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March 27, 2017

WPTavern: UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd Links WordPress.com to the Spread of Terrorism

UK government officials are targeting online service providers after terrorist Khalid Masood killed four people and injured more than two dozen in an attack in Westminster last week. In an article published on the Telegraph Sunday morning, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called on Google, Twitter, and Facebook to take action on extremist content. She also identified Telegram, Justpaste.it, and WordPress.com as smaller platforms through which terrorist activity is spreading.

“There should be no place for terrorists to hide,” Rudd told Andrew Marr in an interview over the weekend. “We need to make sure organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”

Last week’s attack in London also seems to have reignited the UK government’s war on encryption, as Rudd said that the security agencies’ inability to crack encrypted messages during an investigation is “completely unacceptable.” Masood allegedly used WhatsApp to communicate shortly before the attack.

The Home Secretary has summoned representatives from a list of online service providers, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, and smaller companies, to a meeting this week to discuss combatting terrorist abuse of these platforms. Automattic would not confirm whether the company has been summoned but it seems likely given that WordPress.com was one of the platforms Rudd highlighted over the weekend.

The Telegraph article strongly linked WordPress.com to terrorism, citing several claims from the Counter Extremism Project that the Washington Post published earlier this month:

But most such sites are publicly available and used to spread content. According to US think tank the Counter Extremism Project, WordPress.com sites have played host to beheading videos, firing squads, and a video of a man being shot in the head, emblazoned with the words ‘This In the Enemy Of Allah.’

Historically, WordPress.com has been a strong supporter of free speech but posting terrorist propaganda is a violation of its terms of service. The site has a dedicated page outlining the platform’s stance on terrorist activity:

While our service is designed to enable users to freely express their ideas and opinions, however controversial, safety is important to us. As such, we don’t allow websites of known terrorist groups or genuine calls for violence against individuals or groups on WordPress.com.

WordPress.com users can report sites they find to be suspicious but the page also emphasizes the platform’s commitment to free speech:

Please note that the team behind WordPress.com strongly believes in freedom of speech. WordPress.com has a vast audience spread across many cultures, countries and backgrounds with varying values and our service is designed to let internet users freely express any ideas and opinions without us censoring or endorsing them.

We take all reports seriously, but we won’t remove sites just because they are offensive.

WordPress.com also denies use to individuals, groups, or entities on the Specially Designated Nationals list, maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

It’s not yet clear what Home Secretary Rudd is calling for in summoning global tech company representatives to a meeting, but her comments on the Andrew Marr show indicate the government may request closer monitoring.

“What I’m saying is the best people – who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stopping it being put up in the first place – are going to be them,” Rudd said. She also said she is in conversations with the U.S. government to help get all of these companies around the table to agree to stop this kind of content from being published in the first place.

Automattic would not provide a comment at this time regarding its position on the UK government attempting to curb online extremism by targeting online services. However, the company has a long history of actively pushing back against requests that violate users’ freedom of speech. In 2010, Automattic demonstrated its support for freedom of speech by raising awareness about the First Amendment. Automattic’s General Counsel Paul Sieminski wrote about the company’s commitment to strike back against censorship in 2013 after taking to the courts to stand with users against DMCA abuse. In 2014, when tech companies all over the world joined forces to protest NSA surveillance, Automattic was among them.

If Rudd’s call for tech companies to take “a more proactive role” in tackling terrorist abuse ultimately means introducing monitoring that violates users’ privacy and gives government more access, she will be hard-pressed to get cooperation. American companies like Automattic and Apple have already demonstrated they are willing to go to court to protect users’ freedoms and privacy.

The anti-encryption rhetoric surrounding this issue seems manufactured to allow UK government officials to capitalize on a public tragedy in order to push a political agenda. Rudd is unlikely to find many companies in the tech industry that are eager to hand over users’ freedoms and private communications, but hopefully the summit will serve to educate government officials on why it’s dangerous to legislate backdoors into consumer products.

by Sarah Gooding at March 27, 2017 10:30 PM under wordpress.com

March 24, 2017

WPTavern: WordCamp Miami 2017 Will Livestream All Sessions this Weekend

WordCamp Miami kicked off today with its ancillary workshops for beginners, freelancers, and BuddyPress enthusiasts. The WordCamp is entering its 9th year and organizers are expecting more than 800 attendees. Tickets are once again sold out, but latecomers hoping to attend can sign up for the wait list.

WordCamp Miami is one of the most well-established WordPress events and is known for having high quality sessions. This year’s schedule includes 60+ local and international speakers, a JavaScript learning track, and new AMA spots, featuring prominent people in the community. If you are unable to attend but want to join in remotely, the camp will be live streaming all sessions on Saturday and Sunday for free. There is no registration for the live stream and organizer David Bisset said it doesn’t have a limit on the number of people who can watch simultaneously. Participants can join in on Twitter with the #wcmia hashtag.

by Sarah Gooding at March 24, 2017 09:52 PM under wordcamp miami

WPTavern: Medium Aims to Fix ‘Broken’ Media with New $5 Subscription Program

Nearly three months after laying off a third of its staff and publicly admitting that its previous ad-based revenue model was broken, Medium has introduced a new $5 per month subscription program. The internet speculated freely about Medium’s next move after CEO Ev Williams said the company would be taking “a different, bolder approach” to the problem of driving payment for quality content.

It turns out the “bolder approach” he referenced is a subscription-based model, one that skeptics are already eager to tear apart as many media organizations have struggled to find success with paywalls. Early subscribers will receive access to curated content, a new reading experience, ad-free browsing, and an offline reading list. Medium will be using the subscription revenue to pay writers for content, some of which will be restricted to members only.

“We will be routing 100% of the revenue from founding members (those who sign up in the first few months) to writers and independent publishers who have important work to do,” Williams said. “Those who have hard-won expertise, do exhaustive research, and think deeply. Those who make us all smarter. Those who maximize our understanding of the world but don’t necessarily maximize clicks — and, therefore, are at a disadvantage amongst the highly optimized algorithm chum being slung by the truckload by low-cost content purveyors.”

Medium’s new curated content stream will surface the most worthwhile articles from its network, which grew from 1.9 million posts in 2015 to 7.5 million in 2016 posts. Williams identified the types of content members can expect with their subscriptions in a followup post viewable only to subscribers:

  • Politics. What’s happening behind the headlines. How to think about it. What to do about it.
  • Work. Lessons in business, startups, leadership, management, and money.
  • Self. Smart takes on how to be your best you — happier, healthier, more productive.
  • Future. Where the world is going — technology, trends, what it all means.

For those who have long regarded Medium as the home of hot takes, open letters, and scintillating rants, the new curated content will feature pieces from those who Williams describes as “doing important work.” The list above indicates the platform will be promoting a hefty does of spoon-fed thought and self-improvement topics. In order to make money from the people who have it to spend, the blogging silo must focus on helping those with too much information and not enough time to figure out “how to think about” important issues.

Medium is currently soliciting writers via email, according to one recipient, Adam Hodgkin. This move marks a change in the company where it is essentially becoming a publisher in addition to an aggregator, commissioning content that will deliver that trademark Medium flavor.

Authors should be aware that articles published behind Medium’s paywall will lose their potential to go viral. In addition to trading site and content ownership for convenience, those who agree to write for Medium’s members will be limiting the potential reach their content may have had if it was published in the open.

“Media is broken,” Williams said. “And we need to fix it. I’m super passionate about this. Though we’ve changed our approach recently, this has been Medium’s mission from day one. We saw the feedback loops for publishing content to be a major problem, and we set out to build a new model. We’ve come a long way since — establishing ourselves as the platform for thoughtfulness, depth, and insight from independent thinkers. But the greater challenge — changing the incentives that drive our consumption of media online — has become even more pressing. It’s time to double-down.”

If there’s something new about this economic model, we have yet to see it. Spotify, Netflix, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other businesses have successfully implemented the subscription model. Using it to fund the type of content that Medium aims to highlight may not be feasible, however, as consumers tend to gravitate towards free content and news that is read and shared in the open.

If Medium’s only option for exiting the attention economy is to further lock down users’ content inside its proprietary silo, the remedy is worse than the disease. Instead of seeing ads on articles available to everyone, subscribers now pay to read content that is selected by and owned by Medium, a company that still needs to find a way to keep the lights on once all the VC money is gone.

Medium tried the ad-driven publishing model without success and then declared that it was a broken system. Was the model broken because it didn’t bring Medium enough money to keep paddling on? Or is it fundamentally broken because it “incentivizes the wrong behaviors,” as Williams put it? His newfound idealism behind the push to leave the domain of “ad buyers and social media echo chambers” appears to be a mask for the lack of a concrete monetization strategy.

Williams’ closing appeal says everything: “Join us early, and help us figure it out.” Medium is still experimenting on publishers to find a way to stay afloat.

by Sarah Gooding at March 24, 2017 09:24 PM under medium

WPTavern: How to Find the Age of a Plugin Hosted in the WordPress Plugin Directory

The WordPress plugin directory provides information such as version requirements, compatibility, last updated, and active installs for plugins. What it doesn’t tell you is how old a plugin is. A new site called Age WP Plugin created by Ahmad Awais and Maedah Batool makes finding this information easy. Simply type in a plugin’s slug into the search box and hit enter.

Hello Dolly is 8 Years Old

Awais created the site after Batool inquired about the age of a plugin for an article she was writing. Using the WordPress.org API, Awais discovered that one of the data points was a plugin’s submission date. In addition to displaying a plugin’s age, the site also shows the number of downloads it has. In early 2015, the plugin directory was redesigned and replaced the download count with the number of active installs.

The site has received positive feedback from plugin authors in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group. Something I’d like to see added is a list of 10 or 25 of the oldest plugins in the directory. Awais plans to redesign the site using a different color scheme and fix styling issues reported by testers.

by Jeff Chandler at March 24, 2017 07:12 PM under resources

March 23, 2017

WPTavern: PHP 5.6 Is Now the Most Widely Used PHP Version

PHP 5.6 usage has steadily increased over the past year and has now overtaken versions 5.3 and 5.4 to be the most widely used version, according to W3Techs’ stats. PHP is used by 82.6% of all the websites for which W3Techs can detect a server-side programming language. PHP 7 accounts for 3.1% of these websites and PHP 5.x makes up 95.3%, with version 5.6 usage at the top end.

PHP.net’s usage stats page hasn’t been updated sine 2013 but the project recommends W3Techs’ stats for viewing PHP market share by version. W3Techs’ methodology takes the top 10 million websites, according to Alexa rankings, to offer a representative sample of established sites without including domain spammers.

PHP 5.6 overtaking older versions is a significant milestone for the PHP community, since it still receives support for critical security issues until December 31, 2018. The older versions that previously dominated usage reached End of Life in 2015 and 2016 and are no longer receiving security updates.

