071: An Honest Gutenberg Chat with Tara King

Ninja Forms LogoThis episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms


About Tara King:

Tara is a self-taught, community-supported PHP and JavaScript developer, working primarily in WordPress and Drupal. Tara currently works as the Director of Developer Relations at Automattic, where she helps developers understand and adopt Gutenberg. Previously, she worked at Pantheon, Universal Music Group, Electric Citizen, Triangle Park, and ran her own digital agency for arts organizations.

She presented at WordCamp EU in 2020.

She contributes to #WPDiversity. In the Drupalverse, she’s the lead of Drupal Diversity & Inclusion, the founder of the Drupal Diversity & Inclusion Contribution Team, a member of the Community Working Group, and a core mentoring maintainer. She’s been a track chair for DevOps & Infrastructure for DrupalCon Minneapolis/Global, and a community track chair for DrupalCon Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Find Tara King: Twitter


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
071: An Honest Gutenberg Chat with Tara King
/

Transcript

Tracy:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.

Angela:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, a professional form building plugin for WordPress. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy:

And I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela:

Our guest today is Tara King joining us from Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of my favorite places in the west. Tara currently works as the director of developer relations at automatic, where she helps developers understand and adopt Gutenberg. Bless her heart. We all need to understand and adopt Gutenberg. Come on people. Welcome, Tara.

Tara:

Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Angela:

We like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Tara:

Yeah. Many years ago, I was a print designer, so I was making posters and postcards. I was also in my early 20s and I was kind of like everyone else my age knows how to make a website, but me. I don’t know why I had that feeling, but I just was like, I am behind the times. I had a bunch … I was active in the arts world at that time. I was doing a lot of performance and dance stuff. My dance company needed a website and I had someone donate a Drupal site. Here’s the first curve ball in the story. And they were like, “Here’s your website. I’m not going to keep it up for you. Here you go.” I had this design skill, so I thought, okay, I can do this. I can figure this out.

Tara:

I started sort of being the content kind of editor side of this Drupal site. This is back in Drupal 6 days, so we’re talking like 20 … Ooh, maybe 2009, 2010-ish, so a while ago. That was cool, and I started learning Drupal and that got my feet wet in terms of PHP development and how do these CMS system type work? Then my artist friend started kind of asking for help. They’re like, “Oh, I need a website. My website’s a thousand years old or I don’t have one.” Really, I basically found myself in a place where nobody had the budget for Drupal. It was too expensive, needed too much custom code.

Tara:

Even back then when it was simpler and there were a lot more people doing that kind of work with Drupal, it was just not a good fit. I basically had an artist friend who wanted a website, and I was like, okay, let’s try this WordPress thing. That was kind of my first real … I had been also one of those sort of bloggers who tries every platform. So, I had tried WordPress before as well, so I had a little bit of background there. But that was kind of the first thing I really built.

Tara:

Since then, I’ve kept my feet in both worlds where I’m building WordPress sites, building Drupal sites, going to both camps. Yeah, that was probably around 2013, was when I really started building them professionally for other people.

Tracy:

So, you really are a spy from Drupal or yeah, WordPress. Yeah. Okay. That makes sense.

Tara:

I’m like a double agent at this point I think. Yeah.

Tracy:

Sounds great. I mean, now your cover is blown, so I don’t know. We’re going to have to …

Tara:

Yeah, they didn’t really cover the don’t talk about your double agent status on a podcast at spy schools, so we’ll find out what happens.

Angela:

I went to one Drupal meetup in, I think 2009, thinking, oh, is WordPress like not the right thing to use? I probably met a Drupal developer who tried to convince me of this, and Hey, you can come to our meetup. I go to this meetup and I just sat there, I’m like, I would need 15 people to build a website and this is going to cost four or five times as much as WordPress site. This is way too complicated for what most people need so maybe I’ll just stick with WordPress.

Tara:

Yeah.

Angela:

But I had to have that moment.

Tara:

It’s great for what it’s great for. Yeah. I think it’s helpful to have that moment where you look around because Drupal was kind of natural just because of who I knew. I knew Drupal developers for whatever random reason. I think that happens to a lot of people in WordPress too. It’s just like you happen to know someone who knows WordPress and that’s how you get started. I think it was really good for me to stop and look around and see what else was out there. It’s certainly helped me be more knowledgeable in both spaces. It’s just given a lot of context that’s really helpful.

Angela:

So, the PHP is very similar though. I mean, just in terms of you have a loop, you have all … It’s interesting to me when I’ve dabbled in other CMSs based on, even in Pearl CMSs, there’s all these things that you can really trans for from one to the other. You have often, kind of hooks, if you will, and you have … All the templates are the same. You have a loop, you just figure out what their loop is. They have proprietary calls to do different file includes and stuff like that. How deep into PHP were you when you made this transition and how do you feel about working within WordPress PHP?

