Apply to Speak at the JavaScript for WordPress Conference

The third annual JavaScript for WordPress Conference is gearing up for three days of online talks and workshops on July 8-10, 2020. The event is free to attend and organizer Zac Gordon is working to put together a diverse speaker lineup.

Day 1 will be devoted to workshops that help beginners get up and running with JavaScript and React. Day 2 will focus on building Gutenberg blocks and block-based themes. Day 3 will include topics and projects that use WordPress as a Headless CMS.

“Last year we did 4 tracks all at once.” Gordon said. “That was a lot. So this year we’re doing two days, one track each day. We decided on Blocks and Headless as our two tracks, because that seems to be where most of the JavaScript development is happening at the moment in the WordPress space.”

Previous editions of the conference have pulled in approximately 1,000 viewers, similar to the size of a large WordCamp. Gordon said the event is open for all JavaScript-related topics related to WordPress beyond Gutenberg and headless setups and they are trying to encourage new speakers.

“Each year we’re trying to do more to have the conference reflect a range of speakers, and this year we’re hoping that a few of the brilliant and industrious younger folks coding or building with WordPress might speak,” he said.

Registration is free on the event website and applications for speakers will be open until June 1.

“I’m not sure how many speakers we will do exactly, but we will have a few folks leading workshops day one and then maybe 5-8 speakers the two other days,” Gordon said. “It will be fewer speakers than last year, but hopefully still a lot of quality focused talks. The applications we’ve seen come in so far are exciting.”

WP Tavern

ACF Blocks Provides Assortment of Blocks Built from Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Over the weekend, Munir Kamal released version 2.0 of his ACF Blocks plugin, a project that creates a suite of blocks for the editor. The plugin offers 18 custom blocks in its free version and 15 more in the pro upgrade. It is built on top of Advanced Custom Fields Pro (ACF Pro).

The latest update of the plugin added support for typography, including options for using various Google Fonts for in-block text. Kamal also included base styling options for design features like margin and padding for every block in the plugin.

With ACF Pro as a hard dependency, it limits the audience of ACF Blocks. In large part, this plugin will be useful for agencies and freelancers who need to quickly build features for clients within their budget. For that purpose, the plugin does a solid job.

The tight coupling with ACF Pro hurts the user experience for the plugin. However, the ideas behind ACF Blocks and its custom options make up for the shortcomings of relying on its dependent parent plugin. Decoupling the two is unlikely, but it would make for a smoother experience and open the plugin to a wider audience.

Kamal took inspiration for the plugin from ACF and its pro version. He described the process of building blocks with the framework “super easy,” even for an intermediate-level developer. “It has been such an amazing WordPress framework for years to create custom fields,” he said. “And when [Elliot Condon] announced the block creation feature in ACF, that quickly triggered me to build this collection of ready-to-use ACF Blocks.”

The biggest technical limitation is that Kamal cannot build nested blocks, which is a current limitation of ACF. “I have already discussed it with [Condon], and he is already working on bringing that functionality hopefully soon,” he said. “Once that comes to ACF, we may create more amazing and powerful Gutenberg Blocks.”

Watch a short walkthrough of how the plugin works:

Useful Assortment of Blocks

While primarily testing the free version of ACF Blocks, I found that it has several useful blocks that could immediately address common needs for end-users. With 18 free blocks available, users have plenty to work with before deciding whether they want to move along the upgrade path to the pro version.

One of the best blocks in the collection is the Photo Collage block. It is ACF Blocks’ answer to the core Gallery block. The grid options for this block alone make this plugin worth checking out. The block offers between 2 and 15 grid layouts, depending on the grid option the user selects.

Setting the grid for the Photo Collage block.

My second favorite of the assortment is the Testimonial block. Coupled with the typography options, which are available for all blocks, you can have a lot of fun designing a testimonial section.

Screenshot of the Testimonial block from the ACF Blocks plugin in the WordPress editor.
Tinkering with Google Fonts in the Testimonial block.

This is a small sampling of what the plugin can do. The Price List block can help restaurant sites set up their menu. The Pricing Box block, particularly when nested into the core Columns block, makes it easy to set up a pricing section with multiple product options. And, the Team block makes it simple to create profile sections on a company’s team/about page.

The following blocks are available in the free version (with several more in the pro version):

  1. Scrollable Image Block
  2. Tab Block
  3. Toggle Block
  4. Accordion Block
  5. Image Slider Block
  6. Social Sharing Block
  7. Photo Collage Block
  8. Posts Block
  9. Testimonial Block
  10. Team Block
  11. Multi Buttons Block
  12. Pricing Box Block
  13. Price List Block
  14. Start Rating Block
  15. Progress Bar Block
  16. Counter Number Block
  17. Click to tweet Block
  18. Business Hours Block

Kamal’s favorite blocks from the overall suite are Image Hotspot, which allows users to set an image background with “pointers” to pop up content; Before After Image, which lets users compare two images using a sliding bar; and Photo Collage, the plugin’s grid-based gallery block. The first two are available only in the pro version of the plugin. The plugin creator said he thinks all the blocks are useful but these were the most fun to build.

