WordPress is a Cult

WordPress is a Cult

Yes, WordPress is a Cult

I recently got into a discussion on Twitter with Joost DeValk, the creator of one the most downloaded WordPress plugins ever, WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s an awesome plugin and he’s been very successful in marketing it over the years. Like many people that are household names in WordPress, and not unlike WP itself, he was working on the right thing at the right time. I like Joost, and am not bashing him personally whatsoever, and I’m not even stating a cult is a bad thing, necessarily. To each their own. But he, and others, don’t seem ready to face facts and accept reality. Possibly due to pride, or some other reason such as relinquishing individuality and uniqueness. I’m no psychiatrist and don’t claim to be. But they are in serious denial if they claim WP isn’t a cult.

He spent the weekend at WordCamp USA, 2017 which was in nearby Nashville, TN this year. He hauled himself all the way over from Norway or Sweden or which ever nordic country he hails from. On his own dime, of course. WordCamps are weekend meetings of WordPress “fans” who gather to talk WP, attend a string of lectures, and hand out swag and drink a lot of beer together. It’s also primarily used to recruit and retain WordPress cult members. WordPress meetups are basically the same thing, and are held monthly all over the world. WordCamps are held annually, and are bigger deals, with “stars” of the WordPress world. My first WordCamp included Pippin Williamson who also is well-known in the “WordPress world.” I’ve attended quite a few WordCamps. Some valuable, some quite a waste of time for my level of experience. But I do enjoy helping others learn the ins and outs of the program and scene. It’s easy for someone who’s worked on it for years, like me, but can be intimidating for newcomers.

The definition of a cult, before I go any further, according to Merriam-Webster is:

A situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much.

There’s usually a religious aspect connected to it, perhaps like Scientology, but there doesn’t have to be. And it’s usually held together by some dominant, often charismatic individual. Such as the recently passed Charles Manson, for his little cult back in 1960’s California. Or the Branch Davidians, whose members and their children met an ugly ending thanks to Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. The association of such men gives the term “cult” negative overtones. But it’s not necessarily a group of evil, crazy people. It’s a group of people/community that is simply obsessed with something to a rather unhealthy point, basically. That point is the source of the debate, I suppose.

WordPress, which I’ve been involved in for around 8 years now, completely fits the definition. When I mentioned that it was a cult, Joost’s reaction was that he resented the comment. My tweet was a response to a Tweet of his exclaiming “Ask not what WordPress can do for you, but what you can do for WordPress.” For no particular reason except a knee-jerk disagreement. In fact, his very next comment, which was his defense, was that he gives 20% of his earnings, no small sum to be sure, every year to WordPress because he believes in the product and community, proving my point exactly.

I’m not in the business of convincing self-deniers to change their views, but I dare anyone to provide a reason WordPress isn’t a cult. I’m ready to debate that stance quite easily. And I have an open mind; I can be convinced otherwise if given compelling enough reasons to the contrary. But I can’t think of any. If you know of any, by all means leave them in the comments section.

It relies heavily, almost exclusively, on the efforts, time and resources of people to sustain it, for free to the foundation. Donations always accepted, of course. It’s a billion-dollar plus business to be sure, so it’s not like the non-profit is in any more need than the NFL for funds. Matt Mullenweg, one of the developers who began WordPress 14 years ago along with another man, Mike Little, who never ever is mentioned or really credited for some reason, is the relatively reclusive and softspoken CEO who appears at WordCamps and is treated like a celebrity. The “leader” if you will, who hapily sits on many Silicon Valley boards for his extensive business acumen. I don’t support his managerial tactics much, which I’ve expressed many times. That’s not sour grapes, and has no influence on this essay, however, I assure you. I believe I’m entitled to that opinion, and as an MBA and experienced businessman, have somewhat of a credible background in that area. I’ve conversed with Matt when once applying for a job at Automattic, the self-named offshoot business of WordPress along with several others such as Audrey Capital, all quite profitable due to the association with WordPress.  Whether they would be so successful without that association is anyone’s easy guess. Incidentally, Matt explained the reason he wasn’t interested in having me join his company was due to not being involved enough with open-source. I hadn’t donated enough of my time and resources and paid my dues, in other words, even though I was highly qualified if not over-qualified for the position. No big deal.

