It's your fave WordPress weekly email, now at issue 88!

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Welcome back to MasterWP Weekly, your weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals 👋

What we’re up to:

Alex profile picAlex is very grateful for the kind reaction to last week’s issue, and has followed-up with the lead story this week.

Ben profile picBen is working on updates to Brush Ninja, whilst learning React. He’s concerned he will end up rewriting Brush Ninja with React.

What’s coming up: what now on the accessibility story?

- Alex and Ben


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WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg, and accessibility

Where next for WordPress?

I was really hoping after last week’s issue, in which we reported WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg getting close but the WordPress Accessibility Team Lead has resigned over accessibility concerns, there’d be some progress to report on this week. That doesn’t seem to be the case, and that’s disappointing.

Realistically progress on this required an intervention from Matt Mullenweg, along the lines of: “I acknowledge this is bad; accessibility is incredibly important, and we won’t ship Gutenberg until the accessibility issues are resolved. Furthermore, I’ll oversee ensuring this doesn’t happen again.” Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened: Matt’s response thus far has been to more or less deny this is an issue.

I get the sense that accessibility doesn’t feel like a must-have to Matt, and thus it’s not a must-have for WordPress or Gutenberg. It doesn’t “scale”, to use a Silicon Valley term. Yet, that’s entirely the point. Accessibility is making things available to everyone. WordPress is now at the market size where accessibility has to be a must-have. That might mean development takes longer, but that has to be something which is accepted rather than challenged.

There's fairly fraught discussion on the idea of an accessibility audit, which isn't going ahead as Automattic won't pay for it, or make release conditional on audit success. I appreciate Matthew MacPherson is now working full-time on Gutenberg accessibiilty on behalf of Automattic, and it's hard to convey the nuance, and Gary Pendergast is right when he says "I really like the idea of a professional audit, though I don't recall us ever doing one of these in WordPress, certainly not a condition for a release."

Yet, as far as I recall, whilst WordPress has had dominant market share it has never had such a major feature fail to meet accessibility requirements.

This story struck such a chord last week because it runs to the heart of existing issues with WordPress. If Matt wants something, it happens, if something’s not important to Matt, it doesn’t. The “Mattocracy” has, on the whole, worked very well for the last 15 years and I’m not disputing that; there does, however, need to be a mechanism for issues like this to come to the surface.

There’s no link on this story, but I do have two interesting links on related topics for you: the conference talk Governance Task Force An Update on Current Progress (an update on Drupal project’s Governance), and the podcast episode A call for kindness in open source. Hat tip to Heather Burns and Tim Nash, who shared these on the UK WordPress Slack this week. - Alex.

Contributing to Gutenberg

A new contributor's experience

In this article for the Tavern Chris Van Patten shares his experience with contributing to the Gutenberg project. The original article was a Twitter thread, but it's nicer reading a proper long form piece.

For Chris, the experience of contributing to Gutenberg has been great, however I am not convinced it’s as straightforward (for everyone) as he makes out.

I’ve done some of the same things Chris has done, although not to the same degree. I’ve filed Gutenberg bug reports, and submitted some (CSS) code through pull requests. And my experience has been quite different.

Chris mentions this towards the end of the thread but the big advantages that he has is the privilege to have the time and capacity to do what he’s done. Any time he has spent contributing towards Gutenberg will have eaten into his time to earn a living, or his leisure time, or family time, or whatever. Any time he spends on Gutenberg means less time for something else.

Clearly this isn’t a problem for Chris, and it wasn’t the point of the Twitter thread (which I took to be “it’s not as hard as you think”), but it has to be acknowledged. Chris is an experienced web developer who had the time to spend contributing to, and indirectly learning, Gutenberg. Not everyone has that freedom.

Anybody who wants to work with Gutenberg beyond building themes that support the default blocks (which is pretty straight forward if you use the Block Unit Test plugin) will have to spend some time learning how Gutenberg works.

Even if you don’t learn React, which in my opinion is not required for basic use cases, you will still need to learn a brand new collection of API’s.

For example I wanted to add block style variations to one of my themes, and was given the javascript code required, but at the time it wasn’t documented - and the docs still don’t mention where to put the js (I’m not convinced I've done it the ‘correct’ way - but it works).

Which raises a whole side issue of documentation and education, which are currently lacking. If you want to know more about Javascript for Gutenberg then I have heard good things about Javascript for WP.

I think the big issue I have with Gutenberg development is simply that it’s so different to classic WordPress. It’s not PHP. It requires build tools. It uses a new javascript library that’s very different to anything we’ve used before.

One of these things at a time would be more manageable, but all at once is a lot of change, and I suspect that contributes to the dislike of the project.

Of course none of these things are insurmountable, I have no problem using build tools or javascript, but React is brand new to me. I’ve now started learning React (about time right?) but it will be a while before I am as comfortable with React as I am with vanilla Javascript.

Anyway TL:DR; if you want to develop for Gutenberg you can, and it’s not that difficult. But it will probably take some time to get up to speed. - Ben.

Do you even want to be “a bootstrapper?”

Make something you’re proud of

I enjoyed this post from Justin Jackson, who’s been exploring the various methods of “bootstrapping” recently. Specifically, there’s a lot of assumptions wrapped up in the term, and Justin challenges readers to work through those assumptions and in this instance, focus on their “mission”. - Alex.

WordPress Image Sizes

A ticking time bomb

How many people, in particular theme designers, think about this when they are choosing, or building, WordPress themes?

I’ve had customers ask me questions about image sizes and how they are filling up their web space with the number of images generated by their themes and plugins. It’s certainly not a problem I had considered before, but it’s now something I think about when making themes. I try to keep thumbnails to a minimum and reuse images where possible. - Ben.

Keep the internet weird

Bring back the fun

I love this concept! It’s part of the reason why I make things like Brush Ninja. When I first started using the internet (in the late 90’s) there was a much higher ratio of oddities and playful things.

Flash was a toy that people had fun with interactive art with. Geocities was where a lot of people published their first website. The amount of people who learnt html and CSS on mySpace is huge. But these things don't exist anymore. 

It’s only recently that things have gotten a lot more serious, and with everything going on at the moment, we could do with a bit more weird. - Ben.

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