21 Oct 2019

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WPTavern: Coming in WordPress 5.3: What is the PHP Spread Operator?

On October 9, Juliette Reinders Folmer announced on the core WordPress blog that WordPress 5.3 will use the spread operator. The spread operator was one of the new features made available in PHP 5.6, a version released in 2014.

WordPress abandoned PHP 5.2 - 5.5 with the release of WordPress 5.2. This means the core team can start taking advantage of relatively new features, or at least 5-year-old features. For plugin and theme developers who maintain the same minimum version support as WordPress, they can also start exploring this feature.

PHP 5.6 introduced two new methods of using the spread operator:

This feature shouldn't be confused with unpacking inside of arrays, which is only available in PHP 7.4.

The change in WordPress 5.3 is not expected to affect themes and plugins except in the rare case that a developer is overloading the wpdb::prepare() method. Developers should read the announcement post to dive into what code has changed in core WordPress.

Developers should check their plugins and themes with debugging enabled in a test environment to check for any notices. There may be cases where the function signature doesn't match.

The spread operator is a tool, and like any tool, it should be used when it makes sense. Because it is a language construct, it does offer speed improvements over traditional methods of using a PHP function.

The remainder of this post will dive into the using the spread operator to help teach WordPress developers how it works.

Creating a Variadic Function with the Spread Operator

Variadic functions are PHP functions that accept a variable number of arguments passed in. They have existed for years. However, they can be confusing without solid inline documentation from the developer who wrote the code.

In the past, developers would need to use the func_get_args(), func_get_arg(), or func_num_args() functions to work with variadic functions. In PHP 5.6, developers can use a parameter such as ...$var_name to represent a variable number of parameters.

Take a look at the following multiplication function. It will accept one, two, three, or even more numbers and multiply each.

function tavern_multiply( ...$numbers ) {

    $total = 1;

    foreach ( $numbers as $number ) {
        $total = $total * intval( $number );
    }

    return $total;
}

If we use that function as shown below, it will display 1024:

echo tavern_multiply( 2, 4, 8, 16 );

This is simple to do with the spread operator.

Unpacking Arrays as Function Arguments

PHP 5.6 allows developers to unpack arrays and traversable objects as function arguments. To explain how this works, look at the following multiplication function for multiplying three numbers together.

function tavern_multiply_three( $x, $y, $z ) {
        return $x * $y * $z;
}

Generally, you would need to manually pass the $x, $y, and $z parameters directly. However, there are cases in real-world projects where the data (numbers in this case) would already exist within an array such as:

$numbers = [ 3, 6, 9 ];

Prior to PHP 5.6, you would need to split that array and pass each value to the function as shown in the following snippet.

echo tavern_multiply_three( $numbers[0], $numbers[1], $numbers[2] );

With PHP 5.6, you can simply pass in ...$numbers like so:

echo tavern_multiply_three( ...$numbers );

Both methods work and will output 162. However, the second method is easier to read and is less prone to typos because it uses fewer characters.

Comparing Code Changes in WordPress

For a more practical example, let's compare a real-world code change in WordPress and how using the spread operator improves the code over other methods. We can do this by looking at the core current_user_can() function.

First, see how the code is written in WordPress 5.2 and earlier.

function current_user_can( $capability ) {
    $current_user = wp_get_current_user();

    if ( empty( $current_user ) ) {
        return false;
    }

    $args = array_slice( func_get_args(), 1 );
    $args = array_merge( array( $capability ), $args );

    return call_user_func_array( array( $current_user, 'has_cap' ), $args );
}

Without looking at the full function, most developers would assume that $capability is the only accepted parameter for this function. However, the function accepts a variable number of parameters. Previously, WordPress had to use func_get_args() to get all the parameters, slice the array, and merge everything back together.

It is inelegant coding, but it got the job done for old versions of PHP.

Now compare what the same function looks like in WordPress 5.3. First, you can see the ...$args parameter clearly in the function statement. You can also see there is no need for the clever coding to pass along a variable number of arguments.

function current_user_can( $capability, ...$args ) {
    $current_user = wp_get_current_user();

    if ( empty( $current_user ) ) {
        return false;
    }

    return $current_user->has_cap( $capability, ...$args );
}

The change in WordPress 5.3 is a massive improvement in readability in comparison to earlier versions. It is nice to see these types of improvements to the core code.

21 Oct 2019 4:43pm GMT

18 Oct 2019

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WPTavern: Product Reviews in the WordPress Ecosystem: Honesty and Genuine Experiences

I don't write fluff pieces. I call 'em like I see 'em. If your project is a dumpster fire, I'm going to say it's a dumpster fire.

Whenever someone comes to me in hopes that I review their product, I give them some form of the preceding paragraph. It doesn't matter if it is a plugin, theme, web host, or some other product. What matters is that I write my review with honesty and offer my genuine opinion about the thing they built.

I rarely read most product reviews in the WordPress community anymore. Far too often the reviewers are not offering their genuine experience with a product. You get something like "XYZ is a multi-purpose theme that is built for…yadda, yadda, yadda…" Yawn. It reads as if publishers are trying to sell a product. If you dig deep enough, you realize that is what many are doing (hello, affiliate links).

I also have it on good authority (I've seen some of the email exchanges) that a lot of money exchanges hands behinds the scenes for reviews. Most of the time, publishers are not writing a review of the product. They are selling you their dreams of a continued working relationship with the product maker.

There's nothing wrong with affiliate links if a publisher loves a product. There's no issue with paid reviews if such reviews are honest experiences with the product. There's also no problem with writing a love letter to your favorite plugin and theme with no financial incentive.

However, what I generally see are shallow reviews at best. Many, dare I say most, reviews are not genuine. They are certainly not real journalism.

The best place to find genuine reviews are from the user ratings on WordPress.org, assuming the plugin or theme is available there. Users tend to not hold back, particularly if their review is negative.

It is tough as an artist (yes, I consider all programmers artists). I've been on the receiving end of negative reviews of things I've built. You learn to grow thick skin after a decade of putting your art out into the world.

When I was younger, I tended to be a bit hot-headed whenever I got a bad review for something I had built. After pouring my heart and soul into a project, it cut deep to read a negative review. I wasn't always the most gracious receiver of such reviews. There are responses I wish I could take back. Looking at those times now, I wish I would have been more open to hearing what the reviewer was saying. Even if I disagreed with every word, it did not mean that the person wasn't providing me something of value with their review.

With age and I hope a little more wisdom, I usually give myself time to think about what someone is saying before I respond. I allow my thoughts time to develop and mature. Often, it turns out, critical reviews are far more helpful in making better art than all the five-star ratings in the world.

When I took the writing position at WP Tavern, I wanted to bring a review format to the website that is missing within our community. I wanted to do reviews based on my experience as both a user and a developer. I admit that I was not prepared for a negative reaction to what was in part a negative review. As always, I gave myself time to read and think over what some commenters were saying. This article is my response.

Reviews Are About Personal Experience

One of the things I learned early on as a writer is to not second guess myself, especially when writing an opinion piece. It is not good for one's mental health.

