Happy New Year! Today, we’re going to get to hang out with Maor Chasen, a WordPress consultant who was born in New York City, but hails from Jerusalem, Israel, and has been working on WordPress since Version 2. Moar is a very visible member of the active WordPress Community in Israel. When I have trouble sleeping, I often see their community active on Twitter.
Maor (My fingers keep wanting to type, “MOAR!”) discovered WordPress in 2006. He confessed to me that he only knew very basic HTML, CSS, and PHP (not to mention knowing how to code lots of freaking tables…ugh). He installed WordPress on his local host and spent every waking hour, and then some, breaking Kubrick. Like so many of us say about our early experiences with WordPress, Maor was blown away that there seemed to be a function for everything he could think of. A year later, he was approached with his first WordPress gig, code someone’s design into a functional theme, and kept going from there.
In Maor’s Own Words:
I’m very passionate about where technology and art intersect and how they blend in technology. I was born in beautiful New York City (always has been one of my favorite cities). Currently I live with my small family and my dog in the holy city – Jerusalem, Israel. As a WordPress Developer, I strive for creating elegant solutions. When solving complicated problems, I prefer taking the long route, especially if the short path means compromising quality! I believe with some effort and will we can all get ever-closer to “perfection.”
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
Usually I keep myself up-to-date by reading the “Make” blogs over at wordpress.org. Once in a while I’ll visit WPCandy, sometimes I’ll even listen to their podcasts (that depends on my mood, since I usually prefer reading). WP Daily is yet another great WP news site I visit occasionally. However, visiting all these sites frequently can be quite time-consuming (Used to do that few years back), that’s why I currently rely on Twitter as my primary source for updates.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
There are so many gifted WP people out there! Although it’s impossible to list them all, I’ll try to list a few.
First one that comes to mind is Tom McFarlin. Tom is a talented, diligent and passionate WordPress developer and blogger (ED: Tom writes amazing blog posts). Tom writes on a regular basis for WPTuts+, and is also very active in the WordPress community. He also runs a new podcast called “Hello Dolly” that aims not only for seasoned developers and bloggers, but also for those who use WordPress for any other purpose. If you haven’t yet checked his blog at tommcfarlin.com, make sure to do so!
Another inspiring WordPress developer (and blogger) is Rami Yushuvaev. Rami is in charge of the Hebrew WordPress release, and regularly contributes to core. He takes care of things from translating hundreds of strings on GlotPress, to making sure the dashboard looks great under RTL (Right to left) environments. He also blogs about WordPress tricks & tips (in Hebrew) at wp-tricks.co.il.
I also got very inspired by Mika Epstein (aka Ipstenu). She has given a lot back to the community (be it support, plugins or blog posts), has wrote some kickass eBooks and she also contributes a ton to the WordPress project. Furthermore, Mika’s last talk at WCSF 2012 inspired me to start getting more involved and I decided I’ll do anything in my power to help make WordPress better. Thanks Mika!
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
My first advice is all about security and stability. My golden rule: you shall always know your sources. That means you shouldn’t download every other plugin you think will work for you. When you find a plugin that does what you want, try to answer these questions:
- Who’s the author of that plugin (or theme)?
- Does it have a good rating score?
- What about the user-submitted reviews? Are the mostly positive?
- Is the author a known and trusted member of the community?
Another thing you should do is to look in the plugin’s code. Is the code readable? Is it well-commented and documented? Did the developer respect the WP coding standards? If most of the answers are positive, then you can go ahead and install that plugin (Take it with a grain of salt). Otherwise, use caution and try the plugin first on a staging server.
My last advice – use one of many available caching backend (often known as PHP accelerators). From my personal experience, the easiest one to set up is APC. The reason I think caching backends are so useful is because they store cached objects in memory, and as a result, allowing WordPress to skip on expensive SQL queries that can slow down a site that has some sudden rush of visitors. I use Tribe Object Cache for setting up the object cache drop-in class.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
In my early days with WordPress, I have been asked by a client to set up a forum on her site. At that time I wasn’t good at picking plugins, and so I picked a forum plugin that wasn’t good at all, to say the least. The plugin allowed spammers to easily fake forum entries, and guess what? a week after that her forum was full of spam. She was lucky her site wasn’t advertised anywhere, or even indexed by Google, since that would have probably put her reputation at risk. Lesson learned is to always be picky about plugins (themes are no exception). Most of the time they will save you tons of development hours, but they can also turn into your worst nightmare if chosen recklessly.
