Meet Shawn Hesketh, WordPress Expert

shawnheskethShawn will be joining us for the Building a Membership Site session, which you can watch LIVE on March 29. He’ll be teaching us the lessons he’s learned from running a wildly successful membership site over the past 5 years and, in particular, the things he wished he had known before starting.

Where can we find you on the internet?

I’m nearly always “on” via Twitter @leftlane, but you can also find me on Facebook or Google+. And I blog infrequently at ShawnHesketh.com.

You can follow @WP101 on Twitter as well, in addition to its own Facebook and Google+ pages.

Oh, and I’m always open to helpful pull requests for the WP101 Plugin at: https://github.com/leftlane/wp101plugin

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I started designing websites in 1994, using WYSIWYG apps like Adobe Pagemill. As my skills and the complexity of my clients’ sites increased, I migrated to more powerful apps like Adobe GoLive and Dreamweaver. But by the mid-2000s, clients began to request the ability to edit their own content, using their web browsers, and after attempting to learn several CMS systems, I was relieved to discover WordPress 2.3 in late 2007.

Compared to Joomla, Drupal, and Expression Engine, I found the WordPress UI to be super-intuitive, and thankfully, so did my clients. So I began recommending WordPress for nearly all my web design projects, and with very few exceptions, I’ve never looked back.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I think I learn about most WordPress resources via Twitter, and thanks to the many talented WordPress developers who are willing to share their discoveries and hacks, it’s a gold mine of learning. But I also subscribe to  Post StatusWP Tavern, and Torque, which is where I often hear about new WordPress products and services.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Honestly, the best “feature” of WordPress is actually the community itself. Like so many others, I turn to Google whenever I’m stumped, and I’m surprised how often I land on tutorials by the über-talented Carrie Dils, or Bill Erickson. I’m grateful for the help that’s readily shared by others within the WordPress community, and I’d be lost without their help!

But I think my favorite aspect of WordPress itself is simply its extensibility. I can’t remember the last project I worked on that didn’t make use of at least one Custom Post Type, and these days, there just isn’t much that you can’t build within WordPress.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone building a membership site?

Assuming you’ve already validated your idea for the membership site in the first place, my top piece of advice is to give careful consideration to the platform on which you will build your site. Will it be around for the long-haul? What payment gateway(s) does it support?

The most challenging thing we’re currently dealing with is migrating from older membership plugins that are no longer being actively developed, and the fact that we’re stuck with thousands of recurring subscription profiles in PayPal. Migrating to a new membership plugin now requires some tricky custom coding, since all those PayPal IPN notifications will break in the process, requiring us to re-invite all our members to re-subscribe on the new system. Don’t get stuck like we did!

Read everything my friend Chris Lema’s written about  membership sites and make an informed choice that will serve you and your members for years to come. I’m also blogging about the lessons I’ve learned along the way, in hopes of helping others avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way.

But even more important, never lose sight of the fact that it’s all about people. Whether you’re building a membership site around a hobby, shared interest, or how to build a successful online business, ensure that every piece of content you create and every single interaction with your members is helping you build long-lasting connections and relationships that will encourage, empower, and enable folks to accomplish their own goals. In the end, it’s all about them… not you!

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

In my experience, one of the best ways to become more proficient in WordPress is to start answering questions for others. Often, their questions will drive you to look for answers you might not otherwise have come across on your own. Whether it’s answering questions for your own clients, at your local WordPress Meetup group, or helping people in the  WordPress.org Support Forums, nothing else will stretch your own knowledge quicker!

You may not consider yourself an expert, but remember… wherever you are with regard to your own WordPress skills, there’s someone else who could benefit from you’ve learned.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

If you follow me for any amount of time, you’ll quickly learn that I’m a bit of a cigar aficionado, and I’m always down for a nice cigar and a glass of Scotch with a late-night conversation. But many people don’t know that I’m also a huge sports car enthusiast, having raced a Mazda MX5 for years in our local sports car clubs. We also watch just about every Formula 1 or IndyCar race on TV, and we try to attend almost any race within a day’s drive. If it goes fast, I’m probably a fan!

Meet Adam Pickering, WordPress Expert

adampickering Adam will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you canwatch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be teaching us about how he built a theme shop that has morphed from niche to niche, becoming even more successful with each iteration.

Where can we find you on the internet?

