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.
Each month on Press This, we invite a few special guests to come and catch us up on all the news that’s been happening in the WordPress community in the past month.
We call this our Word Around The Campfire edition. And this month we’ve got some great news about WordPress 6.3, WordCamp US, and a lot more. We’re going to see how much we can fit into this episode. And to help me out, we’ve got a couple of special guests. First up is Damon Cook, a Developer Advocate at WP Engine.
Hello, Damon. How are you?
Damon Cook: Great.
Mike Davey: Hi, Doc. I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.
Doc Pop: Well, we’re going to kick things off. As you can tell, I’m in a rush to get into this news because there’s so much to talk about. And I think one of the biggest things is WordPress 6.3, which is coming out on August 8th. And as we’re recording this, we have release candidate 2.
And I’ve been playing around a little bit with it and I actually love it. Matt Medeiros from the WP minute recently asked if WordPress 6.3 is quote, big air quotes here, “the best version of WordPress so far,” which I love that click baity title. And so here to tell us more about WordPress 6.3, Damon, why don’t you kind of start us off with what you’re excited about?
Damon Cook: Yeah, I think it is shaping up to be a great release. They’re always such vast, huge improvements and so much contribution time put into each of these releases. Some of my favorite features that are coming out, everybody’s talking about the command palette. I mean, that’s pretty neat functionality that is available in the post and site editor, and there is already some APIs available for plugin authors to extend and add their own commands. And actually, this afternoon I was tweeting about how it would be neat, a possible idea for a plugin author to maybe bring back the sidebar templates in the block editor and have maybe a command palette that you can switch left and right from.
That’s a really neat feature and the APIs for that should be fun to extend.
Doc Pop: Just to kind of visualize this for listeners, if you don’t know what the command palette is, if you’re a Mac user, it’s called the spotlight tool, and I’m guessing there’s probably something similar for PC and other users. Basically when you are in a post or you are on a page or you’re editing the site, if you’re anywhere where the block editor is present, you can hit command K.
And a little white kind of search bar pops up. And from there you can basically access anything else that also has the block editor. So you could type in “new post” or you could type in “new block”. And instead of having to search around for stuff or navigate stuff, you can very quickly surf your site through this command palette.
And as Damon’s saying, there’s a lot of potential for APIs there. Like some people are talking about integrating AI to maybe be able to do things where you could say, create a new post that has a picture of a cat or something. And so instead of just opening a new post, in theory, the command palette might have some functionality that could do multiple things at once, right, Damon?
Damon Cook: Definitely. Yeah. The possibilities are endless.
Doc Pop: And what about for developers kind of focusing more in there? Is there any new features that they should be aware of?
Damon Cook: In relation just to the command palette or in general with a 6.3 release?
Doc Pop: With 6. 3?
Damon Cook: Yeah, I mean, there’s tons of new features there’s performance improvements that allow for the scripts API, there’s async and defer, which should help with front end performance and with images, there’s a fetch priority attribute that has been included.
So, those can be utilized to get front end performance impact and make your sites faster for sure.
Doc Pop: Yeah, the performance team has really added a bunch of new features to this version. And I think one of the other notable things about this version, this isn’t exactly developer related, but this marks the end of Gutenberg Phase Two, right?
Damon Cook: Yeah, it’s already kicked off the collaboration and a lot of planning and discussion around what those projects are going to involve. So yeah, it’s exciting times.
Doc Pop: So the release candidate is out now. Some of us are playing around with it and sharing our feedback and August 8th is when this should hit the world. With a book ending of Gutenberg Phase Two, this really is a good chance if you tried the block editor and didn’t really like it years ago, this is a good chance to come back and try it out because things are easier to find, they’re more consistently placed. A lot of the issues have been really worked out.
This is the best version of the block editor so far. And I think it’s a really big step for WordPress as well. So August 8th is when that’s going to hit the shelves. And another big update is coming out, ACF 6.2 will be coming out real soon. Right, Mike?