Adoption of supported PHP versions is somewhat slower in the WordPress community. According to the project’s stats, more than half of all WordPress sites (55.6%) are using unsupported versions of PHP (versions 5.2 – 5.5).

In early December 2016, WordPress updated its hosting recommendation to PHP 7+, which should help new users who are approaching hosts to request their sites be put on newer versions of PHP. In addition to these recommendations, WordPress’ strategy in the past has been to cultivate relationships with hosts to help improve host configurations for users. The project recently launched the Make WordPress Hosting community to facilitate collaboration among those with hosting experience. Participants are currently working on documenting best practices, including recommendations for PHP versions offered, and providing tools for the community.

by Sarah Gooding at March 23, 2017 07:15 PM under php

Matt: On the James Altucher Show

I joined in for the James Altucher podcast in an episode that covered a lot of ground. One clarification was the point of the story about my Dad not making much at his old job was that companies should be thoughtful about compensation especially for the people who stay with them the longest, not that loyalty is a myth or something to be avoided. It just needs to be two-way.

by Matt at March 23, 2017 04:29 PM under press

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 268 – Behind the Scenes of WordPress Development Course, Up and Running Second Edition

On this episode, Marcus Couch and I are joined by Alex Denning, Fred Meyer, and David Hayes of WPShout to discuss their WordPress Development course, Up and Running Second Edition. We learn why the trio created the course and who it’s geared towards.

Later in the show, we have a great conversation surrounding the REST API and its potential impacts on WordPress. Near the end of the interview, we get their thoughts on the state of WordPress education.

Stories Discussed:

GoDaddy Acquires Sucuri

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

WP Multisite User Sync lets you Sync/unsync users from one site (blog) to other sites (blogs) in a WordPress Multisite network.

WooCommerce Live Checkout Field Capture plugin saves all activity in the WooCommerce checkout form before it is submitted. This enables you to see who has abandoned their shopping carts with the ability to contact them and remind about the abandoned cart.

After Comment Redirector lets you redirect to a custom page after commenting for all or new commentators. This is a handy way to say thank you to your most engaging readers. You can also give out a coupon, special e-book, or secret content when someone leaves a comment.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, March 29th 3:00 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Stitcher Radio: Click here to subscribe

Listen To Episode #268:

by Jeff Chandler at March 23, 2017 01:39 AM under wpshout

WPTavern: GoDaddy Acquires Sucuri

GoDaddy has announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Sucuri Security. Sucuri, founded by Daniel Cid and co-founded by Tony Perez in 2010, is a website security platform that helps clean and protect websites. Details of the deal were not disclosed.

Like ManageWP, Sucuri will operate as a separate entity under the GoDaddy umbrella. Sucuri employees will transfer to GoDaddy while remaining under the leadership of Perez and Cid.

Out of all the companies that Sucuri could have chosen to be acquired by, why GoDaddy?

“Over the years we’ve seen them live up to their words to be a customer and product centric company,” Perez said. “As a product company it give us an opportunity to scale our product from a few hundred thousand domains, to millions. It’s something that we only ever dreamed of.”

The acquisition comes a few weeks after SiteGround announced its partnership with Sucuri and renamed its site scanner SG Site Scanner. It’s too soon to determine how this acquisition will affect Sucuri’s partnerships with hosting companies.

“I can’t speak for our partners, but I truly hope they will trust in us, Sucuri, and in me personally,” Perez said. “If we can work to deploy our technology for GoDaddy, at their scale, then I have nothing but confidence we can do this for every other partner out there.

“GoDaddy made this investment because they believe in what we have built as a team at Sucuri, the product solves problems, that doesn’t go away and I hope all our customers and partners will give us time to prove this in our actions.”

Both companies acknowledged that nothing changes for existing Sucuri customers and that they can expect to see numerous improvements in the near future. Perez and Cid see the acquisition as version 2.0 of the company.

Aaron Campbell, WordPress Security Team Lead who is sponsored by GoDaddy to work on WordPress full-time, says the move should help make more sites secure.

“GoDaddy is committed to offering great services to its clients,” Campbell said. “You know as well as I do that Sucuri is exactly that; we’ve seen them be quite an asset to the WordPress community over the years.

“They’re going to remain a standalone product, but I’m excited to see them become part of the GoDaddy team to make some great stuff together. Keeping as many WordPress users secure as possible is obviously my goal and I really think this will help accomplish that.”

Reactions to the news on Twitter have mostly been positive with many congratulating Sucuri and its founders.

On the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, reactions to the news are a mix between congratulatory and fears of Sucuri’s service declining. These are among the same grievances and fears expressed by ManageWP customers when GoDaddy acquired it.

ManageWP Customers Report No Noticeable Decline in Service

Since being acquired, ManageWP has maintained and improved service levels while continuing to add features. Its most recent feature gives customers the opportunity to create backups, restore, and clone multisite websites.

Bob Dunn, of BobWP, says the service has been stellar before and after the transition.

“To be honest, their services were great before and still are,” Dunn said. “I don’t manage a ton of sites, but for my needs, it has been rock solid since I first became a customer.”

Scott Buscemi, co-founder of Lumen Foundry, has had a similar experience.

“In all honesty, I haven’t noticed much of anything since they were acquired – and that’s a ‘win’ in my opinion,” Buscemi said.

“I’ve seen them push out a pleasant list of bug fixes and features that don’t affect me, so it’s great to still see active development on the primary system. GoDaddy has been working hard to get on the good side of developers and agency owners like me, so I can’t imagine they would go through the effort of the acquisition only to spoil the experience and turn things negative.”

Even those skeptical with the acquisition have reported no noticeable decline in the quality of service.

GoDaddy has not announced how it plans to integrate Sucuri into its products and services.

by Jeff Chandler at March 23, 2017 12:53 AM under sucuri

March 22, 2017

BuddyPress: BuddyPress at WordCamp London 2017 Contributor Day

Contributor Day is a big part of WordCamp London. This year it was held on Friday 17th March at London Metropolitan University. 100 contributors descended on the venue each aiming to make WordPress better in some wonderful way.

A room full of peopleContributors at WordCamp London 2017. Photo by Pradeep Singh.

Attendees were asked to choose an area of interest. The options were Accessibility, BuddyPress, Community, Core, Design & Flow, Documentation, Polyglots, Support and Themes. 5 of the 100 contributors chose BuddyPress. 2 of the 5 were new to contributing in general but all had used, or had at least heard of, BuddyPress at some point.

After a quick refill of coffee the team convened and began discussing how to get the most from the next 8 hours. Due to a diverse range of skills available within the group, we were able to focus on documentation, coding and localisation.

People using laptopsBuddyPress contributors. Photo by Pradeep Singh.

As a team we managed to identify an issue related to colour contrast in the Twenty Seventeen theme. #7471 was opened and a patch was submitted. We were also able to translate all remaining strings into Italian.

The day was a huge success and all team members indicated they will contribute again going forward.

by Henry Wright at March 22, 2017 09:26 PM under London

WPTavern: Foxhound Is the First REST API Powered Theme on WordPress.org

Foxhound made its debut on WordPress.org yesterday. The React-based theme is the first in the directory to use the REST API endpoints included in WordPress 4.7. Foxhound sports a tasteful blog design with single-page app functionality that loads posts instantly. Check out the live demo to see how fast the content loads.

The theme was designed and developed by Kelly Dwan and Mel Choyce, who have collaborated on several free themes hosted on WordPress.org. They recommend installing the WP-API Menus plugin, as the REST API does not yet support menus. After installing Foxhound, there are only two things required to make it look like the demo: Set the front page to display the latest posts and set up a menu. There are no additional customization settings.

Kelly Dwan notes on Foxhound’s GitHub repository that the theme should be considered “experimental” and users can expect a few restrictions:

  • The theme does not display anything if javascript is disabled. (Should not affect SEO or accessibility)
  • The API cannot be blocked by a security plugin. Some plugins recommend blocking the users endpoint, but that is required to show the author archive. If you need to block the user endpoint, the rest of the theme should work but might be unstable if anyone tries to visit an author archive.
  • Permalinks for pages and archives are changed by this theme. They will be reset if/when you deactivate the theme. You might want to set up redirects using something like Safe Redirect Manager.
  • This theme does not support hierarchical category archives – only parent category archive pages can be displayed. This may be fixed in a later version of the theme.
  • Plugins may not work as expected, especially if they add content to the front end of the site. Most Jetpack features do still work.

Because Foxhound is so different from traditional WordPress themes, it could not go through the usual theme review process. Themes that require the WP REST API are currently reviewed outside of WordPress.org when a theme author pings the Theme Review team. They apply a “Special Case” tag that allows the theme to bypass Theme Check. (The tag is also used for other themes that break the rules in innovative ways.)

“We don’t have a lot to go on yet with those types of themes,” Key Reviewer Justin Tadlock said. “Foxhound was the first. We’re supposed to be looking over another soon. As more of these types of themes come in, we’ll be able to figure out ways of making it easier to submit them.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 22, 2017 07:21 PM under wp rest api

HeroPress: A Blissful Driving Force

Pull Quote: WordPress successfully justified my choice of not joining the job placement drive at college.

As a college guy, I believed in being different and outperforming the best of my lot. Coming from a modest family background, the realization of achievement dawned over me. I never favored being a 9 to 5 corporate professional and a having a ‘boss’ was simply not my cup of coffee. I was never interested in the classes held in the college because I was being more productive at the ‘reality’ front of the life. I envisioned getting involved in tasks that were strongest at the core.

Where It All Started

Computer technology was in its nascent state in India the time I started my tryst with web pages. I began with designing my own college’s alumni website while pursuing MCA at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Eventually, I was assigned the task of the event websites too. I was happy because all this brought about a sense of power to me. Though not initially refine, my work still appealed to many and it also made me realize the power technology had.

The Seed of Seriousness

The very first seed of the idea of taking this up as a serious profession was sown by a friend who told me about how creating web pages and blogging could be a source of monetization. Google pages was my first shot as a techie, wherein I started with contributing content through blogs to several clients.

Saw and Attempted

I can still recollect the time I received my first pay cheque. Initially, I had tested all Content management systems and had started with Joomla and Drupal. With absolutely no knowledge about coding, I went forward to scale the web designing mountain. WordPress came and was well recognized as a blogging platform; suitable to what I worked on. I bumped into WordPress in 2009 and like many other users, utilized it for my blogging endeavors. Little did I know that someday it would be the answer to my ‘coding gap’. I remember working on a 6-month project for my MCA final where I took up WordPress as the core subject and in there I talked about custom plugins and themes. The teacher was happy to receive the unique project and awarded me good grades for my sense of initiation with new approach.

That Leap of Faith

Now, I knew how I had to take this WordPress awesomeness forward. With a little exposure to learning new technology, I was baffled for a while but had the will to scale this one too. 6 months, and I thoroughly decoded the WordPress codex for me. This was a giant step forward where my future lay in my own hands.

