During a family holiday last week to the Three Valleys region of the French Alps for some skiing1, I
came to see that I enjoy a privilege I call the freedom of the mountain.
The freedom of the mountain is a privilege that comes from having the level of experience necessary to take on virtually any run a resort has to offer. It provides a handful of
benefits denied to less-confident skiers:
I usually don’t feed to look at a map to plan my next route; whichever way I go will be fine!
When I reach one or more lifts, I can choose which to take based on the length of their queue, rather than considering their destinations.
When faced with a choice of pistes (or an off-piste route), my choice can be based on my mood, how crowded they are, etc., rather than their rated difficulty.
The downside is that I’m less well-equipped to consider the needs of others! Out skiing with Ruth one morning I suggested a route back into town that “felt easy” based on my previous
runs, only to have her tell me that – according to the map – it probably wasn’t!
Approaching the Peak
The kids spent the week in lessons. It’s paying off: they’re both improving fast, and the eldest has got all the essentials down and it’s working on improving her parallel turns and on
“reading the mountain”. It’s absolutely possible that the eldest, and perhaps both of them, will be a better skier than me someday2.
Maybe, as part of my effort to do what I’m bad at, I should have another go at learning to
snowboard. I always found snowboarding frustrating because everything I needed to re-learn was something that I could already do much better and easier on skis. But perhaps if I can
reframe that frustration through the lens of learning itself as the destination, I might be in a better place. One to consider for next time I hit the piste.
My very first “ski-o-cache” was 9 years ago, down in La Tania: this was my second! Found the host easily at the
coordinates and found the cache in the third hiding place I tried. It’s quite stiff and hard to extract right now! Needed to wait to return it while some other skiers took pictures of
one another at the GZ, but got there in the end. Salutations d’Oxford, en Angleterre. MPLC!
A childhood move
Shortly after starting primary school my family and I moved from Aberdeen, Scotland to the North-West of England. At my young age, long car journeys – such as those we’d had to make
to view prospective new houses – always seemed interminably boring, but this one was unusually full of excitement and anticipation. The car was filled to the brim with everything we
needed most-imminently to start our new lives5, while the removals lorry followed a
full day behind us with everything less-essential6.
I’m sure that to my parents it was incredibly stressful, but for me it was the beginning of an amazing voyage into the unknown.
Live on Earth
Back in 1999 I bought tickets for myself and two friends for Craig Charles’ appearance in Aberystwyth as part of his Live on
Earth tour. My two friends shared a birthday at around the date of the show and had expressed an interest in visiting me, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Unfortunately
I hadn’t realised that at that very moment one of them was preparing to have their birthday party… 240 miles away in London. In the end all three of us (plus a fourth friend who
volunteered to be and overnight/early morning post-nightclub driver) attended both events back to back! A particular highlight came
at around 4am we returned from a London nightclub to the suburb where we’d left the car to discover it was boxed in by some inconsiderate parking: we were stuck! So we gathered some
strong-looking fellow partygoers… and carried the culprit’s car out of the way7. By
that point we decided to go one step further and get back at its owner by moving their car around the corner from where they’d parked it. I reflected on parts of this anecdote back in 2010.
At somewhere between 500 and 600 road miles each way, perhaps the single longest road journey I’ve ever made without an overnight break was to attend a
The wedding was of my friends Kit and Fi, and took place a long, long way up into Scotland.
At the time I (and a few other wedding guests) lived on the West coast of Wales. The journey options between the two might be characterised as follows:
the fastest option: a train, followed by a ludicrously expensive plane, followed by a taxi
the public transport option: about 16 hours of travel via a variety of circuitous train routes, but at least you get to sleep some of the way
drive along a hundred miles of picturesque narrow roads, then three hundred of boring motorways, then another hundred and fifty of picturesque narrow roads
Guess which approach this idiot went for?
Despite having just graduated, I was still living very-much on a student-grade budget. I wasn’t confident that we could afford both the travel
to and from the wedding and more than a single night’s accommodation at the other end.
