Ahmad Awais

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A Prediction, Calypso & What I Think Is the Next WordPress!

Ahmad AwaisAhmad Awais

So, we had just delivered a client project and were about to head home when a notification caught us by surprise. For some reason, the MySQL database was not working as it was supposed to. Now, we needed a new MySQL dump, but the guy who managed the servers had left for home and his cellphone was not reachable.

It was a time sensitive situation, and I was called in like I’d know what to do. Now, I am not the guy who manages the server, but since I was the only full-stack developer in the team, everyone thought I could handle it. And you know what I had to predict what could be the local server password.

When they told me about the situation, I stayed still for a moment, thought a bit about it, dragging my fingers across the table … Rising from my chair while pushing it backwards — just enough to look at the far end of our office — and that’s when it hit me — did you try to root/root (i.e. both the username and password).

They gave it a try and boom! They were in — for weeks after this day; my manager appreciated me like I had written Apache or NGINX (BTW that appreciation was why I later became a terminal power user).

My Prediction#

That’s exactly, how I felt when I first read about Calypso. You see, just about a month ago I wrote an article at TorqueMag; What Will WordPress Be Like in the Next 10 Years. In this article, part of my prediction said that WordPress will have custom dashboards.

English is not my mother tongue so more often than not; I find myself struggling to help others understand what I mean, not because I have a problem with the English language but I am much much more expressive and articulate in real life.

When I wrote about WordPress custom dashboards, something like Calypso was what I had in my mind. I have been discussing the possibility of a similar WordPress app which would be a bit more niche-specific with Josh Pollock.

Calypso#

The launch of Calypso was exciting news for me for many reasons, let me tell you how.

Did I Just Predict This Project?#

Hell! I predicted it, not really, but I was thinking along the lines of what Automattic had been working on, which is reassuring in a way that I am on the right side of things.

JavaScript FTW!#

JavaScript! Yes, you read it right. For more than three years now, I have had been working to improve my JavaScript skills. At first, I didn’t know how to make use of all the excellent tools — that awesome frontend developers are using — with WordPress.

But starting with Backbone.js, grunt, etc. I know that I have come a long way — for a WordPress developer — where I use Advanced Gulp Workflow for development and have converted myself into a workflow optimist (Scaling my own capabilities and saving time while writing quality code using bleeding edge technology i.e. React, Gulp, Babel, ECMAScript, Node.js, WebPack, build tooling, Dependency + Module management, deployment, BrowserSync, CSS4, Sass, SourceMaps, etc. Whew!).

At the time of writing, Calypso is 87.7% JavaScript as compared to WordPress i.e. 14.2% JS. Calypso is built upon a thin layer of Node + Express server, which uses all the fun stuff like React, Flux, WebPack, Babel, etc. It’s really what WordPress would be like if we build it today. I cannot help but appreciate the fact that it is a sole effort of Automattic.

Open Source#

For last nine years, I have shifted from working with proprietary software to open source. Open source is not only the new black; but it is also a complete philosophy, a way of life for us developers. I expected no less from Matt Mullenweg when I read about Calypso being open source. Here;

Open source is the most powerful idea of our generation. I’m proud to take our intellectual property crown jewels and open Calypso up to the world for the community to hack on, play with, poke, prod, and extend and make their own. This is the same spirit of sharing which has allowed WordPress to become a de facto web operating system over the past decade. It may take time, but open will win over closed every time. — Matt Mullenweg

It Is Done; the Right Way™#

When you empower 25% of the WWW (world-wide web), the hardest thing to do is rebuild your software from the ground up. I’m only in my 20’s, so like Chris Lema, I cannot tell you from past 20 years of my experience … but I know enough to state the evidence in the history of software platforms.

Calypso is built with JavaScript and not PHP; it is clearly the 180º shift in software support, architecture, etc. when compared with WordPress’s codebase. But, it uses REST API to interact with WordPress. This is a perfect approach. WordPress software, its development, the community is all intact. Nothing has changed. Calypso is the beginning of pushing the limits of boundaries.

