[Gauguin] was penniless and adrift, trying to paint his way through the devastations of his dying marriage, his rejection by the cliques of the Parisian art establishment, and the precarity of his friendship with Vincent van Gogh, who shortly before Christmas had assaulted him with a razor and, after Gauguin’s departure that evening, used the same blade to cut off his own ear […] Despite the promises of the name, it can be a challenge to find actual olives at Olive Garden.
Matias Ventura, the lead of the editor focus for WordPress, has written Gutenberg, or the Ship of Theseus to talk about how Gutenberg's approach will simplify many of the most complex parts of WordPress, building pages, and theme editing. If you want a peek at some of the things coming down the line with Gutenberg, including serverless WebRTC real-time co-editing.
Big companies like to bury unpleasant news on Fridays: A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they have decided to dig in on their patent clause addition to the React license, even after Apache had said it’s no longer allowed for Apache.org projects. In their words, removing the patent clause would "increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits."
I'm not judging Facebook or saying they're wrong, it's not my place. They have decided it's right for them — it's their work and they can decide to license it however they wish. I appreciate that they've made their intentions going forward clear.
We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we're officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.
That post won't be published, and instead I'm here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.
Automattic will also use whatever we choose for Gutenberg to rewrite Calypso — that will take a lot longer, and Automattic still has no issue with the patents clause, but the long-term consistency with core is worth more than a short-term hit to Automattic’s business from a rewrite. Core WordPress updates go out to over a quarter of all websites, having them all inherit the patents clause isn’t something I’m comfortable with.
I think Facebook’s clause is actually clearer than many other approaches companies could take, and Facebook has been one of the better open source contributors out there. But we have a lot of problems to tackle, and convincing the world that Facebook’s patent clause is fine isn’t ours to take on. It’s their fight.
The decision on which library to use going forward will be another post; it’ll be primarily a technical decision. We’ll look for something with most of the benefits of React, but without the baggage of a patents clause that’s confusing and threatening to many people. Thank you to everyone who took time to share their thoughts and give feedback on these issues thus far — we're always listening.
Movable type was about books, but it wasn’t just about books. Ideas spread. Literacy spiked. The elite monopoly on education and government started to crack. Luther’s 95 Theses were printed on a press, rocking Europe, and he issued “broadsheets.” Broadsheets became newspapers; newspapers enabled democracy. The printing press ushered in social, political, and economic sea changes. Gutenberg changed everything.
WordPress has always been about websites, but it’s not just about websites. It’s about freedom, about possibility, and about carving out your own livelihood, whether it’s by making a living through your site or by working in the WordPress ecosystem itself. We’re democratizing publishing — and democratizing work — for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal.
WordPress’s growth is impressive (28.5% and counting) but it’s not limitless — at least not in its current state. We have challenges (user frustrations with publishing and customizing, competition from site builders like Squarespace and Wix) and opportunities (the 157 million small businesses without sites, aka the next big market we should be serving). It’s time for WordPress’ next big thing, the thing that helps us deal with our challenges and opportunities. The thing that changes the world.
When Johannes Gutenberg’s press came out, people mostly used it to print the same religious text monks had been copying. It wasn’t until ten or fifteen years later that people started innovating and trying their hands at new kinds of writing, and the wheels of change started to spin faster. Now it’s WordPress’ turn to do the same. Gutenberg meets our challenges and opportunities head on while simultaneously benefitting everyone who makes a living working in the WP ecosystem. It’s about a lot more than just blocks. Our Gutenberg moves every part of the WordPress ecosystem forward:
Developers and agencies will be able to create interactive templates that clients can easily update without breaking things or dealing with custom post types: Imagine a custom “employee” block that you can add to an About page that includes a picture, name, and bio. They’ll be able to replace most meta boxes, and they’ll get a chance to update old code or clients to work in this new paradigm.
Plugin developers will be able to completely integrate into every part of WordPress, including posts, pages, custom post types, and sidebars without having to hack TinyMCE or squeeze their entire feature behind a toolbar button. Today, every plugin that extends WordPress does it in a different way; Gutenberg’s blocks provide a single, easy-to-learn entry point for an incredible variety of extensions. Some folks have already begun to port their plugins over, and are finding that they’re easier to build and have a much improved UI. I’m looking forward to highlighting those stories as we get further along and more people write about them.
