Pascal Birchler is a student, web developer, public speaker and committed to WordPress core, striving to make the web a better place.
He built his first website as a 12-year-old. Whether it’s for clients or for projects like WP Talents, he always tries to make something great even more awesome.
As an active member of the WordPress community, he knows how important it is to give something back. That’s why he helped co-organize the WordPress Zurich Meetup and WordCamp Switzerland.
Cloudways: Hello Pascal! Hope you are doing fine. How’s life on the outskirts of the beautiful Zurich, Switzerland. Indeed it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. So when did you fall in love with WordPress? Was it all a planned journey, or was it just a bit of lucky charm for you to join in WordPress at the right time? How will you define success?
Pascal: When I was about 12 years old, I started my first websites. It was a simple site based on static HTML, but I was really proud of it. When I learned about blogs, I was looking for a way to start blogging myself and ended up choosing WordPress as it was already quite popular in Switzerland. As you can see, I’m still using it 🙂
I think success is when you achieve a certain goal you set for yourself and are genuinely happy.
Cloudways: WordPress 4.7 was launched in December 2016. Which feature do you prefer the most in the WordPress latest version? Do you have any idea what latest developments are taking place in the new WordPress 4.8?
Pascal: WordPress 4.7 shipped with tons of new features and I happened to contribute to a few of them. My favorite one is probably the introduction of the various REST API content endpoints. These pave the way for some really cool things like interactive themes and apps build upon WordPress.
Compared to that, WordPress 4.8 only contains a handful of new features, most notably new media widgets and a new dashboard widget that highlights nearby WordPress events. I think that’s a really cool way to introduce more people to the WordPress community.
Cloudways: I learned that you are in the core development team of WordPress. Can you please elaborate our readers what were your responsibilities and how did you cater them as the core member of the official WordPress team?
Pascal: There are many people with many different roles contributing to WordPress. Core committers are the ones who not only write and verify patches but can also directly commit such changes to the WordPress code base. Of course with great power comes great responsibility, so you definitely shouldn’t do anything crazy. The best feeling is probably when you can finally commit a long-awaited new feature or a bugfix made by a new contributor during a WordCamp.
Cloudways: Currently you are working at Required as a WordPress Developer. Could you please tell us what kind of services do you offer? I also learned that you are the Founder of WP Talents, so what is the story behind it?
Pascal: Required is a remote web agency from Switzerland and Germany. We specialize in UX design and WordPress development. My job is it to build awesome things with WordPress to help our clients. If possible, we try to make our code open-source and share it with others.
WP Talents, on the other hand, is a site I built around three years ago that aims to be a central platform to find great WordPress people. I shared the story behind that at WordCamp Europe 2015 if you want to learn more about it. Interestingly, soon after that talk Jetpack.pro launched to the public, which does something similar. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had time to work on WP Talents lately and I’m not sure yet about the site’s future.
Cloudways: We’ve read a lot that WordPress core is lesser known for its speed and performance. What are your suggestions on optimizing and securing a WordPress website?
Pascal: WordPress as a project has a philosophy that the software itself should be designed for the majority and that we should strive for simplicity. That’s a reason why WordPress doesn’t contain any built-in caching, for example. Most of the users simply don’t need something like that. But if you do, there are plenty of plugins and other solutions that you can install. After all, WordPress powers sites like WordPress.com without a problem, so it’s certainly powerful enough.
Cloudways: In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake that a WordPress newbie can make while working on WordPress?
Pascal: When setting up your first WordPress site, it’s quite easy to break it by misconfiguring some freshly installed plugins or messing up some config files, e.g., by directly editing files on the server. That’s why I recommend going through everything step by step and thinking things through. You don’t want want to get demotivated by a broken website.
Cloudways: I learned that you will be speaking at WordCamp Europe 2017. Do you think that WordCamps are one of the main reasons for WordPress getting a high exposure in regional communities? What more can be done to grow the community?
Pascal: Speaking at WordCamp Europe is an amazing opportunity and I’m really honored to be able to do that. Events like this are a big reason for getting more people into the WordPress community. Attendees see how big WordPress is and how friendly the community welcomes them. Even more important are local meetups though. Every city around the world can start a meetup and encourage people to join them. There’s a huge opportunity there.
Cloudways: Each one of us loves to follow different influencers on social media. Can you name a few people (at least 5) whom you follow in order to get insights within the respective WordPress industry? In your opinion, who are the game changers in this industry?
Pascal: That’s a tough question. The list of people I follow on Twitter is quite mixed. I try to not only follow people from inside the WordPress community but also folks outside of it. It’s important to get opinions from sources which are as diverse as possible.
Cloudways: Just put everything aside for a while and talk about your personal life. Do you have any interest in sports or food or movies or traveling or anything else?
Pascal: When I began working at required I really began to enjoy the benefits of working remotely and working from wherever I want, whenever I want. It’s simply amazing when you can travel the world at such young age without many drawbacks. Besides that, I’m also a huge fan of Netflix and probably watch a dozen hours of film every month.
Cloudways: This has been quite an experience. We will surely meet once again. How do you think our conversation? If you want to give out any message suggestions to beginners in WordPress, please feel free to add a few words here.
Pascal: I’ve often been asked by new contributors about how and where they should start. I think there’s no wrong way, no matter if you begin reviewing themes, testing patches, or organizing a meetup in your town. What matters is that you just do it. If something doesn’t work out that well, people will reach out to help you. You’ll get better every day and you’ll succeed. Just keep going. That’s what matters.
Cloudways: Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform offering 1-click installation for WordPress with great caching technologies and optimized servers. What’s your opinion about managed cloud hosting services such as Cloudways?”
Pascal: Alright, so I think managed hosting is really powerful and thus increasingly popular because it allows businesses to focus on their core. You don’t have to worry about infrastructure, performance, or security. Instead, you save money and time that you can invest in other important areas.
Cloudways: Just for our readers, can you please send us an image of how your workspace looks like? 🙂
Pascal: As an, I work for a remote agency, I often work at a different place. However, I recently moved to a new apartment in the heart of Zurich. During summer, I’m usually on the rooftop terrace with my MacBook enjoying the view over the city.