Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Each episode features guests from around the community and discussions of the largest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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Doc Pop: You’re listening to Press This, a WordPress Community Podcast on WMR. Each week we spotlight members of the WordPress community. I’m your host, Doc Pop. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and my contributions over on TorqueMag.Io where I get to do podcasts and draw cartoons and tutorial videos. Check that out.
On each episode of Press This, we pick a WordPress topic, but sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and look at some of the broader topics in our community. We call this our Word Around the Campfire editions of Press This. And I have two special guests joining me today to help cover WordPress News.
Emily Schiola, the Editor of Torque Magazine, and Mike Davey, the Senior Editor of Delicious Brains. Emily, I wanna start off real quick, as we’re recording this episode it’s just a few days after the Super Bowl, but there’s another big sports event that is happening in the WordPress community.
Can you tell us about that?
Emily Schiola: Sure. I would say much bigger than the Super Bowl. Our annual bracket style competition, Plugin Madness is underway, currently. We take 64 of the community’s best plugins nominated by you and pit them against each other. As of recording, we are finishing up nominations this week and we will start voting on the 27th of February.
So come to PluginMadness.com and you can vote for your favorites. It takes about six weeks. We crown a winner. It’s very fun. Sometimes we get a little friendly smack talk on Twitter, but if you submitted or if you just love plugins, come vote every week so that you can make sure your favorites make it through.
DP: Trash talking is always fun on Twitter. And that is a reminder for me to nominate Contextly and Post Duplicator, which I think there’s a few of them now. I need to make sure that some of my favorite plugins at least get nominated once, but after nominations, like you said, voting will go live on PluginMadness.com on what date?
ES: February 27th.
DP: And that runs for five weeks.
ES: Yeah, like five weeks and then we announced the winner on the sixth week. So every Monday, the playing field will be cut in half. So just make sure you come back and continue to support your faves.
DP: Yeah, and Mike, do you have any plugins that you would nominate, as your favorite free WordPress plugin that you hope makes it into PluginMadness.com.
Mike Davey: Well, when it comes to free plugins, I would probably have to say, WP Migrate Lite. The free version of Advanced Custom Fields. The free version of WP Offload SES, and of course, the free version of WP Offload Media.
DP: Good suggestions. I like that. I think one of my favorite things about this contest is it’s a good way to kind of discover plugins that I might not have heard of, and it’s definitely introduced me to plugins in the past before. So thanks for those suggestions, Mike.
In other news, the WP Community Collective which is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting WordPress contributors and events, they’ve recently announced their first fellow, Mike, can you tell us about that?
MD: Yeah, they’ve announced that longtime WordPress Contributor, Alex Stine is their inaugural fellow. Basically he was selected because of his extensive experience as a WordPress Contributor and his particular expertise in accessibility. He’s been an active Contributor since about 2016.
And his personal, to quote from the WP Community Collective site right now, “His personal experience as a fully blind individual gives him a unique perspective on the challenges that people with disabilities face using and working in WordPress. He aims to help everyone have the same access to information no matter what capabilities they’re working with.”
Now, I mean, to me that’s great.
That’s really what the entire point I think of accessibility is in a lot of ways. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been in media one way or another for about 25 years now. And it’s only really in the last decade that I’ve come to understand just how important accessibility is, even in terms of content.
Like very, very early on in my career, writing and editing for the web, I very often would skip over alt-text completely.
MD: I figured, you know what, if the image is broken, it’s just broken. They just don’t get to see a picture without ever once thinking, of course, people with visual impairments will be totally unable to see anything at all, right?
They don’t get anything if they can’t see the photo and there’s no alt text. It seems to me that there’s two reasons for accessibility and both of them I think are very important. One of them is the issue of justice. I dunno about you, but I don’t wanna live in a society where people can’t access what they want to, to do what they want to do.
If you see what I mean. I don’t want to live in a world where people are kept out of a profession, they’re kept out of some sort of activity solely on the basis that they, for example, have a mobility issue or a visual impairment.
