Birgit Pauli-Haack and Mary Job discuss with their guest, Glen Davies, Gutenberg 13.1, New Zealand, InnerBlocks and more so much more.
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Glen Davies: Good, thanks.
Mary Job: Yeah, I’m fine too Birgit. Nice to see you. Nice to meet you, Glen.
Glen Davies: Yeah, likewise.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome. Awesome. So Glen, before we go into the weeds of the plugin release and the rest of the show, I want to ask you a couple of questions about your WordPress journey and about your work on the gallery block. And maybe you can briefly tell us how you came to WordPress and automattic.
Glen Davies: Guess I came to automattic and then to WordPress.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, okay. The other way around.
Glen Davies: I had used WordPress quite a few years ago. I was an IT manager for a not for profit for a few years and they needed a blogging platform. So I installed WordPress for them. But that was mostly from a tinkering setting up point of view rather than development. They didn’t really need a lot of development, just a pretty simple blog. Prior to that, I’d done quite a bit of PHP development. I developed an open source learning management system for a university. I don’t know if you’ve dealt with LMSs, you’ve probably heard of something called Moodle.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh yeah, yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah, yeah. But that wasn’t the LMS I developed.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: It was similar.
Glen Davies: Yeah. Well, the one I developed, I probably say mine was the beta max to Moodle’s VHS. So Moodle sort of… Moodle got the community and mine never did. At one point I said to the university they were wasting their money paying me to be the sole developer of an open source LMS. They should really use Moodle instead. So I sort of did myself out of a job.
I was ready for a change. I did IT management for a while and that’s when I first encountered WordPress. Decided that IT management wasn’t really for me. So I went back to development for a couple of big corporates. But got a bit sick of the commute and the crammed office spaces. I think the last office I was in there was a person a meter and a half that side and the meter and a half that side and a meter behind me was other three people. You had to say, “excuse me” when you pushed your chair out to go to the bathroom.
So I had a bit of a look around about three years ago for remote work positions and Automattic came up and looking through the Automattic CRE, just the whole philosophy and culture really, rang true for me. So I took a punt and applied and managed to get a position. That was, yeah, about three years ago.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, wow. Yeah. So that is in the middle of the new development of Gutenberg pretty much. Yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah. It was some of the early releases was sort of going out.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh yeah. Okay. I get that. Yeah. All right. Yeah. Did you have contact with other people in the workers community in New Zealand?
Glen Davies: No. Cause unfortunately I started 2019. I spent the first eight or nine months just really getting to grips with WordPress and then of course COVID hit. So I’m hoping this year, New Zealand, like most countries has opened up quite a bit. So hopefully there’ll be some local WordPress events I can get along to.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, hopefully. I hope that for you too. Yeah. Cause you’re probably not coming to work in Europe.
Glen Davies: No, not this year.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. There’s actually a good friend of the Gutenberg Times, so to speak, Ellen Bauer. She is the owner of the Elmer Studio and with her significant other Manuel they have quite a few themes in the… And she’s was one of the early adopters of Gutenberg as well as the block themes. I’m not quite sure how far away you were, but yeah. She’s definitely, she migrated to New Zealand a long time ago. Yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah, no. It would be good to catch up with some local events this year.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Well keeping the fingers crossed that that’s possible. So you and me, Glen, we collaborated a little bit on the working on the gallery block of trying to figure out how to let the community know that they were be a change. And you converted the first version, which came out 2018, had not particularly been developed much after that. And it now uses a single image block within blocks and it came to WordPress school in 5.9 in January. So it’s such a richer experience and has all the features that the image block has, is now coming to gallery block and you can kind of change each image or… And also you have the styles for it. I had the feeling that the journey wasn’t particularly easy one, from especially around backwards compatibility blocks and deprecating blocks. What did you learn and what advice would you give developers working on version two for the list and the quotes and the developers building custom blocks?
Glen Davies: Well, I learned that it’s not as easy as it looks.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: That’s life for you, right.
Glen Davies: There were a whole list of open issues of people saying, “oh, we need the gallery to be able to do this.” And, “in an image in a gallery, we need to be able to do that.” And I sort of looked and thought, well, you can already do that on the image block. So why aren’t we just wrapping the image blocks rather than… Cause there was almost a whole lot of copy and pasted code to duplicate stuff between images and the gallery. I thought I might as well have a go and see whether we could use inner blocks. Which the initial setup was pretty straightforward, but yeah, there were a whole lot of gotchas in actually getting it to run properly.
