Responsible Participation In Online Communities

In our first article in this series, we highlighted the WordPress mission to democratize publishing. WordPress introduced a tool to independent and small publishers who did not have the resources of the larger publishing platforms. Access to a free content management system to create websites has empowered thousands of people to find their voice online. People have been able to share their enthusiasm for hobbies, causes, products and much more. Through these different voices, we can encourage understanding, spark creativity, and create environments where collaboration can happen. But as we build more digital communities, it’s easy to forget that online safety is a group effort.

Digital literacy is also part of being a good digital citizen, but it’s more than just being able to do basic actions with your mobile device. Digital literacy refers to the range of skills needed to do online research, set up web accounts, and find solutions for fixing devices among other things. But to be able to enjoy more of the digital world safely and responsibly – to be a good digital citizen – we need to be able to: 

  • navigate vast amounts of information without getting overwhelmed;
  • evaluate a variety of perspectives;
  • connect with people with respect and empathy;
  • create, curate and share information.

We will need our offline analytical and social skills to make that happen. 

Here’s some best practices our community members have shared!

Online or offline, let empathy be your compass

The hardest part about all of this is the anonymity of online interactions. Without that face-to-face feedback of saying something mean to another person’s face, it’s easy to upset the people you’re trying to communicate with.

In our daily lives in the offline world, comments may be more tempered and slow to anger  in disagreements. Visual cues will help us determine how a remark is perceived. That, in turn, helps us adjust our behaviour Action, reaction, it’s how we learn best.

Online, however, the experience is different. A keyboard does not protest if we type angry, hate-filled messages. A screen does not show any signs of being hurt. The lack of physical human presence combined with the anonymity of online alter-egos can be a formula for disrespectful and unfriendly behavior. It is good to remind ourselves that behind the avatars, nicknames and handles are real people. The same empathy we display in our in-person interactions should apply online as well.

Critically evaluate your sources 

We all have times when we consume information with limited research and fact-checking. For some of us, it feels like there’s no time to research and compare sources when faced by a sea of online information. For others, there may be uncertainty about where to start and what to consider. But, without a bit of skepticism and analytical thinking, we run the risk of creating narrow or incorrect understanding of the world. With a little effort we can curb the sharing of fake news and biased information, particularly on topics that are new to us or that we’re not familiar with.

Misinformation can spread like wildfire. Ask these simple questions to evaluate information online: 

  • who is the source of the information?
  • is it plausible?
  • is the information fact or just an opinion?

Own our content

In this day and age, it’s never been easier to just copy, paste and publish somebody else’s content. That doesn’t mean that we should! Publishing content that is not truly ‘yours’ in wording and tone of voice is unlikely to build a connection with the right audience. But, just as important, using someone else’s content may breach copyright and potentially intellectual property rights. 

For more information about intellectual property, visit the World Intellectual Property Organization website.

Don’t breeze past terms and conditions

Have you ever signed up for an online service (to help you distribute published content or accept payments) that was offered at no cost? In our fast-paced digital lives, we tend to want to breeze past terms and conditions or warning information and often miss important information about what will happen with our data. 

When we are given a contract on paper, we tend to read and re-read it, giving it a greater priority of our time. We may send it to other people for a second opinion or seek further review before signing. Remarkably, we rarely do that with online agreements. As a result, we may be putting our online privacy and security at risk. (WordPress uses a GPL license, and only collects usage data that we never share ever.).

Keep your website safe and healthy

If you would like to own your voice online, you also need to protect your reputation by securing your publishing platform. Websites can face security attacks. Hackers may seek to obtain access through insecure settings, outdated plugins and old software versions, and in extreme cases can try to scam your visitors. And leaking customer data, may even lead to legal consequences.

On top of that, websites ‘flagged’ for security issues, can lead to high bounce rates and eventual loss of search rankings. This can all affect how search engines rate or even block your site. 

Good practices to keep your website safe include changing your safe password regularly, installing security software, an SSL certificate and keeping the core software, plugins and themes up to date. This will not guarantee that you will keep hackers out, so always keep several backups of your site, ideally both offline and online.

That is just website security in a tiny nutshell. If you would like to learn more about keeping websites safe, you may want to check out some of these resources and many more videos at WordPress.tv.

Join in and help make the web a better place!