Mike Davey: That’s right, actually. The beta for ACF 6.2, I think we’ll probably be out by the time this episode is live. I’m almost certain, but we don’t really like to be held to exact dates all the time like that, but I’m almost certain it will be out before this episode goes live.
Doc Pop: And let’s assume ACF 6.2 does go out and beta by the time this was live, how much longer before the full release hits everybody.
Mike Davey: That I cannot say. I think again, fairly soon, but they do need time to people using it, get enough feedback to really make sure that they handle everything for the full release, see how everything’s working because they’re introducing some really big new features.
Doc Pop: Like what?
Mike Davey: It’s always been possible to set up bidirectional relationships in ACF in code. But with 6.2 and 6.2 Pro, you can now do that right in the UI with certain fields with the relational fields, which is, post, object, relationship, user, and taxonomy fields.
They display a new advanced tab when you go into their settings that has a bidirectional toggle, right? And you can just kind of flip that on and then you can select one or more target fields, which will be updated on each selected value for that field and it’s back to the item being updated, right? It’s a fairly powerful and complicated feature.
It’s really the sort of thing that you do have to see an action, I think to really understand. Iain Polson did a demo of it on a session of ACF Fridays, our open office hours, and we can link to that. And that really shows exactly what you can do a little bit better.
We’re also introducing admin UI registration for option pages in ACF Pro 6.2 and Damon Cook actually can speak more to that because he just did a workshop on how that’s going to work just the other day.
Damon Cook: Yeah, yesterday I did a workshop on that and I just posted the video to the WP Engine Builders channel for the recording of that, but it really makes registering these option pages so fast because while. Power users were definitely doing it with code before now you could just do it right in the UI and you can even do it while you’re creating field groups.
You can associate those right on the fly with the little built in modal, so it’s really a great enhancement.
Doc Pop: When we’re talking about options pages, and the changes here, are these options on the backend or are these new advanced options that can be shown for the users?
Damon Cook: Yeah, these are option pages, so typically a builder might create an option page to allow a client to set their Google analytics ID or add some social links and just give them a centralized place to change some settings and toggle things on and off.
Doc Pop: That’s cool. Anything else we should talk about with the ACF, Mike?
Mike Davey: Yeah, one last thing, actually. We’ve had multiple requests over the years to support saving JSON to multiple different paths, and ACF 6.2 is finally going to bring support for that to the core plugin. I don’t want to get into all the technical details, in part because I can’t explain them, and in part because it’s, again, another thing that’s easier to see rather than hear about.
But starting in 6.2, you will be able to have multiple JSON save locations.
Doc Pop: Speaking of save locations, everybody stick around. I’m trying my best to make this into a segue, where we’re going to save this thought and we’ll be right back after these messages with more WordPress news, including WordCamp US news and some conversation about WordPress and AI. So stick around after the short commercial break.
Doc Pop: Welcome back to the Word Around The Campfire Edition of Press This today. We’ve got Damon Cook, a Developer Advocate at WP Engine and Mike Davey, the Senior Editor at Delicious Brains here to catch us up on WordPress news. And so far we’ve been “caughted” up on Advanced Custom Fields, 6.2 ACF, 6, 2, and WordPress 6.3.
And we have a lot more to get into. I think one of the things I wanted to talk about is yesterday. I guess I’m just going to brag. Yesterday I had my site linked from Hacker News and first off, man, Hacker News. I wasn’t even like the top of the page and Hacker News sent me 12,000 views, which is more than I get from like Boing Boing these days or Reddit or whatever.
So they still have some serious traffic. And while I was there, I found out that a couple of weeks ago, the WordPress playground or the WP Playground was up there. That’s a WordPress instance that runs entirely in your browser. And that was up on the top of Hacker News. They were excited about that.
Damon, can you tell us about WP Playground?
