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Issue #141
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This week in WordPress

MasterWP gets hate mail after publishing racism article

It's Friday and as the endless screaming account tweets: "AHHHH."

Nyasha Green, the Editorial Director of MasterWP, is taking a break from Twitter after publishing Enough with this woke stuff: and other racist speech you can unlearn and, not surprisingly, spending the past few days dealing with bigots. In her article, Green discusses the way unintentional racism can manifest in microaggressions and how these offhand comments can harm individuals and communities.

As MasterWP Publisher Rob Howard tweets, "Every time we discuss diversity @_MasterWP we get lots of people responding with hate mail from their business addresses. 😅 They also like to tell us they're unsubscribing, like it hurts our feelings. Today's record: 1 minute after newsletter was sent!"

Green adds, "My boss literally posted excerpts from the emails and this dude flew to attack me. Waking up in this community lately has been a freaking doozy."

Meanwhile, "We have so much work to do," tweets Allie Nimmons, Digital Producer for MasterWP, co-founder of Underrepresented in Tech, and co-organizer for BlackPress Slack and WP Women of Color. She links to her upcoming workshop, How to Be An Ally.

SiteGround launches first-of-its-kind EDD hosting

SiteGround surprised folks this month when it launched its new managed Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) hosting product—the first of its kind amongst WordPress hosts.

Syed Balkhi, Founder and CEO of Awesome Motive, which owns EDD (after acquiring it from Sandhills Development last year) shared the news in a low-key tweet buried in a super-long Twitter thread about WordPress ecommerce and market share. He links to Announcing Managed EDD Hosting With SiteGround: Digital Ecommerce is Now Easier Than Ever.

Sarah Gooding covered the story at WPTavern, noting SiteGround currently powers more than 2.8 million domains and is targeting small businesses and digital product creators with new plans that make it easy to onboard new EDD store owners.

PublishPress acquires slider plugin

PublishPress has acquired MetaSlider from Extendify in a move WPTavern's Sarah Gooding has described as "a curious acquisition as sliders seem to have fallen out of favor on the web over the past seven years, due to problems with SEO, performance, and poor engagement."

According to Gooding, the plugin is used on more than 700,000 sites to build sliders, slideshows, carousels, and galleries. As part of the sale, the company has also acquired MetaSlider Lightbox, which has 10,000 active installs, and a photo gallery that's in a beta version.

PublishPress founder Steve Burge tells Gooding he plans to use MetaSlider as a platform for building a suite of image tools: "There will be more [tools] to come… Most of my favorite publishers also have beautiful photography with their stories. From big WordPress publishers such as Outside Magazine to small start-ups such as TheNarwhal, the photos often add as much as the text. We hope to build tools to help publishers showcase their images."

WPTavern reader Michael Tiegner comments, "PublishPress has done a good job of improving the Organize Series plugins. This should be a beneficial M&A."

Analysis of contributor stats reveals 1 in 5 are sponsored

Chuck Grimmet, who's on the WordPress.com Special Projects Team at Automattic, published some extracurricular data exploration around WordPress core contributors and the countries they work for this week. The most interesting finding: 19.9% of contributors to WordPress 6.0 were sponsored.

Grimmet breaks down the data and this methodology on his blog: Some WordPress Core Contributor Stats.

MasterWP Publisher Rob Howard tweeted, "… In a recent podcast Matt said ‘about 5%' of the ~500 contributors on each release are paid — but this data suggests it's at least 55% 🤷‍♂️" leading Grimmet to clarify that, "… not all employers listed in profiles are sponsoring the contributions. I think this shows company affiliations more than sponsorships. But I wouldn't be surprised if the number is higher than 5%. Difficult to get an accurate number since profile are self-reported."

WebP pulled from WordPress 6.1 release

As expected, WebP by default has been pulled from the upcoming WordPress 6.1 release. At WPTavern, Sarah Gooding reports the feature has been punted to a future release after WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg recently posted about removing it from core in favor of development as a canonical plugin.

Gooding notes that contributors are figuring out next steps, with Google-sponsored core committer Adam Silverstein telling last week's WordPress Performance Team meeting, "We are still trying to figure out what a canonical plugin is exactly, and if that would work for WebP by default."

Locally hosted fonts for legacy themes punted to WordPress 6.2

Speaking of punting, German contributor Hendrik Luehrsen criticized WordPress this week for apparently neglecting users in GDPR countries after a ticket bundling Google fonts with WordPress' legacy default themes missed the window for inclusion in the WordPress 6.1 release.

