Managing WordPress widgets the easier way with "Enable accessibility mode" feature

Today I learned that WordPress has a nice built-in Enable accessibility mode feature that allows users to manage widgets with more granular control. Most often when I am supporting users, they find it tough to move widgets around. Same applies to working with menu items. 

I would often redirect them to /wp-admin/widgets.php instead of using the live preview that the Customizer offers. 

Getting back to the topic, when you open that page, you should be able to notice a Enable accessibility mode option under the Screen options section. 

Once this is activated, refresh the widgets page and you should be able to notice a different interface. 

Widgets section of a WordPress site with Enable accessibility mode enabled

The existing widgets on the right should have Edit button, and new widgets on the left should have an Add button. When you click either of the two, the widget loads on a special page of its own. 🤯

Individual pages for the widgets!

What 11 hours layover in Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK – Bangkok) was like

On the 28th of November this year, I was returning back home from Vietnam.

I had multiple routes to pick from, but I had settled for the Chennai – Bangkok – Vietnam with Thai airways.

The last time I flew Thai to Japan, via Bangkok again, it was such a pleasant experience. Also, Thai was the only airlines with the least cost and decent baggage allowance this time.

The other airlines offered budget pricing, with very low baggage allowance that I wasn’t very comfortable with, especially as I was flying solo this time.

I landed in BKK at around 1130 and my second leg to Chennai was scheduled for 2225.

When I landed, I wasn’t quite sure how to kill time. But, it looked like an interesting challenge ahead.

For the first 2 hours, I spent walking around the arrival concourses, watching how the “visa on arrival” process was like, checking the arrival charts and the actual process around the exit regions.

There weren’t any restaurants around. I was quite puzzled as I had read online that BKK was vast with a lot of facilities.

I grabbed an airport information card, and that’s when I realised that there were two more levels above, with stores and departure concourses. 

Level 3 is dedicated to resting areas, lounges, restaurants. These are accessible after the security check for departure.

Another hour passed here.

Level 4 is where majority of the good stuff is. There are lots of duty-free shopping stores, local food restaurants, international chains like Burger King and Starbucks. But, mind it, the walk from one end to the other can take as much as 25-30 minutes. Starbucks is on one end, while Burger King is on the other. 

hungry burger GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

I spent most of my time visiting the stores on this level. An inconvenience was that, travellators are not available throughout this level. It’s available only at around the middle and the regions around the two ends were accessible only by walk.

I did come across few listings of hotels nearby, but I chose to skip. The stay would have cost $100 at the least. 

tom hanks no GIF

Public drinking water areas were placed only on level 3 and there is not one spot on level 4. 

I walked around 53K steps (thanks Fitbit!) during this time, and slept for an hour. I covered the full of level 2 twice. 😅

music video walking GIF by Daniela Sherer

Airport WiFi decent for browsing, but for some reasons, I was not able to get it working on my laptop. BKK also has mobile charging points at various locations, some having chairs nearby.

Fortunately, the time after 1700 moved fast and in some way, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and was able to kill the rest of the six hours. I was very tired, slept through the entire return journey and took a few hours off at work the next day though.

Anyway, I will not be choosing another long layover again. 3-4 at max sounds to be my choice. 🙂

You can help test the new WordPress Editor on WordPress.com!

WordPress block editor, codenamed Gutenberg, is launching soon for the general public. At the same time, Automattic’s developers are hard at work on launching the new WordPress Editor on WordPress.com’s Calypso. While the work is underway, it’s available for testing and we would love to hear your feedback!

  • Visit the new WordPress Editor on Calypso – create post or create page.Create a blog post, or page, with the available WordPress Editor blocks.Preview the post.Publish the post. Ensure the published view looks the same as how it did on the WordPress Editor.

Like how it’s coming along, or is something off? Share your comments on this post! You can check the Gutenberg website for an inspiration of what you can build with the new WordPress Editor, or check this third-party demo showing the possibilities of Gutenberg – it is a few months old and a lot of things could have changed in the meantime! The Gutenberg codebase lives here if you are interested to contribute.

WordPress.com now has a nice little feature to download all media library files

Ever wanted to download all the media library files from your WordPress.com site in one go?

This is now possible.

  • Open the settings section of your WordPress.com site.
  • Click on the Export button.
  • Use the shiny new Download button next to the Export media library section.

This should download all your media library files (images, videos, documents and other files supported by WordPress.com) in one go.

This was originally a Automattic Grand Meetup project by my colleagues, which James has written about here.