But the people/developers that get wrapped up in WordPress get REALLY wrapped up in it. Tattoos of the logo on themselves, expensive treks across the US and even abroad to attend weekend WordCamps, etc… It becomes their lives. The unhealthy obsession earlier described.

WordPress, being open-source, is the real key to it’s success. Open source is the invitation to pour a lot of your life into sustaining it, along with thousands of others toiling away at keyboards around the world. At no charge to anyone but the donors themselves.

WordPress’ popularity is being in the right place at the right time, in my opinion. Same with a lot of internet businesses and businesspeople. I’m also willing to debate that statement at any time, and have a long list of resons to back the sentiment.

wordcamp

Come to a WordCamp, leave a believer

I recognized the fact it’s a cult several years in and noticed the very cultish characteristics that WordPress and its community has, and largely removed myself. I personally don’t like being that attached to something in that manner, as it almost represents an addiction. I still use the product and keep up with the development of it closely though for business reasons.

But contributing to core and hanging out in the forums to answer people’s questions a la WP customer service, is something I personally don’t have the time or desire to do. Mention that fact to hardcore WordPressers, and you’ll get a quick tsk-tsk.

Automattic, the company I mentioned that “runs” WordPress used to brag that it only employed around 100 people for a billion dollar-plus business. That is literally unheard of in the legitimate business world. That was also before Matt went on a hiring and M&A binge, scooping up some of the best individual devs and 3rd party companies around before competition hired them, which is what rich companies with no real organic growth strategies do, such as WordPress/Automattic. The lines between all the entities is legally definied, but quite blurred otherwise. The ability to acquire the best and most valuable because of all the charity it receives and, in fact, expects. If there was a WP commune in San Francisco, I assure you there would be a line of people around the block to move in. Many WP developers do, in fact, live a nomadic lifestyle. They’re young and unattached, except to WordPress.

In any case, facts are facts, and whether peole want to admit it or not, WordPress most definitely is a cult. That makes, and has donated to it, a lot of money by it’s generous contributors. If you’re interested in joining, attend a WordCamp and you’ll be happily recruited. You’ll be responsible for paying admission, lodging, travel, etc… however for the privledge of using the open-source code, however. Or you can sponsor a WordCamp, because sponsors are also required. There are many ways you can repay.

wordpress logo

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Practical Uses for Siri

Siri has been a tool that has been out for a long time, relatively, and in the beginning was little more than a buggy gimmick. Which is why I never really bothered to use it and subsequently trained myself to ignore it. But during that time, Apple has improved it immensely, and there are a ton of very good practical use-cases that are worth training oneself to use, whether for productivity, ease of life, organization or even to save a life. I’ve been using apps to perform several of these tricks, but Siri can easily replace them with a better system, and she works with other apps, appliances, and your iPhone or Mac to become a powerful assistant, which most people have on them at all times.

So, in no particular order, here are

11 great and practical uses for Siri:

  • 1. Do basic math. Tips at restaurants, splitting tabs, double-checking receipts, and other quick mathematical questions can be asked, and immediately answered.

 

  • 2. Estimate your time of arrival. If you use Apple Maps, which I sometimes do but must admit I’m loyal to Google Maps, you can simply ask Siri “What is my ETA?” and she will tell you your approximate time. Pretty handy.

 

  • 3. Tell Siri to call you a nickname. This one is more for fun, but if you ask Siri a question, she’ll answer with your nickname. In my case that would be The Big Daddy. But be careful because this new name will show up in your contact card, so if you share your contact card with a job prospect, for example, they may start calling you by your cute nickname. Just a warning.