Luehrsen, the CEO of creative agency Luehrsen // Heinrich, started pushing for more eyes on the ticket after reporting that users in Germany were getting emails threatening fines for using fonts loaded from Google.

"The Google Fonts fix for legacy core themes will not land in WordPress 6.1," tweeted Luehrsen, adding, "This is the reason why WordPress will probably lose relevance. Real users get hurt here, but they are in GDPR territories and this does not seem to be important."

Sarah Gooding at WPTavern reports that locally hosted fonts for legacy default themes have now been punted to the WordPress 6.2 Release.

In June, the WordPress Themes Team began strongly urging theme authors to switch to locally-hosted webfonts following a German court case involving a website owner who was fined for violating the GDPR because he was using Google-hosted webfonts that were exposing visitors' IP addresses.

Gutenberg 14.1 is now available

Gutenberg 14.1 was recently released with some much-needed improvements to the Navigation block, which "still seems to be on rocky journey towards better usability," reports Sarah Gooding at WPTavern.

In the Gutenberg Times Weekend Edition 229, Birgit Pauli-Haack notes that 59 contributors, including seven new ones, merged 348 PRs for this release: "Many PRs came from the effort to make all blocks have consistently all the design tools, like Color, Typography, Dimension design tools."

Ellipsis Weather Report is now live

Ellipsis Marketing has released the auto-updating live view of its new Weather Report, a "live" score reflecting the "weather" in the WordPress ecosystem. Updated every Monday and based on a four-week rolling average, a positive change for the week means WordPress (or WooCommerce) is experiencing growth compared to the previous four weeks, and vice versa for a negative change.

As Ellipsis Managing Director Alex Denning tweeted in July when he launched the project, "The Weather Report goes beyond the search volumes we've shared before: we're blending search data with advertiser activity. This lets us include clicks with volumes for more accuracy."

Denning tells Post Status Editor Dan Knauss: "We've never had this insight before, and it is exciting and terrifying to bring this kind of 'live' view of the industry, to the industry… We've all enjoyed the comfort of an ever-growing ecosystem, and the Weather Report will show us the extent to which that does or doesn't continue."

Other reads

  • Automattic-sponsored core contributor Adam Zielinski published a demo last week of WordPress running in the browser with no PHP server. As always, Sarah Gooding has the story at WPTavern. Zielinski's prototype uses WebAssembly (WASM), a format for a stack-based virtual machine that enables deployment on the web for client and server applications, and Emscripten, an open source compiler toolchain to WebAssembly. Gooding notes the prototype isn't stable yet, "… but the concept is intriguing, as it opens up a world of potential use cases." The project is available on GitHub and Zielinski is eager to recruit contributors to help build out this vision and make it a reality.
  • WordPress and Wix are often pitted against one another, but they couldn't be more different, says the WPMinute's Eric Karkovack. In Why WordPress and Wix Will Always Be Worlds Apart, Karkovack argues the two shouldn't be compared—especially when audience and marketing considerations come into play.
  • MasterWP Editor Rob Howard is investigating the use of fake countdown timers on sites offering "limited-time" sales. In "This article expires in 3 hours, 47 minutes, 22 seconds," he picks apart the code behind these timers and questions whether they can truly be considered an honest marketing practice.
  • Speaking of odd marketing practices, "Is Deceptive Marketing Ruining WordPress' Reputation?" WP Mayor's newest opinion piece discusses the role greed plays in slightly manipulative visual tools, including the fake timers mentioned above. Eric Karkovack tweets, "I think @markzahra hits the nail on the head regarding some of the harmful marketing tactics we're seeing. And he holds himself accountable, which is important."
  • Aaron Jorbin marked eight years as a WordPress core committer—responsible for maintaining what is now 43% of the internet—by sharing Five lessons from Eight Years as a WordPress Core Committer. Jorbin, who's the Sr. Director of Editorial Technology at PMC, says he's used his commit privileges 393 times and he's proud to count many of the other 92 core committers as friends.
  • As Dan Knauss notes in What is WP Cloud? for Post Status, Automattic's new Platform as a Service (PaaS) was flying under the radar until Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg mentioned it in his recent WordCamp US address. Curious to know more, Matt Medeiros from the WPMinute interviewed Jesse Friedman, Director of Innovation at Automattic, to find out more.

Business Spotlight: LearnDash

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Cultivating curiosity about the business of WordPress

Photo of Jonathan Wold.
In my conversations with WordPress product founders, two topics come up most often. Pricing is the first and often comes up as part of a larger business model discussion. How much should a WordPress product cost? For many founders I've connected with, the default is to do what they see others doing. Partnerships are also a recurring topic. Most founders are on board with the idea of growing through strategic partnerships. Some have tried a partnership or two, with varying degrees of success.

