Nathan Wrigley: 00:00:00 Welcome to episode 21 of the PressForward podcast. I’m Nathan Wrigley and I’d like to thank you for joining us again and if this is your first time with us, I hope that you like it and that you find it useful. The PressForward podcast is created by WP and UP. We’re a nonprofit working in the WordPress space to help you or your colleagues. In fact, anyone you can find out more about the mission at WP and UP.org we’d love for you to get involved with WP and UP and this can be done in many ways. You could talk about this podcast on social media or talk about it on your own website. You could rate it on apple podcasts or you can subscribe to us on your favorite podcast player, which can be done by going to WP and UP.org forward slash podcast dash feed does. A couple of things that I’d like to tell you about this week.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:01:30 If you’ve listened in before, you’ll know about the head to project that we’ve created. It’s a 3000 kilometer bike ride that members of WP and UP are undertaking next year. The intention is to show that little changes can have a big impact over time. You see, we’re not athletes and we’re getting on with our lives while adapting them slightly to accommodate the time needed to train for this ride. We’ve started to draw up our plans and to modify our lives slightly, taking great care about what we eat and drink, as well as making sure that we exercise more. We’re figuring this all out as we go. How long should each day of the ride be? What kind of exercise regime should we undertake to prepare us best? Should we choose a route which avoids inner cities and instead to take cycle paths? We don’t really have the answers yet, but we’ve committed to working together regularly to make the project to success. We’ll be creating more content about this project in the future and we’ll try to be as open as possible about how it all evolves. If you’re interested in any aspect of this project or how you could help, how you can spread the word, please go to head to WP and UP dot org
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Nathan Wrigley: 00:03:27 If you happen to be a regular listener to the PressForward podcast, then you’ll know that a few months ago we took a team to WordCamp EU in Berlin. I was tasked with interviewing as many WordPress’s as possible. It was great standing in the corridor watching the nearly 3000 attendees file in and out of the talks. The fact that we chose the corridor was great. It meant that people could find us easily, but it also meant that there was quite a lot of background noise. The interviews were really varied and you can catch the ones that you perhaps have already missed by going to the PressForward. Podcast feed WP and UP.org forward slash podcasts
Nathan Wrigley: 00:04:09 Okay, so on to today’s episode today I talk with Gary Pendergast. Gary has been working with WordPress for a long time and his many contributions have really shaped the way that WordPress has developed. He’s an employee of Auttomatic, but succumbed it back into the open source project on a full time basis. We talk about how he got started with WordPress, what he’s been involved in, and where he hopes the project goes in the future. Having been the project lead for multiple releases, we talk about what that responsibility feels like being the person to push the commit button and update hundreds of thousands of sites. We get into his love of the WordPress community and how he regards it as somewhat special. A place in which he’s made real friends over the years. He’s a very knowledgeable WordPress contributor and much of his work will no doubt have been used by you at some point. He’s also a very calming figure and somebody that I warmed to very much in our short time together. And so without further ado, I bring you Gary Pendergast.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:05:27 So I’m joined, well I should probably say where we are to begin with. We are in, in exactly where our, we were outside of track one yeah. In WordCamp. And I’m joined today by Gary Pendergast. Hello, Gary. I there, it’s how you doing here. Very good book.
Gary Pendergast: 00:05:42 Yeah. Um, have you come, I’m detecting from your accent, but you might be from Australia. I am indeed. It’s a straight, it’s a, it’s a long way to travel, but yes, I have come over from Australia to visit, uh, visit Berlin.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:05:56 Have you just come in for this or just for this?
Gary Pendergast: 00:05:59 Like I arrived a few days ago for a, had a few meetings and that kind of thing, but um, yeah, maybe I’ve working at Europe then I kind of again, do you do this stuff quite a lot? Oh yeah. A few times a year, like I’ll come to the big WordCamps and fly around a bit, talk to people about WordPress and uh, and that kind of thing.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:06:17 You’re quite serious about WordPress, aren’t you?
Gary Pendergast: 00:06:19 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, I’ve been, uh, I’ve kind of employed to, oh, well I’m, I’m, my time is donated fulltime to the WordPress project. So I work on WordPress core and kind of talk to people and help people get, get started with contributing and anything really that needs to be done.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:06:35 How does it work? What, when you say your time has been donated, what does that mean?
Gary Pendergast: 00:06:40 So I, uh, I’m employed by Auttomatic, uh, but my, my role is to work on the WordPress open source project. And so it means that while, while I’m certainly, uh, uh, the, I mean employed by Auttomatic and I, and I get kind of that internal view of like WordPress.com and jetpack and the products that we provide, my main focus and my priorities are the WordPress open source project. And sometimes that, sometimes that aligns with what Auttomatic needs. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m always, always consider Auttomatic is just being a one constituent in the, in the WordPress world. Did, did you, did you get employed by Auttomatic on the strength of things that you’ve done for the WordPress project? I didn’t actually start contributing to WordPress core until after I joined Auttomatic. Uh, I’d, uh, I’d really only kind of found out about, uh, uh, I built, built a site for WordPress many years ago.
Gary Pendergast: 00:07:46 Um, I’d picked up some contract work and uh, ended up writing some plugins and found out about Auttomatic then and was like, oh, they sound like a cool company. I think I’ll apply to join. And I started working for Auttomatic and then kind of switched over to working on WordPress core as well.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:08:00 Do you ever get, is there ever a conflict of interest where the stuff that you want to do for WordPress that you said it might not always align with what Auttomatic one is the, is there some sort of mechanism for, what’s the word for being told? No, no, no. You must do it this way or are you completely autonomous?