Damon Cook: Yeah, that’s a really neat and interesting tool. It’s built on WebAssembly and allows you to spin up a WordPress site right in your browser and everything is installed, including the PHP, and you can log in and it’s really got an extensive API. So it’s really setting up the possibilities for even plugin authors and theme authors to pass along some query parameters and spin up a demo site of their theme or their plugin, and you can just embed it in your site anywhere.
So it’s a really neat feature. I think there is also an API, so you can spin up pull requests. So I think there is functionality with the Gutenberg plugin. So if there is a new pull request submitted, you can do per branch sites that are spun up. So somebody could test a feature that’s in the Gutenberg project, but that also has the potential of being pulled into personal projects and client projects.
So it’s a really neat tool and you can even do sandboxes. So if you need to spin up a quick WordPress site and test something, just go to WP Playground and spin it up and take it for a spin and install some plugins and see if you can break things. but yeah, it’s a great, great tool and I think it’s going to get even better as it goes along for sure.
Doc Pop: I think that URL is playgroundWordPress.net. You can also just find it from searching WP Playground. Damon, who do you think is the target? Who is this meant for? What is this tool meant for?
Damon Cook: I think it’s got a few different use cases, but it certainly, I think, will be useful for the WordPress project in regards to documentation and testing. The thought that you could possibly have an up to date, up to the minute project, a WordPress site embedded alongside documentation, so you could actually, be reading documentation in line, take something and test it out and run some code that is super useful.
So I think the possibilities there are really interesting. And then also just for everyday builders, as a training resource, you can spin up a sandbox site and install some themes and plugins and just kind of test things out and learn as you go. As a training mechanism as well, I think that’s another useful feature, but I think a lot of use cases are yet to even be explored or come to, come to enlightenment, I guess.
Doc Pop: Yeah, mostly right now, it’s just like, that’s cool. There’s an instance of WordPress in my browser. And I think that’s where a lot of us are, but I was kind of thinking when I first heard about this is maybe a good way to show potential new WordPress users who may be nervous about going through the whole process of installing WordPress, maybe just kind of showing them like what it’s like.
Just giving them a chance to browse around and see how the block editor works and editing a post works and things like that. So that’s kind of what I was thinking when I first heard about it, but I hear more from developers and I’m like, man, this is a lot more powerful than just some sort of example tool for new WordPress users.
On the subject of new WordPress users, I want to pivot over a little bit to talking about one of the things I’ve heard in the WordPress and artificial intelligence space. Some companies like Bluehost and Hostinger are using AI to reduce the friction of creating new sites for new users.
So they’re trying to use AI to help ease people into the space. We’ll talk particularly about Bluehost’s new tool, which is called Wondersuite, and there might be some more out there that I don’t know about, but Wondersuite was the one that I was taking a look at. And this basically starts users off with a series of questions, a series of like kind of check boxes.
One of the very first ones is like, “Hey, have you, have you used WordPress before and are you kind of beginner or advanced or intermediate?” And if they are a beginner or maybe intermediate, then the rest of the flow kind of walks them through. What sort of site are you looking to build?
Are you looking to build something like a site that sells things or a personal blog? It kind of goes through that stuff, but then afterwards it uses AI to walk them through adding plugins and messing with blocks and changing themes. It sounds pretty neat. It sounds like the sort of thing we might’ve done in the past.
Where if we had more of a rails-y approach where we force people to like, okay, now go to plugins and do this, which is a little stiff, but this is maybe a more flexible way if it works as good as it sounds, where people can on their own, play around in a site and these little messages might pop up saying, “here’s what this thing is. And here’s how you should use it.”
I just thought it was kind of a neat use of AI. I haven’t personally played with it yet, but it sounds pretty cool. Damon, have you heard of any new like WordPress and AI stuff that you’re excited about?