And then when we looked at the backwards compatibility, the main issue we had was with the mobile app. So the big learning was just how different the Gutenberg editor in the mobile app is from the web editor. In terms of the fact that you have a whole lot of different versions of the editor out running in people’s apps that haven’t been upgraded. And currently the editor has no way of knowing what to do with a block it hasn’t encountered before. So in the mobile app, it would get the gallery that had inner blocks and think there’s no content, cause it didn’t recognize blocks. And Android quite nicely, or it was thought it was being quite nice in auto saving as soon as it opened it.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Overriding whatever’s there, yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah. Would say, oh, it’s a gallery. There’s nothing in it, save. And it would lose all the people’s images. There was a lot of working with the mobile team to work out, how do we stage deploying the new version so that people on the mobile app don’t lose their data. Yeah, one of the big learnings was just the issues with compatibility. In the meantime, Dennis, I think you had Dennis on the podcast a few weeks ago. He’s done quite a bit of work to make the editor a bit more robust to be able to cope with blocks it doesn’t recognize. So rather than just losing the data, just say, hang on, I don’t recognize this. I’ll just ignore it for now and leave it as it is.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Just display what I have and then yeah, the plain HDML. So yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Glen Davies: So hopefully it’ll slowly start to ease, but I know the quote block people have the… The developers that have converted quotes to inner blocks have had the same issue with mobile. Cause they’ve had to stage the deployment so that the mobile versions don’t lose the data.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Interesting. Yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah. One of the other big learnings was just how well the whole community works together. It’s like, it’s… It was a pretty big change but it wasn’t too hard to get the people that needed to be involved, involved, and work through the issues together. And then paying the likes of yourselves to say, we need to let the community know. And knowing that you took that bit on board and paying the relevant developers and let them know.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And it was interesting to see that most of the theme developers that are plugin developers and also theme developers that I reached out to, they already were aware that there’s something coming and there were testing quite a bit on the Gutenberg plugin. Yeah. So when it came to 5.9, there were no surprises on that, not that particular on that part. Well, but we were not able to reach all of the people, but I think it was a good chunk of it. Yeah.
Glen Davies: Yeah. I held my breath when the 5.9 release went out.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Say that again.
Glen Davies: I held my breath when the 5.9 release went out. I thought, oh, I hope this is going to work.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Glen Davies: It’s a pretty block. There’s a lot of people use gallery blocks. So it was a bit nerve racking pushing out such a major change, but it seems to have gone reasonably smoothly.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. The backwards compatibility and on the desktop version or on the web version. Yeah. That was quite nicely. I was really pleasantly surprised that what I can do in addition what I was doing already on the gallery block. So it was a very pleasant surprise.
Mary Job: Yeah. I think I have a question for Glen if you don’t mind.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Sure.
Glen Davies: Yeah, sure.
Mary Job: As you said you came into WordPress three years ago. Would you say coming from all that kind of development into WordPress, would you say WordPress has a steep learning curve or was it like smooth?
Glen Davies: Yeah. Reasonably steep learning curve. Cause although it’s Java script and react, which I’d used before, there’s a reasonable amount of complexity in Gutenberg. It’s a pretty impressive project when you look at the depth and the breadth of it, what it’s actually doing. Even having worked on it for three years, there’s some parts of Gutenberg that are just a black box to me. Yeah. There’s parts I haven’t had to touch and I’ve got no idea what they’re doing. And if I had to actually do some debugging in that area, there’s quite often quite a bit of work to think what’s actually happening here, what’s going on.
But having said that, think it wraps really well some of that complexity. And then allows the block developers to do an awful lot of fairly clever stuff with a minimal amount of work. For instance, the new block supports are fairly impressive. Previously, if you wanted to have borders and background colors and text colors, you had to copy and paste a whole lot of code. Now it’s just a matter of adding a few flags to your JSON file and suddenly your block has borders and background color and text color.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. That’s pretty impressive. I really love the development on the theme JSON file and all the configuration that goes in there. And it works very well with classic themes as well. So it’s a really good way how that works.
