WordPress Digest #71: Automattic’s Ironic Attacks on Facebook, Alexa Reading Your Blog Posts, and a Farewell to Alex Mills

This (mostly) bi-weekly serves to inform and enlighten our minds on latest happenings in the sprawling countryside we call WordPress Land.

Release News

  • Both WordPress 5.1 and 5.1.1 were released since my last update. So what if I missed a cycle, you’re not the boss of me. In my previous issue I wrote about what was coming in 5.1 so I won’t rehash that, but 5.1.1 contains a critical vulnerability patch, so you should update, especially if you use WordPress comments enabled.
  • WordPress 5.2 is scheduled to release April 23, 2019. This will include a slew of things including work towards a Gutenberg block directory and block management, site health check, PHP error protection, and as usual plenty of small enhancements and bug fixes.
  • There’s some discussion going on about the cadence of major and minor releases and whether that should change.

Extending WordPress

  • Want Alexa to read your blog posts and articles to people? Amazon has made it a lot easier to do just that. Through a combination of Alexa Skill Blueprints and the Amazon AI Plugin for WordPress, your WordPress blog posts can be read aloud on Alexa-enabled devices.
  • The Ecwid Ecommerce Shopping Cart plugin is now fully Gutenberg compatible. I haven’t used this plugin but want to check it out. They offer an alternative to WooCommerce, which is a good thing in my mind.
  • My favorite plugin, Advanced Custom Fields, has released version 5.7.13 with a bunch of fixes as well as the ACF 5.8.0 Beta4, which is super exciting. It’s been a few months since we’ve heard any news of ACF 5.8, which will bring ACF’s ease of use for custom fields in the Gutenberg block creation realm, so seeing the Beta4 drop was a nice shot in the arm. Very much looking forward to that.

Grab Bag

  • In my last issue I spoke about Alex Mills, the author of several great WordPress plugins, and his battle with Leukemia. Unfortunately, on February 27th, he passed away. A wish he expressed to his family was to have people sign up for the Be the Match Registry, to be listed as a potential blood stem cell donor, ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant. You can also make donations in Alex’s name to the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. My heart goes out to his friends and family.
  • As a developer, I typically focus on development updates to WordPress in my digests. But occasionally I like to pop into the design channels and see what’s up. One recent post that caught my eye was a proposal on a navigation menu Gutenberg block. I really enjoy seeing the UX considerations and the thought process.
  • So Automattic released this video, A Meditation on the Open Web, which I find to be pretty insufferable. While I agree that the open web is hugely important and that WordPress’ role in the open web is vast (now powering more than 1/3 of the web), and while I also agree with pretty much every negative point they made about Facebook and Instagram, it seems wildly ironic to create a video trashing Facebook for not contributing to the open web while simultaneously rebuilding the entire WordPress admin around React, Facebook’s open source JS library.
  • If you are a plugin developer who works on GitHub, 10up just made it easier to publish your updates to the WordPress Plugin library.

If you don’t give people information, they make up something to fill the void.” – Carla O’Dell