Theme developers won’t need to bundle tons of plugins or create their own page builders. There’ll be a standard, portable way to create rich layouts for posts and guide people through setup right in the interface, no 20-step tutorials or long videos needed. Every theme will be able to compete with multi-functional premium themes without locking users into a single theme or compromising their experience.
Core developers will be able to work in modern technologies and not worry about 15 years of backwards compatibility. We’ll be able to simplify how menus, widgets, and the editor work to use a common set of code and concepts. The interface will be instantly responsive.
Web hosts will have better signup rates, as Gutenberg opens up WordPress to an entirely new set of people for whom WordPress was too complex and hard to set up before. (Remember our goal: to democratize publishing.) Their churn rates will go down: they’ll stop bleeding customers to Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, and fewer people will abandon their sites because it was too hard to make things look they way they wanted.
Users will finally be able to build the sites they see in their imaginations. They’ll be able to do things on mobile they’ve never been able to before. They’ll never have to see a shortcode again. Text pasted from Word will get cleaned up and converted to blocks automatically and instantly. (I pasted the first version of this post from Google Docs and it worked great. 👌) They’ll start manipulating their sites in ways that would have taken a developer. They’ll be able to move from blogging to using WordPress as a CMS without missing a beat. Editing posts will just work; they’ll write more. They’ll learn blocks once, and then be able to instantly use and understand 90%+ of plugins.
I could go on about how photographers will be able to create rich galleries, parallax images, and better portfolios, or how poets will finally be able to preserve whitespace as they write, but you get the idea. It’s big. It moves the WordPress ecosystem forward, but it also moves the whole web forward.
Which is scary! Because change always is, and this is a big one. But a scary thing is usually a thing that leads to growth, if you can push through it. Ten years ago, agencies and developers worried that software like WordPress would ruin their business because clients wouldn’t need help updating their sites any more, and would maybe even just start building their own sites. But their worse fears didn’t come true — instead, it created new opportunities for everyone.
(People were worried when the printing press was invented, too. A Swiss biologist warned against the “confusing and harmful abundance of books,” but I’d say it all worked out in the end.)
This is not to say that nothing will go sideways with Gutenberg, or that people’s concerns about it are unfounded. Making something people want is really hard to do and easy to mess up — we definitely have in the past. I share many of the concerns or worries with today’s version of Gutenberg, and we’re working to mitigate them. Gutenberg will ship with WordPress 5.0, but the release will come out when Gutenberg is ready, not vice versa. We still have target dates to help us think about scope and plan for all the supporting documentation, translation, and marketing efforts, but we’re not going to release anything until Gutenberg is something the team working on it agrees is ready.
And as we work, we’re listening: feedback on core and feature plugins gets read, heard, and considered. Every review of Gutenberg, even the rude ones, has a response. Seven months of vigorous and public debate, chats, tickets, and code changesets brought us to where we are today, and there will be a fair amount more before we can present the Gutenberg vision in a mostly-complete state. I welcome it; apathy would worry me a lot more than disagreement or controversy.
Creating great software will never make every person happy. We’re not creating The Perfect Product, we’re choosing a path between many good options, weighing all of the inevitable trade-offs that come from a change, listening, shipping, and then doing it all over again. Iterating. My life’s work is improving WordPress. I firmly believe that Gutenberg is the direction that will provide the most benefit to the maximum number of people while being totally in line with core WordPress’s philosophies and commitment to user freedom. So keep giving us your feedback, and let’s push through the fear together. It’s worth a little discomfort to change the world.
Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men.
The company Bayer is famous for inventing aspirin in 1898, which is arguably one of the world’s most beloved brands, and for good reason. But I was surprised to learn that just two weeks earlier, the same three guys who gave the world aspirin also created Bayer’s other big brand, heroin, which was marketed for about eight years as the world’s best cough medicine.
Power and utility companies must exactly balance supply with what people consume at any given moment. UK grid operators famously must cope with a demand surge after the TV soap opera “EastEnders” ends, when thousands of people start boiling water for tea.
