Tag Archives: January

CoursePress Upgrades, January 2016

On January 13 14, 2016, we expect to have a short amount of downtime (should be less than 15 minutes) for CoursePress as we implement some upgrades. Most importantly, we’ll upgrade the core of our WordPress installation from 4.2.2 to 4.4.1. This post outlines some of the more important pieces of information about the new versions of WordPress core as well as some upgraded themes and plugins.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a staff of testers nor are we tasked only with supporting CoursePress, so our testing cuts corners. We focus on the standard site we create for courses, which relies on the Twenty Twelve theme and a handful of plugins. After the upgrade, please check your site to make sure that everything’s still as you expect it to be. Let us know immediately if something’s not right.

In the past few years, WordPress has begun reliably rolling out 2 or 3 new versions each calendar year. We’ve gotten better at keeping relatively current, but less good about advance notice and writing up the differences. I hope this post is the start of better communication, insufficient though it is.

Changes in 4.4.1 Core

  • Most importantly, this version fixes a cross-site scripting vulnerability
  • Removed Rdio embed support
  • Unicode 8.0 emoji, which includes non-yellow emoji (sometimes called “the diverse emoji”)

WordPress’s official blog post on the release of 4.4.1.
Expanded list of changes included in 4.4.1.

Major New Core Features in 4.4 Include

  • Improved look and lay out for images on mobile devices in mobile-friendly themes
  • More possibilities for embedding:
    • WordPress posts
    • Cloudup
    • Reddit comments
    • ReverbNation
    • Speaker Deck
    • VideoPress
  • Accessibility improvements
    • Translation string improvements
    • Improved headings (some non-visible by default for adaptive devices only) in administrative interface screens
    • Greater semantic HTML element usage elsewhere in administrative markup structure
    • (The whole list)

WordPress’s official blog post on the release of 4.4.
Expanded list of changes included in 4.4.
Full set of WordPress blog posts discussing 4.4.

Other Notable Core Changes in 4.3 and Intermediate Releases Since 4.2.2

  • Incorporation of limited Markdown-like syntax in the visual editor
  • Ability to add a favicon for individual site
  • Customize site theme without having to enter the administrative interface
  • Elimination of some cross-site scripting vulnerabilities and SQL injections
  • Squashed bug that allowed unauthorized user role to create post

Selected Updated Plugins

New Plugin

  • Cloner: Facilitates copying course sites. We get regular requests to copy an existing class site for a subsequent term, and this plugin should make fulfilling those requests easier. (We’ve always done it, but it took more time than we liked.)

Selected Updated Themes

New Theme

WordPress has announced a planned release of core version 4.5 in mid-April 2016. We hope that we will be able to adopt this version for CoursePress after the end of Spring term and in time for Yale Summer Session.

Academic Commons Release Notes for January 2014

Here are the notable changes to Academic Commons since January 1, 2014.

New Plugins

Just one this month: WordPress Google Form
From the plugin author, this plugin “[f]etches a published Google Form using a WordPress custom post or shortcode, removes the Gooogle wrapper HTML and then renders it as an HTML form embedded in your blog post or page.”

New Themes

Just one this month: Clean Retina
This theme features, among other things, a customizable header and menu; the ability to set featured images; a choice of one, two or three-column layouts; responsive design; and prepackaged layouts included.

Fixes/Enhancements

The Query Multiple Taxonomies plugin had a problem, displaying “there are 0 entries” in the appropriate context but linked to a missing entry. It’s now hidden when there are 0 entries returned for a query.

It’s Not Just Weird Twitter That’s Weird

You’ve heard about (or seen for yourself) the phenomenon known as Weird Twitter (too many NSFW for me to crawl through for an example, so here’s a search that will start getting you there), but it turns out that Twitter itself flies the weird flag as well. A little over a month ago they announced they would stop supporting HTTP plaintext connections to the Twitter 1.1 API, requiring everything to use TLS/SSL. Perhaps since WordPress does not develop Twitter applications as a core part of its operations, this change didn’t get filed in their bugtracker until after the switch had been flipped. Properly, WordPress devs contacted Twitter to ask about things, and a Twitter dev seemed to me to say that they would look into some sort of failover, but as of today the oEmbed provider in 3.5.2 still does not work for tweets.

The weirdness comes because Twitter keeps making changes with little regard for third party developers and even for average users. Remember when they decided to not-block accounts that you had selected for blocking? (Later reversed, yes, but still. And it’s not like 75 million sites run WordPress or anything.) Inarguably, Twitter is a corporation whose primary mission as a capitalist actor is to gain money, not a public commons. But whether they call twitterers customers, clients, users, investors, or people, irritating them (us) enough makes that bottom line hurt, too.

As Arlo said, though, that’s not what I came to tell you about. I’m here to tell you that we’ve updated Academic Commons (in part thanks to an old post at “And now it’s all this”) so that embedded tweet URIs are broken now, but should be fixed by midnight tonight. Let us know in the comments whether your site has broken embeds on or after 25 January 2014. WordPress has implemented a fix on their end, but we likely won’t upgrade to that fixed version until the summertime, at which point we’ll all join hands with WordPress and Twitter and sing a happy song.

I can’t even come up with a good image for weird twitter, but maybe that’s best considering many deny its existence.