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Issue #163
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This week in WordPress

Debate over Awesome Motive's Sales Tactics Heats Up as WebDevStudios CEO & WPMinute Speak Out

Earlier this week, WebDevStudios CEO Brad Williams alluded to Awesome Motive's tough-to-cancel subscriptions, prompting his colleague and COO Lisa Sabin-Wilson to tweet, "I mean - if you're gonna call them out, finish the job. It's @AwesomeMotive we're talking about here and they surely could care less about how this looks to anyone … cha ching, mfer."

Uncanny timing on Williams' part – as Adi Robertson reported for The Verge yesterday, the US Federal Trade Commission is proposing a ban on subscriptions that are simple to start but difficult to stop.

Ripping the Band-Aid off the debate, veteran WordPress podcaster and WPMinute owner, Matt Medeiros, followed up Williams' tweet with What's the problem with Awesome Motive? He addresses long-time rumblings in the community about Awesome Motive's apparent aggressive sales and marketing approach head-on. But in a move at odds with Williams, he also appeals to folks to consider "our WordPress friends" who work at Awesome Motive and the impact of openly criticizing their employer. Ultimately, he concludes, "… it's time we move on from the debate. Awesome Motive isn't the company you want it to be, it's the company they want it to be."

Developer David Levine tweeted, "Was with @mattmedeiros right til the end [of the article]. [Awesome Motive's] model is to acquire popular plugins and lock customer data in, and thanks to WPBeginner's heft they're often the first products newcomers experience. IMO they do more harm to the ecosystem than even EIG affiliates."

MasterWP Editor Rob Howard drew criticism for name-calling when he tweeted, "@mattmedeiros Dude, such a cowardly approach to this problem." He later clarified that he was describing Medeiros's approach, not him as a person.

WordPress historian Jeff Chandler weighed in, tweeting, "I know @mattmedeiros is not a coward lol. I commend him for publishing that article. In the land of WordPress news, it's all rainbows and unicorns for everyone's products and services until it's not."

Williams tweeted, "Glad to see more people talking about this in public," adding, "I also hope people on the inside are also pushing for change. If you work at Awesome Motive, your name is attached to the tactics they are using to trick their customers. It's super shady and even illegal in some instances."

Shawn Hesketh, who recently sold WP101 to Awesome Motive, said he did so because he believed the company was the best steward for his 14-year-old business. "Further, every chance I've had to collaborate with the various AM teams over the years has convinced me that Syed [Balkhi] has created a stellar culture with some of the best people I've ever worked with. Say what you will about flash sales and cross-sells, but their people are top-notch," he tweeted.

At the time this email was sent, Awesome Motive founder and CEO, Syed Balkhi, hadn't responded publicly to Williams or Medeiros's claims.

CloudFest 2023: WordPress Business Leaders Shine, Yoast Team Named Hackathon Champions

CloudFest wrapped up yesterday after welcoming more than 6,000 people to Europa-Park, Germany, including a strong contingent of WordPress developers and contributors. For the first time, the four-day conference featured a WordPress Day on March 20 to help internet infrastructure professionals learn more about WordPress's footprint and ecosystem.

For WP Tavern, Sarah Gooding reported this year's CloudFest Hackathon featured a majority of WordPress-related projects: MariaDB health checks in WordPress, Statify (a privacy-focused web analytics plugin), docs_dangit (a search engine for WordPress developers), Wapuugotchi, Wappspector, an eco-mode to reduce outgoing network traffic for WordPress servers, WordPress runtime vulnerability analysis, and an in-browser WordPress development environment.

Yoast's Hackathon team was named the #CFHack2023 Champions and won the Visionary Catalyst and Future of the Web awards for leading the eco-mode project.

WordPress Documentation Team co-rep Milana Cap and her docs_dangit team won the Dream Team Award, IONOS Software Developer Marko Feldmann and his Wapuugotchi team won the Social Media Master Award, and Codeable Software Engineer Lucio Sá and his team won the Pitch Perfect Award for their work on WordPress runtime vulnerability analysis.

The WordPress Day featured 12 sessions on WordPress with several speakers including Jonathan Wold (CEO of the newly launched Guildenberg), Joost de Valk (Head of WordPress Strategy at Newfold Digital), Oliver Sild (co-founder and CEO of Patchstack), Vito Peleg (co-founder and CEO at, and Matt Cromwell (Senior Director of Customer Experience at StellarWP).

WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy closed out the final day of the conference, joining Extendify co-founder Chris Lubkert to discuss what Automattic really thinks about ‘WordPress'.

Quoting Haden Chomphosy's talk, WordPress Core Contributor Alain Schlesser tweeted, "‘If you like what you've worked on and have created and see value in it, you owe it to yourself and your community to make it survive past yourself - and #opensource is the best way to do so.'"

Petya Raykovska, Director of Agency Ops at Human Made, tweeted, "So much this. My proudest accomplishment as a contributor, beyond any individual contribution, has always been recruiting and enabling the people who would take over the work once I could no longer do it. Regardless of the reason. Build for sustainability ♡."

Cromwell tweeted, "If you want to know what leadership in WordPress looks like, it looks exactly like @JosephaHaden -- she knows her stuff. Listen to her, empower her, fund her, and WP will thrive."

Plugin Review Team: AI-Assisted Code Must be GPL-Compatible

Meanwhile, in AI news this week, Sarah Gooding explores the new era of AI-assisted code generation in WordPress for WP Tavern. Gooding highlighted how developers are adopting AI-powered tech and building it into their products, and how tools like ChatGPT are allowing non-developers to create plugins.

Gooding's article comes after WordPress Plugins Review Team rep Mika Epstein warned developers that code submitted to the official directory must be GPL-compatible. Epstein noted there is no guideline against using AI-generated code, but those who submit plugins to the repository are responsible for their code.

Meanwhile, the team behind has launched an AI plugin tracker.

WordPress 6.2 Release Countdown Begins, Final RC4 Now Available

The final countdown to WordPress 6.2 is on, with the official release due out on Tuesday. An unscheduled release candidate (RC4) dropped yesterday to help cover some last-minute fixes, according to Automattic-sponsored marketing contributor Lauren Stein on the Make WordPress Core blog.

If you're not yet caught up on what's in this release, technical writer Dan Knauss has put together a comprehensive guide to What to Expect in WordPress 6.2 for iThemes.

For more, Anne McCarthy, who's serving as Editor Triage Co-Lead on the WordPress 6.2 release team, joined host Rob Cairns on the Stunning Digital Marketing podcast to talk about what's coming in next week's release and the coolest features.

Meanwhile, Justin Tadlock shared what's new in Gutenberg 15.4 on the Make WordPress Core blog. The Automattic-sponsored contributor says this release is "… lighter on user-facing features than normal and focuses heavily on bug fixes, testing, and other much-needed improvements."

Or as Awesome Motive Project Manager David Bisset tweeted, "What's new in Gutenberg 15.4: Color and layout support for Cover Block - Updated template descriptions - Many many many bugs destroyed in a 🔥 death."

WordPress 20th-Anniversary Swag Now Available

WordPress' official merch site, The Mercantile, was closed for updates—but now it's back! The store has relaunched with an exciting set of limited edition 20th-anniversary WordPress swag. Not only does the merch itself have a fresh, modern feel, but the store feels like a natural part of the larger WordPress site, too.

Celebrating his order, developer and WordCamp Lisboa 2023 organizer Marco Almeida tweeted, "'Your WordPress Swag Store order is now complete'."

Ahead of the 20th anniversary celebrations on May 27, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy joined this week's episode of Torque Social Hour to talk about this important milestone, as well as WordPress 6.2 and Hot Ones hot sauce.

WooCommerce Payments Plugin Patches Critical Vulnerability

"If you use WooCommerce Payments, update that thing immediately," tweets Eric Karkovack, linking to Wordfence's PSA that a critical authentication bypass has been discovered in WooCommerce Payment allowing a complete site takeover.

Sarah Gooding has more at WP Tavern: WooCommerce Payments Plugin Patches Critical Vulnerability That Would Allow Site Takeover.

Beau Lebens, WooCommerce's Head of Engineering, published an advisory about the vulnerability, which he said "could permit unauthorized admin access to impacted stores" if exploited. The vulnerability was discovered by a security researcher taking part in WooCommerce's HackerOne program. The plugin is active on more than 500,000 websites.

GiveWP Hosting Nonprofit Hackathon

GiveWP is hosting a Give-Back-a-Thon, a hackathon that will provide three nonprofit organizations with free site redesigns. Organizations can nominate themselves through April 23, after which time GiveWP will select three site revamp recipients. The sites will be built by Grace at Work, Hands Up, and Mighty Swarm, with hosting provided by Nexcess.

