Issue #34
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This week in WordPress

WordCamp Europe to go virtual (again) for 2021

Let's kick off this week with news that WordCamp Europe will go virtual for 2021, in-person conference to resume in 2022, as reported by Sarah Gooding for WP Tavern. The organizing team made the unexpected announcement this week, 10 months ahead of the scheduled June 3-5, 2021 event.
"Although it was a difficult decision, it also seems the right thing to do. Considering the continuing uncertainty regarding COVID-19, we are hesitant to draw so many individuals from so many different places into one physical space," the announcement reads.
Organizers are planning to resume the in-person event in 2022 and have booked Porto's Super Bock Arena (Pavilhão Rosa Mota) for 2-4 June, 2022.

"Bold and right decision! You have a lot of time to prepare - #WCEU will be awesome! Love you all! 🤗" tweets WPValet developer and WordCamp Europe 2019 Global Leader Organizer Milan Ivanovíc, while 7Strel owner Luís Semedo tweets, "😲😢 Understandable. As we say in Portugal: À terceira será de vez! Até 2022," which roughly translates to the English saying, "Third time's a charm!"

In other conference-related news, the WPMRR podcast has announced a virtual summit "100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business." The free WPMRR Virtual Summit will be held on 23-24 September.

Astra the first free WordPress theme to reach 1 million installs

Astra has become the first non-default theme to crack 1 million active installs. Sujay Pawar, co-founder of Brainstorm Force and Astra Themes, announced this week his team is Celebrating 1 Million Active Installs! The Highest Number Any WordPress Theme — in the WordPress.org theme repository, that is — Has Achieved.
The theme launched in May 2017 and took four months to reach 10,000 downloads. In less than a year the theme achieved 500,000 downloads, and now 1 million just eight months later.

"While good marketing and business plans go a long way toward getting installation numbers up, you cannot keep those numbers without building a product that users will continue using," writes WP Tavern's Justin Tadlock in Astra Becomes the Only Non-Default WordPress Theme With 1 Million Installs.

WordPress Block Directory open for business

Last weekend, Automattic developer Alex Shiels put out a call for plugin authors to begin submitting one-off block plugins to the official block directory with his post You can now add your own plugins to the Block Directory at Make WordPress Plugins. As Justin Tadlock at WP Tavern writes in Call for Block Plugins: The WordPress Block Directory Is Open for Business, WordPress 5.5 will allow users to search for, install, and add blocks directly from the editor.

Developers don't have much time. And as Justin notes, "Technically, plugin authors have been able to submit blocks to the directory for months. It was a bit of a hidden feature that few developers took advantage of."

Documentation Team bans links to commercial sites

The WordPress Documentation team has announced a controversial ban on links to commercial websites in a revision to its external linking policy.

Freelance developer Milana Cap from the Documentation team writes in External Linking Policy – "Commercial blogs": "… before you start arguing that some popular plugin's blogs have valuable information, let me stop you right there. Allowing ‘popular plugin's/theme's/services' etc blogs' and all other commercial blogs will put us in a position to protect documentation from being abused as marketing media, to protect ourselves from accusations of being biased and to defend every decision we make along the way. And still, there will be dissatisfied sides claiming we weren't fair and did them wrong... There is no way to make this fair."

The decision hasn't gone down well in the community. Yoast founder and CPO Joost de Valk has challenged the decision, saying companies that make a positive contribution to the WordPress project will lose valuable promotion.
Similarly, 9seeds owner and developer Jon Brown comments, "The more this gets discussed though the more it sounds like really undesirable gatekeeping. In cross post comments there is discussion of having a preference for trusting links from persons active and ‘well known' in the community over others. And here a prejudicial policy against all things ‘Commercial' suggesting they're inherently corrupt and not trustworthy nor valuable."
As Sarah Gooding notes in WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites, "External sources can be valuable supplements to documentation, but this conversation underscores the need for better incentives for people to spend time documenting WordPress."

Matt Mullenweg talks about working remotely (déjà vu...)

Matt Mullenweg and his views on distributed work have been in high demand since the pandemic started, as a quick glance at this Twitter account attests. This week, New York Times journalist David Gelles says Matt's An Evangelist for Remote Work (who) Sees the Rest of the World Catch(ing) On.

Working remotely is "good for the environment" and "good for the economy" says the WordPress co-founder. In the Q&A published this week, Matt talks about Automattic's hiring and pay practices, why he bought Tumblr, and what his home office is like, offering insights into how Automattic has evolved over the past 15 years.

Elsewhere, during a Real Talk Business Reboot webinar for Inc.com on Wednesday, Matt told editor-at-large Tom Foster that any person — or company — can adjust to post-office-life if they try. He also warned of "false proxies" — certain habits some employees use to signal hard work in an office environment, such as showing up early and staying late.

COVID-19 Scam Website Checker

Sponsored post
Scammers and hackers have been taking advantage of people's anxiety about the coronavirus. However, the folks at ProPrivacy have built a tool to check if a domain is a COVID-19 scam, and have identified a whopping 100,000 scam domains. They've also done a really interesting analysis of the 100k domains, including where they come from.
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In other news...

  • WordPress 5.5 Beta 2 is now available for testing. WordPress 5.5 is slated for release on 11 August.
  • WP Rocket, ElegantThemes, WPForms, Pressable, BlogVault and WPML have joined forces as part of a marketing initiative to educate users on how to grow an online business. On 15 July, the six brands each published in-depth guides that focus on each company's core specialities: hosting, themes, security, caching and speed, forms, and translation. Check out each site's blog to read the series of posts in full.
  • – Fake plugins are trending as an effective way for hackers to establish a foothold on compromised websites, according to Sucuri. During a recent investigation, detailed in Malware Analyst Krasimir Konov's post Fake WordPress Plugin SiteSpeed Serves Malicious Ads & Backdoors, the security company discovered code for ads, backdoor functionality, and role creation.
  • – The team at Pixelgrade has had a busy 2020 so far, as detailed in the theme agency's Transparency Report #11. In addition to relaunching their "Upstairs" blog, seeking greater customer feedback, and updating over 30 themes and 25 plugins, the team has evolved its site creation system. If you're interested in how a WordPress agency is navigating the COVID-19 crisis, the report is worth a read.
  • – "After the launch, everyone is happy for a while (except the customers, of course) because in many organizations what is important is to be seen to be doing things and producing and launching things, rather than to do something useful," writes Gerry McGovern for A List Apart. In his piece Webwaste, he offers some serious food for thought, arguing "the web is obese" and "a plague of useless images."
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