November 2018 Update

Summary

If you do not want to read the detail that follows then the latest information can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • The major news is that the launch of WordPress 5.0 (the Gutenberg release) is currently set for November 27th, 2018
  • If this date is not met (and my money is on it not being met) then the launch will be put back to January 22nd, 2019
  • There is talk of subsequent minor releases every fortnight initially to fix bugs .. 5.0.1, 5.0.2 et cetera
  • My confidence in the reliability of WordPress 5.0 when it is eventually released has taken a nosedive in recent weeks. I plan to continue to use the current editor until such time as I consider that the dust has settled
  • It has been announced that the Classic Editor (i.e. the current editor) will be officially supported until at least the end of December 2021
  • WordPress.org users should be using version 7 of PHP from January 2019, as version 5.6 will no longer be supported after December. Version 7.3 is due to be released shortly but it should not be used until WordPress announces that it supports it. 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 are ok.

The WordPress Rollercoaster

I previously said that version 4.9.9 would be launched in early November, and that it would focus on preparing the way for 5.0 (the Gutenberg version). This sensible approach (to my mind) was abandoned. The pressure to get Gutenberg out as soon as possible resulted in a change of plan. Work on version 4.9.9 was halted almost before it got started and all the focus was switched to version 5.0.

The WordPress version 5.0 project is being led by MattWullenweg (Mr. WordPress himself), a sure indication that he is determined to launch it ASAP. Quite a few people were convinced that he wanted to make the big announcement of its arrival at Wordcamp US, a conference which takes place in early December. You can read his “plan” here. The initial target date for the release was November 19th, 2018.

Beta versions of 5.0 have been around since October 24th (beta 4 is due out today). However, significant bugs have been found, leading to general cries for a delay. Another factor has been a big hoo-ha on the subject of accessibility in Gutenberg, i.e. the ease of use for individuals who require assistive technology. The target date has now been put back to November 27th. If that date is not met the launch will be delayed until January 22nd, 2019.

Latest Gutenberg Information

Gutenberg 4.3 is the latest release. In theory, the development of new features in Gutenberg was halted around early July. In practice, new items continue to be added. I will mention just a few of them.

Distraction-free writing

There has been much criticism that the Gutenberg user interface “gets in the way” of free-flowing writing. A number of features have been introduced to placate these critics:

  • The positioning of the toolbar which relates to the current block just above the block was one particular dislike. A unified toolbar option now allows you, if you wish, to position the toolbar at the top of the screen instead.
  • Spotlight mode is another new option. When set, it greys out all blocks except the one that you are currently working on.
  • Thirdly, there is a full screen mode. This removes the dashboard items on the left of the screen. So, not actually full screen but simply a larger area.

I feel sure that further changes are likely in this area, and indeed to the general user interface which has come in for some stick.

Classic block – insert media button

I had previously mentioned that there was no insert media button in this block. This has now been rectified. However, there is still no insert contact form option. If you need to insert a contact form you will have to use a shortcode to do so. See the contact form support item for further details. Note that existing contact forms will continue to work OK.

Multiple reusable blocks

The reusable block which was introduced some time back was somewhat limited in its usefulness. It has now been extended. Multiple blocks can now be exported and subsequently imported elsewhere.

Media and Text Split Block

As the name implies, it allows you to have text alongside an image. I do not like the initial implementation: there are no facilities to vertically align the image within the block; and the text does not wrap round underneath the image. I will monitor it to see if any changes are made to the implementation.

My Experiences with Gutenberg on Wordpress.com

As a WordPress.com user, I decided to act as a guinea pig in late September and try out Gutenberg on my bkthisandthat.org.uk website. My main objective was to ensure that my existing content would work with Gutenberg. I currently use the Independent Publisher 2 theme which is aimed at people who want a simple theme where the word is king. Here is the link to my feedback in early October if you have not seen it.

It was moderately upbeat in tone. However, I had another play with Gutenberg recently and immediately hit a problem which was not there before. Converting a post / page to Gutenberg resulted in all images being duplicated! The problem has not been resolved at the time of writing. Hence, my current mood is somewhat downbeat, given that this is such a basic item of functionality.

On the plus side, the problem with pasting content from Word into Gutenberg seems to have been resolved.

