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The Gutenberg team took questions from a full room users and developers this morning before diving into the specifics of the editor’s design, block creation, and how to further extend the new interface. The first question they addressed is the one everyone is asking: When will Gutenberg land in core?
The team said the editor is pretty close to feature complete and should achieve that in the next few months when version 3.3 is released. At that point the focus will be on refining the current experience. They estimate this to happen in June or the first week of July but also hinted at more information coming in Matt Mullenweg’s keynote address this afternoon.
Developers also asked about the criteria that will be used to decide that Gutenberg is ready for a WordPress release. The project has a scope and features MVP issue on GitHub that provides an overview for the major functionality that will be introduced in the first version of the new editor. It shows which features have already been shipped and which ones are remaining.
The team explained that many of the final features have come from developer and user feedback. Some features were not necessarily planned for V1, but it became more apparent that these were needed because they improved either the developer or user experience. For example, within the past four or five months the team found that the child blocks would be necessary to allow developers to be more expressive in extending the editor. A few of the remaining issues include inline images and post locking for concurrent users, but the team doesn’t anticipate any major new features on the horizon before V1 is released.
Gutenberg engineers also assured workshop attendees that the project is being built with backwards compatibility in mind. One person asked what will happen when the 5.0 release lands. The team explained that the Gutenberg update will not change all the content on WordPress sites. When users open a post in the editor they will have the option to convert that content to block format so it will work with the new editor. If it doesn’t quite work, users be able to fall back to the classic editor.
The team said they took great lengths not to alter how WordPress deals with data. Gutenberg does not change the content structure. One of the cornerstones for the project is providing an update that will not fragment the content structure. There will be a lot of resources available ahead of the release for helping everyone move forward together.
Gutenberg engineers said they are working to be conscious not to delay the project, because the longer the delay, the more potential users WordPress is losing because the software is not easy enough for them to build and customize content and websites.
How Will Theme Building Change with Gutenberg?
Gutenberg designers and engineers also tackled questions about how the new editor will change the theme building experience. Design lead Tammie Lister emphasized the importance of theme developers first getting better at creating themes that do not try to do everything. The basic purpose of a theme is to style the frontend and provide an editor style. One potential way forward for theme developers is to provide additional features by releasing a suite of blocks via a plugin. Lister said she hopes that themes will become a lot lighter in the Gutenberg era and encouraged developers to utilize style guides.
The team also said that existing themes will continue to function and redesigning a theming API, without the hassle of editing a bunch of PHP files, may be possible in the future. However, it’s too early to know what that will look like. For now, the rendering engine is not changing. Theme developers interested in Gutenberg compatibility should start looking towards deconstructing their themes into individual elements and learn how to express a theme as a list of blocks.
How Will Gutenberg Handle Customization?
Attendees asked several questions regarding the specific plan to implement customization, or live previewing, after Gutenberg is in core. The current phase 1 handles content editing and puts the infrastructure in place to support customization. There are some issues on GitHub for transforming widgets into blocks, which will be a step towards the site building experience. The team has already implemented direct manipulation on the WYSIWYG road but phase 2 will cover more aspects of customization.
Gutenberg is not ready to replace the Customizer anytime soon, but the next phase will explore what a block-based experience of customization will look like. When asked if Gutenberg will “kill off some of the page builders,” the team said the goal is for page building type applications to be able to use Gutenberg as a springboard for different implementations that extend the editor in ways that benefit different types of users.
An attendee asked how the team plans to enhance adoption once Gutenberg lands in core. The team said they are working on an experimental feature called ‘tips’ that offers a story walkthrough of the publishing workflow. It includes helpful nudges to assist users in getting better at navigating the interface. The wider ecosystem has already responded with courses and tutorials to help developers get on board. The WordPress training team is also working on some training materials to use at WordCamps with tutorials for developers to learn how to convert existing plugins and themes to be Gutenberg-ready.
In this episode, John James Jacoby and I are joined by Jack Lenox, Software Engineer at Automattic, to discuss his new project, SustyWP. Lenox explains how he built the site so that it only has 7KB of data transfer, what sustainability on the web means to him, and the relationship between sustainability and optimization to create a better user experience. We end the show discussing the latest WordPress headlines and share information on how you can watch WordCamp EU for free.
