My WordPress block chain journey: 1

I have been studying up on block chain, and will be meddling more with it to develop a network where content can be distributed, traded, and protected. There are a lot of pieces that I still need to learn, a big one is understanding the theory behind currency, value, and micro/macro economic interactions. Will there be a crypto currency involved in this? In some ways yes, there needs to be some token/currency system tied to interactions. By having a value system in place there are a number of natural benefits that occur.

Why value matters in social interaction

We may not be fully cognizant of it, but collectively we are the most valuable employees to Google, Facebook etc. We are quite literally their money maker. In return for our labor, we get the privilige to use their awesome services. Yay! Wait… that doesn't seem quite right. By purely using their service (not paying for it), we become their revenue source. It seems a bit odd. The data we generate by using Facebook, Google, etc. is very useful and valuable. If the data wasn't these tech behemoths wouldn't be where they are today. Targeted advertising is a good thing, but needs to be revamped a bit. I like Facebook, and Google, they are great, but I question how fair this system seems. We provide them their value, and all we really get in return is a slightly higher level of convenience, I am not sure how well balanced this exchange of value is.

We need to start realizing our own value in our everyday interactions online. Value is exchanged all the time in our searches, page clicks, reading of content, interactions, and messages. We are usually unaware of it though. Without a value system/currency backing these interactions though it is hard to discourage things like harassment, spamming, and other negative behaviors, because ultimately there is no price to be paid. We have high cost infrastructure to help combat these things, but the economics of interaction are a force we are not leveraging. Am I saying you will need to pay to engage? Yes, but not with income we use to buy goods and services. A token system can exist completely aside from a currency, even though they are the same thing pretty much. Remember that our engagement is the real value to companies like Google & Facebook, so why not have some of the value come back our way?

Do I have the perfect plan for all of this? No. A colossal NO. I really have no idea how to approach any of this, but I think the problem is clear enough to start trying to chip away at it.

Choosing a block chain

After reviewing the many many systems in place, Ethereum seems like a pretty safe starting place for the backing blockchain. After reviewing a seemingly endless set of blockchains, tokens, and more, I came to the decision that Ethereum has the best tools, community, and openness to get poking around. I have already begun working on things, (more like stumbling) and am excited to share the progress with everyone and get more people involved. If you have any extra knowledge about developing apps on a blockchain help is appreciated, drop a comment! If you are excited or terrified, also drop a comment, as I would love to hear more thoughts.

Rethinking Meta Boxes with the new WordPress block editor: Part 1

The post has been updated to reflect some code improvements pointed out by Daniel Bachhuber.

I have spoken to a number of agencies, and WordPress developers, and I have come to one conclusion; ACF and Meta Boxes are critical for their deliveries. ACF, particularly the pro version, seems to be used quite a bit. Most of the work I do does not use ACF, but I certainly have used meta boxes a fair bit. We have probably done all sorts of crazy stuff with meta boxes and they have served us well. The new block editor can be somewhat scary as it appears to be replacing meta boxes. In fact, one of the goals of blocks is to replace things like meta boxes. Metadata management is definitely a crucial selling point for WordPress to online businesses. There seems to be the thought that the new block editor will ruin WordPress as a CMS because we are no longer dealing with structured data. I don't think this is the case at all, blocks will bring even more structure than currently exists, hopefully after reading this you will be excited to make the leap to Gutenberg. The tricky part is going to be the transition.

Making the leap to Gutenberg

The new block editor brings a couple major changes to the world of WordPress development. The block API that powers it, seeks to consolidate many elements of WordPress. The editor portion, is a relatively large React/Redux application powered by JavaScript. WordPress development has largely been fragmented across many APIs and I think the new block API, once it is fully fleshed out, will help bring about a better set of standards, and allow developers to create more engaging experiences in less time. You can already ship fast with WordPress, but once the new block editor is running in full gear, I feel it will greatly accelerate the rate at which people create things with WordPress.

