WordPress.com to WooCommerce

April 2, 2019 marks one year since I started “officially” at Automattic. The past twelve months have been a terrific journey — speaking with thousands of WordPress.com users, seeing their challenges firsthand and working with developers on priotizing issues.

I can confidently say I love what I am doing here, but I figured I needed to experience other parts of support at Automattic as well.

Automattic has this process called rotations — wherein, you can jump to another team doing similar work with a different product. I will be doing just that in Q2 of 2019; I am moving from WordPress.com support to WooCommerce support for three months.

Rotations are not limited to Happiness (support) division, but there are rotations within product teams as well.

There’s also another process called support rotations, wherein new hires would start their first two-weeks in Happiness division. It does not matter where one’s core work lies; whether one is a designer, developer, working in finance, or working in any role, one would be spending the first two-weeks answering customer queries on email and live chat.

I have experience in working with WordPress sites (both WordPress.org and WordPress.com) but I cannot say the same about WooCommerce.

I have known WooCommerce as a plugin to build e-commerce stores at the outset, but it does have a massive potential to do things beyond simple stores. I am looking forward to learning more of WooCommerce extensions, WooCommerce apps, and bring back these lessons to my home team.

When a team collaboration software went backwards with an update

I use Slack at work. It’s fantastic, enables easy, fast communication with peers and offers excellent automation integrations. Before Automattic, I did not use Slack.

One of the best things about Slack is its extensive keyboard shortcuts and markdown integration. The following are a few which I use often:

  • Command + Shift + M to open the Activity section.
  • Alt + arrow-up for moving to the previous Slack channel/DM.
  • Alt + arrow-down for moving to the next Slack channel/DM.

At least, these are a few that I use often but the tool offers a lot more which you can check here.

Having said these, I also am very cautious about how I manage notifications on Slack, how and when I set my statuses — when I am away from the desk, or I am not at work for a few days, that’s something I clearly indicate on the status.

I use the /status update command to set an update.

But, a few months ago, Slack made a change that I am very disappointed with.

They updated the status’ functionality to show it only until the end of the day, and at the 0001 UTC mark, the status disappears.

I live in UTC+0530, which means, I am sleeping when Slack removes that status notice. When I am back at work the next morning, I notice that the status has disappeared, and has been so for a few hours!

This was not the case earlier.

This is plain going backwards.

As a responsible user, I reached out to their customer support team, to share my thoughts on this update. As a tip, they highlighted that I can click on the status dropdown to set a duration for that status, or that I can make use of Command + Shift + Y to set the status.

The problem with the two approaches above is that, it requires mouse input at the least, to click on the duration dropdown.

As a keyboard-heavy user, my preference is to make use of its robust /command feature to do all things.

It’s been a few months since I suggested they set Forever as the status duration by default, or that they allow users to choose a default status expiry, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

For now, I am considering writing a Slack bot that automatically sets the previous day’s status at the 0001 hours mark, but I haven’t checked their API so far.

Update: I created a one-page app and put it on GitLab CI to clear Slack status expiration at 2300 or 2330 every day. I have published a post on it here.

My favourite Android apps roundup: 2018

I thought it would be a nice idea to share a list of my favourite apps that I have either found in 2018, or continued to use through 2018 as a blog post. Here goes.

Telegram

Telegram continues to be my most favourite medium for communication. It’s easy to use, available on multiple platforms, offers the flexibility of sharing files and offers e2e encrypted communication between devices the chat’s launched from.

Also I saw many friends move from WhatsApp to Telegram in 2018, and I am very happy about it.

Keybase

Keybase is probably my top choice for sharing secure information. Unlike Telegram, it offers the flexibility of enjoying e2e encrypted communication between all the devices the user has. To be more clear, while e2e chats on Telegram are available only on the device the chat’s launched from, with Keybase one can enjoy e2e chats on all devices, with realtime synchronisation.

ProtonMail

My privacy-focussed choice for apps continues! I also moved from Gmail to ProtonMail in 2018, and I am very happy about it. I have written about the move here that you should read.

Tusky

I also signed up for Mastodon, on mastodon.social, as an alternative to Twitter and other social networking accounts. While there is no official client for Mastodon on Android, Tusky is fantastic. It offers the ability to use multiple Mastodon accounts at the same time, lists, blocking, muting and supports saving of drafts as well!

There are a few other Mastodon apps for Android as well, with Mastalab being another popular one, but I haven’t had a reason to move away from Tusky yet.