But there were four of us who wanted to attend: me, my partner Claire, and our friends Bryn and Paul. Two of the four were qualified to drive and could be insured on Claire’s
car8. This provided an opportunity:
we’d make the entire 11-or-so-hour journey by car, with a pair of people sleeping in the back while the other pair drove or navigated!
It was long, and it was arduous, but we chatted and we sang and we saw a frankly ludicrous amount of the A9 trunk road and we made it to and from what was a wonderful wedding on our
shoestring budget. It’s almost a shame that the party was so good that the memories of the road trip itself pale, or else this might be a better anecdote! But altogether, entirely a
worthwhile, if crazy, exercise.
2 Also, wow: thanks to staying up late with my friend John drinking and mucking about with the baby grand piano in the lobby of the hotel we’re staying at, I might be first to publish a post for today’s Bloganuary!
3 Strangely, all three of the four journeys I’ve considered seem to involve Scotland.
Which I suppose shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, given its distance from many of the other places I’ve lived and of course its size (and sometimes-sparse road network).
4 Okay, probably not for the entire journey, but I’m certain it must’ve felt like it.
5 Our cargo included several cats who almost-immediately escaped from their cardboard
enclosures and vomited throughout the vehicle.
6 This included, for example, our beds: we spent our first night in our new house
camped together in sleeping bags on the floor of what would later become my bedroom, which only added to the sense of adventure in the whole enterprise.
7 It was, fortunately, only a light vehicle, plus our designated driver was at this point
so pumped-up on energy drinks he might have been able to lift it by himself!
8 It wasn’t a big car, and in hindsight cramming four people into it for such a
long journey might not have been the most-comfortable choice!
Today, over thirty-five years after I first played it, I finally completed Wonder Boy.
My first experience of the game, in the 1980s, was on a coin-op machine where I’d discovered I could get away with trading the 20p piece I’d been given by my parents to use as a deposit
on a locker that week for two games on the machine. I wasn’t very good at it, but something about the cutesy graphics and catchy chip-tune music grabbed my attention and it became my
favourite arcade game.
I played it once or twice more when I found it in arcades, as an older child. I played various console ports of it and found them disappointing. I tried it a couple of times in MAME. But I didn’t really put any effort into it until a hotel we stayed at during a family holiday to Paris in October had a bank of free-to-play arcade machines
rigged with Pandora’s Box clones so they could be used to play a few thousand different arcade classics. Including Wonder Boy.
Off the back of all the fun the kids had, it’s perhaps no surprise that I arranged for a similar machine to be delivered to us as a gift “to the family”2
And so my interest in the game was awakened and I threw easily a hundred pounds worth of free-play games of Wonder Boy3 over the last few days. Until…
…today, I finally defeated the seventh ogre4,
saved the kingdom, etc. It was a hell of a battle. I can’t count how many times I pressed the “insert coin” button on that final section, how many little axes I’d throw into the beast’s
head while dodging his fireballs, etc.
So yeah, that’s done, now. I guess I can get back to finishing Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, the 2017 remake of a 1989 game I
It’s aged amazingly well!
1 This may be the final record for time spent playing a video game before beating it,
unless someday I ever achieve a (non-cheating) NetHack ascension.
2 The kids have had plenty of enjoyment out of it so far, but their time on the machine is
somewhat eclipsed by Owen playing Street Fighter II Turbo and Streets of Rage on it and, of course, by my rediscovered obsession with Wonder Boy.
3 The arcade cabinet still hasn’t quite paid for itself in tenpences-saved,
despite my grinding of Wonder Boy. Yet.
4 I took to calling the end-of-world bosses “ogres” when my friends and I swapped tips for
the game back in the late 80s, and I refuse to learn any different name for them.[footnote], saved Tina[footnote]Apparently the love interest has a name. Who knew?
5 I completed the original Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap on a Sega Master
System borrowed from my friend Daniel back in around 1990, so it’s not a contender for the list either.
