09 Jul 2020

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WPTavern: Open Source Initiative to Host Virtual State of the Source Summit, September 9-10

OSI (Open Source Initiative) is hosting a new 24-hour, virtual conference called State of the Source Summit, September 9-10. The non-profit organization plays an important role in the open source ecosystem as stewards of the Open Source Definition (OSD). OSI is responsible for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD-conformant, which indirectly helps mediate community conflicts.

As part of the organization's overall mission to educate the public on the economic and strategic advantages of open source technologies and licenses, OSI is hosting a global summit to facilitate conversations on the current state of open source software.

"We are so very excited to host our first-ever conference, with a global approach," OSI Board President Josh Simmons said. "State of the Source provides an opportunity for both the open source software community and the OSI-all those who have contributed so much-to reflect on how we got here, why we have succeeded, and what needs to happen now."

The conference will run four tracks with sessions that fall under these general groupings:

OSI has identified several example topics for each track, to guide potential presenters in writing a proposal. The first track encompasses more OSI-specific topics, such as license proliferation and license enforcement.

Projects & People includes topics that apply more broadly to communities and organizations - open source business models, sustainability, patents, and trademarks. The Principles, Policy, and Practices track is geared towards application and example topics include things like explaining a license to your peers, learning how to select a license for your project, and compliance, compatibility, and re-licensing.

As more conferences are forced to move to a virtual format, the wider open source community has the opportunity to be more engaged in an event like State of the Source. It's a good venue for addressing non-technical issues related to the challenges facing open source maintainers and the community. The call for proposals ends July 16, and speakers will be announced August 25.

09 Jul 2020 10:07pm GMT

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.5 Adds Single Gallery Image Editing, Allows Image Uploads From External Sources, and Improves Drag and Drop

On Wednesday, the Gutenberg team released version 8.5 of its plugin to the public. This will be the final major plugin release to make its way into the upcoming WordPress 5.5, which has a target release date of August 11. This update does not include any groundbreaking features, but it does offer several enhancements and polishes the product.

Gutenberg 8.5 introduces the ability to upload images from third-party sites instead of simply hotlinking them. It also improves the drag-and-drop experience with blocks, adds an edit button for images in galleries, and moves reusable blocks to their own tab in the inserter.

Users can also now add an HTML anchor/ID to all static blocks. This was a relatively minor change but provides tremendous value. No longer will users need to switch to code editing mode and risk validation issues to add a basic HTML ID.

Upload External Images

New upload external image button.

The largest enhancement in Gutenberg 8.5 is an improvement to inserting an image from an external URL. This update allows users to upload the image to their media library.

In past versions, users could insert an image from any URL. However, the image would remain hosted on that external site. The problem was that the end-user had no control over what happened to that image in the future. The third-party site could disappear. The site owner could remove or replace the image. The image shown on users' sites may not have been what they intended.

The upload process is manual rather than automatic. After inserting an image via a URL, the editor toolbar will have a new upload icon with an arrow that points up. Users must click it to add the image to their media library.

The additional benefit of self-hosting the image is that the editor's other image tools become available. Users can resize, rotate, or crop the image, options which were added to Gutenberg 8.4.

Improved Drag and Drop

Dragging multiple blocks in the editor.

I had forgotten there was even a drag-and-drop feature for the block editor. Since it was introduced, I have never used it outside of testing. It is also not available when using Top Toolbar mode, which is my go-to choice.

The editor now allows dragging and dropping multi-block selections. The dragging-and-scrolling behavior is much approved. Instead of scrolling when reaching the edge of the viewport, the window scrolls almost immediately as you drag.

Despite the improvement, I do not find the drag-and-drop feature efficient in comparison to using the up/down arrows to move a block. However, I have never been much of a fan of dragging and dropping elements. Discoverability suffers because the hand icon that appears when hovering the toolbar is not a great indicator that I can drag the block, especially given its similarity to the normal hand cursor when moving my mouse. Some sort of directional arrow icon would make more sense and distinguish it.

Edit Single Gallery Images

Editing an individual gallery image.

Gutenberg 8.5 features a new edit button on the individual images within a gallery block. This allows end-users to replace the image on the spot.

This is one of my favorite features to make it in before the upcoming WordPress 5.5 deadline. It has been one of those minor nit-picks for the past couple of years that I have wanted to see addressed. Overall, the team has done a solid job of making it work.

However, it is not quite perfect yet. The biggest issue comes after clicking the edit button. Suddenly, there is no good way to cancel the edit if I change my mind. I got around this limitation by choosing to add an image from the media library, which automatically had the previous image selected. My first thought was to click the x icon. However, that removes the image from the gallery. A trashcan icon makes more sense for removing the image while the x icon makes more sense for canceling an action.

Reusable Blocks Tab

New reusable blocks tab in the inserter.

Reusable blocks are no longer tucked away at the bottom of the normal blocks list in the inserter. The team has moved them to their own tab. The inserter is now separated into Blocks, Patterns, and Reusable tabs. This will be an entirely new experience for users when WordPress 5.5 drops because the patterns feature and its corresponding tab are also new.

Moving the reusable blocks to a separate tab better exposes the feature. The previous location in which they were situated at the bottom of the blocks list hid them from anyone who did not scroll to the end. For far too long, this powerful feature was not getting the exposure that it deserved. Perhaps this new location will correct that.

The next step would be to finally add a reusable blocks menu item that is accessible from anywhere in the WordPress admin. We will likely have to wait for the WordPress admin block directory for that to happen.

09 Jul 2020 9:00pm GMT

WPTavern: WordPress University Was Always Online

Did anybody listen to Peter Thiel? In 2011, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, dubbed "contrarian investor" by the New York Times, created the Thiel Fellowship. A collection of 24 youngsters under the age of 20 were awarded $100,000 in exchange for dropping out of college to start tech companies.

Thiel said:

I believe you have a bubble whenever you have something that's overvalued and intensely believed. In education, you have this clear price escalation without incredible improvement in the product. At the same time you have this incredible intensity of belief that this is what people have to do…It seems very similar in some ways to the housing bubble and the tech bubble.

