This week, we’re going to hang out with Steve Bruner for a bit. Steve is one of the WordPress Meetup NYC organizers, and he and I connected last year when I was doing some research to learn more about the “related posts” plugin he works on, nrelate. Those of you who build WordPress to scale regularly will know the trouble that sites can have with an unscalable related posts plugin. Steve is part of the team that built nrelate to product quality related posts results, but without requiring on-server processing, and a database overstuffed like foie gras.
Steve’s company, SlipFire, does development for WordPress, BuddyPress, Shopify, and on. He’s a guy who knows scalability, and can build a complicated plugin for you. His latest plugin project, Piklist, allows for rapid development of a WordPress site.
In Steves’ own words:
I run SlipFire LLC., a WordPress development shop, organize the WordPress NYC meetup and have co-organized WordCamp NYC since 2009. The Piklist plugin is my new pet project and it’s seriously awesome.
And now onto Steve’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?
Back in early 2006 I really wanted to blog… just to document my thoughts and share my [many] opinions with the world. A friend of mine introduced me to WordPress and I fell in love. Instead of using WP.com, I decided to self host and had a ton of fun. Pretty sure I used Brian Gardner’s Blue Zinfandel theme as a base. A few friends and business associates saw my site and asked me to build them sites as well. The next thing I knew I had a business. That was exciting – a business being built on WordPress.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
FlipBoard baby! I love FlipBoard. It curates my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and RSS Feeds for me, and magically shows me the important stuff. I really count on my social network to let me know what’s going on.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Kevin Miller. If you’ve never heard of him, you will. The dude’s a poet… sometimes I tear up when I read his code (I’m a pretty sensitive guy). Kevin is my partner on Piklist, and if you check out the code base you will see what I mean… it’s beautiful.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Rule no 1: Back up often and remember where you keep your backups.
Rule no 2: Don’t forget rule no 1.
Backing up is mandatory… but remembering where your backups are is imperative. Seriously, we once set up backups for a client and they changed the location of the files. When the site went down it took them over a day to find out where they were. But we were able to restore the site beautifully.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
I spelled WordPress with a lowercase “p” in an email. (Ed: Zing!)
Actually, this one might be bigger. When I first started SlipFire, the good hosting options for WordPress were limited, so I started to host my clients on my own server. Before I knew it I had a small hosting company. Cool. Someone else paying my server costs and a few extra bucks on the side, nice! This got a little crazy since I was running multiple versions of WP Single Site… not multisite. I don’t even think I knew multisite existed back then.
Then one Sunday during Memorial Day weekend my phone rang… and rang… and rang. And the buzz of a txt message… and then another buzz… and another. My server was hacked and my clients’ sites, well… didn’t look like my clients’ sites. Not a good day.
I believe I missed an update with one of the single sites… never again. I never miss an update.
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
A Contact Manager. A super awesome, fully extendable, 100% customizable, powerful contact manager. [NOTE: We’re actually building this with Piklist and will release it shortly]
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
I’ve actually been starting fewer theme projects lately – mostly taking over development work on existing sites or doing more plugin work. Last year I used child themes exclusively, mostly Genesis. However, starter themes look very interesting, especially “underscores”. A few months ago we had Allan Cole present at the meetup and he convinced me starter themes are the way to go. Either way I will usually look for a base theme to start a project; I almost never start from scratch.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite theme framework. However, I have a favorite WordPress framework: Piklist. It’s the first plugin I install on every project since it makes EVERYTHING so much easier and I can develop faster. It also adds enhanced features to CPT’s, Taxonomies, Meta, Settings and more. [Full Disclosure: In case you skipped over the beginning of this post, I developed Piklist with my partner Kevin Miller]
Hmmm… that’s a tough one. Piklist.
Least favorite plugin?
YARPP. I like Mitcho, I really do. But I’ve had so many problems with YARPP not scaling well. Now, just to be fair, I haven’t used YARPP in a few years, so maybe it’s faster. But it used to kill me. Instead, I always used nRelate, a hosted related posts plugin. [More Disclosure: My company, SlipFire, built the nRelate plugins and was a partner… but it was because I needed a solution to YARPP! )
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
Develop a framework that enhances the standard WordPress CPT’s, and is so easy to use my mother can develop with it. Alright, maybe not my mother, but Piklist really is simple.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?
This is probably more about “WordPress” challenges, instead of “Consultant” challenges, but I still hear talk about sites “looking WordPressy”, or “Can WordPress do this?” and “Isn’t WordPress just for blogs”? WordPress is headed in the right direction, but I still hear this.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
The admin. Alex King mentioned this in his Finely Tuned interview. The WordPress admin needs to be as flexible as a theme, and right now it’s not. Too much code is hard-coded, and there are not enough hooks or filters. Take Post Statuses for instance. Much of WordPress relies on the “draft” status. If you’re going to use WordPress as a true CMS, then “draft” isn’t always relevant.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
We will see more Web APPS not just Web SITES.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
A business associate asked me to speak to a friend of his who was running what should have been a very popular pop-culture site in WordPress. One major problem was the site took forever to load… at least a full minute. And there were so many other problems, I don’t remember them all. The client really hated WordPress after this experience, seriously thought it was the biggest piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). (NB: That’s Steve’s response, not editing.) After talking to him and showing him both my work and the community’s work, I convinced him I could create a site he would love. He gave me a shot and not only did he end up with a killer site, but he totally loves WordPress. And his site loads fast!
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
You can’t do that with WordPress… so I do it.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
What did you think about my interview on WP Engine? …and show me some code.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
If you’re ever in New York City on the third Tuesday of the month, please stop by the WordPress NYC Meetup. Every month… third Tuesday.
If you all need a baller plugin built, I highly recommend trekking over to SlipFire.com to see the Plugins, and all the other awesome stuff, that Steve has built!