As part of Digital Citizenship Week, we would like to encourage you to learn and share skills with your colleagues, friends and family members. That way, we all become more informed of potential issues and how to reduce the risks. Together we can make it easier to navigate the web more effectively and securely!

Additional resources

Site health check

WordPress 5.2 introduced pages in the admin interface to help users run health checks on their sites. They can be found under the Tools menu.

Security and SSL 

Contributors

@chanthaboune, @yvettesonneveld, @webcommsat, @muzhdekad @alexdenning@natashadrewnicki, @oglekler, and Daria Gogoleva.


Why there’s only one model: the open source model

WordPress was built by the community. In just a few incredibly productive years, it grew to become the most popular CMS in the world, and all of us in the WordPress Community played a role in the evolution and development of WordPress. Together, we made it into the popular powerhouse it is today. If there was one thing that made it possible, it was the open source philosophy. Just like WordPress, Yoast was born from an open source world. In this interview, Joost de Valk shares his views on a topic dear to his heart.

Joost began his journey into the open source world many moons ago. As a contributor to the WebKit project, which built a layout engine for web browsers, he saw how a group of like-minded people could go up against mainstream, rich companies. WebKit’s small team made waves with their product. Different browsers adopted it and it helped them to hold their own against the incredible power of Internet Explorer. Joost says: “We were unbelievably efficient. I discovered very early on that it was better to build something together than on your own.” 

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

A passion for open source

Talk to Joost about open source and his eyes light up. Open source formed him – it shaped his thoughts and visions. Even now, as CEO of a successful company, he’d still choose open source as the business model every time. Joost: “If I had to start over, I’d do a million things differently. But I would choose open source again in a heartbeat. I actually do think it’s better to create together. Take those design agencies that develop bespoke CMS’s. Why? It’s nonsense. It leads to vendor lock-in and that is horrible. There’s only one model: the open source model.”

‘‘If I had to start over, I would choose open source again in a heartbeat ’’

Running a business with an open source mindset is better than keeping everything behind closed doors. Joost: “Why should a school build their own site when there are hundreds of schools with the same requirements and questions? Join hands to make it manageable and cheaper. Just think how much the government could save if they used open source everywhere.”

“To me,” says Joost, “open source is a combination of community, not just friends, and a shared responsibility to find solutions to problems together. Take WordPress for example, collectively we are fixing the problem of publishing to the web. Other projects tackle different problems in the same way, together. This is how society should function; when we set our minds to it, we can achieve anything if we combine our efforts.”

David vs. Goliath

Joost sees open source as a David vs. Goliath struggle: “It’s money versus community. A lot of money versus no money. As a community-driven CMS, WordPress continuously has to figure out how to go up against large-scale commercial efforts. But, in spite of all that money, WordPress continues to grow like wildfire. We’ve reached critical mass and it will only go up from here.”

While WordPress grows, its community continues to expand. According to Joost, the community is diversifying at a rapid rate: “It’s not just developers anymore – the project attracts a wide range of people, from designers to writers. People are willing to invest loads of time into it. Just look at all those WordCamps around the world; all of them are organized by people from all walks of life.”

Open source politics

In theory, open source may sound like the perfect way to get something done, but oftentimes, good-old politics can cause everything to grind to a halt. “The political games are no fun,” Joost says. “It’s a community and therefore pretty diffuse. It takes time to reach a consensus. It’s hard to navigate the waters when there’s no one actually in charge. You have to figure out where decisions are being made and try to be there to influence them. That’s when you find out that not having anyone in charge can make it harder.”

‘‘It takes a lot of time and effort to develop a tool like Yoast SEO’’

Yoast now and in the future

Yoast as a company was built on open source and this philosophy continues to play a big part in its future plans. The Yoast SEO plugin is now spreading its wings, moving to other open source platforms like Drupal, TYPO3 and Magento. But Yoast has to sell something to make money, so in our case it’s a Premium version and other products, like services and education – aspects Joost wants to expand: “In the future, I’d love to be able to give away my plugins for free and generate enough income from our services and education platform. But, that moment is not yet in sight.”

Making money on open source seems strange and contradictory to the openness of open source. Yet, to pay nothing towards the development of products you use every day feels wrong as well. Joost: “It’s almost as if people think it’s rather easy to develop something for WordPress and that it doesn’t cost anything. That’s not true of course. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop a tool like Yoast SEO. Think about it, the readability analysis in Yoast SEO took about six man-years to develop. We could have put it in the Premium version, but we thought about the impact it would have if we gave it away for free. So we did. Come to think of it, I’ve never thought about taking something out of the free version of Yoast SEO to make people pay for it.”

