Email to Slack bot idea

It would be fun to have a Slack bot that could be copied late into a long email thread of reply-alls. It would create a channel or join an existing one, parse the thread into a conversation with messages applied to people in the conversation, and then reply-all to the email thread with a link to the conversation in Slack.

This would allow you to politely suggest a conversation move to Slack and move it there at the same time.

See also: the same, but with a new GitHub issue.

Specific focuses and vague goals for 2016

It’s funny how I’ve been looking forward more to writing this post than I was to writing my reflections on 2015. I guess it’s good to get some of that out of the way first to help focus more on what’s next.

I’ve adjusted last year’s self-reflection projection title a bit to better apply specificity and vagueness.

As 2016 progresses, I hope to revisit this post as a guide for what I thought I would enjoy doing as the year went on.

Reading.

I’m successfully falling in love with reading again. And now that I’m back on track I think I can get a bit more focused. I set a goal of 15 books in my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge. Here’s how I want that to break down.

2/3 should be fiction. 1/3 should be non-fiction.

I’d like to continue my Orwell streak. I rounded things out pretty well with some of his lesser known novels last year. Now it’s time to revisit my favorites, specifically Homage to Catalonia and 1984, and finally get to (finish?) The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London. Three of those count as non-fiction. Sweet!

I’m slightly more fascinated with James Joyce after finishing Ulysses. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man should be part of 2016.

I’d like to finish the original Foundation trilogy and I have Second Foundation waiting for me on the Kindle. The first took a bit and the second was better. If the story continues to be interesting I may find myself reading even more Asimov.

I’ll mention Hemingway because I finally read A Moveable Feast last year and want to dig in, but he’s a backup for the time being.

William Hertling’s Singularity series has been a ton of fun and I still need to finish the 4th, The Turing Exception. I’d like to explore more fiction along these lines if you have any suggestions!

As for non-fiction, I have a very specific list to start with:

I’m forcing myself to stop recommending myself books now. Time to read!

Learning.

In a similar vein, I’m starting to focus more on learning and how I can establish patterns for learning in my day to day life. Rather than attempting to adapt on the fly, I’d want to start being proactive.

In 2016…

A passable amount of German. We’re planning on being in Vienna for about a month in June around WordCamp Europe. I’d like to be prepared for some limited conversation. The time we spent in France and Spain in 2011 helped me realize how much I stumble in situations where English is not an option. While a large number of people in Vienna speak English, I’d rather attempt German more often than not.

JavaScript. Deeply. 😜

But seriously. I can sit down and hack at JavaScript. I can build things that rely on JavaScript. But I can’t give you a comparison of frameworks or really tell you why React seems like overkill and something like Ember might be better. And I’d like to.

One of my goals for WSU in 2016 is to establish a more friendly front-end development workflow for WordPress themes involving templates and a local environment requiring HTML, not PHP. The only way this really happens is if I start to know what I’m doing. 😉

And JavaScript, for now, is the future. There is a lot of fun to be had and I’d like to start digging in.

One of the things I’m going to try to introduce to my daily workflow is spaced repetition through Anki. I’m expecting this to help mostly with memorizing frequent German words, though it would be interesting if I can apply it the right way to JavaScript as well.

Writing.

Still a goal! It feels good to be 650 words into something, I should do it more often. I have so much to share that fades away once I do something else instead. I should start sharing instead of doing something else.

Speaking.

I was surprised to look back and see that I spoke 4 times last year. I remember feeling burnt out half-way through the year and not wanting to apply or speak at all.

My talk at WordCamp Vancouver was invigorating, mostly because I didn’t have time to prepare as a fill-in and I made some modifications to a talk I had already given.

Until then I had focused a lot on never giving the same talk twice. I used the process of creating the talk as a way to dive deeply into the subject and learn something about it.

But it’s fun to talk about something you’re the expert on! And I want to focus more on that in 2016. I’ll probably submit the same talk to a few camps, and be less worried about missing out. And when I do give the talk the 3rd or 4th time, those kinks will be gone and we’ll all have a better time.

I have a few weeks left to apply for WordCamp Europe. I’ll cross my fingers for that, LoopConf 2, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and US. I’d love to hit Denver or Chicago, but we’ll see. Budgets!

WordPress

Make multisite better? 😘

But really. Some big stuff should be figured out this year.

WP_Site, WP_Site_Query, and WP_Network_Query to start.

In the process I’d like to become less afraid at taking a scythe to stuff that’s been there since the beginning and replacing it with some definition of expectations.