 

  • 4. Open your apps. If your apps are a mess or you’re lazy, you can just say to Siri “Siri, launch ___” and it will open automatically. Pretty handy, especially if you’re like me and have hundreds and hundreds of apps, even if you only use a fraction of them at any time. It stinks when you’re trying to find an app quickly and fumbling around with screens.

 

  • 5. Location-based reminders. This is a good one for when you’re on the move and can’t write down a note or reminder, like when you’re driving. For example, if you’re cruising along and suddenly remember that you left a load of wet clothes in the washer, you can tell Siri “Siri, remind me when I get home to change the laundry.” And via GPS and detecting your home network, she will pop up a message reminding you to do so. Or, if you need to get gas the next time you leave home or wherever, just say “Siri, when I leave here, remind me to get gas.” Just be sure to clear these reminders, or she will nag you about it every time.

 

  • 6. Set and delete Alarms. Many people use Siri to set an alarm, but you can also use her to delete all your alarms, which are automatically saved when you create one. They aren’t all active, of course. But in addition to telling Siri “Siri, set an alarm for 30 minutes from now,” you can also tell Siri “Siri, delete all my alarms,” which will erase the endless list of alarms you’ve accumulated for all those naps.

 

  • 7. Call Emergency Services. This is good for the infirmed, elderly, or klutzes who might find themselves trapped under something heavy. But here’s an important part you have to remember. This works with iPhone 6 and above which can activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri.” Tha’s one part. But if your phone is across the room and you’ve been immobilized, learn to say “Hey Siri, call 911 ON SPEAKER.” You have to say “On Speaker” or else you won’t be able to use it. Very important!

 

  • 8. Email, text, and voicemail. I have shied away from using voice-to-text because it hasn’t been successful for my accent in the past. But after living away from the South for a while and Apple improving voice recognition, this isn’t an issue any longer, so it’s something I intend to use more often. Typing long messages on a tiny keyboard is, frankly, a frustrating pain.  And texting and driving is a death wish. For texts, you can simply say “send a text message to Hank and tell him I want to eat lunch with him later.” and Siri will do it. Of course, you can also use Siri to place calls, place calls using the speakerphone, make emails and all that.

 

  • 9. Weather Updates. The weather here in Louisville isn’t as unpredictable as it is in other places I’ve lived in coastal areas, but this can still be helpful when needed. All you say is “Siri, what’s the weather going to be like this weekend?” or whenever you’re interested in, and she’ll tell you.

 

  • 10. Create and manage lists. I love lists, and use them a ton for my poor memory/crazy life. Organization is important to efficiency, which is important to saving time, and time=life. And often money as well. I use Notebook a ton, which is a great integrated app, which now works with Siri. Just say “Siri, add ___ to Notebook.” You have to be sure to say “To Notebook.”But for Apple’s Reminders app you’ll need to go into the Reminders App that Apple provides, and create a list, such a “To Do” or “Groceries.” Then you simply say “Siri, add “potatoes to my Groceries list” or “Siri, add pay my cable bill to my To-Do list.” And boom- she does it. There are a lot of creative ways to use this feature, in conjunction with lists eve. If you enter the address of your hardware store, you can use geofencing to tell Siri, ” Siri, when I go to the hardware store, remind me to buy a hammer,” and she’ll add it to your list. And you can keep adding items, and when you arrive at the hardware store next time, you’ll get a ping with your list of reminders.

 

  • 11. Home Automation. You can buy smart lightbulbs now that connect to your iPhone. Philips Hue and LIFX are the big dogs in this space, but the LIFX bulbs have been deemed brighter and have more features than the Philips Hue. And you don’t need a hub to use them like the Philips Hue; you only use your HomeKit app. And like everything on this list, you can control them using nothing more than Siri.Here are some other appliances you can use with Siri around the house:Thermostats: Nest: http://amzn.to/2ps9WTu ; Ecobee2: http://amzn.to/2q2YiAA ; Honeywell (least expensive) http://amzn.to/2qnBChrWall outlets: KooGeek (works with Homekit as well) http://amzn.to/2ps2Xdp. WeMo also will do this but you need to be using Amazon’s Alexa/Echo for that. These allow you to plug in any kind of appliance and then be able to control it remotely. Make sure to set the device into the “on” position so that it can be controlled via the smart plug.
  • BONUS TIP! A TON of people uses PayPal these days to transfer money. And you can use Siri to make it even easier. Simply say “Siri, send $20 to mom using PayPal,” and confirm your payment with Touch ID or log in to the app with username and password and voila! Mom is $20 richer.Plus much more can now be controlled by using nothing more than your voice with Siri. It’s very cool, easy and affordable if not free. Why wouldn’t you?awesome uses for siri 
How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

