“WordPress gave me a way to express my personal opinion easily on the internet. Then it put food on my plate” Interview with Jean-Baptise Audras (Featured WP-Professional)

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Jean-Baptise Audras (JB Audras) is a name very familiar to everyone in the WordPress field. He is one of the towering figures in the WP community and is very active in the community.

Besides being a Core Contributor, he is the CTO of the Whodunit agency in France. He has led a dozen WordPress releases and was the Triage Lead of WordPress 6.1. He also has developed several plugins and is one of four people responsible for translating WordPress into French. 

Today he shares with us his early WordPress days, what he does in the WordPress world and his expectations about the future of WordPress. 

You can connect with him on Twitter

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

I started with WordPress 2.1 Ella in 2007. I used it for my personal blog when I was a student in communication and media at Grenoble University. It was a blog about my studies and researches and I kept it alive until I left my fixed term teacher-researcher contract to –finally– run my own WordPress agency…

‘audrasjb’ is one of the most familiar names in WordPress.org communications and circles and we are curious to know about what you do in WordPress.

In 2016, I started to work at Whodunit, one of the best known WordPress agencies in France, which is still my employer right now. I spoke for the first time at a WordCamp, I became a General Translation Editor for the French locale, and I started to contribute to many WordPress contribution teams.

In 2018, I became one of the WP Accessibility Team Reps, and in 2020, one of the two WP Core Team Representatives. After two years, now it’s time to give room to two new people at this position, Tonya and Abha 🙂

In the meantime, I became a Core Committer and I started to work with the security team. So be sure I’m not quitting the WordPress project at all 😀

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

I’m from Ardèche, which is a small and beautiful region of southern France.

Yeah it means a lot to me since it’s where I grew up as a kid. After living about 10 years in Grenoble, I decided to come back to this lovely region.

At Whodunit, we’re working in full remote, so that’s obviously not a problem… as long as the internet is stable and effective.

What makes WordPress so special to you?

WordPress means a lot to me.

In the beginning, as a student/researcher, it gave me a way to express my personal opinion easily on the internet.

Then it put food on my plate when I decided to quit my junior researcher position and to abandon my PhD research to run my own WordPress agency with three associates. I started to take a look at the WordPress community and I met a lot of awesome people during WordCamps and I started to organize meetups in my city. I also had my first WordCamp as a speaker. Best idea ever. Really.

When my relationship with my agency associate turned out wrong, leaving us in a critical situation with a recent house lending on the back, WordPress allowed me to find a brand new job in 15 days for my spouse and for me, in full remote from our countryside, thanks to the relationships that I had woven within the WordPress community.

It was in 2016. When I joined Whodunit as a technical project manager, I decided to start to give back even more to this community. Best idea ever – once again.

I started to translate plugins, and themes, and I became one of the 4 General Translation Editors of the French Locale. Then I started to put plugins on the repository. I joined the Accessibility team. I attended several WordCamps as a speaker… and I started to contribute to WordPress Core.

After one year of contribution to WordPress Core, I had a chance to lead my first WordPress version. It was 4.9.5. From that, I led about 15 minor releases and I joined the Release Squad of 6 major releases. I also became the CTO of Whodunit, which is my current position in the company.

I led the plugins and themes auto-updates project, and I defended (and shipped) the Accessibility revamping of WP-Admin that occurred in WordPress 5.3. In 2020, I was elected as one of the two Core Team Representatives.

Finally, I joined the WordPress Core Committer group, which is a great honor. I’m currently stepping down from my Core Team Rep position right now to give room to new people.

I’m so grateful to WordPress Community for giving a chance to a little guy from the south of France to weigh in on such a big project!

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

Screenshot of yoast.com

Plugins: First, I’d say Yoast, for their deep involvement in the WordPress community. They are awesome. Second, I’d say WP Rocket which is a must-have and has a great team of nice people.

Then Polylang because it’s so nicely integrated with WordPress Core, and multilingual websites management is such a big deal today. Also, the people at Polylang are just awesome.

Themes: I prefer custom homemade themes (it is what we sell at Whodunit) but if I had to choose a theme from the repo, I’d say Twenty Twenty because it was such a big deal when it cames out! And if I have to choose a premium theme, I’d say Blocksy because we put together a few small websites with this theme, and it went pretty well.

Screenshot of wordpress.org

Hosting: as a French company and for legal reasons, it’s easier for us to work with French hosting companies. We work with O2switch which is deeply involved in the French WP community, and Datacampus which is a super-duper-green hosting company.

What do you think about the future of WordPress?

Can’t wait to see Gutenberg becoming the universal editing interface of the web!

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

In my opinion, it’s becoming easier and easier to use WordPress!

Before Gutenberg, you had to learn a damn ton of different concepts to use WordPress: TinyMCE/Classic editor, shortcodes, menus, widgets, option pages, customizer… pretty hard for a beginner.

Now you just have to learn blocks.

Ok, it’s not a straightforward path. But once you know how it works, you’re about done!

My only concern with the Gutenberg project is its accessibility: a huge amount of work has been done, but there’s still a lot to do to improve the experience for everyone.

Recently several people have shared incidents of discrimination based on gender, race etc. What do you think about this and what can we do as a community to ensure such incidents don’t happen again?

I can attest to some of these behaviors. The priority is to point out bad behaviors as it undoubtedly requires decisions from the project leaders.

Our guidelines are clear. We need to apply them strictly. And to everyone in the community.

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

Honestly? Ok, I think my little plugin Lang Attribute for the Block Editor, which adds a `lang` attribute to pieces of text added in the block editor, really needs to be implemented as a core feature. It’s mandatory to create accessible content and there is no way to handle language changes in a given post right now.

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

As soon as the spirit of the product/company stays the same, it’s ok on my side. But of course, we can’t be 100% sure of this 😊

As an author of various plugins, please share some tips for new authors. Also what do you think about the unethical marketing practices seen among some plugin owners?

Please don’t add useless admin-marketing notifications! Don’t! 🙏

What tools do you use to stay on top of your work schedule?

Fortunately, there are a lot of people and tools (too much tools…) ensuring I stay on top of my work schedule, even if I’m not really fond of them 😂

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

From 2009 to 2015, I built my own starter theme which was removing a lot of WordPress Core theme features… I wasn’t even calling `wp_head()` of `wp_footer()`, with the false assumption that fully custom stuff was always better than dependency management (I just couldn’t use any frontend-facing plugin with that kind of theme).

I wasn’t using any plugins and I was developing everything with bare hands. Ok cool, but I was always reinventing the wheel for each project. 100% Dumb.

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

I’m a climber. Preferably on big multipitch routes, in duet with my loved spouse, Rachel. I’m also a skateboarder, a guitarist and love to listen to good old Neil Young songs.

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 – Ellen Bauer, Ben Townsend, Michelle Frechette, Nat Miletic, Jason Tucker

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