Continuing to the series of interviews, today we are honored to have Konstantin Yelin with us. He is a developer by birth and worked from the basic to advanced coding platforms. With the great experience in development, Konstantin is running the largest WordPress aggregation website named WP Clipboard.
In this interview, Konstantin shared about his education, career, and personal interests. He is also good at Chess and plays the game on his iPhone daily. He keeps an eye on the political happenings in the city. He has a grip on Arabic and Medieval Islamic History as part of his Oriental Studies degree at Cambridge. He is looking forward to start a UK-politics-based startup.
Apart from that, he is also a social worker and invested his time and efforts to the causes nearest to his heart. Enjoy the read.
Cloudways: Konstantin, tell our readers about your life and education. How was your journey started with programming? Which other platforms you have worked upon, other than WordPress?
Konstantin Yelin: I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, and moved to the UK in the late 90s to study at Eton College and Cambridge University. After spending a few years in the Middle East (mostly Syria), I finally settled down in London where I went to a business school.
My journey as a programmer began in the mid-90s, when I learned Basic, Pascal and C languages (with many SimCity sessions in between). As my friends moved on to C#, I suddenly switched to Perl/CGI, then HTML/JS/CSS, and finally PHP—and I have not looked back since. By the late 90s, I was coding my first sites in Notepad, using flat file databases (it actually took me a while to move to MySQL).
I have worked with WordPress since 2005, initially using it only for blogs, while sticking with Joomla for the CMS side of things. Having experimented with TextPattern and Drupal, I finally focused on WordPress as my CMS of choice. By then it was becoming truly powerful and user friendly, whereas Joomla was starting to get on my nerves.
Cloudways: You have worked with different programming languages. Which was your most favorite one?
Konstantin Yelin: I am tempted to say PHP (after all, that is how I earn my living these days), but I will pick Logo instead – my first true programming love. Does anyone remember “showturtle pendown forward 100 penup hideturle”? Once you have mastered that turtle, I think you can crack any other language!
Cloudways: Tell our readers about Cambridge ICT and its team. How did this project start and what kind of application specific projects you are focusing with this company?
Konstantin Yelin: I founded Cambridge ICT back in 2010, together with fellow Cambridge University graduates (hence the name). While our head office is in London, some of our team members are scattered across the South East England. It is a nice compromise between working remotely and being able to meet in London if and when we need to. One team member—Nicholas Wilkins—deserves special mention, as he is now both the lead developer and a partner/co-creator in all our projects. He is also a keen runner and a fantastic table magician.
We work with a range of clients—from film producers and fashion designers, to online magazines and insurance companies—all powered by WordPress.
In addition to client work, we are now focusing on our own startups—while we are still young and can manage long hours… I would normally come up with the initial idea, then brainstorm the concept with my team until we turn it into something decent. So far we have managed to fund and develop everything ourselves.
Several of our projects deal with WordPress—be it community sites or services/plugins.
Cloudways: I found you while searching about WP Clipboard. What was the aim while starting this WordPress project? There are some great curation on the website. What are your plans about wpclipboard.com?
Konstantin Yelin: WP Clipboard was actually born out of my extensive personal bookmark collection, which I kept sharing with my developers whenever they needed help. After months of planning and several weeks of coding, we finally launched the site in November 2014. With 2,300+ items by 175 authors and across 54 categories, WP Clipboard is currently the largest curated aggregator of WordPress resources, tools, tips and tutorials.
The site has been online for just 20 days, but we are already getting a lot of very positive feedback. Thousands of pageviews, hundreds of daily users – it’s a good start. We see WP Clipboard as our way of giving back to the WordPress community, which is why we are keeping it ad-free and simple to use. You can read more about the site’s concept on its About page; and there is a thread on WP Chat where I share some of our secrets and collect suggestions.
As for our future plans, we are going to introduce a number of helpful UI/UX features in 2015 that should help our users get even more out of WP Clipboard. We also need to consider a way to semi-automate the resource submission process (without compromising on quality of content). At the moment, we are updating the site daily ourselves, but as we are getting more and more submissions from our visitors, we need to look at greater community engagement in the whole process.
Cloudways: Industry is growing with the speed of light. You surely are brainstorming on some new projects. What are your plans for the next five years?