I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s been asked “why can’t the (or ‘shouldn’t the’) WordPress post editor let multiple people edit post at the same time”. Often, people
will compare it to e.g. Google Docs.
Dawid summarised the challenging issues in any effort to implement this much-desired feature. Some of them are examples of those unsolved problems that keep rearing their heads in
computer science, like the two generals’ problem, but even the solvable problems are difficult: How does one
handle asynchronous (non-idempotent) commutative operations? How is the order of disparate actions determined? Which node is the source of truth? If a server is used, where is that
server (with a nod to quite how awful the experience of implementing a Websockets server in PHP can be…)? And so on…
I really appreciated Dawid’s reference to the various bits of academic literature that’s appeared over the last four decades (!) about how these problems might be solved. It’s a strong
reminder that these things we take for granted in live-updating multi-user web applications are not trivial and every question you can answer raises more questions.
There’s some great early proof-of-concepts, so we’re “getting there”, and it’s an exciting time. Personally, I love the idea of the benefits this could provide for offline editing
(perhaps just because I’m still a huge fan of a well-made PWA!).
James Giroux’s goal: that we all become more curious about and more invested in our team’s experiences, from a humanistic standpoint. His experience of companies with organic growth of
software companies is very, very familiar: you make a thing and give it away, then you need more people, then you’ve somehow got a company and it’s all because you just had an idea
once. Sounds like Three Rings!
James was particularly keen to share with us the results of his Team Experience Index research, and I agree that some of the result are
especially exciting, in particularly the willingness of underrepresented groups, especially women, to enagage with the survey: this provides hugely valuable data about the health of
teams working in the WordPress space.
“We have this project that we work with and contribute to, that we love,” says James, in an attempt to explain the highly-positive feedback that his survey respondents gave when asked
questions about the authenticity of their purpose and satisfaction in their role.
So, what do we do with these findings? How do WordPress-ey companies improve? James recommends that we:
Get better are showing what recognition, celebration, and career growth looks like,
Improve support and training for team leaders to provide them with the tools to succeed and inspire, and
Bridge the gap between leadership and team members with transparent, open dialogue.
Good tips, there.
The Big Photo
A WordCamp tradition is to try to squeeze every willing participant into a photo. Clearly with the size that these events are, nowadays, this requires some wrangling (and, in this case,
the photographers standing atop the roof of a nearby building to get everybody into frame).
I’ll have to keep an eye out for the final picture and see if I can find myself in it.
I always find that learning about bleeding edge CSS techniques makes me feel excited and optimistic, perhaps because
CSS lends itself so well towards a progressive enhancement approach to development: often, you can start using a new technique
today and it’ll only benefit, say, people using a beta version of a particular browser (and perhaps only if they opt-in to the applicable feature flag). But if you’ve designed
your site right then the lack of this feature won’t impact anybody else, and eventually the feature will (hopefully) trickle-down into almost everybody’s Web experience.
Anyway, that’s what Fellyph Cintra says too, but he adds that possibly we’ve still not grown out of thinking that browsers take a long
time between versions. 5 years passed between the release of Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7, for example! But nowadays most browsers are evergreen with releases each
month! (Assuming we quietly ignore that Apple don’t sent new versions of Safari to old verisons of MacOS, continuing to exacerbate a problem that we used to see with Internet Explorer
on Windows, ahem.)
An important new development may come from Baseline, a project to establish a metric of what you can reliably use on the Web today. So a
bit like Can I Use, I guess, but taken from the opposite direction: starting from the browsers and listing the features, rather than the other way
Anyway, Fellyph went on to share some exciting new ideas that we should be using, like:
object-fit and object-position, which can make the contents of any container “act like” a background
aspect-ratio, which I’m already using and I love, but I enjoyed how Fellyph suggested combining the two to crop images to a fluid container on the client side
scroll-behavior: smooth, which I’ve used before; it’s pretty good
clamp, which I use… but I’m still not sure I fully grok it: I always have to load some documentation with examples when I use it
@container queries, which can apply e.g. (max-width: ...) rules to things other than the viewport, which I’ve not found a need for yet but I can see the
value of it
@layers, which grant an additional level of importance in the cascade: for example, you might load a framework into a layer (with @import url(...)
layer(framework)) which is defined as a lower-priority than your override layer, meaning you won’t have to start slapping !important all over the shop
@media (400px <= width <= 600px)-style media queries, which are much easier to understand than min-width: if you’re used to thinking in a
more-procedural programming language (I assume they work in container queries too!)