Tara:

Yeah. When I made the transition, I was … I’m a self-taught developer or community taught, learned from just everybody around me. Drupal 7 was procedural PHP, which is very similar to WordPress’ set up. When I kind of got into WordPress, it felt very, very similar. Drupal switched to object-oriented programming, which I cried about, I’m not going to lie, because I was by myself, a solo person who just barely figured out procedural PHP and now you’re asking for object oriented PHP. I don’t have time. I need to deliver this project so I can pay my bills. I don’t have time.

Tara:

I kind of had like a meltdown about it a little bit, but I did learn it. I’ve been doing developer relations for a few years now, but before I switched into that, I was a senior backend developer at Universal Music Group. I was pretty deep in the PHP stuff. The one thing that was really nice about that switch in the Drupal world is that it’s also helped me understand Gutenberg a little bit and also made more confident that I can understand Gutenberg. So, not so much crying as I used to do. It’s much more of a calm transition these days.

Tracy:

That brings up Gutenberg. So yes, Gutenberg. You love it or you hate it, but

Tara:

You don’t have to say nice things in front of me. I won’t report to anybody. It’s okay.

Tracy:

I have complaints about things, but also I see that it has … I also see the direction it’s going and the need it serves. I just am a very disgruntle, like crotchety old UX designer who get off my lawn when you change something. Damn kids, get off my lawn. Yeah. That’s my purpose. What was that transition? You said it was easier with object oriented. Tell us about that because most of Gutenberg is JavaScript right React, right?

Tara:

Yeah. I think for me, it was just that I had done a hard thing. I felt it was that just kind of self confidence. If I’ve already done the hard thing I can do this hard thing. I think that the Drupal world is a little bit more familiar or has gotten … The other thing that happened at that same time when [inaudible 00:08:13] became a thing was package management and composer became a big part of Drupal. A ton of people, myself included, probably cried over that too. Didn’t want to learn that kind of thing. Didn’t want to learn package management or command line tools.

Tara:

That also gave me that kind of head … I feel like, what I hear from a lot of folks, I’m totally interested to see if this is also your experience, is that sort of the build step with React and having … It feels like more sort of structure around you, like you can’t just do the work. You have to do work to get to do the work. I think that I had kind of already gone through that process, learning sort of the object oriented stuff and then learning how to use composer. It was like, okay, yeah, you’re going to have a more complicated development environment.

Tara:

But actually, when I sat down to learn to write my first Gutenberg block, I was so intimidated. I was so like, oh, I don’t know if I’m going to do this. It was fine. I was surprised how straightforward … It was a learning curve, but it was not like I expected because I also, being a PHP person, was like, JavaScript can just stay in its corner. I will give that to someone else to do that. I don’t want to. I was very surprised actually how straightforward it was. There was definitely a learning curve, the fact that you have to build the output and then you have to match the input.

Tara:

When you’re building the block, it’s like, the point is that it should look like the output. It took me a minute to figure out, why does this look so weird? Oh, because you didn’t make it look nice kind of thing. Then the build step and that kind of compiling thing. But ultimately, I found it relatively straightforward. I feel like a lot of the same principles of like, you have something that needs to go in the database and then you need to get something out of the database to show it on the website, like is all still there.

Tara:

I think that’s where that kind of connection for me comes from, is just having, okay, I’m going to do the thing that … I’m going to trust that this is worth doing. It felt very similar to Gutenberg. It was like, I’m going to trust that this is worth doing, and it’s been pretty great so far.

Tracy:

Trust the process.

Angela:

The different tutorials online and kind of starter, there’s a lot of ways to get started where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do this from scratch. You can really have a sort of starter block, if you will, and then kind of work within that. The blocks I’ve made have just been ACF blocks and those are super simple.

Tracy:

Same.

Angela:

Yeah. Easy. And because me and JavaScript have had a hate-hate relationship for over 20 years, so it’s not-

Tara:

Why mess up a good thing [crosstalk 00:10:57].

Tracy:

I know. Exactly.

Angela:

You know where you stand with each other.

Tracy:

Exactly. Exactly. You stay over there, I’ll stay over here. We coexist and wave every so often.

Angela:

So, there’s two aspects of this we’re talking about. One is just the UI, which I have no problem with the concept of the blocks. I think the blocks are great. I don’t take issue with Gutenberg itself. I think the UI is just very squirrely for anyone, any level of user and very non transparent. I mean, so that you really can’t tell at all what you do. It’s like nearly impossible just to work within that thing [crosstalk 00:11:41].

