Finely Tuned Consultant: Simon Wheatley
This week, I’m interviewing Simon Wheatley, a rockstar WordPress developer who hasn’t lost touch with his roots. His company name, Code for the People, is either a perfect reflection of this, or a happy accident. Either way, it’s a baller name for their web development firm, which is also a VIP Featured Partner. Code for the People sounds like a hip hop developer group. I’ve got a picture of these guys standing on street corners in Manchester (where he’s based, but the company is distributed) and street rhyming, “Knock you out you’ll need a cold compress // Cold like our Rolling Stones website built on WordPress”
In case you didn’t click the linkbait, Simon is responsible for the Rolling Stone’s WordPress site. Code for the people who were almost as good as the Beatles is more like it.
In Simon’s own words:
I live in Manchester in the UK and co-own Code for the People, a specialist WordPress development agency with my business partner Simon Dickson, and I blog at simonwheatley.co.uk.
Simon is an incredible developer. Let’s get down to his questions:
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’ve been working with WordPress since December 2005, according to my Subversion repository. Several years later in 2008 at the WordCamp Birmingham, the first UK WordCamp, I spoke with Mike Little (WordPress co-founder) about his decision to go All WordPress All The Time. At the time I was hopping all over the place, working on plain HTML sites, Java based corporate wikis, ASP.net, PHP, as well as WordPress, and the idea of going exclusive on WordPress was like a breath of fresh air.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
I have a large Twitter list entitled “WordPress” that I try to at least skim through every day, usually before sleep and when I wake up. I then email myself plugins or whatever that I need to look at on my laptop, and Delicious things which will be useful (yes, I still use Delicious). The list has 159 members, and counting, so reading it takes a fair amount of time, I’m not sure how well it’s going to scale!
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Not exactly consultants, but one of my resolutions this year is to pay more attention to the Summer of Code student projects (here’s the 2011 GSOC blog), there’s always some really interesting ideas there.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
With regard to scaling, 404 pages should, in my opinion, be cached. It’s something that’s bitten me on various sites, you have everything really tightly locked down and then boom a broken image or resource creeps into post content or whatever, and you’re effectively back to loading WordPress on every page load (because 404 pages are generated by WordPress).
Limit Login Attempts is my favourite security plugin, it works to prevent malcontents hacking your WordPress logins by trying all the possible username/password combinations; I think everyone should have it (or something similar) installed (ED: We’re requiring this plugin at WP Engine next week)
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
When I started working with Stephen Fry on his website, I thought I knew about caching and scaling; and, wow, was I mistaken. That was a very fun, very fast, learning curve.
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
Last night before sleep I read Dave Winer’s post on the new Medium service from Obvious Corporation, when I woke up I thought I’d quite like something to share the love within a distributed, rather than centralised, network: “related posts on other sites”. Perhaps it could work from your blogroll (remember those, I need to put one back on my site I think), and suggest posts that from the sites on the blogroll which are relevant to the posts on your site.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
I’ve done both, but nowadays I’m not doing much front-end work at all, my business partner Simon handles that side of things along with various wonderful sub-contractors, and he tends to roll his own themes.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I’ve only really used the Genesis theme framework, as far as things-which-call-themselves-frameworks go, but I was favourably impressed.
Google Analytics Dashboard, the dashboard widget is good but I particularly like the little sparklines showing traffic for each page and post on the admin screens.
Least favorite plugin?
I can’t answer that question!
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
For a charity in the UK, The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, I created a custom post type based events section of the site which lists projects, venues, organisations and shows, allowing parents to search for activities for their children which are close to them. It’s got more interlinked custom post types, custom taxonomies and post meta data than anything I’ve done before or since.
Less traditionally, I’m pretty proud of the translation system behind Free Speech Debate, which uses custom post types and taxonomies to manage translations of content across 13 languages. We hope to release this as a plugin soon, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2012?
The professional WordPress community is serving small and medium businesses, charities and individuals really well. There’s a challenge to bring those great websites further into governments, large multinationals and corporations; good in-roads have been made, but I think we need to step up now and challenge the other large CMS players (Drupal and the proprietary guys) further to really push the use of WordPress in those situations.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
I think we’re all looking forward to the media enhancements being worked on for 3.5, aren’t we?
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
I think Matt nailed it when he talked about moving beyond the desktop during his 2012 State of the Word; tablets, hand-helds, they’re only going to get more and more important as ways to author and consume content, and WordPress needs to be the easiest way to handle your content as that happens.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
Last year a client got hit by some malware, and clearing it up took over a week of playing whack-a-mole with the evil little thing, working with the Sucuri and VaultPress guys. The work culminated in a patch I submitted to the Exploit Scanner plugin to pick up this particular exploit method.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
“Isn’t WordPress just a blog?” – Yes, we still have that question in 2012 (cue eye rolling); I point the doubters to Defra, The Rolling Stones, I Am A Scientist, Baja, AMC… and there are a lot lot more, none of which are “blogs” and many of which don’t centre on “Post” based content.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
The advantage of Open Source is that your work is out there, so I’d ask to see a plugin, theme or patch they’d written. I’d be looking to see that the developer solves problems in “the WordPress way”: using WP_Query to get posts, using the API, avoiding direct database access where possible, taking advantage of the hooks, all that good stuff.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
Nope, thats everything. Thanks, Austin!
Thanks Simon! Y’all head over to CodeforthePeople.com to check out their portfolio and to get them working with YOUR site!
Start the conversation.