How to control which editor you use on WordPress.com

I do not know! There is still no news on this front. It is said that Gutenberg will be the default editor. Question – will we be able to specify the Classic Editor as the default? There is talk of making a link to the Classic Editor plugin available on the WP Admin dashboard. However, it is not clear if it would only apply to WordPress.org users. The phrase “we are considering” keeps appearing on this general subject. It seems obvious to me that they want people to use Gutenberg, and will only allow them to specify the Classic Editor as the default if they absolutely have to .. and that they will not make a decision until the last possible moment.

The current set up in WordPress 4.9.8 is that if Gutenberg is activated then it is treated as the default editor when posts / pages are accessed via the WP-Admin dashboard. However, there is an option on the second line (underneath the name of the document on the all posts/pages directory listing) to select the Classic Editor instead.

PHP

This item is only relevant to WordPress.org users. WordPress server-side code is written in the PHP scripting language, of which there are various versions. Although WordPress will work with PHP 5.2, that version has not been supported for some time. The minimum version which is currently supported is 5.6 but support will also cease for that at the end of December.

Version 6 of PHP never officially appeared, so that means that you should really be on version 7 in January 2019. There are currently three versions: 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2. In addition, version 7.3 is due to be available in mid-December although it should not be used until WordPress announces that it supports it.

You should check with your ISP or support person as to what version of PHP you are currently using, and then arrange to be on some variant of version 7 if you are not already using one of them.

Miscellaneous

New default theme. If you have used WordPress for two or more years then you will know that Automattic was in the habit of producing a new default theme annually, usually around December time. There was no new theme last year, presumably because the emphasis was on Gutenberg’s development. However, it has been announced that there will be a new theme to accompany WordPress 5.0, unsurprisingly called Twenty Nineteen. Also unsurprisingly, it will be a Gutenberg theme!

Support for the Classic Editor. There has been a fair amount of clamour for information on just how long the Classic Editor will be supported after Gutenberg has been launched. It has recently been announced that the Classic Editor will be officially supported until at least the end of December, 2021.

Classic Editor plugins. I have been asked to explain the difference between the Classic Editor and the Classic Editor Addon plugins for WordPress.org users. The Classic Editor plugin currently has over 500,000 activations, so obviously quite a few people want to stick with the current editor, at least for now. However, it is still possible to inadvertently activate Gutenberg. This is a potential problem for any site where more than one user has administration rights. The Classic Editor Addon plugin installs the Classic Editor plugin and then removes all mention of Gutenberg from it. The bottom line is that they are both effectively doing the same thing; it is just that the Classic Editor Addon adopts a safety-first approach to avoid any accidental activation of Gutenberg.

Activity is a new feature on WordPress.com. It logs details of changes on your site which you can browse. It sounds as if people on the free plan will be able to see the last 20 items, while those on paid plans will see items from the last 30 days. There are various plugins on WordPress.org which can provide logging information for those users, the most popular being Activity Log.

Beyond WordPress 5.0

Plans are already taking shape for subsequent versions.

As mentioned, there will obviously be room for bug-fixing releases in the early days .. 5.0.1, 5.0.2 et cetera.

The next stage of Gutenberg development will minimally include the following: widgets will become blocks; there will be menu navigation blocks; and nested blocks will be supported. Quite what else may appear in block form in the short to medium term is not yet clear, at least not to me.

Also, expect changes / new functionality in the areas of privacy and accessibility.

Experience with Gutenberg on WordPress.com – Late Sept 2018

From late September 2018, selected WordPress.com users have been given the opportunity to try Gutenberg out. I have been trying it out on this website. My main objective has been to ensure that my existing content will work with Gutenberg. I currently use the Independent Publisher 2 theme which is aimed at people who want a simple theme where the word is king.

Please note that all observations in this post relate to tests that were performed during the last week of September, 2018. If you are reading this some months later it is possible that things may have moved on. Caveat lector (let the reader beware).

You probably know that there are two ways to invoke the editor in WordPress.com, via the original WP Admin dashboard or via Calypso. If you activate Gutenberg at the current time you will find that it only operates through the dashboard where you can decide whether to open a post / page in the Gutenberg editor (the default) or in the Classic editor. Opening a post or page in Calypso is limited to the use of the Classic Editor.