An opinion piece is about the moment. It is raw. It is passionate.

Writers' opinions may change over time. They are human and have the freedom to change their minds later. However, an opinion-based story should reflect that single moment in time and what the author's feelings are at that moment.

There's a common (and wholly incorrect) notion that journalism should be nothing more than facts, that subjectivity is not allowed. Throughout the several hundred years that some form of journalism has existed, there has never existed a point where the whole of the field was objective. Even in the early days of U.S. journalism, my country's founders published articles in newspapers to sway public opinion on ratifying the U.S. Constitution.

Reporting, which is one form of journalism, does not represent the whole. It is the most objective form of journalism in which the reporter simply tells the news to readers. We certainly do plenty of that at the Tavern. However, other forms like editorials, features, and reviews are as important. These forms take a different approach.

Reviews are the unwieldy beasts of journalism. They are hard to tame. They're not always pretty. However, they should always be true to their nature. They can bring out angry hoards of fanboys down on the critic (ever read the comments of a critical review of an Apple product?).

Honest reviews are about personal experience. If a film critic dislikes the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is that critic's duty to write about their experience watching it. The reviewer has an obligation to not huddle in fear of Iron Man fanatics who will inevitably send ad hominem attacks his way. Holding back one's opinion within a review is the ultimate sin of a critic.

Like with any products or forms of art, WordPress plugins and themes are not immune to this same criticism. Such criticism is even more important when the software costs money and potential buyers may be looking for genuine reviews.

Disagreement with a review is OK. Disagreements are more interesting than everyone nodding their heads in unison. What a boring world it would be if we were all in agreement.

However, I did want to address comments on my previous review about it being unfair, specifically the unfairness of my personal experience. It's that personal experience that makes a review genuine. Not everyone's experience will be the same. One person's one-star rating does not discount another's five stars. They are equally valid because they represent different experiences.

Developers Are Users Too

There's a common idea in the WordPress community that developers are not users, that our experiences don't count because our knowledge and skillsets are more advanced than the average. At first glance, the argument makes some sense. However, after giving it some serious thought, I reject the notion.

Martin Scorsese can't criticize films because he makes films. There's no way he can feel what the average person does at the cinema.

Beyoncé can't judge a music competition because she's a singer. She's not listening with the ears of a normal human.

Wait; that's not right, is it?

Why is it that developers' opinions are so easily discounted when they are critical of user experience? I use WordPress, different themes, and various plugins every day. I use those that make me happy or serve essential functions. I don't necessarily pick plugins out because I like their code. I use them because I too am a user in every way that a non-developer is a user. Having the ability to articulate the problems from a different viewpoint doesn't change that.

In many ways, developers can provide more useful software reviews than "average" users because we have some past experience solving the same problems.

Offering a Genuine Review

One thing you will always get from me is honesty. When I review a WordPress-related product, you will always read about my personal experience.

I was fully prepared to say that the gloves are coming off, but the gloves have always been off. I will never hold back criticism. I'm always ready to pile on the praise too.

But, I won't lie to you.

Who's ready to have their theme or plugin reviewed next?

18 Oct 2019 4:42pm GMT

17 Oct 2019

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WPTavern: Chilean News Publication El Soberano First to Launch on Newspack

El Soberano homepage on the Newspack platform.

Nine months after the announcement of Newspack by WordPress.com, the Chilean news site El Soberano became the first publication to launch on the new platform. On October 16, the small news team relaunched with a fresh design powered by the Newspack theme and its newsroom-focused plugins.

Newspack is a project of Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. Its goal is to work with leaders in the news industry to create a platform that brings WordPress to more newsrooms. This year, the team behind Newspack has worked with several publications to address obstacles in journalism on the web.

The Newspack team was primarily advised by 12 publications during their first phase. Most of those publications are based in the U.S., but a few, such as El Soberano, are from other countries. The Daily Maverick from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting from California came on as advisers from the outset. However, they may also launch on Newspack sometime in the coming months.

"We had 10 sites that we're going to launch as soon as possible," said Steve Beatty, head of Newspack Communications. "Of the 10, one dropped out as they changed publishers. So that leaves El Soberano and eight others, and those eight should launch in the coming weeks - certainly by year's end. We've got the next few queued up."

During the initial phase, Beatty said the team was looking for small to medium-sized newsrooms that were covering local news or niche publications. The development hurdles would likely have been much higher starting with large organizations.

"We wanted newsroom leaders who were willing to experiment and try something bold and different, knowing that there was a very real chance of growing pains," said Beatty. "The partners in our pilot newsrooms have been incredibly helpful, patient, understanding and cheerful. I'm not sure we screened for all that in the application process, but it's worked out quite well."

El Soberano is a Fitting Launch Partner

Content Director Roberto Bruna (left) and Executive Director Ana Arriagada (right).

WordPress.com claims its "mission is to democratize publishing one website at a time." El Soberano, based in Santiago, is a smaller news publication with three people on the current full-time staff. Their goal is to connect citizens with organizations that will help defend their rights. The publication covers social movements within the country and to be an outlet for independent journalism.

"In our news outlet we believe that only the organized people are sovereign of their destiny," said Roberto Bruna, Content Director at El Soberano. "Our name 'El Soberano' is all about el pueblo soberano, the 'sovereign people' in English. For us, individual rights and freedoms are crucial. Then, things like a secular state and civil rights, such as the legalization of cannabis, homoparental adoption or the right to a safe abortion, are things we report about."

Bruna further defined the publication's goals.

In El Soberano we defend an environment free of contamination; equal opportunities for women, ending the precariousness of their lives; a real pension system for citizens; sexual dissidence, to guarantee their equal rights and inclusion; a new development model based on innovation and knowledge; a secular state and freedom with critical thinking; urban planning and good housing solutions; consumers and a healthy and sustainable market and, finally, mechanisms that aim to create truly democratic constitutions for our countries.

El Soberano does not give space for other interest groups because such groups have the means to make their opinions publicly available. Instead, its mission is to report on social issues directly from citizens. "In them lies the power of decision regarding the direction that our democracies must take," said Bruna.

Launching El Soberano with Newspack

As one of the first publications to launch with a new system, it's tough to be a pioneer when a lot is riding on success. Ana Arriagada, Executive Director of El Soberano, was ready to take the news website to the next level after three years.

"When we decided to take the next step and transform El Soberano into a sustainable environment, it was a great achievement for us to be chosen for the Newspack pilot with other eleven news outlets," said Arriagada. "We were the only news site in Spanish and from Latin America, so we felt very proud."

Arriagada has worked with the Newspack development team over the past six months to help guide them on what tools are needed to run a newsroom.

The decision to apply for the Newspack pilot program was in part due to avoiding pitfalls they had seen with other digital media websites. "Friends with their websites hijacked by a former 'friend' developer when they try to move to a new platform, custom developments that only the author understood, huge invoices for maintenance hours, or even spending months working on a design that was not possible at the end," said Arriagada. They wanted to avoid other problems such as taking too long to apply changes to the homepage in the fast-paced world of journalism where new stories should be front and center.