I want to adapt our configuration at WSU to use WP Multi Network instead so that we aren’t reinventing the wheel. Doing so should help make better decisions around the future of multi-network in WordPress core.

Oh, and I’d like to introduce a new site switcher.

Washington State University

It’s going to be 3 years in July! Big things are going to happen in these first 6 months. To start, we’ll have a new WordPress developer joining the team at some point in the next couple months!

This means I’ll have time to focus more on connecting big picture stuff:

  1. Content syndication throughout the University.
  2. Give everyone a place to share their work with open registration for students, faculty, and staff. Free websites!
  3. A better search experience for the University built on Elasticsearch.

In the process, I’d like to do a much better job for our team of defining how we work with the web at WSU. Now that we have a new WordPress developer coming on board, it will be especially helpful to have documentation to match.

I’d also like to do a much better job of talking about the work that we’re doing. Things like being HTTPS forward and embracing HTTP/2.0 immediately are pretty cool. Professors and labs that are inspired to share their work with WordPress are awesome.

These should be written about in better ways.

And other wonderful experiences.

Have a great 2016!

 

 

2015 Reflection and Check-in

2015 went by in a hurry, so much that I missed the usual day of reflection and am starting off 2016 with one instead. 🙂

Some notables.

I did better at reading.

The challenge of 25 books was too high, but 14 feels good. I’ll read more next year.

One of the reasons that I read more books over the last year is because I started focusing on it more. As of sometime in the last several months, our phones started spending the night elsewhere in the house. The lack of looping distractions before bed—Twitter, Slack, Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Facebook—allows for much more focused reading time instead. Much more focused reading time makes for faster and more attuned reading.

All in all, a good decision.

That much more focused reading time finally allowed me to finish Ulysses after a 3 year struggle. And now that I’ve finished it once I’ll probably go back and try to read it again to understand. But not in 2016. 🙂

If you read, you should add me as a friend on Goodreads! If you haven’t used Goodreads yet, here’s a good explainer.

But not necessarily so great at writing.

I published 30 posts on jeremyfelt.com in 2015, compared to 26 in 2014. That’s not exactly what I had in mind last year when I wrote “An average of one thoughtful post a week wouldn’t be horrible.

But closer I guess. 🙂

We’re still in Pullman.

We moved in June from a rental house to apartment land. The transition has been nice in some ways, though the house was also pretty nice. We’re enjoying the area quite a bit and while we’re consistent in our back-and-forth about leaving or staying, we now tend to land on staying during most conversations. See also the part where moving is just a crappy experience.

We got rid of some stuff.

In the move from house to apartment, we were able to downsize a bunch of crap that had collected. I did finally get rid of that netbook from 2010 and those two laptops from 2008. How they managed to tag along this long is a disappointment.

I freelanced.

And actually met my goal of 100 hours even though I didn’t really get moving until June or July. I learned quite a bit about myself and some about working too much and getting burned out. I’m happy to have a steady and well paying job and I love contributing to open source software when I’m at home. I’m not entirely sure how freelance fits into that schedule yet, but I’m still working out the details. 2016 will probably be a bit more focused in how I apply freelance time.

I bottled a beer.

Almost a no-brew year. I couldn’t even remember if I had brewed this year until I looked at my photo library. It appears I brewed my last on December 28th, 2014, which means I finished it in late January. So, I’m still a homebrewer, technically. I’ll get started on some small batch stuff soon.

Travel!

I should have known when I set a goal of visiting a new country last year that there would be no new country. Oh well. We had a blast anyway.

