Meet Paul Clark, WordPress Expert

Paul Clark Paul will be joining us for WPSession #4: WordPress Theme Bootcamp on September 18th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I was working my way through college doing graphic design and computer work. I was one project away from swearing off website work altogether, because I was so tired of getting maintenance calls from clients: “Can you change this comma? Update this text?”. I wanted to be creating solutions for people, not acting as a gatekeeper to their content!

I tried WordPress on the website that I swore would be my last. It was a game changer! I finally felt like I could provide an experience to clients I could be proud of. That was in 2006. I’ve been creating sites with WordPress ever since.

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

I rely much less on the large publishers (TutsPlus, Smashing Magazine) than I used to. You can get so much more information by jumping in with the people who are dealing with problems every day.

I read the WordPress source, and scan through the source of new plugins I find interesting or are by authors I respect. Pippin Williamson, for example, is known for his great tutorials AND has awesome source code to read through.

Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, or where you’re going for information, there is one strategy that will always hold true, and will always get you ahead many of the people out there: If you want to learn something, break something!

You have to dig in, and you have to fail — over and over again. Once things break, go onto stackoverflow.com, or look at example solutions from great thinkers on wordpress.org. Learn from them, then find ways to make things better.

It’s much, much easier to pump out a hacky solution than to read through someone else’s code, understand it, and adapt it. That’s what turns people into skilled and mature programmers: putting ego aside so that you can learn before you do (and then fail… and do again).

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

The Customizer! Duh!

The new JavaScript features are a place where people working on WordPress Core have really pushed the envelope in making use of modern techniques. The new Media Library (with backbone.js) and the Customizer are awesome examples of this. Because of all my time spent with the Styles plugin, I’m partial to the Customizer. 🙂

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

Oh man… I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one! Let’s do three:

  1. A lot of the things you might put into functions.php should probably go into a plugin. There’s no difference in how the code operates, but packing features into individual plugins will increase your re-usability, stability, and make it a LOT easier to identify what your code is doing (because you have to write a description!).
  2. Understand the template hierarchy. I see programmers doing somersaults all the time to achieve things that are built into the naming conventions of a WordPress theme. A lot of flexibility can be achieved just by naming your files correctly.
  3. Look at the body classes. Again, I see programmers frequently go to great lengths to target styles for some custom post type or home page element… When really all they need to use is .home or .page-id-5.

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

Read the source (of WordPress, and of plugins). Break something every day.

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

Again with only one? I’m going to do three again. 🙂

  1. My wife and I have an Irish Wolfhound. They’re super-sweet, but super-huge!
  2. My favorite way to relax is Boxing.
  3. When I started freelancing, I was sleeping on couches in my college dorm lobbies. When I started growing the team at Brainstorm Media, I was maintianing relationships with clients in America while working nights in Southeast Asia. That’s the awesome thing about working on the web — you can get started from anywhere!

Meet Sara Cannon, WordPress Expert

sara-cannon Sara will be joining us for WPSession #4: WordPress Theme Bootcamp on September 16th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Work: http://ran.ge
Personal: sara-cannon.com
Twitter: @saracannon

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I learned basics of HTML while in Design School and started diving head first into web design. I found WP around 8 years ago while doing non-profit work. I was looking for great free solutions. I stumbled upon Joomla but then wanted something better- which lead me to find WP.

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

Google 😉

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

I love how you can customize and organize metadata so it can display beautifully on the front-end.

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

I wish I knew to not be intimidated. Once you understand the basics, it’s easy to catch on 🙂

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

Never stop learning. Always be curious as to why things work the way they do.

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

I’m a visual artist. I love painting, drawing, and sculpture. 🙂

Meet Aaron Jorbin, WordPress Expert

Where can we find you on the internet?

jorbinMy personal site is aaron.jorb.in and I use aaronjorbin just about everywhere. Github (github.com/aaronjorbin) and twitter (@aaronjorbin) are the two best places to keep up with what I’m working on. I work on all things front end for Privia Health (www.priviahealth.com)

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

My first exposure to WordPress was in 2007 when a few friends and I built a satirical site based around the idea of future news. From there, I found small projects on craigslist ($25 to move from one host to another) that slowly built to people hiring me for custom plugins, themes and sites. After about two years of this, I started to follow core development and tried to become a part of it. A few rejected (and rightfully so) patches later, I finally was able to get some code added to core. now 3 years later I’m still contributing patches when I have the opportunity.