You may not have heard the term Calypso but WordPress.com users should recognise it from this screen capture. Clicking Site Pages or Blog Posts invokes the editor.

I started off with my largest document “A potted history of Association Football in England” which weighed in at 21K words. This is not a straightforward document. It includes: a quotes paragraph; a self-built HTML table of contents with links so that a reader can jump straight to a specific section; standard images from the media library; images from the Getty Images library (which are implemented by using shortcodes); and a number of bordered sections built with HTML which contain information which does not really fit in with the natural flow of the text. A brief explanation of shortcodes. They are essentially macros. One use is to provide the same functionality in the main body of a post or page that is available in some of the popular widgets, e.g. to display a gallery.

Opening the page in the Gutenberg editor for the first time results in the display of a single Classic block. This can be edited in a similar fashion to how you work now. You could in fact keep the document as a single Classic block if you so wished. However, the major drawback at the moment is that you cannot insert an image or a contact form into a Classic block. I have previously mentioned this deficiency. To me, this renders the Classic block practically unusable. I do not know if they are going to rectify this problem.

One of the options is to convert this single Classic block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks. This task took 25 seconds for my large document. While this was not unexpected, there was no indication that anything was happening, leading to the “did I really click on that option? .. should I click it again?” syndrome. Now, it has to be said that the vast majority of posts and pages are relatively small and they should observe no significant delay when performing block conversion.

Observations on how successful the converter was

Standard WordPress facilities were converted without any trouble. This is good news.

However, where a user makes use of HTML to produce effects that the current version of WordPress does not provide “out of the box”, the converter struggles.

My table of contents no longer worked. The section labels (they call them anchors in HTML) had disappeared. It appears that the converter is quite fussy about how they are defined, whereas the current version of WordPress is not. I had to manually alter all my section labels in the original version of the footie document, and then the converter worked OK.

My bordered sections which are enclosed in HTML div and /div statements were also not correctly converted. The borders disappeared and what should have been one block turned into two, and sometimes more, blocks. I was forced to set up a custom HTML block and recreate the bordered section from scratch. This was a bit painful. Fortunately, there are only four of them in this document.

I subsequently extended the testing to various other documents on this site.

The local history of Sunninghill & Ascot is currently the most popular item on the site. It includes several shortcodes to display galleries. They converted without any trouble. It also contains a table of contents. Forewarned by my experience with the footie history, I manually changed the section labels so that the converter would not get upset.

I use HTML-created tables in various places on other pages in my website. The converter recognised the fact that they were tables and created table blocks, albeit not very satisfactorily. Cells that contain images were not displayed in the editor but did appear on the rendered website page, while empty cells just disappeared totally. In addition, a table block, whether an existing table that has been converted or a newly inserted table block, insists on making each column the same width, not something that I want. Somewhat bizarrely, my converted tables appeared with the correct column widths in the editor but not on the website. I have to say that I am not impressed with table blocks at the moment. When I implemented the original HTML tables as custom HTML blocks they worked satisfactorily. I propose to adopt this approach until such time as the table block is improved.

Other Observations

One idiosyncrasy of WordPress is that the display of a post or page may look different in the editor from how it looks on the website, i.e. you do not necessarily get WYSIWYG. The degree of difference can vary from theme to theme. It seemed to me to be more pronounced in Gutenberg, but this may just be the Independent Publisher 2 theme that I am using?

Please note that any existing posts / pages whose content remains unchanged will display satisfactorily on the site, i.e. it is not necessary to convert them.

Re performance, loading the very large footie history page on the website was sluggish on the existing version of WordPress, and it was even slower on the Gutenberg version of the page. I had already decided to split it up into multiple pages .. something which I have now done.

Finally, I tried out a copy and paste from another application. I have been in the habit of penning the initial drafty words of my articles in Microsoft Word, and then at some point copying and pasting them into WordPress. The words in this post were originally part of a larger article in Word. When I pasted this content into a paragraph block it included the Word formatting as well as the text. In WordPress 4.x there is an option to just paste the text, but there appears to be no similar option in the paragraph block. My workaround was to create a Classic block, set the paste as text option, perform the paste, and lastly convert the classic block into Gutenberg blocks.

September Update

Some short notes ..

