Our visit to South Africa’s Mother City was both an exciting and educational experience! Endeavoring to make the most of our time, we interviewed one the most brilliant minds at WordPress Cape Town 2016. Hugh Lashbrooke, Community Sentinel at Automattic.
Hugh has been working with WordPress for a good few years now and has totally fallen in love with it. At Automattic he works on the WordPress community team where he assists and supports WordPress. Hugh is a plugin developer who is thoroughly passionate about WordPress, the community and all that it stands for. He works at WooThemes and is heavily involved in the Cape Town WordPress community. At WooThemes, Hugh takes care of the team’s relationship with the WordPress community.
At WordCamp Cape Town 2016, Hugh gave a talk about democratizing the WordPress community and inspired many to become more involved with WordPress. Hugh illustrated how powerful and influential the WordPress community has become and invited individuals to do their part in contributing their much needed skills and involvement to WordPress.
1. Tell us about yourself Hugh?
Hugh: “I’m Hugh, I live in Cape Town. I work at Automattic on the WordPress community team, which means that myself and my teammates take care of and look after the WordPress community around the world. We organize meetups like this. We make sure that organizers have the tools they need to get the job done; so there’s a development side to it. We make sure that things are going well for them and look after them. It’s cool, I love it.”
2. What sparked your passion for WordPress?
Hugh: “Well, weirdly enough, I started with development stuff when I was in high school, building websites for my friend’s bands. Then I got into a development job at some point building PHP and I actually didn’t like the idea of any CMS or WordPress anything. WordPress was at about version 2.8 back then (or 2.7). Then suddenly WordPress 3 came out with custom post types and I was like, “that’s quite powerful, let’s try using it”. I just kind of fell in love with how easy it was to use and extend and to build, and use WordPress beyond a blog, basically.
It opened up this huge world of possibilities in my head, and I fell in love with the platform. As I started working with the platform more, I started getting involved in the project and the people, the community. I just love the community and the people in it. I love the open source mentality.”
3. When you embarked on your journey with WordPress, did you think you would be where you are today?
Hugh: “Not really. Like I said, I wasn’t even that keen on WordPress itself, or any CMS. Now I’m helping build the WordPress Project, and I didn’t expect it, no.”
4. Where do you see the future of WordPress heading?
Hugh: “Well, like I said, it’s far beyond a blogging platform, even though some people still think that. They obviously haven’t used it. It’s moving much more towards an app platform. People are building more than just business websites or a nice e-commerce store. We actually have a talk today about someone using WordPress and turning a WordPress site into a mobile app. But even beyond that, with the rest API becoming part of core, maybe going into core in 4.7, with the current release cycle. Or soon after that. It extends WordPress, enables WordPress to be so much more, in terms of functionality, how you can interact with it and what you can do.
I’m very excited to see where that goes.”
5. What are your thoughts on the importance of sharing knowledge?
Hugh: “I think sharing knowledge is important. Like I said, I like the open source mentality of the WordPress community. Similar to how WordPress is an open source project in terms of code, it’s also open source in terms of skills and knowledge. People are always happy to share what they know. That’s so important. Without that, we wouldn’t have something like WordCamp work so well. I think this year, I can’t remember the stats, but I think there’s about 160 WordCamps around the world this year. That’s more than we’ve had in previous years and it’s growing. So the fact that, that is even happening means people understand that they need to share knowledge. I mean if you’re not going to do that, what’s the point? If you don’t share with other people, how can they share with you? It’s part of growing together.”
6. Do you have a motto or a few words of wisdom that you could share with us?
Hugh: “A motto? No, not really. Well, I say not really, but actually not at all. I always struggle with questions like that because there’s so many things I believe to be important. Particularly when it comes to the WordPress world, open source, and giving back. But I think the number one thing in a world like this, in the WordPress community, is, “don’t be selfish”. Not just with sharing knowledge, with sharing skills, you should share with each other.”
“The WordPress world only works and goes forward like it does, because people help each other. If you are a WordPress developer and you struggle with anything, you google it quick. You will find a solution online. Almost immediately, you’ll definitely find some kind of solution for even the most obscure issue and that’s because someone’s posted something online to help someone else for free. No way they are getting money out of it and that’s pretty meaningful; that people would do that so often to help so many people. So don’t be selfish with knowledge.
“I’ve written a blog post two years ago. There’s one post in particular that I wrote and I still get people saying, “ah, this has helped me so much”. And it was a quick post that took me five minutes. So yeah, don’t be afraid to share your stuff and don’t be selfish with what you have.”