I get confused by a lot of words. The combination of complex ideas and large walls of text short-circuit and crash my brain. I’ll have to read and re-read a text-only passage multiple times to understand exactly what’s being described. Speaking presentations exacerbate the issue.
However the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” definitely applies to me. Given graphical clues demonstrating the principle helps me begin to make connections and jumpstarting my understanding.
graph TD start(Explain an idea) -->|with words|start start --> |with pictures| understanding
One of the tools I’ve found very helpful (if only for myself) is MermaidJS. This software lets you create several different types of charts using a markdown-ish syntax. For instance, the above chart was created with:
graph TD start(Explain an idea) --> |with words| start start --> |with pictures| understanding
This grants other benefits in addition to the quicker comprehension. Quick edits to the text automatically recreates the chart without requiring any manual intervention/tweaking to the rest of the diagram.
MermaidJS supports flowcharts, sequence diagrams, class diagrams, state diagrams, ERD (entity-relationship diagrams), Gantt charts, pie charts, requirement diagrams and User Journey diagrams.
On my last post I actually used it to show the sequence of flows between WordPress, WooCommerce and webhooks.
Working at Automattic, all our internal documentation and institutional knowledge is recorded using WordPress (you should really checkout using p2’s — it’s an awesome tool). Using Mermaid in this environment has been fantastic — Mermaid can be supported anywhere you have HTML (and I can be exported to SVG too), but as WordPress is running 40% of the web, this seems like a pretty good place to start.
In fact MermaidJS has a page dedicated to integrations of their software and mention a couple plugins:
- WordPress Markdown Editor (seems to have been rebranded to WP Githuber-MD — see below)
- WP-ReliableMD: The page was in a different language than I understand and I made a snap decision to avoid it 😢. Should I revisit this decision?
Here is my un-asked for 2¢ about some different WordPress plugins supporting MermaidJS.
WP Mermaid (and WP Githuber-MD)
These plugins are both created & maintained by Terry Lin. I think they’re both great. They support Gutenberg blocks. They display the Mermaid text. Give them a shot and see if they float your boat.
Personally, I didn’t need the full markdown editor, and WP Mermaid had a couple small annoyances that I couldn’t solve. I submitted a couple PR’s, but decided I could use something a little simpler, which brings me to my own plugin…
I can’t take full credit for this plugin. My coworker Michael Pretty actually did most of the work on this iteration and I submitted it to WordPress.org. I’m giving him full-credit. He did an awesome job with it.
A couple features I really like:
- MerPress keeps the wptexturize functionality. Posts preserve the capability to convert simple characters like quotes and dashes into the nice curly quotes and dashes (e.g. “”, –, —).
- In the Gutenberg editor, the block is encased in a
codeblock letting you edit the code with a
Some features I would like to see:
- Ability to change the theme site-wide and per block
- Add other configuration parameters to the block
- Support 3rd party CDN (something that WP Mermaid already does)
If you learned nothing else, you now know I need pictures in order to comprehend complex concepts. Hopefully it’s also obvious that Mermaid is a neat tool and can be used to quickly share intention and purpose and thoughts without all the words.
graph TD ad(all done) --> te(the end)
Please let me know if I’m missing a plugin that I should try or if there is something you would like to see added to MerPress…