Read more: ‘Yoast WordPress core contributions ’ »

Contributing to WordPress as a designer

A few weeks ago, I went to my first proper WordCamp, in London. I went as a designer, and I wasn’t expecting to learn very much, but spoiler warning: I was wrong. In this post, I will explain why going to a WordCamp is worthwhile as a designer, why WordPress needs more designers, and how designers reading this can start applying their skills to the WordPress design right now.

Wordcamps are not just for programmers and bloggers

You may have noticed I said ‘proper WordCamp’ in the opening, because technically my first one was WordCamp NL last year, but I’m not counting that one since I only went because Yoast had a booth there. And back in 2016, I didn’t think I had much business being at a WordCamp neither. Not because I thought I knew everything, but precisely the opposite; I hardly used WordPress. I wasn’t writing content, I just used it to upload comics I had drawn. Terms like conversion rate and cornerstone content didn’t mean much to me. It all seemed very technical. And especially the thought of contributing to the core of WordPress seemed very daunting (even writing my own theme took me ages). But WCLDN17 proved that I was wrong about all these things. 

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

There has never been a better time for design to shine

Almost a year after WCNL16, I became the UX designer at Yoast. I still didn’t know all the intricacies of WordPress, but I was using it a lot more, making sure our stuff integrated well and looked good. So maybe I could get some value out of a WordCamp this time around? I wasn’t sure yet. But off I went to WCLDN17.

Looking at the schedule, there were a lot more talks about design and UX than I had expected; Crispin Read talked about the value of testing and hard data over opinions; Sarah Semark talked about how modern web design all looks the same (and why); Graham Armfield talked about how some simple design measures can make sure your site is accessible to almost everyone; and Dave Walker‘s talk was especially interesting to me, because he’s also an illustrator using WordPress. It was clear that design was coming to the forefront, and rightly so.

This was all good info for me to apply at Yoast, but that I could be of value to WordPress was an unexpected discovery during Contributor Day.

WordPress needs designers too

Contributor Day is meant to focus the attention of everyone at a Wordcamp towards improving WordPress in some way. Naturally, I sat down at the Design table, and there I met Tammie Lister. She is a UX designer at Automattic – that’s the company behind WordPress.com, Akismet, Gravatar, WooCommerce, and Simplenote (which I drafted this in!). She was easy to talk to, and very enthusiastic about design. But more importantly, she had prepared a few simple tasks for us to tackle that day. It made my entrance into the whole WordPress ecosystem pretty smooth.

My chosen task was to make a mockup for the mobile image editor; Something had gone really wrong in there, lots of overlapping panels and redundant buttons. By simply designing a fix in Photoshop, I helped move this problem closer towards being solved.

In doing so, I started to understand why Tammie kept wishing that more designers would start to look at WordPress itself. There are many design issues like this hanging around, waiting for a designer to solve them. Doing so may not seem like a big contribution, but WordPress is used by nearly 80 million sites – that’s almost 30% of the web. So whatever you end up doing, it’s guaranteed that at least a few people are going to be happy with it.

And I can understand why designers maybe don’t flock to this calling. Getting started can seem daunting – I was a prime example of this mindset. If that’s you too, then read on, I’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started.

Ways a designer can start improving WordPress

If you use WordPress and like designing interfaces, these are some quick ways to combine those two passions:

1. Go to a Contributor Day.

This may seem like a big first step, but I promise you it’s not. You’ll get set up way faster than you would at home by yourself, there are tons of people who can help, and everyone is super nice. I would have never known where to begin if it wasn’t for Tammy’s guidance. There are tons of WordCamps all around the world, so guaranteed that there is one near you and within your budget. If not, perhaps you’re lucky like me and your company works with WordPress, get them to send you out to one!

2. Join the design channel in the WordPress Slack.

I could tell you to go to make.wordpress.org/design, but to be honest that site could use a UX update itself. No, I feel like it’s better just to get in touch with the people on the frontlines of WordPress design on Slack. Slack is a chat app, and you can join the WordPress team on there by going to this page. And when you’re in, simply introduce yourself in the design channel and ask how you can help, and somebody will get you started.