Thiel had struck a raw cultural nerve. For years, as the world reeled and slowly recovered from a financial crisis, the quality of higher education was rapidly degrading while tuition costs were steadily increasing.

As more colleges make the switch to online only in the response to the pandemic, and the "college experience" becomes a relic of a bygone era, one wonders what the future of the university might look like.

Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, founders of PayPal. Typical underachievers.

Does a college education still improve economic outcomes in any significant way?

For people interested in tech careers, the answer is probably no. A college education produces minimal, if any, value. In effect, the university model, with American student loan debt amounting to $1.6 trillion, seems to do more harm than good.

COVID-19 has taught the world many harsh lessons and forced us all to reckon with difficult conclusions. But it has also shown us the promise and potential we might have otherwise passed without comment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median salary for a web developer comes to $73,760 per year, or $35.46 per hour, with no former work experience in related occupations required. The bureau lists an associate's degree as the typical entry-level education, which, at most colleges, amounts to 5-6 semesters-considerably smaller investment than a four year degree.

But with readily available-and free-online courses in WordPress, HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript, and the ubiquity of certification programs and "boot camps," even an associate's degree seems like overkill. When anyone, from any background, can launch a $70,000 per year career with no more experience than a few free courses available through any public library, we have either entered an era of unparalleled prosperity-or The Twilight Zone.

Should any web developer decide to pick up full stack development skills, or expand into general software engineering, the median salary jumps up to six figures. And this is before we get to the new frontiers of big data and "the cloud."

Instead of thinking in monotone sentiments like "learn to code," let's imagine a generation raised under the banner of learn how to learn.

"The computer was a tool," says John Dorner, IT coordinator for a USDA grant program, and WordPress developer. Starting his career as a 4-H program leader and agricultural extension agent for the University of Georgia in the 1980s, Dorner discovered computing as a shortcut to efficiency.

It wasn't so easy to learn computers in those days. Tasks any high-schooler would consider common today required deep knowledge of how hardware and software worked together. There were no hard drives. Dorner had to employ two floppy disks, one with the operating system and application and one with his data, in order to create a spreadsheet.

"Writing code without the Internet was…interesting," Dorner recalls. Learning PHP and MySQL from a recliner, balancing a laptop on his lap, and a book on the arm of the chair, Dorner demonstrates that the will to learn can exist outside of the classroom.

During our conversation over Google Meet, we talked about the alternatives available to people young and old, and from virtually any socio-economic background, who are interested in pursuing careers in IT or development.

Before opting for an associate's degree, there are shorter duration programs available. Boot camps and certification programs provide rigorous course work and leave their students with some experience and a portfolio-and no student debt.

Dorner says:

Most web agencies would hire people if [they've] got a certificate, a portfolio, or some way to prove [they] have the skills…That's more important than a full degree. Now, if you want to work at IBM, they might require a Bachelor's or Master's Degree. And there is a lot you can learn in those [full degree] programs. But somebody coming out of [community college or a boot camp] can get a good job and something starting.

In addition to free courses online, Dorner suggests that WordPress can be a powerful accelerant to tackling bigger concepts in web development. The WordPress path to web mastery works in "layers."

"WordPress is a good starting point," Dorner says. "[You] can do a lot in WordPress without knowing any code." Once one has achieved a level of comfort with the WordPress interface, he can start adding custom CSS rules. From there, he can try his hand at child themes. And before long, full themes and plugins.

"The more you hack, the more you learn."

In addition to learning the WordPress interface, the learner is being exposed to deeper concepts like web servers, open source philosophy, and version control.

What is left for the universities to cover?

Everybody needs to have some general education, Dorner replies. Basic math, science, and some of the humanities help to round out a liberal education. Beyond the general education, there are life skills and experience that must happen oustide of the classroom.

Dorner not only works in IT, but creates jobs as well. During the hiring process, I asked, what's the most important criteria an applicant must meet?

It's very important to be a self-directed, lifelong learner. I hired someone [recently]…[She] had the minimum requirements, but she had the initiative to learn something new. She was self-taught, went out and learned the stuff, and was able to solve the problem. That was more important to me than [the credentials].

The pathways into the tech field are now baked into society itself. Every kid who learns how to Google for information is building a working knowledge of SEO. Every kid who touches an iPhone learns the fundamentals of UX. And so forth.

The question for the coming years is whether or not the university model will meet these kids on the journey to careers in tech with something unique to offer them, or if the kids can get there well enough on their own.

WordPress university was always online.

09 Jul 2020 2:36pm GMT

08 Jul 2020

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WPTavern: Jetpack 8.7 Adds New Tweetstorm Unroll Feature, Improves Search Customization

Jetpack 8.7 was released this week with an exciting new feature that allows users to "unroll" a tweetstorm and publish it in a post. The feature works inside the Tweet block. After a user embeds a tweet, it will automatically detect a tweetstorm and display a prompt to fetch the rest of the tweets. It functions in a similar way to the Thread Reader app, except the unrolled thread is hosted on your WordPress post.

Tweetstorms remain a controversial way to get a lengthy point across. Twitter users with large followings will often get wider exposure and more traction and interaction on their ideas when they share them in a series of bite-size tweets. Although tweetstorms might be better as a blog, especially for those who are consuming and sharing them, a link to a blog post doesn't carry the same weight as tweets for capturing Twitter users' immediate attention.

If your thread is more than 3 tweets it does not belong on Twitter. Don't @ me. #longlivetheblog

- Jon Desrosiers (@desrosj) March 24, 2020

You may not be able to convince people to stop posting tweetstorms, but with Jetpack 8.7 you can make sure that these tweets are available inside a blog post.

Gary Pendergast, who has been working on the unroll feature for several months, tweeted a demo video of how it works.

Not particularly controversial opinion: most tweetstorms should be blog posts.

Putting my money where my mouth is: pic.twitter.com/HFBbmQtwql

- Gary (@GaryPendergast) May 29, 2020

If you're looking to compose and publish tweetstorms from a blog post, with your post as the point of origin, John James Jacoby's Publishiza plugin performs the opposite function of Jetpack's new unroll feature. Pendergast said he is also investigating how to add the ability to publish a tweetstorm using the block editor, which seems like an ideal use case for writing content in blocks.