On twitter as @adampickering_

[Ed. Adam’s current theme shop, Astoundify, is among a select few reputable sellers selling amazing themes on ThemeForest]

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Back in 2008, when I saw a need for band WordPress themes, there wasn’t really anything out there that looked decent. At the time, I was working with a band as their sound engineer. They wanted a website, so I decided to create a set of WordPress themes for bands and called it BandThemer.com. They ended up using one of the themes so it was a great place to start with WordPress.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

The ability to make almost any type of application or website. If you can think of an idea you can built it with WordPress.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I usually search for new projects on GitHub to see what others are working on, and also check out sites like hacker news, designer news, and https://news.layervault.com/stories to see whats trending and to keep fresh.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

Don’t let fear hold you back. Try something completely new and innovative when starting a new business. Think about how you can make a new spin on an old idea or create something that has never been done before.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

If you’re looking to get into WordPress, reach out to others in the industry to see if you can collaborate on a project or create a plugin or theme that extends an existing platform. I think if you can collaborate with others you can reach a larger audience than trying to do it all by yourself.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I’m really into cooking. I spend time most evenings creating new recipes i’ve seen on television shows or something I’ve seen online. It’s a really great way to relax.

Meet Matt Medeiros, WordPress & Business Expert

mattmedeiros Matt will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you can watch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be teaching us how to build an audience and a community around your business and services. This presentation is particularly important for anyone who is afraid to market or sell themselves.

Where can we find you on the internet?

You can find my podcast at: http://mattreport.com
You can find my company site at: http://slocumthemes.com
You can find our Web shows at: http://youtube.com/slocumstudio
You can find my mentorship site at: http://wpmentor.org
You can find me on Twitter as @mattmedeiros

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

In my previous career, I was Director of Product at a local ISP for 6 years. One of the companies we acquired had a web design arm back in mid 2006 that built using Drupal. I was tasked to lead that division and it became very clear to me that Drupal (at that time version 5) was too complex for the client’s we were working with. I discovered WordPress and The Standard theme around that time and have been using WordPress ever since.

From there, I started my own company with my Father called Slocum Studio. Today, we offer WordPress development and design services, themes and support.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

From a business development standpoint, it’s super flexible and can solve many issues for many verticals. We can build amazing blogs, e-commerce stores and custom web apps for different needs. I truly believe WordPress will be an OS for the internet.

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I’m fortunate to have a great team at the agency lead by Scott Sousa and I lean on his expertise very heavily. When we’re researching something new or brainstorming a new feature for a theme or plugin, it literally starts by the writing on the wall.

We start sketching out the new ideas, how we envision the flow and design and start rapid prototyping. It’s a team effort to build new “stuff” on WordPress.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

I’m going to take the cliche route that I once mocked: Just do it and don’t be embarrassed of your first version.

You will fail.
You will pivot.
You will learn.

It’s a continuous cycle when you’re growing organic.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Tune into podcasts and get involved with the community. Don’t get overwhelmed, find yourself a mentor or start following some smart folks on Twitter. Engage them, but don’t hound them. Absorb the conversation going on around you and stay curious.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

Probably the most interesting thing is that I started this company with my Father — something a lot of folks are surprised to hear. It’s not our first business together either. For most of my life we worked together at a Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership he owned.

Meet Andrew Norcross, WordPress Expert

norcross Andrew will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you can watch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be telling us what it’s like to leave a stable job to run an independent business (and how simultaneously great and terrible it is to make that decision). If you’re looking to venture out on your own, this session is not one to miss!

Where can we find you on the internet?

Usually twitter (@norcross), since that’s the only social network I actually use. I occasionally jot stuff down on my personal site (andrewnorcross.com) and post weird stuff to tumblr (x.norcross.co). Oh, and when it’s business time, reaktivstudios.com.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

About 7 years ago. I had built a server and had to install something on it. After fighting with Movable Type for a few weeks, I got WP up and running and haven’t looked back.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

This is an instance where the sum is greater than all the parts. While I love certain parts (combining CPTs, taxonomies, and meta data), the fact that I can dig through and find the best tool inside of WP to accomplish what I want is fantastic. I rarely feel limited.