Arriagada said such problems were resolved with Newspack and their team can concentrate on editorial and revenue generation.

El Soberano originally launched on WordPress.com in January 2016. Arriagada said it was nearly impossible to find a good selection of templates that were built specifically to solve the problems of the news industry. "In Newspack we have the chance to combine different content blocks adapted to our needs, showing content in flexible ways," said Arriagada. "Now we have tools designed to generate revenue with the experience and best practices from world-class digital media."

Arriagada called working with the Newspack team a "journey of discovery." In the beginning, it wasn't clear how the team would use the information they were collecting from El Soberano and other publications or how the team would resolve issues based on the information provided. Eventually, they received design proposals, which allowed them to get a feel for what they wanted and to further provide feedback to the Newspack team.

"Later, we received the access to the platform where we were able to play around, putting things in order, creating and implementing what we were looking for," said Arriagada. "More feedback, corrections, hopes, and dreams."

She said that working with the Content Blocks system allowed her team to better create and assemble their homepage and articles. "But maybe the most interesting thing for us," said Arriagada, "was that Newspack team and other news sites from the pilot program proposed things that we don't consider for our site, such as an ultra-flexible donation system or workflow systems. We see a lot of power in that collaborative way to develop a product."

The Future of Newspack

Newspack launched phase two of its program in July, which sought to bring 50 more newsrooms to the platform. The new publications should be announced shortly.

"Both the initial pilot group and this group of 50 (or so) are part of the one-year development period, which ends on February 29," said Beatty. "We're still determining what will happen on March 1. We'll have a better sense of that when we start working with the 50 and see how quickly we can turn them around."

Like much of Automattic's work, it is open source and freely available to the public. Newspack is a collection of packages to create a platform for newsrooms. Of note are the following repositories.

Developers can find all eight plugins from the Automattic GitHub page if they want to give them a spin.

17 Oct 2019 5:56pm GMT

16 Oct 2019

feedWordPress Planet

WordPress.org blog: Empowering Generations of Digital Natives

Technology is changing faster each year. Digital literacy can vary between ages but there are lots of ways different generations can work together and empower each as digital citizens.

No matter whether you're a parent or caregiver, teacher or mentor, it's hard to know the best way to teach younger generations the skills needed to be an excellent digital citizen. If you're not confident about your own tech skills, you may wonder how you can help younger generations become savvy digital citizens. But using technology responsibly is about more than just technical skills. By collaborating across generations, you can also strengthen all your family members' skills, and offer a shared understanding of what the internet can provide and how to use it to help your neighborhoods and wider society.

Taking Gen Z Beyond Digital Savvy

Open up the dialogue

Even if you're not fully confident in your own tech skills, you can help develop digital citizenship skills in others. If you feel comfortable during everyday conversation, you could describe a tech situation you have come across and ask family members if they have ever experienced something similar. You can give them a chance to share how they handled it or how it made them feel. This can help encourage them to think critically and to react with empathy. And being asked for advice can make them feel appreciated and empowered. But opening up the conversation can also be as simple as asking if they've seen anything online lately that they found interesting or wanted to talk about.

Share access to free and affordable training

Open source content management systems have made online publishing accessible to a more diverse group of people. Dozens of content platforms offer hands-on training at no or low cost. WordPress.tv, LinkedIn Learning, and others have low-cost video libraries with thousands of recorded talks and workshops and the WordPress Training team have excellent downloadable lesson plans and materials. These platforms not only feature content that helps develop tech and content creation skills but also content around ethics, diversity and community building.

Find a sense of community and belonging

One of the disadvantages of increased digitalization is that younger generations and us all may spend less time hanging out in-person. Digital time spent with others is no replacement for in-person interactions. The awareness and mutual understanding which comes from back and forth interaction is needed for positive interpersonal skills. This is hard to replace in digital communities and those skills can only be learned with lots of hands-on practice.

Learn the many benefits of volunteering

There are WordPress events across the world that provide a great place to learn new skills to share with your families and friends. Some work with schools and colleges to offer special events which are open to all ages. There are also plenty of small ways to volunteer with the WordPress project that can be done at home to practice new skills.

In addition to attending events where you can learn skills and hang out with others with similar interests, the WordPress ecosystem offers countless opportunities to be actively involved. Professionals, hobbyists, and learners all make a difference by contributing to the ongoing creation of the WordPress platform. Together these people, who are known as contributors, form the WordPress open source community.

WordPress is created by volunteer contributors

Not only are these contributors creating an amazingly flexible platform for all to use, it is an environment where you can continue to improve your skills, both technical and interpersonal. Open-source software projects can introduce you to people you would otherwise not get the chance to meet, locally and internationally. If you have a zest for learning, and for finding others to connect with, WordPress has many ways to meet contributors in person!

WordPress events are organized by volunteers

WordPress community events are volunteer-run. This can be a great way to give back to the project and practice all sorts of skills. Talk to your local event about how you could get involved and if you would like to bring older teenagers and young adults with you. You will not need any pre-existing tech skills to attend these events but they are a great way to discover areas you might want to learn more about.

Contributor days offer a great opportunity to get involved

These events are specially designed to help you get involved in building the open-source WordPress platform. You can collaborate with other members of its community and find areas that are right for you to use and grow your skills. All of the tasks you will discover at an event can be continued at home and some are easy to get other family members involved in learning and adding in ideas.

Contributors come from all sorts of backgrounds and locations, some may live near you and others thousands of miles away. Working alongside lots of different cultures and countries can open up new ideas for young people letting them learn new ways of doing things and discover different perspectives. All those different perspectives can cause misunderstandings. But being involved in a global learning community is a great way to practice communicating across cultural boundaries.

Getting involved can be rewarding in many (unexpected) ways

The most rewarding part of actively taking part in WordPress events is making budding friendships. New connections often turn into long-lasting friendships that are likely to continue for years to come, both online and offline. With a global community, these friendships can potentially lead to lots of international adventures too!

Getting ready for the @WordCampBTN. I've got my 5kg backpack and one-way ticket to London in a few days 🤩 What shall I do after? 🙂 pic.twitter.com/cdQqeyNWif

- Sabrina Zeidan going to #WCKyiv (@sabrina_zeidan) August 10, 2019

Make our digital world safer and more inclusive

Befriending people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds can be an enriching experience in itself. It can also help you make us make more informed decisions. The more we interact with a diverse range of people, the more empathic we become. Some of the most valuable learning that can be offered to Gen Z (and probably to all of us at times) is that what we come across in fast-moving digital communities isn't always the entire view.

All things considered….

Anyone who is a digital native may not need encouragement to obtain tech skills. But they may not be aware that digital communities are still communities and we need to use the same sorts of people skills for both offline and online locations. Opening up conversations about situations they may experience online that may require them to (re)act responsibly, can encourage them to think critically and act with empathy. Compared to previous generations, digital natives spend substantially more time by themselves while using devices, so encouraging them to join real-life communities, such as WordPress, could be the first step to learning what it means to be a good digital citizen!