3. If you’re not a designer…

…show a passionate designer some of the issues on this list. Hopefully, there’s a good chance they’ll get triggered to fix these little design problems. Sometimes even just posting feedback is enough to get the ball rolling again. Together with this article, I’m sure they can take it from there.

Bonus: Submit design tickets

If your own projects are keeping you busy enough (and I can relate), here’s a really simple way you can still help out: for every weird design issue you encounter, just make a ticket on the site I linked above. Leave the work to others, but at least let them know what they should fix. You’re helping them out, and when they fix it they’re helping you out. Everybody’s happy.

So if all this has motivated you to contribute your design expertise to WordPress: great! I hope to see you at a WordCamp or on Slack someday. Together, we can make WordPress even better, for everyone.

Photo by the talented Pradeep Singh.

Read more: ‘WordPress Core Contributions’ »

Documenting JavaScript in WordPress

Ever since the release of the 3.0 version of the Yoast SEO plugin, JavaScript has been a big part of it. We rely on it to make high-end features possible, like real-time content analysis. The decision to use JavaScript meant that the development team had to make a lot of choices about technologies and tools. So, we had to get a firm grasp of the use of JavaScript in WordPress.

While working on Yoast SEO 3.0, we discovered that few WordPress contributors have extensive JavaScript knowledge. At the contributors day of WordCamp Europe 2016, we saw an opportunity to help WordPress advance the future of the internet. By documenting the JavaScript in WordPress, we can make it easier for everyone to build on and enhance the code.

We believe that JavaScript is here to stay. It is a great language that helps to enrich the user experience people enjoy so much on the web. But to work towards a better JavaScript implementation and understanding of WordPress core, we had to find out what goes on!

That means documenting all the places where decisions were made, magical things happen or where complicated situations are handled. This documentation is a requirement to maintain all the functionality. It’s also crucial to prevent misunderstandings that will lead to bugs or other problems. These insights resulted in our dedication to documenting all the existing JavaScript files used in WordPress.

How we started

The first thing we did was to reserve a slot in the development calendar. Every Thursday we have two hours to work on the documentation process. This means that all developers in the office are going to work on WordPress core activities for that period of time. At the moment the primary focus is JavaScript documentation so everybody will put their time into this particular task. In the future, we might be working on other parts of the core.

To get things going, we started off with a briefing about the intentions and goals. After this meeting, we developed a practical approach. This approach consists of guidelines and tools to ensure a uniform result. Every result must follow all standards. We use these to make sure everyone works in the same way.

Tools: JSDoc

Since we’re writing JavaScript documentation, it was only logical to use JSDoc to generate a view of the state of the documentation. The WordPress standards dictate which specific tags you should use in the documentation. It’s mainly used to validate that everything is visible at the intended location.

WordPress: Coding Standards

WordPress has a precise definition on the formatting of code. This ensures that the entire code-base has the same look and feel. It helps developers in providing a unified experience throughout the platform. You all know these definitions as Coding Standards. WordPress implements separate standards for PHP and JavaScript.

There is also a precise definition on how you should format your JavaScript documentation. It is possible to use a tool to generate documentation. If you do, you can use special keywords to provide extra information about the code that is being documented.

Prioritizing files

To start, we’ve created a list of all the JavaScript files provided in a WordPress installation. From that list, we determined what files are the most complex and which ones are in the most critical places. This way, we developed a priority list.

Weekly dedication and future

Every week, all our developers have two hours to pair up and write documentation for a specific file. All patches are code reviewed internally at Yoast before we submit them to core in our attempt to make the review and merge as easy as possible. Currently, we submitted a total of five patches to the WordPress core repository. Three of them are already merged for the upcoming release 4.7.

We received very enthusiastic feedback on the patches submitted. Besides that, we had a good time (with some frustrations) figuring out what was going on. Do you want to follow our lead and get to know WordPress core better? If so, find code that doesn’t have documentation, determine what it does, write the documentation and create a patch. It is one of the most gratifying things to do and makes core documentation maintainers jump with joy!

To be continued…

We will continue to document the files until we finished them all. After that, we will evaluate how and where we’ll put our team to work. We could work on improving existing functionality, architecture and efficiency, but could also develop new features and bootstrapping core for the future.

Do you want to help? Or do you need to document your own JavaScript for a patch in WordPress core? Then you should learn all about the WordPress JavaScript documentation standard.

The merged tickets at WordPress trac:
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37717
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37718
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/38118
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37365
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37571