Room for Improvement

ACF Blocks is a nice concept. It gets a lot of things right. However, there are minor issues that dampen the experience of working with its blocks. These issues are not insurmountable, and I expect Kamal will address them in upcoming versions based on familiarity with his past work and drive toward building great products for users.

The most immediate issue and likely the simplest to fix is the plugin’s styles for left and right margins on every block. The plugin resets these margins to 0 by default. Depending on the active theme on a site, this could shift the blocks to the edge of the screen instead of the content area on the front end. Some themes use left/right margins to align content. This is not an issue with only ACF Blocks. It is prevalent among plugins with front-end output.

One quick solution for the margin issue is to wrap any of the plugin’s blocks within the core Group block. This will put margins back under the theme’s control.

Editing block content happens in the block options panel instead of directly in the block. I am unsure if this is a limitation of using the ACF Pro framework or a design decision on Kamal’s part. It feels odd to jump between editing content in the content area to editing content in the sidebar.

One example of my confusion with block content was with the Photo Collage block. I clicked on the block, hoping to have the media library appear for uploading. Nothing happened. I clicked again because, well, maybe I did not get a good click in that first time. Nothing happened. I eventually found the image upload button under the block’s option panel on the right.

Setting block options can feel a little sluggish at times with the block output in the editor not reflecting changes immediately. This is primarily because ACF Blocks relies on the server-side rendering capabilities of ACF Pro. It is unlikely this can be addressed in the blocks plugin. Some users may find the delayed rendering to be tedious when editing multiple options.

Final Thoughts

Kamal has put together a useful set of blocks that will help many end-users build sections of content they cannot create out of the box. Between the free and pro versions, there is a total of 33 blocks. The creator is committed to adding more blocks over time based on user feedback. In the immediate future, he plans to keep hacking away at bug fixes and improving the code.

I still feel like how ACF Pro works is a hindrance to how good this plugin could be if built from scratch. With that said, the framework helped make Kamal’s plugin a reality. ACF Blocks is a showcase in what is possible via ACF Pro, which should inspire other developers who are looking for solutions built on top of one of the most widely-used frameworks in the WordPress ecosystem.

Kamal understands that some ACF Pro users may try their hands at creating similar blocks but feels like his team’s knowledge and dedication to offering support are the most important parts of the equation. “ACF Blocks saves time and effort for creating blocks yourself for the most common web design elements,” he said.

Note: this plugin review and feedback were requested by the plugin author. Read our post about honest feedback based on genuine experiences for more information on how reviews are handled.


WordCamp Colombo 2017 – My Lessons as a First Time Organizer

Sri Lanka’s first WordCamp took place on September 23rd, 2017, and I was privileged to be an organizer. Many thanks to Lead Organizer Dasun Edirisinghe for bringing me on board!

This post is about my takeaways from the vigorous behind-the-scenes activity as an organizer, plus as a participant at the event.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — Winnie the Pooh

The Colombo WordPress Meetup group has been meeting since September 2015, and two years later, we have reached this milestone. I am immensely grateful to fellow organizers Dasun, Mahangu, Prasath, Musannif, Kasun and Asith, and the entire team of volunteers. Pretty cool teamwork!

But we can’t rest on our laurels, because the journey ahead won’t be easy. More on that, in a little while.

Wait, what exactly is a WordCamp?

A WordCamp is supposed to be an informal, locally organized, educational event with talks and workshops focused on WordPress. There is a no shortage of tutorials or information, online and offline, so this event is not about getting on to stage and dishing out instructions. This is why the depth of interaction is crucial.

And being a community organized, not-for-profit and educational event, the main WordCamp stage or workshop venue is certainly NOT a marketing opportunity. The event sponsors have the opportunity to pitch their products and services at designated tables only.

This is also a great chance to become lifelong friends with promising WordPress users, developers and businesspersons both living in your town, and those flying in from abroad.

WordCamp Colombo 2017

As for WordCamp Colombo 2017, I and fellow organizers put in many months of planning and preparation. Many attendees I spoke to after the event said they totally loved it, so I’m satisfied at the way we pulled it off.

But, did everything happen like clockwork precision? Certainly not! We now have attendee feedback and our own gift of hindsight to help future editions of WordCamp Colombo emerge even better.

What did I learn?

A lot.

Many things are now a part of me, and I may not even have realized it.