Contributors

@webcommsat, @chanthaboune, @yvettesonneveld & Annemarie de Haan

16 Oct 2019 8:03pm GMT

WPTavern: Mark Davies Joins Automattic as Chief Financial Officer

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, and various other products, announced earlier today that Mark Davies has joined the team as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This news comes fresh off the heels of Automattic's acquisition of Tumblr in August and a $300 million Series D investment from Salesforce Ventures in September. The investment round gave the company a $3 billion valuation after the funding.

Davies graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor's degree in accounting and earned his MBA in finance at Arizona State University. He has since worked for large companies in key roles. Prior to taking the position with Automattic, Davies served as the CFO at Vivint, a North American smart home technology company.

Vivint was founded in 1999 and claims over $1 billion in annual revenue. In 2012, The Blackstone Group purchased the company for over $2 billion. Davies came on board in 2013 and would have played a large role in growing the company's annual revenue.

Vivint announced on October 15 that Davies was leaving the company. "Mark has created a talented and experienced finance team with a solid track record of growth and financial discipline," said Todd Pedersen, co-founder and CEO of Vivint Smart Home. "We thank him for his six years with the company and wish him the best in his next role."

Before joining Vivint, Davies served as president of global business services with Alcoa. He was also a member of the Alcoa Executive Council. Prior to that position, he spent 12 years at Dell Inc. in various roles. His most recent position was as the managing vice president of strategic programs. He earlier served as the CFO of Dell's Global Consumer Group, which is a $14 billion enterprise with operations across the world. He held positions with Applied Materials and HP earlier in his career.

Davies should play a key role in helping Automattic grow beyond its current levels of revenue. He has the credentials and experience to do so.

"Automattic is creating the operating system for the web, from websites to ecommerce to social networks," said Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO of Automattic and co-founder of WordPress. "As we zoom past 1,100 employees in over 70 countries, we wanted a financial leader with experience taking businesses from hundreds of millions in revenue to billions and even tens of billions, as Mark has. I'm excited about working alongside such an experienced leader day-to-day to build one of the defining technology companies of this era."

Mullenweg if often cited saying that he would like to see WordPress have an 85% share of the web. Currently, WordPress runs over 34% of the top 10 million websites. Automattic would certainly play a role in pushing the platform toward that lofty goal. He and David Heinemeier Hansson discussed the dynamics of power in open source communities and whether such a goal was healthy for the web earlier this month. In the discussion, Mullenweg clarified that 85% was a "trailing indicator" rather than a goal.

Stuart West served as Automattic's CFO for the last seven years. He will continue working within the company, but there is no word on what that new role is. "I want to thank Stu for his significant contributions to Automattic during his seven and a half years as CFO," said Mullenweg. "He built a talented finance team during a period of 10x growth in staff and revenue and played an essential role in the success of our company."

16 Oct 2019 3:49pm GMT

Matt: New Automattic CFO

As Venturebeat has picked up, Mark Davies will be leaving Vivint and joining the merry band. Automattic is creating the operating system for the web, from websites to ecommerce to social networks. As we zoom past 1,100 employees in over 70 countries, we wanted a financial leader with experience taking businesses from hundreds of millions in revenue to billions (Vivint) and even tens of billions (Alcoa and Dell), as Mark has. I'm excited about working alongside such an experienced leader day-to-day to build what I hope will become one of the defining technology companies of the open web era.

16 Oct 2019 3:28pm GMT

15 Oct 2019

feedWordPress Planet

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.3 Release Candidate

The first release candidate for WordPress 5.3 is now available!

This is an important milestone as we progress toward the WordPress 5.3 release date. "Release Candidate" means that the new version is ready for release, but with millions of users and thousands of plugins and themes, it's possible something was missed. WordPress 5.3 is currently scheduled to be released on November 12, 2019, but we need your help to get there-if you haven't tried 5.3 yet, now is the time!

There are two ways to test the WordPress 5.3 release candidate:

What's in WordPress 5.3?

WordPress 5.3 expands and refines the Block Editor introduced in WordPress 5.0 with new blocks, more intuitive interactions, and improved accessibility. New features in the editor increase design freedoms, provide additional layout options and style variations to allow designers complete control over the look of a site.

This release also introduces the Twenty Twenty theme giving the user more design flexibility and integration with the Block Editor.

In addition, WordPress 5.3 allows developers to work with dates and timezones in a more reliable way and prepares the software to work with PHP 7.4 to be release later this year.

Plugin and Theme Developers

Please test your plugins and themes against WordPress 5.3 and update the Tested up to version in the readme file to 5.3. If you find compatibility problems, please be sure to post to the support forums so we can figure those out before the final release.

The WordPress 5.3 Field Guide will be published within the next 24 hours with a more detailed dive into the major changes.

How to Help

Do you speak a language other than English? Help us translate WordPress into more than 100 languages! This release also marks the hard string freeze point of the 5.3 release schedule.

If you think you've found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We'd love to hear from you! If you're comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on WordPress Trac, where you can also find a list of known bugs.

15 Oct 2019 9:18pm GMT

WordPress.org blog: Responsible Participation In Online Communities

In our first article in this series, we highlighted the WordPress mission to democratize publishing. WordPress introduced a tool to independent and small publishers who did not have the resources of the larger publishing platforms. Access to a free content management system to create websites has empowered thousands of people to find their voice online. People have been able to share their enthusiasm for hobbies, causes, products and much more. Through these different voices, we can encourage understanding, spark creativity, and create environments where collaboration can happen. But as we build more digital communities, it's easy to forget that online safety is a group effort.

Digital literacy is also part of being a good digital citizen, but it's more than just being able to do basic actions with your mobile device. Digital literacy refers to the range of skills needed to do online research, set up web accounts, and find solutions for fixing devices among other things. But to be able to enjoy more of the digital world safely and responsibly - to be a good digital citizen - we need to be able to:

We will need our offline analytical and social skills to make that happen.

Here's some best practices our community members have shared!

Online or offline, let empathy be your compass

The hardest part about all of this is the anonymity of online interactions. Without that face-to-face feedback of saying something mean to another person's face, it's easy to upset the people you're trying to communicate with.

In our daily lives in the offline world, comments may be more tempered and slow to anger in disagreements. Visual cues will help us determine how a remark is perceived. That, in turn, helps us adjust our behaviour Action, reaction, it's how we learn best.

Online, however, the experience is different. A keyboard does not protest if we type angry, hate-filled messages. A screen does not show any signs of being hurt. The lack of physical human presence combined with the anonymity of online alter-egos can be a formula for disrespectful and unfriendly behavior. It is good to remind ourselves that behind the avatars, nicknames and handles are real people. The same empathy we display in our in-person interactions should apply online as well.

Critically evaluate your sources

We all have times when we consume information with limited research and fact-checking. For some of us, it feels like there's no time to research and compare sources when faced by a sea of online information. For others, there may be uncertainty about where to start and what to consider. But, without a bit of skepticism and analytical thinking, we run the risk of creating narrow or incorrect understanding of the world. With a little effort we can curb the sharing of fake news and biased information, particularly on topics that are new to us or that we're not familiar with.

