For those of you who don’t know me, I’m David Vogelpohl, the brand lead of the Genesis & StudioPress product suites here at WP Engine.
Of course, many of you may already know me from my work at WP Engine, the 5 years I spent running a Genesis-focused agency, and from my contributions to the WordPress community at large.
I have been honored to be part of the Genesis community starting before I joined WP Engine and I’m thrilled that the stars aligned to allow me to contribute to Genesis in even bigger ways than I had ever imagined.
As a reminder, we decided to form the Genesis Shapers group AND keep an ongoing blog cadence about everything we talk about in our monthly meetings, in part to help fulfill our commitment to be the most open community in WordPress.
It is in this spirit that I’m honored to bring this content series to you, and I hope you enjoy reading about and contributing to shaping the future of Genesis. Okay, enough of all that. On to the recap of the August Shapers meeting!
August 8th saw our eighth Genesis Shapers Slack meeting of the year. As a reminder, these meetings are a great opportunity for the Genesis Shapers to share their thoughts and ideas about the Genesis Framework and find out more about pertinent topics in the Genesis community. Click on these links to read recaps from the January, February, March, April, May, and July meetings.
The Genesis Shapers are a global, hand-selected, and diverse group of people representing companies from across the community who have come together to be a representative voice in the strategic direction of Genesis, in addition to the feedback we receive directly from customers across social channels, and through Genesis WP on Slack.
Included in this group are:
Bill Erickson, Carrie Dils, David Decker, Gary Jones, Greg Boser, Jennifer Bourn, Jon Brown, Jonathan Jeter, Lauren Gaige, Lee Anthony, Mike Hemberger, Nahuai Badiola, Remkus de Vries, Robin Cornett, Sara Dunn, and Sridhar Katakam.
In the Shapers meeting earlier this month, we discussed new ways of contributing to Genesis, recent and upcoming Genesis releases, as well as Genesis and React.
Sarah Wells, a product marketing manager at WP Engine who oversees the Genesis and StudioPress portfolios, facilitated the conversation. Here’s a look at the meeting agenda, which covered the “three Cs of success”—Communication, Contribution, and Consistency:
Which avenues of documentation and communication are the community using and consuming? Which of those are your favorite and why?
How do we ensure we are stewarding contributions from the best-in-class Genesis developers?
A look at the recent Genesis 3.0 release and upcoming 3.1 release, as well as a discussion around the use of WordPress React-based APIs in Genesis 3.1.
Sarah kicked off the conversation with the following question:
Let’s think about meaningful communication. With so many channels and flavors out there, which avenues of documentation and communication are the community using and consuming? Slack Channels? Facebook Group? Roadmap in Github? Blog Posts? Other?
Bill Erikson started the list off with:
Slack and FB for solving specific issues, blog posts for deeper learning (I think / hope)
Which was a sentiment shared by a handful of others. Jon Brown added to that point:
When Shapers started there was a question about where people look for learning, and I think Bill, Gary, Travis and Sridar’s blog posts were used by 99%.
For documentation, Blog posts, including longer, informative posts, as well as GitHub posts were agreed upon by many as a great tool. When it came to communicating more actively, however, Nahuai Badiola joined others in stressing the value of collaboration and discussion, saying:
I mainly use the Slack channel, I think it’s a nice place to discuss almost anything (live or asynchronously).
The conversation continued with additional viewpoints regarding the pros and cons of the various channels. While there was certainly no consensus on a single one for either documentation or communication, improving the delivery of information across all channels was a widely agreed upon sentiment.
From there, the conversation shifted to contribution, as Sarah asked:
With the mention of the community and the work y’all are doing, let’s switch gears to meaningful contributions. How do we ensure that we are stewarding contributions from the best-in-class Genesis developers?
Mike Hemberger offered his thoughts first:
Having clearer paths to do so, and clear information on what’s to come, and how you can help.
David Decker added:
Offer them to be featured / linked / shared (social) is essential
To which Mike replied:
Clear === public in many instances.
Acknowledgment and ultimately, wider usage were also pointed out as things that best-in-class developers would want their work to generate. Jennifer Bourn said:
The “best-in-class developers” are also often the busiest, so if you want them to spend time contributing back, they need to know their work is going to be valued and see the light of day. In my experience, contributors / volunteers are happy to give their time when it’s appreciated, acknowledged, and used… when they can see/experience the fruits of their labor so to speak.
After much discussion about other ways to motivate contributors and better ways to streamline the process, Bryan Smith, a senior product manager at WP Engine added:
I think it’s worth reiterating that the WP Engine team sees contributions, whether it’s code or not, as an essential part of the future of Genesis. It’s on us to make paths to contribution much easier, more visible while making it clear how it benefits all of us.
To which Jonathan Jeter replied:
For me, personally, I would respond to a clear, updated list of specific things I could do to help contribute. I think having to request access to the repo before I even know what contributions are needed might be a barrier to entry.
The above was well-received and prompted additional discussion on how to better enable contributors who are eager to get their start.
Moving away from communication and contribution, Sarah asked the group:
I know we talked about the 3.0 release and ways we could improve our process; thinking about the upcoming 3.1 release, how do you feel about Genesis overall these days as it compares to other solutions?
For me it’s about “What does Genesis make easy, that other options don’t”
Long ago, that was things like image handling (genesis_get_image) and menus and whatnot… the next thing I need “made easier” is A11y compliance.
That’s a great call out and actually fits with our sub-question: If we introduce Genesis APIs that extend our React-based functionality (such as adding to the new Genesis editor sidebar from Genesis 3.1), would you be comfortable working with React, or would you prefer that we abstract it into a PHP-based API you can hook into?
Nahuai chimed in:
I’d love to see a PHP-based API for Genesis, similar to what ACF Blocks does to create Gutenberg blocks.
As the discussion progressed, Bill added that it depended on the feature in question:
I think it depends on the feature and who would reasonably customize it. If it’s something a theme developer will need for one-off features, making it as easy as possible (ie PHP) makes sense. If it’s a lower level feature that would be extended by plugins, keeping it React makes sense.
With that, the meeting began to wrap up.
As Genesis continues to evolve, I’m excited about what the future holds. Engaging in discussion and listening to feedback from the Shapers as well as other members of the community is extremely important to me, and it’s something we’ll continue to emphasize as part of our commitment to be the most open community in WordPress.