You may have a lot of unnecessary emails in your Gmail inbox, or have an old Gmail account that’s been idle for some time accruing emails that are now just old junk like I just had. I hate setting up new email accounts if I don’t need them because I already have more to my name than necessary. And I also hate to have a bunch of old junk taking up memory and creating visual clutter.

Repurposing the Gmail accounts seems like a better idea since generally, you already have them customized and set up to your liking and can remember the address and login better since you’ve already used them at some point, plus the available names you’d probably want to even use with a new Gmail address are long-taken. And even if you do set up a new Gmail account, Google hounds you to create a new Google+ persona, and on and on. Not worth it, usually.

Problem is, when you go to your inbox and check the box to highlight all the emails in your inbox for deletion, it only checks 50 of them at a time–the ones that are on the screen before you. That can be adjusted to a degree by going into settings and expanding that number, but if you have thousands and thousands like you probably do, that’s inefficient plus an unnecessary waste of time and energy.

So, what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly simple.

In the mail search bar above everything, type “before:_____” with the space representing the date you want to delete all your email prior to, in this format: YYYY/MM/DD. Most likely that would be today’s date. Then hit the Search icon/magnifying glass, or hit Enter.

select date

This will bring up all emails before that date. Click the box above all the selection boxes to select all:

select all mail

An almost unnoticeable message will appear above your inbox asking if you want to select all messages that meet that criteria. Yes, you do:

select all conversations

Then simply click the delete/trash can icon:

delete emails

Depending on how many emails you’re deleting, this may take a while. There will be a small “loading” message at the top indicating that it’s at work:

loading

You may need to refresh your page or inbox, but all your emails will now be deleted from your Gmail inbox. Clean and ready to use anew:

ta-daAnd that’s it!

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

 

Before Getting Started, Some Things to Know:

Why is image optimization SO important?

It’s very common for images to be the biggest weight for websites when they’re loading. They slow down page speed dramatically if not prepared for the browser correctly. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to optimize your images before uploading and posting them, but it does require some diligence and discipline. It’s important enough that it’s worth making a habit to practice each and every time, however.

Image optimization comes down to 2 criteria:

  1. Optimizing the # of bytes to encode each image pixel
  2. Optimizing the total # of pixels

The filesize is simply the total # of pixels multiplied by the # bytes used to encode each pixel. Therefore, posting images with no more pixels than needed to display the asset at its intended size in the browser is optimal. Don’t make the browser rescale them because it uses CPU resources and displays at a lower resolution.

SEO – Google and other search engine providers take page load speed into account in their ranking algorithms. If you want to be competitive and rank highly consistently, then making your site as light as possible must be a priority. That means, you guessed it, optimizing your images.

User experience – Your users expect your page to load as fast as possible. As in under a second. If it doesn’t, it causes them anxiety and they may very well leave your site. Obviously that’s something you don’t want. There have been studies showing how much revenue large retailers lose due to sites being fractionally slower, and while that may not be the nature of your site, it’s illustrative of the impatience users have these days.

The Basics of Imagery on the Web

There are several ways to display graphics online, for our concerns. And there are several formats we typically use these days. Some are more well-known and common, like .jpeg/.jpg and .pngs. But .gifs are making a comeback and the best way to really handle many graphics is none of these, but .svg, or scalable vector graphics, which is just code. As is CSS which, if you’re good enough, you can create animated graphics with as well pretty easily. But CSS3 can also be easily used to produce gradients and shadows that not only generate a lighter footprint, they’re easier to change on the fly if needed as well. Buttons and such UI elements are easy to make via CSS and much lighter, look better, perform better and can be edited more easily than using linked or embedded images. Web fonts are also a good choice to improve usability and performance.

