Welcome to another edition of the Pagely 8 Questions series. Today, we’re lucky enough to have John Hawkins in the hot seat, the owner of WordPress development specialists, 9seeds.
We’ll be interviewing John in the usual format, asking him about how he got involved with the WordPress community, how the community has changed during his involvement, and what he foresees for the future of the platform. If you’re new to WordPress, John will also be providing some beginner-friendly tips for those starting out.
As well as running 9seeds, John also contributes regularly to his personal blog, VegasGeek. He’s very active on Twitter, too, so follow him @vegasgeek. And, if written content isn’t your thing, you should definitely check out John’s popular podcast series, Hawk Talk.
A big, big thanks to John for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions!
For readers less familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your WordPress background?
My name is John Hawkins and I’ve been a WordPress user since roughly 3 months after its initial release. I am the founder of 9seeds.com, a WordPress development shop based in Las Vegas, NV. We’ve been fully dedicated to WordPress development for nearly 6 years.
You’ve been in the WordPress community for several years now, but could you tell us how you first became involved with WordPress?
I first got introduced to WordPress because I was already blogging and had tried every piece of software I could find to try and make the process simple. That includes a short stint of using Front Page to write blog posts and upload them manually. Talk about painful! A friend who knew I was in to blogging told me about WordPress. I installed it and basically never went back.
Eventually I started wanting to customize things, so that meant getting under the hood and messing around. Yeah, that probably means I hacked core back in the day. But eventually I started creating themes and plugins for myself, and then creating websites for others. Which was already something I had been doing pre-WordPress. But once I started building sites in WordPress, I never went back to using anything else.
During your time in the community, what different areas have you been involved with?
In the community I’ve done a bit of everything. I used to spend more time in the support forums, but that hasn’t been the case recently. I need to get back to doing that.
Here in Vegas, I organized the first WordCamp in January 2009 and have been involved at some level with every local WordCamp since. I have turned over the reins to a new set of organizers this year, but still hope to present, if they’ll have me.
In 2011 I started the WordCamp Las Vegas meetup group which has grown to nearly 800 members. Up until last month, I had been the lead organizer of that group since its beginning. I’m excited to hand it off to a group of folks who are going to pump new life in to it!
Outside of Vegas, I’ve been an attendee and frequent presenter at other WordCamps all over the country. I’ve lost count, but have been to well over 50.
For the past year or so I have been helping out with WordPress Foundation by being a mentor to first-time WordCamp organizers.
So, yeah… I’ve done a bit of everything.
What has been the best thing about working with WordPress for you?
That’s an easy one; the friends I’ve made in the community. I could type for an hour and probably not get close to listing all the amazing people I’ve met and become friends with over the years. People who run businesses who should be my competitors are actually some of my dearest friends.
How has the WordPress community changed since you started?
Well, when I ran WordCamp Vegas 2009, I knew hardly anybody in the community, so I’d probably have to say the size of the community. It’s freakin’ huge!
And obviously the maturity of the community. I think we’ve all seen recent postings talking about some of the bigger players in our group who have been making some serious cash. I don’t think that was going on (at least not nearly to the same level) when I got started with it.
What advice would you give to anyone getting started with WordPress? Which direction would you yourself go if you were starting over again?
Get involved with your local community. Attend meetups. Attend WordCamps. Learn from the amazing folks who give so freely of their time and knowledge.
If I was starting over, that’s a great question. I honestly don’t know. Ha! Try to get hired at Web Dev Studios, I guess. 😉
What do you think the biggest mistakes WordPress website owners are making?
I see a lot of “set it and forget it” websites. People think that a shiny new website is going to be the answer to their business prayers. But, they forget that building the new site, while it’s an important step, it’s not the end of the road. Fresh content is the lifeblood of a website.
What do you think the future of WordPress holds? What would you like to see?
I think the next 12-18 months are going to be some of the most exciting for WordPress. The new Rest API is going to open a lot of doors to some amazing things. I think we’re going to see a bunch of tools aimed at making the on-boarding of new WordPress users even easier. I wouldn’t be surprised to see native Mac/Windows apps that simplify the content creation process.
Once again, a huge thanks to John Hawkins for answering our questions — I hope you enjoyed reading his answers!
We certainly have an interesting few months ahead of us, especially with the new Rest API on its way. If you need help with any WordPress projects, John’s fantastic 9seeds service is highly recommended by many well-respected members of the WordPress community.
I’ll see you again next week, when I’ll be talking to another WordPress big-hitter!