Tracy:

I’m the like, I clicked out here, I got that one time. Where did I get that?

Tara:

Yeah. What did I do to get to that?

Angela:

I worked with a proprietary block editor before Gutenberg came out with another proprietary CMS and it was still very simple interface, but it was just clear. It was just clear. It seems like, from the interface standpoint, it’s just been made to be as magical as possible.

Tracy:

That’s a good word for it because all of a sudden, like how did that happen? Magic. How do I get it to go again? No idea.

Angela:

Pour salt all around your computer and you’ll be able to get the block to … Yeah. But anyway, so we won’t talk about … I’m all about to the development part, because I think maybe I’m the not going to get involved with the team to help to improve the UI. But as a person who builds sites and is curious about block development, what do you think the best tutorials for a developer are? Because that’s what so many things have happened where people are really putting out some good work to teach people.

Tara:

I wish I had a good answer for this question. Taking this job that I have right now at Automatic is about making these tutorials, making the right tutorials, or finding the right tutorials. It’s not, we don’t have to make them all ourselves, but doing that. That’s actually something we’re looking at right now, so obviously learn, our wordpress.org is starting to come together. I think what we have found is that we … I’m not on that team, but what I’ve heard from that team is that the developer content is like, when it comes out, is really, really very high traffic and people love to see it.

Tara:

We’re putting together some stuff now. Some plans for who we might ask to put courses together on which Gutenberg topics. So, that’s coming. I made a very specific choice when I was building my first Gutenberg block because I was looking at this position, and looking, was like, I want to do it with all the official channels just to see what the state of things is, just to see what the documentation is and all of that.

Tara:

I really couldn’t do it right. People are working really hard on that, and I’m not here to talk badly about their work, but Gutenberg is changing so quickly that it’s hard for people to keep up with. That’s a very real challenge. It’s not like people are … Every open source project, the doc … I mean, every software project, I’ll just say that, documentation is a major challenge. Especially with this one, the paradigm shift is really big for the people who’ve historically been involved.

Tara:

The people who are so good at React are maybe not necessarily accustom to the WordPress way. Point being is just that there’s a lot of sort of moving pieces and a lot of people trying to get skills up to speed. And it’s like, I don’t think it’s even clear at this point exactly which skills you need to get up to speed to do Gutenberg development. Some people know. It’s not like it’s a secret, but I just think it’s kind of foggy and confusing at this point.

Tara:

Not to say that there aren’t good tutorials out there. It’s just that I’ve had my head down really a lot, looking at the official documentation at wordpress.org, looking at the examples that we have. I don’t think … The examples, repo for Gutenberg is like, it’s being updated right now by Ryan Welcher, but like before that had been untouched for about three years. Entire major concepts for block development were utterly missing. It was like, I would look at the documentation and look at the code and I’m like, I don’t … I’m the kind of person that I need to see the example …

Tracy:

Same.

Tara:

Alongside the documentation. That’s a thing we’re working on right now. It’s just like, if we’re going to have theme.json, we need to have examples of how it works. If we’re going to have block.json, we need to have an example that has that. All I can say is, it’s absolutely a need for the community. I’d love to hear like, if people are listening or if either of you have things that you think are awesome, I’d love to see them, because we’re just kind of trying to make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel.

Tara:

But I think, it feels to me like a lot of Gutenberg tutorials kind of huge flowering back when 5.0 came out and then people can’t keep up with it and that’s really a real challenge for the community. Doing my best to kind of patch up some of those gaps.

Tracy:

It’s good to hear because I’m the same. I’m trying to find documentation and I think that’s what makes it so daunting. Like you said, when you’re working for yourself and you have to pay the bills, what’s better to just do what you know, and get paid or spend a month trying to find this stuff. I’m really glad. Actually, I’ve spoke with some people at the learn.wordpress team. I’m excited about the direction it’s going, because I think it’s a big need and I think it’s going to really be successful, but it is a mess because there’s so much. I can’t even imagine trying to like start off with already this … You’re like, here we go, here is a hoarder’s house. Now make it ready for the market. Go.

Tara:

It’s a lot. It’s a lot. Like I said, I think there’s this bridge between sort of the historic WordPress way and then the sort of JavaScript modern way. I think we’re probably going to end up making tutorials. I don’t just mean my team. I mean, everyone at WordPress, but we’re going to need stuff that’s only temporarily useful. If you are this WordPress developer and you need to get to this Gutenberg, after a couple years, most of the community will probably have consumed that and done that. But right now, it’s like, everyone’s kind of looking. It’s like we took, I don’t know, 25 jigsaw puzzles shook them all together and threw them on the floor and people are just like, this one’s blue.