Glen Davies: It’s sort of an interesting mix of complexity and simplicity. There’s some really complex stuff going on in the background, but it’s been wrapped quite well to a nice, simple API for block developers.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Do you have another question, Mary?
Mary Job: No, no, no. I was just thinking how impressive that is.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Well, let’s get started with the rest of the show. It’s so glad you’re here.
So we have one announcement that just made it in. If you want to test the features that are in Gutenberg 13.1, head over to the latest call for testing from the FSE, from the full site editing program. And it’s called ‘Rallying Recipe Reviewers’. And this call for testing focuses on, on taking a few blocks amongst on the list view in this and the quote blocks in the second version and practically spin it up with fun for interactive recipe focused site. Where you can customize the commenting experience. And for a very interactive site. The instructions are from Anne McCarthy again. It’s the 14th of these testing calls and they are very detailed and they get you really into the topic of things. It just was published yesterday. You have about three weeks to comment on this and try it out. Of course, as always, the link to the post will be in the show notes. And yeah. So that’s the announcement for today. What else do we have?
Mary Job: Oh, we have community contributions. So our fellow WordPress podcast Nathan Wrigley over at Jukebox podcast talked to Aki Hamano who is a plugin and freelance developer from Japan. Hamano also has some great blocks in the repository. Three years ago, he created a rich text expansion plugin when Gutenberg only had rudimentary color spacing and controls.
And he also has a flexible table block. So he also has this amazing block plugin, piano block, which I actually just tried today and it was fun. I didn’t want to leave the post editor. What this does is it adds a musical instrument to your editor screen and you can take a break from content version and make some music in between. And this block doesn’t show anything on the front end, which makes it a really fun project. Have you tried that plugin Birgit or Glen? I thought it was fun.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I have not tried it but Justin Tadlock actually wrote a separate blog about it a month or so ago, blog post about it. And he has a video where he tried to do a music thing. And I’m not saying which one, because you might want to go there and kind of try it out.
Mary Job: What about you, Glen? Have you tried it?
Glen Davies: No, I haven’t tried it. I did see the WP Tavern article about it. Yeah, I must give it a go. Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Mary Job: Yeah. I saw today and I didn’t want to stop playing. I felt like a genius. You know those saying, is it all work and no play makes Jack do… I remember that when I saw that I was like, ah, yes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And sometimes when you’re stuck on developing or trying to write something and you distract yourself and you come back, it’s coming there.
Mary Job: Yeah, it makes very profit break time. Because there are times when you are stuck, like, okay, it’s not working. And then I just want to take a walk. I mean I could take a break and then play some piano.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right.
Mary Job: On the podcast, Nathan and Aki also talked about what the developer journal learning and building blocks was like. As always, we’re going to put the link to this and the show notes so you can always read. It was quite entertaining listening to them.
What’s Released – WordPress 6.0 Beta 3 and Gutenberg 13.1
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Great, yeah. So the brings us to the section what’s released? And so we had two releases. One was WordPress Beta 3. Do you want to talk about it Mary or?
Mary Job: Oh yes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: The notes.
Mary Job: The Beta 3 release comes with a few bug fixes that was discovered in the previous betas. It now has the power down version of Workfront API. I believe we’ve talked about this in past episodes. Which allows team developers to register team star versions, including typography with their team.JSON file.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. We talked the last episode where it wasn’t clear if the fonts API actually would make it into 6.0.
Mary Job: Yes. So the team is working tirelessly to bring all the notes to the field guide and least order interesting changes in time for the release candidate that will be coming on the third of May. And just in case you’re wondering, WordPress 6.0 is scheduled to come to you, WordPress on the 24th of May, 2002. I’m quite excited to try it out and see what new exciting features it brings.
So WordPress in 6.0 is not as big as 5.9, but it has a lot of exciting new features. Anne McCarthy also published a video with highlights on YouTube if you want to check that out.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And we talked about it two weeks ago and what our favorite features are. Glen, do have a favorite feature for the 6.0 version?
Glen Davies: Can’t think of anything off the top of my head. There was so much 5.9 and I’ve been doing a bit of background stuff.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I really like, and I haven’t looked at it before, but I’ve found that there are actually quite some writing experience improvements in there.