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

My friends and coworkers are my biggest bringers of knowledge. I rarely have to search out new knowledge, I just have to start chatting with them, see what they have recently starred on github or look at what they are tweeting.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

I love the plugin api. Actions and Filters makes it incredibly easy to build so much.

What is your favorite development tool and why?

Unix. I can’t tell you how many times cut, time, grep, cat, |, or nc are all I need to figure something out.

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

Read the source and start contributing. Find bugs and fix them. The more intimate you are with WordPress core, the more you’ll be able to writ code that is forward compatible.

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

I spend my free time volunteering as a Simulation Director for a collegiate Model United Nations conference.

Meet Daniel Bachhuber, WordPress Expert

Daniel will be joining us for WPSession #3: Performance Driven Development on August 4th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

danielI’m the Senior Engineer at Human Made, an uniquely-awesome agency headquartered in the UK. We split our time between client work and products like Happytables and WP Remote.

Generally, you can find me on:
Github – Specifically the Human Made and WP-CLI repos.
Twitter – Links and snark.
My blog – WordPress and personal.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Oddly enough, my first WordPress site still lives on. A buddy and I wanted to get our student newspaper on the web, so we created a WordPress.com site for it. It served our needs for roughly six months, then we went about setting up a WordPress.org install. I can’t claim any credit for it, but The Pioneer has gone on to win a few awards for their online presence.

Also funny in hindsight: I distinctly remember scratching my head the first time someone tried to explain to me how The Loop works 🙂

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

It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m approaching an entirely new technology, API, etc., I’ll do a bit of research (aka Googling) to see if anyone has written a nice introductory post to it. Otherwise, it’s straight to the documentation, then on to see if I can apply it.

Specific to WordPress, learning how to read core is a godsend. If I ever have a question about how something works, it’s straight to the code.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

The usability of the WordPress admin. It’s the lingua franca for managing content. When working on a project, as long as I stay within WordPress’ UI conventions, I hardly ever have to explain how a feature works to an end user.

What is your favorite development tool and why?

Salt (and Vagrant). I know I should say WP-CLI, which has also changed my life, but the Salt / Vagrant combo has radically changed my development / deployment workflow.

Salt is a way of describing a server with easy to use YAML configuration files. Vagrant makes it possible to boot that server locally.

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

Find someone you can work on a project with (open source or otherwise) who will tear your code to shreds. Literally.

Criticism is the only way you’ll become a better developer — hubris gets in the way of learning.

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

I’m (hopefully) running 41 miles around Mt. Hood in a few weeks!

Meet Zack Tollman, WordPress Expert

Zack will be joining us for WPSession #3: Performance Driven Development on August 4th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Zack TollmanI am a developer with The Theme Foundry and you can see all of our awesome themes on thethemefoundry.com. I write about WordPress things on tollmanz.com and tweet from @tollmanz.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I think I first installed WordPress in 2005 or 2006. I was initially intimidated by it because it was such a large project with so much code. I took a closer look at it later in 2006 when I became fed up with writing a custom content management system (CMS) solution for a client. I knew that WordPress provided this for you out of the box and decided it was time to learn how to use it to power my sites rather than waste more time trying to build my own custom CMS.

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

I usually turn to people. I have found that building relationships and mentorships with people who can do things better than me is a really rewarding experience. In the WordPress community, we are extremely lucky to have WordCamps all over the world, which enable and foster these types of relationships. The friendships that I have made at these conferences (as well as other places) have been the single biggest asset to me as a developer.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Currently, I am in love with the ID3 tag support for audio files that will be released in WordPress 3.6. If you have an audio file that is properly tagged, WordPress will read this data upon upload and make it available to you. It even adds an embedded album cover as a featured image for the attachment. Huge props to Scott Taylor (@wonderboymusic) for this significant contribution.

What is your favorite development tool and why?