Jetpack 8.7 also brings updates to the recently revamped Search feature, adding more customization options for the search overlay:

This release also gives users easier access to their Google Photos and the free Pexels library. Access to these services was previously integrated with media library but is now also accessible via the block editor.

Version 8.7 introduces a WhatsApp Button block to allow visitors and customers to get in touch easily. The Jetpack team has also added more customization options to the Calendly, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, and Payment blocks. Check out the release post for a full list of improvements in this update.

08 Jul 2020 8:48pm GMT

WPTavern: After 11 Years, Users Will Be Able to Update Themes and Plugins via a ZIP File

It has been a long road. Eleven long years. WordPress will finally allow end-users to update an installed plugin or theme by uploading a ZIP file. After over a decade, most people who had hoped to see this day have likely moved on. However, for those of us still waiting for this long sought after feature, it will land in WordPress 5.5.

A little patience never hurt anyone. Over the years, we have seen plugins crop up to handle this missing feature. There has been a clear and present need for it. Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades by Chris Jean has over 200,000 active installs. Update Theme and Plugins from Zip File by Jeff Sherk has another 20,000. The community owes the developers of these plugins at least a small bit of thanks for taking on a job that should have long ago been a part of the core experience.

There was a time when this feature would have been one of the most important tools to land in WordPress. This was a time when one-click updates were not a thing. This was long before the idea of automatic theme and plugin updates, a feature that is also coming in WordPress 5.5, was conceived. While it is still exciting to finally get a feature that has long been on the waiting list, it is far less useful than it once was.

This missing feature has also likely at least partially spurred commercial theme and plugin shops to come up with custom solutions. This represents arguably one of the largest segments of users that still need the feature, at least for those using products from shops that do not provide one-click or automatic updates.

Updating themes via a ZIP file is a bit old-school, but there are scenarios where that is the better or preferred option for some users.

I routinely use a third-party plugin to handle this for various sites I am involved with where I might maintain a custom theme. This is particularly true if I don't have FTP or other access to the server. It is simple to upload a ZIP file in those cases.

Despite less of a need for this feature in 2020 than in 2009, I can still use it. Judging by the download numbers of existing plugins, a couple hundred thousand others can too.

How Updating via ZIP Works

The new feature is not immediately apparent. However, it is more of a power-user feature that users will need to know about before attempting to use.

Updating a theme or plugin works in the same fashion as uploading a new one. By visiting the Add New plugin or theme screen in the WordPress admin and clicking the upload button, users can drop the ZIP file from their computer. After clicking the Install Now button, WordPress will direct users to a new screen that compares the currently-installed extension with the uploaded versions. Users can then choose between continuing with the installation or canceling.

Steps to updating an existing plugin.

After clicking the "Upload Plugin" button via the new plugin screen, the uploader currently reads, "If you have a plugin in a .zip format, you may install it by uploading it here." There is no mention that users may upload a plugin that is already installed. A tweak to the language could help make it clear.

The comparison feature is a welcome addition, which should curb users accidentally uploading something they already have installed or rolling back when they already have a newer version active on the site. Some of the existing solutions from third-party plugins do not handle this feature, so this should make for a good upgrade.

08 Jul 2020 8:09pm GMT

07 Jul 2020

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WPTavern: New Gatsby Source WordPress Plugin Now in Beta

Gatsby announced its new source plugin (v4) for WordPress is now in beta. The plugin has been completely revamped to improve headless WordPress setups where Gatsby powers the frontend. It also integrates with Gatsby Cloud to provide real-time previews and incremental builds.

The Gatsby team has had a long journey towards creating an integration for WordPress sites that would satisfy more complex use cases. There are currently three different avenues for using Gatsby with WordPress, each with different benefits and drawbacks:

The first approach relies on the WP REST API to fetch all data (posts, terms, media, etc) and cache the data in Gatsby's node cache. The second method allows developers to write GraphQL queries to fetch data from the Gatsby cache and render that data in templates.

According to Gatsby engineer and WPGraphQL creator Jason Bahl, the first two approaches are only adequate for basic use cases.

"When you start adding more advanced functionality, such as Advanced Custom Fields Flex Fields, the WP REST API starts to fall apart and become very difficult to use in a decoupled way," Bahl said. "The WP REST API has a Schema that can allow plugins and themes to extend the WP REST API and declare what type of data any given endpoint will expose. This is helpful for decoupled applications to know ahead of time what kind of data to expect.

"The problem is that plugins and themes can extend the WP REST API without making use of the Schema, or by simply defining field types in the Schema as `object` or `array` Types. This means there's no easy way for decoupled applications, including Gatsby, to know what to expect from those fields. Gatsby relies on consistent data, and the WP REST API isn't consistent. The shape of the data returned from endpoints (especially when plugins extend the REST API) is unpredictable and that is problematic for decoupled applications."

WPGraphQL was created as an alternative to the WP REST API, addressing many of these pain points with its enforced Schema. This benefits decoupled tools like Gatsby because they can introspect the Schema to determine what data is available before requesting any.

"So even cases such as Advanced Custom Fields Flex Fields, where the data being returned could be one of many possible Flex Field Layouts, Gatsby can still know what the possible data is before asking for the data," Bahl said. "The enforced Schema of WPGraphQL allows decoupled tools to ship with confidence and eliminates entire classes of bugs."

The Gatsby Source GraphQL + WPGraphQL approach has some improvements over using the WP REST API but was limited in that it doesn't cache data to the Gatsby node cache. This prevents WordPress sites from being able to utilize Gatsby's cloud-based commercial offerings for previews and incremental builds. Bahl explained how the new Gatsby Source WordPress plugin (v4) + WPGraphQL is the "best of both worlds:"

It uses WPGraphQL on the WordPress server to expose WordPress data in a Typed GraphQL Schema. Gatsby Source WordPress v4 uses GraphQL Introspection to read the Schema from the WordPress site and builds a nearly identical Schema in Gatsby. It then fetches data using WPGraphQL and caches the data in Gatsby. Users then use GraphQL to interact with the Gatsby cache and get data to render in Components in their Gatsby site.