Glen Davies: Yeah, actually, now that you mentioned that the partial block selection is probably it, yeah. There’s been so many times over the last few years where that’s come up as you can’t select partial blocks.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. If, if you want over two paragraphs or something like that, and want to have something italic or bold that is half a sentence above and the other half below, you couldn’t do that and it’s now possible and you can do all of it. That’s one of the things. And the other one is the double bracket short code to have a list of all the posts or pages that are on your site to link to it, to do inner links. That is actually quite nicely done. But we will talk about it when it’s out again. You will find quite a few things will be published right around that. The about page and then marketing is working on their releases for that.
We also had the Gutenberg 13.1 release. It was released on yesterday, also April 27th, and release lead Glen Davies. Thank you so much. How is that release experience when you do it as a developer?
Glen Davies: Oh, it was my first time at it so I was sort of a newbie. Luckily the documentation’s pretty straightforward and I was sort of lucky that it was a reasonably small release. Because 13.0 was the release that went into WordPress six. So doing the release, that’s going to go into the WordPress, call releases, usually a big job. I was lucky I got the one just after that.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And I think only a few PRs were backboarded to 6.0. There were still some buck fixes or so.
So what brings… We have definitely someone had enhancements coming, even it’s a small release, but it’s the design tools for borders. There’s a new border control component in the block support thing. So it can also be configured with the theme.JSON for individual blocks, like the column blocks you can have in your theme.JSON settings for the blocks. You can say a standard, a variation, on the border configuration, which is really nice. There is also for the duotone. There are two things for duotone on… There’s a new icon for the filter on the image block. And the other one was that the duotone’s now render in the site editor when you use it on the placeholder. So if you have a featured image placeholder or other media and text placeholder or something like that and use the duotone for it will show you in the editor as well.
Mary Job: The block library also had some enhancements. I’m excited about the comments, the fact that you can now style the comments area, because I know in the past, when I first started creating WordPress sites people would tell you, ah, no, the comments section is too boring. Can you like make it brighter? Or can you change? So this is actually interesting because you don’t have to use third party. Well, you can still use them if you want. But having it in Chrome means that you don’t have to go allowed to start a comments area on blog post. The category section also had an enhancement. There’s now an option to show or how I entered categories previously in the past. If her category has no post, it was eating. But now you can now choose to show or hide categories that are empty. So that’s also interesting. Yeah. This particular one, this, the styles, this enhancement styles. I didn’t quite get this. You mentioned duotone tone earlier. Can you expand on this one? Because I tried reading about it, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was referring to here.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. You can do a preset for the dual tone in the theme.JSON. so when you have a duotone filter for the image, you can set that with a theme.JSON is and reference foreground and secondary for instance, since colors. So you can. That only that is available. A lot of people have real stomach ache when they envision that people who edit a site can come up with all different kind of crazy combination for the duotone or for the gradient. Having a way to standardize that for a whole site that is now in the theme.JSON You can switch off the duotone settings then for the editor, but still have duotone settings for the images if you allow that. Does it make sense?
Mary Job: Yes. Yes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Okay, good. Yeah. Some on the other styles changes, there were all a little bit more cosmetic. Do you have anything that you want to point out there Glen or Mary?
Glen Davies: Probably just highlighting again, what you’ve already mentioned that the borders, it’s great that there’s now the ability to set each of the borders separately. Both in the U both in the UI and in the theme.JSON.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Did you test this specifically as well? Because I have a question on it and there was a question that’s actually on the release post, is there a way to also get some styles in there, like a double or outset or dotted line in that?
Glen Davies: Yeah. So you can change it to solid dotted. Adding it to columns is quite good I think, cause it’s quite a good showcase of it. Because columns is an obvious place where you only want one border as a division between each of the columns.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.
Glen Davies: So I think it was quite a good block to get that into to sort of showcase 101 borders and its specific edge.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Absolutely, yeah. And then there were also quite a few changes, accessibility improvements, that included the resolve around the focus loss problems that have been experienced for the installing blocks, from the directory or creating pages from a link. Or there were quite a few situations where all of a sudden the block editor would lose focus and a screenwriter wouldn’t know where to be and how to handle that. And so that there have been quite a few fixes there.