Gary Pendergast: 00:08:15 I think, well, I’ve never been in a situation where some, where there was a clash between what medic wanted and what was the right thing for WordPress. There’s, and that’s part of, like, we, WordPress is a very extensible extendable tool as we can. There’s always a case of if someone, um, whether it be Auttomatic or any, anyone really who uses WordPress, if they need a filter or an action to, um, to hook into somewhere in WordPress, then we can just put that in and they can do their own thing. Do you, um, in Australia is word PR, like we’re stood in about three, there’s about 3000 people roughly attending this. Um, so it’s, it’s pretty big in Europe, you know, go, go, go to the UK. There’s a lot of people using WordPress. Same in Australia, same sort of community spirit, same event set up all. Absolutely. So it’s, it’s the same kind of thing in Australia as well. There, there are meetups in all the, all the major cities and, um, some of the smaller regional cities as well. There are, uh, pretty regular WordCamps. And I think perhaps because we’re, uh, Australians are just kind of used to having a fly a long way to get to anywhere, then it’s true.
Gary Pendergast: 00:09:27 Then it’s a case of, Oh, I only have to fly two hours to get to this WordCamp. So that’s fine.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:09:31 And um, do you, do you kind of like come to these events thinking, okay, I’m going to go to socialize, I’m going to go to talks, I’m going to hang out in the hallway. Do you have like an agenda? Have you gone through the list going, oh, we’re going to do that, going to do that, going to listen to them?
Gary Pendergast: 00:09:46 Yeah, certainly. Like I’ll be, uh, I’ll be going to go and do a few talks and a lot of what I’m here is to here to do is because I’m working on WordPress core itself. Then there’ll be, there’s a lot of other people who do that are part time or full time. So being able to have some, have some face to face time with people who are effectively my colleagues, even if we’re not employed by the same companies. Uh, it’s, it’s, it’s fun to hang out and just, just have some social time.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:10:13 Yeah. And Auttomatic. I think I could be wrong about this. Correct. The numbers. I think there’s 900.
Gary Pendergast: 00:10:19 Yeah, it’s about 900 now. It’s growing very big.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:10:22 How, how does that even work? How do you get anything done? How do you coordinate what must be done?
Gary Pendergast: 00:10:27 I mean it’s, it’s, it’s certainly grown a lot from its early days. When I, when I first started contracting for Auttomatic, that was about 20 people. And then, and then when I came out, when I came on full time, it was about a hundred people. And it’s just blown since then. And it’s, we, we have a lot of people working on different things is there’s people who work on WordPress core, there’s people who work on the WordPress mobile apps. There’s people who work on WordPress.com or jet pack or woo commerce, or we have a huge a, we call our support engineers, our support people, happiness engineers. It’s their, their job is to engineer happiness. And so we have a huge group of people whose job is to make sure that our customers can do what they want with WordPress.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:11:08 And in the same way that all the, all the people who are into the WordPress project come to a place like this. Do you ever get 900 of you actually in the same place at the same time to, you know, shake hands and yeah. Say Hello.
Gary Pendergast: 00:11:21 So once a year we have the, what we call the grand meetup as the full company gets together in one place. A, what if anything goes wrong. I mean, for the critical teams, there are considerations that, you know, we don’t fly all of systems on the same plane. Um, and we have, uh, again, with happiness because we need, we need to be able to have happiness engineers need to be available for our customers. So some will be flying in a little bit early or leaving a little bit later to make sure that there’s always someone, someone online when, uh, when they need help.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:11:54 Yeah, you can’t make that mistake. So w where, where was the last one?
Gary Pendergast: 00:11:59 Uh, well both last year and this year again we’ll be in Orlando, Florida. So a bit of a Disney Disney adventure. It’s fun. It’s, um, it’s also the company’s getting so big that we actually need to go rent a Disney land. We, we, we need to basically hire out an entire hotel.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:12:17 And um, how can you account like, how, how, and why, why did WordPress get so big? How has it become this behemoth, this 34% of the Internet thing? Why, why wasn’t it Drupal? Why wasn’t it Joomla? What, what makes WordPress special?
Gary Pendergast: 00:12:35 I think there are a couple of key key things there. I think the, the focus on the user experience was always really important to WordPress. It’s always been that way and always about making, making it look nice, making you’d be able to make a site that looks good, a really simply. And the other thing I think was key was, uh, the, how we always focus on backwards compatibility and making sure we don’t break, break things so that you can always click, click upgrade and, or getting on our upgrade and it will Auttomatically work. So people can write, write plugins and write themes for WordPress and know that they’ll just keep working. They don’t need to, um, be constantly having to rewrite their stuff just to, just to keep it working with the latest, latest version.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:13:22 Yeah. For me it was all about like what you just said when I was using Drupal for years, I really enjoyed it. Great. Great platforms still like it. Um, but when I, when I came across WordPress for the first time, I’ve only been using it for about five years. The first thing immediately for me is, Oh, it looks really nice. It actually looks attractive. I don’t have to, you know, it’s not ugly. That was, that was a really important thing. So you’ve come to Word Camp in Europe, you know, you’ve told us a little bit about what you’re going to do. Tell us who you’re excited to see, what, what specific talks are you going to go to?
Gary Pendergast: 00:13:52 Oh Wow. I think I’m, I mean I always enjoy like met some or update. Yeah, he’s, he’s the whole thing is, so that’s part of it. And having it is kind of nice to have that, that person who can, who can kind of be the face of WordPress and who can give that, uh, that broad view of what’s going on and what’s, what’s the plan with WordPress and also I think, uh, customize it or be, we’re in, we’re in Europe, we’re working up Europe, we, um, customize it a bit for European audience. So we’re, um, well, you know, we see with like the GDPR and some of the upcoming, um, privacy legislation in the EU that you, Europeans are more privacy conscious than an American audience might be, or even an Australian audience. So being able to talk about how WordPress is working towards something that works for works for everyone around the world, regardless of what their specific priorities are, I think is, it’s important to.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:14:54 Um, you were talking earlier about backwards compatibility. Is there any ever been a time where you’ve had to not do things which might have been in the best interests of WordPress in order to keep it compatible?