Git is my favorite development tool. After starting to use it on a daily basis, I’ve come to view it as a tool and not a version control system (VCS). It has some extremely powerful features (e.g., bisect, reflog, merge strategies) that give you a lot of flexibility with and insight into your codebases. I could give up a lot of development tools, but definitely not Git.

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

Go to WordCamps. Talk to people. Do not build stuff alone. Be open to criticism and feedback. Solicit criticism and feedback. Give criticism and feedback. Trust your instincts. Do not forget to sleep.

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

I love hockey.

Meet Cory Miller, WordPress Expert

Cory will be joining us for WPSession #2: Building a WordPress Busness on July 13th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Cory MillerMy focus is on iThemes, so iThemes.com. I blog about entrepreneurship, marketing and career advice at my personal site at CoryMiller.com. Tweet @corymiller303. Oh, and if you want to see just cute pics of my adorable infant son, Caloway, then http://instagram.com/corymiller303 🙂 #proudpapa

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

In 2006 when I started a professional blog and wanted to do more with it and found WordPress. I was hooked at how easy it was and wanted to learn how to tweak my site design.

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

I eat books.

If I’m not learning, I’m dying … and reading books in particular (along with blogs) is the best way to learn new stuff.

I post my reading list here: http://corymiller.com/reading/

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Being able to get a blog started in 5 minutes. The ease of use of WordPress has always been my favorite feature and hope that never changes. It’s what has made WordPress great.

What is your favorite business-related book and why?

I can’t pick just one, man. 🙂

I believe entrepreneurship is one of the ultimate ways to find true work-life alignment. So here are my recommendations for that.

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

Immersion.

If you want to become an expert you have to immerse yourself in the subject. If it’s WordPress that means these things:

  1. USE WordPress. Know it inside and out. Blog with it. Build sites with it.
  2. Embed yourself in the community. Go to WordCamps. Meetups. Or start one in your city.
  3. Bleed the brand. Champion WordPress everywhere.
  4. Find problems people have with it … and solve it for them. Whether it’s a service or a product, or just installing WP for them.
  5. Play nicely with others. Meaning don’t get consumed in DramaPress. This is software. It helps us do things better. Remember, it’s about people. WordPress won’t show up at your funeral. But people will.

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

I’ve got 33 hours of seminary training. Extra bonus: I’m a pretty dang good snow skiier.

Meet Carl Hancock, WordPress Expert

Carl will be joining us for WPSession #2: Building a WordPress Busness on July 13th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Carl HancockI do not currently have a personal site or blog as I do not currently blog. As far as social media goes I can be followed on Twitter as @carlhancock and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/carlhancock. You can find my company site at http://www.rocketgenius.com although our primary web site is the Gravity Forms site at http://www.gravityforms.com

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I got started with WordPress in 2008. I primarily used it to build client web sites while I was doing custom web design and development for clients. We began development on Gravity Forms at the beginning of 2009 and launched it at the end of the summer in 2009.

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

I keep up to date about what is new about WordPress a variety of ways.  Twitter is one huge resource.  Follow the right people on Twitter and you can gain a lot of knowledge even in as little as 140 characters.

I also browse great sites like wpdaily.cowptavern.com (glad Jeff’s back up and running), wprealm.com, WPMU’s blog at wpmu.org, Brian Krogsgard’s poststat.us, and ManageWP’s fantastic blog.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Far and away it’s extensibility. The hooks and filters that allow you to mold WordPress and bend it to your will. It’s what allows companies such as ours to exist.

What is your favorite business-related book and why?

I don’t read a lot of business related books. Most of what I read is non-fiction, but not business related. However, a few business related books I did enjoy 37Signals REWORK, Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, and Richard L. Brandt’s One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com.

You asked favorite, but i’m going to mention one business book that I don’t like. Tim Ferriss and his The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s great for getting you excited and pumped up to do something. But not so great at helping you figure out what that something is or how to successfully go about doing it. It was written specifically to sell books, hence the catchy title. I hate the ecosystem it has spawned with the legion of 4HWW devoted “lifestyle designers” and “digital nomads”. Building a REAL business is hard work. It’s not the vacation that The 4-Hour Workweek makes it out to be.

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

Be open to taking advice AND criticism from people within the WordPress community that are successful. They are successful for a reason. Don’t discount what they have to say, because they’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen a lot of that going on.

