Jeff Chandler is the founder of WPTavern.com, a leading WordPress community blog. His passion for WordPress, both the software and the community, has gained him considerable respect and appreciation around the community. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for our interview series.
Current City: Cleveland, Ohio.
Favorite City: So far, Chicago.
Favorite WordPress Feature: Automatic Core, Plugin and Theme Updates.
How long have you been working with WordPress? Since 2007.
How did you get started with WordPress?
When I decided to take blogging seriously in 2007, I decided to use my Joomla knowledge to build the site. I quickly found out that Joomla would be too much for what I needed. I can’t remember how I discovered WordPress but after I installed it for the first time and tried to edit a theme, I was overwhelmed and thought that it was too difficult to do anything in WordPress. I went back to my Joomla setup until I realized that it simply wouldn’t work so I decided to give WordPress a second try. Only after I figured out template tags and the way WordPress themes are developed did I finally get a sense of zen as I haven’t looked back since.
Where does the passion for the WordPress community come from?
That’s a good question. WordPress is a piece of software that has an international reach. Every day, someone somewhere is doing something cool with the software. Whether it’s a cool plugin or a beautiful theme or perhaps even a tool to help others, there’s always something new around the bend. In fact, there is so much new stuff happening within and around WordPress every week that it’s impossible for one man to cover it all. However, what I enjoy most is talking to people that no one has ever heard of such as the guy running his own hyper-local website for his community powered by WordPress or the woman that has developed a vibrant community surrounding her recipes using BuddyPress. All of the developments week in and week out not only surrounding the core software but the people making a difference for the rest of us is what fuels my passion for the software as well as the community.
Earlier this year you launched a VIP program. What brought you to start it, and why did you later close it down?
The VIP program was something put together to enable another revenue stream. The idea was to give VIP members exclusive coupons for products, give them their own area to talk, a job board as well as other content. However, I just never had enough time to put forth the effort in the program to justify the cost. I felt as if I was not delivering and in fact, those that had purchased accounts ended up wasting their money. I couldn’t take it anymore so I refunded everyone that had signed up and closed down that section of the forums so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Did the campaign to bring back the VIP program sway your opinion?
As usually happens in my little neck of the woods, someone started a thread discussing the idea of bringing back the program. That thread has not swayed my opinion but since there is interest in helping to support the work that I do, I have a major call for help that will be on the website within the next few days.
If you could change one thing in about the WordPress community, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the community, it would be to remove the asshats and replace them all with unicorns, pots of gold and triple rainbows. The human element is needed to keep the WordPress project a well oiled machine but it’s this human element that at times can be the software’s own worst enemy. Not only can the software succumb to the human element, but the community surrounding the software also suffers at times. At the end of the day though, that’s just the way it is.
What do you have planned in the future for WP Tavern?
You ask a tough question. With the death of my father-in-law that occurred recently and my stint away from writing and monitoring the community, it’s given me some time to think about what I want to do. Right now, WPTavern does not bring in enough income to live on and the income stream is very unreliable and not constant. On the other hand, I’ve never really taken myself or WPTavern seriously as a business where I put 110% into the site. Another thing that has bothered me is that I seem to have strayed away from what was making WPTavern successful in it’s earlier days in that I’ve branched off to write about bbPress, BuddyPress, etc, I’ve lacked consistency in publishing content and I’ve also lowered the amount of content I publish. It’s weird because since I began to write for an audience instead of for myself, I care about how many posts are published in a day, what posts should or should not be published, what to write about and what not to write about. I’ve tried to overcome these limitations I’ve put on myself but it’s been difficult.
So regarding the Tavern, I can tell you that after giving it some thought, I am going to try to focus on WordPress only with just a sprinkling of the other stuff. I am going to try and become consistent again with at least one post a day while some days there may be five posts. I’m going to point more people to the forum and continue to make sure it’s running like a well oiled machine. In fact, the beautiful thing about the forum is that it’s now running itself. People are finding it via referrals and Google and signing up, mainly for troubleshooting but it’s cool to see that there are almost 1,000 registered users.
I’m going to bring back the WordPress Weekly podcast and implement more news elements into the show such as 5-10 minute interview segments with the news makers themselves.
As for WordCamp coverage, I’ll put the call out to any company that would like to sponsor me for a particular event and if any of them bite the bait, I’ll be able to record sessions and create video interviews from those events for those that couldn’t make it.
Outside of WordPress and blogging, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy spending time with my fiancee, playing Battlefield Bad Company 2, wasting time on YouTube and living on the world wide web.
A big thanks to Jeff for the interview! Let me know in the comments who else you would like interviews with. Also check out WPTavern.com for WordPress news and a great community.