Gary Pendergast: 00:15:08 I think, um, I don’t know that we’ve necessarily had to not do things. It perhaps we’ve had to do things in a different way or we’ve had to take more time to do them in a way that’s backwards is compatible. Um, I kind of look at it as it’s better for me to spend six months working on working on making a, uh, working on making something that works for everyone versus I spend a week, but then 10,000 developers around the world have to spend two days. So the, the time trade off is kind of a really, really simple to choose that trade off. A good example was, um, several years ago there was, there was a security issue in WordPress. Um, just kind of come to be known as the Trojan Emoji bug where you could, you could, you could trigger it by, by if you put an Emoji in a comment field, they knew there was a way. You’re able to, uh, break into the site, um, to fix a simple fix. It took me about half an hour to write it. Unfortunately, it would have broken 90 odd percent of WordPress.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:16:18 Oh, okay.
Gary Pendergast: 00:16:18 So it was, it was better for, um, for myself and for several members of the security team to take close to a year. I think, uh, it took us to write something that worked in a completely backwards compatible way and it just, we rolled it out and there was a few minor bugs, but nothing, nothing serious. And it, every WordPress site just kept running but was also protected. There was no longer this, this giant security issue that needed to be fixed.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:16:47 Do you ever, do you ever hover over that commit button with trepidation and fear that, is there ever, ever a point where you’re thinking, Hey, I definitely don;t wanna do this!
Gary Pendergast: 00:16:56 The commitment and not so much? It’s we, we kind of, I mean, it’s all, it’s all version control. So if something’s broken, we can roll it back. Uh, it’s still like even after leading multiple releases and many security releases and minor releases and all that kind of thing, it’s still when it comes to actually clicking the button to release a version of WordPress to know that it’s going to be like the instant I pushed that out, it’s going to be rolling out to tens or hundreds of thousands of sites a minute. Um, it’s always a little bit, okay, have I done everything? Have I gone through the checklist and am I sure at all it’s all ready to go.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:17:31 You have like procedures about times of day that you’ve got to do it. So for example, if you’ve got to do it when you arrive to work, if you like, so that you’ve got the rest of the day, should something go wrong.
Gary Pendergast: 00:17:39 for releases, we tend to aim for particularly security releases. We tend to aim for middle of the week, so it’s not going to cross over into people’s weekends. And usually during it’ll be, it would be like late afternoon Europe time, daytime us time. Uh, it might be early morning for Australia or Asia, but that’ll also be up in a couple of hours. So we found that that’s, that gives us a good crossover for everyone. Um, so that they, they need to be pushing out updates to their systems as quickly as possible and they can do that.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:18:13 How much autonomy do you have as a core contributor to, to push the button? Is there like a, a protocol that you’ve got to go through, including checks and balances from x, y, and zed person? Or is it very, you can do what you want?
Gary Pendergast: 00:18:25 I mean, strictly speaking, yes, I can just do it, but it’s also a case of I’m not able to do that without people seeing, oh, what are you doing? Let’s go now. It’s a, there are, and where we’re looking at that too, like how we can, um, uh, protect that, um, make, make updates more secure. So part of that is in recent releases, when are signing the packages.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:18:51 Yeah, that sounds good.
Gary Pendergast: 00:18:53 Makes sure that we’re, uh, that nobody’s kind of attacking the packages and trying to try and get people to download. The wrong thing and the other. Um, and so then we’re looking at how we can, uh, automate more of the building of the packages and have some sort of sign off system where two people need to click a button before, uh, before it will actually push the package out.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:19:14 Oh, nice. So it’s not all on Gary shoulders. He can make you sleep better at night if you were like, if you were beginning with WordPress. Now let’s say that this is your first event. You’ve never, you’ve, you’ve installed WordPress a couple of times and done a few things. You Think, oh, well, I like WordPress. How do you, how do you get involved? How do you begin to, um, become somebody that is contributing to WordPress itself?
Gary Pendergast: 00:19:37 Yes. I guess it kind of depends upon what you, what you want to do and how you, how you think you’d like to contribute. I mean, I, I come from a development background, so certainly that’s, I look at how, how you can code for WordPress, but whether you happen to be a designer or a community organizer or you happen to be good at writing documentation, um, there are plenty of different ways. And so we have a site called make WordPress. It make.WordPress.org and that’s kind of where the different teams that have different focuses on, uh, on WordPress there. That’s where they all have their, they have their, uh, blogs where there’ll be posting updates, what they’re working on. Then we also use slack for communicating for, for meetings and for chatting. Um, it’s, it’s very much about having a community of people who are all working towards the same thing but are able to find, find their niche and able to find a place where they feel they are able to contribute to work.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:20:31 And yesterday of course there was the contributor day. Yeah. Um, again, for somebody who’s listening to this, they may not even vaguely know what that is. What, what, what is that? What do people do when they come to a contributor day at a WordCamp?
Gary Pendergast: 00:20:44 So it’s, um, they’ve even contributed days have evolved. They back very, very early on. They used to be called developer days. Like it was very development focused, but that’s not what it is anymore. It’s about all of the different ways that you can, um, contribute to WordPress. And it’s about having effectively being able to sit down at a table with someone who’s been contributing for awhile in whatever area you’re interested in. And uh, being able to talk through with them like, how do we, how do we do this? And they were able to point out, hey, here are some easy issues that might like to start. Um, the, there’s, I mean, even beyond the ones that I mentioned, like there’s marketing team or the, the polyglots team who work on translations and stuff.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:21:26 That’s a very cool word. But, so you, you don’t need to be a coder. I mean the, the breadth and depth of it is pretty astonishing. You know, I was talking to somebody yesterday and their job would come trip day was to, was to try and work out a process for subtitling the WordPress.tv talks so that that could be automated so that, you know, it could go straight into German or straight into whatever English, you know, any kind of language. So there’s, there’s absolutely tons of scope. Would you, would you say that like a word camp, something like this is a good place to start or would you advise people to kind of get online and go to make.WordPress.org to begin with? Is it, well, yeah. What’s your thoughts on that?
