This morning, I’m very excited to bring you the Finely Tuned Consultant, Mark Jaquith edition. Mark is one of the leading developers on WordPress Core, and was an early leader in the WordPress Community, helping to define code standards and work closely with the fledgling Community as it was developing its strong identity. Mark dropped out of college to do WordPress Development full-time in 2006.
Mark describes himself first as a family man, he’s got a wife and two young boys at home, and blogs about a variety of his well-developed interests on his blog, markjaquith.com. You can go there to read about what he’s into, and also get a well-researched, fully formed perspective on a variety of things, including how he buys T-Shirts for his lanky 6’4″ frame. That blog post is more interesting than it should be.
In his own words:
“I’m very rational and idea-driven. I have opinions (usually well-researched) on almost everything. I wish I had a thousand lives to live and keep on learning. I relish solving problems. I’m one of the Lead Developers of the WordPress core, and love making WordPress fast, scalable, secure, and functional.”
Now, onto Mark’s Answers:
When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?
I tried WordPress in 2003 and didn’t like it very much. By 2004, I was a convert. The plugin system was a huge selling point. In 2006 I realized that I loved it, I was good at it, and it had gotten to the point where I could make a living doing it. I dropped out of college, went to WordCamp (the first one — it was just called “WordCamp”) and converted to full time WordPress consulting.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
I follow IRC, some mailing lists, the make.wordpress.org sites, and then I subscribe to the blogs of people who make interesting things with WordPress. I also rely on Twitter a lot as a way for people to bubble interesting WP stuff up to me.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Cristi Burcă (“Scribu”). His Posts to Posts allows you to do really powerful stuff with custom content types in WordPress, and his contributions to WP-CLI (a command line tool for WordPress) have made it really easy to script, debug, and control WordPress.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
WordPress starts out 100% dynamic. Identify the areas where it doesn’t need to be dynamic, and cache those. Rarely change the sidebar? Cache it for 10 minutes. Get a lot of traffic to the front page? Cache it for one minute. By making common sense decisions like that, based on your knowledge of how a site is used, you can get WordPress page views to scale just as well as a static site (while having a whole lot more flexibility).
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
I believe my first commit to WordPress had a security vulnerability. We were all pretty naïve about security back then. We (and the whole industry) have learned a lot in the last six or seven years. [ED: Core is incredibly secure these days.]
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
I want to build a plugin that allows you to press “record” on a staging site, make content and options changes, hit “stop”, and then export those actions as a “macro” that you can check into your repo as code which will play back when you deploy, so that people can roll out code changes and content changes simultaneously.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
I have a couple of child themes, and a couple of standalone themes.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I love the new TwentyTwelve theme (the default theme, starting with version 3.5). It’s a great starting point that can be easily modified in a child theme. I’m also a big fan of Underscores, Automattic’s starter theme.
Posts to Posts. Powerful, polished, pomegranate. Sorry, I ran out of p-words in my alliteration. [ED: You’re forgiven.]
Least favorite plugin?
Probably any of the SEO ones. They have too many options and they reënforce the mindset that everyone needs to be micro-managing their SEO. Most people haven’t completed the most important SEO task of all: write original, compelling, timely content! Jumping into onto the endless SEO tweaking treadmill is a waste of most people’s time.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
I made a baby gear review site with my wife that uses Custom Post Types for Departments, Needs, and Products (using Posts to Posts to connect them). The result is something very different from your standard WordPress site (and, I hope, a model for how people can make affiliate sites that aren’t sleazy, sloppy, and
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?
Figuring out business models that work in the WordPress ecosystem and scale beyond their time constraints.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
The post editing experience. It’s the core of the application, and it has received much less attention than it deserves.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
Onto mobile devices. Both in terms of creation and consumption. This is the future of the web, and we have to be on board.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client
project. What made the difference for you?
The most fun I have doing consulting is when someone has a problem they’ve been trying to fix (often with other consultants) for days, weeks, or longer, and I can identify the problem just after hearing a few of the symptoms, and have a fix out in just a few minutes. These are the days that I don’t feel bad charging for what I do. [ED: There are some great stories people tell about calling Mark for help and getting a code problem fixed almost immediately. The story is often accompanied by sheepish laughter, and “that’s why you hire Mark.”]
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do
you clear it up for your clients?
I hear a lot of misconceptions, but they usually follow the pattern of “WordPress can’t do X”. 98% of the time, it can. Sometimes people get too focused on default capabilities. Yes, it’s an app, but it’s also a publishing platform. As for how I clear that up, I tell them how I’d make that feature in WordPress, then I go do it!
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
I like to ask about things that show attention to detail, such as questions about the security APIs. People who are sloppy coders tend to be ignorant or apathetic about things whose impact they can’t directly measure.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something
you want people to know about you!
Let’s go completely off topic. I discovered something amazing this year. You know that high end, crazy fast remote control car that you couldn’t afford as a 10-year old? You can totally afford it as an adult, and it’s just as fun as you thought it would be. I am the envy of all the other fathers when I take my kids (and my car) to the park.
Mark is one of the cornerstones of the WordPress Community. Due to his work on Core, and on client projects, he has earned a reputation that precedes him. And although his work speaks for itself, you can mosey on over to see it at CoveredWebServices.com, and follow him on Twitter, @MarkJaquith.