From behind the scenes…

Start preparing early, and give yourself time to steer the ship

For our September event,  we opened our Call for Sponsors in March, and ticket sales in August. The initial response was frighteningly slow for both, and being a first time organizer wrangling out both tasks, it called for a lot of patience.

Looking back, I believe we may have begun just on time for these tasks. Plus, wrangling means a dedicated hour or so has to be spent each day to ensure the entire team doesn’t go off track.

Communicate well, and quickly

People love quick communication, and that makes them think you really care for them. I could sense this whenever I received email replies fast, and sent out my own replies equally fast.

This applies to potential sponsors, attendees, speakers, fellow organizers and volunteers. But of course, you need to take a call to ignore anything unreasonable.

Furthermore, I was assigned to look after the social media and blogging campaign, both in the run-up to the event and during the event itself. This forced me to think deeply before tweeting. There is little appetite for inconsequential updates when people expect to learn something.

“The key thing was to learn the value of economy with words and to never insult the viewer by telling them what they can already see” — Richie Benaud, on cricket commentary.

Get accustomed to remote work

It won’t always be possible for your team to meet under the same roof every few days or weeks, so this is important. This also means you have to use a great deal of text chats and screenshots.

Using Slack and weekly Google Hangouts video calls with organizers helped with this aspect.

State your viewpoint, but follow the leader

It is important to have a good measure of independence assigned to you by the Lead Organizer, and Dasun accorded that really well.

I was able to put across my viewpoint and was respected for it, but had to also accept the Lead’s veto powers in cases of disagreements. This is important for a team to function as one unit.

At times, low-tech solutions are faster

I learnt this from WordCamp Pune 2017 Lead Organizer Saurabh Shukla in the context of speedy check-ins for attendees, and was keen to implement it here.

The night before the event, I pre-packed the swag and the attendee badges with my colleagues’ help, and at the actual event, used an alphabetical list to check in attendees instead of the officially available Camptix interface. No worries about dropping connectivity or laptop issues — low tech wins!

While at the scene…

We had some really interesting talks, and I was fortunate to tweet out a few memorable lines being said by our speakers:

I did a lot. Am I now a celebrity?


Organizing a WordCamp or contributing to the betterment of WordPress is not about fame and power. In fact, no open source initiative would succeed with such an attitude. Hence, I and my fellow organizers are now making a conscious effort to swallow our egos and actively working to pass on the baton to new, promising WordCamp organizers.

This will prevent a concentration of power forming around each of us. Each participant has a fair stake in the growth of the WordPress community in Colombo, and WordPress’ long established spirit of inclusivity can never take that away.

I said the journey ahead won’t be easy, right?

It won’t.

In the coming months, the immediate priority of our active WordPress community members is to help ourselves grow through a bottom up approach. This means more meetups in newer locations, more presentations,  more Q & A sessions, and perhaps even a mini-WordCamp!

Now that news is out on WordCamp Colombo 2017 having concluded well, I am optimistic.

If you are in Colombo and would love to be a part of this effort,  please join our Colombo WordPress meetup group.  There is a lot to learn, and many friends to be made.

Do you want to read something more on this?

Sure, here are some links you might find interesting:

  1. Aditya Kane, talking about his experiences as an organizer at WordCamp Mumbai 2014.
  2. My colleague and volunteer Muhammad Muhsin, on experiencing WordCamp Colombo 2017 from the front row.
  3. WordCamp Pune 2017 Lead Organizer Saurabh Shukla, talking about how the WordPress community has been tirelessly focused on building bridges and any conversations around building walls and gates get no traction.
  4. The WordCamp Organizer Handbook.



WordCamp Pune 2015 – My Experiences

The single-day-long WordCamp Pune 2015 was held on the 6th of September, and here is my ‘Dear Diary’ account of the power-packed event.

The Chaos Theory

Just a couple of weeks earlier, WordCamp Deputy Aditya Kane, the guy in charge of approving WordCamps in this region, had this to say about Twitter chats on WordPress:

I had an inkling some chaos would show up in this event too, and it sure did!

First, the search for the exact location of the venue within the large college campus was disorienting in the absence of signboards at the gates. And when I did discover the slow registration queue, I joined scores of other attendees basking in the sun.

Attendees queuing up for registration. Source:

You could be forgiven for thinking our nerves were frayed and the attendees’ enthusiasm dampened, but you’d be completely mistaken.

We waited outside the venue on a sunny morning, but that would melt none of our enthusiasm.
We had to wait outside the venue at Modern College, Pune on a sunny morning, but that melted none of our enthusiasm.

The first-time organizers lead by Saurabh Shukla had painstakingly detailed what you must expect from this event, and how they were preparing for it — we all gave our full backing to them! From making this a fully eco-friendly event, to carrying out speaker workshops to donating tickets to the underprivileged, the highly positive buzz was on for months.