Gary Pendergast: 00:22:04 I think that they’re, I mean, they’re both valid ways to start. If you’re able to attend a working, then it’s, it’s really, really, uh, it’s really helpful to be able to talk to someone in person and kind of, uh, get an idea of, of what you can do even if you don’t go to contributor day. Most, most WordCamps we’ll have a table with a how to start contributing information, how you, and there’ll be people who can talk, talk to you about that. Um, going, if you’re not able to attend a WordCamp, then certainly going online will, will help. Like all of the teams have some sort of a, uh, uh, a meeting for where you can, where you can turn up and there’ll be, and they’ll walk you through, uh, how you can get started with their particular team.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:22:46 Yeah. With this, with events like this, do you turn up and, and find that you’ve actually, I can use the word mates. Have you, have you got actual real absolutely sitting WordPress?
Gary Pendergast: 00:22:56 Yeah. These are, there are plenty of people who I’ve been working with for so long and it’s a search. It’s not just a thing where, you know, you’re working in a, a kind of a stereotypical office environment and you’re, you’re there from nine to five and, and that’s it. No, these are, these are people who are genuine friends who have been, uh, who, like I’ve met their families and we’ve hung out together. And it’s not just about work, it’s about just, uh, we, we enjoy each other’s company.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:23:22 Do you, do you come to these things with like a, a barrage of people who you want to see and catch up with and you knows you’ve got your laundry list of good mates?
Gary Pendergast: 00:23:31 I certainly like there’s, there’s always people that are wanting to catch up with, but there’s the, this WordCamp I think is what 3000 people attending. It’s huge. I’m never going to be able to meet everyone who I, who I might know. But um, it’s also like I’m here to meet new people as well. Like there’s, there’s plenty of people who, for whom this is their first WordCamp offer or they haven’t contributed to before. I think we had, uh, just to contribute a day yesterday, there was some, 160 something, uh, people who’ve never contributed to WordPress before and they were, they were there to make their first, uh, their first effort. And so that was really cool to see.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:24:09 The first time I came to a word camp, I kind of stood and it was a bit awkward. And you know, no mates sort of stood in a corner and kind of expected it. Cause I’d heard about these WordCamps. I kind of expected it to be just easy and I’d stand in the room and people would flock to walls and me not knowing who I was, but then kind of figured out, okay, I’ve got to make a bit of an effort and yeah, I’m exactly like you. I’ve got a whole bunch of people I want to see when I come to these things. And they, and they genuinely are like real friends. I mean, you know, modern social media, it’s easy to sort of keep up with these people. But yeah, that, I think this community is pretty remarkable. I don’t know of anybody who works in another industry who has anything but dread about going, you know the idea, I’ve got to go to a conference in Berlin for three days. This idea, I’ve got to go to a conference. So not we’ve been voted, but I’m delighted to be here. It’s amazing.
Gary Pendergast: 00:25:02 And that’s why I, why I fly from Australia. Like I’m not going to get on a plane and fly for 30 hours to go to a conference. I don’t want to be at. Um, I’m here because I genuinely enjoy it because there are people that I really actually want to see and hang out with. And there’s, it’s, I mean, I’ve been doing WordPress for so long now, but there’s always something new that I learned here.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:25:21 Yeah. Speaking of new, well not, not so much new, do you think? So if we, if we rolled back the clock 10 years, this event would be, it wouldn’t be here for a start, but the whole WordPress thing would be considerably smaller. Do you think in 10 years time we’ll still be talking about WordPress? Do you think there’s a bright future for it too? Do you foresee a, a nice horizon or is it…
Gary Pendergast: 00:25:41 I think so. I think, I mean, I think what we’re looking at in 10 years’ time where we’re certainly looking at a WordPress that’s continuing to grow, uh, like it’s, it’s not about, um, I don’t think WordPress is slowing down anytime soon. It’s even if you look at the basic, the basic stats that week that we kind of measure 30 something percent of sites of the top, however many sites use WordPress and those numbers continue to grow. It’s not, it’s not some way where, where we’re slowing down. I think it’s the WordPress that we, that we see today will be different to the WordPress that we see in 10 years. Certainly. Um, where, uh, for even the basic, the obvious things like where mobile as moving was rapidly moving towards the dominant platform. It’s majority the dominant platform. It’s moving towards being the really the only platform. So like we can certainly see where WordPress will look different. But I think as a community, um, we’ll still be, we’ll still be able to grow and keep that same kind of feel that where we’re meeting with friends, that’s the technology that we happen to use doesn’t really make it,
Nathan Wrigley: 00:26:53 do you, do you work on things in the dark? Do you, do you have things like that, that sort of top level if you like, are the things that you’re working on which are not necessarily for public consumption, which might, you know, might be what WordPress looks like in 10 years or is everything out in the open, you know, we can all inspect what you’re working on or the, do you want me to reveal?
Gary Pendergast: 00:27:18 honestly, it’s, it’s, it’s very, very open. Like the things that I’m working on are open source. Like it’s, and that’s, and that’s one of the things I love is that I’m able to give all of this all the way back. I’m not just working on this app to make, uh, to make some bank an extra 0.5% richer or something. It’s, it’s, it’s something about, uh, being able to build something that matters and build it in a way that people are able to take it and use it and change it and learn from it. And, uh, and really, um, I think it’s about having, having that, having that community that where we’re all able to contribute to. Um, and I’m able to contribute in, in my way. And you’re, you’re able to contribute in your way with, with this podcast and people contribute in all sorts of ways. Um, it’s about all of us coming together with our individual strengths to make something bigger than that.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:28:20 Yeah. That’s, that’s a nice answer. Do you find, do you find like in life, so before you got sort of into WordPress and things, did, did you find yourself to be the kind of person that needed, needed to do important work? Something which was like, like had a bit of moral backbone to something that felt significant and meaningful. And do you feel that about WordPress, do you think? Do you think like, as an example, if I, if I like, I’m not trying to denigrate this, but if for example, I worked, I don’t know, like you said in a bank and the whole purpose of my existence was to generate this half percent extra or to, you know, make the shareholders happy. I, I don’t think that would speak to me. I think ultimately I would feel a bit miserable doing that.