When I originally wrote about the three focuses for the year (and in the State of the Word) I said releases would be driven by improvements in those three areas, and people in particular are anticipating the new Gutenberg editor, so I wanted to talk a bit about what’s changed and what I’ve learned in the past few months that caused us to course correct and do an intermediate 4.8 release, and why there will likely be a 4.9 before Gutenberg comes in.
Right now the vast majority of effort is going into the new editing experience, and the progress has been great, but because we’re going to use the new editor as the basis for our new customization experience it means that the leads for the customization focus have to wait for Gutenberg to get a bit further along before we can build on that foundation. Mel and Weston took this as an opportunity to think about not just the “Customizer”, which is a screen and code base within WP, but really thinking in a user-centric way about what it means to customize a site and they identified a number of low-hanging fruits, areas like widgets where we could have a big user impact with relatively little effort.
WordPress is littered with little inconsistencies and gaps in the user experience that aren’t hard to fix, but are hard to notice the 500th time you’re looking at a screen.
I didn’t think we’d be able to sustain the effort on the editor and still do a meaningful user release in the meantime, but we did, and I think we can do it again.
To summarize: The main focus of the editor is going great, customization has been getting improvements shipped to users, the wp-cli has become like the third focus, and I’m optimistic about REST-based development the remainder of the year.
Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters—sometimes very hastily—but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.
I am a road warrior who has racked up several million miles over the past decade, and since I’m also working more-than-full-time running Automattic (a totally distributed company) and leading WordPress I need the ability to be productive wherever I can find a comfortable place to sit. I carry a backpack with me almost all the time and obsessively tweak and iterate what’s in it, which led to posts in 2014 and 2016. This is the latest edition, and I hope you enjoy it.
Some generic Maui Jim polarized sunglasses with rubber nose pads, which I like for running or hiking because they don’t move around or slip even when you’re hot.
Tzukuri “Ford” + charger, a super-cool Audrey company that is like a combination of a Tile and cool sunglasses. They connect via bluetooth to your phone and can notify you when you leave them behind, or use the app to locate them. A charge lasts 30 days. I think this is only available in Australia right now, but should be coming to other countries soon. (Or just buy them on vacation in Australia.) These replaced my fancy Maison Bonnet sunglasses.
A Tile, which was a gift from my sister. I keep this in a pocket in my backpack and it helps me locate it if I lose it, or if I can’t find my phone I can press the button and it’ll make it beep. Surprisingly handy. Hat tip: Charleen.
Hermes business card holder. (3rd year)
A cut-out of a chamois cloth, which I use for cleaning smudges and such off glasses and screens. Mine is from Amazon but you can get at any car place or Walmart, use this guide to prepare, and then cut pieces off. Hat tip: Dean.
Airpods. These are just fantastic, and I highly recommend them. I use them for calls, podcasts, audiobooks, meditating, Duolingo… they’ve become an essential daily product for me. A cool trick is to use one ear while the other is charging in the “floss” case. Hat tip: Jony.
Bose QuietComfort 35, wireless bluetooth headphones. I misplaced my cool WordPress Sennheisers and picked these up in an airport before a long flight. They’re extremely comfortable, great battery life, and I keep an audio splitter and Lightning audio adapter in the case. I’ve hated on Bose many times in the past, but these are decent and I get why people like them, especially the comfort aspect. I am listening to them as I write this. I used Audeze EL-8 Titanium for a while, which obviously sound better, but the lightning cable was unwieldy and it was annoying (and ridiculous) I couldn’t plug them into my laptop. Hat tip: Every airport electronics store.
Jabra Sport Pace bluetooth earbuds, which replaced my Powerbeats for running and working out. They have been way sturdier. Pretty inexpensive, too, right now about $60. I know in theory you can run with Airpods, but I’d be too scared of one going down a street drain.
Cool carbon fiber money clip, which I use to hold a little cash for places like street vendors that don’t take credit cards, or if I’m in another country and need to carry around currency. The site is a little sketchy, they should upgrade to WooCommerce. Also pictured: The EasyPay XPress NYC Metro Card, which is super handy in New York as it auto-refills. Only downside is it doesn’t work on the PATH trains. Hat tip: Tynan and Rose.