It’s also worth remembering:
@supports, which is badass and I love and use it already (it was especially useful as display: grid began to roll out and I wanted to start using it but
needed to use a fallback method for browsers that didn’t support it yet
:has(), which I’ve long thought is game-changing: styling something based on what it contains is magical; not really suitable for mainstream use yet without
Firefox support, though (it’s still behind a feature flag)! Fellyph sold me on the benefit of :not(:has(...)), though!
Nesting, which again doesn’t have Firefox support yet but provides SCSS-like nesting in CSS, which is awesome
animation-range: to specify that it’s the scroll position within the document that provides the timeline for the animation
And keeping an eye on upcoming things like text-balanced (which I’m already excited by), popover, selectmenu, view transitions (which I’ve been
experimenting with because they’re cool), and scoped style.
For my second workshop, I joined Google’s Adam Silverstein to watch him dissect a few participants’ websites performance using Core Web
Vitals as a metric. I think I already know the basics of Core Web Vitals, but when it comes to improving my score (especially on work-related sites with
unpleasant reliance on heavyweight frameworks like React, in my experience).
We talked a lot about render blocking (thanks to JS and CSS in the
<head>), thread blocking (by scripts, especially those reacting to user input), TTFB (relating to actual network
and server performance, or at least server-side processing), TBT (the time between FCP and TTI), and the upcoming change to measure INP rather than FID. That’s a lot of acronyms.
The short of it is that there are three pillars to Core Web Vitals: loading (how long until the page renders), interactivity (how long until the page
responds to user interaction), and stability (how long it takes for the page to cease layout shifts as a result of post-load scripts and stylesheets). I was pleased
that Adam acknowledged the major limitation of lab testing resulting from developers often using superior hardware and Internet connections to typical users, and how if you’re
serious about performance metrics you’ll want to collect RUM data.
I came away with a few personalised tips, but they’re not much use for your site: I paid attention to the things that’ll be helpful for the sites I look after. But
I’ll be taking note of his test pages so I can play with some of the tools he demonstrated later on.
I couldn’t liveblog this because I spent too much of the session applauding. A few highlights from memory:
Phase 2 (of 4) of Gutenberg is basically complete, which is cool. Some back-and-forth about the importance of phase 4 (bringing better multilingual support to WordPress) and how it
feels like it’s a long way away.
should “watch AI carefully”; I’m not 100% convinced, but it’s not been stopping me from getting involved with a diversity of AI experiments (including some WordPress-related ones)
Musings about our community being a major part of why WordPress succeeded (and continues to thrive) unlike some other open source projects of its era. I agree that’s a
factor, but I suspect that being in the right place at the right time was also important. Perhaps more on that another time.
Announcement of the next WordCamp Europe location.
Found! Took a bit of a search, because I had looked at the hint image which shows several trees at the GZ that are no longer there, so I was left thinking I must be in the wrong place
for a while! TFTC, and greetings from Oxfordshire, UK!
David Artiss took the courageous step of installing 36 popular plugins onto a fresh WordPress site and was, unsurprisingly, immediately bombarded by a
billion banners on his dashboard. Some were merely unhelpful (“don’t forget to add your API key”), others were annoying (“thanks for installing our plugin”), and plenty more were
commercial advertisements (“get the premium version”) despite the fact that WordPress.org guidelines recommend against this. It’s no surprise that this kind of “aggressive promotion” is
the single biggest annoyance that people reported when David asked around on social media.