Vector and Raster Images

Vector images are created with a series of points and lines, code really, that are ideal when dealing with geometric shapes because they’re zoom and resolution-independent, and look sharp and crisp at any size on any screen. They also can be a considerably smaller file size than a raster counterpart.

Raster images are created by encoding the values of each pixel within a grid, and at small or large sizes can look very choppy and jagged. Pixelated, in fact. They take the formats of jpeg, png, gif, tiff and jpeg-xr and WebP, which are newer.

Generally, vectors are great for logos, text, icons, etc… and raster is better for intricate images like a photo of a landscape, for example. Often, you’ll need to save several versions of raster images at different resolutions to deliver the best user experience.

Note: When we double the resolution of the physical screen the total number of pixels increases by a factor of four (double the # of horizontal pixels times double the # of vertical pixels) So a “2x” screen doesn’t just double, but quadruples the number of needed pixels.

Screen Resolution Total Pixels Uncompressed file size (4 bytes/pixel)
1x 100 x 100 = 10,000 40,000 bytes
2x 100 x 100 x 4 = 40,000 160,000 bytes
3x 100 x 100 x 9 = 90,000 360,000 bytes

Optimizing Vector Images

This is something that I, as your designer/developer will handle and worry about more than you but it’s good to be knowledgeable about what’s going on, and the usage of svg is becoming more widespread, so you’re more likely to cross its path than in the past. So I won’t go into major depth here, because it’s a large, complex subject, but you should at least be able to recognize it when you see it in the wild.

SVG is an XML-based image format. They should be minified to keep their size as small as possible, and they should be compressed with GZIP. All modern browsers support svg files, and they’re created using vector software like Adobe Illustrator, or you could code it up by hand if you wanted in a text editor. Illustrator is easier. There’s a lot of unnecessary metadata that’s created however, that can be cleaned up by running it through a tool like SVGO. There’s a plugin for Illustrator as well that I personally use.

Optimizing Raster Images

A raster image is a grid of pixels, and each pixel encodes color and transparency info in RGBA form (red, green, blue and alpha, which is transparency).

You’ll see “Lossless” and “Lossy” used a lot when trying to decide how to optimize raster images, but what do they mean? They look made up (and probably were, like “performant” and “canonicalization” and other words developers just dream up).

  • Lossless – describes an image that’s processed with a filter that compresses the pixel data.
  • Lossy – Processing an image with a filter that eliminates pixel data.

Any image can go through a Lossy compression process to reduce its file size. But there is no “optimal” configuration for all images. It depends on the contents of the unique image and your own criteria.

You’ll usually see lossy methods being applied with jpeg images in Photoshop, for example, when you’re saving the image for the web, and are given the option to customize the “quality” setting with a slider or set of numbers. The best way to determine this is really to just experiment and see what looks best with the largest file size savings, which in Photoshop may be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen.

This is as good a place as any to mention that when you upload an image in WordPress, it automatically is saved at 80% quality and at various sizes, which can be controlled in the admin panel. Out of the box, WordPress saves three other versions for you at a thumbnail size (150×150), Medium (300×300), and a large (1024×1024). But that can be changed to be anything and number you like of course, as can the 80% quality setting. Image file size is but one easy way to speed up your WordPress site. If you’re looking for other ways, here’s a very good pdf guide on ways to speed up your WP site:

Optimize WordPress Speed eBook

 Here’s another good article I came across that helps explain best image optimization practices for the web.

Selecting the Correct Image Format

OK, this is what I believe what most people are intereested in. In addition to Lossy and Lossless considerations, different image formats support different features like transparency and animation, increasingly important things for the web. So the “right format” depends on the desired visual results and functionality.