WordCamp EU 2018 is scheduled to take place this weekend in Belgrade, Serbia. Although the event is sold out, you can watch the event for free via livestream. Simply visit the WCEU tickets page and register a livestream ticket.
Sessions begin on Friday, June 15th. To see a list of sessions and speakers, check out the event’s schedule. Note that there is a six hour time difference between Eastern Daylight Time and Belgrade, Serbia.
As we near the halfway point of 2018 and no imminent release of WordPress 5.0 on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what information is shared during Matt Mullenweg’s keynote.
When it comes to troubleshooting WordPress, disabling and re-enabling plugins is one of the first steps in the process. This is time consuming and involves browsing to the plugin management page multiple times to turn a plugin on or off.
Plugin Detective simplifies the process by quickly identifying the culprit. Once installed, a Troubleshooting quick link is added to the WordPress Toolbar. From here, users can open or continue a case. When a case is opened, a bot named Detective Otto asks users to navigate to the page where the problem is occurring.
After the location is identified, users inform Detective Otto which plugins are required for the site to function properly. Interrogations is the act of of disabling and enabling plugins. Multiple interrogation attempts are made until the culprit is identified through the process of elimination. The following video does a great job of explaining and showing how it works.
Plugin Detective - Vimeo
It can also be used to identify and fix White Screen of Death errors caused by plugins.
Plugin Detective is partly inspired by a software program from the 90s called Conflict Catcher.
“I used ‘Conflict Catcher’ to troubleshoot conflicts between system extensions on my Mac,” Tyler said. “I thought the concept was cool and would often run it for fun to try to figure out how it worked. Eventually, I learned that the computer science concept is a ‘binary search.’
“Applying the concept to WordPress plugins seemed like a good approach to the plugin conflict problem we all experience.”
Tyler developed the functionality and MacLees is credited with the plugin’s design and user experience. The duo plan to establish relationships with plugin authors to help get them better bug reports.
“Basically, if an author opts-in, we can help the end-user file a support ticket right there in Plugin Detective after we’ve identified the problem,” he said. “The support team gets a helpful bug report with notes from the customer, along with system information, other installed plugins, active theme, etc.”
If you troubleshoot sites often or want an easier way to figure out which plugin is causing a conflict, consider adding Plugin Detective to your toolkit. Plugin Detective is free and available for download from the WordPress plugin directory.
WordCamp Europe debuted its new official mobile app today, providing attendees with a quick way to access the event’s schedule, maps, and announcements. Several unofficial apps have popped up over the years, but this is the first one produced and supported by WCEU organizers.
The team opted for creating a PWA (Progressive Web App), which loads inside a mobile browser while offering an experience similar to native apps. It’s also far less complicated than supporting multiple platform-specific mobile apps. Users don’t have to download anything, since it is loaded via the browser, and the site can be accessed offline in case of network failure.
“This first iteration isn’t scalable for the community, but we wanted to test the possibilities and have the opportunity to explore what it would take to eventually make this available for all WordCamps,” WCEU team leader Jenny Beaumont said. “It’s a lofty goal, and we’re not there yet, but we’ve learned a lot along the way and looking forward to pursuing the ambition.”
Attendees can expect to find any last minute schedule changes in the app and may also opt to receive push notifications for important updates. The Favorites feature lets users to bookmark all the sessions they plan to attend and toggle them into view.
WCEU’s official PWA is lightweight and re-usable – it can easily be updated to display content for future editions of the WordCamp.
“We’ll only need to update our feeds, since WordCamps are issued a new website every year, but the basic functionality will be in place and can be developed on as browsers offer better support and new team members join the team with their great ideas,” Beaumont said.
The current theme is open source and available on GitHub. It can be rebranded for future events to reflect the design for that year and city. Beaumont said the long term goal is to have a PWA generated directly from WordCamp sites.
