WordPress

Five of My Favorite Features of Jetpack

Jetpack is an official WordPress plugin directly from Automattic. It's an interesting plugin in that it doesn't just do *one thing* — it does a whole slew of things that enhance what your WordPress site can do. *Any* WordPress site, that is, and often with extremely little effort. Those easy win features Jesse Friedman calls light switch features, meaning you literally flip a switch in Jetpack's settings and start benefitting. I love that.

There are dozens of features in Jetpack, and I personally make use of most of them and see the benefit in all of them. Allow me to share with you five of my favorites and how they are actively used right here on this site. It's actually a bit hard to pick, so perhaps I'll do this again sometime!

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WordPress Comment Spam

Akismet is an incredible spam preventer for WordPress sites. I'd say it does 95% of the work for us. A few issues though make me want to augment it with other tools:

  1. Some spam still slips through
  2. It doesn't prevent spam that seems easy to block
  3. There are false-positives, so spam still needs to be checked

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WordPress User Survey Data for 2015-2017

A grand total of 77,609 responses from WordPress users and professionals collected by Automattic between 2015 and 2017. The stats for 2015 and 2016 have been shared at the annual State of the Word address and 2017 marks the first time they have been published on WordPress News.

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WordPress + PWAs

One of the sessions from the Chrome Dev Summit, hosted by Das Surma and Daniel Walmsley. It's not so much about WordPress as it is about CMS powered sites that aren't really "apps", if there is such a thing, and the possibility of turning that site into a Progressive Web AppSite.

I find the CMS + PWA combo interesting because:

  • If you aren't stoked about AMP, and let's face it, a lot of people are not stoked about AMP, but do like the idea of a super fast website, a PWA is likely of high interest. Whereas AMP feels like you're making an alternate version of your site, PWAs feel like you're making the website you have much better.
  • Some PWA work is generic and easy-ish (use HTTPS) and some PWA is bespoke and hard (make the site work offline). For lack of a better way to explain it, CMS's know about themselves in such a way that they can provide tooling to make PWAs way easier. For example, Jetpack just doing it for you. It's the same kind of thing we saw with responsive images. It's not trivial to handle by hand, but a CMS can just do it for you.

If this topic doesn't trip your trigger, there is a playlist of all the sessions here. Dan Fabulich watched all 10 hours of it and summarizes it as:

Google wants you to build PWAs, reduce JavaScript file size, use Web Components, and configure autofill. They announced only a handful of features around payments, authentication, Android Trusted Web Activities, Chrome Dev Tools, and the Chrome User Experience Report.

Gutenberg

I've only just been catching up with the news about Gutenberg, the name for a revamp of the WordPress editor. You can use it right now, as it's being built as a plugin first, with the idea that eventually it goes into core. The repo has better information.

It seems to me this is the most major change to the WordPress editor in WordPress history. It also seems particularly relevant here as we were just talking about content blocks and how different CMS's handle them. That's exactly what Gutenberg is: a content block editor.

Rather than the content area being a glorified <textarea></textarea> (perhaps one of the most valid criticisms of WordPress), the content area becomes a wrapper for whatever different "blocks" you want to put there. Blocks are things like headings, text, lists, and images. They are also more elaborate things like galleries and embeds. Crucially, blocks are extensible and really could be anything. Like a [shortcode], I imagine.

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Foxhound

As of WordPress 4.7 (December 2016), WordPress has shipped with a JSON API built right in. Wanna see? Hit up this URL right here on CSS-Tricks. There is loads of docs for it.

That JSON API can be used for all sorts of things. I think APIs are often thought about in terms of using externally, like making the data available to some other website. But it's equally interesting to think about digesting that API right on the site itself. That's how so many websites are built these days away, with "Moden JavaScript" and all.

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Improving Conversations using the Perspective API

I recently came across an article by Rory Cellan-Jones about a new technology from Jigsaw, a development group at Google focused on making people safer online through technology. At the time they'd just released the first alpha version of what they call The Perspective API. It's a machine learning tool that is designed to rate a string of text (i.e. a comment) and provide you with a Toxicity Score, a number representing how toxic the text is.

The system learns by seeing how thousands of online conversations have been moderated and then scores new comments by assessing how "toxic" they are and whether similar language had led other people to leave conversations. What it's doing is trying to improve the quality of debate and make sure people aren't put off from joining in.

As the project is still in its infancy it doesn't do much more than that. Still, we can use it!

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#155: Responsive Images, WordPress, and Cloudinary

Eric Portis joins me to dig into the world of responsive images.

We start at the basics. Responsive images are specifically images in HTML and exist because of a desire for better performance. Images are probably the biggest culprit in the overall weight of websites. If we can avoid sending too many pixels across the network, we should. After all, a screen that is only 720 pixels wide doesn't need a 2000 pixel wide image, even if it's a 2x display.

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