Meet a Maker: Matt Geri, WordPress Architect

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Welcome to our third Meet a Maker post. A series where we learn more about the people at XWP and how they have come to work with and contribute to WordPress. Today we say hi to Matt Geri, WordPress Architect.

So, who are you and what do you do?

I’m a WordPress developer living in Cape Town, South Africa. At XWP I serve as a WordPress Architect focused on making sure we deliver architecturally sound solutions to our clients. I’ve also got a passion for learning and teaching. I’ve written/recorded a number of articles and Youtube videos on WordPress development, spoken at a few WordCamps and got my feet wet with core contribution. Outside of WordPress I like to travel, run, surf, golf, hike, fly fish and spend time with my wife and two kids.

Describe the moment you first discovered and played with WordPress.

I discovered WordPress around 2004/2005. Since it was such a long time ago, the exact date and details are slightly blurry! I remember working with TextPattern at the time and hearing from the web development community that WordPress had much more flexibility and was a superior platform. I decided to give it a go and was extremely impressed by the theme and plugin APIs. From that point onwards, pretty much every website I built was powered by WordPress.

What do you do to “de-screen” throughout your work day?

I usually go for a run or fetch my kids from school at lunch time. I also have a standing desk and I use the transition from standing to sitting and vice versa as a breakpoint to get up and move. During this transition break I usually end up spending a few minutes on my balcony watching the ocean. This is extremely calming for me and I get back to work feeling refreshed.

What is your favourite project you’ve worked on with WordPress?

I think my favourite has to be the very first large plugin that I developed. I was working in a mobile advertising startup around 2009/2010 and we built a plugin called MobilePress. Responsive websites had not quite taken off yet and this plugin served a mobile friendly theme to visitors who were viewing the WordPress site from a mobile device. At the time (and especially in developing markets) the majority of people did not have smart phones, and there were a lot of challenges with getting the theme to render nicely on feature phones. The plugin grew to hundreds of thousands of downloads and was the tool that was used to, very effectively, drive massive user growth to the advertising platform we built.

For someone wanting to level up from a beginner WordPress developer, what tips and guidance would you give them?

Focus on automating as much of your workflow as possible and pay a ton of attention to coding standards. Also, contribute to as much open source software as you can. By contributing and working with other open source developers you will very quickly level up your skills, a lot of the time through the guidance of project maintainers.

What’s your IDE/editor, local, tool stack look like?

I use PhpStorm on my local and I love it. It’s got the best WordPress integration I’ve seen from any IDE/text-editor and everything is all in one place. I very rarely have to leave the IDE. For my development environment, I use VVV2. On each project I include WP-Dev-Lib and make sure that I activate the pre-commit hook.

Who inspires you to become better at what you do and why?

I’m not really inspired by any one individual in particular, but by anyone who sets out to achieve something, puts in the hard work when no one is watching, and sees it through to completion (whether it is a success or failure). I’ve seen countless examples of this, especially in the WordPress development community and it drives me to be able to do the same. The most recent example of this is my wife who wrote a novel in 30 days (and late nights).

Being South African, which do you prefer Cricket our Rugby? Also, let’s not talk about last year’s Aus vs SA cricket series…

I’m more into Rugby, but I love both! Happy to talk about the Cricket any time! 😀

What is, and can you teach it to us, one of your biggest “aha” moments when learning something new with WordPress development?

This is not necessarily specific to WordPress, but it’s applicable to PHP development in general. Early last year I stopped using `print_r` and `var_dump` to debug errors in my code and started using XDebug’s remote debugging feature. Having the ability to set breakpoints, step through my code line by line and evaluate expressions is a game changer. It saves me so much time when trying to solve a bug in my code. My personal preference is to use PhpStorm’s built in remote debugging tools for this, but you can get it working with pretty much any IDE/editor.

How would you like to contribute to WordPress in the near future?

I would like to get consistent at WordPress core contributions. Like I mentioned above I have only got my feet wet so far but I would like to spend more time contributing. I’m particularly interested in Gutenburg and editorial workflow features. There are a number of areas in which I’ve seen clients/users struggle inside the WordPress admin and I’d like to contribute to address those pain points.

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