“WordPress is getting complicated in its simplicity.” Interview with Jason Tucker (Featured WP-Professional)

  • Interviews

We are happy to introduce Jason Tucker as the WP-Professional of the Month. He is well known in the community as the founder, host and producer of three WordPress-related podcasts – WPwatercooler, The WordPress Marketing Show, and Dev Branch.

WPwatercooler was one of the first podcasts in the WP community and is all set to celebrate its 10th birthday in the coming months. A long-time WordPress user and developer, he also served as a moderator in the WP community.

Today he opens up about his early days, hobbies, prevailing WordPress scenario and expectations from WordPress.

Currently, he is the IT Director at a local church. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook

You are well known in the WordPress circles. How did the journey start? How did you get introduced to WordPress?

I started a WordPress podcast 9 years ago back in September 2012. Our 10th anniversary is coming up this year. Back in 2004, my wife and I were planning our wedding and we needed a wedding website so we registered jasonandjen.com to track our wedding story and keep people up to date on events leading up to our marriage. 

At that time I was playing with Mambo, which later became Joomla. I was not a fan of their backend interface (reminded me too much of phpnuke and phpbb), so we ditched that in 2006 and switched to WordPress. WordPress back then Automattic was just formalizing itself by filing for trademark restrictions of the WordPress brand and logo. I was just enjoying the fact that I could use a blogroll to share the list of websites I really liked.

Where are you based? Does your location influence your work?

Jason Tucker Workstation

Whittier, California, just outside of Los Angeles in the United States. Sure, my location very much influences my work. I am living in the Los Angeles area 280 days out of the year. It’s sunny here so the weather greatly affects my mood and ability to do things. It doesn’t snow here and it hardly rains (which is a good and a bad thing).

I’m a member of the OC WordPress meetup where like-minded WordPress folks meet and talk shop about WordPress. The weather here allows for us to meet all year long without much delay.

Your Podcast WPwatercooler is nearly a decade old. Can you share the initial days and how you decide on the topics to discuss?

Screenshot of wpwatercooler.com

At our WordPress Meetup OC WordPress, I talked with Steve Zehngut about my thoughts on wanting to make our meetup more of a weekly thing in the form of a podcast. He loved the idea and agreed to help co-host. Sé Reed also said yes to wanting to join us on this new podcast as a co host as well. 

We had lots of people early on joining us: Chris Lema, Brandon Dove, Dave Jesch, Jon Brown, Lucy Beer, Suzette Franck, Cody Landefeld, Linda Sherman, Verious Smith, Jeff Hester, Dre Armeda, Gregg Franklin, Oscar Gonzalez, Andrews Behla, Ben Metcalfe, Brad Williams, Patrick Rauland, Wes Chyrchel, Scott Bolinger, Drew Poland and Devin Walker. All of those folks listed are just from the first 15 episodes of the show.

As for topics we now have Jason Cosper as a cohost who joins in the discussion of topics we want to discuss. We talk about all sorts of things from WordCamps to Billing for Site Maintenance, Forms Plugins, Advanced Custom Fields and I loved it. Instead of having to wait a month to talk more about our good friend WordPress at the OC WordPress Meetup we just had people weekly come on our show and talk about it there, I felt like I hacked the meetup calendar and it was cool.

Please share some projects you are currently involved with

I work for a non-profit and it’s my job to manage WordPress infrastructure as well as other IT needs for the organization. We have about 12 sites we manage all as single installs (I’m not a fan of multisite, it burned me early on so I never use it). We have microsites as well as the main site for the organization. I work with our content teams and our communication staff with landing pages and other things they can fill with content.

Aside from that, I’m a woodworker which allows me to walk away from my digital self into something very analogous, like cutting and building things with wood. For me, it’s nice to think about taking a raw object like a tree or a plank of wood and cutting it a few things, applying some tricks with joinery and ending up with something beautiful. 

When my wife and I moved into her family home after 2 losses in her family we found ourselves with a home that needed much renovation. All this during covid allowed me to work from home, work on the house and learn a new skill which is woodworking. 

I showcase all of my projects on our website Created Imperfectly as well as on Instagram. I named this project “Created Imperfectly” because we as humans are very imperfect and many of the situations we find ourselves in are imperfect as well.

Is there a divide between WordPress and wordpress in the community today?

I love this. I have a pinned tweet where I state “I spell it wordpress now.” and honestly I spent a lot of time respecting the trademark of WordPress, WordPress itself does so with a function capital_P_dangit( $text ) where all words go in and any wordpress comes out WordPress. I was always taught to question leadership.

I look at people like Matt Mullenweg as a leader in WordPress and Automattic but not in wordpress, the community. Things like “State of the Word” always bothered me since it tries to be inclusive of the community but really it’s the state of Automattic, with a few community things thrown in there.

Over the years we have covered SOTW and the releases of WordPress versions on the podcast.  

WordCamps are also a struggle for me since speakers aren’t paid to participate and often have to find sponsors to help pay for their travel expenses or they have to pay their way themselves. WordPress is in a good position but underrepresented people in our community are struggling hard to attend WordCamps.

If you have some money to spare and own a company making money on WordPress go to Underrepresented in Tech, search their database and find talented folks that want to speak and get them to a larger WordCamp like WordCamp US or WordCamp EU (and many of the other massive ones that are out there)

To answer your question again, what divides us is some of us can’t afford these things either in time, money or in representation.

What makes WordPress so special to you?