Personally, I feel that WordPress does not constrict you to a certain limit or a line of functionalities. If you have a core foundation, you can toy with it and make awesome end results. WordPress was now my pillar of strength. WordPress successfully justified my choice of not joining the job placement drive at the college.

The Break-Out

Now was the time to materialize my skills and have a material turnaround for the work I was capable of doing. After a 4-month hunt for some serious web designing projects with not a single task at hand, disappointment gripped me. The lack of proper work infrastructure due to poor Internet connectivity and local electricity supply were some of the other reasons I had to plan withdrawing my resources from Varanasi. I could have fallen or would have made a leap; it was about to be my choice for the rest of my life.

Hello to New Beginnings

It was frustrating because Varanasi had been my abode for 7 good years and leaving the place was a huge decision to make. I mustered up my wits to start afresh by withdrawing my base from Varanasi and shifted to Lucknow, India in order to try out seeking new opportunities yet again.

The work stars favored me and with the help of elance-oDesk (now, Upwork) and other freelancing platforms, I received many life-changing projects of my life. Things moved forward and with many clients in a row, another year went by. I collaborated with more people who were willing to join me on the platform – people who wanted to leave a mark; never to look back. What remained constant throughout these years was my capability to work hard each day.

A Better Picture/ Wbcom Designs

I upfront admire WordPress because it has been a driving force for my existence. Time has moved slowly and with 6+ years of experience and self-discovery, I now run a fully-fledged WordPress based company Wbcom Designs that has many developers and freelancers onboard with me.

While additionally serving BuddyBoss as a Product and Support Manager, now I plan to infuse new changes in the pattern we operate at base as well as the firm through strategic planning. It’s time to give back to the WordPress community through the development of free plugins, theme customization and spreading the WordPress fandom at local level.

I recently took the opportunity to sponsor ‘Nashik WordCamp’ 2016, WordCamp Pune 2017, WordCamp Udaipur 2017, and WordCamp Kochi 2017. I am glad I was able to take a step forward in my plans to pay back to the WordPress community. To set the ball rolling at local level, I have recently come up with a local MeetUp group at Lucknow, India so that locally organized, face to face events can be organized that will accelerate the understanding of the WordPress CMS among the masses. I also plan to bring about WordPress awareness at the school and college level in my zone so that more and more young people know why this CMS is so amazing.

To this day, my first love is my work desk. Whenever in an emotional or professional fix, I seek recluse through this amazing platform. Unlike others, working destresses me. There is a long way to go with this ideal because I want people to know how powerfully stable the WordPress is.

Like they say,

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

I want to see the developer community going for heights that have never been achieved before and I want to be a part of this huge step-up.

I am all open up for this WordPress community for contribution and assistance. For WordPress enthusiasts, I want to tell them that sky is not the limit. WordPress has accepted me as its own and it’s time for me and others to give back in the best possible manner.

The post A Blissful Driving Force appeared first on HeroPress.

by Varun Dubey at March 22, 2017 12:00 PM

WPTavern: Help Jesse Petersen and His Family by Donating to His Medical Leave Fund

Jesse Petersen, a longtime member of the WordPress community and founder of Genesis The.me, needs our help. Petersen is battling Cystic Fibrosis and earlier this year after visiting a clinic, discovered that his lung function was at 22%.

Due to decrease lung function, Petersen missed five weeks of work, required home IVs, and visited many doctors. He is currently on a double-lung transplant list with a lung allocation score of 38.859.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the LAS is a score used to prioritize waiting list candidates based on a combination of wait list urgency and post-transplant survival.

In order to maintain his health for a transplant, doctors have recommended that he work a maximum of two hours per day with quality rest.

His family has a small emergency fund available that they thought would allow Petersen to work up until his transplant surgery. However, there’s no estimated time frame for when a transplant will be available.

Outside of his product based business, Petersen is a work-from-home freelancer with contract work that needs to be completed. He and his wife have two adopted children. His wife volunteered to get another job to supplement their income but relatives rejected the idea as she is his primary support person.

Petersen has two products for sale on GenesisThe.me with two more ready for launch by the end of March.

His family is asking for $20K to help pay for expenses and allow Petersen to take an extended medical leave to focus on his health. So far, the campaign has raised $5,075 or about a quarter of the amount needed.

You can donate as much as you’re able to or choose from one of five predetermined amounts ranging from $25 to $1K. You can also choose to donate monthly in six month increments.

Petersen is no stranger to the WordPress community’s generosity. In 2016, it helped him raise nearly $20K to help pay for costs associated with adopting his second son. If you are able, please consider donating to Petersen’s medical leave fund.

by Jeff Chandler at March 22, 2017 10:35 AM under jesse petersen

WPTavern: Adding Images to WordPress Sidebars Is About to Get a Lot Easier

Adding images to sidebars in WordPress is a cumbersome task that requires users to upload an image to the Media Library, find the URL, copy it, and paste it into a Text widget along with additional HTML. Nearly two years ago, Mel Choyce opened a ticket on WordPress Trac proposing that a media widget be added to core. This widget would allow users to easily add images to sidebars.

Throughout the discussion, the idea of creating a catch-all media widget was brought up that would allow users to add images, audio, or video to a sidebar. After developers spoke to Matt Mullenweg about the direction of the project, the team decided to create three separate widgets to handle each media type. Choyce outlined the benefits this approach provides:

  • We can focus on creating more tailored experiences for each widget.
  • We’ll be able to launch new widgets without having to worry about constantly updating one central widget, or potentially breaking anything.
  • It’ll be easier for people to discover new media types since they won’t be buried within one widget.
  • This will more closely mimic the approach we’re taking to content blocks in the future, which should provide an easier transition.

Out of the three core widgets in development, the Image one is nearly complete ready for user testing. To test, first download and activate the Core Media Widgets plugin. Once activated, navigate to Appearance > Widgets in the WordPress backend and in the available widgets section, locate the Image widget.

Core Image Widget UI

Clicking the Select Image button displays the media library modal where you can either select or upload an image. Once an image is selected, click the Add to Widget button in the bottom-right corner. This is what the widget looks like after an image is added.

Core Image Widget With an Image

Here is what the widget looks like on a page using the Twenty Seventeen default theme.

Core Image Widget in Action

The core image widget is incredibly easy to set up and is a significant improvement over the Text widget approach. The user interface is much simpler compared to the image widget supplied by Jetpack. Jetpack’s image widget UI doesn’t take advantage of the media library modal and instead, requires the user to know the image’s URL.

Jetpack Image Widget UI

Many of the fields are the same as what’s provided by the media library modal. Not surprisingly, WordPress.com uses the same interface and requires the user to know the image URL.

Core Image Widget May Be Ready in Time for WordPress 4.7.4

The team is specifically seeking feedback from those who use image widgets provided by plugins on WordPress.org. Once the image widget is merged into core, the video and audio widgets will be added to the Core Media Widgets plugin. Users can leave the plugin enabled until all three widgets are added to core.

“Once a widget has been thoroughly tested by users, we can then copy it into core for a release while then also disabling the widget in the plugin,” Ruter said.

If you encounter a bug or discover an incompatibility with a plugin or theme, please create an issue on the project’s GitHub page. According to Ruter, the team is working hard to get the widget to a point where it can be merged into core. Depending on how testing goes, it could be merged into core as early as WordPress 4.7.4.

by Jeff Chandler at March 22, 2017 01:18 AM under widgets

March 21, 2017

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Team Making Progress on Clearing Out 1,000+ Review Backlog

photo credit: Oli Dale

The WordPress Theme Review team (TRT) has turned a corner and is approaching a major milestone of getting the review queue under 100 themes. As of today, 189 themes are lined up in what was previously a 1,000+ backlog. Key reviewers are confident that number will be closer to zero in the near future.

Emil Uzelac, one of the key reviewers, shared the ticketgraph for the backlog on Twitter today, demonstrating that the team is in a better place where new theme submission isn’t causing overload issues as it did before. Themes continue to flow in but are not significantly affecting the queue.

In 2015 the TRT hit a wall with an influx of themes flooding into a legacy review system that wasn’t working. The team couldn’t keep up and was forced to spend much of 2016 changing the review process to better handle the large number of themes coming in. The TRT is working hard to make 2017 the year they get back on track.

Uzelac identified a few of the measures that have helped in taming the queue:

  • One theme submission per author
  • More reviewers
  • A new guideline where reviewers close the ticket if the review surfaces more than 5 distinct issues

“Around Christmas was when many on the team started seeing a tiny sliver of light at the end of a long tunnel,” Key Reviewer Justin Tadlock said. “In the past few days, seeing the queue get below 200 themes has been a high point. Folks on the team are excited because our ideas are paying off.”

Tadlock can’t say when exactly the team turned a corner but describes it as more of an iterative process that started with small ideas they could implement themselves. This has significantly reduced the wait time from 7 or 8 months a year ago to two months today. Themes also go through an admin queue that adds a bit to the review time but Tadlock said they hope to tackle that in the next Review Shindig, which happens on the first weekend of every month.

“That number is shrinking,” Tadlock said. “By the end of April, we could be looking at 3-4 weeks. I’m a bit optimistic, so don’t hold me to that. It could be May or June in reality.”

Tadlock said once the team gets to the 50-100 range they will be at the place where they’re really only handling new themes that are coming in, instead of working the backlog. Once they reach that milestone, they will be able to more accurately track how long it takes for a theme to make it through the review process.

“That’s where we’ll need to really start refining the process so that it works even better in the future,” Tadlock said. “A well-coded theme could potentially make it through the process in 2 months right now. Another theme might be 4-5 months. There are a lot of factors to consider. It’s my hope that we eliminate many of those factors that are holding up the process.”

The new rule that limited authors to submitting one theme at a time has had a significant impact on cutting down the queue. The rule was meant to be temporary and will be up for reevaluation when the queue is under 100 themes. Tadlock said the team will likely pull the rule, but it has been instrumental in rooting out copies that contained only minor changes to the original.

“For most authors, this [rule] is not a huge problem,” Tadlock said. “It definitely hurts a few of the more prolific authors in the short term. However, it helps stop the flow of theme companies who are just copying/pasting the same theme with minor changes. We’ve had theme companies with as many as 17 themes in the queue that were just copies. This new rule has helped us find those and put a stop to the practice.” The team was able to track down an entire ring of theme authors with multiple accounts with dozens and dozens of themes.

Tadlock said most of the issues the team deals with in reviews are related to security. The content portability issues that were highlighted in the recent Zerif Lite suspension are more uncommon.

“The ‘draconian stuff’ people talk about probably represents 1% of the issue,” Tadlock said, referencing Matt Mullenweg’s recent comments on the current requirements. “99% of the issues are the things people don’t talk about.” Tadlock has been speaking with theme authors about how they can “create” content within the guidelines, as there are ways to do it that are both future-proof and portable.

The team is currently spending a lot of time reviewing code that shouldn’t need to be manually reviewed. The next item on the TRT roadmap is incorporating better automation into the review process.