Format Transparency Animation Browser
GIF Yes Yes All
PNG Yes No All
JPEG No No All
JPEG-XR Yes Yes IE
WebP Yes Yes Chrome, Opera, Android

TIFFs are very heavy files and very high-res. Unless you’re doing some professional work or have a one-off, very good reason, you’re not going to need to use a .TIFF file.

GIFs are very trendy right now for short clips of animation on the web. However, they are limited to a maximum 256 colors, and a PNG-8 delivers better compression for small color palettes. Only use GIFs when animation is required. For longer animations, consider using HTML5

WordPress Websites

There are a few things I do to WordPress websites to help lighten the load as far as images are concerned. Images account for so much weight on websites, every little bit/byte counts. But the web is a visual medium, and the use of graphics is crucial for so many reasons. A better user experience, SEO reasons, shareability, and images just make websites so much more dynamic.

For SEO and accessibility reasons ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of your ALT tags! Bots can’t see images, so they rely on what you tell them the image is of to decide what to do with it. Make sure you complete them.

WordPress plugins that help optimize load time by compressing, lazy loading and other tricks are widely available. I’ve settled on using WPMU’s Smush.it Pro to compress images, which is a premium plugin, and I put it on clients’ sites as a courtesy because it’s so good and what it does is so important. I have had some issues with it from time to time, but the headaches that arise are worth the savings in file size, to me. (The plugin is high quality from some reputable WP developers; what it does is just complex and it gets snagged sometimes. I can live with it.)

I’m currently installing RICG Responsive Images, Media Library Thumbnail Enhancer, Gzip Ninja Speed Compression, Comment Images by my buddy Tom McFarlin, and for lazy loading, A3 Lazy Load for clients on an as-needed basis, which are all image-related plugins. Not necessarily for strict optimization, but valuable plugins nonetheless.

OPTIMIZATION TIPS

  • Use vector formats when available and appropriate. They’re future-friendly, light, easy to manipulate and change and look awesome on retina screens.
  • Minify & compress your assets. SVGs, PNGs, JPGs and GIFs can easily be shrunk significantly and doing so should become part of your workflow.
  • Don’t be afraid to dial down the quality settings on raster images; the quality remains high but you reduce the number of bytes significantly. Human eyes just aren’t all that great, unfortunately. Even though our screens are getting to be insanely high-res.
  • Remove unnecessary metadata like geo information, camera information, etc… there are tools to do this which I’ll provide in a resources addendum.
  • Serve scaled images, and automate as much as you can. There are lots of great optimization tools around, many for free, and many built right into editing software, waiting to be used.

A guide to choosing which format:

RESOURCES

Compressr.io – A web app I use all the time to smush images before uploading. It works great.

Other optimizers and smushers:

jpegtran

OptiPNG

PNGOUT

TinyPNG

TinyJPG

PNGGauntlet

JPEGmini

OptimizePNG.com

PunyPNG

Yahoo! Smush.it

And other stuff:

Bulk Resize Photos

Retinize it – Photoshop actions for slicing retina graphics

We love icon fonts

Iconic – I own these so if you ever want to use them let me know.

Animaticons – These are just too cool not to mention.

 

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is considered the standard tool for creating vector artwork, and although it’s been challenged a number of times over the years, it remains on the top of the heap. That’s for many reasons, but being the simplest to use certainly isn’t one of them. It’s easier than Photoshop to learn, but both represent a considerable investment in time and learning to use with any efficiency and skill. Years, in many cases.

I’ve used Illustrator (actually all the Adobe tools in the Creative Cloud suite, and that’s a LOT) for years, and am a huge fan. I’m the owner of a Google Plus Adobe Illustrator community that has around 6400 members and counting, in fact. It’s easy for me to use because I’ve used it so much for so long, as is the case with anyone with anything. So when someone has that much invested, it’s sort of uncommon for people to jump ship to another program for no good reason.

