Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who likes to build websites, and make video games. He buys way too much Lego.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been building a WordPress plugin called Toolbelt. It’s a collection of helper modules that enhance your WordPress website, and it’s inspired by Jetpack.
I’m building the plugin for people who like the features of Jetpack but don’t want to be tied to wordpress.com, and who want their site to run a bit faster.
Sarah from WPTavern saw me tweeting about it, and asked if I’d like to be interviewed for the Tavern. Obviously I said yes, and you can read the interview here.
I have a real passion at the moment for making the web simpler. Tooling is too complex. Sites are huge, and slow. Advertising is overwhelming.
Complex tooling makes it harder for new developers to get started. Larger sites are both an environmental and an accessibility problem. Then there’s privacy concerns when you introduce code from companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google (and to a lesser extent wordpress.com). But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I should point out that when I talk about prying mega-corporations I don’t mean wordpress.com specifically. A lot of themes and plugins link sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to your site. Google in particular are added in many ways. Google Fonts add a lot of flexibility to a design but they also give Google access to all sorts of user tracking. Google Analytics also.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have like and share buttons, or timeline embeds. These things can also be used to track signed-in users around the web.
For wordpress.com – by using Jetpack you give them access to your site content. They suck everything up so that there’s a copy of your site on theirs. This allows them to do things like improve the site search, or offer related posts, but it also means that they have a bit more control over you.
Their stats are also super popular. They are quite basic compared to Google Analytics but they could also be used to track people around the web. Are wordpress.com doing anything with that data? I doubt it, but the potential is there.
You can see a live example of Jarvis and Toolbelt on this very site. As of September 13th 2019 I am running both, and currently have all the Toolbelt modules active, I like to test my own stuff!
I’ve recently started comparing the amount of code used in Jetpack with the amount of code I am writing, and I’m definitely winning (assuming less code is better). I’ve managed this through a combination of fewer features, and trying to approach things from a different perspective.
I’m really enjoying working on Toolbelt at the moment. It’s scratching an itch. Making these simple little modules that together make something complex is fun, and trying to build complex things in a simple way is very satisfying. I know that not everyone likes mega plugins like Jetpack but the initial feedback has been really positive.
If you want to use Toolbelt on your own site you can install it from the WordPress plugin repository.
If you want to offer offer help or feedback you can submit issues and pull requests on Github.