The Metalhead Dev

WordPress 5.7 Experience (Part 1)

March 16, 2021

Wordpress 5.7 Esperanza came out last week and saying that it was simply a “rewarding experience” is an understatement. My initial feeling was relief. But then I thought about how I made it through coordinating a release for an open-source project that is responsible for powering at least 40% of the websites on the internet. How mind boggling and strange… and fucking cool!

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As a black woman, it is always an obstacle to get involved in a space where there is either no one or very few people who look like you. That has been a lifelong struggle honestly (I mean, I’m a metalhead – come on). But I’ve always promised myself that I will make an effort in a new space because it is always worth a try. And it’s ok if sometimes it doesn’t work out! Because it is important for me to never waste my time if the space that I am trying to contribute to doesn’t make space for me.

Well in terms of WordPress, an amazing initiative was started by Josepha Haden Chomphosy to make the WordPress 5.6 team an all women & non-binary release squad. And I took this opportunity to raise my hand to be involved.

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It was such a great release to witness and I walked away feeling really confident in my abilities. Although I was mostly on the sidelines watching and learning the process, this was what I needed to take my next step to be further involved in the WordPress open-source project.

After showing interest in taking on a lead role for the next major release, Francesca Marano approached me with the offer to take on the Release Coordinator role for WordPress 5.7. I didn’t really know what was in store as I was hoping for something more code-centered (like Core Tech Lead) but I also understand that I do not have enough experience for that. And although I didn’t have any experience with this role, the team was confident in me being able to handle the role 👍🏾.

The first insight I received into what this role entails was provided by the Core Handbook. And then after having a confidence-boosting meeting with Francesca, who has coordinated many releases prior, I set off on my journey.

Dev chats

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Dev chats are weekly meetings to discuss the WordPress core development. The Dev Chat Agenda should be published at least 24 hours prior to the 20:00 UTC dev chat. This was nerve-wracking at first but it ended up being the easiest task out of all of the release coordination. It was made easy mostly due to the amazing release squad doing constant peer revision and providing feedback (that’s one thing I loved the most FYI. The constant support for whatever you need help with). Plus I enjoyed the incentive to read the most recently published posts on Make WordPress Core for inclusion in the agenda.

Side note: There is a really cool time conversion plugin on WordPress.org and it is responsible for the automatic timezone conversion that you see below. On the editor/back-end, you use a shortcode like:

[time]February 4, 2021 9:35 am America/Chicago[/time]

And on the front-end, it will properly convert the time for that user. This side note is mostly for me as I plan to dig into the code and create my own version of this ✨

Along with publishing dev chats, I began to prep for running dev chats. At first, I wrote scripts for each dev chat! But after running my 6th or 7th one, I began to go with the flow more and do it without any guidance outside of the previously published agenda. In the beginning, I didn’t understand what people were talking about. So I never contributed much to the conversations around topics like, for instance, IE11 support. But that comfort and experience comes with time so I don’t fault myself for not being able to even in this very moment.

First milestone: Beta 1

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The Beta 1 milestone marked the first release of the development version of WordPress 5.7 and a few important things (from a release coordinator perspective) happened directly before and on this day.

  • Drafted release announcement post with a closing haiku for review (I did this 3 days in advance to give time for peer revision)

  • Checked in with triage lead (Tonya Mark) on the commit status of Trac tickets marked for 5.7 milestone.

  • Made sure the following roles are filled for the release party:

    • Committer
    • A person with Mission Control access
    • A member of the security team
  • Ran the release party 🎉

  • Published announcement post!

Fun fact: new features and enhancements must be committed by Beta 1. Any following releases for this WordPress version will only contain defect work.

If you’ve never attended a release party, it is basically a Slack meeting in the #core channel at a predetermined time to run the final test suites, bundle up the WordPress code into a package and then ask all attendees to test the installation process of this newly bundled package. If things go well after having tested the various method of installing the WordPress package, an announcement is made to the open world that the version is available to test.

As the emcee (i.e. person running the release party), it was important that there were people available to fulfill the aforementioned roles because they have tasks to complete during the release party and it will ensure that the party goes smoothly and efficiently. 

Thank you so much to Josepha Haden Chomphosy, JB Audras, Sergey Biryukov, Francesco Marano, Jonathan Desrosiers, Jake Spurlock, Tonya Mark and David Baumwald for consistently making themselves available for guidance and/or to fulfill these roles!

The current release party instructions are very dense to be honest but Tonya provided a more user-friendly version that ended up helping me immensely and it led me to understand the handbook instructions a lot better. One of my post-release tasks is to improve these instructions so that a more user-friendly version will be available to future release coordinators.

Following Betas and RCs

The milestones after Beta 1 included the following:

The process was pretty much the same as before so I won’t go into details about these.

Because my next section about the final release is another lengthy section, I have split this post into 2 parts. Part 2 will be live in a couple days but thank you so much for taking the time to read about my experience so far.


Written by Ebonie Butler