  • Silverton, OR in February for Zach and Jennifer’s wedding. We took advantage of being in the area and drove out to the coast for a day and night at Cannon Beach before heading home.
  • Seattle, WA in March for WordCamp Seattle where I didn’t speak but ended up on a panel at the last minute.
  • Las Vegas (and Henderson) in May for LoopConf (where I spoke) and some Vegas-ing.
  • Portland, OR in May for, get this, an Ikea trip. We basically arrived, ate, and went to Ikea.
  • Penticton, BC in June for a couple sunny days in gorgeous Canada wine country.
  • Seattle, WA in July for a night to catch the NoFilterShow, which starred several YouTube personalities.
  • Vancouver, BC in August for WordCamp Vancouver. I had a chance to visit the UBC campus and hangout with Richard and team after stopping by the massive (!) blue whale exhibit. And then of course a few days of beer touring from the ever so knowledgable Flynn and friends. The Vancouver crowd is so great.
  • Glacier National Park for the first time in August! We only spent a couple days, and forest fires were blazing, but it was still such a gorgeous area. We’ll be back. There’s a great breakfast spot in Whitefish, MT and the Cheap Sleep Motel was shockingly pleasant. We then drove from Whitefish, MT to meet our friends in West Yellowstone for a couple days of hanging out in Yellowstone. It was Michelle’s first time and I hadn’t been there since 2004 or something. Such a fascinating place. And then! We drove from West Yellowstone to Bozeman for a nice last minute visit with my Aunt and Uncle for a couple days. We got in a couple great hikes and many great conversations. Lucky for us, we stumbled in with perfect timing to catch the local premiere of Meru including a nice Q+A afterward with Conrad Anker. You should see that movie.
  • In September, we drove off on another adventure. We stopped for a night near Devils Tower, hiked in the morning and then took off for Estes Park, CO. I’m not entirely sure why we stayed in Estes Park, but it was a fun reminder of one of the first trips Michelle and I took together (West!) from the Chicago area. We then kept going to Denver and to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. On the long way home we stopped in Glenwood Springs, CO for one night, spent an afternoon touching f’ing dinosaur bones in Dinosaur National Monument, and then relaxed for a couple days in Park City, UT, enjoying a really excellent hike in the process. On the (still going) continued long way home, we made a stop in Portland specifically for Vegan Beer Fest, at which we met Flynn! A lot of miles on that trip. 🙂
  • Made it back to Portland, OR a few weeks later for the reborn WordCamp Portland in October, where I spoke and had a great time being in Portland with everyone.
  • New York City for the first time right at the end of November for a WordPress core committer summit. I did not have time to sight see, but I did witness the existence of the Statue of Liberty at 3am from an Uber headed to my hotel from the airport. Sweet!
  • Philadelphia, PA for the first week of December for the WordPress community summit and first WordCamp US. That was an excellent, though draining week. Can’t wait for next year! 🙂

I found myself speaking.

I didn’t apply and/or didn’t get accepted much this year, but still ended up in a speaker role several times.

And of course, WordPress.

I’m still a fan, still a student, still plugging away, and still a committer. 🙂

We had what felt like a pretty consistent set of releases this year in 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4. No big surprises, everything on time for the most part.

And I now have a great memory of sitting down for lunch in the lodge next to Old Faithful with an Old Faithful beer and receiving a Twitter notification during a brief moment of cell service letting me know I had been given “permanent commit”. 🙂

I need to do a bigger mental regroup on what we accomplished in 2015 for the multisite component. We at least got WP_Network in, but there are several smaller wins as well. There’s a goal for 2016—better reflection!

Washington State University (#gocougs)

We’re still cruising! Right at the beginning of December, we hit 1000 hosted sites on our platform with just about 2000 users and 2 million page views per month.

These numbers are important because we still haven’t enabled open registration. Instead, a large number of institutional sites are in WordPress that could probably often be considered stagnant. This includes many that we thought would take years to be in.

Bonus highlight – we launched a brand new wsu.edu in March! Having that in WordPress has been amazing. Having it default to HTTPS on HTTP/2.0 makes me personally happy. 🙂

And that’s that.

There’s always more. See you in December!

Previous reflective posts: 2014, 2013.

Configure Nginx to allow for embedded WordPress posts

The ability to embed WordPress posts in WordPress posts is a pretty sweet feature from 4.4 and I’ve been looking forward to finding ways of using it throughout WSU. Today, when I tried it for the first time, I got an error because of our strict X-Frame-Options header that we had set to SAMEORIGIN for all page views.

To get around this, I added a block to our Nginx configuration that modifies this header whenever /embed/ is part of the requested URL. It’s a little sloppy, but it works.

Before our final location block, I added a new one to capture /embed/:

# We'll want to set a different X-Frame-Option header on posts which
# are embedded in other sites.
location ~ /embed/ {
    set $embed_request 1;
    try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php$is_args$args;
}

This sets the $embed_request variable to be used later in our final .php location block:

location ~ \.php$ {
    try_files $uri =404;

    # Set slightly different headers for oEmbed requests
    if ( $embed_request = 1 ) {
        add_header X-Frame-Option ALLOWALL;
        add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;
        add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block";
    }

    # Include the fastcgi_params defaults provided by nginx
    include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
    ...etc...

Now, all URLs except those specifically for embedding are prevented from being used in iframes on other domains.

And here we are!

Still searching for Amelia

 

My first Let’s Encrypt certificate

The timing of the Let’s Encrypt beta could not be more perfect as my previous certificate expires on November 18th. I purposely purchased only a 1 year certificate because I knew Let’s Encrypt was coming. Let’s see how this works!

