Hosted by Gutenberg Times curator Birgit Pauli-Haack. The three design and development leads for Gutenberg, the new publishing experience in WordPress answer questions from the audience on the project start to user testing, new plugin API and more. Joining us for the episode are:

  • Tammie Lister (@karmatosed): Design Operations @automattic. WordPress core contributor, open source designer and experience creator.
  • Joen Asmussen (@joen on WordPress.org): Design wrangler at Automattic. I believe in gravity, the moon landing, and well-mixed White Russians
  • Matias Ventura (@matias_ventura): Philosophy. Cinema. Photography. Design. Engineering. Developer experience at @automattic. Co-lead of the Gutenberg project.

Scroll down to the Transcript, provided by Pauli Systems, Naples, Florida

Transcript

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Welcome to the sixth episode of the Gutenberg Times Live Q&A. Today, we have a world premiere. We have the three co-leads of Gutenberg for design and technical leads and for the WordPress new publishing experience in one show. It’s Joen Asmussen, Matias Ventura, and Tammie Lister.

Joen and Matias started together at Gutenberg in 2016, and then Joen went on maternity leave and handed over design lead to Tammie in August of 2017. Thank you for taking the time, pulling away from all the release stress that you must have. I’m glad you’re here and all three able to make it on a Friday night.

Joen Asmussen: Yeah, pleasure to be here.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thanks, Joen.

Tammie Lister: Thank you.

Matias Ventura: Likewise, thanks for inviting us.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: We are streaming live to YouTube and we will publish this sometime in December, probably after Wordcamp US as a podcast also on-demand and with show notes and we use the Zoom Q&A and let Tammie and Joen and I’ll pick the questions, I’ll go through it and then ask the question, and then either one of you answers or if you want to chime in with a second answer or a second comment also, let’s make this an informal way to do this.

Topic-wise, we start out with the genesis of Gutenberg and how it came to pass in 2016. First, I want to ask Tammie and Joen and Matias to tell us a little bit more about yourselves, where do you live, what are you doing for fun, and what did you do before Gutenberg in the WordPress community? Tammie you wanna start?

Tammie Lister: Sure. So before Gutenberg I was involved in lots of different things, Buddy Press, to themes to design, so I’ve been around awhile in the community. I live just kinda by North Hampton in England, it’s basically if you went like that and tried to hit the center of England, you’d get where I live. What do I do? So I do yoga, I have an older dog that likes hugs, that’s kinda cool, and I live kind of a bit rural so I kind of relax here.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Joen?

Joen Asmussen: Sure. I live in Denmark, in suburbia, maybe 45 minutes north of Copenhagen. I have two kids and a trampoline in the yard and I’ve been using WordPress since Version 1.2 actually. I switched to 1.2 from moveable type because of a great post by Mark [Pildren 00:03:27] made me switch and I’ve been a fan ever since. And here we are.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And what did you do immediately before you worked on the Gutenberg project?

Joen Asmussen: Lot’s of different things. I’m generally in the design part of the world and I do lots of front end CSS and a little technical implementation of that. I’ve been Gutenberging for so long now, it’s a past life. I don’t actually recall what I was working on right before.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Matias?

Matias Ventura: Yes well I am from Montevideo,Uraguay But I am living in Spain now, in Madrid. I do all sort of things outside of web development that I really like. I studied philosophy, I do filmmaking when I find the time. And I also like drawing and painting very much. So I got into web development in a very circumstantial way, just because I like creating things. And that’s also my first involvement with WordPress is around themes.

My first big contribution to Core was 2011 theme. And then I’ve been sort of swinging between design and development for a while as I got more into Java script driven development. I work on the calypso project in Automattic, the redesign of the theme admin screen in WP admin. I think that was in version 3.8 or something like that. And then yes I’ve been absorbed by this Gutenberg thing for the last couple years with these fine folks.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah and I looked up, there are 374 contributors to Gutenberg so there’s a huge army that works together and it’s very interesting how this all comes to pass. Now [inaudible 00:05:45] is coming out soon, and we are not answering the question when it will come out, and your work as leads for Gutenberg arrives at a big milestone, your aim at it when you started out in 2016. But let’s go back to the beginning.

Matias, now I know when you said you study philosophy, I now know where the ship of Theseus blogposts comes from, but in there you wrote about the vision of Gutenberg: “It’s an attempt to improve how users interact with their contact in a fundamentally visual way, while at the same time, give developers the tools to create more fulfilling experiences for the people they are helping.” So for that, you and your team needed to rethink a lot about the underlying architecture for [inaudible 00:06:42]. How did you and the other developers approach this fundamental task? Take us through the phases, maybe, from the beginning. Keep in mind, we only have an hour.

Matias Ventura: Yes, I’ll try to keep it short. In a way, I think that’s kind of one of the core missions of WordPress. I mean, it’s always been about the user experience, and also allowing developers and people to extend it in ways that fulfill needs that we wouldn’t even imagine in Core. That’s the way that WordPress has grown, has been through the user experience and through the developers extending a very flexible platform.