You need to be able to take negative criticism and learn from it instead of fight it. Some people seem to think they are already experts when they really don’t know a damn thing. Don’t just jump out there and think because you’ve built a theme or plugin or two that you are not a WordPress expert or that you are ready to sell themes or plugins commercially.

There are far too many people selling themes and plugins that have no business doing so and the code quality and problems they create are a testament to that. WordPress low barrier to entry is both a blessing and a curse in that regard.

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

I used to work in the professional wrestling industry. Obviously not as a wrestler. Primarily internet related work, ringside photography, and at times helping with booking… or writing story lines. Although I did act as a referee for a few matches on one show and was involved in an angle at the ECW Arena, which any wrestling fan would know, which saw me dragged into the ring and basically used as a prop for the finish of the match.

I don’t miss the wrestling industry at all. It’s the worst industry you could ever work in. What they put their bodies through, including the drug use most inevitably succumb too is not worth the rewards they receive. Not to mention the politics and the constant worrying that a co-worker or friend may stab them in the back to move up the pecking order, which means more money. They usually end up broke, both physically and financially.

I was friends and acquaintances with many big names in the WCW, ECW and WWF during the late-90’s and the very early 00’s. Tragically that includes being close friends with Chris and Nancy Benoit.

The movie The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke was so accurate in it’s depiction of the industry that it could have been a documentary and not a fictional film. It really is exactly as it’s depicted in that movie.

Meet Chris Lema, Business Expert

Chris will be joining us for WPSession #2: Building a WordPress Busness on July 13th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

 Well, it’s pretty easy to find me if you know my name. I tweet using the handle @chrislema and I write a daily blog over at chrislema.com. So those are the two places to hear what I’m thinking on a regular basis. Of course you can also get my thoughts in your email (daily at 7 am PST) if you subscribe using this link.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I started using WordPress around 1.5 – when it introduced Pages. Once WordPress had pages and posts, it had everything I needed (at the time) to use it as more than a blog, but as a simple CMS for customers who needed quick sites that they could manage. Until that point, I’d been using a .NET open source product called DotNetNuke and it was painful. So I was glad to make the switch. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been eight years, but it has.

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

My approach to learning is pretty specific. The first thing I do is try to do things on my own without any instruction whatsoever. I do this on purpose to fail. But what I’m actually doing is creating experiences that real knowledge can then hang on. Without it, the real info won’t have any way to “stick” in my brain. So from there, I move to online resources where people write tutorials. I’m able to better understand them because they’re showing me where my ways were wrong, and what I didn’t understand (contextually) the first time. As for the actual tutorials, I’ve read Smashing magazine and wptuts+, along with links I get from sites like wpdaily.co.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

When done right, I think my favorite feature is the ability to easily change themes. I’ve not made substantial changes to my site in a year, but before that, for several years, I would change it at least once a year. I don’t love the feature for aesthetic reasons, so I love great design like anyone else. Instead, what I love about changing the theme is that you can adjust the interface as you increase the content. I now have 300 or 400 posts, which makes navigating thru them very different than when I had 30. I have several ebooks to sell, plus presentations and videos of my public speaking that ought to be easy to get to. So from an information architecture perspective, having an easy facility to adjust the interface as content and experiences need to change – without tons of additional migration work – is pretty amazing.

What is your favorite business-related book and why?

Roger L. Martin is an incredible individual who writes and currently is the dean of the Rotman school of management. He’s single-handedly trying to change how MBA programs are run. His book, The Opposable Mind, is one of my all-time favorites because it challenges how we think. I don’t mean it challenges us to change our position. Instead, it challenges the approach we take when thinking about competing tensions. It’s an introduction to integrative thinking that I think everyone should read.

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

First, I think if someone seriously wants to become an expert at anything, they ought to be very clear that it will take time, discipline and energy. To be a student of anything is neither simple nor quick. So I’d tell them to prepare themselves.

Now, with that said, I find that a lot of people don’t want to become WordPress experts, but instead simply want to leverage WordPress to earn a living. That’s a very, very different thing. You can do that in a matter of weeks or months, I suspect.

In that case, what I recommend is simply this:
If you want to learn WordPress well enough to make a living, look to those who are already doing it. Find ways to engage them and learn from them – be it reading their blogs, buying and reviewing their products, or helping them out.