Gary Pendergast: 00:29:01 I think it’s, I think it’s a case of finding meaning. It’s if, if like I’ve, I’ve found a job that I enjoy and I feel that, that, that, that is gives meaning, but also if you do happen to work in a, in an office job where it’s just a nine to five and you, uh, and you go to work, you do your thing and you go home and, uh, and that’s it, you, um, you will have meaning in other ways, whether it, whether it be friends and family, whether it be social issues, weather, whatever it happens to be. It’s, um, I think everyone makes their own meaning. Um, it’s no better or worse for it to be, uh, for it to be a why open source project like WordPress versus raising a family versus having a, having a group of friends that support each other versus, uh, taking care of your community.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:29:57 I am always trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this community special because that, that is the talk, right? Everybody talks about how great the WordPress community is and I am often wrangling with, okay, why is that? How is it that 3000 people can get together in a space and it’s a nice event. You know, when people aren’t that there’s, well, the ego seems to be nowhere in existence. You know, people are just genuinely open. And so I’m always thinking, what is it about these people that makes them so well that makes it such a nice community to be in. Do you feel that though? Do you feel it?
Gary Pendergast: 00:30:36 I think it’s, I think it’s intentional like this a, it’s not an accident that WordPress is a nice community to be in. It’s, it’s the people who are, uh, in leadership, whether it be from Matt down from Matt or Josepha or it’s a thing that I care about. It’s a thing that a core developers care about and lead designers and community leads that people want this to be a nice space. And so they put the work in to make it a nice space.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:31:04 Yeah. I can’t quite, I can’t pin it. I wish I could, but I have that conversation on a sort of weekly basis, you know, why, why is it so not, and I have no idea why it’s so nice. Is there anything in your time working with WordPress? Any one story that you think that was, that was the highlight of it so far? All my WordPress things. If I could repeat one moment.
Gary Pendergast: 00:31:26 I think, I think it’s really the, the moments with friends that come to mind. It’s like we kind of have, I mean, even even looking at this from a work on WordPress core, and I work with the developers and the developers and we can kind of, uh, it can be easy to forget that everyone there, they’re making this, they might be making decisions about WordPress and they might be, uh, and it might be sometimes it’s something you disagree with, but at the end of the day, they’re still people. And so, oh, these, these are people who are, who are my friends who I’ve worked with for a long time, who, uh, I’ll, I’ll come to these events and we’ll, we’ll hang out and we’ll, we’ll have fun times and we’ll kind of just kick back and chat. It’s, it’s, those are the things that I really, that I find that I remember.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:32:17 Yeah, that’s, that’s a nice on. So, um, how, how do you overcome disagreements with the direction that things should be going? So I don’t really have an example of that. But you know, there must’ve been situations in the past where, and a significant amount of people thought this is where we should go and we’d like to do this to WordPress. And some people said, no, we want it to stay just how it is or modify. How do you, is it like a, is it like a personality contest to somebody you have the final vote out? How do things get done as opposed to not to get done?
Gary Pendergast: 00:32:49 Um, I think, I mean, as Matt’s position is the project lead. And so at the end of the day it is matched decision if something is going to happen or not. And that’s, um, I think that’s an important aspect of, of that. It’s an, like I, I do work closely with Matt, so I’ve, um, I, I can say that he, like he’s always open to listening to arguments and he, he wants to hear like, why, why you feel it, I get this might not be a good idea or we could do this differently. Um, so I think we can have those genuine discussions. And figure out a way that works for everyone. There’s, it’s very, very rare that there’s a business situation where it’s the, the, the problem is, uh, so polar opposite that you can’t possibly come to a middle ground. It’s either one thing or the other. And uh, there’s no in between. The vast majority of the time it’s, there’s a way that we can make it work for everyone.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:33:49 Yeah. How do you feel? So you know where I’m going. How do you feel about like the last, well, when was it? November the 11th, I think. Something like that. The whole Gutenberg thing. Cause that’s been an interesting six months, hasn’t it? Your law. Do you feel happy where we are now? Is it, is it got the, has it got the, um, the support that you’d hoped it would?
Gary Pendergast: 00:34:10 I think, yeah, I think, I think it’s moving in a good direction. We, it was certainly a controversial change. Um, and uh, in, in, in some ways that was certainly on, uh, uh, on people like me who are in that leadership team who are, for whatever reason, we didn’t make it to communicate why this change was important and what, what it means and how you could come along and how you could, uh, change your, change your staff to work, to work with it. Um, I don’t know that we necessarily communicated that as well as we could have, but I think, um, I think also this is a strength of the WordPress community that we had, that we had that disagreement. And then at the end of the day, as I said, Matt, as the project lead, he made that decision. It was released and people have it. It does feel like the entire community is kind of taking a step back and going, okay, this is the, this is how we’re working with it now. This is how we can, this is what we can do. Whether it be I need to use the classic editor plugin for a while or a need to update my plugins or my themes to take advantage of Gutenberg. I think that people are looking at it from a very practical viewpoint.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:35:27 Yeah. Did, um, so we talked a moment ago about how nice the WordPress community is. This was an example where potentially, you know, there were, there were disagreement. We say you can, you can ask this question how you like really, I d do you ever, does it ever get to you on sort of like a personal level? Do you ever sort of feel, oh, leave me alone, you know?
Gary Pendergast: 00:35:45 Absolutely. I’m, I’m still a person too. Like I, uh, and it’s, it can be, it can be difficult to remember that we were, even when we’re having these strong disagreements where people are, people are extraordinarily passionate about, uh, the, that whatever the topic has to be. Gutenberg, uh, for this instance, we can still have those disagreements and then move on from them and come back together and be like, and be, and realize that we can, uh, we can keep together. And build and keep building WordPress into, into this really cool thing.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:36:22 Do you get a sense that that’s happened. Like there’s been sort of a healing process. D Do you feel that that heat has gone down a little bit?
