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The Stuttter Project Applies The Unix Philosophy To Plugin Development

May 3, 2016 0 Comments RSS Feed

Stuttter ProjectThere have been many attempts to re-imagine WordPress, the most famous of which — the Ghost project — started as an attempt to create a new WordPress experience and finished as an entirely new content management system. Stuttter takes a different approach. Stuttter is a plugin collection that, in the words of its developer James Jacoby, aims to be a “conduit for rethinking WordPress from the outside in”.

Stuttter is a set of plugins, each of which makes a small tweak to WordPress’s interface or content management functionality. The idea was to create a modular collection from which users can choose specific functionality, rather than a monolithic chunk of code that compels them to install everything to get at the one piece of code they need.

The philosophy behind Stuttter is informed by a blog post on the “ideal plugin” by Jeremy Felt. Felt believes that the ideal plugin should do one thing well and strictly follow code standards. If you’re familiar with the Unix world, which includes the Linux operating system, this should be a familiar way of thinking. “One thing well” is a foundational concept of the Unix philosophy, which believes that tools should be small, focused, and modular. Each small tool can be joined with other small tools to form a pipeline that is capable of doing anything a user might want.

Stuttter’s philosophy of plugin development stands in stark contrast to the way many of the most popular plugins in the WordPress repository are designed. Most are large complex monoliths that take an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach, even if much of the functionality they include is never used and only vaguely understood.

Stuttter comprises eighteen plugins, each of which has a specific job to do.

  • WP Event Calendar is a small tool for adding an event handling interface to the WordPress admin dashboard.
  • WP Comment Humility moves the comment menu from its place of prominence at the top level of the admin menu to a more suitable position in the posts menu.
  • WP User Profiles offers an improved interface for editing user information.
  • WP Term Authors allows the adding of authors and co-owners to tags and categories via a simple dropdown menu.

As you can see, none of these plugins is world-changing, but each makes a small modification to WordPress that has the potential to be useful to a subset of WordPress users. Because the collection is modular, no one has to install functionality they don’t want to get the enhancement they need.

WordPress has a plugin system because Matt Mullenweg recognized that no content management system could fulfill the needs of every user — a modular system in which users can add the functionality they need to the core system is far more flexible. Stuttter is a smart implementation of that ideal.

Posted in: WordPress