Hello there! Welcome to a new feature of the WordPress Developer Resources Blog — interviews! In this inaugural instalment, we’d like to formally introduce you to Mr. Beau Lebens, though he insists you can call him Beau. Beau is famous for many things, including Krav Maga, and instituting burrito Fridays at Automattic headquarters in San Francisco.
How did you get into working with WordPress and how long have you been at it?
I kept an eye on WordPress just out of casual interest more than anything else (in the beginning). The first time I really used it for something serious was to make a blog for a company I was working for at the time.
That was in 2005. (I had probably been following WordPress loosely for about a year before that.) When I left that company, I started a startup with a friend which was all based on WordPress (MU, as it was called at the time) and bbPress. It was called MyBabyOurBaby.com and was basically a shared scrapbooking site for families to save memories around a child.
While building that, I worked for about eight months, day and night on nothing but WordPress. I was trying to make it do a lot of things that it wasn’t supposed to, and trying to integrate with bbPress (which was really rough at the time), so it was a pretty huge learning curve. That exposure gave me pretty solid experience with WordPress though, and I was hooked. Once MyBabyOurBaby was built, but not really taking off, I started doing a lot of WP freelance work on the side. I ended up mostly working on performance and larger-scale sites since I had a bit of background in server management in addition to WP. That ended me up at Mashable.com for about six months, helping them get their site stable, building out some custom statistics/reporting systems and a few other plugins.
After that I ended up at Automattic and the rest is history
What’s the most important advice you can impart to a young person who wants to get into coding and development?
Dive right in. It’s just code, so you really can’t break anything too serious. Get a copy of an open source project in your language of choice (oh hai, WordPress.org!) and you can start pulling it apart to see how it works. Never be afraid to try something, even if you think it will probably break everything — that’s what “undo” is for. And backups. And source control.
What’s the most important challenge currently facing WordPress developers?
I think WordPress provides a lot of the components required to build amazing products (themes, plugins, entire web applications), including everything needed to make them secure. This is where the challenge comes in for developers — ensuring what they build is as secure as the core software is. Almost every security vulnerability or exploit that I hear about is via a plugin or theme. It’s up to WP developers to build software that lives up to the platform that it’s running on and to help ensure that we’re all running a safe, secure system. Having a good understanding of a few core concepts around security (especially within WP) can go a LONG way.
Knowing these two documents inside out and applying the ideas to your code will put you ahead of most other WordPress developers: