WP-GeSHi-Highlight 1.2.3 released

I have released version 1.2.3 of WP-GeSHi-Highlight. WP-GeSHi-Highlight is a popular code syntax highlighting plugin for WordPress, based on the established PHP highlighting library GeSHi.

The only change in this realease:

  • The bundled GeSHi library was updated to version 1.0.8.12.

So far, there are no official release notes for GeSHi 1.0.8.12. However, the commit history clarifies that this update involves various language file improvements as well as newcomers. A list of those languages that are affected by the update (manually crafted):

  • PHP
  • Rust
  • TCL
  • CSS
  • Haskell
  • PostScript
  • QML
  • NSIS
  • Nimrod
  • Oxygene
  • LSL2
  • StandardML
  • Oxygene

With this update in place, WP-GeSHi-Highlight supports syntax highlighting for 240 languages.

Documentation, FAQ, and comments can be found at gehrcke.de/wp-geshi-highlight.

The most popular (serious) country code top-level domain still is .DE

To my surprise and according to DENIC, .DE was still the most popular (serious*) country code top-level domain (ccTLD) by December 2014:

http://www.denic.de/en/background/statistics/international-domain-statistics/

Popularity of top-level domains by December 2014. Image source: DENIC.

Right, .DE ranks only #3 in that graph. However, the popular .COM is not a country code top-level domain — although widespread in the U.S., it has no geographical implications. Furthermore, while .TK technically is a country code domain, it is very different from regular ones as discussed by the end of this article.

Rising China

Surprisingly, .CN (China’s ccTLD) still did not overtake Germany’s .DE: In a 2013 report, CENTR (the European country code TLD organisation) revealed an especially large growth for .CN within six months only:

ccTLD growth rate

Growth of ccTLD popularity within six months in 2012/2013. Image source: CENTR report 2013.

This growth rate lead to .CN actually overtake .UK at some point within 2014, as can be inferred from the May 2013 and the Sept 2014 reports by CENTR:

.CN overtook .UK

.CN overtook .UK by 2014. Source: CENTR

Keeping that pace, it would not take long until .CN overtakes .DE, too. But does the popularity of .CN constantly grow that fast? No. According to this report, it grew by only 1.8 % between May and August 2014. From these data it can be concluded that .CN’s growth rate underlies strong fluctuations. It is still significantly larger than DE’s growth rate, but according to DENIC the absolute difference between .DE and .CN domain registrations was still about 4.5 million by the end of 2014. That is, .CN probably will overtake .DE, but it will rather happen within the next couple of years than tomorrow.

Liechtenstein: even more domains than letter boxes?

An interesting fact: normalized by population, Liechtenstein holds a record: it has 1.76 ccTLD’s registered per citizen, compared to 0.19 in case of Germany (CENTR report from September 2014).

Why .TK is not comparable to .DE, .UK, and .CN (*)

From the figures you inferred that .TK is the largest country-related zone with about 26 million reported domain names as of 2014. Quite a phenomenon you should know about! This domain is based on a fundamentally different business model than traditional domains such as .DE. I have two quotes for you, describing the situation:

DENIC’s statement:

.tk is the country-code domain of Tokelau, a small group of islands and a territory of New Zealand. Domains under .tk are offered free of charge for an initial period. Once expired, they are used for advertising purposes by the registry operator. […] No clear geographical relationship exists between .tk domains and the territory of Tokelau.

Comlaude’s statement:

Tokelau […] is a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean consisting of three atolls with a combined land area of 10 km^2. The owner of all free .tk domains is the registry. If you want to own the domain, you must pay. Pricing is from $6.95 per year with a minimum two-year registration period; although domains containing one, two or three characters or those with branded, generic or common words are considered premium and are priced higher. As a result, one sixth of the Tokelau economy consists of income from .tk domain names.

Long-term development towards steady-state

In another extensive report from 2013, CENTR states that the growth rate of country code top-level domain names has halved between 2008 and 2013. That is, the Internet is slowly progressing towards saturation and steady-state with respect to domain names:

The average increase in the latter half of 2013 of 264,000 domains per month is half the average increase of 528,000 evidenced in the first part of 2008.

Interesting: most of the data used in CENTR reports seems to stem from a single source — a commercial “provider of data and analysis for the domain name industry”: zooknic.com

Are you aware of additional interesting insights derived from the development of top-level domain popularity?

Official WordPress themes should have an official change log

Officially supported themes: TwentyXXX

My website is WordPress-backed. WordPress front-ends are called “themes”. There are official themes, released by WordPress/Automattic. And there are thousands of themes released by third parties. While the WordPress project has released many themes, not all of them are equally “important”. There is only one specific series of WordPress themes that is so-to-say most official: themes from the TwentyXXX series.

The issue: no update release notes

In this series, WordPress releases one theme per year (there was TwentyEleven, TwentyTwelve, TwentyThirteen, you get the point). The most recent one of these themes is included with every major release of WordPress. In other words: it does not get more official. Correspondingly, themes from this series enjoy long-term support by the WordPress project. That is, they retrieve maintenance updates even years after their initial release (TwentyEleven was last updated by the end of 2014, for instance). That is great, really! However, there is one very negative aspect with these updates: there are no official release notes. That’s horrible, thinking in engineering terms, and considering release ethics applied in other serious open source software projects.