“The big thing we’re working on now is the new Theme Check plugin,” Tadlock said. “It’s going to solve lots of problems. It’s based off the code sniffer (PHPCS, I believe). It’ll help theme authors start submitting better coded and more secure themes right off the bat. Humans easily miss those things looking through it with their eyes. This will definitely make theme authors better coders and users will have even more secure themes. Then, we can focus on those 1% issues.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 21, 2017 09:53 PM under theme review team

WPTavern: Yoast SEO 4.5 Urges Users to Upgrade to PHP 7

Yoast SEO 4.5 was released today with a handful of improvements and, most notably, a big push for users to upgrade to PHP 7.

“In Yoast SEO 4.5, we are urging site owners whose sites run on servers with an outdated version of PHP to update to a more recent version,” Joost de Valk said. “To move the web forward, we need to take a stand against old, slow, and unsafe software.”

WordPress’ minimum PHP requirement is still at 5.2.4, six years after PHP 5.2 reached end of life in 2011. This version is now vulnerable to many security issues. Current usage stats show 5.4% of WordPress sites are running on PHP 5.2. As this likely represents millions of users, WordPress’ core leadership is reluctant to bump the minimum requirements. Only 8% of sites are on PHP 7+, as hosting companies are slowly adding support.

“Because web hosts are not upgrading PHP, we have decided to start pushing this from within plugins,” de Valk said. He contends that the WordPress ecosystem is losing good developers because the project is moving too slowly. He also makes the case for security and speed.

“WordPress is sometimes said to be slow, but it actually doesn’t have to be slow at all,” de Valk said. “If it’s running on old versions of PHP, however, it is, most certainly, slow. PHP 5.2 is more than 100% slower than PHP 5.6, and a whopping 400% slower than PHP 7.”

De Valk decided to throw the weight of Yoast SEO, which he estimates to be 6.5 million active installs, behind the movement to push hosts to upgrade their customers to PHP 7. The latest release of the plugin displays a notice to WordPress administrators running sites on PHP 5.2, urging them to upgrade to PHP 7. The notice is “big, ugly, and non-dismissible,” de Valk said. It is generated by an error that auto-resolves when the user fixes their outdated PHP version.

“The notice will also encourage people to contact their host if they don’t know how to upgrade their PHP,” de Valk said. “Yes, this could be painful for some hosts. This notice is deliberately intended to make them work.”

De Valk said the plugin will start displaying the notices for PHP 5.2 and will add 5.6 as soon as it is no longer supported. Through experience with his customers, de Valk has found that outdated, slower versions of PHP are damaging Yoast SEO and WordPress’ reputations, as neither are optimized for PHP 5.2. Although older versions are not holding the plugin back from new features, it makes it difficult for the team to clean up the code.

“There aren’t many features I cannot build right now, but code quality is suffering because we can’t use namespaces, short array notation, etc,” de Valk said.

The Yoast SEO team has created WHIP, a WordPress package to nudge users to upgrade their software versions and made it open source for plugin and theme developers to implement in their own extensions. The project includes a filter for linking to the WordPress.org hosting page, which includes a selection of hosts that offer PHP 7.

Most of the large hosting companies already have documentation for upgrading PHP versions. Ultimately, it’s the end users who will have the power to get more hosting companies on board. De Valk said he doesn’t know how big the impact will be but encourages users to vote with their pocketbooks by leaving hosts that are unwilling to assist in upgrading PHP.

“It might be entirely possible that your host is not willing to work with you,” de Valk said. “If so, think about moving web hosts. A web host provides the engine your site runs on and that better be a damn good engine.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 21, 2017 07:56 PM under yoast

March 20, 2017

WPTavern: PressShack Forks Edit Flow to Create PublishPress, Aims to Improve Multi-User Editorial Workflow in WordPress

Last week Steve Burge and the team at PressShack released PublishPress, a fork of Automattic’s Edit Flow plugin. PressShack is operated by the same team behind OSTraining with a focus on creating publishing plugins for larger organizations.

Edit Flow has more than 10,000 active installs but is updated sporadically and is not very well supported. The PressShack creators saw an opportunity to fork the plugin and sell commercial support and add-ons. PublishPress is now available on WordPress.org with a seamless migration for Edit Flow users.

The first release offers the same features as Edit Flow along with a complete face lift, making interaction with the plugin’s settings more user-friendly. The new tabbed interface puts all the settings on one screen. PressShack has also tweaked the language of the plugin, changing Story Budget” to “Overview”, and simplifying other terms.

PublishPress introduces a few changes to the calendar, allowing users to click anywhere on a date to add content. It exposes the iCal or Google Calendar feed and uses icons to show post statuses, saving space for other information.

Burge said that PublishPress will be making a fresh start and will not be following and incorporating updates from Edit Flow. The team plans to add a host of new features that improve the publishing workflow to handle multiple users:

  • Multisite and multiple site support: Content creators log into one site but can publish to multiple sites
  • Pre-publishing checklists: For example, featured image, word count, Yoast SEO green light
  • More use cases beyond media sites: In addition to magazine-style user groups for reporting, PublishPress plans to add more use cases, such as WooCommerce products, EDD downloads, bbPress topics, and The Events Calendar listings
  • Multiple authors: Assign multiple author bylines to a story

Most of these feature are slated for release in mid-2017 and will be offered as commercial add-ons. The team is currently still focused on writing unit tests for the core plugin and adding improvements to it on WordPress.org.

PressShack Takes Inspiration from Drupal for Expanding Content Workflows

PressShack’s creators also work closely with other open source publishing platforms. Burge said the team took some inspiration from the Drupal ecosystem, which offers more advanced features for modifying editorial workflows.

“In Drupal, the workflow features are being demanded and developed by large organizations that use the platform,” Burge said. “As a result, Drupal does have a very big head start in this area. “In Drupal 7, the main workflow module was called Workbench. It was built to meet the needs of large customers such as universities, media outlets, and government agencies who have many different content managers.”

Prior to having editorial workflow tools available, Burge said that Drupal agencies kept losing projects to rivals such as Adobe and OpenText, because they had publishing workflows built for multiple users. Building better publishing tools became a necessity for Drupal agencies that wanted to win projects from large organizations.

Drupal 8 moves many of these editorial workflow improvements into core. Drupal 8.3, which is slated for April 2017, will introduce the ability to create multiple types of content workflows.

“What’s really interesting about the Drupal 8 implementation is that they are thinking beyond just content publishing,” Burge said. “It will soon be possible to put whole sections of your site into a workflow. The demand for these features is still coming from enterprise customers: much of the work is being done by a team of Drupal developers inside Pfizer.”

Burge cited a few examples of typical users requiring more elaborate publishing workflows:

  • A university with 50+ academic departments and several hundred content creators
  • A pharmaceutical company with hundreds of products and a micro-site for each one
  • A newspaper that employs writers and at least one layer of editors
  • A publicly-listed company that needs approval from several staff members to ensure that the content it publishes is 110% accurate

WordPress core is tailored to a single-author blog workflow, and there are relatively few plugins that modify the default editorial workflow for large teams. CoSchedule is one alternative to Edit Flow and PublishPress that has 10,000 active installs. It takes a SaaS approach and has more of a content marketing slant. Burge said he thinks the WordPress ecosystem’s scarcity of options for extending publishing workflows may be due to current limitations in core.

“It’s possible there are some technical hurdles: for example, WordPress core has fairly limited user permissions,” he said. “It’s also possible that now is the right time for WordPress to start adding these features.”

“WordPress agencies are building more enterprise sites and these demands are popping-up,” Burge said. “Matt just announced the Google Docs integration as a quick way to bring some collaborative features into WordPress. I think we’ll see more and more tools available for teams, rather than single authors.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 20, 2017 09:21 PM under publishpress

March 18, 2017

Donncha: How to Auto Schedule WordPress Posts

If you post to a WordPress blog on a regular basis like I do on In Photos dot Org you’ll no doubt recognise the fatigue that comes from adjusting the publish date every single time on a new post so it appears a day later. If you have multiple posts like on a daily photoblog you have to remember what day the last post was made and adjust the date accordingly.

A few years ago I wrote a small plugin that I never released to help schedule posts. In the media uploader you could select multiple photos and click a few buttons to be brought to a new page where you could enter title, content and tags for each image. Based on this experience, I suggested it as an idea to one of the teams at Automattic who built Post Bot. I used that for a long time and it has its strengths. If you’re posting content that has the same or similar tags you can copy and paste the tags from one post to another. I posted lots of black and white street images from my home town this way and it was super useful!

I got tired of manually typing out tags, and unfortunately the site broke a few times, with posts not scheduling or one time they scheduled all in one go. Luckily the problems were quickly fixed. However, I started using the WordPress post editor again and scheduling a bunch of photos that way.

Manually editing the publish date quickly became a chore. Lazarus, the form saver Chrome extension, would sometimes popup if I didn’t click exactly on the date, or as I said before I had to remember when the last post was made. They say there’s a plugin for everything, and there is for this too. Check out Publish to Schedule.

You tell “Publish to Schedule” which days and how many posts should be published and when you go into the post editor the next available date is picked for you! The date doesn’t change until you hit Publish but I already used it to schedule a number of posts and it works really well.

Edit: I forgot to mention Daily Image a new plugin by Sam Hotchkiss that does the same sort of job as Postbot but it runs on your own server. The first time you load the plugin it will show you every single unattached image in your media library which can be quite a number of images but it allows you to enter tags and quickly schedule images for posting in a simple manner.

Since my focus here is on image posts I should really mention the WordPress Export Plugin for Lightroom. When installed you can create a new export target that will resize and sharpen your image and upload it to your blog, even if it’s not a WordPress.com site.

Related Posts

by Donncha at March 18, 2017 04:50 PM under Photography

WPTavern: GitHub Adds Plain English Explanations to License Pages for Open Source Projects

GitHub took another step towards beefing up its support for open source projects this week with a new feature that makes it easier to understand a project’s license. If the project is using a popular open source license, GitHub will automatically add a short, plain-English description of the license and its permissions, conditions, and limitations. This allows GitHub users to see the implications of a project’s license at a glance.

GitHub pulls this data from ChooseALicense.com, the site it created in 2013 to help developers understand and select an open source license. The license descriptions and metadata are also open source and developers can incorporate them into their own projects using GitHub’s License API.

This new feature follows GitHub’s release of Open Source Guides in February. The guides are a collection of 10 resources to help people get involved in open source, start their own open source projects, and manage large communities. The documents include helpful stories and tips from maintainers of successful open source projects.