Tracy:

I got a blue one. Anyone got a blue one? No?

Tara:

Yeah, exactly. Like I said, not trying … Everybody’s been doing their best and it’s just a big project and it’s a big community.

Tracy:

Yeah. It’s not something that’s … It’s not an easy fix, and I know that. Same thing with like Gutenberg and all of that.

Tracy:

Hey, Women and WP listeners. This is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor Ninja Forms. Wish you could build forms for WordPress without spending forever or recruiting help? You can. Ninja Forms is the WordPress form plugin that is both extremely flexible and easy to use. Create contact forms, order forms, donation forms, and more in literally minutes using prebuilt templates easily customized with form logic, upload fields, multi-step pages, and more. Just drag and drop what you need where you need it. Integrate with hundreds of services like MailChimp, Google sheets, HubSpot, and more without needing to write a line of code. Get Ninja Forms now at ninjaforms.com. And now, back to our show.

Tracy:

What is your role as like developer relations when it comes to Gutenberg?

Tara:

Yeah. Developer relations is like a niche within a niche within a niche, which is to say we’re all developers, or at least very technically minded folks, who essentially go into the WordPress community and listen. Honestly, right now, I’m getting as much from you guys as probably you are from me, because hearing that feedback, hearing what’s causing problems, hearing where people are feeling resistant, it’s all relevant. Because the thing with WordPress is 42% of the internet.

Tara:

If one person is willing to say to me, this is the problem I’m having, there’s all almost certainly like 10,000 people having that problem that just aren’t talking. Yeah. So, it’s all relevant. I think sometimes people think, oh, this is just me being too lazy to learn or too resistant, or too whatever. And it’s like, no, it’s probably a valid concern. We go out into the community, we listen to what people are struggling with, where people are having success too, because people are having success with Gutenberg.

Tara:

Then we try to bring it into the contributor teams and sort of synthesize it into themes or file bugs in the repo or whatever needs to get fixed. So, we’re kind of here to do both like, hey, people are feeling like they don’t understand block themes. Let’s either, like I said, put together or find the training around that, that can help people find the next step. So, it’s kind of a mishmash of development work and coding, and also blogging, writing, putting together videos, talking in camps, and then kind of community management or relationship management just sort of talking to everyone.

Tara:

For example, the gallery block has been refactored and it’s going to have some effect on certain things. We’ve been pulling a list of everyone who relies on the original gallery blocks. We can talk to them and make sure that they’re not like flat footed, because the thing is, as I’ve said before, as you’ve said like, this is people’s livelihoods, this is people’s day-to-day. They don’t have time to fix this themselves.

Tara:

The last thing you want from the community that you love and trust is to be surprised. I think our team, the concept of really investing in developer relations came out of the 5.0 retrospective, came out of just like, whoa, we really surprised a lot of people. We heard a lot of feelings that we caused a lot of pain. I don’t think that the five people on my team can do that alone, can prevent those kind of things, but having us, and I think we’re really trying to work as much with the communities we can. So, elevating other voices, getting people in a room together to talk things out, collaboratively problem solve, that kind of thing.

Tara:

That’s sort of what developer relationship is at Automatic. It’s a little different in private because we’re entirely focused on the .org project. If we were on a proprietary company, it might look a little different, but it’s still basically, are the developers doing okay? Can we make them happier? Can we help them succeed?

Angela:

Yeah. Well, I will say, for anyone listening that the couple tutorials I’ve come across over time, and again, things are changing really fast, and I’m not sure way people are at with maintaining these, so it might be worthwhile to reach out directly. But Zac Gordon created gutenberg.courses, and it’s a whole WordPress block development course with JavaScript. He’s an excellent instructor formerly with team Treehouse and an all around great guy. We all know Zac. Correct? His course is still up. Then Bill Erickson did this like three years ago. He did a blog post on billerickson.net on building a Gutenberg block and just took people more simply a little bit, I think it was more like … It’s not a huge tutorial, but it’s just an example of how he used Zac’s course.

Angela:

Then there’s the gutenberghub.com, which has a bunch of developer tutorials, iThemes. Some iThemes has always been great with putting out tutorials and Tuts+ has some tutorials, and of course Udemy is in on the action. There are resources out there, but I guess, if I were doing this, I’d probably be inclined to start with Zac’s. It’s interesting, having the make.wordpress.org or learn.wordpress.org as a resource, I’ve always found it’s I think almost a little too corporate in a way. It tends to follow very strict standards in terms of style and stuff, which doesn’t always allow for the most human of experiences and language.