But what I've noticed on these two topics and others is a pattern whereby founders often recognize their need for help but struggle getting outside of their day-to-day business to actually get that help.

The founders I've seen do well are often part of groups—connecting with other founders, sharing their experiences, and being candid about what's working and what's not. So far, though, those founders have been the exception. I've spoken with many in WordPress who, for the most part, are simply going it alone. It makes progress harder than it needs to be, especially in an open source ecosystem like ours.

What I'd love to see more of are founders cultivating curiosity about the business of WordPress. Why are products priced the way they are? What are the key ingredients to a successful partnership? What are the levers you can pull to drive growth in a decentralized ecosystem?

Answers exist but finding them starts with asking the questions. For founders interested in leveling up, here are a few ideas:
  1. Bring ideas from the outside in. Learn from the world of software-as-a-service and other industries outside of WordPress. Read books on marketing and growth.
  2. Share with peers. Find other founders to connect with. Meet regularly with a group of 3-5 others to help each other level up.
  3. Cultivate curiosity. Notice a product business doing something interesting? Reach out. WordPress folks are often happy to share.
Above all else, let your curiosity and drive to continuously improve guide you. Read more: Using The Loop to Grow a WordPress Product Company.

#WPCommunityFeels: Ronnie Burt

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This week, what’s inspiring Ronnie Burt, who leads the team at Automattic behind Sensei LMS.
A podcast worth listening to: I’m a sucker for good interviews. I rarely miss an episode of How I Built This with Guy Raz.

A concept worth understanding: I’ve been getting really into using Reusable Blocks lately—and I don’t know what took me so long! Using groups and patterns can really simplify updating content on a website on multiple pages or posts all at once. Totally worth checking out if you haven’t already.

A Twitter account worth following: It does make you feel a little small and insignificant, but @NASAWebb is a great Twitter follow. Their alt-text descriptions and new ‘sonifications’ of photos are exciting models for improving web accessibility.

An article worth reading: There have been dozens of articles about employers monitoring remote employees in the last few weeks. This one by the BBC is a good overview. I’m glad to see this discussion happening more visibly. Trust is empowering.

A habit worth forming: I feel I do my best work when I take time every day to think about work away from my desk. For me, it is a daily walk or run—usually listening to a work-related podcast. Blocking that time off on the calendar is key.
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In other WordPress news...

  • WordPress 6.1 Beta 2 is now available. It's recommended that users try the beta on a test server and site, not production-level sites.
  • Twenty Twenty-Two is the first default block theme to be tagged as accessibility-ready. The theme was found during testing to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA guidelines.
  • The Make Community Team is asking that WordPressers complete the Annual Meetup Survey by October 15. Please share the survey with your peers via discussion boards, email, social media, and Meetup groups!
  • The first in-person WordCamp India is looking for speakers! Pitched talks should be immediately applicable to WordPress and be respectful of the WordPress community, the WordCamp Code of Conduct, and the GPL.
  • David Vogelpohl, VP Growth at WP Engine and host of Press This, is starting a new adventure. After conducting more than 260 episodes, Vogelpohl is stepping into the role of Chief Marketing Officer at FastSpring.
  • WooCommerce Blocks 8.6.0 was released this week with support for a new block that displays suggested products based on the product sitting in the customer's cart. This feature will only apply to users on the cart page.
  • WooSesh, a virtual WooCommerce conference, has published its event schedule. The conference takes place October 11-13, 2022, and will include 24 speakers from across the WooCommerce ecosystem, including engineers, product managers, sales directors, and WooCommerce core developers.
  • Want to start your week with a little motivation? Kathy Zant and Michelle Frechette have teamed up with a new podcast called WP Motivate.
  • Multidots was ranked #560 on the 2022 Inc. 5000 Annual List after posting 1,122% growth over three years as a WordPress VIP Gold partner. Post Status' Dan Knauss put together a blog post linking Michelle Frechette's interview with CEO and co-founder Anil Gupta, as well as podcast and video walkthroughs of Multicollab, Multidots' editorial-style commenting plugin.
  • Lawrence Ladomery recently published WP BizDev, a job board for sales and marketing roles within Wordpress businesses. WP BizDev is offering free job listings to everyone through the end of 2022.
  • Last week Do the Woo published "A Candid Conversation on Hosting Benchmarks and Testing." The episode involves Review Signal's Kevin Ohashi, who's a pro at "turning conversations on Twitter into web hosting reviews."
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