Articles

Personal opinions and how-to’s that I’ve written both here and as contributions to other blogs.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Generally speaking, people often set out to try to set their plans, goals, and resolutions at the beginning of the year. I did though it’s not really something I typically do, and here we are at the beginning of March and I’ve really only done a portion of what I thought I was going to be doing.

I mean, I haven’t even touched Swift yet (and I don’t know if I will end up doing so).

Then again, Pressware has been growing and has resulted in the need for me to make some changes both to what I’m doing with some of my open source plugins and with what I’m planning to do with the business itself.

It’s both an exciting time, but it’s also a really weird time because it’s causing me to evaluate some changes that I’m making in a number of things that I’ve been working on for several years at this point.

When this happens, I can’t help but feel a little bit of tension – maybe even some fear – of letting certain things go. On top of that, I think that it can also breed a sense of relief as it may bring about a little bit of breathing room.

But does it really? I mean, when we wind down work on one thing, are we just making space to spin up something new?

For me personally, what I’m finding out – and it’s sort of a cliche – is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Though I may be winding down certain things, other things are starting up.

Aesop Story Engine and WordPress (Why Do We Reject Our Own Innovation?)

For some time now, I’ve been a big fan of using WordPress for web application development, but I think that developers actually embracing the CMS (let alone seeing the CMS) as a foundation for something like that is still a couple of years off.

Sure, we’re going to see some people using it for things like that. I mean, we’re already seeing some out-of-the-box applications like AppPresser, but projects like that are the exceptio, not the rule. In my own experience, I’ve found that clients are very interested in using WordPress, but using it for more application-like capabilities.

This doesn’t mean that gigs for themes, plugins, and what not are slowing down, but that people are wanting web applications for themselves or their companies, but want to be able to administer it using the WordPress dashboard or using a some custom front-end work.

But that’s beside the point.

What I’m getting at is that as developers, designers, and other people end up seeing WordPress as potential foundation for web application development, the more innovative things we’re going to see entering the space.

A Case For Dependency Management with WordPress

Yesterday, I came across a comment that was in the context of a larger post that I think does an excellent job of highlighting what we – as theme developers – should be doing with our projects rather than what we’re currently doing.

For those who know @Rarst, this wisdom will come as no surprise, but for those of you who are new to theme development, or WordPress development of any kind, then I think you’ll find this insightful:

We can chuckle and point fingers at bundled plugin monstrosities. But the reason those monstrosities exist include WordPress strategically for years disregarding need for third party infrastructure and dependency management. It’s telling that it has been priority so low, that even backwards compatibility was broken on related parts of core without a second thought.

So how does this translate, exactly? That is, what is it that we’re doing or that we can do in order to make theme development, plugin development, or both much stronger, resilient, and generally better than what we’re doing now?

A Quick Tip For Reading Files with PHP

If you’re in the business of building plugins – regardless of if it’s for fun or profit – the odds that you’re eventually going to have to read the contents of a file are relatively high.

This could be for importing data from a file, this could be for parsing data out of something that a customer has provided, or this could just be used to help drive the user interface. Whatever the case, PHP offers a number of different functions for opening files and reading files.

This can be convenient, but in my experience, there’s one process that I’ve found to be more resilient than the other options when it comes to reading files and I thought I’d share the general process here.

The Constraints of an API Are a Good Thing

Because WordPress is built using a number of languages none of which are compiled, it makes it completely possible to make things happen within your theme, plugin, or extension by circumventing the native APIs.

This means that if you wanted to, say, introduce some type of element on one of the dashboard screens or you wanted to introduce functionality into one of your templates that didn’t previously exist, there’s a strong chance that you’d be able to do so simply by “brute force.”

And by that, I mean that you’d be able to make something happen – and probably work correctly – without using the native set of APIs that are available.

But when you’re faced with that situation, I highly recommend taking a step back and determining if you’re approaching the problem in the best way possible given your set of constraints.

Let Go, Move On, and Focus

At some point, I think that many of us – if not all of us – have all been in a position where we feel like we have too much going on. Or, to use a cliché, we have too many irons in the fire.

Too Much Going On

In some ways, I think it’s a good thing. I mean, we’ve involved ourselves in a number of projects and activities all of which [hopefully] are contributing to something larger than ourselves for the betterment of the people around us, but, at the same time, we continue to add to this list of responsibilities that we have.

The thing is, those responsibilities may come in different forms. They don’t have to come in the form of projects that we’re working on on our computers or around the house, nor do they have to come in the form of something work related.

Perhaps your family changes in some way, perhaps you change in some way. Whatever the case, you find yourself looking for a little bit more margin – a little bit more breathing room so that you can either focus on all of the stuff that’s cropped up in your life, or so you can move on to higher priority projects.

The thing is, what are you supposed to remove that would ideally prevent the project from grinding to a halt all while making sure the right person takes the reigns to continue making sure that it stays in development (or whatever term works best here) and continues to benefit those who use it?

That’s the big question, right?

Unsolicited Advice in WordPress (But Is It Really?)

Obviously, I can only speak for as much of the culture that I’ve experienced both online and offline so I don’t mean this to be an overly general statement, but I think it’s fair we live in a highly polarized culture – if not offline, and if not in the west, then certainly online.

That is, we have no problem telling one another if their policy, their ideas, their implementations, or whatever sucks, or if it’s terrific. Unfortunately, it seems to be much more of the former than the latter.

I tend to be more on the pessimistic side – I know, probably not the most flattering personality trait, but I try to fight it :) – so I don’t know if it’s getting better, but I can definitively say that over the past few days, I’ve personally experienced some criticism – all constructive – that’s respectful and that has generated a lot of food for thought.

Pressware Needs an Intern (Want to Work on Some Projects With Me?)

For those of you who have followed this blog for sometime, you’re likely aware that I make a living building solutions for others using WordPress – all of this is done under my company, Pressware.

From the landing page, you’ll notice that there are two other team members – Stephen and Nathaniel – both of whom are responsible for other tasks on the team (and we’re even shifting roles a little bit more very soon, but that’s beside the point).

Though I’ve almost always done exclusively project-based work, I’m also looking into branching out into products, as well. I doubt this is a surprise. The thing is, in order to help expand the business into both products and services, I need a little bit of help in growing the business.

To that end, I’m looking for an intern.

Am I Giving To WordPress?

Yesterday, I stumbled across tweet from a fellow developer for whom I greatly respect. He said:

Which naturally got me a little bit introspective wondering ifI have been giving to WordPress as much as I should.

From WooThemes: The Importance of Focus

Early last week, WooThemes announced that they were shutting down their Twitter support channel. You can read the entire post here, but there were a few quotes in the article that I really liked.

WooThemes Support

First:

And a lot to say. And that pretty quickly, questions get technical and DMs and 140 characters are not ideal facilitators of such things.

Secondly:

Everyone with a smart phone has a soap box.

With our users being of the techie variety most are on Twitter and it’s a space where we frequently get questions about products, potluck inquiries, reports of glitches, panicked alerts about problems, shout-outs, suggestions et al. It’s a mixed bag!

And finally:

But after letting @WooSupport run for a while realised what it was actually doing was creating an expectation that we never intended to meet which was that we were able to actually give support over Twitter.

The article also goes on to discuss interesting things such as how support requests are unique, individual problems are unique, and managing support via Twitter versus a dedicated ticket (like in ZenDesk) can be problematic.

Props to them for doing this.