Angela:

Even the developer docs, the codex was always a little bit more friendly than what’s happened with the developer docs.

Tracy:

I miss the codex too.

Angela:

Because it did, it had so many great examples and like, wow, I could really use this. Whereas the developer docs was just more like a science manual without any recipes.

Tara:

I look at the pictures. I look at the pictures.

Angela:

Yeah. We like to look at the picture.

Tara:

Right? No shame.

Angela:

I love that. Don’t give me the 600 age, tell me how Adam is built. That is where the Learn, and I used to work, I used to be a technical writer and do software documentation and stuff so I understand that wanting. That’s why when I worked for a software company, we had our documentation, but you know what? All these publishing companies made a lot of money.

Tara:

Like, hey, do the thing, do this thing, did you do that thing to do this? Great, good. That’s the way I teach too.

Angela:

Yeah, with smile faces and everything. But it’s true, you’re always going to have the more corporate take and there’s always going to have to be those people out on their own, not related, who are doing a much, much better job at explaining everything. It’s hard, Tara, to create that within that structure. I love that you’re willing to elevate the voices who are [crosstalk 00:26:06].

Tara:

I mean, there’s definitely, when you’re talking about official project stuff, it’s like you want things to be a certain way because everyone needs to be able to do it. If we’re going to translate it, it needs to be available to everyone. There’s so much stuff around that. I feel like right now our official wordpress.org docs are just not quite there. They’re disorganized and there’s pieces missing. I want that to be … Yeah, exactly. Part of this is [crosstalk 00:26:36].

Angela:

At least thorough.

Tara:

… always playing catch up. But once that’s there, not once, I’m not trying to hold anybody back, but I want that to be there as the resource that people can point to and say, “See, this is where I got all the property information from because it’s all listed here in the docs or whatever.” But I totally agree. I mean, everybody has different learning styles, whether that’s, like you said, picture books, visual, in-person or live content, people love that too. I mean, we’ve got five of people on our team it’s just not possible.

Tara:

Really all about trying to identify, who out there is doing good stuff and elevate it. I think one thing WordPress has not always done a wonderful job of, because it’s done such a good job of centering the end user. WordPress has always been so good at that. I remember my first WordCamp, all these business sessions. You go to a Drupal camp, it’s like code, code, code, code, code, code, code, maybe one design session. It’s very focused on the developer. I remember WordPress sessions, I was like, we’re just going to talk about SEO right now. Okay.

Tara:

Drupal’s gotten better. I feel like WordPress … They’ve kind of come together, but I was so surprised. It’s like, that’s amazing focus on the end user that I think is why WordPress is just absolutely eating the internet and it’s amazing. But I do think that we haven’t, as a project, been good at talking to developers who are not building WordPress, but using WordPress. People like all the three of us who have a need to write code, to extend WordPress, and there is stuff. It’s hard to find a way to talk to that group of people right now in official channels. It’s much easier in unofficial channels.

Tara:

You have Gutenberg times or you have all these different places. Anyway, we’re trying to, I think, as project members, kind of look at what kind of space might be necessary, like is there a space on wordpress.org for that? Or just, where can developers gather to talk? Like I said, I don’t know if it’s actually official channels or not that need to be built, but just finding that has been really interesting because it has historically been kind of like, the second you’ve got users, and then developers come next, it feels like.

Tracy:

Yeah. I, as also a self-taught developer, but more an … I was an art major. I did all of the design stuff, but focused on like user experience and stuff. I’ve always, especially when I’ve been of working for myself full-time, I do all of it. I do all of the sales, to client relations, to strategy to all that. I didn’t have the enough time to be able to contribute, but I wanted to because I’m like, I have ideas. I want to be able to make this a better tool because I’m using it, we’re all using it, and I’ve gotten some from my perspective, from my clients, from my work, I’ve gotten some perspectives that I think would be really valuable for a team.

Tracy:

But I haven’t had a chance like to get into the official channels, is not something that I have the ability to do.

Tara:

Time. Yeah, absolutely.

Tracy:

Yeah. I wonder if it’s almost … I feel like you could get … A lot of things now is very bootcamp related kind of thing. So, online courses, intensive courses, I almost wonder if it’s again, not reinventing the wheel, is that something you partner with someone and do that, or yeah, because I think that … I’d be like, okay, well, I could do a couple classes, but I want to be able to like ask questions.

Tara:

Absolutely.

