Issue #39
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This week in WordPress

Work on WordPress 5.6 kicks off, team members hit back at critics of all-female release squad

Work on WordPress 5.6 is officially underway. WordPress Core Team rep Francesca Marano announced the release leads, scope, and schedule this week, revealing the women who'll be lending their time and years of experience to this version of WordPress.
Justin Tadlock has the story at WP Tavern: WordPress 5.6 Development Kicks Off with All-Women Release Squad.

WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden is leading the release lead alongside coordinator and Human Made project manager Dee Teal. WP Media CTO and Head of Engineering Tonya Mork is Triage Lead, 10up Director of Open Source Initiatives Helen Hou-Sandì is Core Tech Lead, Automattic JavaScript Engineer Isabel Brison is Editor Tech Lead, and Elma Studio co-owner Ellen Bauer and Automattic Experience Designer Tammie Lister are serving as design leads.

All up, 46 women so far are filling roles in tech, accessibility, documentation, marketing, testing, the default theme, and other important aspects of the release.

Justin reports the squad plans to deliver an "impressive array of new features" that are currently in development, including navigation menus block in ore, automatic updates for major WordPress Core releases (opt-in), new features from block editor upgrades, widgets-editing and Customizer support in core, a new default theme, and public beta of Full Site Editing.
Unsurprisingly, the push to encourage more women to get involved in core development has had its critics. Arguments have played out on social media, Slack, and WP Tavern, with at least one person being blocked for his comments in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group.
Some, like developer Peter Shaw, say "The only criteria [for who should lead WordPress development] should be who is best for the role." Others, like Goose Studio developer Andreas Nurbo, believe there is no gender gap in technology and, therefore, no need to increase women's representation.

Then there's 9seeds owner Jon Brown who points out that qualified people in certain groups have long faced systemic discrimination, preventing them from fully taking part in projects like WordPress. "Organizing this all-woman release team is a great reminder that there are thousands of qualified people out there and a well-qualified release team can be put together from just one of the many under represented groups with a little bit of effort to over come those barriers," he comments.

Helen, an OG WordPress Lead Developer, doesn't mince her words saying this on Twitter: "Anyway, hi I'm diving back into WordPress core after focusing on other things for a while and will be serving as the tech lead for the 5.6 release, if you blame software bugs on gender I'll cut you!"

But we'll give the last word to MailPoet Marketing Manager Laura Nelson, who's also part of the release squad: "I've seen some pretty shitty comments about this release squad, and all I can say is that without this initiative I wouldn't have felt comfortable enough to join the team and give contributing to a WordPress release a try. And who knows, I could be pretty bloody good at it 😜"

WordPress scraps plan to drop support for PHP 5.6

WordPress 5.6 won't be dropping support for PHP 5.6 after WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg intervened to delete the milestone this week.

The release scope for WordPress 5.6 originally listed "Remove support for PHP 5.6.x." But after core contributor Juliette Reinders Folmer created a Trac ticket to bump the minimum version requirement for PHP, Matt closed it a few hours later, explaining: "Just so we don't cherry-pick stats to make a point, it's worth noting that the PHP distribution across all WP sites we track is the same as when that post was made in 2018: 85% are 5.6 or above. Only about 66% are 7.1 and above."

Further, he added in another Trac comment that WordPress should be aiming to get sites on PHP 5.6 or below to "5% usage or close to it" before dropping support." Currently, it's at 22%.
While many developers support the decision, like PMC Director of Editorial Technology Aaron Jorbin who tweets, "Unpopular opinion: WordPress is making the right decision to not abandon PHP 5.6 just yet.", there are many who want to cut ties with PHP 5.6. Yoast CPO and founder Joost de Valk tweets in reply to Aaron, "I disagree, but I do think we can do more to figure out which hosts etc are causing these numbers."
After developer Andrey Savchenko tweeted "decisions are made by people who show up named Matt?, OG WordPress Lead developer Andrew Nacin, who works for the US Digital Service, weighed in, replying: "This is _obviously_ a key philosophical decision that should be made by the project lead. And for what it's worth, our philosophies and standards on this have been consistent for more than a decade. The numbers strongly suggest it's too early to drop PHP 5.6."

WordPress 5.5 is breaking sites due to jQuery Migrate's removal from core

"#WordPress 5.5 breaks your site? Try ‘Enable jQuery Migrate Helper' plugin," tweets WordPress consultant Lieu CheonFong. He links to what is probably the most popular plugin in the WordPress.org repository right now.

As WP Tavern's Sarah Gooding explains in Enable jQuery Migrate Helper Plugin Passes 10K Active Installs, the plugin was developed by the WordPress Core Team to mitigate jQuery-related problems after updating to WordPress 5.5. WordPress has dumped jQuery Migrate 1.4.1, but many themes and plugins that relied on the script have broken because they use deprecated jQuery functions.

iThemes's Kristen Wright has put together a detailed guide to WordPress 5.5 Breaking Websites: How to Fix, while Roger Montti, writing for Search Engine Journal, also delves into Why WordPress 5.5 is Breaking Sites.

WordPress Community Team's Jill Binder nominated for tech prize

Jill Binder, who leads the Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress Community Team, has been selected as a finalist for a major technology prize, the BraveIT Award, reports The Daily Courier.

As Brian Krogsgard writes in last week's issue of the Post Status newsletter, Jill's nomination is a well-earned accolade for her work in WordPress and other technologies that empower people from underrepresented and marginalized groups around the world to become inspiring speakers and leaders.

"So I've been nominated for the 2020 #BraveIT Award for empowering speakers from #marginalized and #underrepresented groups in tech. To support my mission, smash that Vote Now button on this page (and also the patriarchy)," tweets Jill. She links to the BraveIT site. Voting closes on 28 August.
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In other news...

  • – Should there be Local Avatars in WordPress? Yes, Please writes WP Tavern's Justin Tadlock in response to renewed efforts to finally close a 10-year-old Trac ticket. Currently, users who join a WordPress site are forced to sign up for a Gravatar account if they want a custom avatar.
  • The WordPress Documentation Team is working through how to modify its external linking policy following opposition to its recent ban on commercial links, reports Justin Tadlock. The reason behind the ban was that policing commercial links would place too much responsibility on the team when they are already working with limited time and resources. Freelance developer and Documentation Team rep Milana Cap tells WP Tavern a collaborative effort to develop a new policy is "fundamentally different from previous discussions."
  • What should happen when a theme in the directory doesn't follow the guidelines? asks developer and WordPress Themes Team rep William Patton on the Make WordPress Themes blog. If you have an opinion, add your comment to the blog by 22 August.
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