Today, I’m getting down with Oliver Dale, the guy behind Kooc Media, WP Lift, and a bunch of other badass WordPress platforms. Oli has been a super active member of the WordPress Community for years, building plugins and contributing content to the 20,000 folks using WordPress to make a living. Oliver is based out of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and has been making his living on the web for over 15 years.

Oliver draws a lot of attention for the work on WP Lift, but his recent opinions on the now-resolved GPL controversy also brought him to the fore not only as a WordPress entrepreneur, but as someone who supports the continued growth of the Community as well as the software itself.

In Oliver’s Own Words:

I’m the founder of Kooc Media – an online publishing company which works almost exclusively with WordPress. I love doing business online, I dont think there has ever been a time with more opportunities and excitement than right now.

Now Onto Oliver’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 have run my own websites for many years now – right from before the dot com crash even and because I am a web designer rather than a programmer I had to use third party scripts and open source software to power my websites if I wanted something dynamic rather than plain HTML. A lot of these scripts were buggy, didn’t generate nice URLs so didn’t rank well in the search engines and because each one was built differently I had to learn a new templating system each time. ( there were exceptions, I always enjoyed working with phpBB ). I first came across WordPress when I started a web design blog back in 2005 and was so pleased with how easy it was to use and create themes for. The more I developed an interest in WordPress the more I realized what was possible with plugins – I could use it to create just about any website I wanted.

I had been working solidly with WordPress since 2005 and in 2010 I decided to launch WPLift.com – initially it was going to offer my design & consultancy services and the blog was an add-on to garner traffic. The blog took off and I decided to drop the services and make my focus on creating products for WordPress and growing the blog itself into its own business.

My main focus these days are ThemeFurnace and WPLift.

Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?

Probably the first place I look is Twitter. I have one screen in my office dedicated to Twitter (follow me @olidale) which has various columns set up for all my accounts, people and search terms I follow. The WordPress community is all over Twitter so it’s where I normally find the latest news and chat to other people involved in WP. I can ask a question on there and normally have a number of replies within a few minutes.

Outside Twitter, I do a weekly news post on WPLift where I sum up news, tutorials and resources from the last 7 days. A great daily news source at the moment is WPDaily.co – John and the team are doing an amazing job there. WPCandy used to be the news source but seems to be quiet lately but still pops up with a good article every now and then.

What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?

AJ Clarke from WPExplorer deserves respect for the sheer amount of quality work he produces – not only does he run the WPExplorer, blog, but he releases free themes and loads of premium themes each month via ThemeForest – he must never sleep!

What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?

I have a few plugins now that I use on every WordPress installation. For speed I use WP Super Cache to serve a static HTML version of the site, and I combine this with a CDN to serve the images and javascript. (My choice is MaxCDN).

For security, I use the brilliant Sucurri service which monitors my sites for any malicious code being added, files changed and other security issues. If you do happen to get hacked, they offer a clean-up service to restore your site.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

I have had sites hacked many times in the past – mainly due to my laziness of not updating immediately, I suppose that’s where a service like W PEngine comes into its own to prevent this from happening.

I’ve had to restore a blog to a 7 day old backup before and had to resort to Google cache to copy and paste my missing posts back onto the site!

If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

I’m no plugin developer, but a plugin I would like to delegate the creation of is an add-on for something like WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads that would let you create a digital file marketplace like ThemeForest which allows users to sell files and receive a commission. Integrating with BuddyPress also would be amazing – I have a need for something like this on one of my sites so would love to see someone create this.

Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?

I build all of my themes for ThemeFurnace.com and for client sites on top of a basic framework that we forked from the UpThemes framework. When I started ThemeFurnace we looked for a good theme options panel that we could build on and the UpThemes one was perfect for us – we have since extended it with new features that suit our themes. I have never worked with any of the big frameworks like Genesis or Headway – I don’t like the fact they add on an extra layer that people have to learn, I prefer more simple themes tailored for a specific purpose.

I always recommend our customers use a child theme if they are modifying one of our themes.

What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?

I don’t have a particular favorite – the current theme I’m working on tends to be my favorite as I try and make each one better than the last and add a new feature or learn something new for each one.

I’m a fan or Orman Clark’s work at ThemeZilla.com (I think a lot of people are!) he has a great style and an eye for detail that a lot of designers lack.

Favorite plugin?

Yoast SEO or Akismet – both are essential on every WordPress install.

Least favorite plugin?

Hello Dolly.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?

This will probably be something that I’m about to start working on soon – A big rebuild of an old forum based site and turning it into a kind of social network built around BuddyPress with lots of custom stuff on top.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?

As WordPress grows in popularity I see a lot more marketers, chancers and people labeling themselves as “experts” jumping on board as they see the money potential. Real consultants will need to differentiate themselves and rise above the chaff so clients can see who they can trust.

If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?

I think I would prefer more distinction between WordPress.com and .org – I am constantly seeing people confuse the two – both being named the same even though one is a commercial entity and one is open source doesn’t help the end users.

I would also like to see less of the drama in the WordPress community – it seems like some argument blows up every few months, mostly involving the GPL and licensing issues.

Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?

I see more apps being built on top of WordPress – I love what Noel Tock has done at HappyTables.com by building a SAAS product using WordPress as the core and completely customizing the admin experience. I bet a lot of his customers don’t even know they are using WordPress. I also see it progressing more as a full-blown CMS – more and more sites are making the switch over to WordPress as it matures and I only see this trend continuing – Things definitely look rosy for everyone involved with WP.

Thanks Oliver!

Jump on over to ThemeFurnace.com to see Oliver’s latest creations. One look at his designs and you will see why he’s this week’s Finely Tuned Consultant!