6:00pm

In my email, I have an invite to Let’s Encrypt for 3 whitelisted domains—jeremyfelt.com, www.jeremyfelt.com, and content.jeremyfelt.com. Per the documentation, I cloned the git repository to a spot on my server—I chose /home/jeremyfelt/—so that I could use the client.

I admit that I haven’t read any documentation up until this point, so I’m flying blind and impatient like normal. 🙂

My first attempt at running the ./letsencrypt-auto command was interesting, but kind of a failure. A ton of dependencies were installed, which is good. I have an outdated version of Python apparently, which is annoying.

WARNING: Python 2.6 support is very experimental at present…
if you would like to work on improving it, please ensure you have backups and then run this script again with the –debug flag!

It took me several attempts before I finally read the message above and figured out that I was supposed to run the Let’s Encrypt command as ./letsencrypt-auto --debug to even pass to the next level. If you have Python not 2.6, this probably won’t be an issue.

Ok. Figured that out, then that crazy fake linux light blue GUI comes up… progress! Go through a couple steps and get this:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.09.52 PM

Right then. By default, the Let’s Encrypt client wants to be a web server so that it can properly communicate authority. This would be excellent if I didn’t already have a web server running.

At this point, I read down the page of documentation a bit and realized I could (a) use a config file and (b) use text only instead of ncurses. Sweet!

When I setup the default config file as /etc/letsencrypt/cli.ini, I noticed an option for webroot authenticator. This looked more promising as a way to handle authentication through Nginx. I enabled this and tried again.

And failed! “Failed authorization procedure” to be exact. My client told the other side to verify at http://jeremyfelt.com/.well-known/acme-challenge/BIGLONGSTRING, but my default Nginx configuration blocks public access to all hidden files.

I added a location block to Nginx specifically to allow .well-known and tried again.

Success! Authorization worked and a bunch of files were generated that look like what I need. I went into my Nginx configuration and updated the ssl_certificate directive to point at fullchain.pem and the ssl_certificate_key directive to point to privkey.pem. nginx -t has no complaints… let’s restart the server.

Failure! Big red X, invalid everything! The issuing CA is….. happy hacker fake CA.

Oh. Quick Google search and sure enough:

“happy hacker fake CA” is the issuer used in our staging/testing server. This is what the Let’s Encrypt client currently uses when you don’t specify a different server using the--server option like you did in the original post. Because of this, I believe the --server flag was not included when you ran the client. Try running the client again, but make sure you include the --server option from your original post.

Thank you, bmw!

I failed to update the cli.ini file that I had copied from the web to use the production API instead of the staging API.

Fix the server URL, try again. Success! And for real this time.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.24.04 PM

I repeated the process with www.jeremyfelt.com and content.jeremyfelt.com, making fewer mistakes along the way and that’s that.

  • Here’s the final cli.ini file that worked for me.
  • And the final command line arguments: ./letsencrypt-auto --config /etc/letsencrypt/cli.ini --debug --agree-dev-preview certonly

6:36pm

I have 3 new certificates. I still have an A+ in SSL Labs. Nothing is broken. The future is here.

Thank you to everyone at Let’s Encrypt!

We’re hiring a WordPress developer at WSU and you should apply

You may have heard by now, through tweet after tweet after tweet—we’re hiring for a WordPress developer position at Washington State University.

If you have any inclination to apply, you should. We’d love to talk to you about what we’re doing and how you’ll help. I’d love to work alongside you and continue to build great things.

Here’s a brief list of random reasons why this is an excellent opportunity:

  • We do big WordPress and we’re not slowing down. We have a single multi-network installation serving over 2 million page views a month across almost 1000 sites. We have plans for that number to grow significantly in 2016.
  • We work in the open. There are 160 repositories in the WSU GitHub organization. All of our internal work—themes, plugins, the multi-network configuration—is open for sharing with others.
  • We power the university. As the central communications unit, we build sites and power WordPress for everyone. Things like wsu.edu, admission.wsu.edu, education.wsu.edu, vcea.wsu.edu, business.wsu.edu, gradschool.wsu.edu, and many, many more will be there for you to enhance and fix. And you’ll be given keys. (I broke all of it for 2 minutes just yesterday!)
  • You’ll be encouraged to explore and reach out. We have a campus thriving with people who are experts at what they do. The conversations you have with them will be inspiring and will lead you to ways to make our web presence more inspiring.
  • If you’re interested in contributing to WordPress core, we’re interested in you contributing to WordPress core. You’ll be encouraged to dive into issues rather than work around them so that fixes to WordPress (and other projects) can be applied upstream.
  • As a state employee, benefits are pretty fantastic. You’ll earn just over 4 weeks of vacation a year. 10 paid holidays, an extra personal holiday, a sick day per month, personal development time, great health benefits, matching 401k, the list goes on… 🙂
  • I will brew you beer. Michelle will make you sauerkraut. Steve will one day make you cheese. Jake will let you sit in with his grad students to learn crazy things about hydrogen. There’s a great community at WSU.