The new integration gives content creators the ability to click "preview" to see their changes live in the Gatsby-powered site. Publishing no longer requires a full site rebuild. It will simply push out the changes to the affected pages. Changes will be live in seconds, similar to how users expect WordPress to work without the headless integration. The new plugin, combined with Gatsby Cloud, provide a better marriage of the content creation experience with Gatsby's React + GraphQL developer experience, while delivering fast static pages on the frontend.

If you want to test the beta of the new Gatsby Source WordPress plugin, you can find it (and its dependencies) on GitHub. The WPGraphQL and WPGatsby plugins are also required.

07 Jul 2020 10:33pm GMT

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.5 Beta 1

WordPress 5.5 Beta 1 is now available for testing!

This software is still in development, so it's not recommended to run this version on a production site. Consider setting up a test site to play with the new version.

You can test the WordPress 5.5 beta in two ways:

The current target for final release is August 11, 2020. This is only five weeks away. Your help is needed to ensure this release is tested properly.

Testing for bugs is an important part of polishing the release during the beta stage and a great way to contribute. Here are some of the big changes and features to pay close attention to while testing.

Block editor: features and improvements

WordPress 5.5 will include ten releases of the Gutenberg plugin, bringing with it a long list of exciting new features. Here are just a few:

In all, WordPress 5.5 brings more than 1,500 useful improvements to the block editor experience.

To see all of the features for each release in detail check out the release posts: 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 7.8, 7.9, 8.0, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4.

Wait! There's more!

XML sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are now included in WordPress and enabled by default. Sitemaps are essential to search engines discovering the content on your website. Your site's home page, posts, pages, custom post types, and more will be included to improve your site's visibility.

Auto-updates for plugins and themes

WordPress 5.5 also brings auto-updates for plugins and themes. Easily control which plugins and themes keep themselves up to date on their own. It's always recommended that you run the latest versions of all plugins and themes. The addition of this feature makes that easier than ever!

Lazy-loading images

WordPress 5.5 will include native support for lazy-loaded images utilizing new browser standards. With lazy-loading, images will not be sent to users until they approach the viewport. This saves bandwidth for everyone (users, hosts, ISPs), makes it easier for those with slower internet speeds to browse the web, saves electricity, and more.

Better accessibility

With every release, WordPress works hard to improve accessibility. Version 5.5 is no different and packs a parcel of accessibility fixes and enhancements. Take a look:

Miscellaneous Changes

Keep your eyes on the Make WordPress Core blog for 5.5-related developer notes in the coming weeks, breaking down these and other changes in greater detail.

So far, contributors have fixed more than 360 tickets in WordPress 5.5, including 157 new features and enhancements, and more bug fixes are on the way.

How You Can Help

Do you speak a language other than English? Help translate WordPress into more than 100 languages!

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

Props to @webcommsat, @yvettesonneveld, @estelaris, and @marybaum for compiling/writing this post, @davidbaumwald for editing/proof reading, and @cbringmann, @desrosj, and @andreamiddleton for final review.

07 Jul 2020 9:49pm GMT

WPTavern: Goodbye, ManageWP.org; Hello, WP Content

Yesterday, Iain Poulson and Ashley Rich launched community-curated, news-sharing site WP Content. The launch comes on the heels of ManageWP.org shutting down its own news-sharing service and the WordPress community losing out on a valuable resource.

Both Poulson and Rich are based in the UK and work for Delicious Brains, a development company that focuses on building products for WordPress. Their new venture was met with enthusiasm when Poulson first announced it on Twitter.

Homepage of WPContent.io.

Long before I was a writer for WP Tavern and needed to keep an eye out for the latest news, ManageWP.org was one of my go-to sources for catching up with everything happening in the WordPress community. There is always so much going on that even the Tavern cannot stay on top of it all. ManageWP.org helped me become a voracious reader of ideas, tutorials, and other news within the industry. For that, I am certain I owe the team a debt that cannot be repaid.

After shutting the doors, they left us with a message on the site that read, "After many years of serving the WordPress community, we've made the difficult decision to shut down ManageWP.org. Several factors led us here, but it ultimately came down to the team being unable to give ManageWP.org the attention it deserves."

It is only the news-sharing site at ManageWP.org that is shutting down. The ManageWP.com company and service are still alive and well.

ManageWP.org launched when WordPress held a mere 20% of the web back in 2013. GoDaddy acquired the ManageWP company in 2016 but allowed it to operate independently, including the news-sharing site. In many ways, ManageWP.org felt as much a part of the identity of the WordPress community as our site. For seven years, users have shared articles, upvoted their favorites, and found a legitimate source to stay informed on a wide range of topics around WordPress.

"Thank you to everyone who shared inspiring stories, useful resources, and special announcements with us," read the final message on the site. "It's been a treat."

While many of us were disappointed to see the site shut down, sometimes it is time for something new. We can say goodbye to a great service and make room for someone else to take up the mantle. So, goodbye, ManageWP.org. Thanks for all the good years. And, welcome, WP Content.

"After @managewp closed down their community news site, we felt there should be a place where the #WordPress community can submit articles and up vote them," tweeted the WP Content team.

The newly-built WP Content site is simple to use. It works similarly to other sharing sites such as Reddit. Users can sign up for an account to share stories themselves or upvote other stories. All visitors are free to follow through and read stories without signing up.

The front page of the site shares the currently trending and most recent stories. The site also breaks stories down into the following categories:

I welcome the new venture and am glad to see someone filling in what was quickly becoming a missing piece of our community. With luck, WP Content will serve as a great resource for many years to come. The team has some big shoes to fill, but they are off to a great start.

07 Jul 2020 6:31pm GMT

06 Jul 2020

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WPTavern: WordCamp Attendance Badges Could Be a Good Thing, but That’s the Wrong Discussion

WordPress profile badges.

On July 3, Timi Wahalahti opened a discussion on the Community WordPress blog on whether WordCamp volunteers, WordCamp attendees, or Meetup attendees should be awarded a WordPress.org profile badge. The discussion stemmed from a nearly two-year-old Meta ticket that was recently resurfaced.