The leap will hopefully not have to be painful thanks to the work being done by the Gutenberg team. Part of the goal is to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Support for meta boxes, shortcodes, and other features are already included. The meta box support is also continually being improved upon. It is important to not just force every developer to rewrite all of the work they have done in JavaScript. Instead there will be an indefinite period where the block editor will have near complete backwards compatibility, which is really a tremendous feat that should be praised. So big shout out to Riad Benguella and Andrew Duthie who have really been hauling ass on this project! Give them some love. Speaking of Riad, I highly recommend checking out his post about Gutenberg and meta boxes.

If there is backwards compatibility in place though, what is the big deal with blocks and the block editor, why should I rewrite things as a block? Well, it is honestly not fully apparent why blocks matter. Let's quickly compare the two and hopefully I can pique your interest.

A basic meta box implemented in the classic WordPress way


 * Plugin Name: A classic meta block.
 * Version: 0.1.0
 * Author: Edwin Cromley
 * Author URI:
 * License: GPL3+
 * Description: Random meta box.

add_action( 'add_meta_boxes', 'sample_add_metabox' );
add_action( 'save_post', 'sample_save_metabox', 10, 2 );

 * Adds the meta box.
function sample_add_metabox() {
		__( 'Post Notes', 'textdomain' ),

 * Renders the meta box.
function sample_render_metabox( $post ) {
	// Add nonce for security and authentication.
	wp_nonce_field( 'custom_nonce_action', 'custom_nonce' );

	$notes = get_post_meta( $post->ID, 'notes', true );

	<textarea style="width: 100%; height: 200px;" name="notes">
		<?php echo esc_html( $notes ); ?>

 * The code below will not run because my host blocks writing
 * super globals in anyways shape or form. So pretend $POST is
 * the actual superglobal.

 * Handles saving the meta box.
 * @param int     $post_id Post ID.
 * @param WP_Post $post    Post object.
 * @return null
function sample_save_metabox( $post_id, $post ) {
	// Add nonce for security and authentication.
	$nonce_name   = isset( $POST['custom_nonce'] ) ? $POST['custom_nonce'] : '';
	$nonce_action = 'custom_nonce_action';

	// Check if nonce is set.
	if ( ! isset( $nonce_name ) ) {

	// Check if nonce is valid.
	if ( ! wp_verify_nonce( $nonce_name, $nonce_action ) ) {

	// Check if user has permissions to save data.
	if ( ! current_user_can( 'edit_post', $post_id ) ) {

	// Check if not an autosave.
	if ( wp_is_post_autosave( $post_id ) ) {

	// Check if not a revision.
	if ( wp_is_post_revision( $post_id ) ) {

	if ( ! isset( $POST['notes'] ) ) {

	update_post_meta( $post_id, 'notes', wp_unslash( sanitize_text_field( $POST['notes'] ) ) );

To see the actual code that runs checkout this repo. Pretty straight forward classic WordPress meta box registration. Everything is PHP, we create the view in our render function and when the post is saved we do some validation and update the meta value. This meta box will work just fine inside of the Gutenberg editor as well. Let's look at how we could recreate a meta box as a block in Gutenberg.

Meta block:


 * Plugin Name: Sample Meta Block!
 * Version: 0.2.0
 * Author: Edwin Cromley
 * Author URI:
 * License: GPL3+
 * Description: A sample meta block to illustrate how easy using Gutenberg is.

 * Enqueue block assets.
function meta_block_enqueue_block_editor_assets() {
    // Enqueue JS that registers a block.
        plugins_url( 'meta-block.js', __FILE__ ),
        // Here we declare our dependencies for creating the block.
        array( 'wp-blocks', 'wp-element', 'wp-components' )

add_action( 'enqueue_block_editor_assets', 'meta_block_enqueue_block_editor_assets' );

