Inspired by Awesomeness – My WordPress Community Heroes

It all started with Twitter

I was trawling through my twitter feed during International Women’s Day and read lots of tweets about how hard it is for the female of the species in the Tech World.

That started me thinking about the WordPress Community and the fact that the first people that come into mind from the community are women. It is these people that have inspired me, not only to do more and better things with WordPress but also to be a better Project Manager and most importantly, be a better person.

I shared this thought with a couple of friends and one of them asked me if she could see my list.  So here it is.

Some Ground Rules

Before anyone starts trolling me, let’s put this list in context.

    • I am based in the UK so most of the people I have interacted with are from the UK or Europe. This means the list is UK centric. I am sure there are lots of other awesome people out there that I just haven’t met yet.
    • Some of the people in the list are not strictly part of the WordPress community. Their inspiration is WordPress related though.
    • Inspiration and awesomeness is subjective and personal.  This is my list and is likely to be different from anyone else’s.  If you disagree with it, don’t give me a hard time, write your own!


So, in no particular order of awesomeness, here we go….

The list of awesome

Jenny Wong (@miss_jwo)

Image of Jenny WongI met Jenny at my first Wordcamp Europe.  She had organised a sightseeing get together for people arriving in the city early.

I have been inspired by Jenny’s friendliness, patience, humour and selflessness when it comes to making people feel welcome and part of the community, even numpties like me. As I have followed Jenny, I have seen how she contributes to the community, how she is determined speaks out on important issues that she feels strongly about and how much energy she puts into making the community a better place to be part of.  With half of her energy and people skills I would be a far better Project Manager.

Heather Burns (@WebDevLaw)

Heatherimage of Heather Burns is another strong, opinionated,outspoken, person that refuses to go quietly. She is a Weegie though, so a lot of that comes with the territory.

Heather has been a real inspiration.  Over the last few years she has given up her WordPress based web development business, gone back to university to study law and is now, probably the foremost adviser on IT legal issues to the web community, who isn’t a qualified lawyer.

Heather sits through the interminable pish that makes up parliamentary debates. She sifts through governmental documentation, seemingly designed to induce narcolepsy.  All so we can consume all the relevant, important elements in a few minutes by reading her articles.

She fights for freelancers in the gig economy against policies such as VATMOSS and if the Web Industry ever gets organised enough to have a proper trade body, it will be in no small part due to Heather.

I don’t know anyone that is more resilient, tenacious and if patience is a virtue, she is due for canonization.

Kimb Jones (@mkjones)

I’image of Kimb Jonesve been attending Kimb’s talks since my very first WordPress get together (Wordup Edinburgh).

Kimb has a wealth of WordPress experience. He has been a developer, builder and seller of themes, organiser of WordPress events, an entrepreneur and more recently a business leader.

What’s not to be inspired by?

Kimb is always funny, informative and I always feel energised to go away and do something new or better after one of his talks.

Kimb made me realise that, if something is central to your WordPress site and it would be a disaster if it went away, you can’t afford to be a tight wad.  You need to put your hand in your pocket and pay towards the many hours of development and continued support for that product.  If you don’t, you only have yourself to blame when it no longer functions with the latest version of WordPress, or just down right disappears.

iThemes, you have Kimb to thank for the money I keep spending with you!

Latterly Kimb has moved away from pure WordPress talks and has been talking about his experiences setting up his WordPress business Make Do.  As a result his talks are now not only inspiring me but also my daughter, who’s business has nothing to do with WordPress.

Mike Little (@mikelittlezed1)

image of Mike LittleFor those of you reading this, that are not part of the WordPress community, Mike is on of the co-founders of WordPress.  Like Kimb, I met Mike at Wordup Edinburgh in 2013.  I was blown away that Mike not only took the time to come along to the relatively small Wordup, but also took the time to spend time with everyone there including me.

I have since met Mike at a number of WordPress events and he is always friendly and approachable.  Not something you normally associate with someone so instrumental in producing something as influential and awesome as WordPress.

Mike inspires me, not just because of his personality and inclusiveness but because he still spends every day producing WordPress sites and training people to use WordPress.

I would like to think that if I had such a large hand in producing something as fantastic and that powered such a large part of the internet, as WordPress, my ego would remain in check and I would stay as down to earth as Mike.  Sadly, I don’t think that would be the case.  I can but strive towards that level of self effacement.

Petya Raykovska (@petyeah)

image of Petya RaykovskaI haven’t actually interacted with Petya, but I have been inspired by her involvement in the community, not least organising Wordcamp Europe and being instrumental in translating WordPress into many languages via the WordPress Polyglots.

