Interview with Jeff Chandler: Contributing writer with WP Tavern

Jeff Chandler Photo of Jeff a contributing writer with WP Tavern and the host of WordPress Weekly, WP Tavern’s podcast. Jeff also writes a personal blog, Thoughts and Insanity from Jeff. He has been the Bar Chief at WP Tavern since he officially launched WP Tavern in January of 2009.

WP Tavern is a site dedicated to all things WordPress. It has grownWP Tavern Screen Captureto be a WordPress Community gathering place where users can go to learn about the latest news, events, and developments in the WordPress World. In June of 2011, the site was purchased by Audrey, Inc., a research and investment company owned by Matt Mullenweg. Jeff has continued to write and host through the change in ownership. Recently I had a conversation by email with Jeff about his take on WordPress.

Lynne: I’ve been reading about the History of WordPress and how it developed. What’s your take on how it has evolved? What do you think has led to its success?

JEFF: Around the time WordPress was created, it’s purpose focused on blogging or routinely publishing content. Unlike other publishing systems at the time, it quickly evolved into an easy to install system widely adopted by bloggers.

In the past few years, WordPress has evolved into a system that does more than blogging, it powers e-commerce sites, large trafficked websites, popular brands, etc. While it still has its roots in blogging, it’s done a good job of evolving over time to meet the needs of users.

The ease of use, its versatility, and largely the third party ecosystem and community are pillars of its success. This was confirmed in Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word address in 2013 and 2014 where those who took the WordPress survey stated Community and Themes/Plugins as their favorite parts of the project.

Lynne: One of the things I find fascinating about WordPress is its ability to change with the needs of its users. How do you see WordPress evolving in the future? Are there particular changes that you would like to see?

JEFF: I see WordPress continuing to evolve to the needs of its users, it has to in order to stay relevant. I think we’ll see a renaissance of unique ways to utilize WordPress once the REST API is added to core. The REST API will enable developers to create custom backends and communicate with WordPress a lot easier than through XML RPC. The next two-three years are going to be very exciting.

I have nothing on my wish list at the moment in terms of what I’d like to see added to WordPress. I’ve enjoyed the iterative improvements since WordPress 3.7.

Lynne: Do you see the WordPress Community and WordPress as two separate entities with disparate goals or as two halves of the same body?

JEFF: That’s a great question. I view them as separate entities that routinely overlap. WordPress as a project has a set of goals defined and a roadmap to work from. The community on the other hand seems to have its own list of priorities and desires. It’s a wonderful thing when they work in unison.

Lynne: WP Tavern seems to be an inclusive community gathering place. It is a place to share news and ideas as well as concerns. How have your fostered that atmosphere?

JEFF: It started the day the Tavern opened in 2009. When I was told that the domain was available, I thought about how the atmosphere at a Tavern is friendly and a place to hang out and talk about stuff. In this case, a WordPress tavern to discuss WordPress topics.

I am a very open minded person with opinions that can be swayed. This allows me to be engaged with and listen to people no matter what the topic. I always look for the important points in the midst of a discussion and it’s depressing when members of the community are outright dismissed.

When those who operate the Tavern are friendly and welcoming to everyone, it trickles down to those who frequent the Tavern. It provides a great sense of community and engagement.

Lynne: What role do you see WP Tavern playing to facilitate change for the WordPress Community?

JEFF: The Tavern is for users first. With the reach the site has being in the WordPress dashboard, it’s important that I responsibly bring end user concerns and topics to the forefront of the community. It’s our reach that gives us the greatest opportunity to help WordPress change for the better and for the majority. Sometimes, I view the Tavern as a megaphone for those who have little to no voice in the grand scheme of things.

Lynne: How do you communicate the needs of the Community to WordPress?

JEFF: I locate arguments or suggestions for change, compile them, and articulate them into an article with an explanation as to why the change might be beneficial to the project. Since several of the WordPress core team reads the site, it’s the best way to communicate issues.

Lynne: Has that changed since you were purchased by Audrey Capital?

JEFF: Absolutely not. Hiring Sarah Gooding as a full-time writer has provided a significant boost to the amount and quality of the content published on the Tavern. If there is a major concern in the community involving Audrey Capital or Automattic, I will not shy away from covering it because of our readers/users first mantra.

Lynne: What is your vision for WP Tavern’s continued help to the WordPress Community? And/or to WordPress?

JEFF: My grand vision for the site is for it to one day be the second most popular WordPress community outside of The Tavern does a great job with publishing content but outside of the comments, it doesn’t provide a reason to stick around and create conversations.

I’m hoping that in the future, the Tavern will have a forum where readers and users can stick around to participate in conversations while having the ability to create new conversations. I’d like to see the Tavern become a destination on the web that serves as an alternate community hub around WordPress.

Lynne: How do you track WP Tavern’s impact?

JEFF: It’s something that’s hard to track and sometimes, it feels like the work I do has little to no impact. But, it’s those times when I’m at a WordCamp where people thank me for an article I wrote which generates cash flow for their business that reminds me of the impact I have. It’s the thank yous, the comments, tweets, facebook messages, that allow me to measure impact.

Lynne: How have you changed WordPress?

JEFF: Great question! During the development cycle for WordPress 3.9, I changed a typo which was fixed in the core project. That’s as far as my direct contributions go towards changing WordPress.

Outside of that, I’m not sure how as an individual, I’ve helped shape or change WordPress. Mostly what I’ve done over the years is feature and highlight those who ARE changing WordPress literally through their contributions to core.

Lynne: Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts about WordPress. Even as a novice WordPress user, I’ve benefited from your efforts to educate and inform through WP Tavern. Thanks again!

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