New Tech for Badges Generates a Barcode for Sponsors to Scan
The technology for badge creation will be getting an overhaul as well this year. WCEU organizers are renting the materials from a Azavista, a Dutch event management company that provides badges, badge printers and scanning devices (iPhones). The new tech will make it more efficient for volunteers to process more than 2,000 attendees at registration.
The badge scanners also streamline attendee interaction with sponsors, replacing the signup sheets and tablets that sponsors usually have for collecting attendee information.
“It’s tied to attendees’ Attendee ID number, created when attendees register on our WordCamp site,” Beaumont said. “Say an attendee is visiting a sponsor booth and having a nice conversation, the sponsor can ask if they’d like to leave their name and email address to stay in touch. If the attendee agrees, then they show their badge to have it scanned by the sponsor using the closed-technology on devices provided by our vendor. “
After the event, WCEU organizers will send the names and email addresses of attendees to the sponsors based on the signups from scanned badges.
If attendee feedback is positive, Beaumont said organizers plan to implement the quick registration feature next year. This will allow attendees to receive a QR code via email and get it scanned in order to receive their badges. These tech improvements should relieve traffic bottlenecks at the registration desk and sponsor booths, freeing up more time for WCEU attendees to spend in sessions and networking activities.
In this episode, John James Jacoby and I are joined by Gary Pendergast, a WordPress core contributor, to discuss what’s new with Gutenberg. We find out what happened with WordPress 4.9.6, and discuss WordPress’ future. We also discuss Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub and when WordPress core development might transition to GitHub. Last but not least, we share the news of the week.
Simple:Press, a forum plugin for WordPress that has been around for more than a dozen years, is available for adoption. Developers Andy Staines and Steve Klasen announced their plans to shutdown operations last August on their customer support forum and have had little luck finding a suitable replacement.
Simple:Press Forum in Action
Staines and Klasen will retire on August 1st. Everything related to the site, including the domain, plugin code, customer information, income, etc. will transfer to the new owner with no strings attached.
The forum plugin has been a labor of love for a long time. We don’t really want to see the plugin die because we have decided to retire. It has provided us a good secondary income for many years and has good potential for anyone who wished to make a go at it.
Simple:Press is not available on the WordPress.org plugin directory and generates revenue through memberships, themes, and plugins. Those interested in taking over the plugin or to find out more information can contact Klasen and Staines through the Simple:Press Forum contact form.
Jack Lenox, a Software Engineer at Automattic, has launched a new site called SustyWP that focuses on web sustainability using WordPress.
By removing the parts of Underscores he didn’t need, using one inline SVG image, no sidebars, limited CSS, and no webfonts, Lenox was able to launch a WordPress site that only has 7 Kilobytes of data transfer.
As you might expect, the site crushes page speed and performance benchmarks. The site is also hosted in a data center that uses 100% renewable energy. To learn how and why he built the site, check out his detailed blog post.
While only transferring seven kilobytes of data is commendable, these days, websites are feature-rich. I wonder how practical his methods are for large and complex sites.
Providing support on the WordPress.org forums is one of the easiest ways to contribute to WordPress and those who do are some of the unsung heroes of the project. One of those heroes is James Huff known as MacManX on the forums.
Huff has been supporting users for 13 years and recently celebrated an awesome milestone reaching 50K replies.
In this spotlight, we learn what drives Huff to provide support, what he’s learned, and what users can do to improve the likelihood a support request will be resolved.
What drives your desire to help people with WordPress on the support forums?
I like helping people succeed with WordPress. It’s kind of a legacy for me, because you never know if solving one blocker will lead to a life-changing site or service. If anything, I hope I made a few days better for a few folks.
Any trends or common issues you’ve noticed in the past few months/years?
Nothing out of the ordinary. Plugin and theme conflicts will always be the most common.
What tips or suggestions do you have for users to increase the likelihood of solving their problem?
Try the Health Check plugin first, its Troubleshooting Mode is great!
What lessons have you learned by providing support in the forums?
I learned about almost everything I have done to customize my sites first by helping someone else do it. Overall, I have learned quite a bit about WordPress just by helping other people.
To learn more about James and how he got involved with supporting the WordPress community, watch this presentation by Andrea Middleton from WordCamp Seattle 2017.
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