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As you may be aware, I joined a Cincinnati-based startup, Growella, as their Director of Technology in mid-November. Since joining, I’ve been hard at work building our site (which is slated to launch within the next few weeks), building our hosting infrastructure, and generally being the point-person for all things technological at the company.
I’m already learning a lot in my new role, and I wanted an outlet to be able to share those things. I’m also very fortunate that the rest of the company embraces open source software, so I wanted a place (besides this blog) to share what Growella has been working on, the problems we’ve been solving, and any releases of new software.
With all of that in mind, I’m proud to announce that about an hour ago we launched the Engineering @ Growella blog.
If you haven’t run into them before, WordPress Must-Use (MU) plugins can be a great way to say “no, seriously, my WordPress site needs this plugin in order to function”. Other times, MU plugins may be used to activate required functionality that site maintainers don’t want the site editorial team to have to worry about (for example, caching plugins like Batcache).
There are a lot of things that can be done with MU plugins, but there’s one major limitation right out of the gate: WordPress MU plugins cannot run in sub-directories.
If you haven’t had the chance to work with it before, Gravity Forms is pretty fantastic. I was first turned onto it a few years ago while I was at Buckeye Interactive, where it was a mainstay across most of our client sites. Besides presenting an easy-to-manage interface for building forms, the plugin also makes good use of the WordPress Plugin API (thus making my life way easier) and has a vibrant ecosystem of official and unofficial add-ons.
One area where Gravity Forms could stand to improve, however, is making it easier to identify fields. Let’s say, for example, we have a form where we’re collecting a name and an email address; outside of assuming that the regular text field is the name and the
input[type="email"] is the email address, Gravity Forms doesn’t really have a straight-forward way to identify fields when you’re doing extra work with submissions (like sending them to a newsletter or a CRM system).
In my new role as Director of Technology at Growella, one of the first things I needed to figure out was how we could reliably map Gravity Forms submissions into third-party tools.
Just over two years ago, I joined 10up as a Senior Web Engineer. I was looking for an opportunity to stretch my skills on bigger clients with a larger team, and I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last 24 months. I’ve moved around a few different positions in the company, and been afforded the chance to travel to places like Boulder, San Diego, Atlanta, and Manhattan, all while working with a tremendously-talented team of engineers.
For all these reasons and more, it saddens me to announce that today is my last day with 10up. Beginning Monday, I’ll be joining the team at a young company, Growella, as the Director of Technology. While it’s a big change for me, Growella also represents a tremendous opportunity for me to build a company from the ground up, developing not only software but a team of talented engineers.
I wanted to take a quick moment to share a pattern I stumbled upon last week while building something for a client: this particular client runs a large, multisite WordPress network and often needs to be able to provision new sites quickly. In this case, we recently built an new theme designed to handle press sites for live events (photos, transcripts, live streams, etc.), and while I could automate a lot of the setup process (there's literally a one-click “set all of the defaults for me” button on the dashboard), provisioning the new site still means creating the site as a Network Admin, assigning the theme, and clicking that button.
It's good, but we can do better.
Last week, I went to New York City for my very first time. The city was amazing: iconic landmarks, outstanding food, and a mix of people from all walks of life. I don’t think I could see myself living in New York, but I’d happily go for a vacation at the drop of a hat.
One thing that struck me, however, was the lack of great coffee. Perhaps it was just my neighborhood (Tribeca), but even great shops like La Colombe Coffee offered an espresso bar or drip coffee. No pour-overs, no French Press, nor Chemex; my choices were coffee-plus-something or black coffee that’s been sitting in an airpot. It wasn’t until a colleague and I wandered into Everyman Espresso that I was actually able to get a Chemex, and it blew every other coffee I had that week out of the water.
A few weeks ago, my friend and I were wandering through Micro Center when we found a stock of Raspberry Pi Zeros, the $5 computer that’s been difficult to acquire but has sparked a “no, seriously, how can I justify not buying a $5 computer?!” chorus of geeks across the globe.
Since picking up the Pi, it’s…well, sat on my desk. I’ve been looking for a fun project (and the time in which to do it), and finally decided to try the Raspberry Pi Zero out as an OpenVPN server, as it turns out my NETGEAR router doesn’t support the necessary protocols for connecting from my iPhone. I even found this handy post detailing how to go about getting OpenVPN working, which is great.
Right now, one of my main projects at work is a totally new theme for the official news outlet for a major corporation. Along with a million other changes, one thing that needs to happen ASAP after switching to the new theme is that the image thumbnail sizes – controlled through Settings › Media in wp-admin – need to be changed.
Of course, being the lazy, automation-obsessed developer that I am, I wanted to find a way to automatically set these thumbnail sizes the instant we changed themes. Fortunately, where there’s a hook, there’s a way to make this happen automatically.
I recently had an interesting request on a client project: how can we resize animated gifs without losing the animation in the thumbnails? WordPress lets you upload animated gifs, but as soon as it resizes them the thumbnails are decidedly less animated. As a purveyor of fine, animated gifs, I can tell you that an animated gif with no animation is no gif worth having!
Fortunately, there’s a free, open-source library called Gifsicle designed to manipulate animated gifs. The fun part is using Gifsicle to resize your gifs for you, automatically.
Every once in a while (well, more often then I’d care to admit, actually), WordPress core surprises me with a function that I had no idea existed. They often come in the form of utility functions, things written when developers decide “oh no, I have to write this piece of logic again?!”. Heck, there have even been talks on these hidden little bits of code that make the world a brighter place.
Today, that function is