WordPress is special to me because I chose it wisely and switched to it back in 2006. Because of that I never had to leave the software I liked and got to continue to use it. If Joomla (back then Mambo) was awesome I would have stuck with it but WordPress just worked for me and was the superior product for my needs.

wordpress, the community is amazing, the people I have met (this is the list of the people that have been on WPwatercooler) have been amazing assets to where I am now. Without all of them, our podcast wouldn’t be where it is today and I wouldn’t have continued it for going on 10 years.

What is your favorite a) plugin b) Hosting c) Theme and why?

Plugins are solutions to problems that I don’t want to solve myself but I have taken the time to curate and end up with the best solution for me.

 The plugins that are on all of my sites are: 

ACF, Admin Columns Pro, Admin Post Navigation, Better Search Replace, CPTUI, Enable Media Replace, Gmail SMTP, Migrate Guru, Rank Math, Site Kit by Google, Stream, WP Rocket

My favorite hosting is the host that works best for the site. For smaller sites and personal projects, I use SpinUpWP as well as Dreamhost and Siteground. For larger sites, I’m fond of Managed hosting so it would be Pagely and WP Engine. Not all hosts are created equal and sometimes you have to move a site a few times to find a good stack that is compatible with what you are doing and expecting the site to do. I use Migrate Guru for fast free migrations. 

Currently, I’m fond of Astra, it’s a nice overall theme with enough stylistic functionality to not require me to do much CSS work yet and has block support. I bet you are going to ask me about Gutenberg and Full Site Editor aren’t you…

You caught me. That’s indeed the next question – What do you think about the future of WordPress and Gutenberg?

Oh wow, what a struggle it has been for me to get into Gutenberg and also FSE. The block editor formerly and currently known as Gutenberg works well with some gotchas every once in a while. FSE on the other hand has been a massive struggle for me. 

For a while, I had a series on Twitch where I would try to build a site with FSE and many swear words would be produced. It’s not ready for people like me that use ACF. It’s getting there but it’s quite the struggle. 

I’ll come back to it in a few years but for now, I’ll stick to Beaver Builder which is very mature. As for the future of WordPress and Gutenberg? I think Gutenberg is great but is leading us down to a place where you are going to end up with many plugins installed and a few of them with overlapping functionality.

There is a talk that WordPress is becoming more and more complicated. What do you think?

WordPress is getting complicated in its simplicity. To make things simple and easy for others usually requires a great deal of work for people to build that functionality to get us there. 

I think the problem WordPress has is that this simplicity comes with some biases. The ways the developers are building these tools are either influencing their use or they are so far from how people use them. It’s driving people to use other tools (I use Beaver Builder) or driving them away from WordPress due to how complicated they have made things.

Gutenberg relied heavily on JavaScript and WordPress is a massive PHP project with more and more JS being added to it daily. Matt said to learn JavaScript deeply but some of us are too set in our ways and didn’t. One of them is me, that’s ok though. I build things with existing tools so this works for me but it’s tough when my skill set is PHP and not JavaScript.

What would you like to see implemented to WordPress as a Core feature?

I’d love it if we just took a dev cycle and just fixed Media entirely. WordPress’s biggest weakness is how it deals with Media that is stored on the file server in the Media Library. Many have tried to build add-ons to the Media Library to add in folders and how things are being used, but it always finds a way to break since it’s not in the core.

Storing a bunch of files into folders with the date on them and then not organizing the images by use or by the gallery in which they are being used has always baffled me.

We’ve discussed the media library and all of our wishes for it since the beginning of WPwatercooler. Here are a few highlights: Watercooler Episode 59, Watercooler Episode 95, Watercooler Episode 124, Watercooler Episode 207 and most recently Watercooler Episode 401

The Verge event wrote a piece about how CMS is not made for how people use “files” anymore

Helen Hou Sandí also mentioned this in her tweet and we used it as a jumping-off point. 

We had so many acquisitions in WordPress in recent times. What are your thoughts on it?

I think it’s great to “get that paper”. There are so many companies that have made awesome products and have had people acquire them, it’s great. 

What isn’t great is some of the companies that acquire them and how we as the customers (paid or not) get stuck with the new owner. There are some companies I just won’t do business with and there are some that reluctantly I have to because they hold the only working solution for me or my internal client at work.

Life has both success and failure. Please share one mistake that you made early in your career.

My career is pretty long. I’m 43 years old and have been doing technology stuff since I was 12. If I had to say about one thing in my “WordPress Career” it would be that I should have spent more time and money on promoting WPwatercooler to the masses when there were only a few WordPress podcasts and heck even WordPress youtube channels. 

WPwatercooler at one point was getting more views on the channel than all of WordPress.tv. Back in the day, we didn’t do sponsorships and even now we really don’t unless a great company approaches us with the right message and product. 

If I had to say, it would be that I wish I would have been able to double down on the marketing push to make WPwatercooler more than it was back then. I just wanted to hang out with my friends and tell silly jokes about WordPress. It would have been nice to have had that big push earlier on.

What is Jason like away from WordPress? What are your ways of chilling?

As I mentioned earlier it’s woodworking and working on projects around the house. Besides chilling with my family and friends and my 2 dogs, I also love playing Star Citizen on my gaming PC.

The WP-Content team wishes him all the very best for his future endeavors and hopes to see him make more contributions to WordPress.

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – Aurooba Ahmed, Rich Tabor, Lesley Sim Mark ZahraChris Lema

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