Gary Pendergast: 00:36:27 In a lot of ways, yes. Um, I think that there’s still, um, there are still ways that we can make it better where, um, whether it be helping people move their, uh, moved their stuff over to Gutenberg or, uh, continuing to kind of explain what what’s happening or give people more insight to how these decisions are made. And, uh, I think that that kind of openness, which WordPress’s, uh, WordPress has always been about openness. So ensuring that where even if, uh, um, like I might feel as a person in leadership that it, that I’m open and explaining my, uh, actions and decisions if the rest of the community doesn’t feel that being clearly there, there’s clearly work to be done to bridge that gap. And so there’s still work to be done to talk about how decisions are made and how people can get involved and how people can, uh, can help, help affect change. But I don’t think that there’s something inherently broken. It’s, it’s something that we just need to, uh, to work on helping everyone get involved.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:37:44 Have there been steps taken to sort of, you talked earlier about, you know, it may have been a, um, a communications thing, have, have things been sort of modified, changed in order to communicate future things differently?
Gary Pendergast: 00:37:58 Absolutely. So I think, um, uh, if you, um, if you follow the make, uh, the make WordPress site and in particular make updates is a central one. Looking at a broader project view. Um, Joe Sephora as WordPress executive director as being has been talking a lot about how, uh, how leadership is structured in WordPress and how we can, um, how we can standardize it across all the teams and how we can document it and how people can, uh, feel confident that they can get involved. Um, and so I think that that’s obviously important topic to the, to the wider WordPress community. And so that’s something that we want to make sure that WordPress is adjusting itself to.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:38:42 It’s just in the, in the very, very near future. So by that I mean six months, a year, something like that. Is there anything that you’re excited about, something that you think this is, this is such a nice feature that we’re going to add?
Gary Pendergast: 00:38:54 I think, uh, certainly how Gutenberg is continuing to evolve. It’s like where it’s, it’s moving beyond kind of this page editor into this more full site editor. I think that that’s, um, that’s really exciting to see where that goes. And you can see some, you can see early experiments, you know, do, if you install a Gutenberg plugin where it’s continuing to evolve, continuing to kind of evolve and um, uh, there are, there are other plugins where people are experimenting. Oh, hey, what happens if you, what happens if we build something that people can, uh, can do entire site layouts with? Um, like there’s, it’s everything. There is an iteration so we can get it out there and people can try it out and give some feedback and we can iterate on it. I think that’s very cool.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:39:45 Do you think that’s where it will end up? You know, so slightly more long term, a couple of years from now. Do you think we’ll, do you think WordPress will be like a page builder kind of product?
Gary Pendergast: 00:39:56 I think in some ways yes. It may not. Like when you, when you say page builder, it brings to mind like the, these uh, huge complex customizable systems which will, which will always have a place like. There are always going to be sites that need that, but WordPress core itself might not need to have that kind of level of uh, customizability and that kind of level of being able to tweak every single setting. But as WordPress has always done it, it’ll have a way for plugins to hook into that and provide that extendability.
Gary Pendergast: 00:40:27 The, the, the thing I suppose from, from the end user’s point of view like me is we don’t have any oversight into the, the amount of people who are, who are using things and therefore, you know, it’s got to be at least this minimum thing and we can’t, we can’t add every bell and every whistle. Otherwise it becomes completely unusable for the vast majority. Absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, how many, how many, how many websites roughly do t know? How big is WordPress?
Gary Pendergast: 00:40:52 I mean, we talk about it being 30 something percent of the, it’s a, they mention the top 10 million sites, but also if you extend that to the entire Internet, there are, it’s kind of interesting that you don’t really know how many websites there are because it’s just impossible to measure. Just by the way the Internet works, we can’t realize whether they, like if there’s a billion sites, we could potentially extrapolate that and say there are, there might be a a hundred million WordPress sites.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:41:21 Are there any, are there any things that you, you feel, um, in your time doing WordPress you wish you’d done differently? Like, Oh, you know, that would have been a, it would’ve been a nice, nice thing not to have happened or, you know, you hit the commit button accidentally or something like that.
Gary Pendergast: 00:41:37 I think are there, there are plenty of commits where I’ve had to go, Whoa, wait, I, I really messed that one up. But again, because it’s all, it’s just code so it can always be fixed up and it can always be changed or reverted. Um, I don’t think there’s ever really been anything that I’ve gone, we shouldn’t have done that. It’s always a case of maybe something could’ve been done better and we then proceed to do it better. Um, whether there happens to be code or whether that ad happens to be talking about something that’s coming up, it’s, um, there’s, I don’t think that there’s anything where it’s just gone well that was the wrong direction entirely.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:42:14 Yeah. Talking about this specific event, w w what’s one of the things you’re looking forward to in the next couple of days?
Gary Pendergast: 00:42:22 I think, um, I mean, I always enjoy contributor day. It’s always a great chance to, to see it even from even for me, uh, to see where, what other people, what other teams are doing. Like what, what are they focusing on, what are they or what are their priorities. So that’s, um, that’s always fun and I do enjoy the, the after party. I don’t like, I hear it an eighties theme this year, which is not so much my thing, but uh, uh, that’s all right. It’s always a case of if folks want to get dressed up then absolutely. But you don’t have to do that.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:42:57 No, no. I think I’m, I think I’m probably not going to be getting dressed up in all the eighties stuff, you know, going to get on your hammer pants and uh, uh, I think I’d look a bit ridiculous. Yeah. I was at nineties. Yeah. Do you think, do you think you’ll be, you’ll be stained with WordPress, you’ve got any plans to do something else in the future side, projects that you’re working on? Interest in little Gary Pendergast stuff?
