At Cloudways we have interviewed many WordPress celebrities, gurus and mentors. Each shared their unique and exciting stories with our readers.
Today, I will be interviewing Mr. David Greenwald, who is a music critic, culture journalist, blogger and of course a WordPresser who will be sharing probably the most interesting story with us.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Cloudways: Hello David, thank you for taking the time out for this interview. You are a known personality in the WordPress industry because of your contributions. Please share your story before stepping into WordPress? And what inspired you initially?
David: I started working with WordPress as a blogger in about 2009 when I was moving away from the Blogger platform. I had been doing web development here and there since taking a class in high school, and when I started getting more serious about pursuing it, working on my own WordPress site was a natural step. I decided in 2016 I wanted to be a full-time WordPress developer.
Cloudways: You worked as a music critic and culture journalist for a good 10 years. How was the experience working with big names like Rolling Stones, Billboard, Los Angeles Times and the Oregonian? Is this something you wanted to do since your early age or it just occurred to you?
David: Yes, being a music critic was my dream job since I was a teenager. I have always been obsessed with music but was never a particularly talented musician, and this was my way to be involved in the music world and help put a spotlight on artists I really believed in.
Some of my greatest hits include covering SXSW, Coachella, and Sasquatch!, interviewing Garth Brooks and 50 Cent, and writing features about the vinyl revival and Heatmiser, Elliott Smith’s former band.
Cloudways: Those are some big names indeed! In 2016, I read your post on Oregonian in which you paid tribute to the legendary David Bowie. Who do you think from the current industry can revive his work? And can you name any five favorite tracks of David Bowie?
David: No one can compare with Bowie but his influence is everywhere, from Beck to St. Vincent to Phoebe Bridgers. I think musicians will be inspired by him forever. My favorite Bowie songs are “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Life on Mars?”, “TVC15,” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”
Cloudways: Well legends live on, so does the David Bowie. Just like your taste in music, your photography skills are exceptional. Did you take professional classes for it or simply discovered it as one of your hidden talents? Capturing a whole story in a single picture is not easy. What tips can you share with our readers who are starting out?
David: Thank you! I’m self-taught. I started taking concert photos with a Sony point-and-shoot in 2004 and kept upgrading my gear and working on mastering camera settings, composition, and editing, and just shot as many shows as I could. I don’t know if it took 10,000 hours but photography is something I had to practice for a long time to get good at, and I’m still learning. I would absolutely recommend going through all the photography courses on Lynda.com, especially for using Adobe Lightroom, and look at as much work by others as you can to develop your eye and taste. Concert photography feels a lot like a sport and the more practice you can get, the more muscle memory takes over and your brain has more time to think about composition and getting the shots you want.
Cloudways: Those are some helpful tips. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 You founded Rawkblog in 2005 and wrote amazing and useful reviews on bands and tv series. Please share the story behind starting Rawkblog and how do you still manage it along with other projects you have invested in?
David: I was in college and writing for the Daily Bruin at UCLA, but I was being assigned just a few articles a month and I wanted more opportunity to write. It was the golden age of music blogging — I was reading sites such as You Ain’t No Picasso and Aquarium Drunkard and Gorilla Vs. Bear, which was also just getting started — and it made sense to start my own site. I was posting multiple times a day by 2007 and it developed a strong following for a while. My output and readership have cooled off since then as I devoted more time to my day jobs, but now I’m using it to write about code, so the site lives on.
Cloudways: Rawkblog still is a great resource. Since 2017, you are fully dedicated to WordPress development. What kinds of projects do you usually work on and besides working with businesses? Is there any project you are working on and would like to share about?
David: I’m a freelancer and I work directly with clients like small businesses or nonprofits, and I’ve also helped a few agencies with their WordPress work. Usually, I am helping folks bring their websites up to date with from-scratch theme design, or doing performance work to optimize site speed and scalability for sites with slow hosting or high traffic events. Beyond that, I’m hoping to build a database diagnostic plugin for release in spring 2019, and I have my own little website projects like Doitpdx.com, a guide to what to do and eat in Portland, Oregon, where I live.
Cloudways: Good luck with both the projects! Security has always been a hot topic in the WordPress industry. From your experience, please share a few most common reasons why WordPress sites are attacked and give top five tips to secure a WordPress site.
David: What I’ve learned is that WordPress sites are constantly being scanned by hackers because WordPress is so popular, so it becomes an obvious target — even tiny little sites with barely any traffic is getting multiple login attempts every day. Some things I recommend are:
Keep WordPress and all your plugins updated.
- Keep WordPress and all your plugins updated.