The general consensus from the comments on the post seems to be that volunteers should receive badges because they are making direct contributions to the community. Most argue that merely attending an event is not badge-worthy. There are also some technical concerns. However, they should not be a real issue considering we are a community of programmers and problem solvers.

I see the rationale behind not giving badges to attendees. In one way, it feels like it diminishes the badges that others have earned, quite often, through hours of valuable time freely given back to the project.

I am taking a wild guess here and will say that most people would agree that direct, measurable contributions should be rewarded. Whether it is contributing a patch to core, reviewing code as part of the Themes Team, or handing out sandwiches at your local WordCamp lunch line, you should be recognized for giving back to the community.

WordCamp attendance badges would become the participation trophies of the WordPress world.

I get the argument. I do. When I first read the community post, my gut reaction was to make that same argument.

In some parts of American culture, at least, participation trophies are often looked upon as something to be ashamed of - if you don't earn MVP, it's not a real trophy. I have seen the culture change, seemingly overnight, in my local community. Fathers will not allow their sons to accept a trophy for merely being on the football team (anyone deserves a trophy for making it through training camp in Alabama's sweltering August heat). I watch as community members - grown adults - tear down others' kids on Facebook over the same idea.

The discussion on WordCamp attendance badges feels much the same. However, the argument is valid only because that is how the system is set up. It was created to award based on merit. The awards go to those who put in the time and effort, typically over the long haul.

On the surface, that feels like a good system. However, other systems have benefits that perhaps our community has been overlooking, particularly those that gamify participation. Currently, WordPress profile badges are not being utilized to their full potential. The missing piece is that we are not encouraging more participation. We are not helping the first-time user level up and earn more badges/awards.

NaNoWriMo writing and personal achievement badges.

In 2018, I successfully completed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is an event where thousands of people go through the insane process of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. One of the things that pushed me through the month, aside from sheer willpower and encouragement from family and friends, was the encouragement from the NaNoWriMo website itself.

The website has two categories of badges. The first category is its writing badges. These badges are awarded based on actually doing work. They are also awarded in stages. Write for a two-day streak. Earn a badge. Surpass 5,000 words. Earn a badge. Finish the month-long challenge. Earn a badge. Throughout the process of NaNoWriMo, earning these writing badges was a big motivator toward keeping the dream of writing a novel alive. If I wasn't motivated to write on a particular day, I could look at the next badge I would earn by just putting pen to paper for another half hour or so.

The thing about these writing badges that was so important was not that they gave me any bragging rights. The badges were not for showing other people how awesome I was. They were deeply personal. They were things that helped motivate me to continue on. OK, I did brag about them a little bit.

At the end of the day, these achievement-based badges were not about other people. They made me feel good about myself, and that is what mattered.

NaNoWriMo's second category was for personal badges. They were not awarded for any achievement. Every user on the site could pick and choose the badges they wanted. They were reflections of the person. It told others a little something about you.

One of my favorite badges was the "pantser" badge. It let people in the NaNoWriMo community know that I was writing without a novel outline or any real plan - literally by the seat of my pants. Others would choose the "planner" or even the combo "plantser" badge. And, the site had several other badges that simply added to the fun.

We do not have to think about badges as something that must be awarded based on hard work. Sure, we should have those "gold level" badges that are earned through direct contributions and being on a particular team. Joining the Documentation Team or submitting a plugin to the official plugin directory is a big deal. Those achievements should be shown on your profile. However, they are not the only achievements that matter.

Remember that badges are sometimes personal. Being awarded for even the smallest of things can help build the confidence that some people need to do that second small thing.

Simple badges for asking or answering your first support forum question could be a great motivator to become more involved. Attending a WordCamp for the first time? Get a badge. That might help motivate you to earn the five-time WordCamp attendee badge next.

I would even love to see badges for individual WordCamps. How cool would it be for someone to earn a badge for attending a WordCamp in every corner of the world? Or just on one continent?

There is so much lost potential with the current badge system. We are having the wrong discussion. Whether someone should earn a badge for attending a WordCamp is too narrow of a focus. Let's start looking at how we can gamify participation in the WordPress community and use that system to get more people involved.

If we maintain the current system of giving badges only for contributions and teams, yeah, WordCamp volunteers should get those. Attendees have done nothing to earn a badge in that system. That seems like an easy call to make and not worth much discussion. But, since we are here, let's rethink this whole thing.

06 Jul 2020 6:42pm GMT

WPTavern: WordProof Wins €1 Million Grant to Advance Blockchain Timestamping Concept

WordProof, the company behind the WordProof Timestamp plugin for WordPress, has received a €1 million grant from the European Commission as the reward for winning a competition called "Blockchains for Social Good." The Dutch startup beat 175 other participants from around Europe.

The competition was designed to reward developers' efforts in exploring decentralized applications of blockchains for social innovation. WordProof was one of five finalists selected to receive €1 million, after submitting its Timestamp Ecosystem concept, which seeks to increase transparency and accountability by proving authenticity of content on the web. In addition to its WordPress plugin, the timestamping ecosystem aims to provide solutions for other content management platforms, e-commerce, and social media.

WordProof founder Sebastiaan van der Lans said the grant is evidence of the company gaining traction with governments and universities.

"With the recognition and financial support from Europe, we can roll out the Timestamp Ecosystem at a higher pace and make WordProof grow even faster as a company," Van der Lans said. "This will enable Europe to define the standard for a reliable Internet for consumers and organisations."

Van der Lans said WordProof is still very much "a WordPress-focused company" and plans to use the funds to extend its timestamping plugin to work with WooCommerce. They also plan to begin working with major publishers and WooCommerce shops to integrate timestamping solutions. The company began working with Yoast two months ago on deeply integrating with Schema.org to provide structured data for SEO.

In the coming weeks, van der Lans said the company plans to announce "a significant investment from the WordPress space." WordProof is currently focused on advocacy with/at the European Commission to make timestamping an open source standard that would be independent from the control of any single company.

06 Jul 2020 3:32pm GMT

Akismet: Akismet Blocks Five Hundred Billion Spam and Counting

It was happening while you ate dinner. While you were at work. While you were on vacation, going for a walk, or daydreaming. It was certainly happening while you were sleeping. All this time - for nearly 15 years - Akismet has been catching and blocking spam from appearing on websites and forums the world over, and Akismet just reached an important milestone: over 500 billion pieces of spam blocked, and counting.