 * The authentication callback for our secrent notes meta key.
 * @param boolean $allowed Whether the user can add the post meta. Default false.
 * @param string $meta_key The meta key.
 * @param int $post_id Post ID.
 * @param int $user_id User ID.
 * @param string $cap Capability name.
 * @param array $caps User capabilities.
 * @return boolean Whether the user has permission or not to
function meta_block_secret_notes_auth_callback( $allowed, $meta_key, $post_id, $user_id, $cap, $caps ) {
    if ( current_user_can( 'edit_post', $post_id ) ) {
        return true;

    return false;

 * Register meta field for the rest API.
function meta_block_init() {
    // Register a post meta
    register_meta( 'post', 'notes', array(
        'show_in_rest'  => true,
        'single'        => true,
        'auth_callback' => 'meta_block_secret_notes_auth_callback',
    ) );

add_action( 'init', 'meta_block_init' );

 * Filters out the notes meta field from rest response for unauthenticated users.
 * @param WP_REST_Response $response The response object.
 * @param WP_Post          $post     Post object.
 * @param WP_REST_Request  $request  Request object.
 * @return WP_REST_Response The modified rest response.
function meta_block_make_secret_notes_secret( $response, $post, $request ) {
    $data = $response->get_data();

    if ( isset( $data['meta']['notes'] ) && ! current_user_can( 'edit_post', $post->ID ) ) {
        unset( $data['meta']['notes'] );
        $response->set_data( $data );

    return $response;

add_filter( 'rest_prepare_post', 'meta_block_make_secret_notes_secret', 10, 3 );

 * Register the block template for the post post type.
 * @param array  $args      Associative array of data used during registration.
 * @param string $post_type The current post type being registered.
 * @return array Associative array of data used during registration.
function meta_block_change_post_block_template( $args, $post_type ) {
    if ( $post_type === 'post' ) {
        // Create a template of our is great block.
        $secret_notes_block = array(
                'template_lock' => 'all',

        // Check if template exists and if not add template.
        if ( ! isset( $args['template'] ) || ! is_array( $args['template'] ) ) {
            $args['template'] = array();

        array_unshift( $args['template'], $secret_notes_block );

    return $args;

add_filter( 'register_post_type_args', 'meta_block_change_post_block_template', 10, 2 );


( function( blocks, element, components ) {
    var el       = element.createElement,
        Editable = blocks.Editable;

    blocks.registerBlockType( 'sample/secret-notes', {
        title: 'Secret Notes',
        category: 'common',
        isPrivate: true,

         * Declare the attributes involved.
         * We declare the notes attribute and one of its properties is a
         * meta key, which will be the corresponding meta key we save on the
         * post meta db.
        attributes: {
            notes: {
                type: 'string',
                source: 'meta',
                meta: 'notes'

        edit: function( props ) {
            var notes = props.attributes.notes;

            function setSecretNotes( notes ) {
                console.log( notes[0] );
                 * This is a tad bit hacky as the value passed in by the
                 * Editable component will be an array of values. In this case,
                 * it will always be an array of one string, which is the value
                 * we want.
                props.setAttributes( { notes: notes[0] } );

            return el(
                    key: 'secret-notes',
                    el( 'h3', {}, 'Secret Notes:' ),
                     * Set the value to the current value being auto loaded in.
                     * Set the onChange handler to set our new attributes, this
                     * will auto save our meta values.
                    el( Editable, { onChange: setSecretNotes, value: notes } )

        save: function() {
             * The save function will represent what is saved into the post's
             * post content, since we are not adding anything to the post
             * content
            return null;
    } );
} )(

If you want to check out the code go to this repository. These are about the same lines of code, and they honestly are not much different. We define how the data should be saved and how it should be rendered in both cases. Different API, same result. So why go through all of the trouble to reimagine meta boxes as blocks?

Benefits of blocks replacing meta boxes

There are a number of benefits of blocks over anything else, however templating, uniformity, and composability are the main benefits.


If you noticed the block template being registered for the post type, this is one of the powers of using blocks instead of the classic method. You can position the meta boxes where they actually need to go. We can provide default values ahead of time as well. When you start to think about the implications for page building and themes it gets very interesting. Being able to structure your content however you want leads to much improved user experiences. The content itself can now be outlined ahead of time, which helps when many content authors are involved and need to adhere to some standard. The template system is not fully fleshed out yet, but when it is, it will be incredibly powerful. Meta boxes fall short in this aspect.


