. It also adds a “full screen height” display option to the Advanced block settings panel. This makes it easy to turn the Cover, Image, and Media & Text blocks into a hero section.

Jeffrey Carandang, the plugin’s author, has also added a full height toggle option to the editor screen. It makes the editor’s minimum height match the browser’s viewport so that metaboxes are not in view until the user scrolls down. This creates a cleaner interface when creating new posts and pages. It is also optional, so it doesn’t exclude sites where the content added to the metaboxes is more important than the main posting area.

Version 1.9 introduces a feature called Utility Classes to the Advanced CSS Class(es) option. The classes can be removed in one click from the selected block and the preview instantly updates to reflect the change. It also includes auto-suggestion for classnames so they can be easily re-applied.

Carandang shared sample code for how theme developers can add their own utility classes using a custom PHP filter. This makes it more extensible but seems unlikely to that theme authors would go to the trouble, given the plugin’s relatively small user base at the moment.

He is working on improving interoperability with other plugins in the ecosystem by adding filters for plugin and theme developers to make better use of EditorsKit. He also continues to add tweaks and improvements for those using Jetpack, Block Lab, the Genesis Framework, CoBlocks, Thrive Comments, ACF, and other popular third party extensions.

Carandang launched EditorsKit on Product Hunt where new users are discovering the plugin for the first time. He also set up a new “frontenberg style” live demo that lets users test EditorsKit features on the frontend of the site. Demo sites like this are a good way to market Gutenberg blocks, making it convenient for users who would otherwise have to install the plugin on their own test sites.

“My main objective is for EditorsKit to be known in the community,” he said. “I feel like it’s really solid plugin and I need to reach more people. With tons of blocks plugin available, utility plugins like EditorsKit are being left out.”

Although Carandang has no plans to release a pro version of EditorsKit at the moment, he has considered creating commercial extensions for it in the future. Marketing a utility plugin has so far proven to be more of a challenge than plugins that offer custom blocks.

There was some discussion in the EditorsKit community on Facebook about recent EditorsKit features straying into the design aspect of site building. While the new Block Styling options may be a useful for some users, custom shapes and layouts straddle the line between design and editing features. It seems like a slight departure from the more utilitarian editor features the plugin became know for, such as markdown formatting, block visibility, drag-and-drop import/export, and the ability to disable auto-saving.

Carandang may need to tread carefully to keep the plugin from becoming a catch-all drawer of “features that would be nice to have for Gutenberg,” for the sake of marketing it more effectively.

“I don’t plan on adding design utility classes,” he said. “Just padding, margin and flexbox. The rest should be from the theme. I’m planning to help out theme devs that will support EditorsKit with the integration. I don’t want the plugin file to be huge and filled with CSS for design. My goal is still Gutenberg Editor Toolkit.”

A loose EditorsKit roadmap is public with upcoming features outlined in issues on the plugin’s GitHub repo. Most of of those listed seem more aligned with editing than design, so future versions of the plugin likely will not bloat the plugin with too many design-related block settings panels.

by Sarah Gooding at August 07, 2019 07:36 PM under editorskit

August 06, 2019

WPTavern: WordCamp Long Beach to Debut a “Future of WordPress” Track

The first-ever WordCamp Long Beach is happening October 5-6 at the Pointe Conference Center at Walter Pyramid (CSULB). Organizers are planning to host practical, skill-building talks and panels, abstract discussions, and networking events at locally-owned eateries. The event will be the only WordCamp happening in Los Angeles county this year.

Last week organizers opened the call for speakers and announced a new concept for the schedule. Saturday’s program will include two traditional tracks, one geared towards users and another towards professionals. Sunday will feature a “Future of WordPress” track with more philosophical/concept style presentations focused around the topic.

“This concept was inspired by the desire to have some ‘bigger’ conversations about WordPress, its place in the web/tech ecosystem, and where WordPress is headed,” co-organizer Sé Reed said. As a former WordPress Growth Council member, Reed has a special interest in facilitating discussions on these ideas.

“These topics come up occasionally, like with the WP Council/Advisory Board and the WP Governance Project, but they always seems to be relegated to a side conversation,” Reed said. “We need to be having these conversations openly and honestly, as a community. The future of WordPress is a big issue that affects everyone who works with WordPress.

“Since there doesn’t seem to be a place where these conversations are put front-and-center, I suggested we do it at our camp, which just so happens to be one month before WCUS.”