Some WordPress.com users have started to receive an invitation on the dashboard to try Gutenberg out. This includes me (on my WordPress.com account). Do not take up the offer unless you are prepared to be a guinea pig. WordPress.org users have been receiving the invitation for a number of weeks now.

There is going to be a version 4.9.9 of WordPress which is currently slated for release on November 5th. This will presumably push the date for 5.0 (the Gutenberg release) back. As they originally said (way back) that it would be released sometime in 2018, I guess that there will be some pressure to get it out in December? Who knows!

I get the impression that 4.9.9 is an attempt to clear the decks of any current problems / issues (a) to ease the effort required to implement 5.0 and (b) to minimise any problems that WordPress.org users who choose not to install 5.0 immediately (for whatever reason) may encounter.

WordPress.org users who are happy to install 5.0 when it hits the streets but do not want to use Gutenberg should install the Classic Editor Addon plugin. This can be done now. Consult your developer / support person before taking this step.

August Update

We are getting closer to the point when Gutenberg will be implemented in the core WordPress software. So far, it has simply operated as an optional plug-in for WordPress.org users during its development. This is an update on the current status. If you do not want chapter and verse then it can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • Gutenberg could appear from late August onwards, although I consider that November is a more likely date
  • there is still no clear information as to how a user can decide which editor he/she wants to use, assuming that there will be a choice.

Background on Latest Developments

Many of you will have worked on projects (not just IT) where management applied pressure to implement them sooner than would be wise, usually because they have made promises to clients or people further up the food chain. Gutenberg is a classic example of this phenomenon.

Matt Mullenweg, Mr. WordPress to all intent and purpose, decreed in an address to a conference of European WordPress users back in June that August would be the target date for implementing Gutenberg. Fatalists, such as myself, consider that this is not viable given the current state of the software, at least not without sacrificing reliability.

The Proposed Timetable

The original plan (not publicised) mentioned two more releases of WordPress 4.9: 4.9.7 at the end of July; and 4.9.8 around mid-September. On that basis WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg installed might have appeared around early November. However, the following revised timetable was made public by Matt Mullenweg at the above-mentioned conference.

WordPress 4.9.7 was launched in early July. It was limited to a straightforward bug fix release although the original intention had been that it would include some functional changes.

WordPress 4.9.8 was due to be launched at the end of July. It was in fact launched on August 2nd. In summary, it includes:

  • a “Try Gutenberg” Call Out, i.e. it contains a screen to try to get you to give Gutenberg a try. What some people are calling a nag screen! Mullenweg’s objective is for 100K sites to try it in August, creating 250K posts / pages in the process.
  • An updated version of the current editor (TinyMCE)
  • Some fixes and minor changes to the privacy functionality that was launched back in May to support GDPR, although there are no new features in this area
  • 40+bug fixes

PS Jungle drumbeats mention the possibility of WordPress 4.9.9. Presumably, this is a backstop in case there are so many initial problems with Gutenberg when people try it out that they feel the need for an interim release to cure them before the big bang that will be version 5.0?

WordPress 5.0 is slated for ”August and beyond”. This will be the Gutenberg release. My money is on “beyond” .. November?

Latest Gutenberg News

Information on the latest Gutenberg features is given below, New development was effectively frozen in early July. Apart from minor changes the focus from that point onwards has been on testing.

Widget blocks. You may remember that these blocks allow widgets to be displayed in the main body of the screen, not just in a sidebar or footer as at present. Two additional widget blocks have been added: Post Archive and Recent Comments.

The Video block now has various settings: autoplay, loop, mute and displaying playback controls.

Inline image is a new block type. I have wittered before about the ability to have images alongside text, mainly because I make heavy use of this facility. After various debates on how this should be implemented they have now come up with this new type of block.

Columns (beta) block. I did not explain this very well last time. The Text Column block has been around since the first Gutenberg test version. As the name implies, it allows you to have multiple columns across the page. Columns (beta) is something quite different. It provides one or more containers across the page (currently limited to two), each of which can consist of multiple blocks. In essence it provides a nested block capability. The following picture shows a very simple example where there are two columns, each containing an image block followed by a heading block and a text block.

The main rationale for the Columns (beta) block is to provide tighter control over where individual pieces of content are displayed on the screen. I get the impression that this facility is liable to be subject to change. Why else would they call it beta?