Similarly, plugins which attempt to break the standard WordPress look-and-feel by e.g. hoisting themselves to the top of the menu, showing admin popovers, putting settings sections in
places other than the settings submenu, and so on are a huge annoyance to everybody. I get sufficiently frustrated by these common antifeatures of plugins I use that I actually maintain
a plugin for my own use that “fixes” the ones that aggrivate me the most!
I’m unconvinced that we can rely on plugin developers to independently fix the kinds of problems that come high on David’s list. I wonder if there’s mileage in WordPress Core
reimplementing the way that the main navigation menu works such that all items in it can be (easily) re-arranged by users to their own preference? This would undermine the perceived
value to plugin developers of “hoisting” their own to the top by allowing users to counteract it, and would provide a valuable feature to allow site admins to streamline their workflow:
use WooCommerce but only in a way that’s secondary to your blog? Move “Products” below “Posts”! Etc.
Aaron Reimann from ClockworkWP gave us a tour of how WordPress has changed over the course of its 20-year history, starting even slightly
before I started using WordPress; my blog (previously powered by some hacky PHP, previouslier powered by some hackier Perl, previousliest written in static HTML) switched to WordPress
in 2004, when it hit version 1.2, so it was fun to get the opportunity to see some even older versions
It was great to be reminded how far the Core code has come over that time. Early versions of WordPress – as was common among PHP applications at the time! – had very few files
and each could reliably be expected to be a stack of SQL, wrapped in a stack of code, wrapped in what’s otherwise a HTML file: no modularity!
There were very few surprises for me in this talk, as you might expect for such an “old hand”, but I really enjoyed the nostalgia of exploring WordPress history through his eyes.
I enjoyed putting him on the spot with a “spicy” question at the end of his talk, by asking him if, alongside everything we’ve gained over the years, whether there’s anything we
lost along the way. He answered well, pointing out that the somewhat bloated stack of plugins that are commonplace on big sites nowadays and the ease with which admins can just
“click and install” more of them. I agree with him, although personally I miss built-in XFN support…
Networking And All That
There’s a lot of exhibitors with stands, but I tried to do a circuit or so and pay attention at least to those whose owners I’ve come into contact with in a professional
capacity. Many developers who make extensions for WooCommerce, of course, sell those extensions through WooCommerce.com, which means they come
into routine direct contact with my code (and it can mean that when their extension’s been initially rejected by our security scanners or linters, it’s me their developers first want to
It’s been great to connect with people using WordPress to power the Web in a whole variety of different contexts, but it somehow still feels strange to me that WordPress has such a
commercial following! Even speaking as somebody who’s made their living at least partially out of WordPress for the last decade plus, it still feels to me like its greatest
value comes from its use for personal publishing.
The feel of a WordCamp with its big shiny sponsors is enormously different from, say, the intimacy and individuality of a Homebrew Website
Club meeting, and I think that’s something I still need to come to terms with. WordPress’s success story comes from many different causes, but perhaps chief among them is the fact
that it’s versatile enough to power the website of a government, multinational, or household-name brand… but also to run the smallest personal indie blog. I struggle to comprehend that,
even with my background.
I was proud of my colleagues for the “gimmick” they were using to attract people to the Woo stand: you could pick up a “credit card” and use it to make a purchase (of Greek olive oil)
using a website, see your order appear on the app at the backend in real-time, and then receive your purchase as a giveaway. The “credit
card” doubles as a business card from the stand, the olive oil is a real product from a real, local producer (who really uses WooCommerce to sell online!), and when you provide an email
address at the checkout you can opt-in to being contacted by the team afterwards. That’s some good joined-up thinking by my buddies in marketing!
Petya Petkova observed that it’s commonplace to take the easy approach and make a website look like… well, every other website. “Web
deja-vu” is a real thing, and it’s fed not only by the ebbs and flows of trends in web design but by the proliferation of indistinct themes that people just install-and-use.
Choice of colours and typography can be used to tell a story, to instil a feeling, to encourage engagement. Scrolling can be used as a metaphor for storytelling (“scrolly-telling”,
Petya calls it). Animation flow can be used to direct a user’s attention and drive focus and encourage interaction.