Sometimes meta boxes are not the correct tool for the job and we need to use another one of WordPress's APIs to get the things done. Sometimes the meta boxes I have created will power a shortcode, widget, or custom TinyMCE thing. It always gets awkward though because the experience is so disjointed.

For instance, I do a lot of eLearning projects and often a link to assignments, modules, or the current week's todo items need to be embedded in the content. These are being powered by data somewhere else often controlled by a meta box. I can't just hard code these pieces into the theme templates though, as the instructors want to have control over where these elements are placed. Meta boxes only get you part of the way to where you need to go. Then depending on the case, a TinyMCE button is created and there is a unfulfilling user experience getting this to work. If the author needs to update the list of todos, they need to find the meta box for it somewhere on another page. If they want to change the list of todos for that specific page, they most likely will need to create an entirely new list of todos. It gets tedious quickly.

Now that I am running these systems on Gutenberg, it is effortless for instructors to be onboarded and get up to speed. The block API brings us uniformity, which allows the meta box that is powering something to also be embeddable in the content, or not. It's up to us and there is incredibly flexibility. The uniformity of the experience also makes it easier for the people actually using the editor, because once they have learned how to insert, place, and update the block, they have learned it for everything else. There is no need to go to different pages, and do all sorts of weird workflows. Since blocks will unify meta boxes, content, custom TinyMCE, widgets, shortcodes, and whatever else into one thing, a new property will also arise; composability.


The new block editor does not quite fully deliver on composability yet, but it's getting there. Composability allows us to create something new out of other elements. A web page is basically a composition of various HTML tags. The HTML is parsed into DOM nodes and eventually renders onto our screen after a bunch of other stuff happens. We might create an employee profile by combining, a figure element, with an image element, a figcaption, and maybe some p elements for various information bits. If these pieces did not share a uniform interface, we could not create the employee profile in HTML, we would have to do something else. HTML would not be very useful.

WordPress's current content system for better or worse is a fragmented mess. It kind of makes sense, but as a new comer myself, it was weird learning a lot of the concepts and the WordPress way, as it seemed different for almost every piece. Widgets needed to be created one way, and could only be easily embedded in certain places, which needed to be registered beforehand, unless you wanted to hard code the widget somewhere. Confusing.

If I spent all of my effort creating a widget, well I was out of luck when I wanted to put it inside my content. Instead, I needed to then create a shortcode. If I wanted to do the same exact thing, but slightly different, I would need a new shortcode. I also wanted a widget that did the new thing as well, so I had to create another widget. If I wanted to use the new widget functionality inside the old shortcode it leads to a gigantic mess. The level of reusability is limited, and as a developer we really only have an illusion of reusability when working in WordPress.

Imagine if every time you wrote HTML, you had to keep each element as its own. For instance:

<p>Here is some HTML. Now I </p><a href="">have a link</a><p>inside of the same text.</p>

No tag could ever be a part of another. div and its many incarnations would be unusable. We would be limited to linear ordering of basic elements, slabbing one piece after the other. If we wanted to do something complex, it would need to meticulously be strung together. Nothing could ever be grouped together or composed in a natural way. If we wanted to move a piece we would have to move everything with it. We don't work this way with HTML, so why do we accept it for how we work in WordPress. Again, imagine never using div or even conceiving what div is, that is the world we are working in. Widgets can not be used with shortcodes, or TinyMCE, and vice versa, without a lot of extra work. It is hard to fully see how limited we are by WordPress, because it is great, but when all of the pieces of content can become more easily interchangeable with each other, we will see new experiences emerge.

With the concept of composability, an image slider could potentially also be used to create any kind of slider. It could even be fashioned into a PowerPoint of sorts. The text and images, would be their own unique piece, that fit inside of a slide, and each slide inside of the slide show. Each slide could be powered by a different set of data providing a unique experience for each person. The web browser is already a PowerPoint of sorts that we don't even take into account because the fluidity between each frame is abrupt and we don't fully even know how to even effectively use the medium of the web or computers yet, at least I don't.

