Podcast Episode

430 – Join Me in the March Code Challenge!


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

CoBlocks is the most innovative collection of page building WordPress blocks for the new Gutenberg WordPress block editor.

Join Me in the March Code Challenge!

In the month of March, I’m going to dedicate 30 minutes each day to learn something new. And I’ve picked two courses to dedicate my time to:

And I’d like you to join me! You don’t have to focus on Javascript, it can be anything new you want to learn. This could be HTML, CSS, PHP, Photoshop, Gutenberg.

Let me know you are interested by tweeting @DustinHartzler or email by using the contact form on the site

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the code challenge in March happening here with YourWebsiteEngineer.com. We’ll talk about that in just a minute right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast Episode number 430.


Dustin Hartzler: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. I’m excited to be here with you today because we’ve got WordPress news to talk about. We’ve got a really cool plugin that I want to share with you. And then we’re going to talk about a code challenge. And we’re going to talk about and just kind of go through what we’re going to do in the month of March with YourWebsiteEngineer.com.

So, let’s go ahead and dive right in. The first piece of news is WordPress 5.1, Betty, has been released. It is a release that’s got some new features and they just did some polishing of the corners to make sure that new block editor is working as best as it can. And so, the first thing is besides those bugs that they fixed and made it a little bit better, they have added a feature called site health.

And this is something that runs on the WordPress dashboard. It shows you notices if you’re running an outdated version of PHP or if you install a new plugin, it will check them against the version of PHP that you’re running. And if the plugin required won’t work with the version that you have it won’t install the plugin, which is pretty nice. It also has – the editor now feels a little bit quicker, a little bit smoother. And those are performance improvements brought to you in WordPress 5.0.

There’s also some developer level stuff. If you’re interested in a new Java Script build process, or Cron API, or multisite metadata, all of that stuff is built right in. But probably the most impressive thing about this release is the fact that it had 561 contributors. And 231 of those have been making their first ever contribution to WordPress. And so, that’s either fixing a small bug or a typo, or adding documentation or whatnot. They all got props for the release. So, 561 people it took to get this latest version of WordPress out the door.

I think that’s incredible. And I think I should put on my to-do list as a goal for 2019 to regularly contribute. I know that I’ve said this about three times over the last four years. And I have one core contribution. It was back in the 4.0 days, but I just haven’t done anything recently since that. So, let’s go ahead and mark that as a to-do that I will be held accountable for as we continue along the journey in 2019.

The other thing that I want to share is that on the Make.WordPress.org blog under the mobile section, it’s talking about the block editor coming to mobile apps. And so, Gutenberg or that block editor is going to come to the mobile devices, whether that be an iPad, or iPhone, or any of the Android devices. All of those features are starting to come. And I have a link in the show notes where you can go and you can enable this now. You could try testing it and try seeing what it looks like right now.

There is a lot of room for improvement. But it’s a way that if you are using WordPress on your phone with an application, then you can turn this on and start using it and then give feedback to the developers to just make the plugin that much nicer or that part of the app work that much nicer. So, I recommend doing that. The other piece of news that I wanted to share is we are just a few short days from WordCamp Dayton. All the pieces are finally falling in place.

It’s been a process. I don’t know. We started back in September or October with locking down the venue and just kind of going through the process and getting people paid and whatnot. And it has just been – it’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a lot of work and a lot of unnecessary stress. No, it hasn’t been bad. It’s been great. We’re expecting more than 100 people at our WordCamp event, which is way up from our earlier predictions. Months in, we had three people signed up and we were like, “Is this even going to happen?” But I’m happy to say that all of the work that it’s taken, it just worked out really well.

We’re happy to have a bunch of people. And just face time with other WordPress people in the Dayton area is going to be really, really exciting. I’m excited. That’s March 1st and 2nd. If you’re interested, head on over to Dayton.WordCamp.org and you can find out the way to register right there.

All right. Let’s move on over to the “Is there a plugin for that?” section. And the one I’m going to talk about today I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about before. It’s called CoBlocks. And I want to bring it up because there was a feature in there that I might’ve overlooked the last time that we talked about it. So, this is a plugin that has – it’s got more than 2,000 active installs. It’s a pretty new one because it came out with the WordPress block editor. And they claim that they are the most innovative collection of page building WordPress blocks for the new block editor.