And then documentation, what I saw was that you fixed some of the… Was it in this release that you, Glen, wrote about the deprecated locks that you fix up the documentation for that. Was this for this release?
Glen Davies: No, I think there was a couple of releases ago.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Okay. But that definitely helps some of the developers to figure out how to deprecate the versioning for static blocks you, which is still a little bit cumbersome.
Glen Davies: Yeah. That was one big learning from the gallery block that forced me to work out how deprecations work. And that’s slightly different there how duplications and migrations work in software in general.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And I wish they had kind of written a blog post about your learning and the frustrations about it because I think that’s what a lot of developers have in the community as well.
Glen Davies: Yeah. Maybe I might, might take the time to do that. Yeah. Our team’s set up a blog to try and document some of our experiences. So perhaps I’ll take the time to go back and go through that. There is some discussion about improving the duplication migration process.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. But there’s nothing yet kind of that surface that trade.
Glen Davies: No, there’s, there’s an issue and there’s a bit of discussion about it. An agreement that’s a little bit confusing,
Birgit Pauli-Haack: A little bit confusing. I think that’s the understatement of the year.
Glen Davies: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: You’re not English, are you?
Glen Davies: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. No, but there were quite a few documentation updates in this release. one was about the new ancestor property for the block meta data. And the other one was about the inserter argument for the patterns where you can hide patterns that are with your theme to set the inserter setting to false, then users won’t be able to find the pattern in your, in the inserter, but you can still use it on tablet and tablet parts. And that is documented, it’s also documented the updates for the theme.JSON file has been updated as well as documentation around the individual block locking sections.
So if you are interested in that and want to do that’s the state of the art kind of on how that is, check out the documentation and follow the links.
So in the release post to get to that code quality, is there anything that’s stood out to you that you feel, oh, that’s a neat thing.
Glen Davies: No, probably more on the testing side of it.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: The testing, yeah.
Glen Davies: Which is sort of related to code quality and that’s the migration to using playwright.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. How is that going?
Glen Davies: That’s making good progress and it’s going to make the writing at the end to end test and debugging of them Significantly easier. So it’ll be good ones that’s completed.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. It would be really interesting to see kind of a primer on how to use playwright and how to write the test. Not only for of course for the Gutenberg project, but definitely for contributors on the Gutenberg project, but definitely also if you want to use it also for their own project yeah. To how to get into that testing part.
Glen Davies: Yeah. Which I’m sure that’ll be coming once once the the whole migration project’s finalized and underway.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I can imagine there’s quite a foundational foundational work that needs to be done for that can be migrated. Totally.
I think that was… So anything we forgot? Kind of… There’s some developer experience for the local environment. Now you can have a environment and core environment variable, and I’m thinking that’s probably about the version. And then the create block scaffolding tool has been updated to fix all the warnings and errors that are reported during the scaffolding and validation. So it’s all a little nicer now. All right. Yeah.
So that concludes our session of what was released, or the session part.
What’s in Active Development or Discussed
And we can now go and discuss what’s active in development, what’s work in progress and what people can look forward to. One is APR called a visualizer for the padding. Riad is working on that. So when you are changing the padding for a block, it shows you a visualize representation, a visual representation of that, how it looks in the editor around the block. If you say 20, how does that look? 20 pixels or one for that side. Because there’s a lot of… There’s padding, there is margin. And then there is block gaps and all those three things, if you are using that in the side bar, can be confusing. Where did I change things? And if you have a visualizer, it’s very obvious on how you change things and those changes are easily then replicated or even controlled. So that’s definitely something to look forward to. I’m not quite sure how far that is. Definitely…. Oh, it has been merged. So this will come in a 13.2 version, Gutenberg version. And it’s the same version that will have the persistent preferences and user meta. And that was horah on Twitter when one of the developers discovers that that is coming, we have all been waiting for.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the welcome guide, popping up on all kinds of different situations. When you have a new browser, you have a new computer, you have just changed the browser settings. And here comes welcome to the block editor. You have been using it for four years and it still wants to welcome you. It was kind of an annoying thing. It’s also… That’s one of the obvious things, but the other part is also your settings for the top toolbar. When you are in the editor and you go from block to block, there’s a block toolbar. And sometimes that’s a little bit disconcerting for content editors. You can actually glue it up to the top, through the settings menu. And it was also just stored in local storage on the browser and you had to do it again over and over as well.