At the same time, I think the experiment around post formats starting showing that the way people wanted to express on the web was also evolving, probably at a faster rate then WordPress the software was evolving. So that means people wanted to do things that weren’t becoming very easy to do. I mean, we had some tools. Like shortcuts, widgets, to sort of build the base, but it was growing further apart from that visual connection from the user. And WordPress has done multiple sort of experiments around the customizer performers to close that gap, but I think after the post format world, there was a sort of consensus in the community, that the flexibility of WordPress was even greater then what post formats allowed. Post formats would say, what sort of content you want to create, and that’s a choice you make before creating the content. The sort of realization was that people were mixing different content types all the time. You want to write a post and mix and embed and then show a quote, and sort of this more flexible experience sort of led us to say, well it’s not post formats that we need but we need just to have a lot of content log within the post.

That goes back all the way to 2012 or 13. Once it was announced that the editor was going to be a focus then approach was to try to figure out how we could introduce this notion of content blocks, on a platform that’s already 30% of the web, with millions of users, millions of content already created, how can it be introduced in a way that both changes the platform towards the direction that we want to go, but also makes as smooth a transition as possible. It also makes sense to focus on the editor first, because it was both a more contained experience, and also the challenges were greater, in a way, because you had to respect the writing flows, you couldn’t bring content blocks in the picture. So it was a way to start in a sort of contained environment that exposed a lot of the challenges, and would allow us to build from there towards a full site building experience and the rest of the phases, so to speak. I think that’s a kind of summary, I don’t want to go too much into it, so we can leave room for other questions.

Joen Asmussen: If I can briefly elaborate on the post formats things Matias mentioned, because I worked on a 2013 theme that was supposed to showcase the post formats that were going into WordPress 3.6. But famously or infamously those the UI for post formats was pulled out at the last minute, which was the correct decision, by the way, because it just wasn’t compelling enough. The challenge was, I really like how this video post format looks but I want to use it in my standard post, why can’t I do that? That was one of the first seeds of the block concept, where what if it’s a block, you can just insert it as a block, if you have just one block, well, it’s the same as having a post format, but you just have the flexibility of piecing together more of those together. That’s part of when we all starting thinking about blocks the atomic unit to build the whole thing around.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: That brings also the question, your design team that you stated out with, started from a very blank slate, pretty much, and so did you do any research, for the first prototypes and what did you learn from the first usability test that you did, I think, in April where the first prototype came out in February 2017 and then the prototype in April, I think. And then the usability test in April, sorry.

Joen Asmussen: Yeah, the prototyping phase was fun. Definitely at the prototype phase we started looking at mostly the block unit itself, and not so much the editor context around it, because at that point we were still exploring how the whole thing should work together. But we knew that the block was going to be the important thing. So for the prototype we focused just on the editing canvas, the content. We had two prototypes: one that was sort of the single instance approach, one which was the multi instance approach. In one approach you insert block inside of the flow of the text, whereas in the other approach every single piece of content you insert is a block on its own.

We worked on those prototypes for months on end to make sure we made the right decision, and part of the right decision was made based on the user testing, which showed, I imagine Tammie can also speak a little to that, you did a lot of the testing as well. Largely they were both functioning fairly well, however, there were pros and cons to both approaches. One of the pros of separating at the block level was that we could make a much more resilient experience where, for example, the example Matias kept really focusing on, was that if you inserted an image and added a caption then selected from the caption and into the next text block, perhaps to delete part of the caption, the whole thing might explode and might have an image block with some tag soup around it and part of a text block, and it would quickly get messy. Whereas in the other approach, that was completely resilient and sand boxed to each of them. So we had to sort of make a trade off between those two approaches. Plugins could more easily tap into the second approach, the multi instance approach, and we also knew that because the block was so critically important to the whole experience, they had to function or it wouldn’t scale.

Matias Ventura: And that scaling also matter for something like phase two. We could have built it in the other way, but it was going to very quickly get into a very complicated situation for the next phases, so I think it was worth the challenges around making the- because a lot of the development work ended going into how can we make the process of navigating between blocks fluid and smooth. That required a lot of effort to polish, but I think it was worth with the idea of preserving the integrity of each block, which is what Joen mentioned.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Tammie, you were doing the usability test as Joen said? You have anything to contribute.

Tammie Lister: I mean, we’ve been doing testing throughout, we’ve done different variations throughout, and we’ve done numerous different types of feedback. The best way that I see it is that we’ve been taking temperature throughout, the best approach. It’s always been really interesting to get and it’s guided the feedback, I don’t really have anything specific to add on the prototype, but I feel that there’s been times that it’s definitely proved and disproved things as we’ve gone along. The biggest one we had was when we did last year Camp US, I’m trying to cast my mind back, I think it was last year, when we had lots and lots of testing there, that was a really good way of just getting a gage of where we were, what we were doing and that kind of has happened. There’s been a lot of people doing there work camps and giving us that feedback as well.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: You took over design lead hen the Gutenberg plugin was already out for two months, and has been available since then for testing and now getting to the purpose by vote, but did you see as your main area to work in with the design team after it came out? Did you make any adjustments on the original ideas, original vision and from the prototypes?