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

It usually starts with needing to accomplish a specific goal. Once I have an idea of what I want, I start with the ol’ Google to see what else is out there. I look for plugins that may already exist, or other folks who have tried to do it. At this point it’s more mastering specific parts than learning something completely new.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

Get your shit in order. my own experience, and many others I’ve spoken with, is that when it gets moving, it goes FAST. If you don’t have your house in order (admin stuff, taxes, workflows, etc.) you’ll struggle a lot more than you’d otherwise have to. Get a good foundation and you can build as needed.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Don’t try to become an “expert”. Try to learn your craft the best you possibly can, and figure out where your way of solving problems matches up with the overall needs and opportunities of the community.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I spent almost 10 years in the banking and finance industry, and didn’t write a line of PHP (or HTML or CSS, for that matter) until I was 26.

Meet Brianna Norcross, Accounting Expert

 Brianna will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you can watch LIVE on February 15. She’ll be teaching us about the ever-important business side of running a business (the when and how of hiring a project manager, how to avoid tax-time hell, and et cetera).

Where can we find you on the internet?

Business site: Reaktiv Studios
Twitter: @sarcasmically

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I used WordPress for blogging for a few years before I met Norcross, but got into the business side of it when we decided to grow Reaktiv. It was clear some sort of management (both financial and project) was necessary, and Andrew was not interested in doing that, so that end of the business fell into my lap– in the name of bootstrapping our biz– and it turns out I’m not terrible at it (or the devs aren’t brave enough to tell me), so I’m still here.

What is your favorite thing about accounting or project management?

REPORTS. Analyze all the things. It’s the most fun.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

For accounting, the IRS.gov website is wicked fun. It is the most helpful government website. For WordPress stuff, I don’t. There was a time I tried to learn the basics so I can help out the devs if necessary but I think we’ve all realized it’s just better if I just… don’t. I do love Treehouse and Code Academy for those times I feel like I should know a little bit of code.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

Plan. PLAN. Have at minimum a clear idea of what you want, and if you’re really on top of it, have an idea of the best way for YOU to get there. I know things will change but you have to go into it with something other than “I want to make lots of money!” Also, keep in mind that YOUR best way to get there may not look the same as another company’s best way to get there. That last point been the biggest lesson I’ve gotten from running Reaktiv this past year.

What advice do you have for others looking to become accounting/project management experts?

I’m going to defer to accounting/project management on this one again. I’ve never met anyone who wanted to become a finance/project management expert, but if they did I’d say you’re going to need a bunch of books and a client/company who doesn’t mind you just seriously (temporarily) messing up their books for a year while you learn.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I used to work for a company that leased semi-trucks/trailers and I spent a lot of my time repossessing 18-wheelers from angry truck drivers across the nation. Most fun I ever had at a job, hands-down, and really suited my TVMA (foul language, extreme situations) personality. When I became pregnant with my daughter, my bosses tried to pitch a show about me, pregnant and pissing off/outscheming truckers nationwide, to [pick one of those “reality TV” type channels]. Super trashy, and I’m so glad nothing ever came of that, because I’d hate to have to laugh at myself FOREVER.

Meet K.Adam White, WordPress Expert

kadamwhiteJoin K.Adam White for WPSession #5: WordPress Unit Tests on Saturday, November 30. He’ll be talking about JS Unit Testing.

Where can we find you on the internet?

My personal site is kadamwhite.com, but updates aren’t exactly a daily occurrence. You can more reliably find me over on Twitter as @kadamwhite, or track me down on GitHub or Flickr. I work for the amazing folks at Bocoup, an Open Web technology company in Boston — we’re over at bocoup.com (@bocoup on Twitter). Check us out on the web, or if you’re in Boston drop by for a meetup, training, or just to grab a coffee!

When and how did you get started with WordPress ?

Some time in 2006 I was sitting in our college cafeteria and saw a friend updating a really cool-looking website. I asked her what she used to run it, and she told me WordPress. I got my own site up and running on our house server in early 2007, and went from there. I returned to WordPress after graduating, when I began picking up web design work from my friend Joey Brunelle, founder of Goose Rock Design. I began to teach myself PHP, then jQuery, and WordPress lead me into all the programming roles I’ve held since.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I’m lucky enough to work for a company where I am surrounded by amazing coworkers who don’t shrug off questions and curiosity, so I soak up as much from my team as I can. As a consulting engineer at Bocoup I get to work with a variety of clients, which keeps me exposed to a range of new technologies. And of course I love attending conferences and meetups—I’ve never come away from a conference or WordCamp without a list of new friends, and new things to learn!