Angela:

And get feedback. It is so important to have that because as a person who is more of a front end person, but I have to deal with a lot of plugins and extend them, so I am doing PHP. I am getting into the muck of things, deep into the weeds. Then seeing all the different kind of coding standards that come out of these and just would be lovely to … I think people are aware of some standards. Not everyone is. Some people are really going rogue and just coding their own stuff on top of WordPress. But the blog project I think is a really good opportunity to say this is really, you could do it this way, but you could also do it this way, and actually this is the better way. And almost having code …

Tara:

Oh, I love that idea.

Angela:

Code review sessions I think would be really interesting. Yeah, where you just kind of invite people like, oh, you’re starting to get your feet wet, or maybe you’re more advanced developer. I think that was one of the more useful things we did for developers at WordCamp, Denver, is Zack, with GravityView, led a code review session and they just put code up on, Zack Katz, up on the screen and then they just kind of went through. They were very gentle and loving and there was no harsh words said, but I felt like, even as someone who maybe wasn’t quite as advanced as maybe some of these people were, it was really great to hear them talk about, oh, you should do it that way.

Angela:

I could recognize that. I could say, oh, oh, and so that’s part of the picture book example too, is where you’re learning by the examples. But I’ve always felt like all developers, we’ve talked about that in the community, share your code, share code, and people are embarrassed to do that, but I think the more invitations you can make to share your code, and then …

Tara:

Yeah, I love that.

Angela:

And then we learn from each other.

Tracy:

And sing kumbaya.

Angela:

Kind of let’s gather around the fire.

Tara:

[crosstalk 00:32:40]. Birgit Pauli-Haack of Gutenberg Times just proposed on the make core, I think his core blog, developer hours, so it would be sort of like get a couple Gutenberg experts in the room, but then they’re just kind of there to help brainstorm, help troubleshoot. People can bring whatever they want to bring. It’s just totally like an open call for anyone to come in. I love this code review sessions idea too. I think that’s a little more kind of structured. I think, for so many people in WordPress, there are so many people working in very small companies or solo. Like, you don’t have anybody to do code reviews.

Tara:

I remember I stopped doing solo work because I felt like I was hitting my ceiling as a developer. I just was like, I can’t learn. I have exceeded my ability to teach myself, which is cool. It was an exciting moment, but I needed somebody to look at my code and say, oh, you’re not doing … This needs to be fixed, and saying whatever. I love that idea. I’m totally taking that back and give you credit for it. Yeah. That’s awesome.

Tracy:

I love it.

Tara:

Thank you.

Tracy:

Even though, I hate-hate relationship with JavaScript, it’s not how my brain works, but I know react is even different than that. What kind of tips? Because you came from PHP, right? What kind of things did help you in translating from … Because PHP, HTML, CSS, that works how my brain works, I get it. JavaScript and all of that, I’m like, nope. It’s opposite of what I’m thinking.

Tara:

Oh my gosh. That’s such a good question. I feel like I should have thought about it now before I got here. Because I love it and I should be able to answer it. For me, like I said, so I do feel like learning object oriented programming was helpful because React is a little bit more object oriented than like the WordPress PHP style. That was the biggest switch for me. A friend of mine from the Drupal community gave this talk. It’s just about object oriented programming. It’s not Drupal specific at all, where she used Pokemon to describe how you write object oriented programming and how you can transform … I’m not a Pokemon person, I don’t like totally get that part of it, but it was fun.

Tracy:

I make names for all of the Pokemon. I don’t know, like this is spiky green hat dude.

Tara:

Exactly.

Angela:

This is going to be a Twitter quote. I’m just preparing you, this Pokemon thing. So, get it out there because I’m going to … Yeah.

Tara:

Yeah. It’s exactly like Pokemon.

Angela:

Like Pokemon.

Tara:

No, I’m just thinking about Pokemon. Sorry. It helped me understand the component mindset that I feel like is part of Gutenberg and helped me kind of, even though it’s not exactly one-to-one. That was one thing that I had to get into my brain and it was a challenge. Then the other thing is just, like I said, even though the examples on the Gutenberg report are a little bit out of date, although they’re slowly getting updated, for me, it was really looking at the most complicated. For some reason, I like to look at the most complicated thing. And then, when my brain can’t handle it anymore, I go one level simpler. I don’t know why I do that. It seems very backwards.

Tracy:

It’s like going into the pool and then jump into the hot tub.

Tara:

Yeah. Exactly, exactly. It’s like … But it’s like I looked at, there’s a red recipe card, which isn’t actually technically, I think the most complicated one in the examples repo. I was like, okay, so I don’t understand any of this, but I can understand how to do this part. Then I like went and worked my way towards the simple stuff. Like I said, I don’t why my brain works that way, but for me it was examples and kind of getting that component mindset. Because for me, previously, like PHP had been so much, I don’t know, the procedural thing.