The block editor will make WordPress an unparalleled CMS. This is just part one of reimagining meta boxes as blocks, and I hope to show you some of the cool things I have been working on, and get you excited about the future of WordPress! The upcoming articles will be more code oriented and go over how to actually think in blocks and how to actually write the JavaScript and PHP that powers them. If you are interested by the Gutenberg editor, make sure to try it out or check in on the GitHub repository.

WordPress 2018: Growth

WordPress is growing. Growing is good. As WordPress becomes more ubiquitous, respected, cherished, we will all benefit, as long as we do not become complacent in light of our success and we continue to democratize publishing for the world. With the strength of WordPress, the software and the community, it is kind of puzzling that WordPress is not really in the cultural zeitgeist (maybe that is a good thing at the moment).

My family is all about Instagram, I don't use it personally, but they are really into it. Most people know about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, but not many in my town seem to know about WordPress. WordPress is a much more valuable tool than Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, but it remains hidden in some ways. Many people I talk to are also familiar with Squarespace, Wix and Shopify; just not WordPress. 29.2% of the internet unknown to most. There is tremendous opportunity here, but how do we get the word out?

I read a comment on WP Tavern recently, that said something to the effect of: if you decide to use WordPress, you must also labor over maintaining and publicizing it. This is not true. No one expects anybody to help push the platform forward. The comment was made facetiously, or at least that was my interpretation, but from my experience, I can say the more I put into WordPress the more I get back.

Why? Well it's simple. WordPress the software, not the name, is mine. It is also yours, but it belongs to no one and somehow everyone. It's a weird concept that I still struggle to fully understand, but when you improve WordPress, you will benefit from that improvement.

It is easy to see products like and feel as though they benefit more from WordPress than everyone else, and for some reason this year I have noticed a lot of unwarranted resentment towards Automattic. I am new to the space, so I do not know the full history, but it is really hard for me to see things like as a detriment or vampiric presence to WordPress, quite the contrary in my opinion. Yes, I understand the naming thing between .org and .com. The situation is confusing, but most things in life are pretty confusing. I could easily imagine another scenario where was named XYZOMG. "XYZOMG is basically WordPress, why the fancy name? You aren't promoting your core product! Why should we work on WordPress, when Automattic doesn't even promote it?" This is purely hypothetical, and I don't want to mischaracterize people's opinion, but it often feels like a "Haters are Gonna Hate" scenario. At the end of the day it is just a name. WordPress is just a name. What it embodies is more significant: the powerful software, the passionate community, and the mission of bringing digital publishing to the world.

Although we do not own the name WordPress, we do own WordPress, and when we promote, maintain, and change WordPress, we inevitably change our own personal world too. I very firmly believe that from what I have put into WordPress, I have been given back so much more, and I know I am not the only one. So when I feel that WordPress does not have the recognition it deserves, I am not afraid to try and promote it further, because I believe it will benefit my family, and many others somewhere down the road. I won't feel as though I am cheated out of my time.

I am just a small voice, but collectively we really could help WordPress grow to do more amazing things than it already has. I have been able to help my clients make tens of millions of dollars this year alone, and have been blessed for my efforts. WordPress has helped so many gain economic freedom in a way that I am not sure many other things in this world have done. WordPress is a mission worth hitching your wagon onto. There is a lot work to be done, and a vast amount of opportunity ahead.

Growth Ideas

Calls to action

I really liked Aaron Jorbin's idea of the #GutenbergChallenge. It was a decentralized, yet coordinated way to promote and provide feedback for the new editor. It was a call for people to answer, rather than a post from Make, Post Status, WP Tavern informing us what is happening.