WordCamp Long Beach’s Call for Speakers post include a few sample topics to inspire potential applicants:

  • Internal Governance (WP Project)
  • External Governance (WP, WC3, GDPR, other acronyms)
  • Accessibility
  • The Future of WordPress
  • Future of the Web (technology, standards)
  • The WordPress Community
  • Backwards compatibility
  • WordPress’ impact on the open web
  • Third parties, browsers, operating systems, etc.

These are the types of big picture presentations that you rarely see at smaller WordCamps. They are usually sprinkled in with other topics at larger camps, so having an entire track dedicated to the Future of WordPress is a unique opportunity for attendees to join in these important conversations.

WordCamp Long Beach has space for a total of 250 attendees. Although it is the only camp happening in the county this year, the area has a strong group of local meetups throughout.

“We are lucky to have a really large number of active meetup groups spread through the county, so even though we are based in Long Beach, we are representing more than just our local meetup.”

Speaker applications are open to anyone, regardless of speaking experience. Each presentation should be 30-40 minutes in length, and applicants can also propose a workshop or panel. Applications will be open through August 23, 2019.

by Sarah Gooding at August 06, 2019 11:28 PM under wordcamp

WPTavern: O’Reilly Partners with Netlify to Publish Free E-Book: Modern Web Development on the JAMstack

If you are following the JAMstack (JavaScript, APIs, and markup) craze and want to learn more about the history and best practices of the architecture, O’Reilly has published a short book called Modern Web Development on the JAMstack that is now available as a free download. Netlify CEO Mathias Biilmann, who coined the term “JAMstack” and pioneered hosting for it, co-authored the book with Phil Hawksworth, Netlify’s principal developer advocate, with contributions from other engineers at the company.

In the introduction, they describe the JAMstack movement as a rare shift in the tech landscape that “delivers a productivity boost for developers and a large performance boost for users.” They also see it as a more efficient way of building a secure and stable websites that will advance the open web.

We’ve seen firsthand how the JAMstack improves the experience for both users and developers. Most importantly, we’ve seen how increases in site speed, site reliability, and developer productivity can contribute to the continued health and viability of the open web.

The book is an important read, not only for those exploring JAMstack architecture but also for getting an outside perspective on the kinds of problems that the WordPress ecosystem needs to solve. The authors describe WordPress and other CMS’s as monolithic apps, referencing security and performance concerns. The introduction summarizes many of the problems that professionals are routinely paid to solve when managing and scaling WordPress websites:

For nearly three decades, the developer community has explored ways to make the web easier and faster to develop, more capable, more performant, and more secure. At times, though, the effort has seemed to trade one goal for another. WordPress, for example, became a revolution in making content easier to author—but anyone who’s scaled a high-traffic WordPress site knows it also brings a whole set of new challenges in performance and security. Trading the simplicity of HTML files for database-powered content means facing the very real threats that sites might crash as they become popular or are hacked when nobody is watching closely.

And dynamically transforming content into HTML—each and every time it’s requested—takes quite a few compute cycles. To mitigate all the overhead, many web stacks have introduced intricate and clever caching schemes at almost every level, from the database on up. But these complex setups have often made the development process feel cumbersome and fragile. It can be difficult to get any work done on a site when you can’t get it running and testable on your own laptop. (Trust us, we know.)

Biilmann and his co-authors have kept to the more general concepts and technical details of how JAMstack architecture differs from other, more traditional stacks. JAMstack does not prescribe any specific frameworks or tools but is rather a diverse and growing ecosystem. The authors see it as “a movement, a community collection of best practices and workflows that result in high-speed websites that are a pleasure to work on.”

The book covers topics like the benefits of atomic deployments, end-to-end version control, choosing a site generator, and the variety of automation and tooling available. It suggests a few ways of handling some of the more challenging additions to static sites, such as forms, search, notifications, and identity.

Modern Web Development on the JAMstack concludes with a case study on how Smashing Magazine moved its publication from a WordPress site with thousands of articles, 200,000+ comments, and an attached Shopify store, to a new JAMstack setup. The detailed breakdown of the migration provides an interesting look at one solution to the challenges of publishing at scale. These are the kinds of architectural concerns that the WordPress ecosystem needs to continue to address and simplify for the next generation of developers.

The 127-page PDF is available for free and an EPUB version is expected sometime this week.

by Sarah Gooding at August 06, 2019 06:54 PM under JAMstack

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August 25, 2019 11:00 PM
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