Saving countless hours for you

Think about that number: five hundred billion spam comments blocked - and not just on WordPress sites! Akismet has been ensnaring spam on other platforms including Drupal, Joomla, and more, saving countless hours of moderation time and frustration for millions of people around the world.

To the future!

If you need spam protection for your website or forum, Akismet is here to help. Free up time spent tweezing spam comments and allow Akismet to catch and block it for you. Here's to the next 500 billion!

06 Jul 2020 3:12pm GMT

03 Jul 2020

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: New Block-based Navigation and Widgets Screens Sidelined for WordPress 5.5

The new navigation block and navigation and widget screens that were originally planned for WordPress 5.5 have been pushed back to the next release. These projects are currently available in the Gutenberg plugin experiments screen but are not yet ready to land in core.

Converting the widget-editing areas and updating the widgets UI to use the block editor is a project that has been under development since January 2019. The issue tracking the project and the dedicated project board seemed to have stalled out for the time being, so core editor contributors recommended removing it from the priority features for 5.5.

Similarly, the navigation block and screen have several dozen outstanding issues and discussions that need more time before shipping.

"We're still missing a few key components: drag and drop in the block and in the sidebar, a couple of PRs that lag and are important for feature parity (#22600, #22697) and the ongoing work to support more block types in Navigation," WordPress contributor Andrei Draganescu said regarding the remaining items necessary to ship the navigation screen.

"I believe we're in a place where a Gutenberg release after 5.5 will include this new screen, but maybe in the next two weeks some acceleration will occur and prove me wrong.

"I believe that it is wiser that this lands as a part of the plugin first, gets some feedback, and then is shipped into core."

Despite the navigation and widgets screens getting removed from the 5.5 milestone, this release is set to deliver an impressive array of new features for the block editor, including block patterns, block directory search, a new block inserter panel, expanded design tools, and improvements to block movement capabilities. Beta 1 is expected July 7 and the target date for the official release is August 11.

03 Jul 2020 8:54pm GMT

WPTavern: Google Launches Beta of AMP-Powered Web Stories Plugin for WordPress

Google announced a public beta of its new Web Stories WordPress plugin this week. The plugin's description aptly reads, "Visual storytelling for WordPress." It is essentially a custom editor for creating AMP-powered stories within WordPress.

Users can download the beta plugin directly from the Web Stories beta page. Developers who want to contribute or take a look under the hood can do so from its GitHub repository.

Web Stories is a story format born out of Google's AMP Project. The goal is to provide visually-rich stories through a mobile-focused format. Stories are used to deliver news and other information in chunks that site visitors can quickly tap through and consume.

With far more users browsing the web via a mobile device in 2020 than just a few short years ago, many no longer engage with content in the same way. People are more likely to quickly browse a lot of content but not be willing to dive quite as deep into the details. The Web Stories format focuses on that user experience by creating bite-sized pieces of content that users can move through without much focus - whether that is a good thing for society is up for debate.

Screenshots from a Story template.

The story format also typically makes more use of visual information than it does text. Each page of a story tends to use images or videos, often in the background with text overlaid, to grab the viewer's attention. However, there are no hard rules on what content a story page can present.

The Web Stories plugin is slated for an official release sometime late this summer. The team is working toward stabilizing the product and focusing on bug and performance fixes, according to the beta launch page.

In late March, the development team removed support for Stories from version 1.5 of the AMP plugin. They were prepping for the release of the new Web Stories plugin. The Stories feature was listed as a beta feature in the AMP plugin before removal.

Stories support was originally added to the official AMP plugin in June 2019 as part of its version 1.2 release. It was a direct integration with the WordPress block editor. However, it has since changed drastically. The development team has created a custom system outside of WordPress's primary editor that offers a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience.

Getting to Know the Web Stories Plugin

Web Stories for WordPress takes an almost completely custom approach to creating content with WordPress. It has its own drag-and-drop editor, a dashboard for editing stories and finding templates, and custom URLs.

The development team decided to register a custom "web story" post type as the foundation of the plugin. One benefit of this system is that stories can live on their individual pages on the site. This also allows site visitors to subscribe to stories via a feed reader or third-party email system. Instead of pigeon-holing everything into a custom block, the team gained full freedom over the experience by creating a custom story-publishing process on top of the post type system.

In many ways, the editor feels much like working with a simplified version of a photo editor such as Photoshop or GIMP. In the center of the screen is the canvas. Users can work on the current story page, create new pages, or use the arrows to flip through each.

Creating a story with the Web Stories editor in WordPress.

Two boxes are aligned to the right of the screen. The top box holds the Design and Document tabs. The Design tab allows users to edit options for the currently-selected layer, and the Document tab holds the configuration options for publishing. The Layers box sits below. It lets users quickly select a layer to edit.

On the left side of the screen, users have quick access to their media library. Because stories primarily use visually-driven content, it makes sense to keep media a simple mouse movement away.

The only major problem that I ran into when playing around with the story editor was figuring out how to delete a layer. I eventually realized that I could drag a layer off the canvas and it would disappear. That was probably the least intuitive part of the experience.

Web Stories comes with its own Dashboard screen in the admin. While the normal "All Stories" screen created by the post type exists, the Dashboard provides a visual list of created stories that users can scroll through.

Web Stories Dashboard screen.

For users who are short on ideas or simply need a jumping-off point, the plugin currently supplies eight starter templates to choose from:

The templates offer ample variety to begin learning the system by customizing the various story pages. The editor should be intuitive enough for most users to hit the ground running, but the templates make for some quick inspiration.

Overall, Web Stories looks like it will land with a splash late this summer. It is a showcase of what is possible when you put together a team of top-notch developers and empower them to build something amazing.

03 Jul 2020 6:56pm GMT

02 Jul 2020

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: WordPress Contributors Seek Sponsorship for Improving Gutenberg Developer Docs

WordPress developers Milana Cap and Jonathan Bossenger are starting a fundraiser for improving Gutenberg developer documentation. The conversation began yesterday when Cap tweeted about how documentation is often overlooked when companies hire full-time contributors to work on WordPress.