A lot of the technical concepts she demonstrated – parts of a page that scroll at different speeds, typography that shifts or changes, videos used in a subtle way to accentuate other
content, etc. – can be implemented in the frontend with WebGL, Three.js and the like. Petya observes that moving this kind of content interactivity into the frontend can produce an
illusion of a performance improvement, which is an argument I’ve heard before, but personally I think it’s only valuable if it’s built as a progressive enhancement: otherwise, you’re
always at risk that your site won’t look like you’d hope.
I note, for example, that Petya’s agency’s site shows only an “endless spinner” when viewed in my browser (which blocks the code.jQuery CDN by
connection is ropey, or a malware scanner misfires, or if government censorship blocks the CDN, or in any number of other conditions.
So yeah: uniqueness and creativity are great, and I like what she’s proposing, but not the way she goes about it. The first person to ask a question wisely brought up accessibility, and
Petya answered well that accessibility technologies can bridge the gap, but I’d counter that it’s preferable to build accessible in the first instance: if you have to
use an aria- attribute it’s a good sign that you probably already did something wrong (not always, but it’s certainly a pointer that you ought to take a step back
Several other good questions and great answers followed: about how to showcase a preliminary design when they design is dependent upon animation and interactivity (which I’ve witnessed
before!), on the value of server-side rendering of components, and about how to optimise for smaller screens. Petya clearly knows her stuff in all of these areas and had confident
Oliver Sild is the kind of self-taught hacker, security nerd, and community builder that I love, so I wasn’t going to miss his talk.
It’s good news in general in WordPress Security-land… but CSRF is on the up-and-up (overtaking XSS) in the plugin space. That, and all the broken access control we see in the admin area, are things I’ll be keeping in mind next time I’m arguing
with a vendor about the importance of using nonces and security checks in their extension (I have this battle from time to time!).
But an interesting development is the growth of the supply chains in the WordPress plugin ecosystem. Nowadays a plugin might depend upon another plugin which might depend upon a
library… and a patch applied to the latter of those might take time to be propagated through the chain, providing attackers with a growing window of opportunity.
A worrying thought is that while plugin directory administrators will pull and remove plugins that have longstanding unactioned security issues. But that doesn’t help the sites that
already have that plugin installed and are still using it! There’s a proposal to allow WordPress to notify admins if a plugin
used on a site has been dropped for security reasons, but it was opened 9 years ago and hasn’t seen any real movement, soo…
I like that Oliver plugged for security researchers being acknowledged as equal contributors to developers on your software. But then, I would say that, as somebody who breaks into
things once in a while and then tells the affected parties how to fix the problem that allowed me to do so! He also provided a whole wealth of tips for site owners and agencies to try
to keep their sites safe, but little that I wasn’t aware of already.
It was about this point in the day, glancing at my schedule and realising that at any given time there were up to four other sessions running simultaneously, that I really got
often backed by a supply-chain of the usual billion-or-so files you find in your .node_modules directory, isn’t the risk of supply chain attacks increasing?
Spoiler: yes. Did you notice earlier in this post I mentioned that I don’t use Gutenberg on this site yet?
My first “workshop” was run by Giulia Laco, on the topic of readable content and design.
Giulia began by reminding us how short the attention span of Web readers is, and how important the right typographic choices are in ensuring that people actually read your content. I
fully get this – I think that very few people will have the attention span to read this part of this very blog post, for example! – but I loved that she hammered the point home
by presenting every slide of her presentation twice (or more), “improving” the typographic choices as she went along: an excellent and memorable quirk.
Our capacity to read and comprehend a text is affected by a combination of common (distance, lighting, environment, concentration, mood, etc.), personal (age, proficiency, motiviation,
accessibility requirements, etc.), and typographic (face, style, size, line length and spacing, contrast, width, rhythm etc.) factors. To explore the impact of the typographic factors,
the group dived into a pre-prepared Codepen and a shared Figma diagram. (I immediately had a TIL moment over the font-synthesis: CSS property!)