NordVPN

I also came across NordVPN’s $99/3 years deal, thanks to a colleague, and I signed up right away! It’s a nice little VPN app that allows usage on upto 6 devices – works well for my family!

SmugMug

While I gave up on Gmail for ProtonMail, I also gave up on Google Photos for SmugMug. SmugMug on Android feels snappy and I am happy with their lowest paid plan, which offers unlimited storage as well!

Signal

It looks like I haven’t mentioned Signal yet. Not much to differentiate between Signal and Keybase, but it’s another encrypted chat system that works good for family needs. I have been reading a lot on Signal vs Keybase, and while it looks like each has its own pros and cons, I am happy with both.

My usage is pretty much split, in that I use Signal for family while I use Keybase with friends.

1Password and Bitwarden

I cannot miss 1Password and Bitwarden. Until 2018, I did not use password managers and when I joined Automattic, I realised password managers are an absolute need for any internet user.

While I signed up for 1Password at work, I needed a solution for families. 1Password for families looks great at $5 a month, but I wanted a cheaper solution and that’s when I came across Bitwarden. At $10 an year, it felt to be the best choice for family/personal records, and I signed up!

Both the Android apps are fantastic, and you should try them if you haven’t so far.

Simplenote

Disclaimer first, I work for Automattic, the company behind Simplenote. 🙂

Simplenote is a nice little note-taking app that synchronises all updates across all the devices I use. I use it mostly for work purposes. It offers the ability to tag notes, use markdown to compose and publish notes online so that it can be viewed by others. You should try Simplenote if you haven’t so far!

Forest

I didn’t start using Forest until a week ago, but I like it now! It’s an app that helps you focus on your goals and stay away from your phone. When you start the timer, a tree starts growing. When you do something on the phone instead, the tree dies.

What are your favourite apps that you have discovered in 2018?

5 months with ProtonMail and I haven't looked back

5 months ago, I decided to quit Gmail for good and move to an end-to-end (e2e) encrypted email service like ProtonMail or Tutanota. After thinking a lot over this, I settled for ProtonMail with a two years subscription. They had this nice Black Friday promotion from 2017 that I was able to redeem.

I have used Google’s services ever since I first discovered websites in 2004 (I think it was around that time, not very sure).

I wish I had realised the effects of using such services – giving up privacy, being tracked, not owning my own data, being targeted for advertisement amongst many other negative effects – much earlier though!

Signing up for an encrypted email service was the first step for a relief.

I use ProtonMail with a dedicated web domain, which means I don’t use their @protonmail.com address. I had been using the same dedicated email address on Google as well, via G Suite – so, using same with ProtonMail’s premium service was a natural choice and I didn’t have a reason to update my email address everywhere.

I did not explore an option to move all my emails from the previous inbox on Gmail to ProtonMail. I thought it would be a nice distinction to separate unsafe emails on Gmail from safe ones on ProtonMail.

While ProtonMail offers only a web UI and no native desktop apps, I am okay with it. They do offer a service called ProtonMail Bridge, for use with other apps like Apple Mail, Thunderbird, and Outlook. I am convenient with their web app though, for a few reasons below:

  • Automatically attaches my public key on outbound emails for others’ use – they can send me encrypted emails.
  • Can make use of the message expiration feature to send self-destructing emails.
  • Can have multiple ProtonMail sessions on the same browser, without using incognito tabs – each tab has its own session.

ProtonMail being based in Switzerland and using European data servers was another key reason why I preferred ProtonMail over Tutanota.

ProtonMail also claims they do not log IP addresses, but I have noticed that they do log the IP addresses by default. One only has an option to opt-out. I wonder if they can make that messaging clear.

“Think your email’s private? Think again.” – Andy Yen, ProtonMail

I don’t see myself going back to Google’s services or the likes, in favour for decentralised, open-source softwares and services. Especially in the time of unethical practices that companies like Facebook are involved in!

New range of site addresses with .blog subdomains in WordPress.com

I am very excited about this. When I first wanted to create websites/blogs on WordPress.com, an year ago, most of the subdomains I wanted were already used up by other users. I am not surprised given how many millions use WordPress.com every day.

This is changing – you can now choose .blog subdomains for free on the signup flow, gaining yourselves new site addresses like jack.photo.blog, dan.tech.blog. The entire list of .blog subdomains available, is on the page I have linked to earlier.

If you are an aspiring photo blogger, tech enthusiast, cook, nomad, travel blogger or want a plain, private family blog, go, get your favourite subdomain now!

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!

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.

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! 🕺