I wish someone pay people to work on Gutenberg Docs. All devs who understand Gutenberg are working on building it and no one has the time to document it.

On the other hand, Gutenberg and React are so foreign to WordPress PHP devs that no one is being able to learn it. https://t.co/iFmpd24TwH

- Milana Cap (@DjevaLoperka) June 30, 2020

"When your community is unable to learn your software then you have no contributors," Cap said. "Documentation and tutorials are far more important for Open Source Software projects than people realize."

The first time Cap began asking for Gutenberg documentation was at the Community Summit in Paris, 2017. She has been trying to direct the community's attention to it since then.

"There are many holes in block editor documentation for developers but the most obvious one is how to start," Cap said. "The beginning of documentation for developers doesn't say anything about getting started. "It says only what you can do with a block but not _how_. Junior developers, PHP-only developers and anyone for whom is that documentation meant, doesn't know how a block's code looks, where to put it, how to include it, etc, let alone how to build a custom block with custom components and settings."

Part of the challenge of documenting the block editor is that it is under active development. Enhancements and refinements are constantly pushed out to the Gutenberg plugin and keeping track of what is or is not currently available in core is not always easy. As WordPress is imminently introducing block directory search, it is a good time to formalize block creation documentation.

"Code examples are alarmingly missing all over docs," Cap said. "The most basic examples exist but how to actually build something usable is missing. So, on this first page we are sent to a tutorial but that tutorial is not optimized for people who have never built a block before. Following it, I have and will fail to build the block."

Marcus Kazmierczak and a team of documentation contributors are attempting to rebuild the tutorial in the official block editor handbook. A GitHub issue focused on addressing gaps in the current developer documentation is home to an active discussion about the best way to rewrite the docs for people who are new to block development.

"This is a very good start but there's still a lot of work to be done," Cap said. "Complete documentation is written by people who know and understand React and Gutenberg but are 'cursed with knowledge.' They don't have much time to spend on understanding just how much others don't know and in what detail documentation should be written. To be honest, I don't think they should spend their time on that. We have a Documentation Team and we are willing to jump in but some sort of bridge is necessary."

The Problem with Gutenberg Developer Documentation: It's Not Friendly for Newcomers

"The 'problem' as I see it with the block editor documentation is that, unlike other WordPress documentation, it is written for experienced JavaScript developers, and not aimed at beginners," Bossenger said. "I should also point out, this is by no means a shot at the folks who have put the current documentation together, and I appreciate any and all work they have done so far, it's just in serious need of a review and some refinement."

Bossenger said in the past WordPress made it very easy for anyone with a limited amount of PHP knowledge to quickly build a plugin or theme using action and filter hooks. It was easy to look at the code and understand what it was supposed to do.

"Modern JavaScript, and specifically React, is a very different kettle of fish," Bossenger said. "It requires a deeper level of knowledge of how React works, including new terminology and practices. Modern JavaScript can also be very confusing, especially if this is the first time you're seeing things like arrow functions, or less verbose if statements.

"If the closest you have come to working with JavaScript in WordPress has been using jQuery, switching to React based Gutenberg development still requires some learning on your part."

After taking two courses before he could build anything for the editor, one on React and one on Gutenberg, Bossenger said the current Block Editor handbook is not written for developers with no experience in React and modern JavaScript. He believes it needs a restructuring to better explain new concepts and fit a pattern that is easier for a newcomer to consume. He highlighted the Plugin Developer handbook as an example where the chapters follow a structure and use terminology that is more like a text book, slowly introducing the reader to new concepts.

"I would argue that it would be quite possible for someone with no plugin or PHP knowledge, armed with this handbook and Google, to build a simple plugin to meet their specific requirements quite quickly," Bossenger said. "Currently the block editor handbook is not conducive to this."

Bossenger is not alone in his opinion of the current documentation. Peter Tasker at Delicious Brains recently published a tutorial on creating a custom Gutenberg block. Even after working with React full-time for the past year, he found the official block editor docs to be "kind of all over the place" and difficult to parse.

After Cap commented about the lack of companies sponsoring full-time work on documentation, Bossenger tested the waters with a tweet asking if the two of them might be able to raise funds for improving Gutenberg docs.

Anyone willing to sponsor @DjevaLoperka or myself improving the Gutenberg docs? Please RT for reach. https://t.co/UzYlFIfNZ8

- Jonathan Bossenger (@jon_bossenger) June 30, 2020

"Just the same as Block Editor Team (and any other Make team), the Documentation Team is understaffed," Cap said. "We can't afford to dedicate few members to first learn and then write documentation on developing with block editor. This is the main reason for my tweet. You'll see sponsored contributors all over core but not in documentation and I'll dare to say that both are equally important."

Before launching their fundraiser, Cap and Bossenger plan to go through the existing documentation, pinpoint obvious holes, and identify questions that remain unanswered for those who are new to developing for the block editor.

"Once we have a plan we can predict how much time is needed for each part," she said. "With this plan, we will go in search for sponsors. I think there will be an option to donate even before that but nothing is certain at this point."

Blocks are the new frontier of WordPress development. Investing in solid documentation and tutorials for beginners could have a major impact on expanding the block ecosystem. This also indirectly benefits users as they end up with a more diverse directory of blocks to choose from when customizing their WordPress sites.

Bossenger and Cap are currently working on a plan for the docs ahead of announcing their fundraiser. In the meantime, anyone who wants to contribute to improving the block creation documentation can jump in on the GitHub discussion.

02 Jul 2020 9:07pm GMT

WPTavern: Decision Time: What Block Patterns Should Ship With WordPress 5.5?

Inserting the Numbered Features block pattern into the editor.

The first beta release of WordPress 5.5 is mere days away. This test release is expected to ship on July 7, and it carries with it a slew of new features that have primarily been developed between Gutenberg 7.6 and 8.5. One of the more pressing decisions the development team has to make is which block patterns to include in the final release.