Vapur Shades roll-up water bottle. Can hold a full liter, and rolls up to be small like this. Kind of new so I don’t have a strong opinion yet. Hat tip: Lululemon Lab in Vancouver.
Fidget spinner, I think this one is from Amazon. Try one of these if you haven’t yet, they’re surprisingly addictive. If you go over to 14 on the left you’ll see a custom metal one a friend made for me. Hat tips: Zach and Xa.
This is the latest Lululemon Para backpack, and unlike last year’s Cruiser it’s currently available in stores and online. I dig this iteration: it has a little less padding on the shoulders, but the big front zipper pocket is super handy and in general it’s a lot more streamlined and water resistant. Om clued me in to a similar one from Aer, I don’t know who designed it first. Hat tip: Rose.
So… there are two laptops, a custom prototype 13″ Automattic-logo Macbook touchbar, and the stickered 15″. I generally only travel with one of these, the 13″ for shorter trips or the 15″ if I’m going to be on the road for more than a few weeks. The performance is just better on the 15″. My favorite things about both are the 4 USB-C ports, that you can charge on any of them, and the Touch ID. (Automatticians after 4 years of tenure can get a custom Macbook, which we now offer with the WordPress, Automattic, or Jetpack logo. I usually get the test ones to make sure the quality is up to snuff.) I carry around the larger 87W brick from the 15″, and keep the extension cable now so it’s easier to plug in on those weak plugs on planes.
Kindle Oasis. I still love the Kindle. I’ve started listening to audiobooks this year and the integration with Audible is cool. The Oasis is great because of the real buttons and the fact that you can flip it to hold in either hand, but it’s been the most annoying model in a few generations because the screen brightness isn’t adaptive, and it gives “low battery” warnings when the extra battery cover is low but the actual device is not, which seems to defeat the purpose. Great form factor and ergonomics though.
Passport, because you never know when you’ll need to leave the country.
A pocket-sized Baron Fig notebook, which I use in meetings to avoid my phone. Hat tip: Rose.
Google Pixel. Best Android phone I’ve used, uses USB-C which I love, I love the size. I use this mostly for testing and staying current on Android, or as a backup. I use Google Fi for service on this one.
Forerunner 735, charger, and heart rate strap. I actually switched to the 935 since this picture was taken, but my notes apply to both. (Here’s a great review of the new 935.) Garmin makes the best fitness smartwatches in the world right now. Aspects are clunky: the app is not the most elegant, the add-on watch faces and such leave something to be desired, the sleep tracking is way worse than Fitbit, and there is no fine-grained control over notifications. That said, the battery life goes 8-10 days (!) so I often don’t even bring the charger when I travel. The stats are unparalleled especially for running. It’s waterproof and can also track swimming and biking. Finally my favorite feature: the screen is always on. I know that sounds basic, but I have been driven crazy by years of Fitbit and Apple Watch require tapping or wrist gesticulations just to see the time. (Extra awkward in a meeting.) My hardcore fitness friends love this one too. Hat tip: Aaron.
Belkin car mount, really handy when renting a car and navigating around. (3rd year)
This is a more-expensive but not-better version of what I had last year, which I’ll quote and actually recommend: “This is probably the least-travel-friendly thing I travel with, but the utility is so great I put up with it. It’s the Sennheiser Culture Series Wideband Headset, which I use for podcasts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangout calls with external folks and teams inside of Automattic. Light, comfortable, great sound quality, and great at blocking out background noise so you don’t annoy other people on the call. Worth the hassle.” I leave the USB-C adapter attached to this. Cable still annoys me.
iPhone 7 Plus, on Verizon, with a Bellroy 3-card case. If you’re a guy I highly recommend trying out a phone wallet case, it’s a game-changer to only have one thing to keep track of and not having a wallet in your back pocket is good to avoid getting misaligned. I have three cards in it, an Amex, a Visa, and my drivers license. In NYC I also squeeze in the Metrocard. Hat tip: Craig (a previous Bellroy model).
The Japanese company Maruman makes this awesome grid-paper lie-flat notebook, which I fill and occasionally draw in. I love this thing, and having a work area where I can have my laptop, mouse, iPad, and this notebook all set up next to each other is my happy place. The paper is soft. Hat tip: Brian.
