Show Notes: Keeping up with Gutenberg (Video)

With weekly or bi-weekly releases, plus changing APIs, how can anyone try keeping up with Gutenberg development?  To explore this issue David Needham and I hosted a live Webinar as part of Pantheon’s Gutenberg Webinar Series.

We were already in Belgrade, Serbia, for WordCamp Europe. In the webinar,  we discussed how best to keep up with the Gutenberg development. We also explored a few implementation strategies for site owners and content creators. And of course we talked about Gutenberg Times and my approach to curating all information and community voices addressing the new WordPress publishing experience.

The webinar took place on June 12, 2018. Quite a few things have changed since then. I added some notes for the particular respective sections.

We started out with “Why” it is so important to keep up with Gutenberg Development:

  • It’s a feature that soon will be on WordPress Core.
  • To make sure website will work with Gutenberg it needs to be tested and to become familiar to the user.  
  • As Developers, it’s time to prepare your plugins and themes for your users’ new publishing experience.

What is Gutenberg

And we took a step back and discussed “ What is Gutenberg?” and “How can people try it?”.

David warned our listeners not to try it out on a live site because it is still in beta. Instead, they  should host a copy of their site on Pantheon’s service for staging. And that is free of charge! Although it sounds scary, it is actually easy to get a copy of a site up and running on Pantheon. These instructions will help you.

David asked me about two “origin stories”. First: How I got started with WordPress when looking for a new content management system to support 40 nonprofits in our community. And second:  The origin story of Gutenberg Times.

Because of my experience 8 years ago seeing content creators in amazement as they embraced WordPress, I know the 2018 content creators will embrace the new publishing experience called Gutenberg.

You can read the orgin story of Gutenberg Times in an earlier interview by Drew Gorton on the Pantheon Blog. Pantheon has sponsored Gutenberg Times almost since the beginning. And I am very grateful for their generous support of my work

David Needham and Birgit Pauli-Haack

How can you try keeping up with Gutenberg development and WordPress?

Social Listening / Feeds / Discovery

I use Brand24, one of the most powerful social listening tools available. It gives me all posts on the various social networks, and on the web and YouTube, around keyword “Gutenberg”. It finds all the blog posts of developers, bloggers and companies that don’t have a large distribution network, but whose voices are worth listening to.

Gutenberg Developers meeting on Slack

Every Wednesdays at 9 am ET ( 13:00 UTC) the developers and contributors to Gutenberg meet on Slack channel #core-editor for their team meeting. The team discusses upcoming releases, pull requests, and new issues on GitHub.

Note: A couple of months ago the team decided to move the GitHub feed into two channels #core-editor-firehose and #core-editor-commits.

Gutenberg Plugins Compatibility Project

Daniel Bachhuber developed an initiative to crowdsource testing plugins for compatibility. People could test plugins by setting up a test environment, installing Gutenberg automatically, and then testing just that one plugin. They could also install it automatically on that staging site to see if it breaks or makes the plugin. The tester then filled out a form and selected “is compatible”, “is likely compatible”, or “not compatible”.

Note 9/17: The project is now discontinued as of August 31, 2018.  During this project Bachhuber learned that 5,000 plugins of the 60,000+ had more than 5,000 active installs and about 85% of those, will continue to work when Gutenberg comes out since they don’t touch the editor. Of the 5,000 plugins that were fed into the project, around 900 where tested and 86% were “compatible” or “likely to be compatibile”, with about 7 or 8 % “not compatibile”.

Known Issues with Themes and Plugins

Information about issues with Gutenberg is highly fragmented around the WordPress universe: Apart from the 800 issues (June 18, now ~1,200 Sep 18) on Gutenberg Github repository, some of the pertinent information is in the support forums on, and some is on various websites of premium plugin companies. For Themes there is less as most Themes will work with Gutenberg out of the box. On Gutenberg Times there is a running list of known conflicts with Gutenberg  

Gutenberg Migration Guide

David directed our listeners to Daniel Bachhuber’s Gutenberg Migration Guide with a table showing the current method vs new methods to accomplish certain programming tasks.