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

I used to say the ecosystem, meaning the flexibility of plugins and themes: If you want to do X in WordPress, you’re pretty likely to have a choice of X 1, X2 , and X3, if not more options . These days I think I’d have to say the philosophy, though. The strong guiding principles of the project (and the lead team’s dedication to upholding them) sets an example for other open source projects to follow.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned/discovered while unit testing?

Unit testing makes me consider more angles as I code. When you’re thinking about every input/output scenario, you catch edge cases and weird conditions earlier, and sometimes you find ways to optimize the code. Writing a test this summer lead to removing an entire module from our app, for example: Once I tested it, I realized it wasn’t doing anything useful!

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Keep an open mind; get to as many in-person events as you can; smile; listen; ask “why” when people tell you what to do; and try ignoring their advice at least once, to see what breaks!

Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

Coding is still only the second-most-fun paying gig I’ve ever had! I DJ’d in college, and (while I don’t play much these days) I still love finding new interesting blends of musical styles. At one point, I was pretty sure I had the largest bagpipe techno collection in the midwest!

Meet Alison Barrett, WordPress Expert

alison Join Alison for WPSession #5: WordPress Unit Testing on Saturday, November 30!

Where can we find you on the internet?

My development blog: http://alisothegeek.com/
Twitter: @alisothegeek

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

In 2008, I was working at a small agency in Minneapolis, where I was one of two web developers. I discovered WordPress somehow—I can’t remember what led me there—and I decided to try it out on a client project at work. We started building all our client sites on WordPress after that.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I usually turn to blog posts I find through Google. Before working at Automattic, my WordPress education was almost exclusively through blogs and online tutorials. Since joining Automattic and becoming more active in the WordPress community, I’ve made lots of friends that I can go to for help, too!

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

For me, nothing beats empowering the user to put their own content on the web using WordPress. Even though I’m not working with clients in an agency atmosphere anymore, I still remember how great it felt to see a small business owner or manager of a non-profit realize they could put content on their new site without a developer’s help. Getting your message online is a powerful thing, and WordPress lets anyone do that.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned/discovered while unit testing?

My favorite moments in unit testing are when running or writing the tests reveals a problem with the code I didn’t see before. It feels great to know that the extra work of writing out unit tests pays off like that.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Consume all the information you can. Read tutorials, find blogs, and follow other WordPress experts on Twitter. Play around on a local WordPress installation. Read core code. The more information you take in, the more you’ll be able to do and figure out on your own. Chances are you’ll be considered an “expert” long before you believe it yourself.

Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

Learning drives everything I do as a hobby. Right now I’m learning to speak Spanish. My favorite games are those that have a steep learning curve or take practice to master. When I read, it’s usually non-fiction books; the fiction I do read is sci-fi/fantasy because I love learning about these complex imagined universes. I recently re-read the MYST novels and reignited my passion for the language from the videogames (D’ni). In college, I spent an entire summer learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube without needing to memorize turn sequences. I’m a nerd when it comes to learning.

Meet John P. Bloch, WordPress Expert

John P. Bloch John will be joining us on November 30 for the WordPress Unit Testing session. He’s also a pretty smart guy 🙂

Where can we find you on the internet?

My employer, 10up, can be found at 10up.com and my personal site is johnpbloch.com. I can also be found on twitter@johnpbloch. I suppose I’m on Google+ too, but I don’t actually use it for anything but hangouts.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I got started with WordPress in 2008 when a group of friends and I started a blog together and decided to migrate off of blogger to a self-hosted WordPress installation.

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

That depends on the subject, but generally Google, which leads me to Stack Overflow/Exchange. When it comes to languages, I generally check for a Learn Code the Hard Way book first. Those books are phenomenal (and generally free!). For unit testing, my go-to resources are (in this order) Eric Mann, The Grumpy Programmer’s Guide To Building Testable PHP ApplicationsThe Grumpy Programmer’s PHPUnit Cookbook (the last two both written by Chris Hartjes), and the PHPUnit docs. Finally, I also try to avail myself of the wealth of knowledge that is the WordPress community. There are a lot of brilliant people out there and most of them are happy to answer your questions and give you pointers. You just need to engage the community in good faith and you’ll find your way.

On a more practical note, if you just follow Brian Krogsgard and follow everybody he retweets you’ll be off to a good start. 😀

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

wp-admin/admin-post.php. Best super-obscure part of WordPress. I’m always finding new and crazy ways to use it that still blow my mind.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned/discovered while unit testing?

