If you have spent anytime talking to people in either the Montreal or Toronto WordPress communities, chances are that at some point you have heard the name Brendan Sera-Shriar, or as he is more likely referred to, Digibomb. Brendan has been instrumental in making the communities in both aforementioned cities into vibrant and living entities. Whether organizing WordCamps in both cities, speaking at events across North America, or just being the outgoing gregarious individual that he naturally is, Brendan is one of those guys who breathes life into whatever community he is a part of. I first met Brendan in Vancouver last year during Open Source Week; he was the only person in the bar wearing a Montreal Canadiens jacket while watching the Vancouver Canucks playoff run on TV. (Yup, he’s that guy. Funny thing is, he got away with it….)
Along with being the Senior Community Manager at MegaBlocks, Brendan is also one of the creators of PressWork, an HTML5 based framework for creating drag and drop WordPress themes. I caught up with Brendan recently, via email, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions.
WPT: How did PressWork come about?
My co-founder, Chris Bavota, and I have been WordPress developers, designers, community members, and contributors for years. We feel very strong about community, and we love WordPress. One day we were thinking about how we could make it easier for anyone to develop or design a site/blog and take advantage of all the great features WordPress has offer. We wanted to build a framework that would make it easier for developers, something we could use for our own freelance projects. We wanted to do something that has never been done and use modern web standards like HTML5 – and PressWork was born!
WPT: What type of user did you have in mind while developing it?
Any! We started with developers, thinking about what kind of a framework would be most useful and easy to work with, plus still loaded with necessary features. Then, we thought about how we could make this accessible to all users.
WPT: Describe the process you went through to develop the product.
Quite simple actually! First, we created a developers wish list and took a look at what was missing from other frameworks, then we took inspiration from what was being done well in other frameworks and figured out a way to implement that into WordPress. Second, we asked what people would want? We wanted to build a framework that met the needs of all kinds of users. Third, we open sourced it, asked people to contribute and take part in the creation and evolution of PressWork. Finally, we dreamed big. Thought about what cool features, like our toolbar and live environment editor, had never been done before, but would add benefit to WordPress, not clutter.
WPT: As a WordCamp organizer in both Toronto and Montreal, what do you find to be the biggest challenge every year?
Well that’s simple, FUNDING! No matter how big your community is, how great your speaker list, it still requires money to make it happen. Other than economics, I would say content. Making sure you get a good mix of interesting topics and solid speakers.
WPT: You’ve been around WordPress for quite a while now. What has been the biggest change/improvement, in your opinion?
So many things have changed over the years! I’ll take the easy answer on this one and say, “There are too many changes and improvements to choose just one!”
WPT: As a seasoned WordÇamp presenter, what’s the best part of attending WordCamps all over Canada and the US?
The people. It’s awesome to meet WordPressers from different communities, see what’s happening in different scenes, learning something new, making friends, and of course it’s always fun to check out a new city and play tourist.
WPT: When you sit down to code a WordPress site, what are the must-have tools you turn to?
Coda, Firefox, and Photoshop.
WPT: What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to start learning to develop WordPress sites?
WordPress.org. I have to admit one of the things that has always and still does impress me about WordPress is the wealth of knowledge in the codex and on the forums. The WordPress community is very vocal and always willing to help. I would also recommend checking to see if there is a local meetup in your area.
WPT: What’s your favorite WordPress plugin and why?
Maybe I’m old school but recently it has been WP DBManager. Very useful tool to optimize, repair, backup, restore, delete, your WordPress DB.
Many thanks to Brendan for taking the time to do this, and I promise to keep the recipe for the Caribbean Digibomb as closely guarded as the Caramilk secret…at least until the next Montreal WordCamp!