2020: Step Away From the Fire

Image of orange flames set against a black background.

If there was a common theme that held humanity together in 2020, it was that most of us agreed that the year was nothing short of a dumpster fire. That and sweatpants.

As people learned to cope with a new reality in the Covid-19 era, the WordPress community has been a beacon of hope. When other industries needed to learn how to work remotely, we were already ahead of the pack and willing to help. As people dealt with the stress of not having meetups in person, the WordPress community thrived with online events.

The early year was tough. From toilet paper shortages to being unable to work from a favorite coffee shop, the pandemic took its toll.

However, we have learned to cope throughout the year. We used new ways to communicate from a distance. Created new circles of friends. Found extra time for long-forgotten hobbies online and off.

We continued to create art, which is the thing that makes our species so undeniably unique.

Maybe it is all the lessons we have learned through the past several months. Perhaps it is that a new year is upon us. The winds of change feel like they are gently nudging us forward.

Over the past couple of months, I have noticed a new calmness. A new hopefulness. A feeling that we will continue to rise above any challenges that come our way. While death and illness are still a part of our daily reality, we must continue to lean on the people within communities like WordPress for support. We will continue marching ahead together.

I always like to take stock of the past year. This helps keep me grounded and remain optimistic about the future. The following is a look back at 2020 for WP Tavern and WordPress.

WP Tavern Stats

We have had a solid year of publishing here at the Tavern. Our team, including guest authors, wrote 401 posts. In 2019, we knocked out 382. Next year, I expect that figure to increase.

Our word count average soared. This year, we averaged 790 words per post. In 2019, that number was 589. While word count is not a testament to quality writing, we did have opportunities to dive deeper into topics than before. In total, we wrote over 315,000 words. That is about 80,000 words shy of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. You could say that we wrote enough to fill an epic fantasy novel.

“Likes” were up this year too. We went from an average of 7.0 likes per post in 2019 to 8.7 in 2020.

For comments, it is hard to gauge. The WordPress.com Stats feature does not seem to be accurately tracking our comment counts. The figure is nowhere close to correct. By my rough estimate (counting in hundreds), we have at least twice as many published comments as the data shows.

There were a few days scattered throughout the year in which we came within a hair’s breadth of surpassing the site’s all-time daily view count. But, alas, we fell just shy of the mark. Maybe next year.

Most Viewed Posts of the Year

The following is a list of the 10 most-viewed posts published this year. They are not necessarily representative of our best work. However, they do represent what folks were reading. Everything beyond this was pretty close in terms of stats.

  1. Preparing for WordPress 5.4: Changes Theme and Plugin Developers Should Know About
  2. Matt Mullenweg Unveils Gutenberg Roadmap at WCEU, WordPress Agencies and Product Developers Sprint to Prepare
  3. W3C Drops WordPress from Consideration for Redesign, Narrows CMS Shortlist to Statamic and Craft
  4. Major jQuery Changes on the Way for WordPress 5.5 and Beyond
  5. What Is Full Site Editing and What Does It Mean for the Future of WordPress?
  6. Biden-Harris Transition Website Launches on WordPress
  7. WordPress 5.6 Will Ship With Another Major jQuery Change
  8. GoDaddy’s ‘Go’ WordPress Theme Offers a Page-Building Experience via the Block Editor
  9. Font Awesome Releases New COVID-19 Awareness Icons
  10. Automatic Theme and Plugin Updates Slated for WordPress 5.5

For some reason, Sarah’s piece on adding subscript and superscript characters from 2014 always sneaks its way into the most-viewed posts of the year. It was technically #6 on the list, but it wasn’t published in 2020.

The Year in WordPress

It was the year that saw the rise of online-only WordCamps. What started with WordCamp Asia canceling its inaugural event in February ended with Matt Mullenweg giving the annual State of the Word virtually, a first. WordCamp Europe took its massive event online for 2020 while WordCamp U.S. canceled its planned virtual get-together after months of pandemic stress and online event fatigue.

We saw the community rise up and tackle problems from the beginning. Companies like Wordfence, Yoast, and GoDaddy provided help for those who were not refunded travel expenses after cancellations. At the end of the day, that is what the WordPress community is all about: people helping other people.