Damon Cook: Yeah, it’s a really neat time. Some of these tools are coming out. I haven’t had a chance to test out the Bluehost, but I did read up on it. The whole onboarding idea is always being explored. I know there’s been other attempts, but I think pulling in AI is definitely a space that’s worth exploring and that’s a neat tool that they have developed.
One thing I saw recently was StaffUp.AI, which was a neat service. So it offers a series of about a dozen bots and I thought it was clever because they give the bots names and personalities and pictures. And there’s one that’s actually a WordPress developer and you can utilize it to write documentation or help flesh out some of the features that might be in a plugin that you’re not sure how they’re working or even write posts for you. So it’s a really interesting service and I was just exploring that the other day. I think they have a few other bots that are related to developer centric personas, but it’s a neat service and I think we’re going to see a lot more of it.
Doc Pop: I just remembered that Jetpack has really gone into the AI space as well. I think three months ago on a Word Around The Campfire, I talked about how I played around with some of their generative AI blocks. One of them was, you know, type in a description of an image and it would create an image using stable diffusion.
One of the others was, you could have it analyze your post so far and it would write the next paragraph or something like that. And those are pretty basic experiments in AI. I think they are still experimenting more now. Jetpack AI assistant is kind of out and it seems like Jetpack is really leaning into the AI space, but I haven’t had a chance to test this yet.
One of the things I keep waiting for is I’m not really looking for something to generate the content for me, but I am interested in having tools help me with the mundane task of filling out the SEO fields and maybe even, and I know there’s some tools that do this, but maybe even AB testing headlines or something. I have a small site, other than my 12,000 visits I got in one day yesterday, it’s usually under a hundred.
And so I guess I don’t really need to be worrying about AB testing on my site, but it is a sort of thing that I’m like, Oh, this would be a cool use of AI.
Damon Cook: Definitely.
Mike Davey: I could really use a fact checker bot.
Doc Pop: Yeah?
Mike Davey: If I had an AI system that just checked facts I fed it. Just fed it like an article that say I had generated through AI, please fact check this for me. And then I could at least, see its report and see if the fact checking was any good.
Doc Pop: Yeah.
Mike Davey: Cause that’s probably the slowest part of using AI tools in a lot of cases is checking its work.
Doc Pop: And it sneaks in stuff. It just sounds so smart that when you’re generating texts with it everything seems kind of confident and good, and it lulls you in. And the idea of using AI to fact check AI, that’s very fun to me.
Mike Davey: Yeah. It doesn’t actually have a very good track record of doing that. I believe Chat GPT 4 does have an AI detector.
Doc Pop: Mm hmm.
Mike Davey: They tried using Chat GPT 4 as an AI detector and it did okay at first and then apparently has gotten worse over time. I seem to recall.
Doc Pop: Yeah.
Mike Davey: Don’t quote me on that.
Unfortunately, I’m saying it on a recording, but I seem to recall seeing that.
Doc Pop: Well, all of this reminds me of one more feature in 6.3 that we didn’t get into. It’s a small one, but they added a footnote block into WordPress 6.3, which allows you to basically add footnotes, right? So you can have paragraphs of text and you can highlight one specific sentence or word as if you were going to hyperlink it, and instead you can associate it to a footnote lower on.
And so that footnote is like its own block. It’s got this cool functionality where if you click on the thing, it takes you down to the footnote block and it keeps you on the page. And of course, the very first thing I tried was to create footnotes of footnotes. And also to see if I could get a footnote to link to itself. Get a little regressive footnotes going ’cause that’s what I do. I break things and I use tools incorrectly. And I get very excited about stupid stuff like that.
Damon Cook: Yeah, there’s another actual block, the details block, which looks really interesting coming out in 6.3 as well. It toggles open and closed.
Doc Pop: Yeah, the details block, I think also known as the spoiler block. Is that the same one?
Damon Cook: Yes.