And what this is is it gives you the ability to add more features with these blocks. So, you can add resizable rows and columns. You can do a featured block or you can do a media card, or an icon map block, accordion block, alert block, author profile block, click to tweet block – tons of new blocks. And the coolest feature inside of CoBlocks is the ability to turn off blocks with the block manager.

So, there are some settings in there that you can go in and instead of seeing like thousands of blocks once you’ve added a couple of these plugins with all the core blocks that are built in and whatnot, this has the ability to turn some of those off so you don’t see them. And so, it’s really cool. It fits – it looks like it should be part of WordPress core already. But it is not. It is something that they’re talking about.

I saw some conversations happening about, “Should this be a feature built into WordPress?” And how many times are you going to use the link to Amazon Kindle as a block? Are you going to use that very often? Like, most website owners aren’t, but that’s a block that’s built into WordPress. And it’s like that’s probably not going to get used that much. So, it would be great to be able to turn those off with core. But if not, if you want to get rid of and kind of tidy up your dashboard, then CoBlocks is the plugin for that. So, that is the plugin of the week.

All right. Let’s move right along. As we are getting ready for this month, in March, it’s going to be a busy month here in the Hartzler household. It’s just because we have three birthdays to celebrate. My wife’s travelling. We’ve got – she’s travelling twice. We’ve got WordCamp Dayton that’s happening on the horizon. We’ve got several birthday parties. We’ve got all kinds of things that are happening, just so many moving pieces. And I know that this is probably not the best time to start a big project or start something with all the business. But I find that the busier I am, the more efficient I seem to be.

It seems like, “Oh, I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ve got to do this stuff now.” And so, what I’ve been wanting to do for months and months and weeks and weeks is go through some sort of code challenge of some kind. Whether that be an online boot camp or just some tutorial on Lynda.com, or find something that’s out there and just try to figure out how I can learn Java Script better.

I know this was Matt Mullenweg’s charge back in 2015 at the State of the Word is learn Java Script deeply. It’s been years. I haven’t done anything. And I think now is the time that I finally want to just start actively pursuing some sort of additional code. I think some of the cool things that we can do with Java Script, you know, some of the fancy things with as you scroll down the page different things happen – like, those are super fancy things in a theme that I think would be nice to learn how to do. But there are so many cool things that you can do with Java Script that I just want to kind of branch out and do something a little bit different.

As a Woo Commerce happiness engineer, all day I get to help people with fixing some CSS issues and fixing PHP bugs or working in PHP code. And so, this is kind of completely different. It’s a little bit outside of what I’m doing for work. It’s a little bit more on the lines of something that I want to kind of do for fun. And so, I’m going to set the challenge of March being the code challenge month. And one of the tutorials or one of the things I’m going to talk about is a 30-day challenge.

And so, you’ve got an extra one day for wiggle room or maybe get a couple of tutorials in on one day or so. But that’s what I want to talk about. And first, I want to go through kind of a beginner’s guide to learning Java Script. And this can work for any type of platform or any type of code that you’re looking to use. If you’ve just opened up WordPress and maybe the first thing you want to learn is a little bit of HTML. Like, I want to be able to format things exactly right. Maybe HTML is the right language. Or maybe I want to be able to move things visually across the page or make all of my whatever look the same and write a little bit of CSS.

That could be maybe what your code challenge is in March. Or maybe it’s PHP. Maybe you want to be able to create a theme and be able to pull information from the database and populate a custom page within your theme. There are so many cool things that you can do with code and there are so many different opportunities to use and to learn in this month.

And I just want to say that in the month of March, we should dedicate a 30-minute window – I’m just saying 30 minutes each day – to learning something new. Something that’s outside of what we do day to day and something that is really kind of passionate for you. Something that will allow you to be excited and allow you to just be excited about working on – not really a project, but just kind of diving in and learning something new.

I think something that we have to think about regularly is the fact that you don’t have to have a set goal. You don’t have to have a certain project, but you can learn and you can tinker. Maybe you do have a set goal. And you’re like, “Maybe I can do this with PHP, but I could also do this with Java Script.” The skies are the limit. There’s so much that you can create with code. I’m going to go through a talk a little bit about what I want to learn in the month of March, and you all can hold me accountable.

If you’re interested, feel free to send me a message. You can use the contact form or send me a Twitter message or whatnot and say that, “I’m in.” And then we will figure out some way to keep in touch with each other and make sure that we are staying to this promise of 30 days of learning. And starting March 1st is going to be the target date. That’s the day of WordCamp. So, I’m obviously going to get behind the first couple of days, but I am willing to stick it out and learn something cool in the month of March.

