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Fixing Features First

I’ve always been fascinated by people who simply complain about things that are within their power to change, yet they don’t seem willing to actually make that change.

It’s like complaining about your countries president, and then not turning up to vote.

I’ve seen this often in the WordPress world, recently specifically about XML-RPC, and a few¬†of those complaining haven’t contributing jack squat to core (other than conversations)

Something I don’t like about core is how authentication works with the WP-API. But…I’m actually trying, in my own time, to see if I can figure it out before I go wading into deep waters of emotional conversation on make.wordpress.org – too often people weigh in about features without checking their emotions or before attempting/suggesting a solution.

As a long time plugin and theme developer I appreciate customers who have tried to solve the problem first before complaining at me. I happily apologise when things are broken, but I’ll always go the extra mile for those who have shown initiative!

Perhaps rather try a fix first next time?

 

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Native vs Hybrid

2 weeks ago I went to our annual Automattic grand meetup in Park City, Utah. It was a great experience, of which I will write about soon ūüôā But one of the cool things I did there was to take a class – an intro to iOS development with Swift.

I enjoyed the class and it was good to do something different from PHP and JavaScript, but more than that it helped me define something I have had trouble with for a while. And to be honest, I liked the style of how Swift coding works, it reminded me of my C# coding days – yes, I love C# more than PHP/JS even though I don’t actively use it anymore (cue haters)

I’ve been using Ionic to tinker with apps for a while now, and my role at WooThemes is primarily working in JavaScript. But, what I’ve been wondering is whether or not to make the switch to using native SDK’s for building¬†free iOS apps.

My conclusion is that it really doesn’t make sense unless I want extreme control over memory allocation, as from what I can tell, getting an app up and running using a framework like Ionic, or React, would simply take so much less time, with no real performance differences, and¬†most importantly it would leverage my existing JavaScript strengths.

So for now I’m going to stick with JavaScript for building iOS/Android apps – here’s to a 2015 release! ūüėÄ

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Joining Automattic

After the recent acquisition of WooThemes by Automattic, I’ve officially accepted an offer from Automattic to be part of their team as part of the acquisition.

And so ends my 6 year journey with WooThemes, yet it carries on as I’ll still be working on WooThemes products like FlexSlider for the foreseeable future. Follow me on Github for any open source stuff I do in the future.

What does change is my involvement in side projects.

So, I’m officially making my jQuery plugin free as of 1 July 2015, and I’ll be selling off a bunch of my WordPress and software related domains and websites.

I’m also going to do a complete refresh of this site, the content will remain but it will be more blog focused, specifically on WordPress and JavaScript.

Here is a list of stuff for sale, preferably to people wanting to carry on with what I had envisioned for the sites, I’ll add links as soon as they go up for auction, mostly on Flippa.com

  1. GPLCode.com РBid Now to Own!
  2. GPLMarketplace.com
  3. CapeGospel.com
  4. JoinWP.com
  5. WPJoin.com
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Why Themeforest authors why….

So….all this commotion regarding the Slider Revolution plugin being bundled in themes has caused quite a few headaches for people. Myself included…

I spent a fair chunk of an evening this week “updating” a friends (staging) site using this theme ->¬†http://themeforest.net/item/chariot-professional-responsive-portfolio-theme/5817175 to make 100% sure it was secure.

Here’s what I had to do…

  1. Backup the site – obviously
  2. Download the latest theme package from ThemeForest – fair enough
  3. Deactivate all the plugins – ok then…
  4. Delete all the plugins – huh? why? Oh right….cos you have your own custom installation of plugins….right….
  5. Upload the new theme – smooth, theme options maintained, hope restored.
  6. Reinstall and active the new versions of the plugins – worked well.
  7. Pour a double whiskey – because half the¬†freaking content (such as slider images) is now gone/broken/i don’t know

So yes, I’m at a point of frustration now, because even as a seasoned developer on¬†over 100 themes I now have to sift through backups of what SHOULD have been a smooth upgrade process just to fix the content. Loving it.

And before you ask,¬†fortunately this wasn’t a live site, it’s a staging site, so luckily his live site isn’t buggered. And it’s not like I don’t like the Theme, just to be clear….just not this crappy plugin activation method.

