In the forty-first episode of the WordPress Briefing, peek into the upcoming WordPress 6.1 release with our host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and the release’s Editor Triage Lead, Nick Diego.
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[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:00]
Hello everyone. And welcome to the WordPress Briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks.
I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:40]
And today I have with me Nick Diego. Welcome, Nick, to the WordPress Briefing.
[Nick Diego 00:00:44]
Thank you so much for having me.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:46]
Yeah. Before we get started, why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself, just kind of your history with WordPress and then what it is that you’ve been doing with the WordPress 6.1 release squad.
[Nick Diego 00:00:56]
Yeah, so I’m actually kind of new to working with WordPress full-time. Up until about June of last year, I was in the hospitality industry for a career of 10 years. But I always loved doing WordPress on the side. And after the long pandemic, I figured it was time to kind of pursue my passion and work with WordPress full-time.
And that ultimately led to my current role as a developer advocate at WPEngine, where I focus primarily on WordPress and contribution to Core itself. And then I guess it was maybe March or April this year when Anne McCarthy, who I’ve worked with a ton, she asked me if I’d be interested in helping out on 6.0 as an Editor Triage Lead which was an awesome experience.
And now I’m back for 6.1.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:01:37]
That’s excellent. I always like to hear about people who are coming to do repeat tours of duty.
[Nick Diego 00:01:43]
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:01:44]
I probably shouldn’t refer to working on WordPress releases as a tour of duty. However, I find that releases are so large and complex, and there are so many people in there now that working on them takes an entirely different skill set now than it used to take when WordPress was like 1% of the web.
And so I think it’s a really big task, and I think it’s great when people were, like, that was either so good that I would do it again, or I would like a second go because I could do it better. Whichever way brings people to it. So, yeah.
[Nick Diego 00:02:18]
No, I was just gonna say that’s a great point because the Editor Triage Lead, which is the role that I currently have, was a brand new role for 6.0. The project kind of got so big that it kind of made sense to have a triage lead focused specifically on Gutenberg. Gutenberg’s such a big part of WordPress now.
And so that’s where that role kind of came from, and now we’ve carried it over to 6.1. As the project grows, we need more people to come in and help make sure the release is as smooth as it can be.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:02:42]
Yes. Because of that promise of backward compatibility and all the things.
[Nick Diego 00:02:47]
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:02:48]
Cool. So, by the time this releases, if I recall correctly, we will have passed RC2, or RC2 is coming the next day or something like that. We’re right around the Release Candidate two. So you have been doing this for quite some time on this particular release. So far, what is the feature that you’re most excited about that’s going out in the 6.1 release?
[Nick Diego 00:03:09]
So, this is going to sound really boring, but it’s actually incredibly exciting. So, the most exciting quote-unquote feature that I’m excited about is the improved consistency and standardization of block controls that are coming in 6.1. So things like typography and color and borders and dimensions.
These are things and tools that we’ve had in a lot of core blocks, but it hasn’t been consistent throughout. And a ton of work has been done in 6.1 to establish that consistency. We’re not a hundred percent there, but typography, I think we’re at like 85% of all core blocks now support all the typography controls, and with each release as we head to 6.2, we’ll improve on that.
But it’s really great for theme builders, theme designers, and users to be able to control the look and feel blocks consistently throughout the editor.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:03:58]
I was gonna immediately answer you earlier with like, there are no boring answers, there are no boring improvements. And as you were explaining why it is that you kind of thought it might be considered boring, I think it’s fair to say that anytime that you’re increasing the consistency and you’re increasing the confidence between what you saw on the back end and what you actually shipped on the front end– anytime you’re doing that, I think that that is exciting in the prove the negative way.
If you think about the negative excitement that occurs when you have published something, and it looks one way in the back end, and then it looks totally different on the front end, and the panic you feel when you have to fix. Not having that is a really big step up, I think. And so anything that provides more consistency for people who are using WordPress, people who are building with WordPress, I always find exciting. But also, like, I’m an office person, and so I would find office things exciting, right?
[Nick Diego 00:04:53]
It creates a more delightful experience. I do a lot of work on the Training team, doing educational things, and we teach people how to change typography and change color. Once they learn how to do it in one block, if they can take that same skill set and apply it to any other block, it’s that light bulb moment. They understand they know how to manipulate and use WordPress to its fullest. So adding that consistency really helps to level up users.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:05:15]
Yeah, I’m gonna take us off track a little bit and just ask a general question here. Like, I remember the first time that I was working with what was a site, I guess, qualified for a site at the time. And I remember the first time that I discovered that I could change the look and feel with HTML and CSS, and I did that.
Also was like, well, I accept my fate. Whatever happens, if I kill everything I’ve ever written, that is just how it’ll be. Like the sheer terror of all of that is so different now. Do you recall that first moment where you’re like, Oh, I do have some power over this? I have some control over this, and whether you also found it scary.
