Issue #38
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This week in WordPress

WordPress 5.5 “Eckstine” is here

It's here: WordPress 5.5 "Eckstine" was released on Tuesday. This version focuses on speed (lazy loading), search (sitemaps), and security (auto-updates for plugins and themes). There's also a long list of new features for the block editor. As is tradition, the release is named after a jazz musician — Billy Eckstine.

If you've been too busy dealing with everything going on in 2020 to check out what's in this release, Kinsta's got you covered with What's New in WordPress 5.5 — A Deep Dive Into an (Epic) Release, while iThemes dives in with a similarly lengthy post: WordPress 5.5: Top 20 New Features & Improvements.

If you're after a quick run down, WP Tavern sums up the release in WordPress 5.5 "Eckstine" Introduces Block Directory, Block Patterns, and Automatic Updates for Themes and Plugins. WP Beginner has published its usual overview: What's New in WordPress 5.5 (Features and Screenshots).

"🎉 #WordPress 5.5 "Eckstine" is out! Help me thank 805 (!!!) contributors, families, friends, pets, and therapists for their hard work," tweets freelance developer and contributor David Bisset, while WHODUNIT CTO and WordPress Core Team rep Jb Audras tweets: "WordPress 5.5 «Eckstine» is now available! THANK YOU to the 805 people who contributed to #WordPress 5.5! ♥️ They come from 58 countries and work in 215 different companies. More importantly, 306 people are NEW CONTRIBUTORS, which is 38% of the total! 🙌"
One such contributor is Mukesh Panchal, a team lead at LinkSture Technologies, who tweets: "I'm humbled to share that I'm Noteworthy Contributors for the @WordPress ❤️. It feels great to be recognized for my contribution work. Fifth time in a row 🥳🎉🌟"
Of course, with every new release comes some trepidation. "Updating to Wordpress 5.5. Pray for me," tweets digital marketing coach Arielle Hale. "WordPress 5.5: just different enough in the admin area that all your documentation now looks out-of-date 😬" tweets PublishPress founder Steve Burge.
Now that work on WordPress 5.5 is done and dusted, Siteground's WordPress Community and Partnerships Manager Francesca Marano, who's also a WordPress Core Team rep, is gearing up for WordPress 5.6 and its all-women release squad. She tweets: "Does anyone else feels like this is the best superhero movie ever? WordPress Women... assemble!"

Astra theme suspended and then delisted for violating theme directory guidelines

Twitter blew up this week after the popular Astra theme was suspended from the WordPress.org theme directory for breaking a ban on affiliate links. Justin Tadlock from WP Tavern reports the WordPress Themes Team initially handed down a five week suspension after discovering Astra was inserting affiliate codes into upsell links included in free plugins.

Just a few days out from the release of WordPress 5.5, however, the suspension was overturned in favor of delisting Astra from the popular themes list for six weeks. The suspension would've impacted Astra's 1 million users, preventing them from updating to a newer version of the theme for five weeks and potentially leading to broken sites after updating to WordPress 5.5.

Debate over the violation has raged on Twitter. Some, like LayerWP founder Ben, say they've been "put off ever using" Astra. He argues his case in Astra WordPress Theme In The Bad Books.

Others, such as Impress content writer Taylor Waldon, have questioned why there isn't a mechanism in place to warn affected users. She tweets: "Regardless of what they did, the process for this needs to change. One million users are affected by the fact that there was 0 warning in place before a 5 week suspension? Were they given a list of changes and said 'no?' (No) I saw no due process in those threads."
Taylor sets out her arguments in Astra Theme Suspension and Reinstatement Raises Important Questions for the WordPress Community. She also asks: Why is it so bad for WordPress companies to make money?
Like all good #wpdrama, there's more to it: According to Search Engine Journal's Roger Montti in WordPress Suspends Astra Theme – Affects 1 Million Users, the Themes Team has previously asked Brainstorm Force, the company that makes Astra, to remove affiliate links from its theme and failed to do so.

Brainstorm Force CEO and co founder Sujay Pawar has published an open apology letter on the Astra blog. According to Justin, Sujay has also promised to contribute 16 hours from one of the company's senior developers to the Themes Team along with 5% of the company's resources toward the WordPress project's Five for the Future initiative.

The delisting comes a month after Astra became the first non-default WordPress theme to surpass 1 million active installs. As Justin points out, the delisting will impact Brainstorm Force's revenue as the freemium version upsells a pro version of the theme.

WordPress Core Team rep offers behind-the-scenes look at how releases come together

"Love this piece by @FrancescaMarano on her journey to becoming a release lead. Loads of interesting things in her story and some of the things that not everyone sees about how WordPress gets put together at the end of the day," tweets WP Tavern's Justin Tadlock. He links to Francesca Marano's guest post A Non-Technical Release Lead's Journey to Becoming a Mentor for WordPress Core Development.

Francesca, who works full-time at Siteground and was recently named a WordPress Core Team rep, writes about her journey to becoming a core contributor — one who doesn't write code. She offers a behind-the-scenes look at how WordPress releases come together as well as her thoughts on how core development could be reorganized to make it easier and more appealing for newcomers to contribute.

"Thank you Francesca, I hope every single person who wants to help make WordPress gets the chance to read this," comments Castos lead developer and core contributor Jonathan Bossenger. UX designer and WordCamp organizer Estela Rueda adds: "Thank you for your words. Thinking back, I am glad I was part of the 5.5 squad. People don't realize how much work goes into a release, it really shows the commitment and love contributors have for the project. Looking forward to being part of the 5.6 squad and learning even more."

Automattic relaunches long-time internal collaboration tool P2 as a new product

Automattic has relaunched P2 — the company's internal collaboration software — as a new product for remote teams. As Romain Dillet at TechCrunch reports in WordPress.com launches new P2 to take on internal communication tools, Automattic has been using P2 internally for years to communicate asynchronously with its distributed workforce. Back in 2009, Automattic CEO and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg posted on his blog about How P2 Changed Automattic.

Romain tested the beta version of P2 and says it's a "clean and focused product that would work particularly well in that spot between company-wide emails and announcements getting lost in Slack."

Sarah Gooding also covers the story for WP TavernAutomattic Relaunches P2, Self-Hosted Version on the Roadmap — where she adds P2 is used on WordPress.org and other self-hosted sites via a theme.

"Looks like Automattic is gunning for the distributed team/remote work SaaS space with a new freemium model for P2. If you‘ve checked out the Make WordPress blogs, you'll have a rough idea of how P2 is used for async convos and collaboration," tweets GoDaddy Senior Community Manager Andy McIlwain.
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In other news...

  • – Want to disable the new Unsplash plugin's CDN? There's a plugin for that. In the wake of the #wpdrama that has played out over the image library's licensing, WP Tavern reports the Disable Unsplash CDN plugin is the first of several new WordPress plugins that disable the Unsplash CDN to land in the WordPress.org repository. Plugin author Xaver Birsak, who created Mailster, says he released the plugin to help users who may experience slower page speed caused by the Unsplash CDN.
  • Is WP Notify the Silver Bullet WordPress Needs to End Admin Notification Spam? asks Jonathan Bossenger, who's leading the WP Notify project. He opines at WP Tavern: "The answer might not be as simple as we think." His piece comes after he recently put out a call in WP Notify – next steps for feedback on how best to move forward with the project.
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