Misinformation can spread like wildfire. Ask these simple questions to evaluate information online:

Own our content

In this day and age, it's never been easier to just copy, paste and publish somebody else's content. That doesn't mean that we should! Publishing content that is not truly 'yours' in wording and tone of voice is unlikely to build a connection with the right audience. But, just as important, using someone else's content may breach copyright and potentially intellectual property rights.

For more information about intellectual property, visit the World Intellectual Property Organization website.

Don't breeze past terms and conditions

Have you ever signed up for an online service (to help you distribute published content or accept payments) that was offered at no cost? In our fast-paced digital lives, we tend to want to breeze past terms and conditions or warning information and often miss important information about what will happen with our data.

When we are given a contract on paper, we tend to read and re-read it, giving it a greater priority of our time. We may send it to other people for a second opinion or seek further review before signing. Remarkably, we rarely do that with online agreements. As a result, we may be putting our online privacy and security at risk. (WordPress uses a GPL license, and only collects usage data that we never share ever.).

Keep your website safe and healthy

If you would like to own your voice online, you also need to protect your reputation by securing your publishing platform. Websites can face security attacks. Hackers may seek to obtain access through insecure settings, outdated plugins and old software versions, and in extreme cases can try to scam your visitors. And leaking customer data, may even lead to legal consequences.

On top of that, websites 'flagged' for security issues, can lead to high bounce rates and eventual loss of search rankings. This can all affect how search engines rate or even block your site.

Good practices to keep your website safe include changing your safe password regularly, installing security software, an SSL certificate and keeping the core software, plugins and themes up to date. This will not guarantee that you will keep hackers out, so always keep several backups of your site, ideally both offline and online.

That is just website security in a tiny nutshell. If you would like to learn more about keeping websites safe, you may want to check out some of these resources and many more videos at WordPress.tv.

Join in and help make the web a better place!

As part of Digital Citizenship Week, we would like to encourage you to learn and share skills with your colleagues, friends and family members. That way, we all become more informed of potential issues and how to reduce the risks. Together we can make it easier to navigate the web more effectively and securely!

Additional resources

Site health check

WordPress 5.2 introduced pages in the admin interface to help users run health checks on their sites. They can be found under the Tools menu.

Security and SSL

Contributors

@chanthaboune, @yvettesonneveld, @webcommsat, @muzhdekad @alexdenning, @natashadrewnicki, @oglekler, and Daria Gogoleva.


15 Oct 2019 7:41pm GMT

WPTavern: Kioken Blocks Partners with Gutenslider Plugin

Kioken Blocks creator Onur Oztaskiran is teaming up with Niklas Jurij Plessing, a Berlin-based developer and author of the Gutenslider plugin, to improve both products under the same roof. Oztaskiran said the partnership is not an acquisition but rather a unification of efforts that may eventually result in combining under the same name.

"Our short term plan is to work on each other's plugins to improve them according to our individual areas of expertise (me in design, marketing and user happiness, him in development and more technical stuff where I fall short), and then fully collaborate on plugins and themes," Oztaskiran said.

Gutenslider will remain a standalone plugin and will not be merged into Kioken Blocks. Both products will share similar resources in terms of functionality and support. The team plans to work on porting their products to be ready for WordPress.org's upcoming Block Directory. Pro users of Kioken Blocks will be able to use the pro functionalities of Gutenslider and the team plans to make Gutenslider work like an extension to Kioken Blocks.

"Gutenslider is pretty extensive at it is, and we thought it deserves to keep going as a standalone block and plugin, since it will be also available in the upcoming Block Directory for Gutenberg," Oztaskiran said. "We will handle it as another product even though it is under the same roof as Kioken Blocks. We will continue adding new features to that block and improve the experience and Kioken Blocks will gain new blocks as well, but not as extensive as Gutenslider. There's a possibility we could rename the block but that's not the case at the moment."

Oztaskiran said he sees a lot of possibilities in Gutenslider, because it is not just an image and video slider but capable of adding different types of block content on top of the slides, such as paragraphs, headings, images, galleries, products, and more.

"Since the future of Gutenberg, as we see it, is going to be shaped around the Block Directory in the editor, our plan is focusing more blocks on that directory, with the Kioken Blocks as a builder on top of them as a plugin," Oztaskiran said. "The final goal is building an ecosystem for WordPress users who have adopted the new editor - products, plugins and themes with a streamlined interface and experience. Dev partnerships are the first step of it."

Oztaskiran could not confirm if the product catalog will be combining under one company name. The final decision has not yet been made but he said it is likely that they will combine under the Kioken branding sometime in the future for marketing their WordPress products.

15 Oct 2019 7:03pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress 5.2.4 Release Addresses Several Security Issues

The core WordPress team released version 5.2.4 of WordPress on October 14. The release addresses six security issues that were all privately reported through WordPress' responsible disclosure procedure.

Like any security release, users should update immediately to the latest version to keep their sites secure.

For those with automatic updates enabled, the new version is already rolling out to sites. All major branches of WordPress from version 3.7 to 5.2 received the new security fixes. If automatic updates are not enabled, users should update from the "Updates" screen under "Dashboard" in the WordPress admin. Otherwise, users can download WordPress from the release archive and manually run an update to make sure their site is not at risk to what are now publicly-known vulnerabilities.

In the release announcement, the following security issues were noted. They were corrected in all updated versions.

For developers who want to dive more into the code changes, the changeset is available on GitHub. Most changes should not affect plugins or themes. However, it is worth noting that the static query property was removed in this release. This removal affects both the WP and WP_Query classes. Developers should test their plugins against this version to make sure nothing is broken if their projects rely on this property. It is unlikely that many plugins rely on this query variable.

WordPress 5.2.4 also includes a couple of other bug fixes. One removes a line of code that makes an extra call to the wp-sanitize.js script in the script loader. The second fix addresses an issue where the directory path wasn't normalized on Windows systems, which led to the wp_validate_redirect() function removing the domain. This fixes a bug created in WordPress 5.2.3.

15 Oct 2019 3:52pm GMT

WPTavern: Meetup.com Introduces RSVP Fees for Members, WordPress Meetup Groups Unaffected by Pricing Changes

Meetup, a subsidiary of WeWork, has announced a significant change to its pricing structure that will require members to pay a $2 fee in order to RSVP to events. The change will go into effect in October, ostensibly to distribute meetup costs more evenly between organizers and members. Some meetup organizers have received the following message:

Meetup is always looking for ways to improve the experience for everyone in our community. One of the options we are currently exploring is whether we reduce cost for organizers and introduce a small fee for members.

Beginning in October, members of select groups will be charged a small fee to reserve their spot at events. The event fee can be paid by members or organizers can cover the cost of events to make it free for members.

Organizers have the option to subsidize the $2 fee for members who RSVP so that it is entirely free for those who attend, but for popular groups this can become cost prohibitive. If 1,000 members RSVP for an event, the organizer would owe $2,000 to host it.