As a project manager I would dearly love to think I could approach her organisational skills.

Iain Taylor (@iainptaylor) and Nate Wright (@NateWr)

Image of Iain Taylor These guys took the Edinburgh WordPress community which had died an inglorious death, and resurrected it from scratch.  From the first year, when there were a few core attendees at each meeting, it has now grown to the point where there are waiting lists to attend nearly every month.

Both guys are incredibly warm and welcoming, just like all the other community members in my list.

He probably doesn’t realise it, but Iain inspired me to attend Wordcamp Europe, something for which I will be forever grateful.

Nate has patiently answered many of my WordPress questions, even the really stupid ones. I’m inspired to do more with WordPress because I know there is an incredible support network of people out there that will help and advise you.  This is so different to some other “communities” where newbies are shunned for their lack of knowledge either technically or of the unwritten protocols that community members are expected to follow.

I have been working away for the last couple of years and haven’t been able to get to the Edinburgh WordPress MeetUps in that time.  I’m really sad about this and I miss them a lot.  As soon as I finish this current gig and get back a bit closer to home I be making sure to get my place at the meetings booked early.

Lorna Mitchell (@lornajane)

Image of Lorna MitchellNot strictly part of the WordPress community, Lorna Mitchell is a PHP guru (she has written many books on the subject), fantastic speaker and, in her own words, a Developer Evangelist.

For those of you that don’t know, up until very recently WordPress was completely written in PHP (it is now starting to move to Javascript for more and more front end activity). So knowledge of PHP is more than a little handy if you want to get the most out of WordPress.

Lorna’s talks always hit the right note for me.  Pitching the level just right.  Not too advanced, but advanced enough to stretch me.

Like Kimb, Lorna’s talks always inspire me to go away and do something new or different.

I always try and attend Lorna’s talks when she is speaking. Generally she is one of my FOSSDEM highlights.

Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew)

Image of Rachel AndrewI have only just encountered Rachel on the net, but she has already inspired me.

Most of my time spent modifying WordPress is changing CSS.  For those not in the know, CSS is the language that dictates the appearance of web pages, including those generated by WordPress.

In my opinion Rachel is to CSS, what Lorna is to PHP.  I’m amazed that I haven’t heard her speak in person yet.  The nice thing is that, I have that experience to look forward to.

The community that keeps giving

The great thing about this list is that, because of all the tremendous people in the WordPress community, it is going to grow as I go to more WordPress events and meet more of the people in the community.

This year is my 40th year as an IT professional. I have been involved in a number of communities in that time. I’ve made many friends and been inspired by many people.  Other than the Ubuntu community, none have come close to the total warmth and inclusiveness I have found from the WordPress gang.

If you are part of the community, I look forward to meeting and being inspired by you in the future and hopefully adding you to my list.  If you spot me at a Wordcamp or Meetup, please say hello.

The disclaimer

As I said at the start of this post, my list is highly subjective, personal and comes from a quick mental list inspired by Twitter. Consequently I know that I have probably missed off a number of people that have inspired me to do all sorts of stuff. If I missed you off this list, it isn’t your fault for not being awesome, it’s a consequence of my memory being whatever the converse of awesome is.

Learning Never Stops

Image if a badge showing that Mainplus Technology are attending WordPress Europe in Vienna 2016



An industry that never stands still

I’m a great believer that you should never stop learning.  This IT industry of ours never sleeps and unless we make the effort to educate ourselves we inevitably get left behind.

More to learn, less time to do it in

As I have got older, I have found that I slip behind the learning curve. I like to console myself that this is mostly due to my interests widening so the learning I have to do to keep up with our world, just becomes greater, but my time to do so seems to ever decrease.

Formal courses are all very well….

Formal courses and text books are a well proven education channel, and generally have the benefit of providing some sort of evidential piece of paper to prove that you have completed the learning in question. However, one of the great things about our industry is the willingness of incredibly talented and knowledgeable people to give their time and effort to pass on their knowledge. Often for free.

… but why not take advantage of free knowledge transfer

There are many YouTube videos that act as brilliant learning aids. These “how to” videos are great if you need help doing something specific.  They are instantly available but in general you need to search for a specific topic to make use of them.

In my opinion he best way to take advantage of the generous nature of our industry colleagues, is to go to conferences. While there may not be a presentation dealing with your latest, hair tearing, issue, conferences have presentations that expand your outlook and put you contact with like minded individuals, any one of which may have the “magic bullet” you are looking for.