For the uninitiated, block patterns are a predefined configuration of multiple blocks. They provide end-users a way to quickly insert more complex layout patterns into the editor. Instead of piecing together multiple blocks, nesting them within the proper group container, and getting everything perfect, the user merely searches the pattern library and selects the pattern they prefer. It is then inserted into the editor where the user can edit the content, such as altering the default text or changing the media.

It is an ingenious solution to an otherwise complicated problem. It also has the potential to move the block editor somewhat in the realm of actual page building.

For end-users, it could mean no longer spending hours learning how to recreate that pretty demo page that sold them on installing a specific theme. No more slogging through tutorials that feel like they were written for people with comp-sci degrees. Just click some buttons and watch the magic happen.

I have said that block patterns will change everything. I was patiently enthusiastic about the API when it first landed in Gutenberg 6.9. I was downright giddy to play around with the first patterns that shipped with Gutenberg 7.7.

Outside of a few that have made their way into Gutenberg in recent versions, I have not been particularly ecstatic about the default patterns the development team has included. In my mind, most were always test cases, patterns meant to iron the bugs out of the system. Then, some of the world-class designers we have in the WordPress ecosystem would design a handful of solid default patterns. I fully expect theme authors to push the limits of the system, but I was hoping that WordPress would use this opportunity to showcase what the block system can really do.

The closest that Gutenberg has come to shipping useful, modern block patterns have been its Testimonials, Numbered Features, and Features and Services patterns. These three were initially set on the chopping block (Testimonials have since been re-added), ready for the ax before WordPress 5.5 goes out to millions of users who could use such features instead of the tired and old solution of theme options. If these go, block patterns will likely land with a thud instead of the flash and bang the feature could make. We need to get users excited. We need to inspire the multitude of theme authors to build something greater - hey, look what you can do with this feature. Our development community needs to stand upon the shoulders of giants rather than feel like they are building from scratch.

We should not be afraid to be bold with the "1.0" of block patterns.

For the most part, with the latest patch on a ticket that is currently in flux, the team has nixed all but the least mundane patterns.

Block patterns are meant to represent common design layouts and configurations that we see around the web today. However, the current crop of patterns does not do justice to the idea. From the developer end of things, it is a powerful API. From the user side of things, it will feel like another half-baked plan to push in an unfinished feature before the deadline.

Maybe I am impatient. Maybe I need to get on board the ship-early-and-iterate-often train. But, the API has been in Gutenberg since November 2019. It is hard not to feel a little disappointed at the potential removal of the most opinionated patterns. They were the ones that I was eagerly awaiting to use. We can already easily put two images, columns of text, or buttons next to each other. The proposed patterns to ship with 5.5 do not feel like they will help users build the type of complex layouts the feature was meant to solve.

My rallying call, my plea to include some patterns with a little pizzazz in WordPress 5.5, might be cutting it close to the 11th hour. However, anyone eagerly awaiting this feature may have been as blindsided as I was yesterday when the pull request came down the pipeline to remove all but three basic patterns.

I want the narrator in the upcoming WordPress 5.5 release video to have a bit of pep in his voice instead of trying to give the hard sell on sticking two images next to each other.

I am not asking for complex pricing tables, a restaurant menu, or - God, forbid - a slider pattern. Those things are a bit more niche and not suitable for core. There is some middle ground we can meet, offering something of a bit more substance. And, if we cannot meet that middle ground, is the feature ready?

I'm the last person to suggest pulling the feature from the release, so I won't venture down that dark path. I want block patterns. I want them now.

I do question whether we should ship such basic patterns with most users having to wait months for anything more useful. That's unless their theme authors are generous enough to push out some new patterns between the major release cycles.

I am just a WordPress user asking to be amazed. Whet our appetites for a future where block patterns are everything.

What patterns would you like to see ship with WordPress 5.5?

02 Jul 2020 6:33pm GMT

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

June was an exciting month for WordPress! Major changes are coming to the Gutenberg plugin, and WordCamp Europe brought the WordPress community closer together. Read on to learn more and to get all the latest updates.


WordPress 5.4.2 released

We said hello to WordPress 5.4.2 on June 10. This security and maintenance release features 17 fixes and 4 enhancements, so we recommend that you update your sites immediately. To download WordPress 5.4.2, visit your Dashboard, click on Updates, then Update Now, or download the latest version directly from WordPress.org. For more information, visit this post, review the full list of changes on Trac, or check out the HelpHub documentation page for version 5.4.2. WordPress 5.4.2 is a short-cycle maintenance release. The next major release will be version 5.5, planned for August 2020.

Want to get involved in building WordPress Core? Follow the Core team blog, and join the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Gutenberg 8.3 and 8.4

The core team launched Gutenberg 8.3 and 8.4 this month, paving the way for some exciting block editor features. Version 8.3 introduced enhancements like a reorganized, more intuitive set of block categories, a parent block selector, an experimental spacing control, and user-controlled link color options. Version 8.4 comes with new image-editing tools and the ability to edit options for multiple blocks. The block directory search feature that was previously available as an experimental feature, is now enabled for all Gutenberg installations. For full details on the latest versions on these Gutenberg releases, visit these posts about 8.3 and 8.4.

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

WordPress Bumps Minimum Recommended PHP Version to 7.2

In a major update, WordPress has bumped the minimum PHP recommendation to 7.2. The ServeHappy API has been updated to set the minimum acceptable PHP version to 7.2, while the WordPress downloads page recommends 7.3 or newer. Previously, the ServeHappy dashboard widget was showing the upgrade notice to users of PHP 5.6 or lower. This decision comes after discussions with the core Site Health team and the Hosting team, both of which recommended that the upgrade notice be shown to users of PHP <=7.1.

WordCamp Europe 2020 Moved Online

Following the success of a remote WordCamp Spain, WordCamp Europe was held fully online from June 4 to 6. The event drew a record 8,600 signups from people based in 138 countries, along with 2,500 signups for contributor day. WCEU Online also showcased 33 speakers and 40 sponsors, in addition to a Q&A with Matt Mullenweg. You can find the videos of the event in WordPress.tv by following this link, or you can catch the live stream recording of the entire event from the WP Europe YouTube Channel.

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


Further Reading:

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

02 Jul 2020 5:52am GMT