It was around this time last year that GitHub was confronted by open source project maintainers with an open letter of complaints regarding issue management. Nearly 2,000 maintainers signed the letter, requesting that GitHub prioritize features that open source project maintainers need. The company dragged its feet before eventually responding, while competing code hosting service GitLab capitalized on the situation with a new initiative focused on “making GitLab the best place for big open source projects.” Over the past year, GitHub has consistently released new features and improved existing ones in affirmation of its continued support for open source projects.

by Sarah Gooding at March 18, 2017 03:03 AM under open-source

March 17, 2017

WPTavern: In Case You Missed It – Issue 19

photo credit: Night Moves(license)

There’s a lot of great WordPress content published in the community but not all of it is featured on the Tavern. This post is an assortment of items related to WordPress that caught my eye but didn’t make it into a full post.

Apple Pay for WooCommerce

WooCommerce announced that Apple Pay is now available for stores accepting payments using Stripe. According to Marina Pape, WooCommerce is the first open source platform to integrate with Apple Pay.

We’re also proud to be the first open source platform to integrate with Apple Pay. Open source is the default for us, but it’s exciting to continue that level of openness with such an important payment solution.

Human Made Makes Two Big Hires

Human Made, a web development agency based in the UK recently announced two big hires. The first is Mike Little, co-creator of the WordPress open source project, as a WordPress Specialist. The second is Jenny Beaumont, who will take on the role of Senior Project Manager.

Editor User Experience Survey

The WordPress core development team has published a survey seeking feedback and data on how people use the editor. The editor is likely the most commonly used feature in WordPress. This is an opportunity for those who use it to provide feedback.

Editor Experience Survey

Behind the Scenes of how Search works on the New WordPress Plugin Directory

Greg Brown published details on Data.blog on how he improved the search relevancy for the new WordPress plugin directory using Elasticsearch. The post is technical in nature but provides great background information into how it works.

In improving the fidelity of search results, it’s not just a question of how we satisfy a single user’s search query, but how we satisfy thousands of users for each unique search term: which plugins will support that volume of users and their requests for support? Which are most likely to give all of these users a great WordPress experience?

NextGEN Gallery Surpasses 17 Million Downloads

MainWP Reaches 1K Five-star Reviews

After three years of being on the WordPress plugin directory, the MainWP plugin has received 1,000 five-star reviews.

Heather Burns HeroPress Essay

Heather Burns, founder of WebDevLaw, published an incredible essay on HeroPress this week. Burns describes the hardships encountered with her first job and how it and other circumstances led her down the path of discovering WordPress.

By this point I’d started playing around with WordPress, and I learned about a local meetup group. I tiptoed in one night and awkwardly introduced myself and was welcomed right in.

I realized over time that this was a very different sort of group. Everyone was grassroots volunteers, putting in the effort because they wanted to learn, not because they wanted social status. There was no tiresome hierarchy, no obsession with ‘prestige’, no kowtowing to the person with the sexiest car (in fact, we all took the bus.) If you had a question, you could ask it without being laughed out the room. No one was obliged to give anything more than they were able to give.

HeroPress Wapuu!

In what is a traditional part of this series, I end each issue by featuring a Wapuu design. For those who don’t know, Wapuu is the unofficial mascot of the WordPress project.

HeroPress Wapuu

 

I present HeroPress Wapuu in celebration of HeroPress recently publishing its 100th essay. If you’re a fan of HeroPress and want to see it flourish, please consider being a sponsor.

That’s it for issue nineteen. If you recently discovered a cool resource or post related to WordPress, please share it with us in the comments.

by Jeff Chandler at March 17, 2017 09:52 PM under survey

WPTavern: Take the WordPress Editor Experience Survey

photo credit: Joanna Kosinska

WordPress core contributors have published a survey to collect feedback on how people are using the editor. The results of the short 15-question survey will assist the team in redesigning the editing experience in the WordPress admin.

Participants are asked to identify how they use WordPress and if they use certain features like formatting buttons and distraction-free writing. The survey also asks how easy-to-use they consider the current editor to be and how organized it is. Users are also asked if they have ever installed a plugin that adds features to the editor, presumably to determine if there are features missing that should be considered for core.

One question asks participants if they use any assistive technologies along with a screen reader. WordPress Accessibility team member Amanda Rush published some tips for screen reader users who want to take the survey. It includes several questions with radio buttons and screenshots that are not so friendly to screen readers. Rush provides a general walk-through with more explanation for those who are using screen readers to participate.

So far, this survey has been more widely shared than the design team’s recent customizer survey, which was published after receiving just 50 results. WordPress contributors rely heavily on these surveys to make decisions about projects they are working on, as they do not have any telemetry data about what features people are using or not using. This is one example where data could quickly demonstrate how widely the distraction-free writing mode has been adopted and show what editor formatting buttons people are using.

If you have a few minutes over the weekend and want to contribute to the future of WordPress, take the Editor Experience Survey.

by Sarah Gooding at March 17, 2017 09:01 PM under survey

WPTavern: How to View Upcoming WordCamps in the WordPress Dashboard

Over the course of a year, WordCamps take place nearly every weekend. Although you can view upcoming events on WordCamp Central, a relatively new plugin exist that enables you to see upcoming WordCamps on the WordPress Dashboard.

It’s called WordCamp Dashboard Widget developed by Ajit Bohra. Once activated, a new widget appears on the dashboard that lists upcoming WordCamps. Data is retrieved by using the public JSON API available on WordCamp Central, is stored in a transient, and refreshed every day to reflect new data.

Upcoming WordCamps Widget

Users can adjust the number of camps shown per page, sort events by location, date, or Twitter information. You can also display this information on any post or page using the [wordcamps] shortcode. The locations are linked to the event’s official WordCamp page. The @ symbol links to the official Twitter account associated with the event and the # symbol links to the official hashtag.

During testing I noticed that the Twitter account for some events was either missing or incorrect. For example, WordCamp London links to @wcldn when it should link to @WordCampLondon. I’m not a fan of the way dates are presented in a Day/Month/Year format as I prefer Month/Day/Year.

Bohra is continuing to improve the plugin with an option to refresh data, improve data fetching, and more filtering options for 1.0. I tested the plugin on a site running WordPress 4.8 alpha and didn’t encounter any issues. If you encounter a bug or have feedback, you can submit a new issue on the project’s GitHub page.

by Jeff Chandler at March 17, 2017 08:09 PM under wordcamps

WPTavern: Jetpack Introduces Theme Installation from WordPress.com, Sparks Controversy with Alternative Marketplace for Free Themes

Today Jetpack announced that its users now have access to a collection of 165 free themes from WordPress.com. Jetpack users can browse, preview, and activate themes by visiting the WordPress.com Theme Showcase. WordPress.com has also added the ability for Jetpack users to upload a theme from its interface as well, a feature that targets those who are heavily using Jetpack Manage instead of the WordPress admin.

Many of the free themes are already available from Automattic’s account on the WordPress.org Themes Directory, but the limitations of the preview functionality doesn’t present themes in their best light. The Theme Review Team added a new rule last year that theme authors can only upload one theme at a time and will have to wait for it to pass through the queue before submitting another. This severely restricts individuals and companies that are prolific theme authors, requiring them to wait months in the queue. Authors can realistically expect to only publish one or two themes per year on WordPress.org.

After Zerif Lite, one of the most popular themes on WordPress.org, was suspended for five months for violations of content portability requirements, Matt Mullenweg was one of the most vocal opponents of what he called “draconian requirements.” In 2015, Mullenweg went so far to say that he is “completely okay with having something in the directory that breaks every guideline, as long as it’s interesting.”

The Theme Review Team has not made significant changes that would give authors more freedom. Instead, much of the Team’s time seems to be spent looking for ways to reduce the queue. It’s no wonder that a company like Automattic, with the infrastructure of Jetpack Manage and WordPress.com, would choose to distribute themes via a more efficient route. However, this move has left some WordPress.org theme authors wondering if WordPress.org improvements will be less of a priority in the future.

“Today’s announcement is the glue that holds together Matt’s vision for the future .org experience, delivered via Jetpack,” WordPress.org theme author Matt Medeiros said. “Solving the dark cloud above the repo seems a lot less critical when we can throw Jetpack in front of users as an alternative. It’s a calculated measure to control the on-boarding experience of new users, which WP desperately needs for continued growth amidst a field of competitors like Wix and Squarespace.”

According to Jetpack team member Richard Muscat, WordPress.com has “no immediate plans to sell themes at this time.” Jetpack users have access to free themes but will not, in the foreseeable future, be invited to purchase WordPress.com’s commercial themes. The team also plans to continue its presence on WordPress.org.

“We have no plans to stop releasing themes into the .org directory,” Muscat said. “We just believe this makes an even nicer, more integrated experience for accessing the themes we offer on the WordPress.com side of things.”

Jetpack’s announcement has also reignited fears of what the plugin’s commercialization might do to the WordPress ecosystem. In the past, Mullenweg has identified both Jetpack and WooCommerce as “multi-billion dollar opportunities” that could each individually be larger than WordPress.com. If WordPress.org is failing to attract new users with its theme previews, then Jetpack/WordPress.com is likely to pull even more eyes away with its separate marketplace.

“As a small business (a label that’s critical) product creator, I see this as a motion in the direction to increase the visibility of Jetpack’s free/paid feature set, above the rest of us trying to desperately make a living out here,” Medeiros said. “Jetpack will be marketed as the one-stop-solution for all of your small business website needs, if that hasn’t already been woven into the fabric of it’s current messaging. It is ultimately positioning itself as the trusted source of functionality for new users, versus us ‘third-party’ plugins. After all, who wouldn’t trust the company ‘behind WordPress?'”

Ionut Neagu, CEO at Themeisle.com, and the author of Zerif Lite, shares Medeiros’ concerns about Jetpack’s more recent commercialization efforts.

“What worries me more is the speed at which Automattic is pushing Jetpack,” Neagu said. “The Personal plan was introduced, and yesterday I got a cold email from some company they work with promoting their affiliate program. Today themes were introduced. It makes me wonder how far they plan to go and how this will affect theme and plugin developers.”

However, Neagu takes a more optimistic stance on self-hosted users installing themes from WordPress.com.

“As a theme author, I am not that worried about this particular aspect. Right now those themes are quite hard to find (it took me 10 minutes), are more targeted towards people using Jetpack Manage, and as far as I can see lots of them are looking a bit outdated.”

Neagu sees a disconnect between what WordPress.org thinks users want and what they are actually looking for. Based on his research and experience selling themes, Neagu has found that users still expect complete solutions from themes. WordPress has grown beyond being just a blogging platform. Neagu said he hopes WordPress.org’s research for the new editor will reveal how many people are actually using the software for business.

“We run a themes directory as well and we did extensive heatmaps to understand what kind of themes/screenshots users click on/ like,” Neagu said. “Looking at the results of a ‘business’ query, I am quite sure that users won’t be excited.”

This is likely the first iteration, and data from more Jetpack users should help WordPress.com refine the queries to present a mix of newer and popular themes. At the moment it looks to be simply a way to offer all of their available themes without the red tape of WordPress.org.