Doc Pop: Yeah. Well, this is the cool stuff coming in WordPress 6.3. We are going to take one more quick break. And when you come back, we are going to finish up our conversation by talking a little bit about WordCamp US and some upcoming WordCamps.
So stay tuned for more Word Around The Campfire edition of Press This.
Doc Pop: Welcome back to Press This, the WordPress community podcast. This episode, we’re talking to Damon Cook and Mike Davey for our Word Around The Campfire, where we recap all the news that’s been happening. And we’ve talked a lot about AI and WP Playground. A couple of new features coming in, ACF 6.2 and WordPress 6.3.
And just at the end, I just wanted to give people a little bit of a heads up about some upcoming events in the WordPress space. We’re going to have WordCamp US happening August 24th through the 26th. Emily, the Editor of Torque and myself are both going to be there. I’ll be recording videos and interviews.
Emily will be live tweeting some of the conversations. I’m curious. Matt’s State of the Word used to happen at WordCamp. Do either of y’all happen to know if Matt is going to be doing his state of the word at WordCamp US this year, or is it going to be its own standalone event again?
Damon Cook: I’m not sure to be honest.
Doc Pop: Well, I guess we’ll find out. but this is going to be happening. WordCamp US is happening August 24th through 26 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Damon, you said that you’re planning on going, and this is a big WordCamp for you, right?
Damon Cook: Yeah, that’s my first WordCamp US and I’m really excited. I’ve been to WordCamps in the past, but not the big one. I think I’ll be there actually. Yeah, I signed up for one of the Contributor Days as well. So, I’m excited for that. Cause that’ll be a first time for me as well.
Doc Pop: Oh, right on your, your first Contributor Day on August 23rd. No, that’s on the 24th, right?
Damon Cook: Yeah. 24th. Yep.
Doc Pop: All right. And also coming up is WordCamp Niagara Falls. We don’t know much about it. But Mike, I know that you said you’re planning on being there. Can you tell us what you do know about it so far?
Mike Davey: WordCamp Niagara Falls is scheduled for September 16th, 2023, and that takes place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I am planning to attend. It’s going to be my first one. And as you said, we don’t really know much about it yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Canada does not seem to get a lot of WordCamps. And having said that, maybe I’ve now put myself on the hook for organizing more.
Doc Pop: If you do, I’ll come, I promise. All right. Oh, and there’s another WordCamp coming up Damon, can you tell us about that one?
Damon Cook: Yeah, I just saw that WordCamp Rochester just announced. I think that’s September 30th I’m going to have to try to get tickets for that because that’s out here in my region and probably get a few speaker proposals in. I think that’s rochester.wordcamp.org and that’s September 30th.
Doc Pop: And I think really quickly, some of the other WordCamp just kind of in our area, North America, WordCamp Atlanta is going to be October 14th and I do see that there’s a WordCamp Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, September 23rd. So that’s the only Canadian one I see so far, but Mike, you got your wish.
Mike Davey: To be honest I’m actually looking up directions to Rochester, New York as we speak, cause that’s a lot closer. It’s in a completely different country, but it is much closer to where I live in Canada than Vancouver is.
Doc Pop: Well, on that note, I’m going to wrap up this episode and I do want to give both of y’all a chance to kind of shout out how people can follow you online. Mike, what’s a good spot for people to keep up with what you’re working on?
Doc Pop: Right on. Damon, what’s a good place for people to follow along with your projects.
Doc Pop: Well, thanks both of you for joining us today. And thanks to everyone who’s listened so far. I want to say our next episode is a really fun conversation with Roger Longhurst from Really Simple Plugins about Really Simple SSL, which is the ninth most popular plugin in the WordPress repository. So we talked to Roger about why WordPressers need to know about SSL and some of the other alternatives out there, even beyond Really Simple SSL for installing SSL.
And we just also talk about what it’s like having such a popular plugin and what his, what his time is like spent, like how bad are the tickets and stuff coming from there.
Doc Pop: 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.