The secondary reason is just one of practicality. If we don’t make things accessible, we are wasting talent. Right? Some of the potential talent pool can’t access what we need them to, to work in that area. So even if they want to, even if they would be very talented, they simply cannot. Now, I think both of those reasons are quite important.
DP: The analogy that often comes up with the #a11y community, a website that isn’t accessible, if it doesn’t have alt descriptions on images or just various accessibility concerns. It’s like a building with stairs and no ramp, right? Like you’re not really thinking about letting everybody in or how everyone can access it.
That analogy has always been good and I think I’m kind of in a similar way as you, where I just didn’t think about accessibility that much. And I think about four or five years ago, through the work that we do at Torque and just kind of interviewing folks, it came onto my mind.
But it’s weird, it came into my mind as like making sure that I was using the header tags instead of just like bold texts, you know. Good practices in general that also were kind of accessibility focused in terms of screen readers. And it wasn’t until actually I started using Mastodon of all places, that I started thinking about alt-text, and now it’s just like I go to Twitter and I see people sharing images without alt text, or I go to a blog without alt text or you know, some email newsletter that I really like for my favorite band, and they send out an image and it doesn’t have alt text. And it’s basically the image is the entire email, that drives me nuts now.
And this is a slow awakening that I think a lot of us are kind of, once we start practicing, we start noticing how are these people not doing that? This really should be done by everybody.
MD: Well, and one of the other things that I’ve heard from accessibility advocates and have always found to be true when I’ve rubbed up against it, is that when you improve accessibility for one group, it typically makes it better for everyone. Either it doesn’t hurt them in any way, or it literally improves the experience for everyone.
And the other point to note, of course, is that sooner or later, just about everybody suffers some kind of impairment, right? Eyes fade as we get older. Sooner or later, everybody needs a screen reader or large text or what have you.
DP: Absolutely. Yeah. And think just one more note again, kind of coming back to Mastodon, but I’ve noticed since I’ve learned about alt-text and since Mastodon has a strong practice about everyone encouraging people to use alt text. I’ve actually been using it a lot. People like sharing screenshots on Twitter and Mastodon, and sometimes I’m just like, I can’t read this.
This is frustrating. But now that I have the alt text there, oftentimes, they’ll share the screenshot and that gives me a little more context. Like this is from Instagram, or this is a screenshot of Twitter or a blog post. But I’ll actually read the text in the alt text if it’s made available.
So that’s one of those examples of you’re sort of doing it to make the web more accessible, but it has these benefits to other people who aren’t. I mean, I don’t have great vision, but I’m not visually impaired per se. So like, it just kind of makes the web a better place for everyone.
DP: So on thewpcommunitycollective.com that’s thewpcommunitycollective.com, individuals and organizations can make tax deductible contributions to help fund these. As Mike was saying, Alex is the first fellow that they’ve selected and they definitely want to be able to support more events and contributors. And at this point I think they’re kind of getting things set up and it’s just a matter of now getting those deductions from larger companies and from individuals. I myself pledged, I think 50 bucks last year to the WP Community Collective. I highly recommend people check out that site. Drop the link one more time. thewpcommunitycollective.com, and we are gonna take a quick break.
When we come back, we’re gonna talk about more WordPress news, in particular we’re gonna focus our radar vision, I’m kinda imagining the Terminator. We’re gonna focus on AI and WordPress, so stay tuned for that.
DP: Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress Community podcast on WMR. This is our Word Around the Campfire edition for February, 2023, where I have some special guests, Emily Schiola, the Editor of Torque Magazine, and Mike Davey, the Senior Editor at Delicious Brains. We are talking about interesting stuff in the WordPress community, and I think this year, 2023, the absolute tech story and it’s becoming the biggest thing in WordPress, it seems right now, at least in terms of all the new launches, it’s AI. There’s been a lot of stuff happening.
I think Jetpack, the Automattic plugin that has so much functionality. Jetpack quietly launched two new AI blocks within their Jetpack. One is basically a Stable Diffusion tool that allows you to create a WordPress block and enter in some text and it’ll generate an image as a block in your WordPress post.