Automattic Addresses Confusion Over WordPress.org Plugin Directory Guideline Regarding Executable Code and Installs

The news of WordPress.com installing and updating themes for Jetpack users gave rise to speculation about whether or not this move is a violation of the plugin directory guidelines. Discussions centered around guideline #8, which states that plugins may not send executable code via third-party systems:

Serving updates or otherwise installing plugins, themes, or add-ons from servers other than WordPress.org’s.

Jetpack representative Richard Muscat gave us the following statement on behalf of Automattic:

The guidelines prohibit _plugins_ from installing third party code directly but Jetpack doesn’t do that for this feature. The guidelines state that: “Executing outside code within a plugin *when not acting as a service* is not allowed.”

The service Jetpack provides with respect to themes is via WordPress.com which _is_ acting as a service. This is identical to how Akismet operates with respect to spam-filtering and other Jetpack services such as data sync and backup, content delivery (Photon), and plugin installation/updates.

We ask users to opt-in to WordPress.com services when connecting Jetpack and all our services follow established guidelines.

The public discussions also prompted WordPress.org Plugin Directory representatives to post an article clarifying that Jetpack is not in violation for installing themes.

“The trick here, and this is what is about to sound like hair splitting, is that it’s not the plugin UI on your site that does the install,” Mika Epstein said. “In order for Manage WP and Jetpack to work, you have to go to your panel on their sites and install the items.”

As SaaS products have not yet been used extensively in the WordPress ecosystem, developers are still figuring out how this type of implementation can interact with WordPress sites via plugins installed from the official directory. The plugin team clarified that if you are pushing plugin or theme installs or updates from a third-party service on its website, then it is no longer a third-party service but rather a first-party service where you are directly initiating those actions.

However, not all developers agree that this distinction makes any difference.

Gravity Forms founder Carl Hancock contends that ManageWP is different in that it doesn’t provide users with themes and plugins – it’s just a service for managing your sites.

“You can install plugins from the WordPress.org plugin and theme repository, you can connect your Dropbox account and install plugins from your Dropbox account, or you can upload your own plugins,” Hancock said. “The key is it’s either plugins and themes from WordPress.org OR bring your own. Just like WordPress itself.

“They [ManageWP] do not provide an alternative repository of themes and/or plugins that competes with the WordPress.org repos.”

This is where much of the controversy lies for WordPress.org theme authors who depend on the official directory for distribution. Competing with equally free themes that are hosted on WordPress.com with a much better sorting UI and preview functionality is a new challenge they will have to embrace.

by Sarah Gooding at March 17, 2017 12:08 AM under wordpress.com

March 16, 2017

WPTavern: U.S. Department of Defense Launches Code.mil Open Source Initiative, First Release Tests Impact of AGPL Licensing

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flies over northern Iraq Sept. 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria. – photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is experimenting with open sourcing more of its code on GitHub. Code.mil invites developers from around the world to collaborate with federal employees on unclassified code. The Defense Digital Service (DDS), which brings in experts from top technology companies like Google, Amazon, and Netflix for short assignments, is organizing the initiative to open source more government code.

“Open source and free software (which refers to software freedom, not free of cost) are industry best practices and integral parts of modern software development,” the department said in a statement announcing the initiative. “They, however, are concepts yet to be widely adopted within the department. With Code.mil, DoD can access a depth and breadth of technical skill previously underutilized while offering software tools created by the government for free public use.”

The FAQ document for the initiative states that “modern software is open sourced software” and that the department is aiming to more actively participate in the open source and free software communities.

Licensing is one of the unique challenges of making government code open source, as code written by federal employees is not protected by copyright under U.S. laws. After consulting the Open Source Initiative and Free Software Foundation, the DoD devised an open source licensing strategy where code written by federal employees will fall under the public domain with no restrictions. DDS developed a GitHub webhook to ensure commits from government employees follow the Developer Certificate of Origin process. Private sector contributions will be protected by standard OSS licenses. This is outlined in the INTENT.md document on the Code.mil repository.

Code.mil’s First Open Source Project Released Under AGPL to “Test GPL as an Approach”

In addressing one person’s feedback advocating for all Code.mil projects to be MIT-licensed, DDS engineer Tom Bereknyei confirmed that the team will leave this decision to each project’s leadership.

“We’ve had these same discussions internally,” Bereknyei said. “We did not want to endorse a particular license and we intend each project to decide which license is appropriate for them. Some may choose MIT, BSD, Apache, or eventually GPL. We did not want to take that choice away from them.”

eMCM, a web-based viewer for the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), is the first open source project to be released on Code.mil. It provides a canonical “live” edition of the manual that is easier to access and maintain than previous versions. eMCM was released this week under the AGPL license.

“We chose to use the Affero General Public License (AGPL) for the eMCM because every military member has the right to know how the raw legal code (i.e., MCM) will be transformed or manipulated by the eMCM,” the Defense Digital Service stated in the announcement. “Applying the AGPL is a small but important way to help ensure the public has that freedom and transparency to the process.”

In the pull-request for updating the license on the project, Bereknyei explained why he proposed the AGPL:

It’s a user-facing project, not a library. Ultimately it would be good to preserve the rights of the public to inspect how the raw MCM is transformed by the viewer.

Among the projects we have, this seems to be the best candidate for a GPL test. It is fairly self contained, doesn’t integrate with any systems, front-end heavy, small enough that a corporate rewrite is easy, and uses only a few libraries. My goal is only to test GPL as an approach. If this project isn’t suited, I’m sure we can find another.

When Bereknyei was questioned by DDS colleague Nicholas Small about why he opted for AGPL over MIT, he said he wanted to protect the code from being redistributed as closed-source.

“MIT would allow someone to fork, improve, and release closed-source,” Bereknyei said. “The rule of thumb I am trying to apply is that when the rights/convenience for developers are more important, go with MIT/BSD/ISC. When the rights/convenience for users are more important, go with GPL.”

Historically, the DoD has used GPL-licensed software extensively and even recommends government contractors select a GPL-compatible license when developing software as a deliverable in DoD contracts.

One beneficial byproduct of the DoD’s initiative to open source more code is that the public can watch and participate as federal employees discuss license selection in the open. The department is finally recognizing that taxpayer-funded code is a public good and inviting private sector professionals to the table to build modern software together. Anyone can open an issue or pull request, regardless of their background, location, or formal qualifications. The DoD plans to expand Code.mil to include projects from other DoD offices and may develop it into a full-fledged website instead of simply redirecting to GitHub.

by Sarah Gooding at March 16, 2017 04:50 AM under open-source

March 15, 2017

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 267 – Interview With Aaron D. Campbell, WordPress Security Team Lead

In this episode, Marcus Couch and I are joined by Aaron D. Campbell, WordPress Security Team Lead. Campbell provides insight into who’s on the team and what they do behind the scenes to coordinate security releases. We discuss the complex nature of disclosures, when to publish them, and how much information they should have.

In light of WordPress 4.7.2, Campbell shares the lessons he learned and how they’ll be applied to future releases. If you’ve ever wondered about the security aspects of WordPress, this is the episode for you.

Stories Discussed:

WooCommerce 3.0.0 Scheduled for Release April 4th

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

Facebook Live Chat for WordPress makes it easier for customers to connect with businesses via Facebook Messenger.

Contact Form 7 Database saves submissions from Contact Form 7 to the database for future reference. You can also view them in the WordPress backend.

Total Spent by Customer for WooCommerce adds a sortable column to the users list to show how much the user spent on your WooCommerce Store. This is useful to figure out who your top customers are.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, March 22nd 3:00 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Stitcher Radio: Click here to subscribe

Listen To Episode #267:

by Jeff Chandler at March 15, 2017 10:36 PM under woocommerce

HeroPress: Going Back To My Roots

Pull Quote: Thanks to the WordPress Community, I've made friends for life, travelled to new places, and had adventures I never thought possible,

“Get out there and look at that f****n car. Look at that f****n car!

And all of the good little office girls jumped up and ran outside to ogle and coo over the chairman’s latest “prestige motor.”

Me being me – someone who couldn’t care less about cars, or massaging the needy egos of the men who feel a need to show them off – I stayed sat at my desk and carried on with my work.

My absence outside would be noted, and would not do me any favours.

I had taken a job at a local business support organisation because I needed the work. I’d been told that my experience and abilities could benefit the organisation and, by extension, the local business community. The joke was on me.

In truth, the organisation was a back-slapping boys’ club which didn’t even have a business plan. Its main income source was, and remains to this day, the revenue from a vanity awards dinner, where members nominate themselves for meaningless awards and then pay thousands of pounds to find out if they won. Beyond that, its sole purpose was to provide the board and management with “prestige and status” (my manager’s words, not mine.) The office atmosphere was so toxic that the HR manager, faking every excuse in the book, hadn’t bothered to show up in months, which meant that I never saw a job description, had a performance review, or was signed up for the company pension; in fact, the only way I got a contract was by going in on a Saturday to type it up myself. It was all pretty ironic for an organisation which officially exists to support other businesses.

But bills need to be paid, so I kept my head down and did my work and breathed deeply through the increasingly dysfunctional dramas of the board and management.

Believing that you can keep calm and avoid office politics in a dysfunctional workplace is a unique form of denial.

By showing up for work in the morning, observing the backstabbing behavior around you, and keeping your nose above the parapet, you make yourself easy pickings.

It did not help that my job required me to read certain documents, pass on certain email exchanges, see certain expense receipts, and take minutes at certain meetings. I knew everything. I knew what everyone was up to. I knew too much.

The things I knew too much about erupted violently in the space of a fortnight. Sackings, retaliatory sackings, accusations, slanders, backstabs, screaming, lies, people literally being escorted out the back door, people breaking into file cabinets and document storage, the whole ugly lot.

I decided life was too short to put up with that nonsense and scurried off the sinking ship. Unemployment was preferable to working in a dysfunctional war zone.

A few days later I was sitting in my living room in my pajamas (as unemployed people do), staring blankly at the Christmas tree, barely aware if it was day or night, my head still spinning about what had just happened and what I was going to do next. Then there was a knock at the door. The postman, I assumed.

No, it was the police. They wanted to come in. So they did.

Allegations had been made. Statements had been taken. Criminal charges would be filed.

Against me.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you too, I replied as I saw them out.

Because that’s how office politics work, folks. You don’t walk away from egomaniacs on your own terms. That implies there is something wrong with them. They have to take you down on their own terms. That implies there is something wrong with you. You may think you have left the backstabbers to get on with their petty games without you taking the meeting minutes and processing the strip club expense receipts. You’re wrong. They have got to find a way to take you down and make you keep your mouth shut. And they will.

Moving On

I moved on with my life. I found a stable temp job which had the option to go permanent, and I was quite content with it. I even almost forgot about the police visit. The Scottish justice system, you see, is notoriously slow. So when a letter arrived four months later informing me that I would be standing in a criminal trial at the local sheriff court, I threw up.