- Don’t use abandoned or out-of-date plugins to avoid vulnerabilities.
- Protect the login page by using two-factor authentication, adding a login limiter, not using a user named “admin,” and having as few users as possible with admin powers
- Block PHP execution in the uploads folder: a plugin like Wordfence can do this if you check the right setting or you can do it directly with .htaccess or in Apache or Nginx if you have access to the configurations
- A firewall. I use Wordfence as an all-in-one security solution for many clients, but if you have the budget, adding a WAF above the WordPress level will improve performance as well as security by cutting down on bad traffic. Even without the paid WAF, Cloudflare’s page rules can be a great way to protect the login page and stop robots from hammering away on your site.
Cloudways: What are some of your most exciting projects on WordPress that you have done in the past and recent? What are the challenges you face and how did you deal with them? Any interesting memory you would like to share?
David: I built my first site on Gutenberg for Portland music producer and engineer Larry Crane recently, which was really interesting. Larry liked the new editing interface and it gave me a lot of possibilities for how we could set things up with flexibility. It was definitely a new way of doing things. Another challenge was helping the blog Passion of the Weiss deal with a database problem that kept crashing the site — it turned into days of research that led to my database clean-up talks I gave in the fall.
Cloudways: That’s awesome! You recently talk on WordCamp Portland and WordCamp Seattle on cleaning the WordPress database. How do you think WordCamps contribute to the WordPress community? And why WordPressers should attend them?
David: WordCamps are amazing and everyone involved in WordPress should go. There is something to learn whether you are a developer, a designer, a site owner, a business person or marketer, a sysadmin, or anyone involved in the WordPress space. In my experience, the community is extremely friendly and welcoming and there is no better way to make connections and understand what’s happening in WordPress right now.
Cloudways: You live in Portland, Oregon. What are some local WordPress meetups you like? Has anyone inspired you? Would you like to mention any WordPressers to be interviewed next?
David: The Portland WordPress Meetup happens every month and consistently has high-quality talks and really helpful people. I’m usually there myself. Organizers Doug Yuen and Mary Ann Aschenbrenner would both be great interview subjects.
Cloudways: Thank you for recommending. Being a WordPresser yourself, what do you think about the most anticipated WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg Editor as part of the Core? In your opinion, why is it facing criticism from a huge number of folks using WordPress?
David: I think it has a ways to go as far as feeling as comfortable and seamless as the previous editor, but ultimately it’s going to be the right choice for WordPress. Being able to replace shortcodes with blocks and better integrate plugins into the editing experience will be a huge improvement for everyday users, and even just simple formatting issues like adding code examples in a blog post are now much better. I think people were frustrated with the communication around Gutenberg’s goals and timeline and the accessibility issues which have been brought up. Hopefully, in six months or a year, it’s just a normal part of our workflow.
Cloudways: How do you see the future of WordPress and the huge industry of page builders around it? Do you see after the release of the second phase of Gutenberg? Which improvements do you want to see in WordPress?
David: I think between Gutenberg and the Customizer, WordPress is going to keep getting closer to the visual design process of Squarespace and other competitors and become easier for non-developers to pick up. I personally would love to see WordPress focusing on accessibility and performance improvements — the more people who can use WordPress, the more it will grow and the better it will be. Performance is also an environmental issue, and projects like SustyWP have shown the way toward how we can make WordPress both faster and more efficient.
Cloudways: What are some of your favorite WordPress blogs/publications/newsletters/ podcasts/web shows?
David: Post Status is a great podcast and I like the wpMail.me newsletter. I would really recommend Delicious Brains’ blog and WP Bullet for people interested in server tricks and best practices for WordPress. The Advanced WordPress Facebook group has a lot of knowledge as well.
Cloudways: You have been in the WordPress industry for quite some time. What are some people who have inspired you or helped you to excel in the WordPress world? Name 5 of them.
Cloudways: While exploring Rawkblog I noticed that it is hosted on Cloudways using DigitalOcean. What made you choose Cloudways with DigitalOcean instead of going with DigitalOcean directly?
David: Cloudways came highly recommended to me from the WordPress Hosting Facebook group, and I’ve used it for a lot of client sites. It’s easy to get set up or migrate sites over, has a great stack and tools for performance and backup and customer service have been very helpful. I appreciate having a managed hosting experience and a straightforward dashboard with a budget that’s closer to a plain VPS. I would recommend it to anyone with a little bit of server knowledge who wants something in between provisioning a server from scratch and paying a premium for support and having to worry about counting visitors.
Cloudways: For our readers, could you share the picture of your workspace?
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Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore the latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time, he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 11 flight simulator.