Tammie Lister: Throughout, I’ve always wanted to maintain the kind of original vision. I think it’s really important if a design is set out on a particular path it can be iterated, and having Young come in a continue to work that enabled the same hand, is the best way I can describe it, so that the finished project of Gutenberg had that same, or phase one of Gutenberg, has that same feeling throughout. That’s really really important in something that comes from this genesis to have that, and that was one of the core things I wanted to do. We have very different design skills and very different approaches, so I think it was really good to have that and been able to kind of have both of us, has been really strong, and able to kind of combine, transform a style and not scramble the transformers. To be able to do that I think has been really helpful going. I think iteration has been the theme I’ve felt of the work I’ve done, so making sure that respond, iterate, and just really get it out there, it was pretty fully formed by the time I kind of took over as design lead, or at least the seed was shooting and very very formed, it’s just about really just iterating that. And that’s gonna happen for the next design leads, are gonna do exactly the same thing.

That’s the bit I’m super excited about is when y hand is taken by different people and we have this chain of people who have just been able to kind of lead this project.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: We have from four people, we have a few questions. Or from three people actually. We can just do it from the chat line and we have a first one, and I also got one from Twitter, one question and four questions from one person why I emailed. So I’m gonna just throw them at you. First I wanna read what Simon Ateva, and thank you so much for joining us Simon, he’s the publisher of Todaynewsafrica.com for watching to see, and he writes “Thanks Matias and the rest of team for the great work your doing. I was among the earliest to implement Gutenberg on our site, and it’s already running WordPress 5.0. I have one question: is it possible to make the more block function in posts not just on pages, and can you add a block for display of PDF documents?” Simon is a publisher, he gets news out multiple times a day. I know from him because he was on one of our earlier shows, and he has a team of fifteen people. Who wants to take that?

Joen Asmussen: I can answer the PDF aspect. There is file block which you could use, and simply link to the PDF there, it gives you a nice button and a link and that works pretty well. However, I would also encourage you to consider writing your own block, because I image you could make a really cool snipped or excerpt and description and I think that could be a great block, and please share that if you do.

Matias Ventura: I think there is a showing PDF SNM that could also be interesting if someone wants to explore that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, I think there’s a real need for that. I get this question from also a few non profit.He also mentions the more block.

Matias Ventura: Yes, if it refers to the more block should work both in post and pages, likewise with the next page block, they should be working. There might be some compatibility issue with the theme or maybe potentially about, but it should be working on posts as well. The limitation is that you can only add one of them per post.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m a little bit confused about the more block. Normally if you put it in a post then on the summary pages it will only display what’s on top of more. But it will not be rendered on the single post template, does it? You have on the top something and then you could put something underneath and then say okay the next things underneath, that kind of separation is not available, right?

Matias Ventura: The single post would generally show it entirely, unless the theme is doing some specific work to it. Again, the index pages depends on how the theme is set up, sometimes it’s not set up to break it on more tab. I think it’s also, it can affect RSS feeds and a few other contexts.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: The next questions from Joshua Wald, and it gets a little bit outside of the history that we’ve just kind of talked about or the implementation. What are you most excited about tackling in the next phase of Gutenberg? Tammie, you wanna tackle that?

Tammie Lister: I think I kind of mentioned it before, I am really excited to see what the new next leads do with Gutenberg. That, to me, is where one of the aspects of Word Press is gonna be really exciting. And when Guber goes away from this little editor, and then that’s seeing where if kind of explores. But really that to me is the exciting thing.

Joen Asmussen: I would also echo that, and suggest that this whole foundation that Gutenberg, this version is, it’s good on its on, there are a lot of features that are great, but the things that are already possible with the blocks is what I am excited to see for the next phase. I’ve recently seen some tweets with some experiments where you could put a block on the background, and position it behind this and that. There are some really cool features already. That really shows the potential that Gutenberg has once its been out in the world for a while. That’s what I’m very excited to see.

And by the way, Joshua, thank you for all your work on Gutenberg, your contributions have been great, so far.