Classic Editor Block. I mentioned last time that one option for users who adopt Gutenberg might be to limit its use to this type of block, the idea being that it will continue to give you the facilities of the current editor. On closer inspection there are a couple of things missing – there are currently no facilities to add an image or a contact form. I notice that the lack of these features has been pointed out to the developers. It remains to be seen if they do anything about them, at least in the short term.

Disabling Gutenberg. At least one person has developed a plug-in to disable Gutenberg and continue with the current editor. The one that I have seen is called the Classic Editor Block Addon. However, this option will only be available to WordPress.org users and to WordPress.com users who are on the Business Plan.

There is still no clear information as to how the use of Gutenberg / the current editor will be managed on a site by the user.

Apart from people on the Business Plan, WordPress.com users are still in the dark about Gutenberg and how it will impact them. In theory, any news should initially appear in the WordPress.com blog https://en.blog.wordpress.com/ In an odd way the lack of news may be good news. It is difficult to imagine that Automattic would spring a major change on their users overnight unless they will not be forced into using Gutenberg.

Some Useful Resources

https://testgutenberg.com/ allows you to have a play with the Gutenberg editor. It is based on version 3.0 of Gutenberg which was released in early June (3.4 is the current version).  If you hover over an area of the document the outline of that block will be displayed along with the type of block that it is. If you then click on the same spot the relevant editing buttons for that type of block will be shown just above the block itself. You can go ahead and edit the block if you wish. Do not click “the submit for review” button in the top right area of the screen.

The official Gutenberg information site is also supposed to let you play with the Gutenberg editor. At the time of writing it looks distinctly messy and I would not use it personally. I merely mention it in case they improve it and thereby make it a useful resource. Beware that if you access this link, at the time of writing you mostly get an empty screen. Click refresh to see the content.

https://youtu.be/P6CyTF32K2w is a four minute video introduction to Gutenberg. The delivery is a bit on the quick side for my personal taste (perhaps it is just my aging brain!) but it is worth a look.

Other WordPress News

Finally, several items which are probably not relevant to the majority of you, but I mention them here for completeness.

Unencrypted websites. Google continues to put pressure on sites to use encryption. Version 68 of the Chrome browser which has been rolled out from July 24th, 2018 will put a “not secure” message on the address bar line of all pages that are not encrypted. From October this message will appear in red. All WordPress.com sites are encrypted so this is not relevant to them. However, WordPress.org users will need an SSL certificate to encrypt their sites. This may come free from your ISP, or more likely you will have to pay for it.

Sharing options from WordPress.com to Facebook. It is no longer possible to share posts in WordPress.com with your Facebook account. Facebook no longer allows third-party tools to share posts to your Facebook profile. If you use the WordPress.com Publicize facility to share posts to your Facebook profile please read this article to see how you may be affected by this change.

Podcasts. WordPress.com now allows sites to host and manage their own podcasts. Further details can be found in this article.

Free stock photo library. WordPress.com has partnered with Pexels to provide access to stock images. The option will be found under the Add image button in the editor.

May Update

The two main topics in this post are the introduction of GDPR and an update on Gutenberg. In addition, I have included minor items on website verification services and site icons.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on May 25th, 2018. Hopefully, you have already assessed what it means for your organisation. With respect to your website, you should minimally have a page which describes how you deal with privacy matters, including cookies and emails. The cookie and forms / emails sections in the privacy page of the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website might give you some typical words, if you need them.

WordPress has had an EU cookie law widget for a number of years. If employed, it will bring up a cookie & privacy policy message when a user first enters the site, similar to what you find on most websites these days. It also includes the ability to specify a link to your privacy page, if you have one. The message appears as a banner at the bottom of the screen.