It mainly documents things that are different, but includes a section of those for which there is no equivalent solution (yet) for the Gutenberg editor. Big plugin opportunities here!

For instance the action around the post submit box equivalent is called PluginPostStatusInfo”

How to get started with Gutenberg Testing

After this detour into the weeds, David and I discussed how best to get started with Gutenberg. My tip is to spin up a staging site, install Gutenberg, try to recreate more complicated blog posts, and see how that goes. Use the Gutenberg blocks and see what works and what doesn’t work. If you have time you could create a Github issue of things that don’t work.

Gutenberg at WordCamp US 2017

David remembers that he sat in the audience of the Matt’s State of the Word at WordCamp US 2017 and saw a real life demo of Gutenberg. That’s when it became real for him. And he felt that he wasn’t the only person for whom that was true. At WordCamp US I felt that the mood was shifting for a lot of people. Some of them saw Gutenberg for the first time. Until then, they had only heard the noise in the Community. During Q & A the attendees expressed very specific concerns and also a lot of excitement.

What’s a good avenue for people to communicate feedback?

  • Write a blog post about your experience.
  • Create a GitHub issue that would be particularly helpful.
  • Write a support ticket or a Review on the plugin repository of the Gutenberg plugin.
  • Whatever you choose to do, keep it civil, be kind, don’t belittle, and be specific.

David & Birgit at WordCamp Europe 2018

David asked me what I expect from WordCamp Europe regarding Gutenberg, and I said I was eager to meet many developers on the Gutenberg team face-to-face and connect with them at Contributer Day – WordPress’ workday for volunteers on various teams. And of course I was curious what Matt Mullenweg had to say about the progress on Gutenberg.

David shared with me that he is a contributor on the Training team, and had started thinking about training material for Gutenberg users. He was also a speaker and introduced his audience to Drupal, the other open-source content management system. He talked about why someone would choose Drupal over WordPress for a project, how our communities are similar, and where there is a lot of crossover.

Online Courses and Resources: ReactJS and Building Gutenberg Blocks and more.

We also explored common questions:  “How do I learn React” or “Do I need JavaScript?” Future WordPress developers won’t be successful without JavaScript, and I recommended a few online courses:

Developer Resources on Gutenberg Times

David pointed out that VIP team also provides a lot of free resources such as Gutenberg Ramp Plugin and free online video series about converting Custom Post Types to Gutenberg, plus the same for  CMB2 and ACF.

What happens with my content when I enable Gutenberg?

One of the audience questions was about existing content and what happens to it when Gutenberg is enabled. Nothing happens to existing content. Gutenberg is only the editor. It doesn’t do anything to your blog posts and pages unless you want it to.

Gutenberg will load old content into the Classic Block which looks like the TinyMCE window now.

There is also an option to convert the content to blocks. The converter does a fairly nice job, but make sure you have revisions enabled and have a backup. And remember, unless you chose to convert the content to block, Gutenberg will not touch it.

Do I need to learn React or Gutenberg blocks?

Another listener asked if she needs to learn React to create Gutenberg Blocks. Micah Wood published a blog post with the same title and simply answered “No”.

There are multiple ways to create Gutenberg blocks without React, and you can register them in PHP.  But I caution you that you won’t be able to do all the complex things with Gutenberg and blocks without knowing at least a lot of JavaScript. The Gutenberg development team has extracted everything about React into WordPress methods and objects in JavaScript. JavaScript is definitely helpful.

That was the end of the Webinar. David and I covered a lot of ground, and this recap is now way longer than I had hoped.

Big Thanks to Pantheon for inviting me to be part of the webinar, and thank you so much to David for being a wonderful co-host of this event.


A super resource: almost as good as being there! Thanks for organizing it into usable “bites” of information. Instructions are easy to follow, and I like the way you anticipate questions and possible problems. This is a “keeper”. It encourages me to get in there and get going, confident that I’ll know where to go for help when I need it.

Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your thoughts! Appreciate it!