The biggest complaint I hear about Illustrator, Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe products is their pricing model, which is a subscription. And it’s not exactly cheap. They used to sell individual licenses up to CS6 like most other products, but switched when they added a Cloud feature to sell storage alongside the tools. The other complaint would probably be, besides intermittent bugs, the time and effort it takes to learn if you’re just beginning. That’s where competing products try to get their feet in the door. I’ve lost count of all the products out there that you can use for vector design, but Google Web Designer is one, Macaw is another that was hugely-hyped and originally cost more than Sketch(it’s now free, incidentally), and there are others. I’ve played around with many/most all of them, and they’re all basically the same: a knockoff of Illustrator, but far less powerful, and with a learning curve to boot.

Sketch came along, and took the best of Illustrator and kept it, and took the worst, and reworked it. And they made it lighweight and fast. And also very easy to install plugins, and even develop them yourself if you’re so inclined. There are some great plugins available for free that increase productivity and workflows. That’s probably the biggest feature that makes Sketch so popular: it’s fast and easy. And comparatively cheap. Sketch is only available for Mac, however. As someone who uses both Windows and Macs, that strikes me as strange, because they’re missing out on a HUGE market. Of course, that’s their (Bohemian Coding- the developers) decision.

I’ve had Sketch installed for maybe 2 years and have never bothered to use it, so recently I decided to see how fast I could pick it up. A lot of designers use it, and it’s popularity has been sustained unlike other vector programs such as previously mentioned so it seemed worth some time and trouble. I’ve tinkered around with the interface a few times, and it’s laid out a lot like Illustrator, so I wasn’t expecting too much trouble. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented or anything. And, as expected, I didn’t have much. A large reason for that is also the excellent instructions and support Sketch has available, plus it’s pretty intuitive. If you contrast that with Adobe Illustrator, I’ve never been impressed with Adobe’s support for their products. (For a long time, they simply relied on Lynda.com for instruction, which is how I learned, along with trial and error.) That’s not because there’s a lack of them. To the contrary; there are too many. I don’t find it user-friendly, and I don’t think I’m alone because there are a gazillion third-party tutorials and help articles and videos for their products. An over-abundance which adds to the confusion since some are good and some are awful, and some are totally outdated, going back to CS2. And if you try to use the help menu IN Adobe’s applications, they divert you to your browser and take you out of the program completely to Adobe’s community forum which I’ve never found to be a pleasant UX at all. Users can go to the web themselves and do a search. And even then, you usually don’t find the specific help you need. Sketch has a menu on the app’s site that walks you through it, and that’s plenty, I found. Of course there are YouTube videos for any topic you may have as well, but I found them unnecessary. But there are some good ones.

I’ve picked Sketch up quickly, and that makes my workfkow speedy already. When I add the plugins that are meant to boost productivity for the activities I need them for, it’s really a great product. I especially like how lightweight and fast it is compared to Adobe’s products, which weigh in at about 1GB each. That adds up fast if You’re doing some serious creating with Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Animator, and so on. Premiere Pro is a monster. However Adobe has addressed that the best way they know how I suppose, byt being able to install an uninstall the apps via the Creative Cloud interface.

I still feel like Illustrator is a more robust application, for some reason, although I can’t justify that feeling. I can do anything with Sketch I can with AI, and in fact possibly more if you look at the new symbol libraries and export options and some other features I’m sure I haven’t stumbled upon yet. Sketch iterates pretty often, especially compared to past AI competitors. Sketch also has cloud storage built into their pricing, plus a free iOS app for mirroring your workspace. And the plugin ecosystem takes it to an entirely different level. Illustrator has plugins as well, but they aren’t maintained and you definitely won’t find them being consistently actively developed on GitHub, as with Sketch.

To that end, I’m posting here some of the better resources I’ve found for Sketch so far for my personal reference and anyone interested. They’re all free, and Sketch itself is a relative bargain at $99, with the option of a generous student/educator discount available (Adobe offers a discount as well-most software companies do). And it’s just a one-time fee, as opposed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an ongoing cost that’s also tiered. However, for that price you get quite a bit more. But whether those extra features, such as cloud storage and a TON of programs for creating anything you can possibly imagine is dependant upon the user, of course. So, am I switching to Sketch for good? Time will have to tell.