WordPress 4.9.6, which includes some GDPR functionality, has just been released to WordPress.org users. As usual, WordPress.com users will see it shortly. Versions 4.9.1 through to 4.9.5 over recent months have simply been maintenance releases for bug and security fixes. This release also contains a number of fixes, but its main focus is GDPR.
I get the impression that 4.9.6 introduces the first tranche of GDPR functionality, i.e. there is more to follow. I am not sure that it will be relevant to the WordPress users that I know, but obviously it is up to you to decide whether that is the case. In summary, the facilities include:

  • A privacy policy page template (if you have not already got a privacy page)
  • Facilities to send an email to a user who has requested details of the personal data that you hold about him and / or for said personal data to be removed from your site. This email asks the user to confirm the request(s)
  • The returned email from the client then goes on a to do list which the site administrator will subsequently action. The result will be a zip file which contains the data that you hold for that person on your WordPress site
  • If you allow comments on your site then the name and email address of the commenter will be stored in a cookie. The first time that a person comments he will be asked to opt-in to this process.

It is important to realise that this functionality is limited to the data held on your website. It obviously does not deal with any personal data that you may hold manually or in other systems. This article in Wptavern gives an overview of the proposed functionality in 4.9.6.

Gutenberg Update

Work continues on its development (to be released in WordPress version 5.0) with new test versions appearing roughly once a fortnight. We are currently on version 2.8 of Gutenberg. Much of the recent work deals with quite low-level functionality which is mainly of interest to developers of plug-ins and themes, and not to average users such as ourselves.

Recent changes to the editor
The new features that I would mention at our level include:

  • a pagination block where you wish to split a post or page into multiple pages. A list of pages appears at the bottom and the user clicks on the next page that she wishes to view. This is similar to an online ordering system where the list of possible products is usually split into pages;
  • a spacer block to provide better control of spacing, as the name implies. Precise spacing has always been a tad problematic in WordPress;
  • some reasonable facilities to allow an image to sit alongside text (a facility which I use quite heavily in the present editor). The initial versions of Gutenberg had no facilities in this area;
  • a columns block.  This block was introduced on a trial basis a couple of months ago. It appears as if it is now here to stay
  • and a table of contents in the editor for quick access to sections within a post / page. However, it only operates where you use the heading styles, and it is only useful in larger posts or pages.

In addition, a significant amount of effort has gone into the user interface, prompting discussions which have resulted in some of the changes being discarded, a case of two steps forward and one step back?

The rapid rate of change on the project shows some initial signs of slowing down, but I think that I will stick with my guestimate that it is unlikely to be officially released before late summer or early autumn.

Thoughts on what WordPress 5.0 will mean to existing users
What is of most concern to existing users is the degree of change that may be necessary on their sites to accommodate Gutenberg. I have a clear(ish) idea in my mind how version 5 will operate for WordPress.org users. I am less clear how WordPress.com users may be affected, principally because there is virtually no information on this subject from Automattic, thus far. Anyway, here are my thoughts at this point in time, for what they are worth:

  • The functionality of the present editor (now called the classic editor) will be available, alongside Gutenberg. It is not clear which will be the default editor, or if you will be able to specify which editor you want to be the default. However, the bottom line is that you will be able to continue to use the existing editor. This is obviously good news for those users who do not wish to change. However, I wonder how long this may last, particularly as the plan is that Gutenberg will eventually be implemented in other parts of WordPress.
  • If you open an existing post / page in the Gutenberg editor it will appear as a single classic editor block, and you will be able to use the basic tools of the current editor. So, this is another way to avoid using native Gutenberg features
  • There is then a facility to convert this single classic editor block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks if you want to move your post / page over to pure Gutenberg

Finally, I assume from what I have said above that you will be able to mix and match classic editor and Gutenberg editor-based posts / pages on a site, although I have not seen this spelt out by anybody so far.

Plug-ins and Themes
Wordpress.org users who make use of plug-ins and / or third-party themes will need to ensure that they work with Gutenberg. There is now a Gutenberg Plug-in Compatibility Database which may provide you with the information. It contains about 500 entries at the moment. Otherwise, you will need to check with the authors of the software.

Finding out more
The level of change has arguably not slowed sufficiently yet to warrant investing too much time and effort in getting up to speed with Gutenberg. However, A Tour of the Gutenberg Editor for WordPress by Rachel McCollin is worth a read to give you a flavour of the editor at this stage of its development (May 2018).

If you wish to follow the Gutenberg project slightly more closely I would suggest the following sites: Gutenberg News and Wptavern.

Website verification services

Does it irk you that a set of search results which shows your website, also shows that Norton (or other anti-virus software) does not know if it is safe or not?

