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Using the WP Types Plugin, I setup a custom post type (slug: portfolio), which has a custom taxonomy (slug: portfolio-category).

The custom taxonomy has three items (slugs: group1, group2, group3) to organize portfolio posts.

On each single portfolio page I am displaying 3 related posts from the same taxonomy term, filtered by slug:

global $post;

$term_list = wp_get_post_terms($post->ID, 'portfolio-category', array("fields" => "names"));

      $wpex_port_query = new WP_Query(
          array(
              'post_type' => 'portfolio',
              'showposts' => '3',
              'orderby' => 'rand',
              'post__not_in' => array($post->ID),
              'no_found_rows' => true,
              'tax_query' => array(
                  array(
                     'taxonomy' => 'portfolio-category',
                     'field'    => 'slug',
                     'terms'    => $term_list,
                    )
                )
            )
        );

This basically works, but I am wondering if there is a better way than creating a global variable $post? What is the recommended way to handle this?

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I am not sure what your issue is precisely, you are not creating $post, just accessing it. It is a very common sight in WordPress.

However from API point of view, is ID of current post is the only thing you need — use get_the_ID() function to get just that, sans dealing with global yourself.

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You can use get_queried_object_id() if for some reason the global $post doesn't currently contain the main query's post object, though wp_reset_postdata() should fix that if that's the case. As Rarst said, it's not really harmful to access the global $post, it already exists anyway.

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