I have also contributed a teeny-tiny bit to this work, and I am so happy with my first decent PR on Calypso! 🙃

At this time, this feature works for all WordPress.com sites, expect for the ones that are on the WordPress.com Business plan and have at least one third-party theme/plugin installed on it. The feature might be available for these sites as well, soon.

Twenty Three

Yup, I am totally stealing Matt’s format for birthday blogs.

I cannot believe another year has passed by. The past year has had its share of ups and downs, and I am grateful for all the experiences over the months.

I secured my second job with Automattic, in April, and that’s probably the best part from the past year. I always hated co-working spaces. Working from home has changed a lot in my life, and has given me the opportunity to push myself to spend time more productively.

When I first joined Automattic, I had chosen to work from 10.30am IST to 6.30pm IST. And now, I work from 5.30am IST to 1.30pm IST. Yup, we pick our own working hours at Automattic.

Waking up early in the morning isn’t challenging for me, as I used to go to a school that starts at 7am.

I work alongside some of the best talents and everyday is a new learning experience for me – I am thankful for this opportunity. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.

I have made many friends as well, at work, and I cannot wait to see them IRL. Automattic’s Grand Meetup (time when all of the company comes together and meets over a week) is happening the next week in Orlando, Florida, but I will not be traveling as my visa was refused. It is disappointing, yes. But, hopefully my chances are better the next year!

I also cut down my social media usage heavily, and started being more vigilant about online privacy and security. I moved away from Gmail to ProtonMail, and from Twitter to Mastodon. There have been times in the past when I deactivated Facebook but I never was committed to it. This time though, it’s been over 3 months since I deactivated Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram, and I haven’t looked back.

Outside of the work and online life, I also spend more time with my parents as I live with them now.

I don’t remember myself watching TV a lot in my childhood, but things have taken a strange turn this year – I watched Brooklyn Nine Nine, Big Bang Theory, Atypical, Designated Survivor, Riverdale and pretty much other shows in between.

I also started learning new programming languages, learned how to use Git, Github and I am excited about Gutenberg’s launch.

Uber's example of proactive customer support

There are two kinds of customer support.

  • Reactive customer support
  • Proactive customer support

When you help an user fix their problem once they reach out on email, phone, SMS, or any other medium you offer support on, that’s reactive customer support.

On the other hand, when you identify product loopholes and reach out to the customer with a resolution before they notice it, that’s proactive customer support.

“We had wrongly charged Rs.28.35 in your previous trip because of satellite tolls, we have credited back Rs.28.35 to your charged card/account. If you have taken a cash trip please check for credits in your Uber app.”

Uber had sent that over email two days ago, and that’s a classic example of offering proactive customer support. 💯

This infographic by Freshdesk shows how the two stack up against each other.

This also reminds me of this webinar I attended a while ago, again by Freshdesk, with best practices on how to offer proactive customer support.

I am officially a WordPress contributor today? 😇

I have been involved in contributing to FOSS projects for a while now, mostly in the form of highlighting bugs and suggesting feature requests.
Things go one step further today. One of my issues was squashed today, and the entire world will be experiencing a better WordPress going forward. I guess I can call myself an official WordPress contributor now? 😇

I submitted this issue on Github a while ago, and it was fixed today on this PR.

On WP-CLI 2.0.0

This issue caused the WP-CLI app to throw a false positive result when the theme slug is entered in non-lowercase for activation. Let’s say you use a command like wp theme activate Dara.

You would be shown a Success: Switched to 'Dara' theme. notice.

Eventually, the output of wp theme list shows what’s seen below.

Output of theme list on WP-CLI 2.0.0
Output of theme list on WP-CLI 2.0.0 after activating “Dara” (vs “dara”)

Yes, in theory, this should not be the case.

When one uses the theme slug in capitalized format, one should be shown an error that the theme slug entered is wrong.

All theme slugs are to be entered in lowercase.

Enter WP-CLI 2.0.1

When you use wp theme activate Dara now, you will be shown a Error: The 'Dara' theme could not be found. notice.

This is an indication that theme slugs are to be entered in lowercase, and any other case format will be a false.

I was also featured on this release note and I am super thrilled! 🕺

Making Mastodon my new home

I have a vague memory of coming across the name Mastodon in the past, but I never cared about it until I read this post by my colleague at Automattic.

For those who are not aware of what Mastodon is, it’s a social networking software that anyone can download and install – thus creating a Mastodon instance.

Unlike social networking services like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, Mastodon is different in who owns your content that you publish.

Understanding Mastodon instances

When you create an account and tweet on Twitter, your tweets are basically stored on Twitter’s service who can decide to purge your data anytime, if it’s against their terms of usage.

Mastodon, on the other hand, will be a Twitter-like service that is installed by you on your own servers. Such a setup is called a Mastodon instance.