I was throwing up all the time at that point because I had just found out I was pregnant.

Most women spend pregnancy in a dreamy haze surrounded by friends, family, and affection. I spent it taking unpaid breaks from my temp jobs to meet with a legal aid solicitor (being unemployed and on a temp wage, I couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer) to plan my defence. He was nice enough, but was clearly not sure what to make of the whole situation. He was used to dealing with actual crimes – stabbings, domestic assaults, and the like. And there was a five foot two pregnant lady in front of him explaining all the plot twists and characters in this pathetic real-life soap opera. He probably looked forward to getting back to the stabbings.

In the meantime, for health and safety reasons, I had to inform my temp employer about the pregnancy. The permanent job offer evaporated instantly.

I spent the rest of my time taking whatever demeaning temp admin jobs a heavily pregnant woman could get in order to work the minimum number of days required to qualify for the basic state maternity allowance, which at the time was £106 a week for six months.

Suffice to say my dignity took a bit of a beating that year.

By the time the date of preliminary hearing rolled around – again, the Scottish justice system being as slow as it is – I was on the edge of my third trimester. And so there I was, standing alone in the dock in a criminal courtroom, in sheriff court, next to drug dealers and knife thugs, wearing a hideous Marks and Spencer maternity dress, to plead not guilty to something that had never happened.

All of that because of office politics.

Now, the thing about legal aid is that you get what you pay for. My solicitor didn’t show up. He faxed an instruction to one of the solicitors at the sheriff court who acts on behalf of others in those matters. In hindsight, this was a strategy to suggest to the court that the case was so stupid it was not worth showing up for. On the day, though, I was completely, totally, alone, left to stand up and speak for myself.

The only person I had in the world to support me was kicking furiously in my stomach, as if to say: go, mum, go.

At that moment I had an insight. This, I realised, is it. This is the low point of my life. This is absolute rock bottom. It does not get any worse than this. From here, you can’t go any lower. It is only up from here. And that, standing there in that dock, was strangely liberating.

Now here’s the thing about elderly male judges in curly 18th century wigs. They’re not stupid. He took one look at the charge sheet, one look at the folder of statements and evidence against me, and one look at me. He asked the befuddled prosecuting solicitor what on earth was going on here; the solicitor replied that they were looking to gather more evidence against me. “And how much longer are we to wait for that? This was ten months ago,” he replied to her, very, very cross. This is all very interesting, I thought.

Two days later my solicitor phoned: the judge had ruled the case was “not in the public interest.” That is Scottish legal parlance for “an absolute load of crap.” All charges were dropped; I would have no criminal record; I was done. I was finished. I was free.

Well, free, unemployed, heavily pregnant, destitute, my reputation had been destroyed, and now I had a large hole in my CV which would be awfully difficult to explain. Other than that, I was fine.

Moving On Again

I went on state maternity pay early and took some time to get my head back together. That gave me the breathing space to realise a few things.

One was that I was done with office life. That meant I would have to find something to do on my own.

Two was that I was pretty good with this web stuff – I’d been making web sites since 1997, had been running a very popular web site since 1998, and had always been the go-to girl for the web site in everywhere I’d ever worked – and so I might as well do that for a living.

And three was that I had learned the law is bloody terrifying if you let other people blindside you with it. If you know what you are looking at, where you stand within it, and how others are seeking to use it to further their position, you are no longer a hapless bystander to it. You are an equal participant with a fair chance. That is your choice to make.

Setting Up Shop

So I set up shop as a self-employed web designer, working quite happily from home with my biggest fan babbling next to me in the playpen. The money wasn’t great, but my stress levels were non-existent, and I had no co-workers to stab me in the back.

Lack of co-workers should never mean lack of colleagues, though, and after a few years I realised local business networking groups simply weren’t for me. I also needed people other than the members of an ancient listserv to bounce questions and ideas off of in real-time. By this point I’d started playing around with WordPress, and I learned about a local meetup group. I tiptoed in one night and awkwardly introduced myself and was welcomed right in.

I realised over time that this was a very different sort of group. Everyone was grassroots volunteers, putting in the effort because they wanted to learn, not because they wanted social status. There was no tiresome hierarchy, no obsession with “prestige”, no kowtowing to the person with the sexiest car (in fact, we all took the bus.) If you had a question, you could ask it without being laughed out the room. No one was obliged to give anything more than they were able to give.

In short, it was my kind of group, and these were my kind of people.

After a few years we got ambitious enough to decide to put on a conference (which due to various reasons was a WordPress conference but not a WordCamp – ah, the good old days.) We were short of speakers. I suggested to Martin, the lead organiser, that someone should do a talk on that “cookie law” thing that at the time was coming into play very shortly.

“Thank you for volunteering,” said Martin.

“You’re a b*****d, you know that, Martin?” I replied.

So Martin sent me off to do my homework and put together this conference talk. I thought it would just be a simple slide deck: what the law is, how it works, how to comply. Much to my surprise, putting that talk together changed my life.

The Old Becomes New

As I sat at my laptop, doing the research, I felt something strange stirring. It was old me.

Old me, who had done an undergraduate degree in international politics. Old me, who’d been a policy intern at think tanks and research centers. Old me, who’d sat in Congressional committees and worked on the Hill and ate politics for breakfast. Old me who’d trained very hard to do one thing and had gotten sidetracked by real life and was now doing something else because something bad had happened. Old me was now new me reading the full text of a piece of EU legislation about how the internet is supposed to work while shouting at my laptop screen, “there is no bloody way that is ever going to work,” while my biggest fan looked at me baffled and then asked me for a cup of juice.

Whoever I was now, and whatever crap had happened to me in those intervening years, I was back.

That conference talk turned into an obsession. I began writing about law and policy issues that impact our work – be it regulations on accessibility, e-commerce, privacy and data protection, taxation, UX, contracts, copyright, geoblocking, or any of the smaller issues that touch our work every day. I even became a student again and earned a postgraduate certification in internet law and policy from the University of Strathclyde. I still did the client-facing web work but my enthusiasm for it waned by the month.

At WordCamp London 2015 I gave a talk on various digital policy issues, then spent the rest of the time sitting in the track devoted to charity and not-for-profit web sites, as that was what my business did. As the speakers gave their superb talks I felt myself sinking lower in my chair. Another insight. Oh, woman, you’re in the wrong job. This isn’t what you are supposed to be doing. For the first time I asked myself why I was devoting such passion to the digital policy side while still carrying on with a web design business I started up to give myself a job with a newborn baby. A few months later I was flown out to Seville on a few days’ notice to speak at WordCamp Europe, where I replaced a speaker who had been hospitalised. I felt a tremendous sense of obligation because of that – it was deeply humbling to be given an opportunity because of someone else’s illness – and I resolved to do more to give back to the WordPress community.

I hung up my web design mouse in the autumn of that year. I still do odd bits and bobs for a handful of existing clients but I now focus entirely on digital law and policy. My blog is read by the UK Parliament, the European Commission, and the US Department of State. I speak to non-WordPress groups ranging from Joomla developers to Ruby programmers, but WordPress remains my home and my community. I encourage members of the community to respect the law and to work within it, not to fear it. I think, all things considered, I’m more than qualified to understand why that’s true.

Thanks to the WordPress community I’ve made friends for life, travelled to new places, and had adventures I never thought possible. I’ve built a new career while connecting with the important things I thought I had left behind. And last year when I was pickpocketed en route to a conference talk, the WordPress community in that city – none of whom I had ever met – leapt into action to provide me with food, beer, and hugs. In a strange city where I didn’t speak the language and had no money, being part of the community meant I didn’t have to be scared and alone.

I’ve come a long way from that lonely courtroom dock.

The post Going Back To My Roots appeared first on HeroPress.

by Heather Burns at March 15, 2017 12:00 PM

WPTavern: Bocoup Launches Study to Measure Impact of Open Work on Developer Well-Being

photo credit: Lukasz Kowalewski

Bocoup, an open source technology and design consulting company, is recruiting for a new study that aims to “measure the impact of open work on developer well-being and productivity.” The company is partnering with MIT and UCLA to develop an open work email-bot that will interact with organizations that sign up to participate. The study is open to teams that use source control.

“We’re defining ‘open work’ as a project where tasks/work product are/can be shared outside the group immediately responsible for those tasks,” Bocoup Director of Research Boaz Sender said.

Participating organizations will get hooked up with Bocoup’s email-bot, which offers tools for recognizing team members or open source community members for their contributions to projects. Bocoup plans to publish the average results with the goal of educating businesses and policy makers about the value of open source work. Data from organizations participating in the study will be anonymized and untraceable.

With all the new ways of working together on the web (GitHub, Slack, GitLab, etc.) it’s good to see a company prioritizing research on how this impacts developers. The study begins in March and will end in June. If you’re interested to have your organization be a part of it, you can find out more on the signup form and get a better understanding of the time commitment on the FAQ page.

by Sarah Gooding at March 15, 2017 02:10 AM under News

March 14, 2017

WPTavern: WooCommerce 3.0.0 Scheduled for Release April 4th

Big changes are on the way for WooCommerce. Mike Jolley, lead developer of WooCommerce, announced that WooCommerce 2.7 will be versioned 3.0.0 with a scheduled release date of April 4th. During the 2.7 beta testing phase, the team discovered a significant bug in the way that timestamps are handled.

“Essentially, some developers need a way to reliably get UTC timestamps as well as dates according to the site’s timezone,” Jolley said. “To resolve this we’re working on a solution which accepts either a UTC timestamp, or an ISO8601 datetime string, and returns a DateTime object so timezone information can be retrieved if needed. This approach is not compatible with the get_date_x getters found in 2.7 beta.”

Beginning with WooCommerce 3.0.0, the project will use semantic versioning or SemVer. WooCommerce has incrementally versioned its releases similar to WordPress. For example, WooCommerce 2.5, 2.6, 2.7. Semantic versioning allows for three digit version numbers and should make it easier to discern major versions from maintenance and bug fix releases. The three digits stand for major, minor, and patch.

According to the SemVer site, each number is incremented when:

  • MAJOR version for incompatible API changes.
  • MINOR version when you add functionality in a backwards-compatible manner.
  • PATCH version when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes.

Under this system, WooCommerce 3.0.0 is a major update with 3.1.0 being a minor update. The next major update will be 4.0.0. Developers should take note that in 3.0.0 RC1, the versioning and @since properties are relabeled to 3.0.0. “If you have used version_compare statements in your code, they will still work since 3.0.0 is greater than 2.7.0, however, you can change these for clarity,” Jolley said. Themes with template files versioned 2.7.0 may need to be updated to use 3.0.0 to prevent reports of outdated template files.

In addition to version changes and fixing major bugs, the team is allowing up to three weeks for 3.0.0 RC1 to be tested. The amount of time to test has been extended from one week to three based on feedback from extension developers.