If you know about Drupal, then you might know how the strategy of changing Drupal’s architecture in Drupal 8 will be a failing strategy. The more I think of Calypso’s impact, the more respect I gather for this decision of Matt Mullenweg.

In context of Drupal 8, to quote Jennifer Lea Lampton:

Back in the day, Drupal used to be hackable. And by “hackable” I mean that any semi-technical yahoo (that’s me, btw) who needed a website could get it up and running, and then poke around in the code to see how it all worked. he code was fairly uncomplicated, though often somewhat messy, and that was fine. At the end of the day, it did what you needed.

Today, the majority of the people in our Drupal Community aren’t CS engineers. They are self-taught Drupal experts, people less technical than myself, and people who can get by using this awesome software we’ve developed to help make their lives easier. What is the transition to Drupal 8 going to be like to them? Well, I asked some non-core developers, and I didn’t like what I heard.

A lot of professional Drupal developers already have exit strategies.

They may even have a day job building or maintaining Drupal 6 and/or Drupal 7 sites, but they go home at night and study Ruby, Node.js, Angular.js, even some are looking into WordPress. They want to be “out” before they have to learn Drupal 8. These are smart, capable people, who I’m sure – if they wanted to – would be able to pick up Drupal 8. So, why are they leaving? Because Drupal 8 has become different enough that learning it feels like learning something new. If they are going to invest in learning something new, why not Ruby, or Node.js, or something else?

And to quote Mike Schinkel:

What Visual Basic’s History Can Teach Us

What makes me think the above scenario is likely? Because I saw it happen with Visual Basic and C#. Visual Basic pre .NET was easy to use and became arguably the world’s most widely used programming language for a time. But it was a ugly language with many inconsistencies and was very limited in what it could do compared to C++ so it was always looked down on by “real” programmers ignoring how Visual Basic empowered so many people who never would or could develop using C++.

So Microsoft envisioned a “better” way; a .NET platform on which both Visual Basic and a new language called C# would live making Visual Basic a “proper” programming language, almost on par with C+.

Fast forward to today and what happened was that those who valued Visual Basic’s simplicity continued to use the old Visual Basic (for a while), abandoned it for other tools that were easier, or just quit developing and focused on other parts of their career.

Those who wanted to become better professional programmers asked themselves “why stay with VB?” so most everyone just moved up and over to C#. This migration effectively killed off what 10 years ago was once the most popular programming language in was the world.

And I believe a pattern similar to the Visual Basic decline will occur with Drupal starting at version 8.

This all proves one point that Calypso as per my opinion is one of the best ways for WordPress to move forward. As Matt Mullenweg said, “This is a beginning, not an ending”. It’s more about the user experience and less about the tech at the backend.

What I Think Is the Next WordPress!#

In the same article, where I mentioned about WordPress Custom Dashboards, I also predicted about what I called Custom Panels. While this article triggered an interesting debate (at TorqueMagTwitter and WPTavern), I didn’t have any proof-of-concept or an actual implementation to begin with. Well, now I do!

Since Calypso is open source and “Available for anyone to adapt to make their own, including building custom interfaces, distributions, or working with web services besides WordPress.com”, I can see those Custom Panels being made much sooner than my predicted timeline.

Much Love Such Predictions#

More on Calypso#

Below are the articles from some of the awesome folks, I know, who have written about their opinion on Calypso.

Your Take on Calypso?#

I would love to hear your take on Calypso, either via comments on this blog or discuss at Twitter.

 

Pst. I just started contributing at WP Calypso, mostly reading the source code — a humble beginning that feels excellent.

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👨‍🏫 Edutainer at VSCode.pro 🎩 Full-time #OpenSourcerer 🥑 JavaScript Developer Advocate 🔥 Ridiculously hard-working Full Stack Web DeveloperRegular WordPress Core Developer 📣 TEDx Speaker ✌️ Spends 50-80% of his time building professional FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) used by over 218,900 Developers 🙌 Cloud Community Evangelist 🎯 JavaScript & DevOps fanboy 😂 Cracks silly jokes 💜 Loves his wife (Maedah) 🍕 Learn more about Ahmad ↣

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