Notice of major update to our software

Sometime this weekend (hopefully), I will be updating the software underlying Canadian Atheist. This shouldn’t cause any problems but….

Canadian Atheist currently runs on the WordPress blogging platform software. For several months, WordPress has been teasing its next big version: WordPress 5.0 “Bebo”. (WordPress names all of its releases after jazz musicians; in this case: Bebo Valdés.) It’s supposedly got a shibby new editor code-named “Gutenberg”.

For those who don’t know how versioning works in tech, there are minor version releases – like 4.8 to 4.9 or 4.9 to 4.10, where only the number after the period changes – and then there are major version releases – like 4.8 to 5.0 or 3.1 to 4.0, where the number before the period changes.

Minor version changes are no big deal. A minor update is just the addition of new features and maybe some bug fixes. Unless something goes wrong, it generally doesn’t impact any existing usage (unless you were relying on some bug… which you never should, but some people do), because minor updates – more or less by definition – don’t break backwards compatibility. In fact, I do minor upgrades to Canadian Atheist all the time, and you (almost!) never notice. I did over a half-dozen just this year, including one just a few weeks ago.

Major version changes, however, are a very big deal. To a tech person’s ears, “major version update” translates as: “Shit. Will. Break.” Best you can hope for is that it will break loudly and clearly, and that the fixes will be quick and easy.

In our case, there could be breaking plugins (which might mean, for example, you won’t get email notification of posts), incompatible themes (which will change the way the site looks)… and who knows what else. Apparently the database is going to be updated, too, which I am not looking forward to. (It means that if anything goes wrong with the update, I can’t just go back to the previous version. At least, not without replacing the entire database with a backup.)

I will, as always, do everything I can to make sure the transition is smooth. Normally I would say: “hopefully you won’t even notice it”. But this time… I’m pretty sure you’ll notice something. So instead I’ll say: hopefully it won’t be too jarring.

As for contributors: You especially will notice changes because of the whole new “Gutenberg” editor. I have no idea what it will be like myself, but if you have any problems, contact me, and we’ll work through them together.

Here’s hoping the upgrade to 5.0 will be worth all the inevitable headaches!

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