Well now…that was fun….maybe I should start a marketplace?

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Jetpack Photon image_downsize() issue

Sometimes in WordPress code you have the need to get an attached image, for example in a featured slider. To do this we make use of the wp_get_attachment_image_src() function.

The reason we do this is to grab the image properties such as height etc instead of just the url in order to add a property for dynamic slide heights.

However, there is a problem with this when a user is using Jetpack and the Photon service. Jetpack uses a function called image_downsize() which does not return the required image object/array. It simply returns the url.

So in the example below, height would not normally be able to be returned with Jetpack active:

$featured_height_id = get_post_thumbnail_id();
$featured_height = wp_get_attachment_image_src( $featured_height_id, 'full' );
$featured_height = ' height: ' . $featured_height[ 2 ] . 'px;';

However, I’ve added 2 lines that fixes this -the¬†add_filter¬†and¬†remove_filter¬†for¬†jetpack_photon_override_image_downsize¬†action.

$featured_height_id = get_post_thumbnail_id();
add_filter( 'jetpack_photon_override_image_downsize', '__return_true' );
$featured_height = wp_get_attachment_image_src( $featured_height_id, 'full' );
remove_filter( 'jetpack_photon_override_image_downsize', '__return_true' );
$featured_height = ' height: ' . $featured_height[ 2 ] . 'px;';

And before you point out that this is not technically Jetpack’s fault – it only occurs when using Jetpack Photon. Deactivate the plugin and all is fine and dandy. image_downsize() is in WordPress core (see link below).

Related Github issue here -> https://github.com/Automattic/jetpack/issues/607

image_downsize() codex -> http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/image_downsize

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Knowledge Revenue, Twitter, and APIs

I saw this tweet today and it reminded about something I realized quite a long time ago about online companies and knowledge revenue.

APIs

If you are an online service and you are gathering user information, or even information about how people interact with your service, there will always be the possibility to monetize that (assuming you have your privacy policies in place).

That means that, in theory, every online company has the potential to create a knowledge revenue stream simply by creating a relevant API for 3rd parties to access.

The Value in Community

The beauty about using API’s is that it allows 3rd parties to start building a community around it; by building apps, mashups with other services, creating extensions for the core product, etc etc. ¬†Oh, and not to mention the benefit of having the 3rd parties drive business to your company – because it will benefit them and your company.

Take WooCommerce for example (this example is close to home for me, working for WooThemes) – the core product is free, WooThemes makes no money from it, but the beautiful thing about WooCommerce is how it has been developed; it allows you as a developer to “extend” it by building plugins that add or modify the way it works. ¬†And that has helped grow a very large ecosystem around it.

Knowledge Revenue is Gold

So, in summing up…Twitter & Facebook…are pretty much like Google (on a lesser scale) as they are all actually mining information. ¬†They aren’t just a web app, they are semi-intelligent data miners, and that information is gold.

And just like a gold mine, not only are they listed on the stock exchange, but you can expect to pay for that knowledge/gold in the future, and in turn making them a lot of money.

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Offline Support

Four years ago this month¬†I joined WooThemes. The time has gone pretty quickly and I’ve had some great times in the office, interacting with our remote staff, and of course the WooTrips ūüôā

But what most people don’t know is how incredibly scary it was for me to take the job back then.

So here’s some context; my wife and I we’re newlyweds, married for less than six months and I was in a senior position at a well known development agency in Cape Town – WooThemes was not well known in South Africa at all, and the employees numbered 6. Oh, and there was no office phone number….and they were a fully online business….in South Africa….what the??

The general response I got from most people at the time was “that doesn’t sound right, it sounds very risky” – laughable now, but not back then.

The difference was that I’d used several WooThemes, I knew their quality, so I was a definitely a fan, but most importantly I had the unwavering support of my wife. I actually never applied for the job until applications had unofficially closed (I found this out after I was hired). ¬†As I recall, it was a Sunday night when I told my wife about the position and she said “do it!”

So I applied, got a call the next day, went in for the interview the following day and was offered the job on the spot! Crazy but true.

2013-11-06 18.11.53

My wife has supported me every step of the way in my career, even when I’ve make mistakes, so what I’m saying is never underestimate those who support you and who you support – encourage at every opportunity, you never know who you might inspire!