Search engines have tools for verifying websites. They can send you a key (which they tend to call meta key content) which you put on your site. The search engine and the anti-virus software can then work out that your site is safe.

Settings > tools > available tools in the WordPress wp-admin section allows you to enter the meta keys for a range of search engines. It also provides links to the tools in these search engines, e.g. Google webmaster tools, where you can find out what you need to do to get a meta key in the first place.

Site icons

A site’s icon appears in various places, most notably alongside the site title in a browser tab or in a list of favourite sites. If you do not have a site icon then the standard WordPress icon will be used, i.e. a white W on a blue background.
If you have a compact logo, or similar image, that you wish to use as your site’s icon then first upload it to the media library. You will find the facility to change the site icon in general settings. For further information, including the size of an icon, see https://en.support.wordpress.com/site-icons/.

Gods of the beautiful game

Who are the Gods of the “Beautiful Game”?

I am letting slip evidence of my misspent youth here, a time when I spent too much time playing, watching, thinking and living football to the detriment of my studies.

Barcelona ’s comprehensive, not to say magisterial, triumph over Manchester United in the recent 2011 UEFA Champions League Final brought with it the inevitable flurry of articles in the media that wanted to know if Barcelona is the best team ever.

As many people have pointed out, it is impossible to compare players and teams across generations. Ever-increasing levels of fitness and the speed of the modern game prevent meaningful comparisons. Players and teams can only be compared with their contemporaries, and just possibly with the generation before and the generation after.

Did the person who coined the phrase “the beautiful game” realise how relatively few occasions there are when this beauty is truly achieved? And who did coin the phrase … does anybody know?

It is much easier to pick out individual players of greatness rather than teams … individuals who demonstrate much greater levels of skill than their opponents, to the extent of making very good players, often so called world class players, look very, very ordinary. I may be showing my age but I still think that Pele sits above all others, particularly in terms of an all-round range of skills … excellent with both feet, good in the air, unsurpassed speed of thought and invention both in terms of what is possible and in terms of execution. Maradona, with his individual virtuoso performances, probably comes second although Messi is knocking hard at the door.

Other players who to my mind join them in this Pantheon of great football players include, in no particular order: Di Stefano, Zidane, Beckanbauer, Cruyf and Moore. Bobby Moore may be a surprise but his performances in both the 1966 and 1970 World Cups personified consummate defensive skill, leadership and authority.

As I have said, the greatness of teams is much more difficult to assess. To my mind a great team needs at least 5, possibly 6, exceptional players and, most importantly, it needs to demonstrate that greatness by not just winning a major tournament but to do so by appearing to take the game to another level and by making other top-class teams look abject in the process.

There are no surprises in my three choices. Here they are in date order.

I am old enough to remember the Real Madrid vs. Eintracht Frankfurt European Cup Final in 1960. The skills of Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Santamaria etc were breathtaking to behold as the Spanish side won 7-3. I remember that a recording of the whole game was taken round schools afterwards to show the sublime skills of the Spanish side. British sides of the period looked positively pedestrian in comparison.

The Brazilian World Cup winning side of 1970 contained the most skilful set of players that I have ever seen. I can still remember the names of all the outfield players. Despite my cynicism on most topics … part and parcel of growing old I am afraid … I still salivate at the mere mention of their front four: Jairzinho, Pele, Tostao and Rivelino; backed by Gerson and Clodoaldo in midfield. And the icing on the cake? … that was the move and finish for the fourth and last goal in the final against Italy which was scored by their captain, Carlos Alberto. It still gets quite a few plays on TV and rightly so. “That was sheer, delightful football” said Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC commentator … yes it was Kenneth, in spades.

My last team choice has to be Barcelona for their humiliation of Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final. Humiliation is not too strong a word … you only had to look at the total resignation on the faces of the United management team as they sat disconsolately on the sidelines. They were totally non-plussed. The bewitching short passing interplay of Barcelona in the last third of the field, orchestrated by the triumvirate of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta was an absolute joy to watch, as were the individual skills of Messi. All in all it was one of those very rare moments in sport when the performance is simply on a different planet from what is normally produced or expected; moments that you are very grateful to have witnessed. In the world of tennis Roger Federer, in his prime, was another example of a sportsman who seemed to operate on another plane from all other players of his generation.

2nd June, 2011