The other is a large language model block that takes a look at everything you’ve written thus far in that post, and then it writes the next paragraph for you. So it kind of like analyzes the topic that you’re writing about and your writing style, and it tries to kind of predict what you’re doing there.
And I think both of these are interesting. Mike, have you had a chance to play with any AI tools within WordPress yet?
MD: I have actually, I took a few minutes and actually used the Jetpack tools.
I’ve done a little work with ChatGPT as well, but I did take a look at specifically the Jetpack ones. And I actually started a blog post titled “Spiderman, A Huge Loser,” and put down a couple of paragraphs and then had the AI write a bit.
MD: The writing itself isn’t great, but it’s also just wrong. Like every paragraph is significantly wrong in some factual way, which isn’t necessarily obvious if you don’t know anything about Spiderman. But it’s very confidently wrong about various things. So I actually decided to give it a bit of a more serious test and asked it to write a blog post about WP security fundamentals.
Like I just put in the title WordPress Security Fundamentals and saw what it spit out paragraph after paragraph. It does a vaguely crappy job of it. It’s very verbose and repetitive. And it doesn’t really give a lot of information, and that probably would’ve improved if I’d given anything but the title
MD: So I actually decided to give it a real test and I went and got a Delicious Brains article by Iain Poulson. It’s an article about syncing your changes when you’re merging your database, right? First I gave it just the first few paragraphs and let it do the rest. And that’s actually kind of interesting because the first section that it wrote included a reference to WP Migrate, which is mentioned in the article after that point, like Iain himself brings it up.
MD: However, that’s really the only similarity between it and what follows in the original article. Whereas Iain does mention WP Migrate, but it’s really only an analysis of why the data WordPress uses, specifically Custom Posts Types, makes it really tough to perform those selective migrations. Right?
And then he digs into exactly why that is, breaks it down from different angles. In comparison, the AI generator version is very repetitive, immediately turns into a commercial for WP Migrate of all things. I don’t know why, because again, the text I fed it did not have anything about WP Migrate in it yet. Whereas in Iain’s version, he then gives instructions for dealing with the issue with either SQL scripts or PHP scripts, he gives a look at the process Delicious Brains was actually using to manage the issue at the time, and there’s no way on earth the AI generator would ever get to it from what I gave it.
So I did another test. I gave it some more, I copied and pasted the entirety of the post into WordPress. Ending with the subhead “SQL Scripts.” Now that’s where Ian’s original article really gets into the instructions on exactly how to solve the problem, right? His instructions are, they’re concise, they’re complete. They will actually teach you how to do that.
What this spit out though is, “Create Custom SQL scripts based on the database’s version and state. This can be used to date. Update the database file at the latest version. In this case of database migrations, SQL Scripts can be used to update an older version of a database to the current version.”
And that’s pretty much it. Like it gives you no actionable information at all. You’d have to go, there’s maybe a few hints in there on what you would have to go Google.
MD: But that’s it. It won’t give you any actual information.
DP: These were all done in the Jetpack plugin?
MD: They were. Yeah. That’s the thing is it kind of highlights what I see as one of the biggest problems that large language models have right now is they’re often very, very wrong, very, very confident and very repetitive.
MD: With that said, I mean, I suspect I could do thorough edits on what it produces and turn that into a quality post much faster than if I simply tried to write it myself.
If you give it the right prompts,
DP: I’m going to be talking to Aaron Edwards today. He has done a couple AI plugins, Imajinn which is basically MidJourney for WordPress Block, kind of similar to the image block and Jetpack. But his newest project is ChatWP, and that one is, you can train it on your documentation and it should be able to give you really good results because it’s getting ’em from your doc so you can kind of train it more. You’re talking about posting a blog post in there. Well, this is like, here’s how to write the code and here’s examples of code into documentation. So the AI should be a little more knowledgeable.