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Ghost Reporting

So late last week, over at WooThemes, we released a free theme for the latest content publishing platform, Ghost, and it’s rather appropriately called “Swayze” (in honour of Patrick Swayze’s appearance in the movie “Ghost“).

For those that don’t know, Ghost is a platform built on top of NodeJS mostly using the Express framework. Now I’ve been dabbling in Node at Woo, building stuff for our support staff in the Zendesk support platform, as well as another internal system that I’m (still) trying to master.

However, building themes for Ghost is actually quite a simple process! All you really need to do is read the docs ūüôā and learn how to use the Handlebars framework. That’s it! My part in the process of releasing the theme was simple – after Cobus had build the design into straight HTML markup, I learnt the templating system and converted the html into the .hbs layouts and integrated the Ghost and Handlebars tags.

[box type=”download”]Go check it out here and let me know what you think![/box]

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WordPress Heartbeat API example plugin – Pulse

One of the most important experiences for me at this years WordCamp Europe was meeting other people, specifically members of the WooTeam who I haven’t met before. One of them was Remi Corson, who after overhearing a chat I was having with Patrick Rauland, sat me down and showed me what he was working on with Heartbeat API.

It was an awesome chat! The power of collaboration between WordPress community members is so cool ūüôā and in the spirit of collaboration, I’ve decided to release an open source plugin that will help you get started with your own Heartbeat API development.

So check it out on Github, fork it, submit some pull requests, if we can make life easier for other WordPress developers wanting to use Heartbeat API in their products then that’s what I’m hoping for!

In the long term I’d like to contribute back to the Heartbeat API docs because they are severely lacking at the moment!

[box type=”download” size=”large” border=”full”]Pulse – Heartbeat API example plugin[/box]

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Letting Go

I’ve worked on numerous products at WooThemes over the past few years, and like most things I work on, each one I’ve ended up developing an attachment to; after all I was creating something and much like a parent (which I can fully appreciate since the birth of my daughter) I want each product of my creation to flourish to it’s full potential. However, something that I found in the past that was very hard to do was to let go of the “thing” and see it in the hands of others, sort of letting it “fly” in a way.

The Problem

The problem with hanging onto a “thing” is that you (may) eventually lose your objectivity in terms of making decisions, well that’s what I’ve found as the original developer of a product. You sometimes lose sight of when to stop developing a project, to pivot, or to kill it.

At WooThemes I’ve seen several things I’ve started working on either fly or fail, and it’s a difficult thing to watch from the sidelines because so often I’ve wanted to dive right back in and “fix” it – the problem with that, is that usually no one wins! Not the project, not the people involved and certainly not myself.

I’ve seen the following examples in my career:

WordPress Menus/WooNav

I built WooNav as my first project at Woo and I’m still¬†immensely¬†proud of it, however opening myself up to the rest of the WordPress community and their ideas and thoughts for how it was going to end up as in the WordPress core was difficult. I’ll be honest, I didn’t agree with some of the initial decisions, but it turned out for the best for WordPress. And that’s the bottom line, it wasn’t about me or what I thought was best for the product, others have done a fantastic job of taking what I originally built and making it far superior than that initial commit. It’s good to be wrong every now and then!

Tumblog

Another of my early Woo projects, our Tumblog themes/plugins arguably gave rise to and increased the prominance of the popular “tumblr” style WordPress themes. Eventually things led to post formats being included in core, of which we had nothing to do with directly, but I do think that ultimately the Tumblog functionality influenced the community in a positive way. Over time the plugin popularity has waned and isn’t even necessary for a tumblog style design because all that goodness is in core. So the Tumblog plugin will eventually die, much like Woo’s Tumblog themes, and that’s not a bad thing – may it rest in peace.

Sensei

Sensei is my current development project at Woo and I’m super passionate about it and education in general, but more recently other members of the team have been getting involved in the development of the core code and it’s been awesome! I originally had a definitive direction in my head, but it’s been nice to let go and allow others the breathing room to run with ideas and build it without having to “run it by me.”

The Point

If you are a product visionary/original developer and are building in a team environment you need to be able to take a step back and allow others to embrace the product as their own – this allows for greater creativity and opens the product up to new ideas and can help elevate it to greater heights.