“An RC is really the first point in time when people can look at the code and feel confident it’s probably not going to change a lot before the official release,” Brent Shepherd, founder of Prospress Inc. said. “With that in mind, having 3 months of beta testing, but only 1 week for the RC, doesn’t make a lot of sense. It makes sense to give more time in that later stage after the RC.”

Josh Kohlbach, a WooCommerce extension developer, also agreed with extending the RC testing time. “Currently from our company’s perspective we’ve had to put other priorities on hold in order to put WC2.7 changes ahead,” Kohlbach said. “The 2.7 changes we were holding off on doing until RC, which is what we normally do.”

“However, when it was announced that there would be only one week between, we figured that wouldn’t be enough time for proper testing and pushing updates on all of our products so we’re compatible on day one,” he said. “It just isn’t enough time so we, like many others by the sounds of it, started making our compatibility fixes around Beta 2 this time even though we knew there might be more changes coming down the pipe before RC gets here.”

Extension developers are praising the team for changing to a semantic versioning system and extending the time to test Release Candidates. “I’m very happy to see these changes,” Shepherd said. “Big props for making the tough call late in the release cycle. Hopefully it will help ensure a smoother release for all WC users of this version.”

“I think this is a really positive move forward for WooCommerce,” Kohlback said. “I for one want to thank you on behalf of all the third-party developers for being so open and taking on board all of our various points, really makes us happy to be part of the community!”

If all goes well, you can expect to see an update for WooCommerce in your WordPress dashboard on April 4th.

by Jeff Chandler at March 14, 2017 10:23 PM under woocommerce

WPTavern: Varying Vagrant Vagrants 2.0.0 Introduces YAML Configuration, Revamps Documentation

Varying Vagrant Vagrants 2.0.0 was released yesterday with support for a YAML configuration file. This is a major improvement that gives VVV users more flexibility in customizing their configurations. The new vvv-config.yml file includes the defaults and users can create a vvv-custom.yml file to change the default provisioning. Utilities have been broken out into their own repository, allowing users to specify PHP 5.6, 7.0, or 7.1 for new projects.

“In the past, it was often difficult as a maintainer to say no to feature requests because I knew that the customizations would either be really annoying for someone to implement on their own or would require a fork, possibly losing the benefit of future changes,” VVV Project Lead Jeremy Felt said. “At the same time, it was hard to say yes because not everyone needs the same features. Those two clash, and the easiest answer is to stall. The new changes provide a pretty straight forward way of providing these custom changes and make it easy to stay in sync upstream.”

Version 2.0.0 was also released with new documentation on the VVV website. Contributors are migrating docs from the wiki on GitHub to the new website and plan to make them translatable in the future.

Felt also recently documented VVV’s governance model and promoted Lorelei Aurora to the role of Lead Developer on the project. VVV has 108 contributors, by Felt’s count, and he estimates approximately 100 clones of the project per day based on GitHub’s analytics. For the past five years, Felt has cultivated VVV’s growing community of contributors by developing a friendly and welcoming culture within the project.

“Very early on I read something about OSS project maintenance that inspired me to always greet new commenters, issue creators, and developers in an effort to make them feel welcome from the beginning,” Felt said. “Removing even the smallest hurdles of contributing to open source goes a long way. Being friendly encourages people to stick around. Even in small projects like VVV, it can be overwhelming to figure out if you’re doing things right.”

Felt said he wished he would have written the governance document sooner, because it provides a roadmap for contributors. He found that having this information available to the community from the beginning may be just as important as having a license in place.

“It starts to answer the ‘what kind of impact can I have’ question when someone is getting started,” Felt said. “The current list of committers is a little misleading in that they are all people who were very active early in the project, but not as much now. Their input continues to be trusted, but commit access probably won’t be used very much. This isn’t a bad thing, as a project goes through cycles, but something to keep track of as a maintainer. Having a process is a healthy thing. I’m hoping it attracts even more contributors!”

What’s Next on the VVV Roadmap?

The next focus on the VVV roadmap is building out the rest of the documentation on varyingvagrantvagrants.org. Felt said he hopes it will become a great place for basic setup, detailed guides, and frequent troubleshooting tips. Translated docs is the next item that Felt said he hopes can be a huge benefit to the project and the community.

“There are a couple things that would be fun for flexibility,” Felt said. “A long-running pull request that introduces PHP Brew would be nice to finally tackle. Introducing MySQL Sandbox would be cool. And who knows? Everyone should stop by and leave a note with the feature they’d like to see most. I’m more comfortable saying ‘no’ now.”

by Sarah Gooding at March 14, 2017 07:28 PM under VVV

WPTavern: WordPress.com Updates Its Post Editor With a Distraction-Free Interface

WordPress.com has unveiled a refreshed post editor that makes content front and center.

The most noticeable change is the user interface. The sidebar of meta boxes is now on the right-hand side instead of the left. Clicking the Post Settings link hides the sidebar, providing a cleaner interface. The preview and publish buttons are no longer in a metabox and are permanently displayed.

New WordPress.com Post Editor

Drafts are quickly accessible by clicking the number next to the Write button. Hovering over a draft title displays a small excerpt of the post. Unlike the distraction-free writing mode in the self-hosted version of WordPress, sidebars and other items on the screen do not disappear and reappear. This animation has been described by some as a distraction.

Joen Asmussen and Matías Ventura, two Automatticians based in Europe, helped create the new interface. In an interview conducted by John Maeda, Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, Asmussen describes what he’s most excited about with the improvements. 

“Everything has a right place,” Asmussen said. “In this iteration, we’ve tried to find those places for the preview and publish buttons, as well as the post settings. By making the buttons permanently visible and the sidebar optionally toggled, my hope is that the combination will provide a seamless flow for both the person who just wants to write, as well as the person who needs to configure their post settings.”

Ventura says he is happy to bring the focus back on the content by placing it in the center. “I’m also fond of the recent drafts menu next to the ‘Write’ button, as it provides a quick way to carry on with your unfinished posts,” he said. “These editor refinements have the potential to let your work on WordPress keep you deeply in the productive state of flow.”

The core team continues to work on a block based editor for the open-source WordPress project and Asmussen hints that this approach to writing could one day end up in the WordPress.com post editor.

After testing the new editor on WordPress.com, I can say that it’s more enjoyable to use than the distraction-free writing mode in WordPress. There’s less distraction, meta boxes are either on the screen or they’re not, and I enjoyed writing without interface elements disappearing and reappearing on the screen.

If you’d like to try the new editor on a self-hosted WordPress site, you can do so through Jetpack. Visit the Jetpack dashboard in the WordPress backend, click on the Apps link, then click the Try the New Editor button.

After using the new editor, let us know what you think. How does it compare to the writing experience currently in WordPress?

by Jeff Chandler at March 14, 2017 02:03 AM under wordpress.com

March 13, 2017

WPTavern: John Maeda’s 2017 Design in Tech Report Puts the Spotlight on Inclusive Design

John Maeda, Automattic’s Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion, presented his third annual “Design in Tech” report at SXSW over the weekend. The previous reports have received more than two million views and this one is equally loaded with thought-provoking information about the future of the design industry.

“Design isn’t just about beauty; it’s about market relevance and meaningful results,” Maeda said. He highlighted how design leaders are increasingly top hires at major corporations, due to market demand. Businesses are beginning to embrace design as a fundamental tool for success. Design used to be relegated to extra-curricular clubs in business schools, but many schools are shifting to include design in the curriculum.

Constant connectivity in the digital era has brought the idea of “computational design” to the forefront, which Maeda describes as “designing for billions of individual people and in realtime.” Designing at this scale requires an approach that is inclusive of the widest number of consumers, essentially designing for everyone.

Maeda believes that “design and inclusion are inseparable” and he is on a mission to prove that inclusive design is good business.

“When we separate inclusion into essentially an HR compliance topic, it loses its energy,” Maeda said. “It’s important, of course, but it loses the creativity that’s intrinsic to inclusion.” His 2017 Design in Tech report focuses on how inclusion matters in business. Maeda admits there are not many examples of how inclusion drives better financial outcomes, but one of his professional aims is to demonstrate how inclusive design can make a financial difference.

“That’s why I joined Automattic,” Maeda said. “My hope is that this approach can lead to better business outcomes for the WordPress ecosystem. I don’t know if it will be possible but that’s my goal. I want to show that it’s possible numerically.”

Making inclusive design profitable hinges on the principle that if you want to reach a larger market, you have to reach people you’re not already reaching by being inclusive. This new frontier of design requires some technical understanding outside of purely classical design. The hybrid designer/developer, often referred to as a “unicorn” in the tech industry, is often relied upon to bridge that gap.

Maeda predicts that the scarcity of hybrid designer/developers will soon decrease, due to how things are changing in the industry. After surveying design leaders in 2016, Maeda found that 1/3 had formal engineering/science training, suggesting that “hybrid” talent has considerably increased in recent years. He shared his observations from surveying Automattic designers and developers about JavaScript competency. He found a significant segment of designers approaching moderate fluency in JavaScript after WordPress’ 2015 initiative to encourage JavaScript mastery.

“The world is moving, and moving with the world is what designers do,” Maeda said. He also made a bold recommendation for those who are maintaining a design-only skill set:

“I encourage you, if you’re a pure pure designer, to ‘impurify yourself,’ because it’s a whole new world and there’s a lot to learn,” Maeda said. “Anyone who’s in this game, if you aren’t watching videos and learning, you get behind in two months.”

Maeda also encouraged listeners to shed biases that prevent them from seeing important trends and changes on the web. He addressed misconceptions about how products “made in China” are often thought of as something cheap or copycat, but China is moving forward in the mobile revolution in a far more advanced way than many other countries. He highlighted some major design trends pioneered by Chinese designers and how they are impacting the tech industry.

Maeda closely monitors design-related M&A activity and funds that are design and/or inclusion oriented. His data shows that tech companies are finding more value in design tool companies and design community platforms, with acquisitions steadily increasing every year. The value of design companies is especially evident in China where Maeda noted three designer co-founded Chinese companies have a combined market cap of over $300 billion.

He also shared what he has learned about designers since taking his position at Automattic, which employs more than 500 people working remotely across 50 countries.

“People want to have challenging work; they want to make change happen,” Maeda said. “With creative people this is their main driver. If that can’t be sated, they get unhappy and they leave. The problem is this kind of work is the kind that seems like bonus work, not the main work. So my question as a manager is, ‘How do I put the two together in some constructive way?’ How do you make time to learn and grow? That’s something I didn’t know was pervasive in a busy busy tech company.”

Maeda concludes that it is a good time to be a designer, especially if you’re willing to make up for the design education gap and teach yourself new skills online. His 2017 Design in Tech report is a must-read, not just for designers but for anyone working in tech or hiring tech talent. Check out the full report on WordPress.com. You can also listen to the audio of Maeda’s presentation while viewing the slides.

by Sarah Gooding at March 13, 2017 08:07 PM under design

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March 28, 2017 01:30 PM
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