And on top of that, ChatWP is also going to provide you a link. So if it gives you advice that it generates, then it should also provide you a link to the source. But that being said, we’re still hearing mixed results from people who are trying to use it. So I’m kind of interested to see where we are on this kind of tech curve and if a year from now this stuff will be radically fixed or if we’ll still be kind of struggling in particular with code documentation and getting examples from these types of ChatGPT models.
In other news, search engines are also adding AI results and SEO is a big topic in WordPress, and it seems like over the years Google has already been taking away from search results and kind of adding answers and little snippets and things like that. There’s a lot of concern, I think from online publications about how this could affect web traffic.
Emily, have you heard anything about this?
ES: Yeah, a little bit. You know, SEO, especially with Google, sort of always feels like a moving target. They make great changes. Some things matter very greatly one year and the next year they’re not ranking with those anymore. And so as a site owner, you’re always kind of trying to figure out what they’re zeroing in on.
I think this speaks to exactly what Mike was just saying, with the AI thing, if they’re prioritizing those, they could be very wrong. They could just sound right. So if you write this article that you researched and that you put your time into, and that’s maybe fourth or fifth and there’s an AI answer, that’s first or second people are gonna start looking into that and that could be wrong.
So I think that’s a big issue. As far as site traffic, I don’t know if it’s a big enough pull at the moment, I could see that becoming an issue and I don’t know how human site owners would combat that just with normal SEO, honestly. But like I said, you kind of have to relearn what Google wants from you every so often.
So I think that this would just fall into that. And I do hope that there is a closer eye on how correct these are, how accurate these are. Because I think that’s the biggest issue with AI in general still.
DP: Yeah, it’s possible that accuracy could get fixed. You know, it’s hard to say a year from now what this will look like. It could look exactly the same as it does now. I am thinking Googling is less effective these days than it used to be.
I feel like they’ve removed dates from posts, so sometimes when I’m looking for how to do something in Photoshop, I don’t know if they’re talking about 2012 Photoshop or 2023. It’s hard for me to get relevant stuff already. And I don’t think for me, that this sort of chat answers are gonna make me feel like going to Google that much anymore.
And I can see where Bing took the step to like, they’re already kind of the underdog, right? So they might as well announce AI and people are using Bing now, right? So it’s kind of worked out well for them. And of course Google that same day, Google kind of rushed out Bard their AI chat answers.
I think, personally, this would be a really good time for some new company to come in and start a new search engine or for Duck, Duck, Go, and just really make themselves different than the competitors by going not against AI, but by just saying, we’re not trying to answer questions, we’re trying to show you the most relevant links.
Reinvent or go back to the old school days of search engines. I think now would be a really good time. Cause I think there’s gonna be a lot of people who don’t want to see some machine guess an answer that may or may not be correct. I think they want to be sent to the best source.
I guess we’ll have to see how this affects web traffic.
ES: With a site like Torque, 50 or so percent of our traffic is coming from Google. Because it’s people just researching, how do I download a plugin? It’s those beginners and they don’t know about Torque, so they wouldn’t know how to find us otherwise. So that part of it would be a concern for any site that’s informative like that.
DP: And this is a good spot for us to take another short break. When we come back, we are gonna talk to Emily and Mike about WordPress’s 20th anniversary and what their plans are. So stay tuned for more Press This Word Around the Campfire edition.
DP: Welcome back to Press This, a WordPress Community podcast on WMR. I’m your host, Doc Pop, and joining me today for the Word Around the Campfire February, 2023 edition is Emily Schiola the Editor of Torque Magazine, and Mike Davey, the Senior Editor at Delicious Brains. So far, we’ve talked about all sorts of WordPress news, the WordPress Community Collective, AI and WordPress, and I think talking about WordPress itself, WordPress is turning 20 this year.
Mike, do you have any plans for the 20th anniversary of WordPress?
MD: Not particularly. I was just going to go along for the ride, sort of.
MD: I might make it a priority to attend my first WordCamp this year. Cause I’ve actually never been to one.
DP: Do you have a WordCamp picked out? Do you have one in mind?
