Category Archives: WordPress

Distributed development keynotes

Attended UX Lausanne for the second time this year – and while it was rather small (which is actually good as you’re better connected to speakers in terms of Q&A and follow-up), it was not solely on UX but a lot on workflow and project development – something that seems to be called Product Experience.

One of the talks was given by a guy from Automattic company (Davide Casali) – first I thought they’re WordPress authors, but turned out they’re (large) contributors and maintainers of WordPress.com – that has a distributed nature, i.e. everyone works remotely. Like, everybody – few colleagues might use same shared space, but even then they’re not in the same team. Now that is definitely not the case for everyone, but nowadays many companies allow at least temporary remote work, thought of sharing key points here – I think they’re quite interesting and some of them could be used in different cases.

So here are their principles:

  • before creating new team (or starting new project), meet live to have “Minimum Viable Discussion” to quickly understand key points, sort out initial discrepancies in domain knowledge and prepare brief plan for the closest next steps
  • transparently share all changes, specs and discussions – “if it’s not transparently shared, it doesn’t exist” (more office-bound sticky-note-flavor version of this proverb was “if it’s not on the wall, it doesn’t exist”)
  • have few communication spaces for different needs:
    • Real-time channel (like Slack or Jabber or, sigh, Facebook) for immediate personal and team communication
    • Team space on some shared documents resource – they, as WordPress-targeted company, use a P2 theme for WordPress that allows posting comment to posts and comments to comments – basically to host a discussion on the subject. Point is to have something that could be subscribed to or viewed by any employee, and that team members would overview daily to see/discuss updates or refer to while developing
    • “Stable” documentation storage for more permanent things like articles or specs of deployed products etc.
  • each team (BTW they also have small teams, 4-5 people of different skills) focuses and collaborates on one thing (project or task)
  • Independent individuals, i.e. everyone maintains own priorities. Tasks are managed with any suitable tracker (they use Trello)
  • “zero waste” in terms of no bureaucracy regarding e.g. permissions or access
  • standup-kind updates are posted to team channel each time team member becomes available – along with overview of the progress, provides an indication when person becomes available
  • live meetups ~4 times a year – 3-5 days of work, discussions and some off-work time together
  • teammates (but not projects) are usually picked from within few timezones from one another to aid live communication
  • everyone can follow any other team by subscribing to their shared documentation channel

This is all “JFTR”, but some could really consider utilising part of these practices for daily work and communication improvements.

Also another reference to keep, https://www.helpscout.net/blog/agile-remote-teams/

WordPress plugins etc.

I’ve been (quite subconsciously) using WordPress for quite some time now, mostly for my alcoholic beverages blog (it’s in Russian, sorry). Subconsciously because it was the first option GoDaddy offered me a “automated install” blogging platform – and also because I’ve heard the name a number of moons back, so it should’ve been well documented and supported at that point. It’s on PHP, but who cares. I’ve spent years writing PHP code.

So I had this problem: my articles all have a rating (I use Author Post Ratings plugin by Philip Newcomer), but it’s not possible to see all the high-rated articles, nor it is possible to order articles by rating within a category – and this feature made a lot of sense, because when you go to a site with a bunch of reviews, you usually look for the best stuff within some category.

So I gave it a thought and just went and added required functionality – now it’s there on bitbucket, https://bitbucket.org/hydralien/author-post-ratings/src

Turned out writing WordPress plugins is a no-brainer if you need something simple (I started with a post-by-rating list) – you just add directory, create a PHP file with a proper header, and you’re done. Well, after you add your functionality, that is. WordPress has some lovely documentation on that.

It gets trickier if you need to change “internal behavior” – such as category sort order – but documentation helps there as well, there are filter hooks for that.

I guess this is worth a slogan – something like “Better drinking with no hassle” or “Drinking better just got easier”. Or whatever.