The new pricing does not apply to non-profit groups or Pro Networks. WordPress community organizer Andrea Middleton has confirmed that Meetup's pricing changes will not affect groups that are part of the official WordPress chapter. In 2018, WordPress had 691 meetup groups in 99 countries with more than 106,000 members. According to Meetup.com, groups in the official chapter now number 780 in 2019. Middleton encouraged any outlying WordPress meetup groups to join the official chapter by submitting an application.

Meetup organizers and members who are affected by the pricing hike are unhappy about the changes. If the angry responses on Twitter are any indication, people are leaving the platform in droves. Many organizers have announced that they are cancelling their subscriptions and looking to migrate to other platforms, such as Kommunity or gettogether.community, an open source alternative for managing local events.

No competitor has the reach or brand recognition that Meetup has. Some groups will inevitably resort to using Eventbrite or Facebook to manage local meetups but neither of these are focused on promoting or growing these types of local events. Discovery and new meetup marketing are Meetup.com's forte, but the platform has been fairly stagnant when it comes to improving the user experience.

"This new move is quite onerous on users, and WP is lending support to the platform, which is proprietary and for-profit," Morten Rand-Hendriksen said. "The optics and messaging are not great. When tools we use start to act in problematic ways, and we keep using them, we are tacitly agreeing to and even promoting that behavior even if it is not directly affecting us."

Andrea Middleton responded, acknowledging that WordPress' use of certain platforms will sometimes involve compromise.

"It's true that WordPress contributors use various proprietary and for-profit tools to help us achieve various outreach and coordination goals," Middleton said. "I think we strive for a balance between expediency and idealism, but of course any compromise results in a loss of one or the other."

Given the immediate backlash following Meetup.com's announcement of the pricing changes, it would not be surprising to see the decision reversed. The company characterized the move as an "exploration" and plans to roll it out gradually to more meetups. For organizers who are looking to charge more on top of the fee to cover event costs, Meetup said this feature is coming soon.

15 Oct 2019 4:12am GMT

14 Oct 2019

feedWordPress Planet

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.2.4 Security Release

WordPress 5.2.4 is now available! This security release fixes 6 security issues.

WordPress versions 5.2.3 and earlier are affected by these bugs, which are fixed in version 5.2.4. Updated versions of WordPress 5.1 and earlier are also available for any users who have not yet updated to 5.2.

Security Updates

Thank you to all of the reporters for privately disclosing the vulnerabilities, which gave us time to fix them before WordPress sites could be attacked.

For more info, browse the full list of changes on Trac or check out the Version 5.2.4 documentation page.

WordPress 5.2.4 is a short-cycle security release. The next major release will be version 5.3.

You can download WordPress 5.2.4 or visit Dashboard → Updates and click Update Now. Sites that support automatic background updates have already started to update automatically.

In addition to the security researchers mentioned above, thank you to everyone who contributed to WordPress 5.2.4:

Aaron D. Campbell, darthhexx, David Binovec, Jonathan Desrosiers, Ian Dunn, Jeff Paul, Nick Daugherty, Konstantin Obenland, Peter Wilson, Sergey Biryukov, Stanimir Stoyanov, Garth Mortensen, vortfu, Weston Ruter, Jake Spurlock, and Alex Concha.

14 Oct 2019 9:54pm GMT

WPTavern: AMP Project Joins OpenJS Foundation Incubation Program

Last week at the AMP Contributor Summit 2019 in New York City, the AMP project announced that it will be joining the OpenJS Foundation incubation program. OpenJS was formed by a recent merger between the JS Foundation and the Node.js Foundation. AMP will join webpack, jQuery, Mocha, Node.js, ESLint, Grunt, and other open source projects that have OpenJS as their legal entity.

Over the past year, AMP has been evolving its governance, moving to an open, consensus-seeking governance model in 2018, similar to the one adopted by the Node.js project. One of the primary objectives of changing AMP's governance and moving to a foundation was to foster a wider variety of contributions to the project and its technical and product roadmap. The incubation process will address AMP's lack of contributor diversity and inclusion, as only past or current Google employees have commit rights on the code base.

In recognition of how the project's connection to Google has been problematic for adoption, the company is transferring AMP's domains and trademarks to OpenJS, which is a vender-neutral organization, as outlined in the FAQs of OpenJS' announcement:

The OpenJS Foundation prides itself on vendor neutrality. Our vested interest resides solely in the ecosystem and the projects that contribute to that ecosystem. The OpenJS Foundation's Cross Project Council is committed to supporting AMP in addressing these issues and ensure continued progress. During onboarding, AMP will also go through a multi-step process including adopting the OpenJS Foundation Code of Conduct, transferring domains and trademarks and more to graduation from incubation. AMP has made incredible strides by adopting a new governance model and by joining the OpenJS Foundation, they've made their intentions clear-AMP is committed to its vision of "A strong, user-first open web forever."

Google is, however, a Platinum member of the OpenJS Foundation with annual dues of more than $250K per year. This membership guarantees the company direct participation in running the Foundation, a guaranteed board seat, and have a direct voice in budget and policy decisions. Google plans to maintain its team of employees who contribute full time to the AMP project.

According to Tobie Langel, a member AMP's advisory committee, one of the changes in moving to the OpenJS Foundation is AMP's governance model will no longer be under the purview of Google and the ultimate goal is that Google will cease funding AMP directly. Instead, the company will direct funds through the foundation and work to remove the project's Google dependencies for its infrastructure and tooling.

OpenJS Aims to Disentangle AMP Runtime from Google Cache

Gaining full infrastructural independence from Google will be no small feat for AMP contributors. The OpenJS Foundation's announcement states that one of the long term goals in moving the project over is to disentangle the AMP runtime from the Google AMP Cache:

The end goal is to separate the AMP runtime from the Google AMP Cache. The Project is currently in the incubating stage and Project leaders are still determining the next steps. Ideally, hosting and deployment of the AMP runtime to the CDN would fall under the purview of the OpenJS Foundation, much like the foundation is handling other projects CDNs, such as the jQuery CDN.

Untangling the runtime from the cache is a complex endeavor requiring significant investments of time and effort which would be planned and implemented in collaboration with the foundation and industry stakeholders during and after incubation.

The OpenJS Foundation CPC is committed to having a long-term strategy in place to address this issue by the end of AMP's incubation.

AMP is used on more than 30 million domains. While many see this news as a positive move towards AMP's eventual independence from Google, it doesn't remove Google's power to compel publishers to support the AMP standard by prioritizing AMP pages in search results. The news was received with skepticism by commenters on Hacker News and Reddit, who deemed it "mostly meaningless window-dressing," given how aggressively Google is pushing AMP in its search engine. AMP remains deeply controversial and moving it to a foundation that is heavily financially backed by Google is not enough to win over those who see it as Google's attempt to shape the web for its own interests.

14 Oct 2019 8:52pm GMT

WPTavern: Inside Look at GoDaddy’s Onboarding Process for Managed WordPress Hosting

The Tavern was provided access to test GoDaddy's onboarding process, which is a part of its managed WordPress hosting service. The company has revamped its system since we covered it in 2016. The web host has had time to garner feedback since then and build an easy-to-use, headache-free way to launch WordPress sites.