Running some sort of community driven promotional campaign seems like a cool idea that we could potentially leverage to have a more concentrated effort in promoting WordPress itself rather than a small aspect like the editor. I am not sure how successful the #GutenbergChallenge was or how we can even measure success of ventures like this, but it might be interesting to explore how to optimize these challenges, and get the most benefit out of them. I think overall the challenge helped start tipping opinion towards a more positive perception of Gutenberg, which was initially overwhelmingly negative.

The active engagement from the #GutenbergChallenge is the best part. If you participate, you use the new editor, and get to share your thoughts in a clearly written manner. Participating in comment sections, or on GitHub is great, but comments are rarely a good place to fully flesh out your ideas, and they can often degenerate into mixed messages and misunderstandings. So rather than a central post generating discussion via comments, a call to action creates commentary among a diverse collection of experience. The main hurdles to making this effective are collection and curation.

Story Platforms

HeroPress is another great idea. The essays really convey how WordPress has personally impacted the author's life. It covers stories from over the whole globe. The Hallway Chats are also another interesting addition to WordPress focused content. If you haven't checked The Hallway Chats out, they host conversations featuring someone from the WordPress ecosystem.

I like how HeroPress and Hallway Chats showcase individuals rather than organizations and they really add a great personal touch. The individuals may promote the organizations they are associated with, but it is really about the person and how their story has crossed paths with WordPress. It really puts into perspective how all of these people collectively create what WordPress is.

This was about growth though?

Right. Growth. I think there is a lot of room for growth in the WordPress space, especially when we consider trying to make the platform easier to use, and more friendly for new comers ( and current users ). A more difficult prospect is making WordPress more valuable in everyday life. I know many people who run a business that simply do not need a website, or a web presence. Even if they did, they would have to hobble through the nonintuitive portions WP Admin, themes, and plugins. However, almost everyone I know uses some form of messaging, or some form of social interaction via the internet. I wonder if there is space for WordPress to creep into that realm. It kind of is there, but it kind of isn't.

The new block editor will vastly improve the publishing process, and future iterations on that concept will make digital publishing exceptionally powerful and easy, but what about the distribution and discovery mechanisms we have in place for our content? For the most part we are at the whims of the Googles, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world. Don't get me wrong I think all of these companies do groundbreaking work, I just wonder if there is something better that could be created.

With the advent of blockchain, I think there is room to open things up a bit more, and start creating more meaningful connections. I have no idea where blockchain is going to go, nor do I fully understand it, but it seems very interesting, and this year I am going to start a project that will be a network of sorts where people can share their work and ideas with each other over a new distribution mechanism. I have no idea whether it is a good idea, it is probably terrible, but it has captivated my interest.

If the new Gutenberg editor radically improves the digital publishing world, which I hope it does, does it matter if the content we produce has to be distributed through mechanisms that we have minimal control over? The peer to peer nature of blockchain seems very appealing, but I don't know if it will be a good thing or not. I honestly don't know enough about it yet, or its ramifications, but the project will be an interesting project to work on, and hopefully it will be something positive. At the very least, hopefully it inspires similar ideas in others, because I think if we truly want WordPress to grow, we need to empower people to better connect with everyone else.

Social networks have not been figured out yet, or to my knowledge they have not. One of the largest problems in my opinion is something that I believe occurs rather naturally; echo chambers. My own social media interactions are purely web development oriented, with the exception of the incredible C. T. Fletcher. I could find new things, but there is an odd comfort in keeping to what you know, or where you think you belong. I naturally have created my own web development echo chamber without realizing it. One potential solution that I see, that could be very interesting, is to override our natural tendencies, and instead force random connections into our network, even if only temporary, reflecting more of how the real world works. Typically networks encourage you to go after what is already familiar and be highly selective, but I think there is opportunity to shake that up and create more random connections like you would pre-internet. Adding a little chaotic spice to the mix, I think could allow people of different backgrounds to meet connect with each other, even if it is uncomfortable.

Connections as a driver for Growth.

If we really want the ubiquity of WordPress, I think starting to brainstorm on how we can better connect with each other, and how we can bring more value to people's everyday activities will become a crucial piece to the WordPress Growth puzzle.