Tara:

Yeah, it’s linear. It feels like linear. I can understand it. Then trying to read object oriented code or component type stuff, it was like, yeah, it’s like, I don’t know where it went. Like I said [crosstalk 00:36:58] my friends Pokemon talk.

Angela:

Like trigonometry.

Tracy:

Now we have Pokemon and trigonometry. All right, cool. Anything else?

Tara:

If you learn those two things, you’ll be great.

Tracy:

You’ll be fine.

Tara:

Just Pokemon and trig, you’ll be fine.

Angela:

Well, I think that’s a great though for people who want to learn. I feel like this gets back to the learning styles thing like, how do you learn? I would say, regardless if you learn in person or you learn with video or you learn by reading, one way that I think all of us learn is by example. You can never not … You can’t skip that part. I love the concept of deconstructing, that we all need to deconstruct. The more that we can be facilitated in our deconstruction process, like maybe we could look at something like, I don’t even know where to begin to deconstruct this, but if someone’s guiding you through the deconstruction and it’s, in a way, you took yourself there. I think that’s great. You start with the complicated thing and then work your way back. That’s ex that’s exactly how a lot of people learn, you take that [crosstalk 00:38:18].

Tara:

Yeah. There were certainly, when I was learning, I was like, okay, I know that you can make this kind of a field because WordPress core does it. Then I had to figure out like, I think the compiled step, it also complicates things, because you’re looking at compiled code. But if you go to the WordPress, like repo, there’s the source files, you can look at it there. I think, for me, a lot of how I originally learned to code was like, honestly, looking at WordPress and triple core because I knew it could be done. It was like, this is possible. I will find out.

Tara:

So, I also kind of went down the rabbit hole of the core blocks of, how did these get made, how they put this particular styling option in the bar or that kind of stuff really … But I was surprised how much of it really was like, once I found the right example, it was like, oh, okay, it all … This just works. This sidebar pops up when I get this here. It took me a minute to kind of figure out how to work with it, and I think, like I said, we still need a lot more support around how to help people figure that out. But the examples were really, really helpful.

Tracy:

Yeah. I like think about like how I taught myself HTML. I did buy an HTML book back in ’96 or ’97 or something like that. But what did I do? Is I went and I looked at source code and I copied it and I pasted it into my Angel Fire site to see what it did. Then I was like, did I changed things? You’re like, oh, okay, that makes this do that. Great. Cool. Now I’ve learned that bit of it and exactly those samples, the pictures. Absolutely.

Tara:

The pictures go a long way.

Angela:

The more examples. That’s where I never thought I could do PHP, and over the years, I’ve done more and more and more and more PHP. Thank goodness for Stack Overflow. If you see multiple examples and then you see the bad examples and you see the good examples, but I am so good at extrapolating and then reapplying to another situation. The more examples you have, the more that you kind of get your Legos and put … And you’re like, okay, I can combine this blue Lego and this purple Lego and I’m going to melt them down. I’m going to make a purple whatever.

Angela:

It’s so important. If I were to offer any suggestions for the documentation, you definitely need the component pieces defined, all the pieces defined, because you actually have to document the thing in a kind of a dictionary kind of way. I would almost focus more on than tutorials kind of, you know what I mean? Because people can learn from example.

Tracy:

I think about, looking at how I learn, and my time, my ADHD has enough time to look at the examples, and I was like, okay, now I just want to play with it and now I want to see if I can figure it out from here. I don’t have the tension control to be able to go through a whole tutorial sometimes. Yeah, that makes a lot of a sense. But I also really like when you were talking about having that those forums and … Because what we’re talking about here is examples, but learning from other people, and that shared knowledge, I think is really key and examples of good code, example, code reviews, all of these things, it’s really using the community.

Tara:

Absolutely.

Tracy:

Community of WordPress.

Angela:

Yeah, and taking it from the simpler ones and some complex ones and building on that. I love what Tracy says. If it’s something you could just take and put on your environment and at least you’ve gotten that far, they know how to create the environment. You put it in there and then you can play around with it and break things. But if you can’t even get as far to even have something there to break, it’s better to … It’s better to learn how to break things than it is to build things.

Tracy:

I’m really glad that I started teaching myself code back in ’96 before all of these, like task runners and all those command line stuff, because I’m like, I used to just open up a notepad document and I would start typing my HTML. Now I’m like, I get it, I understand. I use these tools, like I use Gulp and these task runners to be able to do a lot of these things that were harder to do, but to set it up, it took me years because it was one of those things. [crosstalk 00:43:11] do this. You’re like, but where does that go? This is step seven. Yep, three, zero.

Tara:

Any negative five through six still.

