Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Reflections of a WordPress Developer

It’s now been over six full years since I first started really working with WordPress. September 20th, 2010 is when I first opened my account to submit a small plugin I built that afternoon. Six years later I can say without reservation that I’m so glad I chose to get involved with the project both through my own successes and the failures as well as those of the project itself.

It’s safe to say today that WordPress, both the project itself and the community around it, is not what it was six years ago. For the most part this evolution has been positive but of course it has had it’s road bumps as well. As I get more involved in my new position this fall and look forward to the next few years in WordPress and other technologies I’ve forced myself to sit bad and re-examine what WordPress means to me as both  a WordPress developer and as simply a developer looking to get the job done in the best way possible.

WordPress is a Tool

First and foremost, regardless of the emotional attachment many seem to have to the project, WordPress is still just a tool. I say this because at so many points over the years I’ve forgotten this myself leading to an immeasurable about of time and energy wasted on projects that became personal as I forgot who they were built for and how those people were using them.

When we forget that our work is intended to be used by others as a means to an end as opposed to our work being the end we can more easily expand our horizons and get involved from an objective point of view rather losing important innovation to the drama and politics that inevitably grows when a project becomes personal.

Once you realize that WordPress is one of many tools the ability to more rationally examine the competition becomes not only easier but far more productive. I’ve seen so many “WordPress doesn’t need x feature from [insert application]” threads based on a personal rejection that have lead to some ridiculous and heated conversations. It doesn’t need to be that way. Instead, use and improve WordPress but do not forget that it is part of the journey, not the destination.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

While this one is getting better there are still far too many developers who seem to have forgotten (or maybe never learned) the fundamentals of their craft. Once they step out of WordPress, even to similar PHP or other projects, they quickly get frustrated and can’t move forward. This is a problem.

WordPress has made me and many a great living but for most of us it will not be the last application we ever work in. Keeping an open mind to new technologies and continuing to learn the fundamentals of our craft is not just important but crucial. If you’re only interaction with HTTP calls has been through the WordPress HTTP API then you very well might be missing something. Take some time to explore what is out there and not only will you be a better developer but you’ll be able to apply many of those same lessons you learn back to your work in the WordPress world.

We Don’t All Have To Be Developers

This is one that seems to be a constant source of drama in the WordPress world as developers become offended, often rightly so, with others who’s definition of developer differs from their own. While I’m not going to get into the defining the term myself (with a master’s degree in Computer Science my opinion of the matter is not something that requires much work anymore) I will say that there is plenty of room for everyone.

Good developers build great tools and if someone else can utilize these tools then the original developer has done their job. From form builders to page builders and everything in between there are some really good tools out there to compliment WordPress and if someone can make a living simply using those tools as they’re intended then by all means they should do it and those of us who contribute to the tools should help.

So What’s the Point?

While WordPress will always bee an important tool in my toolbox it should not and will not be the only tool I use. In addition, as WordPress is, indeed, a tool itself it is OK to use that tool to build something bigger rather than to focus my energy on solely on it.

I’ve got some great ideas for projects coming up, some of them will be on WordPress, some of them will not. This is a step in the right direction for me after the last few years and is a lesson I think others who have become emotionally attached to the project and the community around it could stand to learn.