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
Good question! I’d probably build an importer that imports content from Drupal sites. I’ve been working on this project where I had to migrate a site from Drupal that had thousands of posts and pages. Not only that, but some pages had lots of meta information attached to them. Since I haven’t found an already existing solution, I had to carry it out manually, in a very old-school fashion. Now that I know how the procedure goes, I can theoretically create a plugin that does it automatically, but that could take a while to develop.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
I tend to mix and match between the two. When building a theme for a client, I normally build upon a starter theme. On some occasions I’ll create a theme from scratch, for instance when working on a large-scale project, where everything has to be perfectly fit and tailored to the client’s needs.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
Personally, I don’t fancy frameworks much. That is primarily because they usually ship with hundreds if not thousands of functions and classes, that learning them can be a daunting task. I also feel that most frameworks are over-bloated with functionality that I’ll usually never have a use for.
That being said, my favorite (starter) theme is Underscores (_s) by Automattic. It’s absolutely brilliant, very straightforward and does not contain an excessive amount of functionality. It has everything one will ever need to start developing a custom theme.
If I had to work with an existing framework, it would probably be Hybrid Core.
There is one plugin I can never work without, and it’s obviously the famous Debug Bar. I especially love how modular and extensible it is. There are great add-ons out there that extend Debug Bar and do actually make my life easier.
Least favorite plugin?
The vast majority of plugins that are sound like: “All-in-one [you name it]”.
I strongly believe that plugins should do a very specific task, and do it great. Most “All-in-One” plugins are overbloated with functionality that is not relevant for 80% or more of their users.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
That’s a great question!(ED: *blushes*) I think that the most interesting thing I did with Post Types is logging information about user logins. The date and time of the login is added to the meta, as well as the activity duration for that user based on their IP address.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?
Over the last weeks, we have seen many great features make their way into the latest release, version 3.5. I think that the biggest challenge is to be staying creative and original. There are so many tutorials and resources out there, that the act of copying and pasting has gotten easier than ever. But the biggest problem with those who copy and paste (mostly beginners) is that they don’t really understand how the code works, and what it triggers behind the scenes.
In short, I think (and hope) that in the upcoming year, WP consultants will be more aware of what their code does, use the latest features and build cooler things than ever before.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
I’d love to see metadata functionality for taxonomies integrated into core. IMHO, this is something that should have been implemented long time ago into core. Nowadays, if you want to add custom fields or store metadata for terms, your best bet is to use the Options API to store the metadata inside an associative array. About two years ago Jake Goldman (10up’s founder), released a plugin that does exactly this. Unfortunately, there is a trac ticket about the implementation of this feature that got closed.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
I see WordPress embracing more and more features that can be a framework (or infrastructure, if you will), for building web applications. WordPress really has got to the point where it can do virtually anything. I think that the only limit to WordPress is in the eyes of its users. So my guessing is that WordPress will continue to grow as a foundation for web applications in the next couple of years.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
A couple of years ago, one of my old client calls me and he says “Help! My site got hacked!”. My first reaction was – “Oh god. I’m probably going to spend the entire day trying to recover this site”. When I got to review the filesystem I noticed there was a folder full of, you guessed right, backup files! Me and my client were so lucky, we got the site up and running within an hour. That could have never happened if I hadn’t installed a backup plugin. Hope you guys can learn something from that! (ED: That sort of situation is exactly why we automatically back-up customer sites ever 24 hours)
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
The biggest misconception that I quite often encounter is that people look at a site I built, or even some commercial templates, and then they say “This site totally looks like WordPress”. When I hear that, I try to explain that the same site could have been built with Drupal, and that any design can be ported into a WordPress theme. Then I show them some sites that are very complex, usually I’ll show them a WordPress.com VIP site so they can get some proportions in place.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
I’ll probably ask a question about the Plugin API. After all, you can’t be a WordPress developer if you don’t know the basics. I might also ask to see a theme or a plugin by that developer. Most times, that can be enough for getting a first impression. When reviewing the code, I’ll look at how it’s structured, how it’s formatted, and if it adheres to the WP coding standards (I’m very fanatic about this one!).
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
Here’s an extra perk for you guys – It has come to my attention that some of you are having a hard time pronouncing my first name. Just in case you wondered how my name should be pronounced, you can split “Maor” into two words. The first is “Ma” (like how you’d call your mom). The second is “Or”, just like … “or”. That was easy, right? (ED: I still had to make sure I didn’t type “MOAR!” all through the interview)
I’ll sign off by mentioning that this year I’m excited to be one of the organizers of the upcoming WordCamp Jerusalem, alongside my talented co-workers at illuminea.
I want to thank Austin for the opportunity to write a bit about myself. I haven’t done it in years, and it sure does feel good!
Maor’s first language is Hebrew and was nervous at first about doing this interview, but as his editor here, I can tell you that Maor has a good a handle on the English language as I’m sure he does in Hebrew, and certainly as good a handle as he has with WordPress! Check out his work and some glowing testimonials on his site, MaorChasen.com.