Topher DeRosia interview

Hello pirates, here’s another interview in the Pirate Interviews series: Topher DeRosia interview. Topher is the man behind HeroPress – a platform that lets WordPress people share their stories. Today, he reveals a bit of his own story.

(If you missed any of our previous interviews, give them a read too.)

Topher DeRosia Interview – The Founder of HeroPress

Topher DeRosia Interview
It all started when Topher learned PHP for a project back in 1998, and then kept changing PHP jobs until 2003. That’s also when he first heard about WordPress. He wasn’t impressed with it at the time, though.

In fact, the then-current version of WordPress even motivated him to try creating an alternative solution of his own – another blogging platform to rival WordPress.

Fast forward to 2010, Topher returned to WordPress as part of a freelance project. This time … the timing was spot on, and Topher fell in love with WordPress completely.

He started playing an active role in the community and attended a number of WordCamps. He even formed a local WordPress meetup together with a new WordPress friend.

Over time, Topher realized that the WordPress community began to feel more like a family to him than just a random group of people doing the same thing.

In the following years, he and Dave Rosen created HeroPress. But that journey wasn’t an easy one either. The failed Kickstarter campaign was one huge obstacle, for instance. But Topher didn’t stop, and this is why today we can all enjoy the great essays over at HeroPress. Topher shared his own story there as well, check it out.

Now, onto the Topher DeRosia interview:

When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?

I first tried WordPress when 1.0 came out. It didn’t look very impressive to me at the time, I was already a senior web developer and thought “I could build that”. At the time, I was teaching a web developer course at a local university and I required each of the students to do a project throughout the semester. So I took on a project as well, to make a blog platform.

I built one that I used for about 12 years. It never reached feature parity with WordPress (even that 1.0 version), but it worked well enough for 12 years.

Then I didn’t really pay any attention to WordPress until 2010. I had quit my day job to go freelance and took a contract building a site in WordPress. It was version 2.9, and it was still uncomfortable to try to twist it to do what I wanted. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I wanted was custom post types. I tried Pods, but that seemed too complicated. Something I really loved though was the user authentication. Not having to build an admin area for every site was wonderful.

Then WordPress 3.0 came out. Custom Post Types had arrived. I immediately fell in love, and I don’t think I’ve built a site with anything besides WordPress ever since. It’s been 6 years now. Topher DeRosia

Topher DeRosia

Custom Post Types had arrived [in WordPress 3.0]. I immediately fell in love, and I don’t think I’ve built a site with anything besides WordPress ever since.

What do you think you’d be doing right now if WordPress didn’t exist?

Well, I’d certainly still be a web developer, but I’d be using some other CMS instead of hand coding like I used to. I don’t know if it would be an existing CMS or something I built myself. I built quite a few “almost” CMSs long ago. Topher DeRosia

What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?

Being deliberate about what I do. Occasionally I find myself reading something idly, and I have tools in place to allow me to save that for later, which is kind of like holding a treat for later.

I also have good communication tools with my family. My job allows me great flexibility, so I can simply stop and spend a few hours with them whenever I want. I still need to get work done however, so when we want to do that we specifically talk about the value of that time. Do we want to do this thing now, as a family, or would we rather I work now, and we do something else as a family in the evening? Sometimes we play during the day and I work all evening, sometimes I work all day and we play in the evening. Topher DeRosia

How do you define “being successful”?

Keeping my family happy and cared for. I’m not always great at it, but that’s my goal. I use my skills as a web developer to accomplish that goal. Topher DeRosia

What do you like to do when you’re not WordPress-ing?

I spend almost all of my time off the computer with my family. We watch TV, go out; all the things families do. I really enjoy reading fiction as well. Topher DeRosia

What do you wish more people knew about WordPress?

If I’m talking about people with no experience with it, I’d say that I wished they knew how fun it can be as a hobby. I actually worked at a hobby store once, and we used to say all the time that the goal of a hobby is to turn it into your living. If people started playing around with WordPress, even just a little bit, many would find that it’s fun, and then some of them would find that people will pay them to do it.

I also wish more people knew how great the community is. I think we have something special. Topher DeRosia

Topher DeRosia

If people started playing around with WordPress, even just a little bit, many would find that it’s fun, and then some of them would find that people will pay them to do it.

Who’s doing things that are just cutting-edge and incredible in the WordPress space right now?

I really like what Tom McFarlin is doing with education. He’s putting a lot of work into helping people bootstrap themselves into WordPress developers, and he’s doing a really really good job of it. Topher DeRosia

Describe the WordPress community in one word.

Topher DeRosia

Family.

What’s the main threat to WordPress these days? Other platforms like Ghost, or maybe things like Squarespace?

The main threat isn’t software or a competitor, it’s the very same people who currently make it great. Infighting and bickering and negativity will drive away people who want to do great things with it. If core committers get sick of people telling them they don’t know what they’re doing, that they’re miserable human beings, and quit, where does that leave WordPress?

If new people come into our community and read vitriol in the comments of our news sites, why would they want to stay and take part in that?

I think WordPress has enough of a lead that if people be excellent to each other it can stay on top. Topher DeRosia

Topher DeRosia

The main threat isn’t software or a competitor, it’s the very same people who currently make it great.

What are your recommendations for a WordPress novice?

Get into the community. Talk to people. Listen to the pulse of WordPress. It’ll help guide to where you want to be, it’ll lift you up when you doubt, and help you know how to move forward. Topher DeRosia

Conclusions? I’d say that the main one coming from this Topher DeRosia interview is the value of the WordPress community and the great role it can play when you’re just getting started in the WordPress space. In short, we all need to learn from other individuals already in the community. Everybody knows something that we don’t. That’s the value of interaction. But what do you think?