"We're excited to partner with three design agencies and many plugin companies to be able to offer three brand new website builds to three deserving nonprofits," says Taylor Waldon, Director of Marketing for GiveWP. "Using the strength of the WordPress community to help nonprofits just makes sense."

WS Form tweeted, "Check out the @GiveWP Give-Back-a-Thon! Three lucky nonprofit organizations will win build brand-new #WordPress websites! We're happy to be donating @ws_form licenses to support this event."

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#WPCommunityFeels: Daniel Roch

This week, what's inspiring Daniel Roch, CEO of SEOKEY and SeoMix.
A podcast worth listening to: In French, I really liked the Radio France episode on how journalists work on high-profile cases. In English, the Post Status episode about the WordPress ecosystem is a nice one.

A concept worth understanding: Google is not your friend, either personally or professionally. Keep in mind that the goal of a search engine is to make money. Google, like its competitors, can make you disappear from the results in a short time. And above all, their statements often have a double meaning. So you should never take their word for it, especially if they are talking about an SEO ranking factor. Too many people in the SEO community relay without having tested, propagating either false or overestimated ideas.

A Twitter account worth following: There are several accounts that come to my mind, but I'll highlight WP Tavern to follow WordPress news. In the SEO field, I love Fabien Raquidel's French account, where he often posts SEO tips.

An article worth reading: This is not an article, but a book, Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors explain how to get started in an industry by making the competition irrelevant and not very powerful. This is probably one of the best marketing books I've read recently.

A habit worth forming: Test, test, and test. No matter what skill you want to learn or what product you want to launch, testing is always the key to moving forward. You can make mistakes. You can have failures. But if you don't test, you can't know in advance. This is even more true if you work as an SEO consultant: you have to test to know what works and what doesn't.

Join the GoDaddy Team at WordCamp Phoenix!

Sponsorship strap that readers, "Together with GoDaddy Pro".
A yellow rectangle with the text "Join the GoDaddy Team at WordCamp Phoenix"
Hey, WordPress folks who also love shooting hoops! Come to WordCamp Phoenix and join us, the GoDaddy team, in Arizona this weekend!

It's not your average conference, it's a basketball-themed event packed with tons of fun, insightful talks, and networking opportunities with your fellow WordPress fanatics.

In addition to some fun goodies we’ll be giving away, come hang out with the GoDaddy crew to get the inside scoop on what’s new. And, if you’re an ecommerce fan, don’t miss our own Marcus Burnette speaking about Your WooCommerce Starting Five. Whether you're a code wizard, design guru, or content king/queen, there's something for everyone.

So, will we see you there? Join us at WordCamp Phoenix and let's have a blast together!

Learn more here: Phoenix WordCamp 2023
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In other WordPress news...

  • Michelle Frechette has been named a finalist in the Remarkable Women awards. The upstate New York publication highlighted Frechette's kindness, advocacy, and mentorship, which could ultimately have her winning a trip to Los Angeles, California in the coming weeks.
  • The WordFence Threat Intelligence Team disclosed multiple Reflected Cross-Site Scripting in the GN-Publisher, Watu Quiz, and Japanized For WooCommerce plugins, which together have more than 55,000 active installs. These full site-takeover vulnerabilities were patched in late February, according to WordFence.
  • WordCamp Europe 2023 organizers are seeking speaker mentors. Volunteer speaker mentors will be paired with one or more speakers to guide them through the process of preparing their presentation for delivery this June.
  • The WordPress Developer Blog debuted this week. This new central hub aims to provide a space for updates, developer discussion, new ideas, and "cutting-edge use cases."
  • The Iterate Team published its list of "50 Most Transparent Companies 2023" on Tuesday. owner Automattic made the list at number 27, next to tools like Shopify, Zapier, Trello, and more.
  • Advanced Ads founder Thomas Maier announced that the ad management plugin was acquired by MonetizeMore. After nearly a decade of powering more than 150,000 websites worldwide, Advanced Ads will grow alongside Traffic Cop, PubGuru, and other marketing plugins.
  • Speaking of acquisitions, WPExperts has acquired developer Nuno Morais Sarmento's Change wp-admin Login plugin. At more than 90,000 active installs, the free-to-use, no-code security plugin will continue to receive user experience updates from WPExperts' team.
  • Developer Nico Mercado's 'The elePHPant in the room: Wordpress' explores the relationship between WordPress and PHP. Despite the fact that WordPress "keeps chugging along" and increasing its market share, Mercado believes the platform could offer a "sturdier" developer experience.
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