Matias Ventura: Yeah, I think seeing the sort of creativity that the communities showing is going to be only grow as we get into the next phases. I think if there’s anything that excited me about the next part is that we’re already seeing people, sort of, really be able to express within the editor, but they also want to interact in that way elements that are outside the post, and that right now creating a lot of friction it even leads into the whole idea around meta boxes, because there are these elements that don’t fall in the post, but are outside the post, and they don’t get the same reach and visual experience that post currently gets. So I’m excited about getting there as soon as possible to see what the whole community can build with it.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, speaking of meta boxes, Stephan Wan has a question, he has a lot of comments in the Q and A, but he “meta boxes tend to be pushed to the bottom of the browser window, sometimes they get to advance up in the stream, but if you hadn’t added any blocks in the current editor I can figure for custom post types and fields using tool set. I usually disable the default editor and arrange the fields groups in a way that suits my virtual. I can also move the feature imaged settings to the top below the title-” and kind of of organize the editing screen differently, and that flexibility is not there. His question is “are there plans or what plans do you have to give the block editor this amount of flexibility?”

Matias Ventura: This is a great question. I think it gets to the in a way, meta boxes were the predecessor or blocks in WordPress 2. One of the problems is that they don’t reflect the actual of things, and this comment gets to that. You could set the meta box at the top so that it’s a bit more intuitive for the user, but you have to sort of replicate that order. If the user moves a meta box it doesn’t affect the display on the front. But in a way, it’s sort of the way that WordPress figure out how to deal with, sort of, this units of data that you want to have this boundaries across, and let people edit certain aspects of it but everything and still try to make that understandable for the user.

I would say that with blocks and with Gutenberg it’s like the next expression of that idea, is that I think sometimes there is some misconception that by letting the user edit across blocks, it’s a much more fragile situation, that you don’t get access to this structure data, but you can source data for blocks from anywhere you want in WordPress. You can have blocks that map to custom fields, you can have blocks that map to side options, to whatever sort of data you want and you can also perfect certain aspects, you can use stem plates to lock areas down so that you cannot move certain blocks around. This is only going to continue to improve in offering the necessary tools for developers to set up these kind of sites. But the whole idea is that the blocks are always faithful to the final visual representation of the site, so that the communication with it the user doesn’t need training in understanding Oh, I need to edit this here to effect this other thing here in somewhere else in the page. Everything is contained.

Right now the integration of meta boxes is a bit of an awkward stage, because the main separation that Gutenberg is between everything that affects the rendering of the page goes in the page canvas, and anything that’s extremely meta to the post, like the Yoast Panel some of the jetpack features, anything else uses the new plugin API so you get this extra side bar that’s clearly not part of the content. I think the separation is very useful for the user. Hopefully, in the next phases lots can absorb other controls, like more meta boxes sort of lose their reason to be because they can absorbed in blocks outside of the the post. Right now you cannot, some meta boxes can be absorbed in blocks but not all of them, because you need sometime to control things outside of the post, including the feature image, the feature image should just become a block in the next phase, and then it’s obvious how it relates to the user so it’s obvious how the interactions work, it would use the same sort of interactions that the image block has and all of those things.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s a whole other topic there, and that’s why I kind of– Stephen, thank you very much-

Joen Asmussen: If I could just add one thing. If you have a site that’s very tailored and working very well with your set of meta boxes, as they are today, there’s no shame in installing the classic editor. That is currently the best experience for highly tailored meta box experiences. I used declined work for many years before working on this project and I would do the same thing. You can make pretty good experience. If you need to install the classic editor, that’s what you gotta do and there’s no shame I that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: The next question is from Bud Kraus, and thank you everyone who takes the time to put the questions in, these are so wonderful, because if you have the question I think hundreds of other people have the same question. But Kraus has the question “What plans do you have to make it easier to work with HTML, because right now it’s a pain.”

Okay, Tammie, take that.

Tammie Lister: Yeah, I think that I have a kind of question back at this, because what one person thinks is a pain isn’t necessarily what someone else does, so I think it’s kind of important to think what, there’s lots of different people using WordPress, so the term I always use, which is a kind of me term, but is head space, we have to kind of think outside our head space, and actually now with Gutenberg, one of the real hitch points is that each block is individual, so if you do anything in that block, it’s safe. You can do something and it’s safe. Or you can do the thing that everybody didn’t know HTML was doing by adding a class and causing pages to fall and different content to not kind of be invalid as a result of that. So there is already a easy so what- that kind of is my question, one persons easy isn’t another persons easy. It’s kind of important to kind of work out.

Joen Asmussen: Yes, I would just add that I believe recently was announced by Mac that Code Mirror has received a donation to improv some of the accessibility. I for one would love to see Code Mirror be include in the editing screen, so if you switch to the code editor, you get Code Mirror with tab indentation and line numbers and sytax highlighting, all that sort of stuff. I think would be amazing.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: That would be very much amazing. I just saw a block person buy on Twitter that also has sytax highlighting. Matias?

Matias Ventura: I want to say, I think there are two main things that to me make the experience of working with HTML better. One is the fact that almost every block allows you to edit only that block in HTML mode, so you don’t have to sort of find the place in the, like before when you had to switch the entire edit or you had to find exactly what part of the HTML you anted to focus on, now you can just go and turn that block into HTML and edit it there. The only one I think that’s very useful is the HTML block itself, that you ca add it anywhere in the page if you need to do anything custom, and you can preview it in place, I think that’s very flexible too. I think that there was a point where we had Code Mirror loading for that block, but it was bit heavy performance wise and for accessibility, so it was disabled. But it should be coming back in one of the next phases.