9.7″ iPad Pro + smart keyboard cover on AT&T. I didn’t expect to, but I really love this device. It gives me way more joy than my phone or my laptops. Gorgeous screen, long battery life, always connect, I can tether to it, write on it with the pen in 32, the keyboard is fast and silent, split screen is handy… I don’t know how to describe it. Like the Airpods, this product just excels in every area. I still have and need to use a laptop, but it’s less of my day and mostly because of some internal tools and security stuff we have.
I’m not sure why I started using this Plantronics Voyager bluetooth headset, but it’s really good. This might not make the cut next year as the Airpods are pretty good, but if I’m going to be on a regular (non-Facetime) phone or conference call for a few hours, this is what I turn to. Hat tip: An Uber driver.
Two rings: one Margiela one which has my lucky number 11 circled (for a long reason related to their numbering system), and one with the WordPress logo that was also a swag prototype for a ten-year tenure gift. I might wear these to remind me of something I’m trying to remember or focus on during a day.
I’m digging this Imazing 10k charger: it’s a cool color, smaller and lighter than last year’s, has a USB-C port, and outputs well. I found I never needed the 20k capacity of last year’s, hence the downsize to 10k.
A really mediocre Native Union two-port USB I got from TED. Not going to link since it’s not very good because of the way it plugs in. Since the photo I replaced it with the much-more-useful Aukey 2-port, which I highly recommend and give away all the time.
Ensuring network continuity: One thing you’ll notice is the iPhone is on Verizon, which has the best network in the US, the iPad is on AT&T, and the Pixel is on Google Fi. This allows me to have a diversity of network access which is occasionally handy in the US and has saved my butt a few times when overseas. Whichever device has the best connection I’ll just tether the others to it. I almost never join coffee shop or hotel wifi these days, a good LTE connection is usually better.
USB-C Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Oh, USB-C, I love you. You’re reversible, fast, and work for everything, like I can charge my laptop with almost anything, and many new devices like Google Wifi use you for power. The dangerous cable on Amazon thing seems to have worked itself out, and having 4 ports on the laptop is amazing, I can charge everything I need off it. But as you can see from the mess of cables and how many other legacy USB things I’m carrying around, we’re (still!) in this really awkward in-between phase for computing. First, there are no good retractable cables, especially ones that have USB-C on one end and Lightning or Micro-USB on the other. I wish my headset, headphones, sunglasses, and Kindle didn’t need Micro-USB, and I wish the Airpods, iPhone, iPad Pro, Magic Mouse would just give up on Lightning and support USB-C instead. But we’re in this liminal space, and the number one thing I hope is better by next year’s post is that the USB-C accessory world has flourished and I just have a couple of neat retractable USB-C cables and things like the battery, wall charger, and car charger in 34, 35, and 37 just have all USB-C ports. A boy can dream, right?
Partly because the backpack is a little smaller, I’ve really tried to streamline and a lot of things from last year, like a small digital camera, the Chromecasts, travel router, etc I don’t bother carrying around in my backpack anymore. I hope these can get simpler and shorter every year. I tagged these with an affiliate ID for Amazon this year but mostly just to see if anyone actually buys stuff from these posts. I walk millions of steps a year with my backpack and wouldn’t carry something around unless I really believed in it, which is also why I’m always testing and trying new things. As you can tell a lot of this kit has evolved from recommendations, so if you have any please leave a note in the comments. I’ve also considered doing something similar for shoes, clothes, apps, suitcases, or toiletries, so holler if you’d like any of those. Alrighty, that’s it until next year!
The Economist writes about who’s wrong when flyers end up in the wrong cities. This has actually happened to me! Probably 7-8 years ago, it was an Air Canada flight from New York to Montreal, and I accidentally boarded the one to Toronto. The mistake was realized when we were on the ground, but had pulled away from gate. Being Canadian, they were exceedingly nice and asked me to stay on the flight but they’d find me one from Toronto to Montreal after I landed.
The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.
Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.
As I mentioned in the State of the Word this is the year we’re ramping up marketing. There is lots to learn and much to follow, but we have our first TV ads up in six markets to test. Each shares a story of a business in Detroit, and I actually got the chance to visit one of the businesses earlier today.