Canvas Theme for WordPress

As some of you may know, I work over at Automattic on WooThemes themes within the Themes Team. My primary project is the Canvas Theme. I’m currently in the middle of¬†making it even more awesome, and I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and set it to be this site’s theme of choice.

I previously used The One Pager, and it was great for a while, but I no longer want to generate leads from the site – I’m just going to be blogging for a while ūüôā

So sit back, enjoy the posts, and keep an eye out for some cool updates coming to Canvas soon!

Thoughts on 2015

Yes, I know, another year in review type post…but for me this year has been profound in a variety of different ways.

Today I finish up my 2015 working year, and return in early Jan, but it’s also the end of the first 6 months since Automattic acquired WooThemes. It’s been quite a time of nostalgia for me, particularly yesterday when some framed photos of each year’s WooTrip arrived at the Cape Town office.

It’s funny how after 6 years so much has changed. I look at that photo of the 6 of us, and even though only 4 are still around, it’s pretty crazy and extremely humbling to see what has been accomplished since then.

Woo Photos
Woo Photo wall, I’m furtherest on the left in the top left framed picture.

 

When I joined Woo, WooCommerce was merely a thought, no code, just an idea. And we wondered when we would get to it. It’s funny how a single product can change¬†a business and capture the embrace of a community.

It hasn’t been all roses to be honest over the past 2 years for me. There have been times where I’ve been unsure of things and my future, but I’ve sought prayer and wise counsel throughout and I’m grateful for those people in my life.

Probably the biggest change this year for me was the shift away from doing additional freelance work (outside of Woo). I did freelance work mostly for fun and if there were interesting projects, not as a “have to”. But looking back, I probably took on more than I should have, and that sucks.

It’s been well documented by several people that Automattic has a COI policy – and, I don’t think it’s bad, I actually think it’s great. For me, I’m pretty drained at the end of my work day these days, and I don’t want to see a screen! I just want to relax with my family, pickup my guitar, have a swim, see my friends, basically detach from the world of tech.

This has been a massive mindshift.

I used to be “always on” but now I try to focus all my energy during my work day and detach after hours. The funny thing about that, is I’ve found I’m a lot more productive these days. I feel more focused at work, I get more sleep, and I’ve built a more meaningful relationship with my wife and daughter.

All in all, it’s been a tough year (in a good way), but has been a very rewarding year. I honestly feel proud of what I’ve been part of accomplishing at Woo, and now at Automattic, how things have changed for me personally, and the outlook for 2016. It’s an exciting time and I’m looking forward to connecting again next year, whether it’s online or in person.

So, for now, I’m signing off. Hope you all¬†have a wonderful Christmas and New Year period.

See you later!

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?

 

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

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

Jeff.runs()

So recently I’ve taken up running. Not as a form of escapism as some people do, but more¬†as a by product of becoming healthier and staying in shape. I’ve been on and off at the gym over the last year, and I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed my time on the treadmill more than any other activity.

I set a goal to do a half marathon next year sometime, most likely the 2 Oceans (my sister did an epic run this year of the ultra marathon, coming 70th!!) and today was the start of my journey. I ran the 10km Gun Run today, and had a great time! I managed to smash the goal I set, I was aiming for a sub 60 minute run and ended up doing a 53:11!!

The nice thing is I have experienced family members who I can chat to for advice as they’ve pretty much done every kind of half marathon there is! And after taking my uncle’s advice today – I ended up improved my overall time by 6 minutes – that’s massive.

So…as with most of my posts, there’s a little lesson at the end, and so I would encourage everyone to get advice from experienced people, and then try it out! You might be surprised at the result!

Appreciation of Sight

For most of us that work online, there are a few things that we do everyday that we take for granted. Things like having a roof over our heads, food on the table, and access to the internet. But the last week has highlighted something else in my life – my sight.

See, last week a blood vessel in right eye burst Рnot a serious condition (a subconjunctival hemorrhage) Рbut when you stare at a screen for 8+ hours a day, it can become a real problem. I found myself struggling to concentrate and sit in front of my machine for long periods of time.

So even though this might seem like a trivial thing to you, take some time to appreciate the fact that you can see, that you can appreciate the complexities of the code you write, the designs you mockup, the articles that you write Рbecause it really really sucks when you lose sight of enjoying those things.

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?

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

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.