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In this episode, John James Jacoby and I discuss the news of the week. We also chat about the Winter Olympics, crypto mining in order to access content on the web, and the joys of taking care of a puppy. Last but not least, we talk about Elasticsearch in Jetpack 5.8 and whether or not improving WordPress’ native search functionality through a service is the way to go.

Stories Discussed:

Jetpack 5.8 Adds Lazy Loading for Images Module
Free Virtual WordPress for JavaScript Conference June 29th
10up Turns Seven
“Not Updated In …” Warning

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Next Episode: Wednesday, February 21st 3:00 P.M. Eastern

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Listen To Episode #305:

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10up, a web development agency founded by Jake Goldman in 2011, has turned seven years old. In a blog post celebrating the occasion, Goldman reviews the previous year and highlights some notable events for the company.

“We welcomed more than 30 new clients to our portfolio in another record sales year,” Goldman said. “We launched new websites along with web and mobile apps for major brands across verticals as diverse as finance, healthcare, academia, high-tech, big media, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, and fitness… to name a few.”

He also highlighted the company’s commitment to open source and giving back to WordPress. Throughout the past year, the company has released a number of WordPress plugins and developer tools including, Distributor, WP Snapshots, WP Local Docker, Async Transients, and more.

Goldman describes three trends he’s noticed in the past few years.

  1. Integrations with innovation happening in other projects and platforms has become increasingly important as the web matures. You see it in React.js and Vue.js emerging as popular front end standards, in the rise of Elasticsearch and NoSQL platforms, with two factor authentication and Google single sign on, with the rise of modern Asset Management Systems.
  2. For publishers, it’s increasingly becoming about distribution to multiple platforms, more so than just building a website. Google AMP, Facebook Articles, Apple News, Alexa, YouTube channels to name a few.
  3. If you need any more evidence of WordPress dominance, look no further than how highly in demand top-tier engineering talent is. It’s probably – literally – around a factor of 1.5x – 2x what great engineers were earning 3-4 years ago.

With seven years of experience under his belt, Goldman offers the following advice for those who are in their first or second year of running an agency or in a leadership position.

  1.  Don’t be quite so hard on yourself – when you run a business – when you’re a lease – there will always be highs and lows – don’t dwell on the lows.
  2. Put more emphasis on building systems, routines, and check-ins that offer a better pulse on the collective and individual fulfillment, engagement, and health of the team, rather than relying on transparent upwards communication.

Congrats to 10up on seven years in business. To learn more about the company and employment opportunities, visit their official site.

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Zac Gordon, who launched his Gutenberg development course earlier this year, is organizing a virtual conference called JavaScript for WordPress. The conference will take place June 29th and is free to watch.

“Making the event free and online was really important for me so we could have as few barriers to entry for folks wanting to learn,” Gordon said. “I have a feeling a lot of folks who can’t tune live will still appreciate having all the talks available on YouTube for free.”

So far, 15 speakers have been confirmed with more to be announced soon. The speakers include WordPress core developers, theme and plugin developers, agency owners, and educators. Some of the talks will be from designers allowing user experience and usability to be part of the conversation.

Gordon says he’s been wanting to an in-person event for a while but considering the challenges involved, a virtual conference was the next best thing.

“I used to run in-person workshops in the Washington DC area, which I miss, and have wanted to do an event for a while,” he said. “But doing in-person events is so difficult, so the online format seemed like the best option to go with. I got some good advice from Human Made and WP Campus, who both have experience doing online events, so hopefully everything will go smooth.”

To reserve a seat and receive updates, visit the JavaScript for WordPress conference site.

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Jetpack 5.8 is available for download and includes a handful of new features for Professional, Premium, and Personal plan users. In October of last year, Jetpack 5.4 began beta testing a new search module based on Elasticsearch. Jetpack 5.8 concludes the beta and the new search service is available to Professional plan customers.

The new search module replaces the native search functionality in WordPress and Jetpack developers claim sites with a large amount of content, images, or products will see significant speed improvements and more relevant results. Developers can fine-tune the user experience by using custom queries and template tags. Users can sort results by categories, tags, month/year, post type, or any taxonomy.

In addition to the Content Delivery Network, users have another method to optimize their sites with a new module named Lazy Load Images. When activated, Jetpack will display a page’s textual content first. When a user scrolls down the page, Jetpack will request and download images so they appear when that section of the page comes into view. Sites with a large amount of images will benefit most from having this module activated.

Premium plan customers can now perform security scans on their sites at any time, upload an unlimited amount of videos, and access SEO tools that were once restricted to Business plan customers.

Other notable improvements include:

  • Support for timezone and site language settings
  • Improved display of notices
  • The GettyImages shortcode now uses the new format required by GettyImages

To view all of the additions in this release, check out the Jetpack 5.8 changelog.

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In this episode, John James Jacoby and I are joined by Marc Benzakein, Operations Manager for ServerPress, LLC. We discussed recent updates to DesktopServer and received a progress report on 4.0. Marc also shared some of the struggles the team encountered throughout 2017.

We learned what’s new with WP SiteSync and what customers can look forward too later this year. We also talked about Marc’s journey of becoming a healthier person both physically and mentally. He recalls the issues he had to overcome and shares advice on how others can improve their health.

Stories Discussed:

WooCommerce 3.3.1 Released, Addresses Template Conflicts
WordPress 4.9.4 Fixes Critical Auto Update Bug in 4.9.3
Unpatched DoS Flaw Could Help Anyone Take Down WordPress Websites

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, February 14th 3:00 P.M. Eastern

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Listen To Episode #304:

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WooCommerce 3.3.1 is available and fixes template conflicts discovered in a handful of WordPress themes that forced the team to revert WooCommerce 3.3. The team reviewed handful of the most common themes running WooCommerce and tested them for compatibility with 3.3.1.

