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November 2018

5 posts from December 2018

Watch: the 2018 "State of the Word" from WordCamp US

Tonight in Nashville, Matt Mullenweg delivered his "State of the Word" presentation at WordCamp US. Not being there in person, I watched the live stream. The recorded stream has about 28 minutes of various quotes that were displayed. Matt starts at shortly after the 28-minute mark:

He shows some very cool ways that Gutenberg can work. Starting at around 54 minutes, Matt moves into showing what the next phases of Gutenberg will be. In a "Phase 2" during 2019, more of the admin interface will be moved into blocks. Phase 3 (2020 at the earliest) will be about collaboration, multiuser editing and workflows. Phase 4 (later) will be about having an official multilingual interface.

And then around the 1:12:00 mark, he mentions a fantastic statistic that over 57% of WordPress sites were using HTTPS (i.e. TLS):

Wordpress and https

Matt goes on with much more information about the WordPress community, more developements - and then finally concludes "The State of The Word" at around the 1:21:00 mark and moves into questions... of which there was about another 45 minutes of long discussions and questions.


Initial Thoughts on WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg

Wordpress 5 0

Yesterday (Dec 6, 2018) was TheBigDay when WordPress 5.0 with the Gutenberg block-based editor landed in all of our WordPress sites for upgrade. Some of the places to learn more about the launch include:

Changing the core editor over to Gutenberg was a massive effort over the past two years - and the launch this week was both an amazing accomplishment... and a very divisive event within the WordPress community.

I was very much hoping to be down in Nashville for WordCamp US this weekend, where parts of the community will be gathering. I expect it will be quite a passionate weekend! (Unfortunately some family medical issues kept me closer to home.)

I *really* like Gutenberg...

My initial reaction was... I really LIKE Gutenberg!

Now, I've been playing with it for much of the last year, and the more I work with it, the more I like it.

It really DOES enable more beautiful and powerful publishing with great ease.

I'm looking forward to doing even MORE with it and learning how far we can go with using Gutenberg.

... but it needs to work! :-(

However, after the upgrade to WordPress 5.0, the Gutenberg editor didn't work on all my sites. For several of my sites, I had NO PROBLEM after the update. It "just worked." I was immediately able to go in and start editing with Gutenberg.

But on a couple of other sites, when I went in to edit an existing page or post - or to create a new one - I made all my changes and pressed the "Update" or "Publish" button and...

Gutenberg updating failed

"Updating failed" in a big red bar across the top of the screen!

Amusingly to me, some searching on the web brought me back to a Github issue I had opened back in August 2017.

All I had to do to "fix" the issue was this:

  1. Go to Settings -> Permalinks, and change it from "Month and name" to "Day and name" and press "Save changes". I received the message "Permalink structure updated."
  2. Change it from "Day and name" back to "Month and name" and press "Save changes". I received the message "Permalink structure updated."
  3. Switch back to the tab where I was editing the post and had the error message. Pressed "Update" and.. ta da... the updating worked perfectly fine.

I had to do this on two different WordPress sites (both running on the same WordPress multisite server). Strangely, other sites on the multisite server were fine.

While the fix was easy, it concerns me that I had to do this and that I didn't really do anything. But somehow my act of changing the Permalink Settings did SOMETHING internally to make things work.

That concerns me.

Now, someone in that ticket or elsewhere suggested that this particular issue was NOT a Gutenberg issue, but rather an issue with the REST API, which Gutenberg uses.

Regardless, my point was that I couldn't use the editor to make changes on my site.

And beyond my own issue, I see many other Gutenberg issues piling up on Github. Now, yes, these may be initial launch pains for launching such a massive change.

But I do hope the team of developers can fix these in the 5.0.1 release that I'm sure will come quickly.

I really DO like the Gutenberg editor - and I look forward to seeing all we collectively can do with it!


P.S. This post was NOT written using Gutenberg because this Disruptive Conversations site is sadly still over on TypePad. I look forward to migrating it some day so that I can use Gutenberg!


Have we given up on personal blogging? (In favor of social media)

Cemetary keene

Have we given up on personal blogging? Are we instead doing that all writing in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar services?

Is the personal blog dead? [1]

I had lunch this week with a friend who, like me, has been online since long before this thing we now call the “Internet” came into being. We were having one of those “back in the old days” conversations where we talking about the discipline that came from programming in assembly language, the challenges of early computing and networks, how the programmers these days no longer need to understand how things really work, how they write bloated code, etc., etc.

Along the way we talked about the changing nature of the Internet and the growing consolidation / centralization of so many key services. We talked about how so many people no longer host their own web servers (both she and I do (for some of my sites), but talked about the issues with that and how attractive it is to look at hosting options)… about how many people no longer run their own mail servers (I don’t, but she does)… and how people have just generally given up running their own services because the hosted services are just so incredibly convenient and useful. And somewhere in there she just tossed in a comment along the lines of:

“… and then we’ve given up on blogging in favor of Facebook…"

It was just a throwaway comment in the midst of a longer discussion that went on into the rise of CDNs, overlay caching networks, cloud computing and more. (It was a great conversation!)

But that comment stuck with me… and as it rolled around inside of my brain, I sadly had to conclude that for the most part[1]...

she’s right.

My Own Example

I look even at my own writing. Despite my post in September about “Returning to POSSE - Writing on my own site, THEN on Facebook, Twitter, etc.”, the truth of the matter is that I haven’t been writing on my own sites.

If you take a look at my danyork.me aggregator site, you’ll see that I’ve been writing for the past week, but if you go back beyond that, or use the little calendar on the right sidebar to look at past months, you’ll see there is very little activity.  And what there is of my writing is most often on the Internet Society websites, rather than my various personal blogs.

