(When) Should you update to WordPress 5.0?

Concerning the very short-notice release-announcement of WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg for Dec 6th: I’m with Yoast;He has a great “should I update”-checklist and conclusion in this blogpost;

  • Is now the right time to update?
  • Can your site work with Gutenberg?
  • Do you need it?

So our advice boils down to: if you can wait, wait. 

So if you have a busy end-of-year, if you’re not 100% sure your site will work with Gutenburg or if you don’t really need Gutenberg in the first place; wait (while WordPress 5.0 stabilizes with some minor releases).

Nokia and me, reunited at last

Me and Nokia, we go a long way back; my first mobile phone was a trusty Nokia 3210 and it’s unique gaming proposition Snake.
I switched it for a Nokia 7710 because I was thrilled to be able to go on the Internet. The CSD data transport protocol, WAP and WML were very limited however and the phone crashed regularly (apparently it was the first Nokia with the Series 40 OS and it showed) so that didn’t last too long really.
A couple of years of infidelity later, while half the world went crazy about those iPhone’s and the other half was busy looking very business-like on their Blackberrys, I returned to Nokia for the Symbian-powered Nokia e61i, which I absolutely loved not in the least because of the hardware keyboard (a feature I missed on smartphones years after I bailed on my e61i).
And now I, the prodigal son, after a long string of good, bad and broken smartphones, have finally returned home, buying a 2018 Nokia 6.1 with 64GB internal memory (and 4GB or RAM) for under €300. Great build-quality with a aluminum unibody shell, 5.5 inch screen, fast charging, fingerprint, Zeiss lens … And it is running bloat-less stock Android 8.1 and given the Android One stamp it will receive continuous security updates and 2 years of OS upgrades. After 2 weeks of usage I can say this is the best smartphone I have owned to date! It sure feels good to have come back home 😉

bol.com: please don’t share my data with Facebook

NoScript remains one of my favorite browser addons (or plugins or whatever they’re called these days). Look what it just proposed to block while browsing bol.com (one of the big online retailers in BE and NL);

So when does GDPR go in effect exactly and will I be able to opt-out of data-sharing from that moment onwards?

No REST for the wicked

After the PR-beating WordPress took with the massive defacements of non-upgraded WordPress installations, it is time to revisit the point-of-view of the core-team that the REST API should be active for all and that no option should be provided to disable it (as per the decisions not options philosophy). I for one installed the “Disable REST API” plugin.

Lykke Li - No Rest For The Wicked

Autoptimize cache size: the canary in the coal mine

another-canary-in-a-coal-mineCopy/ pasted straight from a support question on wordpress.org;

Auto-deleting the cache would only solve one problem you’re having (disk space), but there are 2 other problems -which I consider more important- that auto-cleaning can never solve:
1. you will be generating new autoptimized JS very regularly, which slows your site down for users who happen to be the unlucky ones requesting that page
2. a visitor going from page X to page Y will very likely have to request a different autoptimized JS file for page Y instead of using the one from page X from cache, again slowing your site down
So I actually consider the cache-size warning like a canary in the coal mines; if the canary dies, you know there’s a bigger problem.
You don’t (or shouldn’t) really want me to take away the canary! 🙂

The optimism of a pull request

I was getting old yesterday,with pessimism taking over. But then there’s that Git pull request on your open source project, from an Argentinian developer you don’t know at all. And you discuss the idea and together you build on it, step by step and the merged result is an enrichment not only for your little software-project, but also for you personally. Because it reminds you that too is the web; a place where people collaborate for nothing but the selfless desire to improve things. Thanks for reminding me Pablo!

The end of web utopia?

Gerry Mc Govern about the echo-chambers of the web and our diminishing attention-span;

They call it the World Wide Web. It may be worldwide in its physical reach, but is it leading to a worldwide culture, or a sense that we are citizens of the world? […] in many countries today […], we see the emergence of a new hyper-tribalism led by populist, strongman, authoritarian figures. It’s like we’re going back to the Nineteenth Century rather than advancing forward into the 21st. […] There are indications that the Web is a web of the like-minded. A Web where we search for what we’re interested in and ignore the rest. […] For a great many, the Web does not expand horizons, or change minds or attitudes. Instead, it reinforces existing attitudes and intentions.

This is a sad realization for those of us whom Stephen Fry described as “early netizens”;

I and millions of other early ‘netizens’ as we embarrassingly called ourselves, joined an online world that seemed to offer an alternative human space, to welcome in a friendly way (the word netiquette was used) all kinds of people with all kinds of views. We were outside the world of power and control. […] So we felt like an alternative culture; we were outsiders.

Pessimism is taking over, I must be getting old.

Is the web doomed?

Off course the web is not doomed, but despite the fact that web performance is immensely important (think impact on mobile experience, think impact on search engine ranking, think impact on conversion) the web keeps getting fatter, as witnessed by this graph from mobiforge;
Yup; your average web page now has the same size as the Doom installer. From the original mobiforge article;

Recall that Doom is a multi-level first person shooter that ships with an advanced 3D rendering engine and multiple levels, each comprised of maps, sprites and sound effects. By comparison, 2016’s web struggles to deliver a page of web content in the same size. If that doesn’t give you pause you’re missing something.

There’s some interesting follow-up remarks & hopeful conclusions in the original article, but still, over 2 Megabyte for a web page? Seriously? Think about what that does that do to your bounce-rate, esp. knowing that Google Analytics systematically underestimates bounce rate on slow pages because people leave before even being seen by your favorite webstats solution?
So, you might want to reconsider if you really should:

  • push high resolution images to all visitors because your CMO says so (“this hero image does not look nice on my iPad”)
  • push custom webfonts just because corporate communications say so (“our corporate identity requires the use of these fonts”)
  • use angular.js (or react.js or any other JS client-side framework for that matter) because the CTO says so (“We need MVC and the modularity and testibility are great for developers”)

Because on the web faster is always better and being slower will always cost you in the end, even if you might not (want to) know.

Why would you still be on PHP 5.2?

For Autoptimize 2.0.1 I declared a pretty complex regex to extract font-face’s from CSS using the nowdoc-syntax which is supported from PHP 5.3 onwards. Taking into account that the first PHP 5.2 release was over 9 years ago and support ended with the release of 5.2.17, over 5 years ago I assumed using a nowdoc would not be a problem for anyone. How naive I was; several people contacted me with this ugly error-message PHP 5.2 throws;

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_SL in /wp-content/plugins/autoptimize/classes/autoptimizeStyles.php on line 396

There is a workaround and even a more fundamental fix for that already, but who would still want to run PHP 5.2, which has this huge list of security issues? Moreover PHP 5.5 and 5.6 seem approximately twice as fast as 5.2 according to these test results and PHP 7.0 is even over three times as fast as 5.2! And still almost 9% of all WordPress sites are running on that old version (so I could have known this was coming really, bugger).
I you are one of those, do urge your hosting company to urgently provide you with an upgrade path to PHP 5.6 (or even 7.0)!