So, for just a few pounds, or even for free, you can get to see and hear industry experts sharing their knowledge.  Not only do you get real world advice in the form of a presentation, but almost without exception, these experts are incredibly approachable and happy to discuss their field outside the confines of their presentation.

Which conferences?

 WordPress Edinbugh

image of the Edinbugh Wordcamp Wapu 2015

Well let’s start off with the Edinburgh Wordcamp held in November 2015.  A great weekend of talks from some of the best WordPress speakers in the UK.  Including Heather Burns, who is probably the foremost speaker on web law in the UK if not Europe.  I have to declare an interest here though.  My local WordPress group, were the organisers of the event. A nicer bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet. By the time the event was coming to a close there were already talk of the next one.


image of the fossdem logo

To quote the Fossdem website, “FOSDEM is a free event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate.”.

Fossdem is held in Brussels and is the biggest free and open source conference in Europe. Attended by some 5000 hackers and with over 600 presentations it attracts some big names from all over the world to speak.

This year, 2016, I’m really exited.  It would appear that one of the biggest free software names in the world will be speaking. Richard Stallman, Founder of GNU Project and Free Software Foundation will be giving his thoughts on advanced licensing issues in Free Software projects.

Even though I do not consider myself a developer (and neither do many other attendees of Fossdem) I always get a lot out of the conference which is entirely free of charge.

WordcaMp Europe

imapge of an I'm attending Wordcamp Europe 2016 badgeWordcamp Europe is the premier Wordcamp conference in Europe.

To be honest, I’m not too sure what to expect at Wordcamp Europe.  I have talked to many people who have attended in the past and their enthusiasm and determination to return has made me decide to attend for the first time.  It has to be said that the location of Vienna didn’t hurt any either.

Like Fossdem, the size of the conference (at the time of writing they have sold out all 1500 tickets and trying to secure more space to sell more) draws speakers from all over the world.  These include speakers from Automatic (the owners of WordPress) and other companies, such as iThemes, that are world renowned for their plug-ins and themes.

Don’t just sit there…

Make the most of the generous nature of all these people willing to share these knowledge with you.  I’m sure that I will be attending other, smaller events during the year.  After all you can’t be over educated, can you?

Oggcamp 12

I decided  a while back that I would make the effort to visit Oggcamp 12 this year.

When it came time to head off to Liverpool though, I was filled with doubt. Despite really looking forward to meeting the guys from the Ubuntu Podcast and the Linux Outlaws, I was taking a couple of days off from a really high pressure project and was feeling guilty. A number of questions were running around my head as I settled down on the train….

  • Would the trip be worth spending time away from the project?
  • Was I techie enough to get the most out of the trip?
  • Is everyone there already going to know each other and I would end up drinking in a corner on my own.

At least I knew the last of these questions wasn’t going to be too much of an issue.  My son had also decided that he wanted to attend and was also heading to Liverpool and would be meeting me later that evening.  As long as he wasn’t too embarrassed by his dad  I would have at least one drinking companion.

As it turned out none of my fears were justified.  Even whilst checking on at the hotel, Tony   Whitmore from the Ubuntu Podcast team, who was already checking in, chatted to me and made me feel welcomed.  Once we hit the bar later that night, there were plenty of others happy and eager to chat.  Already this was turning out to be the most friendly and open techie gathering I had attended.  And I’ve attended quite a few all over the world.

Once the (un)conference got under way, the biggest problem ended up being an embarrassment of riches in terms of everything on offer.  Sessions on open source and privacy from the likes of Simon Phipps president of  the OSI and  Ross Gardler from OSS Watch rubbed shoulders with Pete Lomas, Managing Director Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and a specially recorded video from Stephen Fry.

Whist all this was going on there was a floor of hacker areas, with everything from Raspberry Pi’s for sale and free components being given away, to automated sewing machines, arduino projects and makerbots.

On top of all this, on Sunday there were a series of lightening talks from attendees.

On the Social side, Saturday night saw a great party with 20lbs of Sound providing a great set of music and brilliant company.  I was able to meet up and share beverages with Gary a fellow British Tech Network listener from the South Coast (thanks Ewen), Ian from Ireland, a couple of fellow Scottish attendees and even Pete Lomas.  I cannot get over just how friendly everyone was.

I even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.

I will definitely be back again next year.  If Oggcamp 13 has exactly the same content as Oggcamp 12 there would still be enough items that I didn’t see this year to keep me occupied and lots of new friends to see again.

Thanks to everyone who put Oggcamp together. You did a mighty fine job and I look forward to seeing you all again.