I think another aspect of interacting with HTML is being to able to extract some of the attributes because sometimes you may not need to dial it into the full HTML view, but you may want to add a class name, or you may want to add a ID attribute, so having those fields per block exposed I think would also help the transition. The idea, I think, is it’s not that you’re either in HTML or either in block, but you have a more smoother run between sometimes you want- because dealing with media in HTML is not very intuitive, so maybe you want to keep some blocks in HTML, some you want to just see them digitally, and I think that flexibility is going to approve and help the process.

Joen Asmussen: One final thing, because this is such a great question. I would show to try and copy some content from the google docs or something else, paste it in Gutenberg and be marveled that it doesn’t implode, and when you do that be sure to also try, go into the code editor, just paste a single div somewhere and then go back to the visual editor and note how it’s also sand boxed to wherever you pasted the div or other unclosed tag, that there is a resolve that lets you disk what happened and why it might be a broken experience to have that straight div. So the thing that I loathed the worst of visual editors back in the day tag soup, we’re kind of handling a lot of the pain of that in Gutenberg, that’s something the team has been building which is just amazing.

Tammie Lister: Can I add to that? A lot of the things that people wanted to do or had to do in code editing is now available in a block, text colors, fonts, all the kind of things that you either had to have in a class or had to know or had to have that availability. So I think that also helps, kind of different people using WordPress, but the blocks themselves actually help by servicing more of that capability in and interface that doesn’t require you to have to know how to code.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, thank you. So Mark Rudewhiley is from Seattle, hi Mark, “Thanks for all the work the three of you have done. How do you see the new emphasis on iteration being balanced with WordPress commitment to backwards compatibility and practice? Which part of the design and in API will be locked in by the launch of 5.0?”

Matias Ventura: Thanks, Mark, for the question. That’s a very good question that not everything is figure out on this front, the process for Gutenberg has been very fast and the deprecation strategy has been very aggressive, precisely because we knew that when the time for 5.0 came it was going to be much much harder to change things, so if we knew something wasn’t working very well, we had better to act soon before the plugin was merged in core. So I would say that the API is in a place where we’re pretty comfortable with what is chipped in now, at the same time we do need to figure out ways to introduce new functionality that we don’t anticipate now, also to revise certain design decisions that might worked so far but may not work in phase two, so we’ll need to find ways to either provide a layer of outwork compatibility that it’s sort of low that when people are using all the right API’s. Some kind of system like that. I think idea that blocks are sand box is going to be very useful for this as will, because even right if there’s an issue with a code of a single block, it has the capability of only breaking that block. So that should also give us way to load special deprecation mechanism for a given block, maybe probably expose this better to plugin authors, give better tools for migrating, if we need to.

I think it’s an area that’s going to need a lot of thinking from the whole community, because it’s also true that one difference with Java script API’s is that these are consumed by the user, so growing the amount code that with we ship to users can end up impacting the experience of everyone. We cannot take the same approach that WordPress has taken for PHP, where also arguably you cannot just keep piling on code because it becomes a problem. But in the browser it’s arguably worse. And also we have the advantage that browsers evolve faster than servers, in terms of being able to run latest API. It’s going to be a very interesting process going into the next year But for sure it’s not going to be the same pace that the plugin has shown, because that’s been merely because it was in development and trying to figure out the best APIs before the merge. That’s a great a question.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: A sigh of relief going through at least this room, okay it’s not every two weeks.

Tammie Lister: Yeah, a design has to iterate, I think moving away from the API as well, I think that’s something I’m going to speak purely from the design aspect, but a design has to iterate to respond- if we were still using a design that didn’t iterate we wouldn’t be using one that worked on small screen devices. We use the experiences differently, so the design has to iterate, so I think that’s important, and knowing, the meta box question is a good example, knowing the stress cases and what people are actually using Gutenberg for and then what they’re creating with Gutenberg, that will kind of influence going forward, but it’s a balance.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: So the next question is by Michael Companella, and he is wondering if there was a timeline post 5.0, to bring more styling options into the blocks that lack that , for example [inaudible 00:39:34] has a tons of styling available in the editor, while the lists have none.

Matias Ventura: Yes, I can take that. I really like the style variations, they were added fairly late in the process, it was one of the last features to be added, but it solve a very clear problem, that people wanted to make variations for a button, but they didn’t want to create a whole new block for a button. That’s how it started, and it sort of simplify some cases. We had the code block had two different style, one that was large and one that was the more traditional one. This also was absorbed in the style variations.