[Nick Diego 00:05:52]
So I came to WordPress kinda as a hobby and website development kind of as a hobby. So I was kind of always in that tinkering phase, or I wasn’t building something for anyone else. I was in a safe place to destroy whatever I was working on with my tinkering. So I never really quite had that fear, but I can definitely see it from the perspective of building something for somebody else.
But you’re right, the editor and the controls that we have, and you know, now make it a lot easier to kind of manipulate and exert your creative desires in WordPress than it was before with CSS.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:06:23]
I love the phrase ‘I was safe to destroy things, ’ and if I can figure out a way to make it a tagline for something, I will.
[Nick Diego 00:06:30]
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:06:31]
Alright. So during your second time around here on the release squad with 6.1, what have been the bright spots of that experience, and have there been any unexpected challenges of being on the release squad?
[Nick Diego 00:06:44]
Again, I come to WordPress from, you know, from a different career. It’s kind of a passion of mine to be working with WordPress. So I kinda have a unique experience than maybe some others. And when I approach WordPress, there’s always that tendency to say, ‘why doesn’t it do this?’ Or ‘why don’t they do this?’ And I’ve always been the person…, well, it’s open source. We, we, we can, we can
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:07:05]
…can do it
[Nick Diego 00:07:05]
…we can do it. And so that’s kind of how I approach things. Now, of course, you know, I have the privilege of time to do that. Not everybody does, but one of the unexpected bright spots about working in a release squad is understanding how it all works.
How does WordPress actually get built? What is the process that it goes through? It was just eye-opening to me, and I really got a shout-out, Anne, for inviting me to be on 6.0. It brought me in. I learned so much about it, and now I’m just excited to keep working on these releases.
But a release is hard. You know, it’s a… WordPress is huge. There are a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of things going on. Right now, we’re trying to get everything ready for the first release candidate. So being on the release squad is not an easy job. But it’s exciting, it’s fun, and you really feel like you’re part of that ‘we’ really helping to build WordPress.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:07:53]
One of the things that I hope that people have learned from any time that they spent working with me is that like we understand here in the WordPress open source project, and I believe that all open source projects must understand this, but like every change that you make, if there are things that are dependent on it, which is gonna be true for most of us, we’ll have intended consequences and also unexpected consequences, and unintended, unexpected consequences.
And so I’ve always felt like the thing that really makes the biggest difference about how we do open source in WordPress is that, for the most part, we have a concept of where the most likely changes are going to happen across our entire ecosystem.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:08:40]
We have a better understanding, at least compared to when I got here, a better understanding of how interconnected it all is. And so you’ve got this change here, and it looks small, but it’s gonna have this positive or negative impact as you kind of work your way out from it. And so I think that that is an interesting thing, and certainly, you get a really clear concept of it in the release squad, I think.
[Nick Diego 00:09:02]
Oh, absolutely. If you were to build something like the block editor without caring at all about backward compatibility, you’d be done by now, right? I mean, so much of what we do is concerning ourselves with making sure that everybody who’s on a classic theme or hybrid theme or whatever it might be that they continue to use WordPress in a safe and stable way.
This is part of being such a large content management system.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:09:24]
So you already told us the feature that you’re most excited about, and so now I’m gonna ask you about what feature or what bug fix has the most notable improvements that are coming to 6.1. This is a little different as in, like, there’s the thing you’re excited about, which is an office thing, but like a thing that is maybe not new but has the biggest delta, the biggest change to anyone’s experience of it.
[Nick Diego 00:09:51]
Yeah, so obviously, in 5.9, we introduced full site editing, and 6.0 was a natural progression from that with more and more features. Now it’s safe to say that there’s only a small fraction of websites that are using the whole full site editing of or block themes, all that kind of stuff. One of the hangups about that was managing templates inside of the site editor.
You could add the files to your theme, which would then show up in the site editor. But there wasn’t a direct way to add more complicated templates within the site editor itself. That is changing in 6.1. So now you actually have the functionality to install something like 2023, which is the new core theme, and build out all these very complicated templates within the UI of the site editor that you could not have done before.
[Nick Diego 00:10:38]
I personally think that the biggest benefit of full site editing is really to empower no-code or low-code users. And the ability to add these templates directly in the UI really levels them up. Because now, you can do all that complicated stuff that you normally would need to be adding to theme files and jumping into the code. You can do that within the site editor now, which I think is fantastic.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:10:59]
That’s great. And just a general caveat, anytime that we talk about anything that’s very developer-y or very no code-y, I think it’s always worth mentioning, yes, a lot of what we’re trying to do with the block editor is to just kind of give some power back to folks who cannot find the time to become a developer or don’t have the inclination. They don’t want to do that.
But that does not mean that no code is ever involved in WordPress. It’s still a software. You can still do very complicated things with it. And if you are a developer, you should not think to yourself, ‘oh now that it’s being available to low code/no code users, that means you don’t want me.’