Time to apply! If you have any questions at all about the process or the position, please reach out: jeremy.felt@gmail.com

Super Secret Expert WordPress Trac Tips

I thought I had a fourth earlier when I was thinking about this, but I guess not. Here are 3 super secret expert tips. There are probably others. 🙂

Attachment uploads don’t generate notifications

If a tree falls….

Even if you add a note when uploading an attachment to Trac, no notification is generated. Make sure to leave a new comment after uploading so that those subscribed to the ticket are aware of your work.

Auto incrementing attachment names

Someone told me this early or I saw it come through on IRC. Either way, I had no idea at the time and then I was very glad I was in the know.

If you upload an attachment with a filename matching that of an existing attachment on the ticket, the filename will be incrementally updated.

Example: 13237.diff will become 13237.2.diff because 13237.diff already exists. The next 13237.diff will become 1337.3.diff.

This makes it super easy to deal with patches locally. Diff your work to the a filename with the ticket number, upload, and boom!

There are two ways to link attachments, one is cooler than the other

This is a total matter of opinion, but Helen hooked me on it early. I have no idea how many others do this, but I do.

It’s easy to reference an attachment on a ticket by using syntax like this: [attachment:13237.2.diff]. This will create a link automatically with a fancy download icon in the web view that allows you to download the patch in just a click. However, in a notification email, it will appear as just that, [attachment:13237.2.diff].

It’s cooler to reference an attachment on a ticket by using syntax like this: [https://core.trac.wordpress.org/attachment/ticket/13237/13237.2.diff 13237.2.diff]. This will link the text of “13237.2.diff” and provide the full link to the patch in email notifications.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 6.53.20 PM

Now anyone browsing their Trac notifications in a mobile email client is only one tap away from a code review. No need to load up the entire ticket!

 

What WordPress plugins are Excellent++?

I can be no good at plugins. My default answer is an easy “no” when a request is made at WSU to add one to our setup. Each plugin we install adds overhead as the immediate responsibility for maintaining security, performance, and support lies on the web team, not the plugin author.

This is okay and is actually a really great relationship when the plugin is done right. For an Excellent++ plugin, we’ll likely never need support, though we may submit well written bug reports and/or code to resolve issues.

My (current) criteria:

  1. Does one thing very well.
  2. Follows WordPress code standards. Bonus for documentation standards.
  3. Standard core notifications for available updates if hosted elsewhere. Number in a bubble, just like any plugin from wordpress.org.
  4. No extra admin notifications of any kind not related to actual relevant admin tasks, except on a settings screen specific to the plugin.
  5. A documented process to contribute code and open issues for bugs via GitHub or another sensible public repository.
  6. If a premium plugin, a single, unlimited license is available for a multi-network, multi-site installation of WordPress. Charge a bunch, but consider that we aren’t likely to use support resources.

I’m sure there are many, many plugins out there that meet this criteria and I’d like to have a list. If you know of one, please add a comment!

Next, I’ll need to make a list of plugins that meet all these criteria and should also have a landing page where it’s easy to contribute dollars. 😉

Security. Stored Content. Backward Compatibility.

This was almost a storm of 140 character segments, but I help make software to democratize publishing. I should use it. 😄

The pains people working on WordPress go to in making security, stored content, and backward compatibility all first priorities are amazing.

This is what I’ve learned and been inspired by the most since I started contributing to WordPress.

If there’s a moment in the course of development in which any of these three things are at risk, the tension or pain—or whatever you want to call it—is palpable. Providing a secure place for users to publish their content without worry is why we’re here.

WordPress 4.2.3 was released this week.

A security issue was fixed. Stored content was not lost.

Backward compatibility in the display of that content was stretched, sometimes broken, when WordPress could not guarantee the resulting security of a user’s site or stored content.

It’s okay to feel offended, especially if you were burned. Know that good work was done to try and make the bandaid as easy to pull of as possible. Know that people have been working on or thinking through easing the burn every minute since.