I would hope that almost every block has some of these. I think we added to the table block too at the end, but, yeah, we basically ran of time and we didn’t have enough designer focusing on single blocks, which is also another thing I’m excited for phase two. It’s almost like very block could have its own release cycle, if you look at the gallery block, that could have almost been a full release of WordPress just focusing on one of those blocks, so I think there’s a lot of potential in the individual blocks, and the style variations is a very good one for that, because it gives a lot, it also the editor to be more opinionated and integrate with the themes better, too. Also better integration with themes. Themes should be able to say I want this variation to be the default and not the other one, there’s a lot of opportunity for better integrations there.

But, yeah, I would love to see them more like [inaudible 00:41:28] have them, so you can change the bullet point to be a circle, all of those things would be pretty cool. If people have ideas they should also propose them in [inaudible 00:41:44] it could be added in the following cycle at any point.

Joen Asmussen: I also think, one of the first blocks are likely to be added in the next phase is just a simple container block, and you could imagine have a text color and a background color in that container block that would inherit down to any child block inside, so you could maybe make a little notice block on your page if you like. I would love to see that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m pretty sure that actually two or three collections as platforms that solve that container, but of course not in a standardized way yet, so everybody has its own implementation somehow.

Next question is from Claire Brotherton, and she sent it in via Twitter, and she said “I know the classic editor is being retired in 2022, but will the classic block remain in Gutenberg indefinitely.” And there’s a little bit confusion

Matias Ventura: I can take that, it’s a good question, because it’s true that right now there are two sort of classic editors, one is the plugin, but there is also the classic block that handles any content that wasn’t created in Gutenberg, and that’s always going to exist. Gutenberg needs to be able to handle content that doesn’t look like a block. So something like classic block, that is a block that can handle any [inaudible 00:43:21] HTML you throw at it in a visual way, is always going to exist. I am not sure if it’s always going to be the classic block, or even called that, at some point it might evolve to be something else. But the need to handle content that hasn’t been authored by Gutenberg is going to exist. So it will have to be handled in core.

Joen Asmussen: I would also suggest that classic editor is not necessarily being retired. I think what’s been noted until now, is that it will be officially supported until September 31st 2021, so that’s years from now, but one of the reasons I switched to WordPress in the first place was the open source, true GPL open source never really goes away, and I don’t think the classic editor, even if official support stops necessarily is destroyed by a comet. I’m sure someone could fork it and continue to support it if they so liked.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you. I have two questions about page builders. Some believe page builders should migrate from using the proprietary frameworks and modules to build customizers directly on Gutenberg blocks. Is this feasible, if you were a page builder like [inaudible 00:44:54] how would you adapt to Gutenberg? I think very early you involved some of the page builder product specialists. What do you think?

Matias Ventura: I can start with that. Yeah, this is an area where some of the page builders would adapt to sort of start producing blocks, rather than a separate page builder. I think other page builders would remain as page builders, because either they have a different proposal for the user experience, or they’re are approaching a different audience, I think there’s room for both. One of the main ideas, and why we’ve been in talks with all of them, is ideally we have a sort of a common infrastructure to all of this, so that if you want to migrate from one to another it’s possible and the user is not locked in in terms of their content being proprietary to that builder. I think the rise of the page builders is also showing a very clear user need for them. It has also paved the way for Gutenberg to come to being, because they’ve been at the front end of that solving those kind of needs.

I think it’s going to depend on where a page builder want to focus on. I think many of the page builders evolved from, they were originally more [inaudible 00:46:34] companies, and many of them are also more focused on something like phase two is going to be doing, so it’s not viable for them to adopt Gutenberg entirely at this point, because they are reaching a slightly different audience at this point.

Also, I think some page builder have an elementor block within Gutenberg, that’s the whole idea, to be able to pour this, and also being able to load Gutenberg blocks in their own page builders. I think all of these interactions are going to be very useful for the ecosystem, for the user, and to keep pushing things ahead.

But definitely, I don’t see page builders as mutually exclusive with Gutenberg. I see them as solving similar problems, and core sort of absorbing a lot of the architectural performance needs so that the builders can focus on what they can do best.

Tammie Lister: It gives them a boost as well, ad foundation, rather then having to work around the way that WordPress currently does things. WordPress is amazing, but it does things in a WordPress-y way that sometimes get in the way of doing some really incredible stuff, or means that people really have to work around it to do the really incredible stuff. The way that page builders have pushed what WordPress can do is kind of incredible within the confines, so Gutenberg gives that kind of turbo boost, and we go back to, because it’s blocks, Lego, more pieces to come up with even better work.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you. Really like that. I have one more question from Gabe. “Rewind to generate 2017. How would you approach this project differently, if ever? Would you.

Matias Ventura: That’s a great question. I can go first but I’m sure- I think one thing that could have been approached better is around communication. I think there was, especially in the first month, there was an issue, we were saying we’re doing the editor, and not everyone was understanding the same thing when we were saying editor. Some people were only, when they here editor in WordPress they thinking of just the tiny MC window that you see in WP Admin. Whereas the reality we were focusing more on the full publishing experience, that is the whole post editing screen. I think that caused issues that could have been solved with better communication and clarifying some points better at the start.

