Getting Ready for Gutenberg

Sometime in the fall, we will get WordPress 5.0. This new release is called Gutenberg after the 15th century Bible printer.  I have installed a beta version of it on a test website called, and wrote this post using the new interface.

Last week I attended a talk on the coming “Gutenpocalyse” at WPCampus 18. Many of the concerns are technical, namely will the new version work with the vast library of plugins and themes built for WP 4.0. The bigger concern for me in supporting the 4,000+ WP users at OU is the new user interface.

Writing a blog post or creating a web page in WordPress has traditionally been modeled on using a word processor. There is a bar of buttons at the top of the screen that allow you to bold or italicize text and additional buttons for converting text into a numbered list or choosing a preset format for a header. It’s not a true WSYWIG interface in that the sites CSS modifies the look of the document after it is published, but students and faculty have more or less gotten used to the interface.

YouTube tutorial on how to create a blog post in WordPress 4 

The new Gutenberg interface looks more like it was modeled on the writing interface for  You get a big blank white canvas with an obvious place for a title and a first paragraph. After that, you’re encouraged to add additional ‘blocks’ to the post or page.

YouTube tutorial on how to create a blog post in WordPress 5, Gutenberg

A block can be a new paragraph, an image, a video, a code chunk, a widget, or several other things. Each of these blocks can be individually styled using a menu bar on the right hand side of the interface. This makes it easy to make the text for one block bold or bigger or a different color than the paragraphs around it. You can style each image to align where ever you want it.I like the new interface. I think it’s easy to write in, and I think Gutenberg makes it easier to add images and other media.

The main questions for me is “When do I start teaching Gutenberg?” Last year, WP announced that Gutenberg would be rolled out in April, 2018. April came and went and now we’re hearing that it might be released in August. I am scheduled to teach at least half a dozen WordPress workshops in August, and I will probably be in classrooms with a few hundred students, so the exact date is of some concern to me. Right now, I’m leaning towards configuring our servers so that all new users get the beta version of Gutenberg by default. Rather than introducing users into the old interface in August and then asking them to learn the new interface on their own at the end of the month or whenever it comes out, I think it’d be better to just jump into the new system, even if WP isn’t quite ready to release 5.0.

Playing with this post in both Gutenberg and the old interface has me ready for the change. Maybe the hardest part of the Gutenberg transition will be waiting for this 15th century typesetter to be ready for print.

WP Campus 18 First Notes

This week, I’m attending WP Campus 18 in St. Louis, MO. For the conference, presenters are encouraged to create some sort of online artifact (usually a WP site) to share their slides and resources. Here’s mine.

I’m really impressed by the conference in terms of some of the organizational things they are doing.

  • Online artifacts
  • Almost all of the talks are live-streamed and recorded, and kept open on the schedule page for the conference.
  • Before each talk, the organizers give a brief talk about the online audience and reasserting the Code of Conduct.
  • There are nightly events for networking.
  • Lunch is on site and they set up ‘birds of a feather’ tables.

Pretty much everything about the conference is going well. Their website (in WP obviously) has a ton of information for attendees and some cool features in how it’s built. There are things about the conference that wouldn’t work at scale, but I’m taking a lot of notes on things that I want to borrow for my other conferences.

Why Domain

As part of his work in introducing Domain of One’s Own at Ontario Extend, Alan Levine posted the questions that I answer below. I haven’t been blogging enough recently, so I thought this was a good chance to document some of my own DoOO thoughts and kickstart my writing.

What is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

My domain name is From front to back, the difference between https and http is a security certificate. Our partners at Reclaim Hosting make it dead easy to get an SSL certificate, and I think all of the internet search engines are going to increasingly favor sites with security certificates over the next few years.

My domain name itself is just my name. John Stewart is an incredibly common name, so I threw in my middle initial for some small degree of disambiguation.

I chose .org rather than .com because of their historical significance. Originally, .com meant that you were visiting a commercial website, and .org signified a non-profit organizational site. I work for a university, and when I set up my site, I was an adjunct lecturer, which is about as non-profit as it gets. I still advocate open pedagogy, OER, open note-taking, open coding, and a general distrust of capitalism, so I think it fits.

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

I had been trying to set up a couple of .php based websites for a few years before I started this domain. Early in my grad career, I tried to start an online, open journal for publishing work by graduate students studying the History of Science. At the time, my university only offered 5MB of webspace and only supported HTML in that space. Eventually, I registered both that journal and a separate Digital Humanities project ( with a corporate web host.

In 2013, the University of Oklahoma launched the pilot for OU Create, a Domain of One’s Own initiative. I went to the initial pitch by Jim Groom and Adam Croom, and was user number #13 with this domain.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

I really wanted to be able to run modern CMS apps, particularly Drupal. Both my Situating Chemistry site and the Open Journal System I built are built on Drupal and require a LAMP environment. With this site, I wanted to start blogging – or thinking out loud as Laura Gogia and others in the DoOO community call(ed) it.

What kinds of sites have you set up one your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

I’m currently the project manager for OU Create. We have about 5000 users and 6000 websites, so I feel like all of them are part of my current work on domains. You can see recent posts on our Feed WordPress site, and you can get a sense of what type of sites people are using at

I have about 30 sites up and running on my domain. Most are demonstration sites that I use when introducing DoOO to either classes or faculty development groups. My larger projects include the Situating Chemistry site and subdomains like my Wiki faculty development workshop: I also have designed sites for faculty projects on the history of education in Oklahoma (

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What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

I really like sites like I think these simple sites built in HTML are faster and more elegant than most WordPress based sites. If I had to do it over again, I’d build my main site using an landing page with lots of other projects in subdomains.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

I think I will probably do what I said above. I think I can move the blog feed into a subdirectory (, leave all the posts where they are, and create a space for a nice landing site.

For OU Create more broadly, we are playing with what DoOO v2 looks like. We are trying to figure out how to help people get into the apps they want to use more quickly, how to support non-SQL based systems (MongoDB, node.js, etc), and how to keep costs as low as possible.

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

My usual pitch centers on the superabundance of information available to us now. When I start a research project or try to figure out some new system, I search the  internet. There’s a cornucopia of resources, so I generally find a ton of great information, and I quickly start working through my project. If you’re not on the internet, if you don’t have a website, there’s a roughly 0% chance I will come across your work. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written 5 books and 20 great articles, if you and they are not online, I’m not going out of my way to find them. But if I come across one of your articles, and I can look you up and find your other work, I will do a deep dive into everything you’ve ever said. Your discoverability as a teacher is also vital to attracting grad students who want to know what you’re researching.

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