MD: If I can get my employer to spring for it, I might go to the big one in the U.S. but if not, I’ll probably go to a local one here in Canada.
DP: Well, if WordCamp Montclair is close to you, I don’t know if it is, but if it is, I’d recommend that one, that that’s gonna be a fun one this year.
So WordPress’s 20th anniversary is May 27th, and they have announced a website where you can go and get all of your 20th anniversary downloadable files, including a new Wapuu. Emily, have you seen this new Wapuu?
ES: Yeah, it’s cute! They got him on a balloon with a party hat, and then the little 20 logo that they made, which is very sweet. I love a themed Wapuu.
DP: Yeah, absolutely. And for people who don’t know, Wapuu is the open source Creative Commons mascot for WordPress. And this Wapuu is bright yellow Wapuu with a festive hat holding onto a big blue balloon. And all I can think about with all the news coverage lately is I hope he got clearance for that balloon before he takes off. I hope he checked in with the FAA before he goes on any long flights.
But, you can actually download the file from WP20.WordPress.net, and shout out to Emma DeRosia who did this art file. And Emily on that subject, did you have any WordCamp plans for this year?
ES: You know, not anything concrete. In the past, you and I Doc have done some videos. We got a cake one year. I think we’ll do something similar. We’ll have a Torque moment for sure, but that’s TBD.
DP: Yeah. And one other thing that we don’t really get to talk about on this episode, or it’s happening in like two days as of recording, is WordCamp Asia. February 17th is the date for that and this episode will be out after that. But Emily, is there anything you can tell us quickly about WordCamp Asia?
ES: Yeah, for sure. So we’re not there. Clearly, we are recording this in California and Canada, but it is the first WordCamp Asia. It is in the same place they were gonna have it in 2020. The place looks gorgeous. They sold out in like 24 hours. People are traveling from all over the world.
I think it’s gonna be very cool. I will be live streaming some of it, but the time zones, as you can imagine, they don’t match up very well. But I’m just so excited for everyone there and for the organizers who have been postponing this and replanning this for three freaking years. So I’m just so happy that it’s coming together.
DP: The very first WordCamp Asia is a huge deal. And you were talking about time zones, I think you said Matt’s talk is gonna be midnight for you. The ask me anything.
ES: Yep. Saturday night I will be live tweeting. This will already be up, I will be live tweeting at midnight.
DP: Well, in other WordPress News, I wanted to give a shout out to Matt Medeiros, who’s launched the WP Minute+, and the team at MasterWP have also launched a new podcast called Press the Issue as well. Brian Coords, who’s a regular contributor over at ManageWP, is doing a new podcast called viewSource, and we will be talking to Brian today on our livestream, the Torque Social Hour livestream, which you can check out on YouTube or you can go to TorqueMag.io to see these episodes.
So when you hear this episode, the conversation with Brian about viewSource podcast and the other projects he’s working on will also be on TheTorqueMag.io. And on that, I think we can wrap up here. Mike, if folks wanna hear more about your AI experiments and the other things you’re doing over at Delicious Brains, what’s a good way to be able to do that?
DP: Emily, if, if people want to see that live tweeting of Matt’s AMA or any other Torque related news, what’s a good way to do that?
ES: Yeah, so you can find us on Twitter at @TheTorqueMag, and then TorqueMag.io is the website. And because it’s my favorite time of year, PluginMadness.com go to PluginMadness.com forever. Thank you.
DP: Good plug. Thanks for listening to Press This, a WordPress community podcast on WMR. Once again, my name’s Doc and you can follow my adventures with Torque magazine over on Twitter @thetorquemag or you can go to torquemag.io where we contribute tutorials and videos and interviews like this every day. So check out torquemag.io or follow us on Twitter. You can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or you can download it directly at wmr.fm each week. I’m your host Doctor Popular I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to spotlight members of the community each and every week on Press This.
It’s been a pleasure talking to Mike and Emily today. Thank you so much for joining me and thanks for supporting the WordPress community through your roles at WP Engine and Delicious Brains. It’s been great chatting with you.