Outside of that, in the actual project itself, I think that the prototyping stage was very useful because it allow us to validate certain aspects that in the work very well, so I wouldn’t change anything from that specific process. I would probably focus on better communication and something like that. I don’t know if Joen has something else to add there.

Joen Asmussen: I have one think- it’s a great question, it’s also a very existential question. One of the things that Gutenberg was built on was the agile methodology, where you try something and you evaluate, and then if it works you go with it, or if it doesn’t work you go back to the starting point and try a different approach. Take something like the block library, the one you see when you press the ad block button in the top left corner. They has gone through many iterations, and if you look at some of the way early mock-ups, it will already look obsolete compare to what we have today, which is Tammies brainchild, by the way, beautiful result we have here.

The agile methodology when seen from outside, especially with the team that’s been working so very very fast on this stuff, it can seem almost reckless when you see trying something, then going back trying something different, then going back, when in fact the whole methodology is built around the idea that you have to try something and fail fast so you can do something better, and it’s sort of an extra iteration where you reach the point where you know whether this approach is good or not faster. Because there ae a million ways to build an editor, but there’s only one way that’s really good for WordPress, and you have to sort of explore this path and find out that wasn’t the one, we cauterize this avenue, we go back this path, and unless you really move fast, then it’s not gonna work. And I think we could have better explained how this processed worked so it didn’t appear as completely reckless, where people would, perhaps, take some of the experiments as gospel before they had sort of solidified.

Matias Ventura: Just to add to something quick to that, I think also the expectations around the scope are shaped by this perception too. I often say that I think we ended up doing phase 1.5 because the original scope didn’t include many of the things we ended up shipping with, including templates, nested blocks, reusable blocks, columns even. All of those things were not originally a part of the first phase. But it became very clear last year, especially around Work Camp US, that it was very useful to get ahead, and build some of these things, so that the over arching vision could be better communicated, and I think that was a realization that happened very much in the middle of the process, that maybe couldn’t have been anticipated, but now in hindsight I think trying to set those expectations or maybe getting further ahead with the vision originally could have been useful.

At the same time, I have to say, that a lot of the iterated process a lot of the things arise as your working through them; the moment we added reusable blocks it was sort of like all of the pieces fell into the right place, and it made sense to do it at that point.But it’s not something that come have necessarily been planned at the beginning of the process, because it needed so many steps before to get there. But I think there’s something there to sort of reflect probably after 5.0 happens as a community and figure out what sort of things in the process could have been improved, what sort of things worked well, what sort of things allowed us to iterate and find better solutions, what things created more uncertainty and anxiety in people. I think there’s a whole spectrum there of things to sort out and reflect on.

Tammie Lister: I think I would plus one everything that’s just been kind of said.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Plus hundred.

Tammie Lister: Yeah, but I would also add, and maybe it’s a kind of wrap up on that point, I really think there’s been some seeds planted, whether those seeds grew fully into shoots or not, the research that’s started, phase 2, the awesome stuff that’s kind of happening there, the fact that we have had usability done in Work Camp US, or these kind of things, the fact more designers involved, I would have loved to see even more designers and I’m hoping the next phases see that just grow, developers are amazing, but more designers being able to be involved in this process and enabled in the process, which I think is the kind of hook that we need to hear. Yeah, and there’s seeds around, seeing as many of those grow in the next phases, I think is really really important.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you, that was a really good wrap up on that point. Brian has a comment and a question. “Thank you to all three of you for being available for Q and A and Birgit for hosting. All three of you work for automatic, [inaudible 00:55:46] is obviously the 5.0 release lief, while lots of people across the community have contributed to Gutenberg, the decision has been concentrated in one company, which is unusual for a WordPress team.” I’m not sure if you follow that but, “do you worry that the leadership team hasn’t been sufficiently diverse?” And then follow up kind of “in the next phase of the project how do you see project leadership changing?”

Thanks Brian for the question. I’m not sure if these are the right people to answer it, but they definitely answer to that. Yes, go ahead. Who wants to go first? Automatic people.

Matias Ventura: I can go. I think it’s a good question. I think you can always push for more diversity, I think that’s also one of the reasons for, yeah, it’s true we have more than three hundred contributors in [inaudible 00:56:56] the level of participation, probably in thanks also to the [inaudible 00:57:00] platform, has been great through the whole process. Sometimes people point at the staggering amount of issues as a problem of readiness for the project, but I think it’s also indicative of the amount of involvement from people, and the use of participation that it also encourages.

In terms of leadership, I know that it’s been that both Tammie and Joen are from Automatic, but the fact that leads can rotate I think is very useful and important. Originally Phase 2 was going to be led by Western Router and and Mell, and Western is not a part of Automatic. I think we really need to get to a point where Gutenberg just part of the community, so different people can rise up and lead it, and even though the primary leads are from Automatic right now, I think there are many other leads in other areas of Gutenberg that are from, like in media there is Anthony, in documentation, around the rest API, I think a lot of the community has risen up to sort of occupy those roles, and yeah, I think the more we move forward, Phase 2, the next Phases, we should continue to encourage as much diversity as possible.

