Suffragette Landslide

A friend shared a trailer of the upcoming movie Suffragette on Facebook yesterday.  Apart from the fact that the movie itself looks amazing, I was struck by the stunningly beautiful rendition of Landslide overlaid on the second half.

I was immediately taken aback.  It sounded very reminiscent of Imogen Heap, but then again, not.  I left comments, sent tweets, and finally — while I slept last night — got an answer.

Robyn Sherwell.

I’ve never heard of Sherwell previously, but will be looking up her stuff up later today.  For the curious, here’s the straight version of her Landslide cover off her Soundcloud page:

Her stuff is available on iTunes and Amazon, and she’s on Birdland records.

Please Don’t Hack Core

Especially to neuter Core’s ability to upgrade itself.

After I published this, I had someone from cPanel reach out to have a more in depth conversation than it’s really possible to manage in a medium that caps you at 140 characters.

In the interest of transparency and context — as well as showing cPanel’s efforts thus far in working to fix things, here’s the conversation that transpired on that ticket — #6489755 on their internal ticketing system.  Any modifications on my part are purely for formatting, as well as omitting names of customer support folks.


Are you using the cPAddons tool within the cPanel interface to install & manage WordPress? If so, then yes, we disable the auto-update functionality within the application so the updates can be managed from the cPanel interface itself. The way our cPAddons tool tracks software is not compatible with the way WordPress updates, hence why we disable the auto-updates so we can track it through cPAddons.

If you’re not using the cPAddons tool to install/manage WordPress and have concerns of us modifying the core of the application, please let me know.


*********** ********
Technical Support Manager
cPanel Inc.


I’m a Core Contributor to WordPress, not a cPanel User. I was speaking up on Twitter because I learned through some Forum threads that y’all were doing some very problematic things — which I’m hoping to address here.

Just to make sure we’re talking about the same thing, the three changes that I’m aware of are specifically noted are:


Short-circuited with:

# cPanel override: Disable all core updates to prevent conflict with cPAddons.
return false;


Short-circuited with:

# cPanel override: Do not display the current or the latest version, because we've disabled updates.


Short-circuited with:

return true; // Force this functionality to disabled because it is incompatible with cPAddons.

(Please note that all my code references to WordPress core are aimed at the latest revision of the `master` branch on GitHub)

It looks like when you’re hacking core, you’re turning off not merely Automatic Updates (as you suggested prior), but all WordPress Updates as a whole. This is a Very Bad Thing. If you were merely disabling Automatic Updates, but still leaving the user with the ability to use WordPress’s very well established upgrade system, that would be something else entirely — and in fact is documented extensively here:
— and can be done by adding a single line to your generated wp-config.php file when installing WordPress:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false ); # Disables all automatic core updates:

Why do you feel the need to fully disable all updates from within WordPress and force users to use either cPanel or FTP exclusively to upgrade WordPress? Why can’t they work in conjunction with one another?

Clearly, users have been dismayed and shocked when their installs haven’t been notified of security point releases that are available as y’all have killed the `get_core_updates()` function. Many don’t even realize they may need to go into cPanel to upgrade their WordPress install, and so their installation is left at an outdated, insecure version that is incredibly vulnerable to exploit.


 Thanks for the followup. The WordPress management through cPAddons is quite old, and very well may have been in place prior to having define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false ); within the WordPress application. I’m uncertain of that as I do not know when WP introduced that function but from Googling it the oldest result I can find is from 2012.

That said, cPanel does in fact do a few things with cPAddons in regards to customers who have out dated versions:

  • Whenever WP releases a maintenance build that addresses security concerns, we react very quickly to get our software updated to be available to customers.
  • By default, we define that software managed/installed through cPAddons is automatically updated when a new update is available.
  • Based on the above information, if the server administrator leaves the defaults enabled, once WP introduced a maintenance releases that corrects security concerns and we’ve tested and updated our source for it, customers will receive the release automatically.
  • If the server administrator decides to disable automatic software updates, the end user and systems administrator will still receive notifications that their installation is out of date accompanied with steps on how to update their application.