So, without any further ado, here are some awesome Sketch resources:

WordPress and Medium

WordPress and Medium

If you blog you’re familiar with WordPress and most likely Medium. WordPress has been around for over 10 years and is a mature platform. Medium is younger and was launched by Ev Williams of Twitter and has become a publishing platform for both amateur and professional writers. There are, of course, other platforms like Wix, Weebly, Blogger, Drupal, Squarespace, and Joomla, which are different variations of basically the same thing.

I’ve been using WordPress for over 7 years and follow its development closely. I use it nearly exclusively for client’s websites and consider myself an expert at it. “WordPress” as an entity is sort of a mess, in my opinion, which I’ve written about in depth before. I’ve also talked about how, back when Medium was a different product, is WordPress’ main competitor, and not Drupal and Joomla as most people believed a few years ago. With the unveiling of WordPress’ new editor Gutenberg, it’s now evident that Matt Mullenweg et al. agree.

Ev Williams keeps changing the interface of Medium, and most users seem to applaud his efforts. That’s a play on words since the latest Medium update includes “claps” to show love and appreciation for writers’ work instead of thumbs-ups and downs. Basic gamification strategy.

Matt and WordPress do things a little differently. They make huge changes despite what the core users and customers think, and those are two very different and large groups of people. In my opinion, he’s not only risking having people defect but start up competing CMS/blogging platforms(WP can’t decide what it is). There’s a HUGE market out there which WordPress is trying to fully dominate, despite not ever putting forth a material plan for doing so. Iterate and pray seem to be the daily plan, and let other developers work on it for free as open-source software is the long-term plan. The profitable markets that have spun off in the form of plugin and theme shops, WordPress developers, and other niche businesses are what keep it propped up more than anything, and is what Medium and other competitors are missing. Medium has a payout scheme for popular writers, but that’s a small market comparatively. WordPress’ model isn’t unlike Apple’s app store, which is responsible for Apple’s astounding rise to financial and market dominance.

I have a feeling someone soon will create a platform that will take a large chunk of market share from Medium and WordPress. Ghost had the potential and still does to an extent, but it needs to become much more user-friendly and be marketed much more aggressively. I’m a big fan of Ghost and hope John and Hannah, the founders, succeed. Bootstrap could even come to be in the CMS/blogging space one day, although I don’t think that’s what Mark Otto and the Bootstrap community are aiming for, or is it the core competency. Bootstrap as a development framework is awesome and has a really big, and growing, development base. It’s the biggest repo on Github and has been for a long time. I’ve even published a lengthy book on developing with it, back when it was “Twitter Bootstrap.”

WordPress enjoys being a first-mover, although they weren’t really the “first” to offer an open-source blogging platform. They just emerged as the most popular back in the days of blogging infancy and took some bloggers and newbie developers along for the ride to make them pretty wealthy along the way. That’s given WordPress/Automattic/Matt a lot of wiggle-room and revenue to make mistakes without getting crushed, which is a good thing considering the noticeable lack of leadership at the top. There may be a vision but it isn’t made very clear to anyone, and the heaviest users of WP like to know what the roadmap contains beyond the next update or two because they come fast. And WP needs to be backward-compatible and is legacy software.

Gutenberg is all the WordPress world can talk about, which as I predicted years ago, is a response to Medium. Here’s a white paper by Human Made, and Medium is mentioned on the second page of the thing. It’s sort of a disingenuine piece. The author asks why did they decide to build Gutenberg, and then never answers the question. He calls it an “experiment” which of course it isn’t. It’s a strategy. You don’t experiment with something as crucial as the essence of the core product at this scale and Matt knows it. Ironically, the “blocks” direction which is the core concept of the new editor, keeps making me think of the Thesis theme, which very well may have just been ahead of its; time. The story of Thesis is rich. Not as Rich as Matt, unfortunately for Chris Pearson.

Human_Made_Gutenberg_Paper