Once we managed to get into the main auditorium of the venue, Saurabh maintained everyone’s high spirits with his razor sharp wit during the intro talk, which concluded with a felicitation of the key speakers: Topher DeRosia, Mahangu Weerasinghe, Raghavendra Peri and Harish Iyer.

Designing Useful Websites

It was tough to decide which session to attend, with ongoing parallel tracks. I chose my first session with Jitesh Patil, who took us on a back-to-basics exercise reminding us to create useful and helpful sites, and not just glitzy user interfaces.

An example he mentioned was Craiglist, which is wildly popular in the US due to its helpfulness, in spite of having the worst of user interfaces.

Some more key points of this talk were:

  1. Get your customers to know, like and trust you.
  2. Provide price comparisons, details on processes, maintenance, legal matters and best practices.
  3. On your About page, do not talk about how awesome  YOU are, instead talk about your customers and how you’ve helped them succeed.
  4. On your Contact Info page, do not write just your address or place a contact form. Instead, give precise directions on how you can be reached.  Provide lots of pictures of your location too.

Contributing to WordPress

The next talk I attended was by Andy Christian.

He explained how WordPress enthusiasts can contribute code for the core software, help with design enhancements, provide translations and documentation for WordPress, among many other things, using the relevant links at

Andy further talked about the need for photography and videography skills that would be useful for events on WordPress. Also, contributors can prepare transcripts of talks published on

Before contributing, we must ensure our work is 100% GPL compliant and honors WordPress and related trademarks.

Inspiring People through the HeroPress platform

After a wonderful lunch of sandwiches and modaks (here’s how to make them) the next session I attended was a touching speech by Topher DeRosia about his quest to build HeroPress as a means to spread inspiring stories about how WordPress has changed lives of people around the world.

Topher says you need to think smaller when it comes to dealing with problem. Often, the person with a problem can be helped by someone with the solution not far away from him.

At the core of HeroPress is the belief: “Everyone can be a hero to someone and everyone should be a hero to themselves.”

Backed by this thought, people have contributed essays about how WordPress came to be a turning point in their lives. The latest inspiring story on HeroPress was that of Sheeba, one of the organizers of WordCamp Pune 2015. There’s much more to read, including Samer Bechara’s rocky journey to becoming a reputable WordPress developer.

On Disrupting an Old, Colonial-style Education System

Mahangu Weerasinghe’s talk was the next one for me. He belongs to the club of advocates calling for a sea change in the education system in South Asia, which is a remnant of the colonial era which sought to create subservient clerks instead of out-of-the-box thinkers.

Mahangu believes in democratizing education just like WordPress has democratized publishing. Very soon into his speech, he reminded us we are living in era where information is abundant, and the several-centuries-old style of pushing instructions down school students’ throats is no longer relevant anymore.

Grade 1 to 12, he says, are marked by upwards of 30 students per classroom, overworked teachers and excessive exam focus. Finally, after a student’s university education, he is labelled “unemployable” and considering lacking in confidence.

As a measure to bring about change, Mahangu calls for:

  1. Targeting teachers with your product ideas, rather than schools’ administrative bosses
  2. Scaling both ways — this includes ensuring your tools work in a webless environment.
  3. Focusing on localization — speakers of English in India  make up just 12% of the population.

The complete slideshow is here.

Running a Multi-Author Blog

Irrepressible technology blogger and owner of, Arun Prabhudesai, spoke about managing multi-author blogs, referring back to his experience of getting millions of hits every month on his flagship blog.

Here’s a list of helpful plugins Arun mentioned to help run multi-author blogs:

  1. EditFLow
  2. Capability Manager Enhanced
  3. Revisionary
  4. Co-author Plus
  5. Post forking
  6. Adminimize
  7. Multi-author AdSense
  8. WP User Frontend
  9. Scheduling Calendar

Arun advised looking for the best motivating factors to retain authors.

Panel Discussions

A panel comprising of Pune’s leading WordPress businessmen and programmers arrived on stage to discuss the ups and downs associated with WordPress careers and businesses.

Another panel which included the lead organizer and Andy Christian discussed about how to organize a WordCamp in your city.


WordCamps are supposed to be a great benefit for anyone using WordPress in their lives, from coders to social workers, and WordCamp Pune 2015 has successfully preserved that reputation.

I haven’t been able to (and can’t) capture everything that was said at the event, but fortunately, all videos are going to be up on YouTube after processing. Some of them will make it to WordPress.TV as well. I’ll share those links as soon as they’re published.

The organizers did a great job setting the right trend by steering India’s WordCamps from the more gimmicky to events of real substance. Many thanks to the team for pulling this off!

Further Reading:

  1. Topher’s account of his experiences at WordCamp Pune 2015.
  2. Aditya Kane writes about his feelings at the event.
  3. A perspective on the WordPress community in India, by Saurabh Shukla.