With that, I can definitely appreciate the concern for making it as easy and automated as possible for users to get updates for their WordPress, there’s definitely more to the situation that solely disabling WordPress’ automated updates in the core.

I’ve submitted a case (#188545) with our developers to have the logic for disabling updates changed from it’s current behavior, to using define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );.

If you have any other questions, feedback, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.


By default, we define that software managed/installed through cPAddons is automatically updated when a new update is available.

Clearly, that’s not the case in practice. As the user who discovered this remarked:

In my audit, it appears that — of 37 total WP-based websites on our server — we have 14 that have not updated to the latest version of WordPress. Of those 14, the oldest version is 3.9 (which 3 of 14 are running), and the newest is 4.1 (which 4 of the 14 are running).


If cPanel wants to manually update sites to current releases, I’m fully, 100% in favor of that. It’s a solid step to a safer, more reliable web.

My issue is that y’all are preventing users from updating themselves via the existing WordPress infrastructure. There’s really no reason for the blocking of an existing stable upgrade system. If you just need some way for cPanel to be notified on core upgrades, it’s relatively trivial to set up a perhaps 20 line function that will notify cPanel when it happens — and that will even account for users manually updating their WordPress installation via FTP, which your current version seems as though it would break during.

Here’s a proof of concept:

Does that make sense?

Also — I’m not a lawyer, but distributing a forked version of WordPress and still calling it WordPress (rather than cPanelPress or something) may be a trademark violation. Forking is 100% fine under the GPL for copyright on the code, but may be problematic from a trademark perspective — as what you’re distributing isn’t actually WordPress, but rather a hacked up version. If that makes sense?


Thank you for contacting us regarding people’s experience using WordPress as distributed via our Site Software feature. This feature is a method of installing and managing various third party applications. Applications installed via Site Software are intended to be managed entirely within Site Software, thus in-application updaters are disabled. Allowing the in-application update to proceed will cause a conflict between the updated application and the Site Software, which can easily result in confusion. From this perspective what we are doing is no different from Debian and other Linux distros that distribute applications with in-application updaters.

We generally release the latest version of WordPress within 1 to 5 days of the latest WordPress update. At minimum server administrators are informed each night of all Site Software applications that need updated. It is up to user’s to configure their notifications within cPanel to receive such updates.

Within the Site Software user interface, users are able to upgrade all applications that are out of date. In the admin interface, a server admin can choose to upgrade all Site Software applications on the entire server.

Based upon what the Drumology2001 user reported on the forum it appears something is amiss on that server. We’d love to examine that server to determine why WordPress updates were not available to the user. Based upon the fuzzy dates used on the forum, and compared with our internal records, the 4.1.1 update was available to the Site Software system prior to the initial post. We’ll reach out to him to determine whether there is anything we can do there.

I’d also like to thank you for pointing us in the direction of the various ways to manage WordPress updates ( We are currently reviewing, and discussing, these to determine which fits the Site Software distribution method the best. Using a method within the application to disable updates is usually preferred.

One of our concerns is that in-application updaters are incompatible with the Site Software distribution method. There are various things that could happen due to updating a Site Software managed application outside of Site Software. At minimum it means that from that point onward the server admin, and potentially the user, will be informed of a software update that is no longer needed. At worst someone will force an update that results in corrupting the installed application.
Handling those in a way that reduces frustration for everyone, and keeps support costs down is important to us.

Based upon the experience of the three users that posted to that thread (Drumology2001, echelonwebdesign, and sg2048) it is apparent there is room for other improvements within the system, such as update notifications. We’re taking into consideration their experience to determine how we can making WordPress hosted on a cPanel & WHM server a better experience for all.


 To summarize, my argument is largely a pragmatic one.

You can’t prevent a user from updating the software outside of the cPanel Site Software Distribution Method (gosh, that’s a mouthful, I’ll call it the CPSSDM from here on out) — as they could always just use FTP to update the software.

From a software architecture perspective, this is problematic — and it would be far simpler to develop around it so that any software updates run — whether via FTP, a remote management tool (such as ManageWP, InfiniteWP, Jetpack Manage, iThemes Sync, etc), via the WordPress Dashboard, or an Automatic Update — successfully apprises the CPSSDM of the update.

