Issue #215
Happy Friday! It's June 7 and we're covering the countdown to WordCamp Europe 2024, WordPress 6.5.4, Alex Stine's departure, declining numbers at WordPress events, and much more.

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Four big headlines

1. WordCamp Europe 2024 embraces simplicity and diversity with record attendance expected

WordCamp Europe 2024 lead organizer Wendie Huis in 't Veld shares how this year's event has fully embraced transparency, simplicity, and diversity in a new Q&A with The Repository.

Read the full interview: WordCamp Europe 2024 and its less-is-more approach: Q&A with lead organizer Wendie Huis in 't Veld

The world's largest WordCamp has come a long way since the first event in Leiden, The Netherlands, in 2013. Back then, only 750 people attended. This year, organizers anticipate it will be the largest in-person WordCamp ever, with 3,000 people expected to descend on Torino, Italy, from June 13-15.

The organizing team has taken a less-is-more approach to programming, with half as many sessions as last year, and rather than look outside the WordPress community for keynote speakers, it has called on big names within the community instead.

The team has also shaken off past criticisms of the diversity of its team and programming. The speaker lineup is the event's most diverse to date, thanks to an early investment in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging training for all 70+ members of its team.

Huis in 't Veld also shares how the organizing team has learned from past experiences and why the European Parliament's patronage of the event is a big deal.

In other news, WordCamp Europe 2024 will conclude with a mid-year project update from WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, followed by a Q&A.

Also: 11 speakers preview their WordCamp Europe 2024 talks for Do the Woo.

The Repository is a proud media partner of WordCamp Europe 2024.

2. WordPress 6.5.4 restores plugin auto-redirects ahead of WordPress 6.6 release

WordPress 6.5.4 dropped this week and as WordPress veteran Remkus de Vries explains in his Within WordPress newsletter, "it reverts this weird bulk activation hack we've currently got going."

The minor releases introduces a filter to restore auto-redirect after plugin activation, a temporary fix that de Vries says is a good move by core committers: "This is listening to feedback."

The Repository has previously reported that several major plugin companies, including Awesome Motive and WooCommerce, reported "significant impacts" following the release of WordPress 6.5 due to changes to plugin dependencies, including a 20% drop in users completing WooCommerce's set-up flow.

Core committers Tonya Mork, Aaron Jorbin and Colin Stewart led the minor release and are continuing to work on a more permanent framework for plugin onboarding experiences for a future major release of WordPress.

Meanwhile, WordPress 6.6 Beta 1 was released for testing this week ahead of the official release on July 16. Core contributor Mary Baum says this year's second major release is about "polish and finesse." Upcoming features include Data Views updates, overrides in synced patterns, a new publishing flow, style variations, section styles, a native grid layout, negative margins, and the ability to roll back auto-updates for plugins.

3. WordPress set to lose key accessibility advocate

Long-time accessibility contributor Alex Stine is taking time out from contributing to the WordPress project. In a LinkedIn post this week, Stine, who recently joined JPMorgan Chase & Co as a Senior Accessibility Specialist, says now that he's working full-time in accessibility, "I just can't continue to fight for accessibility in WordPress as well.

He says WordPress gave him his start in technology and will always hold a special place in his heart, but "Convincing people to care about accessibility, let alone give it any priority is a tiring endeavor." Stine highlights concerns about the speed of Gutenberg development as it relates to other WordPress core functionality and notes that accessibility issues are "mainly treated as bugs project-wide but so many bugs never get the attention they deserve due to the rapid fire development approach." Currently, there are 469 issues labeled with "[Focus] Accessibility (a11y)" in the Gutenberg GitHub account.

Stine, a fully blind contributor, has been contributing to the WordPress Accessibility Team since 2016. In February 2023, he was named the WP Community Collective's inaugural Accessibility Fellow. At the time, he said the fellowship would help him serve as the WordPress Accessibility Team rep while continuing his private work as a consultant and engineer. He plans to serve out the rest of his fellowship, which ends on June 30, before taking an indefinite break from contributing.

On LinkedIn, accessibility contributor Joe Dolson thanked Stine for his work, adding, "I sincerely hope that we can manage to get some slow down in Gutenberg development, so that we can tackle some of those big picture items – some of which have been lingering since the project began."

4. Decline in new people attending meetups and WordCamps reflects broader post-pandemic challenges

The WordPress Community Team is calling for feedback to help shape the future of meetups and WordCamp as organizers continue to struggle to attract and retain new people to WordPress.

According to data published on the Make WordPress Community blog this week, the number of new meetup groups and new members globally has seen a marked decline since 2016, with a significant drop during the pandemic years in 2020 and 2021. This trend is most evident in the number of new members, which plummeted from 136,192 in 2016 to just 3,812 in 2021. This year, 5,240 new people have attended meetups so far, showing some improvement.

