Earlier this week, Pippin Williamson stopped by ManageWP to do a cheeky AMA. People asked the successful plugin developer everything from, what it felt like to be homeschooled to what he would change about WordPress core.
Williamson has written more than 200 plugins, is the CEO of three e-commerce companies, and co hosts a popular podcast dedicated to WordPress called Apply Filters.
He managed to answer quite a few questions. Let’s take a look at some of the main takeaways.
Managing multiple projects is both rewarding and difficult.
Williamson spoke about how rewarding and difficult it can be to manage more than one project at a time. “One aspect that I believe has helped me juggle several companies at one time is that they are all closely related,” he said.
Williamson explained that multitasking is something he has been skilled at since college, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You just have to be ready for what is ahead, and ask for help when you need it. He also finds it helpful to jump in between projects frequently so one doesn’t get stale.
Finally, while big projects pay off more financially, Williamson advised to stay away from them until you are absolutely ready.
One of the most important things Williamson brought up is that with this business there isn’t necessarily a concrete path for where you should go with WordPress. If you just love developing, keep doing that. If you want to move into the product space and start working with something different, just start messing around with some stuff. Find what part of the platform you love, and then figure out a way to monetize that.
Williamson is confident about the future of WordPress.
Several questions were geared towards the future of WordPress. Williamson emphasized the significant impact that the WP REST API will have on the platform.
“WordPress will be the backbone that drives many larger non-WordPress specific applications, entirely due to the introduction of the REST API.”
When asked about the future of themes, Williamson said that the most successful themes are those that work with large-scale plugins. He expects niche themes to continue to do well, “Large-scale niche themes are the ones that will succeed, with a few rare cases of wildly successful ‘standard’ themes.”
One thing Williamson said he would like to see in the future is the promotion of premium plugins. He explained that the power of the platform lies with plugins and not themes, which WordPress already promotes regularly.
“Plugins will be (and already are) the foundation of the ‘WordPress as an application framework’ movement,” he said.
He plans on homeschooling his children.
A couple people asked Williamson how he thinks being homeschooled affected his adult life. Though he said he has no way of knowing how things would be different if he had gone to public or private school as a child, Williamson said his ability to play and learn on his own shaped the way he looks at things now. He plans to homeschool his two daughters until they are old enough to make their own decision about their education.
When building add-ons for your plugin, be in control of the important features.
Williamson had a few key pieces of advice for creating add-ons for a plugin. First, be careful and wary of third-party vendors. It can be exciting to have interest in your work, but they’re not all going to be reliable or safe, so make sure you know who you’re working with. Second, do the primary work yourself. You can ask for help later down the line, but you want to be in control of the most important features.
Lastly, manage those add-ons even after they’ve launched. Know when one needs to be updated or how you can improve upon another. It’s important to always know the progress and next steps. If you don’t keep up with them, people will lose interest.
As far as creating a new plugin goes, Williamson insisted that the more niche, the better. If you direct a plugin at a certain crowd of users, it is more likely to get attention than if it is incredibly general and has to compete against many others like it. He admitted he has not found a boilerplate he really likes, and continually encouraged uniqueness.
A sour beer is best sipped warm.
Williamson is an avid craft beer drinker and brewer and fielded many questions about how to brew, how not to brew, how to drink a sour, and what he would name his own brewery. The answers were straightforward: pay attention to proper temperature control, make sure the lid on your keg is securely fastened, and sours are best sipped when they are warm.
As for his own brewery, he plans to name it Sandhills, after his childhood home in Kansas.
Williamson listed some of the tricks that have made a big difference for his brews.
“There’s no one thing I’ve done that has truly elevated the quality of my beer, rather it has improved through a combination of various things. To list a few: temperature control, healthy yeast cultures, accurate measurements, fresh grain (going all grain alone will most likely change your beer quality a lot).”
He also credits his successful brewing techniques to reading lots of books and online articles and listening to brewing podcasts.