WordPress kept chugging along, despite the stressful year. The big highlights were three major releases of the software:

WordPress also turned 17 this year. Its step into adulthood next year should be an adventure.

Posts From Contributing Writers

Rather than focusing too much on the work that Sarah and I have put into the Tavern this year, I want to say thank you to our contributing writers. They managed to fill some gaps when we were unable to throughout the past 12 months. They have added viewpoints outside of our own, enriching the content that our site offers. If anything, I want to see further contributions from a wider range of the WordPress community in the future.

I do not typically like to play favorites with our guest writers, but Francesca Marano’s piece titled A Non-Technical Release Lead’s Journey to Becoming a Mentor for WordPress Core Development was one of my favorite reads of the year. Her backstory is a good intro to the article. Her depth of knowledge and insight into the room where it happens makes it a must-read for anyone unfamiliar with how WordPress gets made.

Chris Maiorana’s WordPress University Was Always Online is a reminder that the education we need to excel in the online business market is but at our fingertips. It also touches on how the pandemic has allowed more people to realize that the traditional college experience is not the only path forward. It is a great piece that forces us to explore alternatives. And, these alternatives have always been available in the WordPress ecosystem.

Maiorana’s piece on the State of the Meetup Under Lockdown explores how the virtual realm has changed meetups. Bringing Back Blogs in the Age of Social Media Censorship is a look into how blogs are the answer in the age of censorship, even when we disagree with a person’s position on a subject.

On the technical end of things, Jonathan Bossenger wrote an in-depth piece for Getting Your WordPress Plugins and Themes Ready for PHP 8. He goes through everything that developers need to know to get their projects updated. The article also provides tools and resources to make things easier.

Goodbye, 2020

While the year might not have been ideal in many ways, there were some great moments. As I reflect upon the events of the last 12 months, I do not see a complete dumpster fire. There was a lot of good that came out of it. The world has changed in some large ways. Our societies have undergone some subtle reshaping. I do not know what 2021 holds, but I remain optimistic.

I look forward to another year covering the events surrounding WordPress. I hope you continue down this journey with the WP Tavern team.


9 responses to “2020: Step Away From the Fire”

  1. The WPTavern articles are informative. I read almost everyone of them.

    You write a lot about blocks. Maybe you can answer a question. In block preferences there is a box to check where the most used blocks appear when selecting a block. That does not work for me. After publishing a post and starting anew one the blocks showing up are always ones I never use. How can I fix this?

    • Not seeing the problem myself, but I suspect that you might be using some kind of privacy software in your browser, which prevents the editor from using the browser’s local storage, and thus prevents it from remembering your most used blocks or something similar to that. In which case, the fix is to turn off that software that is causing the issue, whatever it may be. Try using a clean browser, without extra extensions.

      In the latest versions of the editor, if you don’t want to see the Most Used Blocks section, you can turn it off in the editor’s Preferences modal.

  2. For some reason, Sarah’s piece on adding subscript and superscript characters from 2014 always sneaks its way into the most-viewed posts of the year. It was technically #6 on the list, but it wasn’t published in 2020.

    Maybe because it gets linked on every New Years introspective post and we all click the article to see what’s the fuss all about? ;-)

  3. Happy New Year, Justin.

    By my rough estimate (counting in hundreds), we have at least twice as many published comments as the data shows

    WordPress.com Stats counts approved comments only, which sounds like ‘published comments’, so those numbers should match. I’d be happy to look into it more, if you want to send me a screenshot of your comment Stats.

    • Sorry for the late reply, Martin. Yeah, I wanted to give this time to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. So, I’ve been following January 2021’s comment stats. Right now, we have 222 approved comments for the month. However, WordPress.com stats lists that as 76. Our two most-commented posts of the month have 33 and 31 approved comments, respectively. I knew the stats had to be off.

      These numbers seem to be pretty consistent with how far off the stats have been. In the post I said it was twice as many, but it looks more like 3x as many.

      I can send over a screenshot via email. I’m assuming you want an image of the WordPress.com stats screens.


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