Gary Pendergast: 00:43:19 Uh, nothing big at the moment. I’m, I’m like, uh, there’s, there’s always, there’s the WordPress world is so big that there’s, I can kind of do, there’s a huge variety of things I can do without, like while staying in the WordPress world. Um, like a project I’ve been working on recently as a, as a tool to help people, uh, contribute to our press corps, um, to work more easily, set up a device, an environment where they can get WordPress running and they can, uh, build patches and upload them into the ticket tracking system and, um, and generally feel like they don’t have to go through some sort of weird technical, uh, impossible system to, um, just to contribute a bug fix.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:44:05 Yeah. Do you still love writing code? I do. I do like a, a, um, I, I tend to swing back and forth between, I’ll, I’ll spend time more on, um, uh, project leadership and managing how, um, how change might be done or things like that. And sometimes I’ll, I’ll swing more to, you know, what I feel like just writing some code for a bit and fixing some bugs. And do you have that you have that autonomy, you can sort of decide what your day looks like or is there a heir to Gary, here’s your list, do these, it’s more of a, uh, um, like for, for periods of time, I’m not, I’m not going to be switching back out on a daily basis, but otherwise for a couple of weeks. Um, but it’s, it’s, it’s the kind of thing where certainly I, I, um, I get to choose a lot of, of a lot of what I work on, what I think is, is most valuable for, uh, for the WordPress community as a whole.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:45:00 We’ve got children at this event. Yeah. I mean it, it’s pretty cool. Yeah. It’s a pretty cool, it’s amazing.
Gary Pendergast: 00:45:06 I love that. The, that, um, uh, like the, the, the event feels is so inclusive that, uh, people can bring children and they’ll, there’s, uh, there’s childcare facilities and there’s workshops specifically for kids to play. yeah. For kids worked as amazing that it feels like a place where, uh, where you can bring kids and there’ll be, and there’ll be safe to hang out and run around and there’ll be things that will keep them interested as well.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:45:38 Do you think this is a good, good career? You know, like if, if you, if you were raising your kids and attending these kinds of things, would you be telling you be telling the younger generation yeah. Writing Code, being involved in WordPress, it’s a solid thing to do for your future?
Gary Pendergast: 00:45:53 I think so. I think, I think it’s, and it’s not necessarily writing code, it’s a, it’s a thing of, uh, like we were talking about earlier, if there’s a, if you’re going to choose a thing to be passionate about, then I think the WordPress project is a, is a reasonable choice. It’s a way that you can feel like you’re, uh, that you’re making a difference on a grand scale. But, um, you’re, that we, we kind of talk about WordPress as democratizing publishing. It’s giving anyone the ability to, uh, to publish their thoughts and to, and to let the world know what they’re thinking, which even 50, 70 years ago was impossible. You couldn’t, you couldn’t do it. You, there were TV or there was newspaper or you could maybe make up a little magazine that you distributed to a handful of friends, but there was no way you could talk to people all over the world on such a massive scale, which it’s pretty incredible. It comes, there’s no denying it comes with a tone challenges. It’s you, you look at, um, uh, some of the controversy around, uh, Twitter or Facebook about how, uh, they’re connecting, connecting extremists as well as connecting, um, you know, the people. Um, so how we balanced that, how we make this, uh, make these tools available to everyone without, or with trying to avoid the, um, uh, the downside of it. It’s a difficult problem. And I don’t think, I don’t think anyone’s really sold yet. I didn’t think were, um, but I think we, there are a lot of good ideas that are being tried out and, uh, ways where, ways where we can make it better.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:47:39 That’s an interesting question because obviously, you know, Facebook or what have you, they’ve got policies in order to mitigate those things. You know whether they’ve, whether they’ve worked in the past is moot point, but does WordPress have a responsibility for any of that stuff, do you think? Or does it just release it and say you do what you like with it and let’s hope that it’s done for the good of humanity?
Gary Pendergast: 00:48:01 It’s a difficult problem. And certainly like WordPress, if you download a copy of WordPress and install it, uh, somewhere and you start writing hateful content, there’s not really anything WordPress can do about that. Like, we can’t, we can’t take your site down because it’s, it’s not that thing that we control. Um, but I think that certainly, um, uh, we can, uh, be involved in the conversations with, with hosts or with service providers and be saying, hey, we, um, we think it’s important that you, that your policies, uh, are able to deal with these situations. Um, and that we’re able to kind of work together for a better, uh, for a better internet for everyone.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:48:45 Yeah. I, I don’t know what the answer to that question is, but it feels like WordPress.
Gary Pendergast: 00:48:50 I mean, if you did, then I’d love to hear it.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:48:52 Yeah, just, I’ll just deliver the answer. Security, security related issues. Does it, does that kind of stuff keep you awake at night? Does the bad guys just get better? Do you have to work harder year on year to keep WordPress ticking along and not, not falling down and, you know, infecting.
Gary Pendergast: 00:49:08 I think for people who don’t really keep up with, with security, which, uh, or don’t keep up with kind of the intricacies of what, what the, uh, what security researchers do. The, the bugs, the security issues that we, that are reported are, I find them fascinating because they are the steps that they’re, that the researcher has obviously had to go through to, uh, to discover this bug, to find that, oh, if, if we, if we craft this thing in this very, very specific way, then it will trigger this bug which triggers this bug, which triggers this bug, which triggers this bug, which escalates my permission slightly, but lets me trigger, do this thing which triggers that bug, which triggers that bug, which, uh, and so on. And like the ability to, the, the mindset that actually lets people investigate and find these issues as is amazing. So amazing problem solvers that just on the wrong side of the fence. It’s, we, we, like we, we have a security, um, security bug reporting program and, and that’s what we, we feel that it’s, there are people who are really talented at this, but historically, the only way for them to make money has been to sell these things to the bad guys. And so if we’re able to pay security researchers to define these issues and say, hey, you might not be able to, like you could s you might be able to sell this bug to, to, to, to some, uh, to some government or whatever for $1 million. We, we can’t pay that much, but we can, we can pay you some money so that it’s worth your time to, um, to actually tell us this bug and we’ll fix it and we’ll get the release out.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:50:52 Press part of like hacker one or.