We, as developers tend to have a cognitive bias against simplicity. We all know that programmers are known to tend to over-complicate things, but unit testing large codebases will teach you an entirely new definition of complexity. Sometimes even a function that looks very simple belies a complexity that good unit tests will very quickly uncover.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Read through the runtime execution of WordPress. Seriously. Go line-by-line reading what WordPress does from start to finish through an execution. Try to find all the hooked functions and read through them at the right place. It will open your eyes about what actually happens inside.

Use version control

Turn XDebug on and get interactive debugging and script profiling working

Finally, just DO. Build. Tinker. Play. Break. Iterate

Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I studied English Lit in college and was teaching myself how to build websites at the time out of pure fascination. I can recite the first 11 lines of Beowulf in Old English. W.H. AudenWallace Stevens, and W.B Yeats are awesome.

Meet Brad Parbs, WordPress Expert

Brad Parbs Brad will be joining us for WPSession #4: WordPress Theme Bootcamp on September 19th, 2013.

Before you get too far into reading this, I want to give you the same warning Brad gave me. His answer to the bonus question at the end answer might just be the best answer ever, so be prepared (and don’t skip ahead).

Where can we find you on the internet?

The best place to find me is SnowDayGroup.com & BradParbs.com. I tweet at @BradParbs.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I got started with WordPress a few years ago while working at a web development company. We were making simple sites, and needed a way to build out sites quickly and easily. We were using a custom-coded PHP CMS that was very insecure. WordPress let us give our cusomers an amazing experience, and it was easier for us to use, too!

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

The first place I always go is to the Codex. The amount of amazing information there is great. If I’m developing some custom functionality for a client, and I don’t know where to start, I’ll usually look at a few other plugins doing similar things to see how they were done.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

My favorite thing about WordPress isn’t a feature in the code – it’s the Community. The fact that things like WPSessions can even exist is because of all the awesome people in the WordPress community. As someone who runs a local WordPress Meetup group, I’ve gotten to see people progress from just being introduced to WordPress and then getting to the point where they’re giving talks about it. No other community has the breadth of information, resources, and everything else that the WordPress community has. It’s really, really amazing when you take a step back and look at it all.

What is one thing you wish you knew about WordPress themes when you were getting started?

The thing that really tripped me up when I first starting making WordPress themes was the template hierarchy. I remember always struggling with it. I always had to use the Debug bar to look at what file was being loaded, and then guess what I should name the new one. After I learned how the template hiearchy actually works inside of WordPress, I started feeling so much better. I could finally create the files I needed to have really quickly. The template hiearchy is a very powerful beast.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

If you want to be a WordPress expert, there’s two things you need to do. First, you want to surround yourself with smart people that know more than you. I do this by going to as many WordCamps as I can, as well as helping organize my local Meetup group. By forming these connections, you’ll have an indispensible resource of people that you can ask questions, learn from, and potentially collaborate with.

The second thing you need to do to become a WordPress expert is keep pushing yourself to do more things. If you’re a theme author, build a plugin that you can put on WordPress.org. If you’re a plugin author, build a theme to release. The more projects you can work on, either for clients or for yourself, the better you’ll be. If you are scared of using something in WordPress, just do it. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll fail. And we all fail. It just means you have to keep working at it and learning more. The awesome thing about doing something new is that you get to learn a whole ton of stuff!

Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

Probably stuff about cats.

Meet Lisa Sabin-Wilson, WordPress Expert

Paul Clark Lisa will be joining us for WPSession #4: WordPress Theme Bootcamp on September 19th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Business: WebDevStudios.com
Personal: LisaSabin-Wilson.com
Twitter: @LisaSabinWilson

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

2003. I migrated off Movable Type onto WordPress based upon the recommendation of a friend, after they listened to me whine about having to rebuild all of my archives whenever I made a simple template or CSS change.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

You mean aside from my uber talented team at WebDevStudios?

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Inline help in the Dashboard & the help and tips you get on every screen. This is huge for users of the software.

What is one thing you wish you knew about WordPress themes when you were getting started?

How to properly enqueue scripts and styles. I wish I could go back and redo every theme I’d ever done in the beginning.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Set aside adequate time in your day/week/month to keep up.

Bonus Question: What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I am an avid football fan. NFL: Packers.