GoDaddy has been making waves in the WordPress community over the past few years and is quickly becoming one of the most dominant businesses in the ecosystem. Several of the company's free WordPress themes consistently rank in the theme directory's popular list. Most of them are child themes of their popular Primer theme, which boasts 40,000+ active installs when not counting child theme installs. The real count should be north of 200,000.

GoDaddy provided access to its Pro 5+ tier, which is its highest level of managed WordPress hosting. They have three lower tiers, each at different price points and with fewer features. Regular pricing for the tiers range between $9.99 and $34.99 per month. All levels include automatic backups, security scans, caching, and a slew of other features that are not always easy to figure out for new users.

Aaron Campbell , GoDaddy's head of WordPress Ecosystem & Community, said that their hosting service is growing quickly. "We were among the largest WordPress hosts when we launched our Managed WordPress Hosting in 2014," he said. "Within 2 years our offering became the largest Managed WordPress platform in the world and remains so to this day."

GoDaddy launched its basic onboarding process later in 2014. They iterated on that version through 2018. "When Gutenberg went into core in WordPress 5.0 we saw an opportunity to redefine the WordPress onboarding and imagine what a 'Gutenberg native' experience would look like," said Campbell. "Meaning, do what Gutenberg uniquely enables us to do over what was possible before-things that couldn't be done by making existing themes Gutenberg 'compatible' we had to build from the ground up."

Based on my experience with the product, I would have no qualms about recommending it to new or even more experienced users. Even those with no experience running WordPress can create a new site without trouble in far less time than it'd take to go through the normal, more complex process.

How the Onboarding Process Works

One of the hardest things to know prior to signing up for a service and handing over your credit card number is how the service works. For this reason, I snagged a few screenshots and will do a quick walk-through of the process.

Once you are ready to build your new website, the service provides a "Set up" link that sends you to GoDaddy's onboarding screen. There are three paths to choose from. The first and most prominent is to view the available templates, which is the path that new users would choose. You can also manually set up WordPress or migrate an existing site.

When selecting to view templates, the service presents over 50 options to choose from. The templates are further grouped by category based on the type of site a user might want to create. I chose the "Beckah J." option because it worked for my idea of creating a life-wellness site.

Each of the templates are created from GoDaddy's new Go WordPress theme, which is currently available via GitHub and awaiting review for placement in the official WordPress theme directory.

After selecting a template, the process moves to a preview screen, which has buttons to switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile views. From that point, you can choose to use the template or go back and select another.

This was the first point of the process that felt like it needed polishing. The preview frame was too small to get a feel for what the site would look like on desktop or tablet. This is a fixable problem. There's plenty of screen real estate GoDaddy could use to make the preview nicer.

The next screen allows users to enter information about what type of site they want to run. Depending on which of the following checkboxes are ticked, GoDaddy will set up the site differently.

After completing the final form, GoDaddy begins creating the site. The host sets up the site with one or more of several plugins based on the choices made in the previous form.

The site installation process was slower than I had expected. We live in a fast-paced world where users expect things to happen nearly instantly. I admit I was antsy while waiting for the process to complete, in part because everything else happened so quickly. I wondered if I had time to grab a sandwich. In reality, it was much faster than manually setting up a WordPress install, but the setup did take a few minutes of waiting. My experience may have been an anomaly too. Sometimes these things take time.

A Website Ready to Go

Out of the box, my newly-created site had five custom pages ready based on my choices during the onboarding process.

It was nice to see WooCommerce ready and a contact form set up with my email (handled by the CoBlocks plugin). I would rather have seen contact, account, and cart page slugs for their respective pages, but that's a personal preference.

The site came with seven plugins installed, five of which were activated.

CoBlocks along with theme integration for the block editor is what made the process of working with the website a breeze. GoDaddy acquired the CoBlocks plugin in April. At the time, the plugin had 30,000+ active installs. It has since grown to 80,000+ in the few months since GoDaddy has taken over.

The Onboarding Process Provides a Nice User Experience

I've been critical of GoDaddy over the years. I am a customer of one of their other hosting products that launched years ago. That particular site is stuck on PHP 5.6, which has given me the feeling that the company is not focused on its older projects. However, Campbell said they are in the process of moving users on legacy hosting products to a newer platform.

I've been cautiously optimistic about the work GoDaddy has been doing within the WordPress community. They've more than shown their commitment to the WordPress platform over the past few years.

Despite a couple of minor hiccups, the onboarding process the hosting giant has built is one of the best experiences I have ever had launching a WordPress site. Even as an old pro, I'd consider using it for future projects, particularly when setting up sites for less tech-savvy family and friends.

14 Oct 2019 8:30pm GMT

WordPress.org blog: Becoming Better Digital Citizens Through Open Source

The WordPress Project is on a mission to democratize publishing. As WordPress empowers more people to participate in the digital space, we have the opportunity to make sure that everyone can participate safely and responsibly. Today marks the start of Digital Citizenship Week. We are going to share how open source can be used as a tool for learners (regardless of age) to practice and model the essential parts of being a good digital citizen.

What is digital citizenship?

The digital landscape constantly changes and this affects the way we use the internet. New platforms emerge, people find different ways to spread information, communities form, grow and fade away every day. The concepts and practice of promoting civil discourse, critical thinking and safe use of the internet still remain central. And that is exactly what digital citizenship is about.

"Put simply, digital citizenship is a lot like citizenship in any other community - the knowledge of how to engage with digital communities you're part of in a way that is thoughtful, safe, and makes appropriate use of the technology."

Josepha Haden, Executive Director WordPress Project

Who is a digital citizen?

Digital Citizenship is for all age groups. Anyone who uses the internet on a computer, mobile device or a TV is a digital citizen. You don't have to be tech-savvy already, maybe you are taking your first steps with technology. Digital Citizenship Week is a chance to reflect together on our impact on the digital world. It can help us to make our consumption more considered and our interaction friendlier. It enables us to make a positive difference to those around us.

All of us can strive (or learn) to become better digital citizens. It can be affected by the access those teaching have had to digital skills and good practice. Adult education classes and community tech hubs play a part in basic tech skill development. Unfortunately, these are not always accessible to those in less populated geographic locations.

Open source communities like WordPress already make a difference in encouraging the principles of digital citizenship, from sharing tech skills to improving security knowledge. They give people an opportunity to learn alongside their peers and many of the resources are available regardless of location, resources, or skills.

What can we do as part of the WordPress community?

Digital citizenship skills, like many other skills needed in this tech-focused world, should be kept up-to-date. Open source communities offer unparalleled opportunities to do this and are available in countries across the world. As part of our role as members of WordPress and other communities, we can pass on such skills to others. For instance by working alongside people who have had limited experience of digital skills. Or by finding new ways of making this knowledge sharing fun and accessible.

Here are just a few of the ways we do and can make an even greater difference:

You can also get involved with specific events that have grown out of the wider WordPress project, championed by enthusiasts and those wanting to improve specific digital skills and bring wider benefits to society.