Konstantin Yelin: We currently have six or seven projects in the pipeline – so that should keep us busy. One project deals with online monitoring of political promises (holding politicians accountable), and we hope to launch it early in 2015, in time for the UK General Election. The role of social media in political transparency fascinates me, so you can expect several more “political” startups from me.
Another project will actually be a WordPress plugin aimed at improving the admin dashboard (code name: “WP Developer Dashboard”). Lots of brainstorming on that one during WordCamp Europe 2014, and I am currently putting it all together. The rest is a secret!
Cloudways: You were born in Russia. He then shifted to London. He is a Chess master. How often do you play Chess? What other interests you have in life other than work? How is life in London? Any secrets that you might love to share with our readers?
Konstantin Yelin: I try to play chess several times a week (and practice daily on my iPhone). Chess is the one thing that always pulls me away from my four screens, so it is probably the one thing keeping me sane!
My other interests include castles, Medieval History and the Crusades (back in Cambridge, I did research on the Arab Chronicles of the Crusades and the military architecture of that period). I love my Jazz, and I am actively involved in several charities.
Life in London is great, but can get a bit hectic at times. As I get older, I long for cleaner air and greener spaces. My fiancée, Ainur, and I would often escape to Wales or Scotland, or go on long walks in parks and botanical gardens. I guess that’s my biggest secret – the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew – I urge everyone to visit it next time they are in London. Chances are, I will be in one of the local pubs with a pint of Lavender Ale.
Cloudways: How was your experience at WordCamp Europe? Have you attended any other WordCamps or spoke at any? What are your views about these flagship events of WordPress?
Konstantin Yelin: I had an amazing time at WordCamp Europe in 2014 (my first ever WordCamp!) and that experience, along with the feedback I received from my new WordPress friends, helped shape WP Clipboard into what it is now.
I have never met a nicer group of people and was amazed at how friendly and welcoming everyone was. A big thank you to everyone who made my trip so enjoyable! And I still owe the guys at Krokedil a few drinks, as they had generously covered my bar tab two nights in a row.
Cloudways: What was the news website that you worked on? Do you still work on that project?
Konstantin Yelin: RussianInsight.com is one of our first non-client projects, and the only site we have that does not run on WordPress. Think of it as Digg.com for news on Russia and the Former Soviet Union. News articles are aggregated from 110+ sources, including Russian and Western media, as well as independent blogs, so that visitors could get a range of perspectives on the top stories.
Russian Insight is fully automated, so there is absolutely no editorial control – which makes the site rather unique and utterly objective. I would love to make it even bigger and better, so let’s hope I get some free time in 2015!
Cloudways: WordPress groups are very active on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. What are your views about this rising trend about communities of WordPress? Do you think these groups are the best place to find the answers of your WordPress-related queries?
Konstantin Yelin: I have actually joined a few groups on Facebook while working on WP Clipboard, as I was curious to see how users search for solutions to their WordPress problems.
I have since helped a few users with bits and pieces. I think it is a wonderful and a very promising trend; it gives everyone a greater sense of community and encourages engagement, which must be really important to WP beginners. While you may not always get correct answers, the entry barrier with these social network communities is fairly low (as opposed to Stack Overflow or WP support forums), so it is a great starting point.
Cloudways: We at Cloudways offer a 1- click WordPress installation on our cloud platform. What are your views about the speed and performance of the platform?
Konstantin Yelin: I was impressed with the platform when I tested it. It really is “Click&Go”—the name says it all! It took me less than two minutes to do the initial registration and setup, and I loved how the system recommended server specs based on my input, such as number of monthly pageviews. Then just another five-six minutes for server configuration, and everything was good to go.
I chose the DigitalOcean cloud (rather than Amazon) because I have actually found DigitalOcean tricky to set up on its own in the past – but with Cloudways Click&Go it was all very straightforward.
The Server and Application Management panels are great and user-friendly – all the key settings are much easier to access than in cPanel, for instance. I loved various features such as the Gmail SMTP addon very handy.
It’s great to have direct control of Varnish, Nginx and Memcached, and to be able to set all the key PHP/MySQL variables in one place – perfect for WordPress development.
My first install is showing excellent speed (faster than 99% of all tested websites according to Pingdom) and superb time to First Byte (0.13s), so this is definitely one of the fastest platforms I have tested lately.
You can follow Konstantin Yelin on Twitter.
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