Things get interesting at the intersection of readability and accessibility. For example, WCAG accessibility requirements demand that you don’t use images of text (we used to
do this a lot back before we could reliably use fonts on the web, and before we could easily have background images on e.g. buttons for navigation). But this accessibility
requirement also aids screen readability when accounting for e.g. “retina” screens with virtual pixel ratios.
Giulia provided a great explanation of why we may well think in pixels (as developers or digital designers) but we’re unlikely to use them everywhere: I’d internalised
this lesson long ago but I appreciated a well-explained justification. The short of it is: screen zoom (that fancy zoom feature you use in your browser all the time, especially on
mobile) and text zoom (the one you probably don’t use, or don’t use so much) are different things, and setting a pixel-based font size in the root node wrecks the latter, forcing some
people with accessibility needs to use the former, which is likely to result in vertical scrolling. Boo!
I also enjoyed seeing this demo of how the different hyphenation-points in different languages (because of syllable stress) can impact on
your wrapping points/line lengths when content is translated. This can affect any website, of course, because any website can be the target of automatic translation.
Plus, Giulia’s thoughts on the value of serifed fonts (even on digital displays) for improving typographic readability of the letters d, b, p and q which are often mirror- or
rotationally-symmetric to one another in sans-serif fonts. It’s amazing to have something – in this case, a psychological letter transposition – pointed out that I’ve experienced but
never pinned down the reason for, before. Neat!
It was a shame that this workshop took place late in the day, because many of the participants (including me) seemed to have flagging energy levels!
Altogether a great (but intense) day. Boggles my mind that there’s another one like it tomorrow.
Among the many perks of working for a company with a history so tightly-intertwined with that of the open-source WordPress project is that license to attend WordCamps – the biggest WordPress conferences – is basically a
It’s frankly a wonder that this is, somehow, my first WordCamp. As well as using it1 and developing atop
of course, I’ve been contributing to WordPress since 2004 (albeit only in a tiny way, and not at all for most of the last decade!).
Today is Contributor Day, a pre-conference day in which folks new and old get together in person to hack on WordPress and WordPress-adjacent projects. So I met up with Cem, my Level 4 Dragonslayer friend, and we took an ultra-brief induction into WP-CLI3
before diving in to try to help write some code.
I hope to be able to continue contributing to WP-CLI. I learned a lot about it today, and while I don’t use it as much as I used to in my multisite-management days, I still really
respect its power as a tool.
1 Even with the monumental stack of custom code woven into DanQ.me, a keen eye will
probably spot that it’s WordPress-powered.
3 WP-CLI is… it’s like Drush but for WordPress, if that makes sense to you? If not: it’s a
multifaceted command-line tool for installing, configuring, maintaining, and managing WordPress installations, and I’ve been in love with it for years.
What a great statue! Cache was very easy to find; despite its camo it was very visible as I walked along the adjacent path. Thanks for bringing me out of my way on my walk from my hotel
to the conference I’m attending, and TFTC. Greetings from Oxfordshire, UK!
Walking from my hotel to the site of a conference I’m attending, this morning, I stopped to find this cache. It took an embarrassingly
long time for me to spot this sneaky little container! Greetings from Oxford, UK, and TFTC!
Among our goals for the week was an attempt to strengthen the definition of who are team are, what we work on, and how and why we do so. That’s
basically a team-level identity, mission, vision, and values, right?
Normally when you play Dixit, you select a card from your hand – each shows a unique piece of artwork – and try to describe it in a way that’s precise enough that some
of the other players will later be able to pick it out of a line-up, but ambiguous enough that not all the other players will. It’s a delicate balancing act. Even when our old
Geek Night was in full swing we didn’t used to play it often because our well-established group’s cornucopia of in-jokes and references made it trivially easy to “target”
your descriptions at specific players1, but it’s still a solid icebreaker activity.
Perhaps it was the fantasy artwork that inspired us or maybe it just says something about how my team sees themselves, but what we came up with had a certain… swords-and-sorcery… even
Dungeons & Dragons… feel to it.
