This is the Duff Edition of the Finely Tuned Consultant series. I’ve spent enough time putting these together that I start to really look forward to the answers folks give to the questions. Ryan Duff and I met at Austin’s WordCamp over the summer. He’d flown his wife and daughters into town (a beautiful family), and still managed to be somewhat of a rascal all weekend. He is truly multi-talented. Ryan is a developer, and one of the top WordPress guys in the Community to create plugins, and make WordPress do what you want it to.
You can sum up Ryan’s personality with the t-shirt he wore at the Austin WordCamp. The emblazoned across the chest read, “My blog can beat up your blog.” The T-shirt I wore was 4x faster, but I was still afraid to get too close. Doing research for his interview, I stumbled upon his WordPress User Profile, which may not have been updated since WordPress was called B2. I think he’s been too busy on client work and Core updates to worry about that.
In Ryan’s Own Words:
A long time WordPress user and evangelist, I love traveling to WordCamps. I do development, not design– so expect to see me cranking out plugins and widgets, with a sprinkling of front end work here and there.
And onto Ryan’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?
2004 when I first discovered WordPress. I believe it was version 1.2. Shortly after I wrote the WP ContactForm plugin which allowed users to throw a simple contact form on their site so that users could get in touch with author without having to leave a comment on a post. Then it went from there and finally led to me doing it full time just a few years ago when the opportunity was handed to me thanks to a recession and job loss.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
Twitter. I used to love RSS but then it overwhelmed my life and became some sort of unwieldy beast. I gave up and deleted all the feeds.
Anymore, people post a lot of relevant articles to twitter, and I rely on those I follow to continue churning out awesome information– they’ve done an excellent job so far.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Justin Sainton. Dude is awesome and knows his stuff. If you’re looking for someone who knows WP e-Commerce, Justin is your guy.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Watch your queries and cache like the wind. I’ve worked on a handful of large sites recently… sites with 200,000-300,000+ posts. Certain queries are heavy and while WP_Query is good in most cases, don’t be afraid to utilize the $wpdb class. I’ve had queries recently where I’ve cut a query time down to a fraction (read 1/100th) of the unoptimized query time. Couple that with caching and your pages will load much faster and reduce server load.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
Cowboy coding by a long shot. I’ve gotten much better and avoid now, but in earlier years I’ve done things… unspeakable things. Things that accidentally took a site down because I was working on production and forgot to comment a line out, etc. Thank goodness for the advent of easier to use version control!
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
I think there are plugins for just about everything now right? I mean, I’m sitting here typing this up wearing a shirt from iThemes that says “There’s a plugin for that.” Recently many of the plugins I’ve done from scratch are a rehash on an existing plugin that was poorly implemented or something that did what I needed but had just too much overhead and features I didn’t require.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
All of the above? I do more back-end work, but have had more than enough clients walk through the door giving me a sampling of what’s out there. In the past I’ve used both parent and child themes. More recently I’ve used _s (underscores) on a few projects and I’ve even rolled my own in some cases.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I’ve recently started using Genesis more, but I can’t say I have a favorite framework.
Kidding. I actually love the Custom metabox class that allows me to easily create metaboxes on client sites.
Least favorite plugin?
Any plugin that spews errors and notices all over my screen. I code with WP_DEBUG on to trace my own errors, but sometimes it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Honestly I can’t say that I have a specific “least favorite”, but I do get annoyed when trying to debug my own code and something else clutters up my debug console.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
Hmm… I’ve used custom post types a lot since their availability in 3.0, but I’m not sure I can think of a stand out case. I largely use them for sites with different content types that need to be organized. Especially if each needs its own archive since it makes them easier to query. One site I’m working on now is a personal fitness site where they’re being used to manage exercises, videos, and in the near future food and music.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2012?
Scheduling and finding proper work/life balance. I’ve been trying to hack my own schedule and find the right work/life balance this year. Still hasn’t happened. Demand is high for good developers and it’s easy for some to be booked out 3-6 months on jobs. Then you get opportunities for one-off quickie jobs, and before you know it you lost your whole weekend to make more money. Face it, WordPress is addicting and we all want to spent our lives working on it. Why not make a few dollars while doing so?
But I digress. I think a few people have found a good balance, and more strive to get to that point. I’ve tried scheduling 4-day weeks and taking Friday to work on WordPress Community things like core patches, or personal projects. I’ve tried scheduling 3 weeks a month for clients and a 4th week off for overflow, core, personal. Neither have really worked for me yet. Either way I’ll find a way to devote more hours to core and find a dedicated time to work on personal projects without taking away family time before the end of the year so I can have something fully implemented for 2013
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
Post statuses. Currently not a very flexible implementation but it requires a lot of work to re-implement and maintain backwards compatibility. This is actually on my personal hit list for 3.6
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
I think it will get more extensible. We’ve seen some big changes in 3.5 like the media manger overhaul. It’s not a full overhaul but it’s a step in the right direction and about as much as you can do in a release cycle without going off schedule. I think media (and other content) will get better. We’ll see things get cleaned up more, and legacy things go away– like the link manager disappearing in 3.5.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
It would have to be the large site I worked on recently with the bad queries. The client inherited a site that got a massive amount of traffic, but due to the size of the database, some queries were taking ridiculous times to run. The client through all the hardware at it they could, and were literally burning cash by the day trying to keep this site up. I was able to clean up some queries to help the page load times which made a big quick impact. I’m still working on removing horrible plugins that just don’t scale well. As I’ve said before, I’m more a fan of simple one-off plugins to do a simple task, than all-in-one plugins that try and do everything under the sun.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
It looks pretty.
Apparently because there are a lot of good looking WordPress themes out there, people think that’s all WordPress. It’s not really an issue I’ve really needed to clear up either. Since the few clients I’ve had come with that misconception didn’t want to be able to modify the site by themselves, I still built it in WordPress just for ease of use myself down the road.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
Can you write beautiful code? The WordPress motto is “Code is poetry” and I think that stands true. Our code should be beautiful, elegant, and functional. I’m OCD about my formatting because I want it to be easy to read for both myself and others following me.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
I don’t think I’ve missed anything. If you want to know more about me leave a question in the comments and I’ll follow up!
Thanks Ryan. Y’all get on over to fusionized.com to see about working with Ryan. He’s usually booked a few months in advance, but just like your prom night, he’s worth the wait.