For example, when I wrote on my Disruptive Telephony site on Monday, it was my first post there since March 2017 - that is 21 MONTHS!

Some of my other sites are worse.

Now, you could argue in my case that this just a matter of changing priorities. I don’t work as much with voice-over-IP or messaging, and so NOT writing on Disruptive Telephony makes sense. The site chronicled by activities in the VoIP world when I was active there. Now maybe it’s time to just park it and leave it alone. I could make similar cases for why I haven’t written on other sites.

And this may just be the consequence of my choice many years ago to spread my writing across multiple topic-focused sites, instead of just writing about a wide variety of topics on a single site such as danyork.com.

And it may be that it’s just me with everything else going on in my life over the past year.

The Directory Dilemma, Again

Or maybe not.

My lunch companion mentioned the challenge of finding where companies have their main information. Are their hours of operation most accurate on their website? Or on their Facebook page? 

And the same is true of personal blogs and sites. 

How do I find where people are writing?

Back in the early days of blogging (mid-2000s), of course,  many of us used RSS readers and got our feeds from sites that way.  We found new feeds from references, from searches, from different directories. But while I’m still one of those dwindling number of people who use a RSS reader, the vast majority of people do not. 

How do you find writing?  Well, usually through mentions in social media. It’s the “syndication” part of POSSE.  

But if you are using social media to distribute and promote your writing… it’s not a huge step to simply just write in the social media platform because it’s so easy and distribution is automatic. I know people who have moved all their writing to LinkedIn, for instance. Or people who are writing long threads in Twitter now that the site supports longer tweets and threading.

It’s another version of the Directory Dilemma - it’s easy to find content within those nice hosted walled gardens.

Running Servers Takes Work

And let’s be honest - running your own personal website can be a bit of a pain. If you use a self-hosted content management system (CMS) such as WordPress (as I do), you find yourself pretty much constantly needing to apply updates. Updates to the core… updates to the plugins… updates to the theme.  And then of course possibly updates to the underlying operating system if you are running the CMS in a virtual machine.

And then if you want to set up TLS certificates to support HTTPS, that can be a whole adventure! And if you mess it up, your sites are offline.

It’s enough to make you say… "<expletive> it, I’ll just go write on Medium!” … or hosted WordPress.com … or… to just write inside of Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.

After all... I just want to write! 

Every minute I spend doing system admin or applying plugin updates is a minute I could be doing more writing.

Add in that all of those social sites have very easy-to-use mobile applications. It makes it so easy to just start writing inside those pretty walled gardens.

In contrast, many of the blogging and website hosting services have a less-than-stellar mobile UX. WordPress does a nice job with its mobile apps... but others? Not so much.

So is personal blogging dead?

Wellllll... no. There will always be some of will write on their own sites.

And I'd like to hope not for the larger independence of the Web. I'd like to hope many people will continue to embrace the “POSSE“ content publishing model from the “IndieWeb” movement:

Publish on your
Own
Site,
Syndicate
Elsewhere

I am going to continue to try.

But I also understand why some give up on it. The sweet convenience, ease-of-use and simplicity of the social networking platforms is extremely seductive. And they encourage consumption of content (because that helps get them the ad eyeballs they need to get paid) - and finding the balance of consumption and creation is hard!

What about you, dear reader? Have you given up


[1] Realizing that there will always be outliers in terms of very active personal blogs - and people who just choose to write on their own - but are personal blogs no longer of interest for the vast majority of people?

Photo: an image I took in the Woodlawn Cemetary in Keene, NH


WordPress 5.0 now targeted to launch on.... Thursday! (Dec 6)

Printing blocks unsplash raphaelphotoch

The news out of Matt Mullenweg last night was...

THURSDAY!

That day, December 6 (2018), is the next target release date for WordPress 5.0.

If you have been paying attention to WordPress, or listening to any of my reports into the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast over the last, say, year or so, you would know that WordPress 5.0 is a huge departure from all previous WordPress releases. The big change is the replacement of the default text editor with the new "Gutenberg" block-based editor.

Personally, I'm rather excited about the change. I've been using Gutenberg on a number of my sites and really like how much you can do with it.

But... reaction within the WordPress community and ecosystem has been decidedly mixed.

Matt's post has more info.

We'll see if it happens! But if you are a WordPress site operator, get ready! 5.0 is coming soon!


Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

WordPress.com Offering free .Blog subdomains for new sites

 

The good folks over at WordPress.com are doing something interesting - they are giving free .blog subdomains for any new sites created on WordPress.com.

Now, to be clear, this is not ANY subdomain under .blog. For instance, I was immediately curious if I could get “danyork.blog”, but no, they are giving away for free third-level subdomains under the following second-level domains:

  • art.blog
  • business.blog
  • car.blog
  • code.blog
  • data.blog
  • design.blog
  • family.blog
  • fashion.blog
  • finance.blog
  • fitness.blog
  • food.blog
  • game.blog
  • health.blog
  • home.blog
  • law.blog
  • movie.blog
  • music.blog
  • news.blog
  • photo.blog
  • poetry.blog
  • politics.blog
  • school.blog
  • science.blog
  • sport.blog
  • tech.blog
  • travel.blog
  • video.blog
  • water.blog

So I could possibly get “danyork.tech.blog”, “danyork.news.blog”, “york.family.blog”, or “Vermont.travel.blog”. Basically, a free domain underneath that set of domains.

When you create a NEW site (and that is important because this is currently NOT available to existing WordPress.com sites), you will have a chance to claim one of these subdomains in this process.

Now, for most of us who are more serious about this, we may already have a domain. Or at least will want to get our own.

But for someone just starting out, I could see this being a useful way to get started without having to buy a domain, get it set up, etc.  Cool move by the Automattic team behind WordPress.com!