Now, learning – in trying to figure out what Java Script class that I want to take or what Java Script thing that I want to kind of go through over the course of the month, I stumbled upon a few different ones. And I’ll talk about those in a second. But as I went through trying to figure out what I wanted to do or how I wanted to start, I found – I stumbled upon two different classes. Two different things that I’m going to kind of bounce my way between.

The first one is called Java Script Language Basics. And that is over at JavaScriptforWP.com. And that is by Zach Gordon. He is a developer that has taken this learn Java Script deeply from Matt Mullenweg and really emphasized it. And he has all kinds of trainings and courses available. So, this one is called Java Script Language Basics. Right now it’s on sale for free. It doesn’t cost any money and I’ve got a link in the show notes for it. But it looks like it’s got 24 videos. None of them are more than maybe 10, 12 minutes. Fourteen is the longest one, it looks like. And it’s just going to go through the basic Java Script language.

It’s a great writing prerequisite to some of the other courses. And I think I’m just kind of going to go through this and make sure that my brain has at least kind of wrapped around what Java Script is and how it works. And so, I’ve never taken one of Zach’s courses before. And so, I’m interested to dive in and see what that’s all about. I wanted to start with a free on, make sure that I understand his learning style, and just kind of get into it and see what that looks like. So, that’s Java Script for WordPress and that’s the Java Script Language Basics class.

And then the other one that I’m going to take – and I started this. I did about 2 days of the 30-day challenge – is the JavaScript30.com. And that is over by Wes Bos. And he has a podcast called Syntax.FM. I’m just a really big fan of all of his knowledge. His teaching style works really well with the way that I like to learn. And it is a beginner to intermediate developer and designers. It’s kind of built for them that want to be comfortable with both Java Script fundamentals and working with the DOM without a library.

And so, none of it has to do with WordPress itself, but there are a lot of cool great videos and things that you can build within this class. So, you can build – I think one of the cool parts is you can build a Java Script drum kit or a Java Script clock or – let’s see. What else? – a custom HTML video player. You can do a slide in on scroll so images will slide in as you scroll up the page. You can sort brand names without articles. You can do click and drag scrolling things and video speed controller UI. Like, you can do some fun things.

And while it’s probably not going to give me any real – I guess implementing these 30 different projects probably isn’t going to be really beneficial to my website or actually doing things within WordPress. But I think it’ll give me a good handle on what all can be done with Java Script. So, I think the way that Wes teaches is he goes through – there are exercises and there are also the answers. And he kinds of walks you through the different code and what it means and whatnot.

And so, I spent – I plan on spending 20 to 30 minutes a day going through at least one of these per day and trying to kind of level up my skills and make Java Script – make me a little bit better when it comes to Java Script. So, those are the two things that I’m going to look for. I didn’t spend a lot of time diving in to find different CSS, or PHP, or HTML courses. There are tons of them out there.

And there are lots of free courses that are available. There are a ton out on Udemy, which doesn’t happen to be free. Some of them are paid. There’s Code Academy. There is Team Treehouse. There are tons of them out there. There are tons of different code challenges out there or just different things that you can learn Ja—I think Wes Bos also has one that’s like HTML and he’s got one that’s markdown. So, it doesn’t have to be anything super technical. Like, you could learn markdown in 30 days. That’s a pretty cool thing that you could do.

And that’s what I wanted to really talk about today. I wanted to share what my plans are or my challenge is for this upcoming year, or at least the upcoming month of March. And I wanted just to see if anybody else was interested in holding each other accountable and kind of making sure we stick to this goal. Because I know that we all say that we want to be better, to do this, or I might say, “I want to do this with my WordPress website and I want to do this, this, and this.” And then I don’t actually ever do it because I’m never being held accountable.

So, join me in the code challenge. You can send me a message, Dustin@YourWebsiteEngineer.com. You can find me on Twitter or you can send me a message through the website or whatnot. And just let me know if you want to be part of it. And we’ll create some sort of group and we’ll keep ourselves accountable. That’s all I’ve got for you this week. I’ve got more WordCamp stuff to take care of. And next week, I should be back within the code challenge and be excited about learning new things, and be over the overwhelm of running a WordCamp.