I’m sorry I cannot say too much outside of that, I know that I’m also from Automatic, so it’s going to be coming from that place, but I think it’s also been important to have gender diversity in the leads, location diversity. I’m originally from South American, Joen and Tammie are from Europe, I think this is very core to WordPress, both the idea of an internationalized community, I think it’s important hearing all those voices is important, and yeah if anything can be done better, I think we should always be striving to improv that.

Tammie Lister: I think I will plus one, and diversity isn’t just a company. That’s the really really important part as well. I also think that it’s good to look at what someones done before they were in a company as well; there’s a lot of people who have done background. A lot of this-apparently I’m gonna say the words seeds- but it really is that. We’re seeing people grow through Gutenberg, outside of the people who are on this screen, who have taken leadership and grown in ways where they weren’t even involved in the community, and now they’re leading voices in the community, just because they’re leading focus, doesn’t mean you’re a lead, there’s so many leads, right? I think that that, and there’s so much role diversity, it’s given people opportunities to really grow outside, the game developers are adorable but just developers, so we’ve seen in core chats a different kind of of voice be able to do that, as well.

Matias Ventura: Yeah, I think that the Java script have also been a good example for me, because it’s a nice mixture of people from different companies, and freelancers, sort of pushing the boundaries forward. Like the Yoast people are very involved there, and sort of driving a lot of the decisions happening, so I think it’s a time when more people can rise up and take ownership of different areas, because even Gutenberg is already to big to be lead by individuals, it needs the help from everyone around it, so I think there’s a lot of room to occupy those places too.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I think we are running out of time now- not I think, I know. So I think it’s also a good place to stop this, and we have a few more questions, but I don’t know if you wanna stick around and answer them. It’s already eight o’clock.

Joen Asmussen: Can I answer the last question, just on a personal level as well? I imagine I might also echo Tammie and Matias. When I was asked to work on this project, I didn’t do it because I thought it would be easy or pleasurable to do this, or even because Automatic asked me to because I could easily say no to that. I did it because WordPress has been good to be and I wanted to try and give back to WordPress and I believe in Matias vision for this project. So that’s why I spent the last two years pouring all this energy into the editor, as did these two wonderful people as well, and I would not have done that just because Automatic wanted me too. This is because I love WordPress and there’s not other reason that could have driven me through our adventure here.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, thank you for your passion. It almost reminds me of John F. Kennedy when he announced to the nation they were going to the moon within the next decade , he said “we don’t do it because it’s easy, we do it because it’s hard.” I love that.

Joen Asmussen: I wouldn’t say we’re building rockets for landing people on the moon here, but I do appreciate that quote.

Tammie Lister: I think we need a rocket block, I’m just saying.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yes, absolutely we need a rocket block with fifteen different rockets. So, I think in closing, what is the one feature that excites you the most? Just for you personally, or just say okay well this is really neat. Also if you have something that you found around the ecosystem in plugin, is there something that somebody really blew you away and say okay there’s a surprise thing that I didn’t think of it, but that’s well done.

Tammie Lister: I really like the forward slash command. I think that’s just so useful when you’re writing, that’s just happy. I get excited and surprised by so many things that people make, and that point is amazing. I love the really out there experiments and all the funny things, and I wanna see more of that, because that’s how to push something like this, is just by seeing if you can just do something experimental. So, all of those things I get really excited about.

Joen Asmussen: I love the reusable blocks that you can export as Jason and import as Jason, I think, especially as phase 2 gets into gear, the ability to share preset layouts, is going to be completely amazing. And also I love that you can paste almost anything into Gutenberg and it works really well. You can even paste clipboard data and it uploads as an image.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh I haven’t tried that. I need to do that. Matias?

Matias Ventura: Just a quick one maybe. It’s very simple, but I really like the galleries. Just laying one picture after the other so that you have two images has always been so difficult in WordPress. You had to know a lot of the underlying mechanisms, so I really like being able to drag to pictures, and set that layout very quickly. So that’s one of my favorite ones.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, thank you so much. I think we’ve come to an end. Thank you all for those wonderful questions, they were all very important questions, and I’m glad we have three voices on record for those questions so we can point to it. We will have a transcript of this, and it will be on Gutenberg Times later next month. Thank you so much to Joen, Tammie, and Matias for coming on on a Friday night on release day. It’s very much appreciated, and thank you so much and good night!

Matias Ventura: Thank you and thanks everyone for the questions!

Tammie Lister: Yes, thank you! Bye!

Joen Asmussen: Yup, bye!

Published by Birgit Pauli-Haack

Curating Gutenberg News since June 2017 web + mobile strategist & coder 4 nonprofits. - Day job @paulisystems Learn more