Gary Pendergast: 00:50:53 yeah, so we use hacker one and um, we’ve found it to be a really good system for, um, for people to be able to report issues, make sure that they get paid, that they, that researchers also, they have their own, uh, reputation there. And so they can, they can show if they want to then work for a work for a company, then they can say, Hey, I’ve found all these issues and I’m pretty good at this. Maybe you should pay me to do it with y’all. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:51:17 I it sounds to me like you do what I do, which is quite an interest in the internet security stuff. I listen, I mean, I don’t really understand a lot of what’s going on, but I listen to, you know, that like the pontoon contest and things like that and it, it’s just breathtaking. Like you said, you know, you got one, a buffer overflow, which leads to a, a thing over here, which you stack another thing in 10 exploits later. You’ve managed to change the user permission or something. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Just pretty cool and slightly worrying yet. I just wonder if in the end we just need to go bad guys have won.
Gary Pendergast: 00:51:54 I don’t think we’re ever going to be in a situation where bad guys at one, it’s, there are, there are certainly ways that it becomes, as these things become more, as these bugs that they exploit become more complex, it becomes harder to fix them. Uh, you can even see that with there now there are, there are issues that affect CPU themselves that you can, that a security issue can be triggered from a browser that affects a CPU, which is, which is amazing. And so, but like we, we see that with the browser, the people who make chrome or make, make a Firefox or safari or even need an explorer, um, where they’ll, they’ll respond to that and they’ll, they’ll work on a way to mitigate that issue so it can’t be exploited.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:52:37 Does WordPress have a voice in that decision? Do you guys on some level communicate with Google or Mozilla and say, look, we’ve got, we’ve got data, we can see what’s going on. You know, we are 34% of the Internet. Did you have lines of communication?
Gary Pendergast: 00:52:52 Absolutely. Like, we’ll, we’ll, we will talk to talk to their teams if there’s, if there’s, whether it’s a bug that affects WordPress or, um, or even the other way around. If, if they’re making a change to the browser, then WordPress is something that they’ll test against. Um, even like, uh, the, the people that make PHP for example, it’s one of their key key things is like, what’s the performance of WordPress when we make this change?
Nathan Wrigley: 00:53:16 Do you want WordPress to have a voice in the future of the Internet that, I mean, because obviously Facebook’s in that conversation, Google’s in that conversation. Um, they’re profitable entities, whereas WordPress not for profit sort of, um, do, do you think we deserve a bigger voice than we’ve got?
Gary Pendergast: 00:53:36 I think it’s, it’s difficult to, to say WordPress just say WordPress should have a voice. It, it’s not a black and white issue is, it’s a lot of, um, as with any kind of politics, it’s a case of, um, knowing who, who you need to talk to to, to get something changed. Whether it’s something that you can realistically change or if perhaps you need to compromise on this one in favor or something, something else. And I think that it’s, that’s where it can be, it can be difficult for us to have a say. WordPress must have a voice. It’s, we kind of already do, but it’s not going to be a case of, because WordPress said this then that’s how it’s going to be.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:54:24 Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. I think that’s everything I want to ask unless you want to say something pointed and particular.
Gary Pendergast: 00:54:33 No, I think, um, like I, uh, I really appreciate what, what a you’re doing with this podcast and kind of talking about, uh, talking about mental health in WordPress community. I think that there’s, um, there, there are certainly issues in broader open source. Um, like I can see that as I see it as a lead in, in WordPress, like there, there are issues where people are burnt out. We, we get, uh, people are, people are passionate about, um, about what they’re working on and that a lot of what drives open source and drives WordPress, but it can be very easy for that passion to go too far and it can be, uh, easy to devote everything to it. And so I think being able to have these, these conversations and sometimes they are going to be difficult conversations, but being able to have these conversations where we say, okay, this where we’re putting too much pressure on one person, or if pudding where we’re relying on a handful of people to, uh, to make these difficult decisions, how can we, how can we have a way that we can spread that load around? How can we make the decisions a bit easier? How can we, um, how can we make sure that people can be passionate about WordPress and they can be, they can have, uh, um, they’re that, that they’re able to have, uh, make a difference in like with, with what’s an important project, but not need to put everything into it and burn themselves dry.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:56:17 Yeah. There’s an awful lot of people, like, I feel really proud of being involved in this, this, this idea. I mean, I, you know, I, I’m very proud to be in any way associated with WordPress. You know, using WordPress makes me feel proud being involved with this charity. That’s something else that makes me slightly more proud than, you know, it’s wonderful, but you’re right. I mean I sort of, when I was thinking about what to say to people in, in this corridor, I didn’t really know whether touching on those things would be, you know, cause people might want not, might not wish to open up, but yeah. Thank you for mentioning that. I think it’s really important work and it feels like something which didn’t happen for historical reasons, but it feels like something which now should be, should be seriously considered in amongst all the other stuff that WordPress has to consider and not show that we’re all, sorry, safe and unhappy and mentally fit for the next day.
Gary Pendergast: 00:57:15 It’s something that I think that as a, as a society we’re becoming more aware of, this is not a WordPress specific issue. This was a, it’s a global issue. And so, uh, if we’re able to, we’re able to learn from how society is improving and we’re able to, um, we’re able to have those conversations and I think that we can, this is just all, it’s in much the same way. Like we will improve the software, we can improve the environment and build your software as well. Yeah. That’s nice. It’s a nice way to Gary, thank you very much for talking to me.
Gary Pendergast: 00:57:51 Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:58:07 one of the purposes of the PressForward podcast is to lift the lid on topics that don’t get talked about enough to allow people to share their stories so that other people might listen and by listening they may gain an understanding that they’re not alone. There are other people out there who have faced the same situations that you are facing. They have found a way through and can offer support to you on your journey. Maybe that person is already in your life but they might not be and that’s what WP and UP is here for to connect you with the support that you need.
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Nathan Wrigley: 00:59:32 That’s it for this week. Please let us know if you’re enjoying the podcast. If you finding it useful or helpful, you can reach out to us at WP and UP.org forward slash contact. But remember that there’s a serious point to all of this and that is that WP and UP is here to provide help and support that help is available for you or people you know and can be easily accessed at the WP and UP.org website. Please spread the word about this podcast. Tell your friends and subscribe on your favorite podcast player. Remember that together we can hashtag PressForward.