WooCommerce developers recommend that theme authors use hooks instead of template overrides to ensure maximum compatibility.

According to Mike Jolley, WooCommerce lead developer, this release highlighted issues with the template system’s extensibility and a disconnect between theme authors on external marketplaces. “We hope to find solutions to these problems in the near future,” Jolley said.

WooCommerce 3.3.1 has at least 90 commits. Users are encouraged to create a full-backup of their sites and then browse to Dashboard > Updates to update WooCommerce from within WordPress.

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Hours after WordPress 4.9.3 was released, the WordPress development team followed it up with 4.9.4 to fix a critical bug with the auto update process. The bug generates a fatal PHP error when WordPress attempts to update itself.

This error requires WordPress site owners and administrators to manually update to WordPress 4.9.4 by visiting your Dashboard and clicking the Update Now button on the Updates page. Alternatively, you can update by uploading the files via SFTP or by using WP-CLI.

Dion Hulse, WordPress lead developer, says managed hosts that apply updates automatically for their customers will be able to update sites as they normally do. This may explain why some users have reported that sites running 4.9.3 have automatically updated to 4.9.4 without issue.

The bug stems from an attempt to reduce the number of API calls made when the auto update cron job is run. Unfortunately, the code committed had unintended consequences. “It triggers a fatal error as not all of the dependencies of find_core_auto_update() are met,” Hulse said.

A postmortem will be published once the team determines how to prevent this mistake from happening in the future. “We don’t like bugs in WordPress any more than you do, and we’ll be taking steps to both increase automated coverage of our updates and improve tools to aid in the detection of similar bugs before they become an issue in the future,” Hulse said.

While WordPress 4.9.3 and 4.9.4 do not include any security fixes, it’s important to note that in order to receive automatic security updates in the future, sites using the 4.9 branch must be running at least 4.9.4. Older branches are unaffected.

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WordPress 4.9.3 is available and fixes 34 bugs. Customizer changesets, the visual editor, widgets, and compatibility for PHP 7.2 highlight this release. You can view all of the changes via the changelog or trac tickets. Most sites will update automatically. However, if you want to trigger the update ahead of time or manually update, visit your Dashboard, click the Updates link, and click Update Now.

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Liquid Web, a managed hosting service founded in 1997, has acquired iThemes. iThemes recently celebrated its 10th year in business. PostStatus reports that it was an all cash deal and sources confirmed to the Tavern that it was a multi-million dollar acquisition.

iThemes will continue to operate as an independent unit within Liquid Web. Cory Miller will remain as General Manager of iThemes and the company will keep its office and employees in Oklahoma City, OK.

iThemes was founded in 2008 and is part of a group of WordPress focused companies that started around the same time. The group includes WooThemes, Revolution Themes now known as StudioPress, Press75, WPZoom, and others.

WooThemes was acquired by Automattic. StudioPress has branched off into content marketing with CopyBlogger and hosting via StudioPress sites. Press75 was acquired by Westwerk in 2014 and WPZoom continues to operate independently.

iThemes diversified its business a number of times over the years, adding plugins and services to its portfolio. Some of the most notable products include, FlexxTheme, BackupBuddy, Builder, iThemes Sync, and iThemes Security. In 2013, the company branched off into the e-commerce space with Exchange. In 2017, Exchange was acquired by AJ Morris allowing the company to focus on iThemes Sales Accelerator, a new product that works exclusively with WooCommerce.

Considering Liquid Web recently launched its managed WooCommerce hosting, iThemes Sales Accelerator should pair nicely with its services.

This isn’t the first time a large webhosting company has acquired a WordPress business. In the last two years, GoDaddy has acquired three companies with a presence in the WordPress ecosystem.

  • April 2013 EIG Acquires MOJO-Themes
  • September 2016 GoDaddy Acquires ManageWP
  • December 2016 GoDaddy Acquires WP Curve
  • March 2017 GoDaddy Acquires Sucuri
After 10 Years, Cory Miller Lets Go

Miller founded iThemes 10 years ago and helped navigate it through the ups and downs that come with running a business. Although Miller no longer owns the company he founded, he’s excited about the next chapter and the opportunities it presents to him and his team.

“One of the keys that has contributed greatly to our success over the last 10 years is being willing to adapt and to innovate and to try new things,” Miller said. “For instance, If we’d kept focusing solely on WordPress themes, which was our primary business for the early years, we wouldn’t be around today.

“As we surveyed the landscape in WordPress, one thing was very obvious to us: hosting is the future. As a bootstrapped company from the beginning, with our DNA as a software company, and seeing where Liquid Web is going, it just made sense for us to join forces.

“We view this is as another chapter in our story of our willingness to adapt and try new things so we can keep doing what we do best — Make People’s Lives Awesome. So we’re tremendously excited about our future with Liquid Web, and what we’re going to be able to do for the WordPress community together.”

Miller says they’re in the middle of the transition process and are working towards tighter integration between iThemes’ products and Liquid Web’s managed hosting services.

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WordPress 4.9.3 is a maintenance release and was originally scheduled to be available on January 30th. However, due to ongoing tickets and a short time frame to test the release candidate, it has been pushed back to February 5th.

WordPress 4.9.3 RC 1 is available for testing. This release removes JSHint from the code editors due to conflicts with the GPL License. If your code relies on JSHint from Core, developers encourage you to update it to use a copy of JSHint.

Other changes in 4.9.3 include, avoiding page scrolling when navigating the media modal, a handful of improvements to the customizer, and more. Please test WordPress 4.9.3 on a staging site and if you encounter any bugs, you can report them on the Alpha/Beta section of the support forums.

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