Ou team’s new identity isn’t finalised, but I love the fact that we’ve been able to inject a bit of fun and whimsy into it. At our last draft, my team looks to be defined as comprising:
Gareth, level 62 Pathfinder, leading the way through the wilds
Bero, Level 5 Battlesmith, currently lost in the void
Dan (me!), Level 5 Arcane Trickster, breaking locks and stealing treasure
Cem, Level 4 Dragonslayer, smashing doors and bugs alike
Lae, Level 7 Pirate, seabound rogue with eyes on the horizon
Kyle, Level 5 Apprentice Bard, master of words and magic
Simran, Level 6 Apprentice Code Witch, weaving spells from nature
I think that’s pretty awesome.
1 Also: I don’t own any of the expansion packs and playing with the same cards over and
over again gets a bit samey.
2 The “levels” are simply the number of years each teammate has been an Automattician,
The first wayoint is right across the road from where some work colleagues and I are staying for an “away week”. I decided to dash out during a break in the weather to try and solve
this multi between meetings. But I was quickly confused because… this isn’t the way I was taught to do Roman numerals. I’d always been told that you should never have four of the same
letter in a row, e.g. you should say XIV, not XIIII. Once I’d worked out what I was doing wrong, though, I was okay!
The second and third waypoints had me braving some frankly scary roads. The drivers here just don’t seem to stop unless you’re super assertive when you step out!
Once I had the final numbers and ran it through geochecker I realised that the cache must be very close to where I’d had lunch earlier today! Once I got there it took me a while to get
to the right floor, after which the hint made things pretty obvious.
Great trail, really loved it. And just barely made it back before the rain really started hammering down. TFTC, FP awarded, and greetings from Oxford, UK!
Now that travel for work is back on the menu, I’ve been trying to upgrade my “pack light” game.
I’ve been inspired in part by Beau, who I first met during my trip to South Africa in 2019 during my Automattic onboarding. Beau travelled from the US for a two week jaunt with nothing but
hand luggage, and it blew my mind.
For my trip to Vienna earlier this year for a divisional meetup, I got by with just a backpack and a laptop bag. Right now, I’m waiting to fly to Rome for a week, and I’ve ditched the
laptop bag in favour of just a single carry-on backpack. About 7kg of luggage, and well within the overhead locker size limit.
I’m absolutely sold on this approach. I get to:
walk past the queues for luggage drop (having checked-in online),
keep the entirety of my luggage with me at all times (which ensures it goes where I do),
breeze through security1,
thanks to smart packing2
walk right out of the airport at the other end without having to wait for the flingers to finish smashing everybody’s luggage into the carousels.
As somebody who’s travelled “heavy” for most of my life – and especially since the children came along – it’s liberating to migrate to a “pick up a bag and go” mindset. To begin with,
the nagging thought that I must’ve forgotten something essential was challenging, but I think I’ve gotten past that stage now.
Travelling light feels like carefree: like being a kid again, when all you needed was the back on your back and you were ready for an adventure. Once again, I’ve got a bag on my
back3 and I know that everything I need for an adventure
is right here with me4.
1 If you’ve travelled with me before, you might have noticed that I sometimes have trouble
at borders on account of my damn stupid name, as predicted by the Passport Office. I’ve since learned all the requisite tricks to sidestep these problems, but that’s probably worthy
of a post in its own right.
2 A little smart packing goes a long way. In the photo above, you might see my pre-prepared liquids bag in a side pocket, my
laptop slides right out for separate scanning, my wallet and phone just dump out of my pockets, and I’m done.
3 I don’t really have a bag on my back right now. I’m sat in a depature lounge at Gatwick
Airport. But you get the idea.
4 Do I really have everything I need? I’ve not brought a waterproof coat and,
looking at the weather forecast at my destination, this might have been a mistake. But worst case I can buy a cheap poncho at the other end. That’s the kind of freedom that being an
adult gets you, replacing the childlike freedom to get soaked and not care.