Long story short, WordPress updating itself, and the CPSSDM managing updates shouldn’t be a conflict, they should behave in concert with one another, complementing each other in their behaviors, rather than stomping across the sandbox to kick over the other’s castle.

As mentioned above, I’d be delighted to volunteer my time and expertise to help the CPSSDM have an integration that doesn’t involve hacking core files and potentially leaving users running insecure software.


Thanks for the follow up and summary. We both agree there are improvements to be made, as with any software – it’s never ending. We will definitely reach out directly once your expertise is needed to make sure we’re providing the absolute best experience we can to both of our customers.

Thank you again, and keep that feedback coming!

So, in then end I don’t know where things are going from here.  I know that a lot of users find it super convenient to use one click installs for WordPress, and I really hope that users who take the short-cut of one-click installs don’t wind up dead ended on an old insecure release because of some sort of server misconfiguration and hacked core files.

I’m also optimistic, because cPanel seems willing to take suggestions and input from the community on best practices.  After all — let’s face it, when they’re providing one click installs for dozens of software projects, they’re not going to be able to work with each software project individually to make sure they’re doing it the best way possible.  A lot is dependent on the communities reaching out and offering to help them do it the right way.

I look forward to hearing back from cPanel and seeing their integration done in a way that works well and plays nice with everyone else in the sandbox too.

After all, I think we all want sustainable, stable integrations — not fragile bits of code that will break if a user upgrades the wrong way. 🙂

Frameworks: It’s dangerous to go alone.

I get the feeling, quite often, that frameworks get the short end of the stick in the popular mindset.  You’ll often hear things like

  • “Yes, they’re useful for a beginner maybe, but if you’re a professional developer, you shouldn’t need them.”
  • “They’re sluggish.”
  • “They add bulk to a project.”
  • “You clearly haven’t optimized enough.”

Honestly, it’s a choice that needs to be made on a project by project base — both whether to use a framework, and how large of a framework to use.  Regardless of these choices, it’s never a question of whether you’ve optimized your project — it is a question of what you’ve chosen to optimize your project for.

As a case study for this question, let’s look at: Do you want to use jQuery (or some other established project — Prototype, Backbone, Underscore, React, whatever) in your project or not?

Well, if you do use jQuery, it can smooth over a lot of browser inconsistencies (most of which have nothing to do with old IE versions), and give you a more reliable output.  It can keep your code more readable, and more maintainable, as all of the browser fixes are bundled into jQuery itself!  Keep your version of jQuery current, and many future browser inconsistencies or changes in how browsers handle things will be handled for you.

If you want a lighter weight webpage, and you’re trying to optimize for faster performance, you may prefer to use vanilla javascript instead.  A friend of mine remarked on Twitter that he prefers to handle browser inconsistencies himself, because he can get faster performance:

The downside of this is that by optimizing so heavily for performance, it can make it far more difficult to maintain your project down the road.  When another developer picks up your project in a few months or a few years down the road, is the optimized code going to make sense?  Are your ‘code around’-s still going to work, and has someone (you?) been actively maintaining it (and all your other disparate projects) to account for new browser issues that have cropped up since?  If the application is expanded by a new developer, will they have the same level of experience as you, and properly handle cross-browser issues in the new code as well?

So, there’s always tradeoffs.  The final judgement will often depend on the sort of project and the sort of client or company that the project is for.

If you’re launching an Enterprise-level website, a HTML5 Game, or something that will have an active team of developers behind it, you may well find that it’s worth doing something custom for it.

If you’re an agency building client sites that — once launched — may get someone looking at them every few months for further work or maintenance … jQuery probably makes a lot more sense.  It will keep your code shorter and more readable, and if you keep jQuery up to date (which WordPress will do for you if you use its bundled version — and of course, keep WordPress updated) any future browser inconsistencies will be handled as well.

If you’re a freelancer or commercial theme/plugin vendor, using jQuery rather than something custom has always struck me as a common courtesy.  By using an established, documented library, you’re leaving the codebase in an understandable and tidy state for the next developer who has to step in and figure out what’s going on in order to make modifications down the road.