Like, that’s not at all what’s happening. You can do very complicated things still.
[Nick Diego 00:11:42]
A hundred percent. A hundred percent. Absolutely.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:11:45]
Alright, so that brings us to our final question here because we like to stay as true to the name as possible here on the WP Briefing. If someone were wanting to get involved with the next release, so WP 6.2, how would they do that?
[Nick Diego 00:12:01]
So, talk to Anne, and she’ll get you set up. No, I’m just kidding. So at the, after each release, there’s a posting that goes out that lists all the different release teams, and you can just put your name out there and ask to be, you know, for consideration to be part of the team.
However, I will say that the best thing you can do right now is help with 6.1. You don’t necessarily need to be a release lead to do that testing, helping with bug fixes. Reach out to me. Reach out to other release leads, and we’ll get you involved and engaged with the release. That will give you a really good framework to start working and become a release lead for 6.2.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:12:37]
Yeah. I think we talked maybe two or three episodes ago, or it could be more than that, I’ll never know, about the release squad, like the group that’s doing that. In the event you think to yourself, ‘there’s no way in a million years that I’m gonna just show up tomorrow and be part of the release squad,’ I heard what they said in the first question/answer moment– that’s fine, too.
As Nick mentioned, you can always get involved with testing, you can get involved with triage. Those are areas where any feedback at all is valuable because we can get better information about what worked and didn’t, what was expected versus what happened. And that type of information is where all of our co-creators of the WordPress software–really, we rely on what you all are pointing out to us.
If you’re not shining spotlights on the most painful parts of your experience, sometimes we don’t necessarily know that that’s a pain point for anyone.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:13:34]
And so yeah, that’s a great place to start. If you are more of a writer, technical or prose, there are different spaces you can go to, like keep our docs up to date or make sure that people know that changes are coming at all in WordPress because that’s a thing. If you are a backend developer, we have a million things you can do because that’s just all day, every day, for WordPress.
It’s just all the deep backend work. And so yeah.
[Nick Diego 00:13:58]
I did want to mention that, you know, being on the release team does not necessarily mean that you’re incredibly technical. We have a documentation lead, we have a design lead, you know, a communication lead. So there’s a lot of different roles in the team that, you know, across all disciplines.
So don’t think if you’re not a hardcore developer, that precludes you from being on the team.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:14:19]
Yeah, and if you’re really good with common sense and working fully remotely, you can be the release coordinator. I can tell you because I did that for 5.0. It was a big job. It was our, it was the first time we had a release squad as opposed to just like the release lead.
Because there was just so much that was going into that and so much riding on it. And like you said in some other answer that you gave like if you were to just be like, we’re shutting everything down and rewriting this in six months, and I hope you can come with us on it. Like a lot of open source projects do it that way.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:14:51]
And that is a choice, and we made the opposite choice. And so we’re bringing all of our co-conspirators with us, all of our co-creators of WordPress. That’s the hope all the time. Making sure that they have enough information, that they feel safe to destroy things, enough information, and skills about how to get out of it, that they always feel some high confidence in what they’re trying to do versus what they actually did do.
So, yeah, excellent. Nick, do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?
[Nick Diego 00:15:20]
Nope. I just hope everybody goes out and downloads 6.1 and enjoys it as much as I am.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:15:25]
Yeah, go check it out.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:15:28]
That brings us now to our small list of big things. And actually, it is a pretty big list today, but still pretty big things too. So first up, we have a call for testing that is out, and it is for our Android users.
There is a call for testing for WordPress for Android 20.9, and I feel like we don’t get a lot of calls for testing for Android devices. And so if you have been feeling left out or just like we don’t always have that kind of mobile testing available, this is the opportunity for you.
The next thing is that tomorrow, we have RC2, release candidate two for WordPress 6.1.
That’s coming out on October 18th. There will be a link in the show notes, but that means if you write a plugin or a theme or have anything that kind of extends the core of WordPress, now is the time to start testing anything that might be a bug or represent a breaking change and make sure that you file those bugs so that we can get things as settled and excellent as possible.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:16:40]
And speaking of Word points, uh, WordPress 6.1, not Word point, WordPress 6.1. I actually have three changes that I think are going to represent some pretty big changes for folks. I will have links to all of these in the show notes. If you don’t know where the show notes are, it’s on wordpress.org/news/podcast.
So the three things that I think are gonna be big, worthwhile things. The first one is multisite improvements, and the second one will be the style engine that’s block styles generation tool, which will ship in Core and I think is really important for y’all to take a look at. And then also there are some changes coming to the block editor preferences.
Like I said, links to all of those are going to be in the show notes, and so they should be pretty easy for you to find. But also, if you want to just get a general look at everything that’s coming in 6.1, we did a walkthrough that I will link to in the show notes as well, and you can get a full understanding of what is going to be coming early in November.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:17:45]
And that, my friends, is your small list –big list– of big things. Thanks for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.