Background: dependency hell

TwentyXXX theme updates are released rather silently: suddenly, the WordPress dashboard shows that there is an update. But there is no official change log or release note which one could base a decision on. Nothing, apart from an increased version number. That is different from updating WordPress plugins, where the change log usually is only one click away from the WordPress dashboard. Also, the theme version number can not be relied upon to be semantically expressive (AFAIK WordPress themes are not promised to follow semantic versioning, right?)

Now, some of you may think that newer always is better. Just update and trust the developers. But that is not how things work in real life. Generally, we should stick to the paradigm of “never change a running system”, unless […]: sometimes, an update might change behavior, which might not be desired. Sometimes an update might fix a security issue, which one should know about and update immediately. Or the update resolves a usability issue. Such considerations are true for updates for any kind of software. But, in the context of WordPress, there is an even more important topic to consider when updating a theme: an update might break child themes. Or, as expressed by xkcd: “Every change breaks someones workflow”:

http://xkcd.com/1172

http://xkcd.com/1172

A theme can be used by other developers, as a so-called parent theme, in a library fashion — it provides a programming interface. This affects many websites, like mine: a couple of years ago I have decided to base the theme used on my website (here) on the TwentyTwelve theme. I went ahead and created a child theme, which inherits most of its code from TwentyTwelve and changes layout and behavior only in a few aspects. I definitely cannot blindly press the “update” button when TwentyTwelve retrieves an update. This might immediately change the interface I developed my child against, and can consequently break any component of my child theme. Obviously, I cannot just try this out with my live/public website. So, I have to test this update before, in a development environment which is not public.

If proper release notes were available, I could possibly skip that testing and apply such an update right away if it’s just a minor one. Or, I would be alerted that there is a security hole fixed with a breaking change in the parent theme, and I’d know that I have to quickly react and re-work my child theme so that I can safely apply the update to the parent. These things need to be communicated, like in any other open source project with a decent release policy.

Concluding remarks

Yes, there are ways to reconstruct and analyze the code changes that were made. This URL structure actually is quite helpful for generating diffs between theme versions: https://themes.trac.wordpress.org/changeset?old_path=/twentytwelve/1.4&new_path=/twentytwelve/1.6. That URL shows differences between TwentyTwelve 1.4 and 1.6. The same structure can be used for other official themes and version combinations. However, this does not replace a proper change log. WordPress is a mature, large-scale open source project with a huge developer community. Themes from the TwentyXXX series are a major component of this project. The project should provide change logs and/or release notes for every update — for compliance with expectations, and for enabling sound engineering decisions. Others want this, too:

Can any one point me to the release notes for 1.2 or a list of the applied changes? Updating from 1.1 has caused some minor, but unexpected presentation changes on one of my child themes, and I’d like to know what else has changed and what to test for before I upgrade further sites.

Randall Munroe’s view on physics is not too wrong.

Not every system can be modeled as simple as physicists wish it to be (xkcd.com/793):
physicists

And, yes, in the hierarchy of science disciplines, physics is somewhere at the top of the tree. Agreed, “it’s nice to be on top”. But Randall has hidden another message in xkcd.com/435:

“On the other hand, physicists like to say physics is to math as sex is to masturbation.”

purity

Upscaled and sharpened version of http://xkcd.com/435/

Krauss about the role of scientist celebrities

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (*) has published an insightful article authored by Lawrence M. Krauss (physicist, public figure, see Wikipedia / public website), about the role of scientist celebrities:

Scientists as celebrities: Bad for science or good for society? (HTML version, PDF version)

Feynman

Richard Feynman (teaching).

Four of Krauss’ statements that are, in my opinion, essential to the article:

«We should be encouraged, not discouraged, if at least some scientists successfully break out beyond the confines of science to become genuine public celebrities. Whatever their background and experience, they are a priori no less worthy than those other figures from sports, politics, or entertainment who help steer public opinion.»

«I became a scientist because science fascinates me, and at the same time I like to explain it. I was driven as a young scientist primarily by the desire to have an impact on the scientific enterprise, just as by nature I was equally driven to communicate this interest. Nevertheless, my original fascination was only possible because of scientists like many of those I have mentioned, who had the opportunity to reach out beyond the walls of academia to the general public, and I have chosen to take advantage of similar opportunities in my own career.»

«For scientists to have a public impact, they generally need to reach out to the public using those tools that have a public presence — from books to newspapers to radio, and particularly television and film — and not rely on their scientific accomplishments or reputation among their colleagues. Indeed, there need be little correlation at all between the two.»

«Public adulation should not be confused with scientific impact […]. Nevertheless, I am aware that I am better known to the public than a number of my more accomplished colleagues […] who have won the Nobel Prize. I don’t see the point in doing anything other than accepting this reality, but at the same time I am proud to have this privilege, and I recognize that it implies a responsibility to […] both promote science in the public arena and to adequately and accurately represent the scientific enterprise.»

(*) The 70 year old Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists «informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. The Bulletin was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project.»