So in the end, the answer is always going to be that it depends.  The trade-offs that one project can make without a second thought may be inconceivable to thrust upon another.

Why Jetpack isn’t a Collection of Plugins, Part the First

In keeping with a previous post I’d made a couple months ago explaining the oft-discussed rationale of why we do things the way we do with Jetpack, I’ll be doing it again today, on a different — but related — topic.

I may as well make a series of it.

This is the first of two posts (in theory, I’ll remember to write the second) explaining why Jetpack is a big plugin with many features, rather than many individual plugins.  This post will be looking at the primary technical reason.  The abundance of other reasons will be in the subsequent post.  (So please don’t read this post and think it’s the only reason — it’s not)

tl;dr: Dependency management sucks.

Jetpack, as you may be aware, is structured as a bunch of modules.  Many — but not all — require a connection to to function.  This isn’t for vanity purposes, it’s because they actually leverage the server infrastructure to do things harder, better, faster, stronger than a $5/month shared host is capable of.  To do that, they need to be able to communicate securely with, and must be able to communicate securely back to your site.

Some of the modules that require a connection are things such as Publicize (which uses the API keys to publicize to assorted third-party systems, rather than making users register various developer accounts and get their own API keys), Related Posts (which syncs some content up to the servers and indexes it on a large ElasticSearch index more efficiently and accurately than could be done in a MySQL database), Monitor (which pings your site every five minutes and emails you if it’s down), Comments (which passes data back and forth behind the scenes to enable secure third-party comment authentication) — you get the idea.

We could bundle the connection library with each individual plugin.  However, we’d need to make sure it was namespaced correctly so each different plugin can use its own correctly versioned instance of the connection classes.  Which would then mean a user could have well over a dozen copies and different versions of the same connection class active at a given time.  Which will make things more difficult with respect to developing the plugins, as you can’t assume methods in one are necessarily in another.  And when you make a change in the master class, you need to scan each repository to make sure you’re not breaking anything there, and keep changes synced to well over a dozen repositories.  But I digress.

To avoid duplicate code, the modules that depend on talking back and forth with all use a common library that handles signing and verifying requests, API calls, and the like.

Because it’s all packaged in a single plugin, we can be sure that it’s all running the required version.  If Publicize needs a change in the core connection library, we can be sure that the version of the connection library in Jetpack has those changes.  If the core connection library needs to change structure, we can make sure that any modules that used the old methods are updated to run the new ones instead.  Everything is maintained so that it’s running smoothly and works properly with each other.

Now, if Likes, Single Sign On, After the Deadline, Post by Email and others were their own plugins, and connected to a separate Jetpack Core plugin, versioning gets tricky.  It could work, in theory, if every plugin is kept up to date, always and forever.  But the instant that the user is using, say, an outdated version of Subscriptions with an outdated Jetpack Core (which work perfectly together), and then installs the up-to-date Shortlinks plugin, things could break because Shortlinks expects a more up-to-date Jetpack Core.  So you go ahead and update Jetpack Core to current, but now Subscriptions — which used to work perfectly — now breaks because there was a method change in Jetpack Core, that is fixed in the up-to-date version of Subscriptions, but the user isn’t running the up-to-date version.  Horrible UX.

Plus, if the user doesn’t have any Jetpack stuff, the installation flow for their first Jetpack Plugin that needs the core would be something like this:

  1. Install Stats.
  2. Activate Stats.
  3. Get error saying you need Jetpack Core for Stats to function.
  4. WTF is Jetpack Core? I just want Stats!
  5. Okay, install Jetpack Core.
  6. Activate Jetpack Core.
  7. Wait, what was I doing?
  8. Stats!  Okay, right.
  9. Connect the Jetpack Core to
  10. Drink Scotch in celebration.

Compare this to the status quo of:

  1. Install Jetpack.
  2. Activate Jetpack.
  3. Connect Jetpack to
  4. Stats is already active (unless you’re Mark Jaquith, in which case you activate it in this step)
  5. Drink Scotch in celebration.