Now this is changing. With 13.2, those settings will be stored in the user meta data, in the database. It will remember. You go away and you come back. It will remember. And it’s yeah… Quite a few people who say, okay, it’s about time that it comes. I know why it was a little bit delayed because these are settings for the editor and there are editors. There’s a widget editor, there’s a site editor, there’s a template editor, there’s a block editor and a post editor. There are a lot of editors that first needed be unified before you could actually standardize the persistence for it. But yeah, three years ago there wasn’t a widget editor. There wasn’t a site editor. So back then, I think the developers didn’t have enough information to make that a good way to start out. So waiting was far probably a good decision to not get into technical depth with backwards compatibility promises and all that. Yes. But we’re all happy about that.
Sarah Gooding has the story already WP Tavern. We share the links, of course, on the show notes. And the last thing that I have… So there is also… So when you use a theme and you edit it with the global styles or with the styles thing, all the information is stored in the database. Only when you export it, all the changes will come into the theme.JSON. In the works is a safe theme edits from the site editor to the theme files. When it’s in a so-called developer mode, making it a little bit easier for designers to visually update a theme and then have that, and then update the theme files per se, be it the JSON file or template power or template files.
So it can be export or can be reused. But it doesn’t have to be an export. And then there will just be a safe button and you can switch it off with a development flag mode true or false. That’s also in the works. We will share the PRS for it. So you can comment on it or chime in the show notes.
Channing Ritter has updated the design share on the make block for design, and you will see some things that they’re working on with the Figma files or Figma links. One of them is also it’s the element state exploration. How can the interface look when you want to change the hover or active setting for elements like a menu or a link or something like that.
Mel Joyce says up the did some work in Block Patterns in Figma. There’s also a discussion of revising the global style panels. What I like is, or what I really pleasantly surprised on how far the work has been done, is the design for documentation and handbook pages as Stella Raella has that, has the Figma file shared with the design team. And it’s all in the design of the new news theme. I don’t know if you saw the news scene webpress.org/news has had a recent design and now all the designers are working on replicating that for the rest of workforce.org and make.org. So it’s really cool.
Anything else? Glen, do you want to… What are you working on now? Is it that you, the race is out and you’re working on certain projects?
Glen Davies: The team that I’m currently on, we’re working on global styles and design tools. So the big project we are currently working on is something called the style engine. Which is sort of a way of trying to bring together all the different styling elements of a block. Because at the moment it’s a bit… The styles in quite a few different places, particularly with static blocks, There are some that actually are applied to the static content, there’s class names that are applied, there’s inline styles that are applied. The sort of Nirvana would be that the actual static block content had very little styling actually saved within it. There would just be some meta information and the styles are then applied at the server. And it could be a lot clearer than about which styles of output with the page based on what block content was there.
At the moment, there’s a lot of redundant style content has to go with the page to cover all the possibilities of blocks that might be there. So there’s a lot of work around trying to rationalize that and say, well, let’s only output the CSS that’s actually needed for this particular page content.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I know that some theme developers are really having a hard time with a few block changes. Every release there is a change that they have to update their themes and either take away classes or find classes. All of a sudden it’s all overwritten, both important kind of thing.
Glen Davies: Yeah, there’s some discussions going on. There’s been some really good input from theme authors about what the difficulties they’re having. So that’s feeding in really well to this around the style engine and there’s all those ongoing questions about backwards compatibility and the API. It’s a reasonably big project. At the moment there’s sort of no definite timeframes. We have the basic style engine in place, but then we’ve got to go through the process of how do we move all of the existing blocks to use this new way.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Styles. Yeah. This new way and what to do with the old ones.
Glen Davies: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Because the static blocks, they don’t update themselves. You need to touch them before they update themselves.
Glen Davies: Yeah. It’s a needed project, but it’s a big project and it’s a matter of working out how do we stage it, rather than go away for two years and work on the style engine. By the time everything’s moved on. It’s the usual thing with software development. What are the little pieces we can do to actually keep this thing moving and release pieces along the way create a massive project that never actually completes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, no, I get it. But it’s good. I know there was some discussion and we had also discussed it here with the proposal from Mark Road Wiley. I think he did some foundational thinking about that and there was quite a good summary, but also the ideas that he had in terms of how that could be input or what a theme developer would need. That I think that post really informed about that to make it as close as possible for how theme developers were going.