Community-driven Events

For example, WordPress Translation Day in 2019 had 81 local events worldwide. Running for 24-hours, individuals with language skills translated aspects of the platform into multiple languages with a total of 1181 projects modified. An amazing 221 new translators joined on the day. In addition, there was a live stream with talks, panel discussions, interviews, and sharing of tips and skills to help others learn how to translate. Volunteers are now planning the event for 2020!

Stories of how people came together for WordPress Translation Day


Interviews with some of the participants from a previous WordPress Translation Day giving a flavour of how volunteers developed this event.

Do_action days are WordPress events organized in local communities to help give charities their own online presence. Each event involves members of the local WordPress community, planning and building new websites for selected local organizations in one day. Some take place in a working day, others on weekends.

Volunteer Tess Coughlan-Allen talking about how people came together for the first do_action in Europe to help local charities.

Find the next do_action hackaton nearby your home town.

Improving digital skills through WordPress


In this video clip, Josepha talks about the Digital Divide and what current technological trends mean for it in the future. She explores what it takes to be literate in the digital landscape and how WordPress can be used to build and perfect those skills.

Contributors

Thanks to @webcommsat for researching and writing this article and @yvettesonneveld for her supporting work in this series.

14 Oct 2019 7:31am GMT

11 Oct 2019

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: Edit Flow Future in Flux: Here Are 5 Alternative Plugins

After years of unpredictable development and support, it seemed the Edit Flow plugin had finally given up the ghost last week when an Automattic support representative confirmed that it is no longer being actively developed and recommended users switch to an alternative. Nick Gernert, head of WordPress.com VIP, has since commented on our post to clarify the company's intentions. He said Automattic is "in no way dropping support for Edit Flow:"

I'll start by saying we are in no way dropping support for Edit Flow.

We do see a difference between active feature development and maintenance updates to a plugin and this post tends to use these things interchangeably. It is correct that we are not currently pushing new features for Edit Flow. However, we are committed to maintaining this and other plugins so that those who depend on them are able to continue to do so.

We face the same challenge that many in software face when it comes to supporting existing work while looking to the future and where to invest energy. I hope folks can understand the delicate balance here. We accept that we have fallen short at times when it comes to maintaining our existing work and appreciate the community holding us accountable.

Gernert also said the company's VIP service is "seeing demand for WordPress in the enterprise market like never before." The team is doubling down on its commitment to product development for this market and Gernert said outlook for Edit Flow and other Automattic plugins should improve:

VIP is more committed than ever to product development for the unique needs of this space. We have recently brought on a new Head of Product and Engineering. With the addition of this role, there is a commitment to focused product development and that includes ensuring key plugins like Edit Flow are maintained. Presently, that maintenance includes security updates, critical bugs, ensuring compatibility with new versions of WordPress, and directly supporting VIP customer use. Going forward the VIP Product and Engineering teams are committed to allocating time to regularly review and address issues and provide regular updates to the plugins. As we stabilize on maintenance, new feature development will pick up in areas where we see unique opportunity.

Users and developers seemed wary of this response, given the plugin's history and more recent experiences of trying to contribute to its upkeep. James Miller, a developer who was using Edit Flow on a client project, shared his experience trying to submit a PR for a bug fix.

"It doesn't seem like it's even being given a level of attention at the most basic level of what could be considered 'maintained,'" Miller said. "This plugin was breaking functionality of other plugins on a client site.

"I forked the repo, fixed the issue, and submitted a PR on January 26. After several months of periodic commenting and asking if anybody was even maintaining the repo, it finally got merged just last month. This doesn't seem to me like a commitment to maintaining the plugin."

What Does this Mean for Edit Flow Users?

If you're not currently experiencing any critical bugs and you don't require additional features beyond what it offers, Edit Flow may be still be a good option if Automattic is able to improve its maintenance. As previously predicted, any new features coming to this plugin will be those that "directly support VIP customer use."

Support for the plugin has not improved over the last week, so users may still be waiting for updates and fixes for awhile. The support forums indicate that multiple users continue to report issues with both the block editor and the classic editor, as well as conflicts with other plugins. This is likely why Automattic support representatives recommend users fork Edit Flow or switch to another solution.

In support of smaller WordPress-powered publications that have an immediate need for editorial tools, we have compiled a list of alternatives that offer more frequent maintenance and support. Edit Flow's primary features include a calendar, custom statuses, editorial comments, editorial metadata, notifications, story budget, and user groups. One of the alternatives below may be a suitable replacement, depending on which features are most important to your editorial workflow.

PublishPress

PublishPress is the plugin that Automattic recommended as an alternative, and it is the closest one to matching Edit Flow's features. It has 7,000 active installs and is used by companies, non-profits, educational institutions, magazines, newspapers, and blogs.

In the free plugin, PublishPress provides an editorial calendar, notifications, editorial comments, custom statuses, content overview, and the ability to create custom metadata for posts. Its creators also offer commercial add-ons for things like a content checklist, Slack notifications, multiple authors, WooCommerce checklist, and more.

Since PublishPress is actually a fork of the Edit Flow plugin, users can migrate seamlessly from Edit Flow without losing any data or settings using the plugin's built-in migration utility.

The PublishPress team has also created several other publishing plugins that may also be useful for different editorial needs, including PublishPress Revisions, PressPermit, and Capability Manager Enhanced.

Oasis Workflow

Oasis Workflow is a plugin that allows site admins to create custom workflows for content review. It includes three process/task templates for assignment, review, and publishing actions with role-based routing. Workflows can be configured using a drag-and-drop interface. The plugin supports custom statuses, process history, task reassignment, due dates, and email reminders.

Oasis Workflow is often used in healthcare, law and financial firms, universities, CPA firms, non-profits, news outlets, and other organizations that require a formal review process for publishing. A commercial version of the plugin includes features like multiple workflows, auto submit, revisions for published content, with add-ons for editorial contextual comments, teams, groups, and more.

Nelio Content

Nelio Content is a plugin with 6,000 active installs that includes an editorial calendar, editorial comments, tasks, and a content assistant. It also helps users schedule and automatically promote content on social networks. The plugin integrates relevant metrics from Google Analytics and social media accounts to assist users in promoting content.

Editorial Calendar

If the editorial calendar feature of Edit Flow is the only one you need, then the Editorial Calendar plugin might be a good alternative. It is used on more than 40,000 WordPress sites. The plugin provides an overview of when each post will be published, supports multiple authors, the ability to rearrange the schedule with drag-and-drop capabilities, and edit posts directly in the calendar.

WP Scheduled Posts

WP Scheduled Posts is another editorial calendar plugin that makes it easy to manage multiple authors from one place. It includes a visual calendar that can be manipulated via drag-and-drop, allowing users to easily add posts in the queue or create new posts inside the calendar. The plugin has a dashboard widget that displays post statuses for single or multiple authors.

The commercial version of WP Scheduled Posts is targeted at the scheduling aspects of publishing. It offers an auto-scheduler where users can create rules to publish content automatically, as well as a missed schedule handler for automatically publishing posts that didn't go out on schedule.

11 Oct 2019 9:21pm GMT