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

I was born in 1970. In those days, a child born three months early was given little chance to live. I was one of those children and I was lucky – because we happened to be living near a research university that had the equipment to keep me alive. I spent the first several years of my life going to a doctor weekly to see if I was brain-damaged, which they predicted and prepped my parents for. I didn’t fully grasp all of it then, but I sensed I was being evaluated. I have lived an entire life with the “impostor syndrome” and for the most part, it’s worked out for me. So I’ve worked hard every day. Proving to myself (before anyone else) that I could learn, work, and deliver. I still work hard, though I take time to play hard too.

Meet Pippin Williamson, WordPress Expert

Pippin will be joining us for WPSession #1: Building WordPress Plugins on June 22nd, 2013.

Where can we find you online?

Pippin WilliamsonMy personal tutorial site at PippinsPlugins.com and on twitter as @pippinsplugins

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I started working with WordPress around version 2.7. Unlike many, WordPress wasn’t something I instantly fell into favor with. I actually strongly disliked it when I first started working with the platform. My brother was running his personal website on WordPress and wanted me to learn it so I could modify some of his theme template files for him. It was a real struggle for me to force myself to dig into the code and figure out how everything worked. Tweaking the site header was pretty far beyond me. I don’t know exactly when the shift happened, but at some point after working on my brother’s site I realized that I loved WordPress and just wanted to learn more, and more, and more.

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

WordPress core itself is my number one source. There is so much you can learn about the inner workings of WordPress (some of which you wish you could unlearn even) by just exploring the source code. Looking at the source code of well-built plugins is also just as valuable. Tutorials are great, but no tutorial will ever teach you to truly understand how something works. Start with tutorials to get a grasp of the concept, then dig into the source for real understanding.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Custom post types by far, followed perhaps by the $wpdb class. Following closely in third is probably the rewrite system for building custom URLs.

What is your favorite WordPress plugin and why?

Post 2 Post. There is no single plugin that can be applied to so many different scenarios and handle every single one of them beautifully. I’ve used it for building education course systems, related post widgets, even connecting product pages to their appropriate support forums.

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

Explore the core source code and the source code of successful plugins. Discover how they did things that worked really well and also how they did things that failed. Learning how not to do something is just as important or more as learning how to do it right.

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

I have mad skills on the pottery wheel.

Meet Daniel Espinoza, WordPress Expert

Daniel will be joining us for WPSession #1: Building WordPress Plugins on June 22nd, 2013.

Where can we find you online?

Daniel Espinoza My personal website is DanielEspinoza.me and on twitter as @d_espi

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I started freelancing five years ago after leaving a job in a bank IT department. My first projects were building ecommerce sites using Magento. A WordPress blog was usually an add-on for the projects I worked on so my first experience with WordPress was building themes to match the stores. Then a few years later I started building plugins for fun and profit.

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

For non-WordPress related stuff I’ll go through a Tuts+ tutorial as time allows for things that look interesting. Most of my learning with regards to WordPress is task or project related. I’ll learn something new in the process of solving a problem for a plugin idea I’m trying to flesh out. This will usually involve reading through the codex, WordPress Answers on Stack Exchange or working with existing plugins from respected developers to see how they do things.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Does the WordPress community count? 🙂 I really love the group of people that I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with through the WordPress community.

If I can’t count the community then I’m going with the famous 5 Minute Install.

What is your favorite WordPress plugin and why?

I’m a big fan of WooCommerce since I spend most of my waking hours building plugins for it and supporting users. And yes, I was a fan before hiring on as a WooNinja.

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

I’d suggest to read, write and repeat:

  • Read code of plugins and themes. Write your own plugins and themes using the techniques you’ve observed.
  • Read through tutorials and the codex. Write code using what you learned to solve real problems.
  • Read support questions on WordPress.org. Write helpful answers to the questions.
  • Read through open issues of projects on GitHub. Write code that fixes the issues and offer pull requests.

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

I’ve eaten a live scorpion on purpose without being dared to do so. I would not suggest doing it. Frequently asked questions: No, I didn’t get stung. It didn’t have any flavor other than dirt.