If you are not tech savvy, you can always join other popular Mastodon instances like mastodon.social and mastodon.cloud that accept registrations. mastodon.social is the flagship Mastodon instance that was created by the Mastodon developer, Eugen Rochko – Github and Mastodon profile.

mastodon.social is crowded and registrations are closed at the moment. mastodon.cloud is the next close Mastodon instance recommended by the admins of mastodon.social, but depending on your interests, you can always choose any instance/server of your choice here.

Federated network

Given that you are signing up on a specific Mastodon instance/server, you might wonder if your communication is limited to that network.

No.

That’s where Mastodon excels. It’s a federated system that enables members of one instance/server to communicate seamlessly with other members of other instances/servers.

I am @arunsathiya@mastodon.social and this does not mean that my toots (status updates/tweets) are limited to that Mastodon server. Any user from another Mastodon server can follow me and engage with my toots.

Given the nature of this federated communication, Mastodon is highly resistant to governmental interference.

The admins of a specific Mastodon community/server/instance are who govern that community.

If a community ever decides to shut down, or is forced to shut down by authorities, you can always move to another community and continue being a part of Mastodon.

Similarly, if you ever find yourself not comfortable with being an user on a specific community, you can always setup your own Mastodon community on a server of your choice.

Another choice is to allow services like masto.host to setup a Mastodon server for you.

When you choose to own your own server, you are in control of your community – you can disable registrations if you prefer so, limit your Mastodon community to your family/friends and do much more with available administrative features on the Mastodon software.

Impersonation?

You might wonder if you sign up with your name on a specific Mastodon community like mastodon.social, what happens to the same username on other Mastodon communities?

Example: Let’s say you are ben@mastodon.social, but it does not mean that you are ben@mastodon.cloud as well, unless you sign up and secure the same username on that Mastodon community.

You might wonder if this would cause impersonators to rise, but this is pretty much not a Mastodon issue, but an issue in any federated systems.

This applies to emails and domains. There is no way you can prevent this, but to sign up on all Mastodon instances with your preferred username on each. This kind of beats the purpose of a federated system though.
It’s up to users to verify the authenticity of the person they are communicating with.

How do I access Mastodon?

Mastodon communities are web apps that you can access on any web browsers. A few networks that I have signed up for:

I can sign in into each of these Mastodon communities on Android, iOS and Mac OS using available apps. I have tested a few Android apps so far, including Tusky, Mastalab and Twidere. Of the lot, Tusky is my favorite ATM.

On the Mac OS front, Whalebird is really good.

Extending Mastodon

Mastodon is not limited to tooting with other users, but there are specific use-cases that are cropping up already and seem impressive. Two such cases:

Mirrored.Social is an instance that will #mirror some popular accounts from other social networks. If you wish to stay updated on MKBHD’s updates from Twitter, on Mastodon, there’s a bot that does just that.

Likewise, hntooter is a Mastodon bot that auto-toots front page news from Hacker News.

What you do with Mastodon and what you build on Mastodon network is limited by your creativity.

Limitations?

There are a few limitations at the moment.

For example, if you choose to sign up on a specific Mastodon community, but soon realize that this community’s rules do not resonate with your thoughts, you might want to move out to another community.

In such a case, there is no way to move your toots (content) to the new Mastodon instance. There is a open Github issue requesting this feature right here. Similarly, Mastodon does not integrate well with other software like WordPress at the moment. There is a open Jetpack request here to integrate Mastodon as a Publicize service.

I also haven’t got the hang of how Mastodon’s content visibility works. I should probably setup a Mastodon community of my own to understand how it works better.

Resonates with WordPress and other FOSS

I recently quit Twitter, Facebook, Google and the likes for available FOSS alternatives. It’s been two to three months since I quit these networks, and I don’t have any regrets. I am particularly glad that I am being more responsible about my content, my work and my personal information.

Mastodon seems to resonate a lot with WordPress as well. WordPress as a free open-source software (FOSS) can be downloaded, installed and extended by anyone. Mastodon feels similar with a difference in how federated communication comes baked in.

I came across a few other media publications and resources about Mastodon as well, which are definitely good reads:

If you do sign up on mastodon.social as well, do holler! I am @arunsathiya@mastodon.social.

Updates

August 27, 2018, 2045 IST: As David mentioned on the toot below, not everyone sees the same timeline as others – even when you compare users in the same instance.

https://divad.xyz/@zyx/100586720631616585

This is because of the privacy settings set on toots. In his words,

Due to each user’s privacy settings on a toot, who each of us are federated with, who is blocked, whis suspended server-side.