Rocio Valdivia, Lead of Global WordPress Community Programs at Automattic, says most WordPress events are still one-size-fits-all despite the push for next gen events. She says the pandemic has also altered people's behaviors when it comes to in-person events, organizers are reporting burnout, and securing sponsorships has become increasingly challenging.
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In other news

WordPress project

> A Plugin Review Team proposal to review plugins hosted in the repository a second time once they hit 20,000 active installations has been met with caution. Automattic-sponsored contributor Felipe Santos says the team usually re-examines plugins when they have been reported. Fullworks owner Alan Fuller says some plugins take 10 years to reach 20,000 and to "throw non-security issues at a volunteer developer of a plugin that is popular with many users and works need to be thought about carefully." Santos, who published the proposal, also wants to aim for 95% of initial plugin reviews to be completed within seven days and wants to invest in initiatives to educate plugin developers (Make WordPress Plugins)

> A Hallway Hangout focused on theme building with WordPress Playground, the Create Block Theme plugin and GitHub will be held on June 19 (UTC). The hangout will aim to help folks who asked about handling version control workflows for block theme development during another recent Hallway Hangout, with Automattic theme developers sharing their design, development and preview process (Make WordPress Core)

> Work is underway on a second version of the WordPress Contributor Handbook. Birgit Olzem, who is leading the DEIB working group, is seeking input from contributors across the WordPress project. WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy launched the handbook in March 2021 to provide an overarching resource and place for policies, best practices, guides and other foundational content for the project ( Project)

> Learn WordPress contributors are discussing whether to adopt a 5% baseline for the content they support on the educational site. If approved, it would mean contributors would support only the latest two versions of WordPress, potentially tagging older content as being out of date. Automattic-sponsored contributor Destiny Kanno has also proposed creating a twice-yearly maintenance review process (Make WordPress Training)

WordPress community

> WordCamp organizer Ruth Kalinka is the latest recipient of the Yoast Care Fund. Michelle Frechette, who nominated Kalinka, described her as a "mover and shaker when it comes to getting things done," and praised her commitment to learning languages, sharing cultures and building relationships. Kalinka is currently in Torino, Italy, where she is helping to organize WordCamp Europe 2024. She recently launched a fundraising campaign to pay for her travel and to fund her volunteer work in the polyglot community (Yoast Care | Ruth Kalinka)

Business, enterprise & acquisitions

> During CloudFest USA this week, Extendify announced partnerships with WebPros and HOSTAFRICA. The partnership with WebPros will combine WP Squared's WordPress management capabilities with Extendify's AI-powered onboarding process and site creation tools. Meanwhile, HOSTAFRICA will now offer Extendify's full suite to its WordPress customers. "Our collaboration with Extendify empowers our clients in South Africa and beyond to effortlessly build their websites on WordPress, thanks to an intuitive onboarding experience on the world's most popular content management system," says HOSTAFRICA CEO Michael Osterloh. According to Extendify co-founder Artur Grabowski, "WordPress is absolutely huge in Africa and we're bringing modern digital experiences to entrepreneurs across the continent in partnership with the @HOSTAFRICA_ team." (cPanel | Extendify)

> Barn2 co-founder Andy Keith is stepping down as CTO at the end of June after 14 years building the company from a small web design studio into a plugin business. Andy's wife and business partner, Katie Keith, will take over as sole director. Andy will remain half owner and a non-executive director and adviser, but won't be involved in day-to-day operations (X)

> WP Includes is calling on stragglers to fill out Gender Equality in WordPress Businesses Survey. Co-founders Siobhan McKeown and Francesca Marano are hoping to get 1,000 responses before the survey closes on June 28. McKeown will share early insights from the survey data at WordCamp Europe 2024, and the full data set will inform the upcoming Gender Equality in WordPress Businesses Report, due out later this year (Survey Monkey)

> The Scale Consortium has launched its second annual State of Enterprise WordPress survey. The survey aims to collect insights from big brands on how they use WordPress to meet their business goals. Last year's survey results included responses from The Times, Macy's and the V&A on everything build and maintenance costs and decision makers to integrations, value for money, and the block editor vs the classic editor (State of Enterprise WordPress)

Plugins, themes & products

> Bluehost has launched a new AI website creator as part of its WonderSuite platform. The creator guides users through a series of onboarding questions before providing multiple site options tailored to their industry, goals and other information about their business. The launch comes after recently teased β€˜Big Sky,' a new AI-powered website builder it's testing as part of a private beta program (Newfold)

> Alex Standiford has launched Siren, an affiliate management plugin he says "empowers businesses to establish diverse and meaningful pay-for-performance relationships that go beyond standard practices." Acknowledging that affiliate programs are often stigmatized due to "sleazy pay-for-view schemes" and biased content, he says his mission is to educate customers on how to create healthy and effective online partnerships (Siren Affiliates)

Conferences & events

> WordCamp Sydney 2024's call for speakers is still open. Organizers are inviting submissions on any topic but are especially interested in ones that align with this year's theme, "purposeful connection." Speaker applications close on July 22. WordCamp Sydneyβ€”the first WordCamp in Australia since 2019β€”will be held from November 2-3 at the University of Technology, Sydney (WordCamp Sydney) | The Code Company is offering 10 travel grants, each worth $500 AUD, to support underrepresented folks attend WordCamp Sydney. According to Managing Director Ben May, the initiative aims to help active members of the WordPress community who might not otherwise be able to attend the two-day event due to financial constraints (The Code Co)

> The Bluehost Creators Awards were announced this week with Marcus Burnette's The WP World taking first place in the Creative Web Professionals category and the Ollie block theme, created by Mike McAllister and Patrick Posner, winning the Self Creators category. The awards seek to recognize and honor the talent and efforts of business owners, bloggers, and creative professionals (Bluehost Awards)

> Tickets are still available for WPCampus. The annual conference will be held from July 31 to August 2 at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., and will focus on the growth of higher education, accessibility, WordPress, and its people (WPCampus)


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