As I said, dependency management is hard, and there’s not really a good way to manage it in WordPress.  There have been some very worthwhile attempts made, but none that can have a sufficiently solid user experience for an average user to compare with our current system and flow.

Any questions or suggestions about dependency management and Jetpack? Ask away!

Better handling of RTL stylesheets in plugins and themes

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Let Core Do The Work For Me.

If you’ve ever done something like this, we should have a little chat:

if ( is_rtl() ) {
	wp_register_style( 'example', plugins_url( "css/example-rtl.css", __FILE__ ) );
} else {
	wp_register_style( 'example', plugins_url( "css/example.css", __FILE__ ) );
wp_enqueue_style( 'example' );

Now, don’t worry. I’ve done it too! It’s not that big of a deal. But there is a better, tidier way. Just compare the above code blurb to this:

wp_register_style( 'example', plugins_url( "css/example.css", __FILE__ ), array(), '1.0' );
wp_style_add_data( 'example', 'rtl', 'replace' );
wp_enqueue_style( 'example' );

which will output something like this in rtl locales:

<link rel='stylesheet' id='example-rtl-css' href='' type='text/css' media='all' />

Simpler, right? It reads more easily, and as an added bonus, if something is to toggle RTL after you’ve registered the path to the asset, it handles it gracefully! As it doesn’t determine which asset path to serve up until it’s actually outputting the tag.

Now, this is assuming that your rtl stylesheet is just a replacement for your normal stylesheet. Which most are — it could be automatically generated with some tool like CSSJanus or CSS-Flip. But if you’ve got an add-on css file, that you want to load in addition that just contains overrides for RTL languages, you can handle that just as easily!

wp_register_style( 'example', plugins_url( "css/example.css", __FILE__ ), array(), '1.0' );
wp_style_add_data( 'example', 'rtl', 'addon' );
wp_enqueue_style( 'example' );

which will output something like this in rtl locales:

<link rel='stylesheet' id='example-css' href='' type='text/css' media='all' />
<link rel='stylesheet' id='example-rtl-css' href='' type='text/css' media='all' />

For the curious as to how Core actually does it, read here:

Detailed explanation (with bonus examples for handling minified versions of both regular and rtl css as well):

 * If you're supplying a pre-minified version of the stylesheet, you'll
 * need this, and to add the `suffix` data, so that core knows to
 * replace `example-min.css` with `example-rtl-min.css` -- handling
 * the suffix properly.
$min = ( defined( 'SCRIPT_DEBUG' ) && SCRIPT_DEBUG ) ? '' : '.min';

 * The normal registration. You're familiar with this already.
wp_register_style( 'example', plugins_url( "css/example{$min}.css", __FILE__ ), array(), '1.0' );

 * I set the value to 'replace', so it will replace the normal css file if rtl,
 * but it could also be 'addon' for a css file that just gets enqueued as
 * well, rather than replacing the normal one.
wp_style_add_data( 'example', 'rtl', 'replace' );

 * Finally, if we are replacing the existing file, and there's some sort of
 * suffix like `-min` as mentioned earlier, we need to let core know about
 * it, so that it can keep that suffix after the added `-rtl` that it's adding to
 * the path.
wp_style_add_data( 'example', 'suffix', $min );

 * Then we just enqueue it as we would normally!  If it's going to always
 * be enqueued regardless, we could just call `wp_enqueue_style()` rather
 * than `wp_register_style()` above.
wp_enqueue_style( 'example' );

News Flash: The FBI doesn’t want you to encrypt your data.

So, yesterday FBI Director James B. Comey criticized Google and Apple for deploying encryption on smartphone operating systems that they wouldn’t be able to bypass, even when presented with a valid warrant by police. (source)

Does he not grasp that the reason people want this extra security is because of government surveillance overreach and secret warrants?  They’ve literally brought this upon themselves.  When you deny people their privacy in everyday things, they feel it necessary to go to further extents to maintain it.  Were it not for NSA overreach, lying before congress, secret FISA courts and the like, this recent push to encryption likely would never have happened.

So, well done. I’m personally delighted that folks are opting to encrypt things.  Thanks for giving them that push towards it by being something of an overly attached significant other.