Tracy:

Exactly. Like, what program am I putting this in? What is …

Tara:

It’s so hard to find out when you don’t have that. I give a talk, or I used to give a talk when I gave talks, when events happened.

Tracy:

Back when we had events.

Tara:

Back when that was a thing, called intro to WordPress command line tools. It was because when I was learning, people would be like, oh, type this into your terminal. I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know where to find that or how to get that open. When you’re trying to like Google that, and you don’t know the words for any of it, if you try to Google like dash V, which is a flag you can pass on the command line, Google is like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. So, trying to give that language to people to understand those tools. Because for me, I put off WPCLI for years and years. When I finally did it, I was like, I could have saved myself like a month of my life. So, trying to get people those tools as soon as I can, because it is hard. It’s so hard to get started.

Angela:

Just to get over that initial hump for sure. Yeah, I’m reading your bio and I kind of … When you first talked, it’s almost like, it sounded like Drupal was this past thing you gave up. But no, you’re still very much active in the Drupal verse. Tell us, are Drupal people different than WordPress people? I mean, are we similar? Because it … Yeah, is it because it’s open source there’s a similar vibe? Do you deal with the [crosstalk 00:45:01] end users on that universe that’s WordPress?

Tara:

I was going to say, I feel like the core community members, I don’t even know how I would describe that, but people who have like been committed, going to events, doing things like running podcasts, I feel like they’re actually very similar. Sometimes it feels like cousins who have some kind of competitive relationship. You know what I mean? It’s like, who’s going to get the inheritance?

Angela:

Grandma likes me better.

Tara:

It’s like, people are very … The open source thing is so crucial to both projects, and it’s so similar. There are differences. I think WordPress is more centralized, like the WordCamp sort of process of getting approved and all that. In Drupal, maybe you could get in trouble if you ran a really bad event and use a Drupal trademark, but that’s it. You can otherwise do anything you want. Every Drupal camp you go to is going to have a different vibe, where I feel like, in WordPress, it’s much more predictable.

Tara:

There are things about the communities that are different. Individuals within it are fairly similar. I do think you’re right, that when I would go to Drupal camps or Drupal con or whatever, and I’m at a booth, I’m like, “What do you do?” It’s, I’m a developer, I’m a designer, I’m a front end developer. I’m a business person. It’s all very much related to the code side and sort of that. Whereas you go to a WordCamp and you ask someone what they do, and they might say that they’re a doctor, or they might say they’re a travel blogger or something. It’s just a totally different world in terms of the people who are using the software.

Tara:

There are still doctors using WordPress, but they don’t … Or sorry, using Drupal, but they don’t come to Drupal events in the way that WordPress, that happens. It’s very similar, but there are some significant differences.

Angela:

Have they adopted a block editor for their project?

Tara:

The Gutenberg project has been ported to Drupal so you can use the Gutenberg in Drupal if you want, but it not … It’s just an optional version. What Drupal is doing is sort of reworking … the whole block page builder discussion is very different in that space. Where WordPress has really gone a long way towards … There’s like a proliferation of page builders, giving a lot of user control to handle the pages. Drupal is generally speaking less like that. There is something called the paragraphs module, which is close to Gutenberg and to a block editor.

Tara:

But in general, it’s like, your developer builds you your template for your kind of page and this kind of page and that kind of page. So, it’s different. Gutenberg is talked about in Drupal, partially because I think it’s intimidating. It’s so easy to that I think Drupal people are like, eh, that could be bad for us if it’s that easy to use. It has not become dominant or anything like that in the community.

Angela:

Well, we are getting close to our time here and it has … I just looked at the clock and it’s like, wow, that went so fast and there’s just so much more to talk about. I really hope that we will find each other in Europe, is my dream for our future.

Tara:

I will subscribe to this dream. Sounds wonderful.

Angela:

Yes. And can you tell people listening how they can find you?

Tara:

Yeah, absolutely. I am sparklingrobots on Twitter, spelled as those two words together, sparkling robots. I’m also sparklingrobots on wordpress.org and the WordPress Slack and Post Status, pretty much everywhere. If you see sparklingrobots, you could reach out and say hi. I would love to hear from folks who are struggling with Gutenberg or having success with Gutenberg. It’s literally my job to care about that and I love my job, so let’s do that. And tara.king, T-A-R-A.K-I-N-G@automatic.com if you want to email me.

Angela:

Oh, thank you so much. I just want to give a shout out again to our sponsor. Ninja Forms. This is a great form building plugin for the professionals out there and end users and anyone who wants pretty forms on their site.

Tracy:

Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show? Sign up on our website, womeninwp.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Facebook group to have conversations with other women in WordPress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Top