4 years young and we at XWP are realising more and more that it is genuinely the people in our teams that make this company a great place to work. I know that my time here has been influenced more by the people I cross paths with than the projects we work on or clients we work for. Great co-workers who represent some of the leading minds and souls in the WordPress community and industry.
This post represents the first in a Q&A series with some of the individuals here. I personally wanted to learn more about them and their journey on how they have come to work on and contribute towards WordPress. So why not share this with y’all.
In this first Meet a Maker post we meet Dan Louw. A South African born Australian convert WordPress engineer and architect on our Australian based team. Dan has been part of XWP for 3 years and has had experience on some of our biggest projects including the bar-raising migration project with News Corp Australia.
Let’s meet Dan.
Q: Describe the moment you first discovered and played with WordPress.
A: My very first interaction with WordPress was in 2010 when I was asked to export data from a WordPress blog into a custom CMS. To be honest, that wasn’t a very pleasant first experience 🙂 I even had trouble with the famous 5-minute install – to be fair, I had very little server-side knowledge back then. My first proper introduction to WordPress was about a year later when I started playing around with child themes and from there on worked my way to plugin development. But it was only in 2014 when I truly got a taste for what WordPress is capable of when I joined XWP and started to use it in enterprise level projects.
Q: What is your personal take on Open Source and the Open Web?
A: I won’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but this is my take: I think an Open Web is more important than Open Source software in general. Broadly speaking, the easier it is to publish and consume information the better, so anything that promotes and facilitates this is good, anything that doesn’t, is not so great. When it comes to software though, I think proprietary products do have their place: If paying for a product ensures better support and quality features I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee. Although I still prefer the Open Source model where software is made available freely and users that believe in the product gets to contribute and help maintain it or even fork it.
Q: Your Netflix account breaks and you’re stuck with only 90’s movies. What do you watch?
A: The Matrix – more the first one, I didn’t love the rest of the trilogy. The Usual Suspects – I’ve seen it a number of times and I’m still trying to work out what really happened. Anything Quentin Tarantino and then The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump, just to feel warm and fuzzy again after all of that violence.
Q: What do you do to “de-screen” throughout your work day?
A: I have a Rubik’s Cube sitting on my desk. When I’m not typing, I like to keep shuffling it, kind of as a fidget toy, and then when I do take a break I like to solve it a few times. I’m no speed-cuber, but I can do it in close to a minute. When I need to get away from the desk completely I have a regime of stretches that help keep my back healthy and maybe 5 minutes of meditation to reset my mind. I used to be really into yoga, but I haven’t been to a class in years.
Q: What is your favourite project you have worked in with WordPress?
A: The SPP project we did for News Corp Australia. It’s by far the biggest project I’ve worked on, which means I got to experience what WordPress is really capable off, but also because of the size and calibre of the team. I got to work with some really amazing people that I’m still good friends with. In the big scheme of things though it was still just about online news. At some point, I would still like to work on a project that feels like it changes the world in a radical way.
Q: For someone wanting to level up from a beginner developer, what tips and guidance would you give them?
- Get into wp-cli (and the command line in general, really). The wp-admin is important of course, but to really take it to the next level you need to be able to manage your WP site via command line.
- If you’re still running your local WP instance using WAMP/MAMP or similar, switch over to using a VM-based setup – I recommend VVV. Although this is old news by now: The next step would be to move to a containerized setup with Docker.
- Make the most of Xdebug: Set up Remote Debugging in your IDE, then set a few breakpoints and see the code in action, study the flow of things, what triggers what, what hooks into what, pay attention to how objects and variables change at each step in the call stack. Studying WP Core in this way gave me a level of insight that I couldn’t get from any other approach.
Q: What can you teach me about WordPress in under 4 sentences?
A: Did you know that instead of creating a new function that returns true (or false, null and a number of others) for use with a filter, you could simply use the
__return_true() function provided by WP Core? e.g.
add_filter( 'example_filter', '__return_true' );
Q: What’s your IDE/editor, local, tool stack look like?
- IDE: PhpStorm
- Local: Multiple Vagrant and Docker based systems, depending on the project
- I prefer VVV, but just because I’m most familiar with it – tip: use Variable VVV to easily spin up new VVV sites
- Chassis is another good Vagrant based option
- Browser: Chrome – I rely heavily on Chrome DevTools. I also use Safari as a secondary browser, but not for dev purposes
Q: How would you like to contribute to WordPress in the near future?
A: To be honest, I’m not as active in the community as I’d like to be. Two areas that I do have my eye on is the Customizer and the REST API. If I do contribute to Core in the near future it would probably be in one of these areas. Of course, contributing is about a lot more than Core code contribution. There are a few topics that I’m considering talking about at an upcoming WordCamp or meetup.