Glen Davies: Yeah. That generated some really good discussion. And what we’ve done is split that up into about four different areas. Because there was some quite of distinct parts within that. So we’ve tried to split that into separate issues to deal with each of them separately. So hopefully some progress will be made.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Excellent.
Glen Davies: And coming releases on this.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I’m looking forward to that to maybe write about things that work. I have some deaf notes that I could wrangle about soon.
Okay. So I think we are at the end of the show. Glen, if somebody wants to get in touch with you and wants to reach you, what would be the best way to do that?
Glen Davies: At glendavies.nz
Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. And you also… Are you often on the WebPress slack community.
Glen Davies: Oh yeah. Yeah. All WebPress slack. Same. Glendavies.nz. See me there.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Okay. Thank you
Mary Job: Before we let Glen go, I hope you don’t mind my asking. So my question again is on your background. I hope you don’t mind my asking. In my part of the world, we have a lot of people who are learning development actively. It’s like an escape over here. “Okay, if I can’t get a normal day job, maybe I can learn development and make something out of that.” If you were to meet somebody who is starting to learn development, is in their first or second year of learning, would you recommend WordPress development to such a person? Is this something you would say, okay, maybe you could actually build a career in WordPress development? Do you think that’s…? Because people are very skeptic hearing some WordPress developers like, what’s a WordPress developer. It’s not common. It’s not like everywhere as opposed to other developments languages.
Glen Davies: Yeah. I definitely recommend it particularly the likes of the Gutenberg project. So if you can get involved in the project and pick up some small issues, there’s some reasonably simple things that come through. And if you can start putting up some PRs with some simple fixes, a reasonably easy way to get into a development community. And then if you start getting some of your PRs accepted. It’s a pretty friendly and accepting developer community. There’s some other developer communities where you might put up some simple PRs and get lambasted for doing things the wrong way. But from my experience, you’re not going to get that in the WordPress community. You’re just going to generally get help and support. So I think that there would definitely be a way to actually get into development in a bigger way. Plus it’s real life and it’s a real project. So can’t help but improve your CV or your resume if you can say, “Well, I’ve been actively involved in this project for the last year and here’s the 10 PRs that I’ve had accepted and merged.”
Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s a very good question. Thank you, Mary. And I like the answer. There’s actually a label in the Gutenberg repository that says ‘Good First Bugs’. So scouting through those or just pulling up and see if something moves you or something you were interested in is definitely, yeah. Try to pick that up. There are also other ways to start contributing to WordPress. I always have to say that it doesn’t have to be code. But if you’re a developer code is definitely one thing. But it’s also could be testing quite a bit. So there are also labels says “needs testing” means, okay, we need some more reports and what could configuration or something like that. Is that reproducible, especially for the bug reports. So the developer who picks that up has a better inkling on how to attack that. That’s also a good way to get started if you don’t know the project yet. I think doing it from the user point and tested for some bugs is definitely a good way to get in there. Yeah, definitely.
All right. Anything else? How can people reach you, Mary? Anything from your side that you want to announce and let people know, our listeners know?
Mary Job: Not a lot. We recently had a diverse speaker training group, all the meet up for the leaguers, some citizen in Nigeria, and also here. That was interesting. They had a lot of good feedback. Like I said, we’re actively trying to grow the WP Africa community. We want, I personally want to get to know people who are doing WordPress on this continent and maybe we can have chat that wordcam.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And if you are listening from Africa and you want to be part of it, WPafrica.org is the website with all information about it. You can also get Mary on Twitter. MaryoJob is the Twitter handle.
As always, the show notes will be published on Gutenbergtimes.com/podcast. This is episode 66. If you have questions or suggestions or news you want us to include, send them to email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, thank you so much for joining us, Glen. It was a great pleasure to have you and talk to you. And thank you, Mary, for being with me again on this podcast. And it’s for me, goodbye.
Mary Job: Thank you.
Glen Davies: Goodbye.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Goodbye. Take care.