With vast experience of WordPress development, Tom Harrigan has become one of the most sought-after WordPress developers. He regards his time at WooThemes as the best. Currently, he is working as WordPress Developer at Alley Interactive. He is also cofounder of Rootbuzz. With some of the most useful plugins and themes credited to his name, he plans to continue contributing towards the core WordPress development.
In this interview, he shares his experience of being involved in the WordPress 4.1 release. Oh yeah, he is a huge soccer fan too!
Cloudways: You have a lot of experience in programming. How did it feel, when you developed your first program? How did you find WordPress? Tell us about any interesting project that you were involved in.
Tom Harrigan: My first real experience was writing software program that shoots X-rays at people. I was hired as an internee software engineer at a medical imaging company. To be honest, I felt incompetent in the beginning. It was my first time working in a team, writing shippable software program that would be used in situations where failure and bugs are unacceptable. I grew a lot, working with a team that I could look up to and learn from that Summer.
During my college days, I co-founded a startup with my friend Jim, with an aim to build whitelabel Stack Overflow style Q&A communities. We were bootstrapped and did consulting work besides that startup.
A client wrote a book on WordPress and asked, if I could take on work generated from the book. She gave me her subscription to WooThemes. I started using their products for my projects. That’s when I started getting serious about WordPress. Since then, I’ve worked on sites ranging from small businesses up to big media sites like Nerve, New York Times Journeys, Vogue.
Cloudways: You have worked with WooThemes, one of the most famous WordPress agencies. What projects you were handling with them? How was the experience working with the team there?
Tom Harrigan: Working at WooThemes was amazing. I love their products and they were doing great things in the space. When a friend told me that they had an opening for a Support Ninja, I applied immediately. We were about 30 at the time. As they’re based in South Africa, I worked remotely out of the co-working space I already had for my startup in Manhattan. I used to travel to Cape Town and Amsterdam, and started attending and speaking at a bunch of WordCamps around that time as well.
Every person I worked with was brilliant, and we all learned a lot by working with each other in a team. As a Support Ninja, I was mostly helping the customers with their questions and answering support tickets.
Matty Cohen wrote the WooSlider plugin. I used to dabble with it in my free time and make extensions for it. Eventually, I led the development on WooSlider 2.0, which introduced some cool integrations with video APIs, like Youtube and Vimeo. Apart from just easy loading images, it easy loads the videos as well. I thought that was a super neat bit of functionality.
Cloudways: What made you leave WooThemes and join a dating startup in Brooklyn? What are your responsibilities with them?
Tom Harrigan: Though I worked on WooSlider, I still spent the majority of my time working on the support side. Support takes a special kind of patience. As much as I love helping people, solving complex bugs and assisting with cool customizations, I don’t have the mindset and patience to engage in support all the day long. I have a lot of respect for those who do.
I joined Woo because I wanted to get my foot in the door and be part of the awesome team, but I wanted to be developing and working on products the majority of the time.
I joined HowAboutWe as the Lead WordPress Developer, which was kind of funny, since I was the only WordPress developer. I developed and maintained a WP multisite network for our four media properties, including Nerve.com (which we migrated from Drupal to WordPress).
I also worked on functionality for the editorial team, custom plugins/themes, speed improvements, etc. until HowAboutWe was acquired by IAC (which owns Match.com/OkCupid).
Cloudways: Currently, you are working with Code and Theory in New York. They have really developed an awesome website, I must say. How many projects you have completed with them? What are your future plans with this agency?
Tom Harrigan: I joined C&T and developed the new Vogue.com and have spent most of my time on that project. It was huge, exciting and had a great team behind it. After the Vogue launch, I’ve worked on The Webby Awards and IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau).
Cloudways: You also have experience in developing plugins and themes. Any plans to continue with that particular path? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Tom Harrigan: I still love WooThemes’ products and know them really well. I’m planning to start developing some neat child themes that’ll offer some deep integrations with other plugins, including WooSlider, and some of my own plugins.
One of the plugins I’ve been working on lately, is for Post Format-like functionality and allows for some really neat content displays. It’s called McNinja Post Styles. I’m hoping for a version 2.0 release shortly. Another brings Infinite Scroll type functionality to the single post page and loads in the next article when you’ve finished reading the current one.
Beside those, I recently have adopted the Evergreen Post Tweeter plugin from Tom Ewer via the ‘adopt-me’ tag on WordPress.org and he’ll still have a hand in its future. It’s in need of a bit of love and an update for the current version of the Twitter API. That’ll be a fun project, and I’m looking forward to getting that update out to the current users of the plugin as soon as possible.
Cloudways: WordPress 4.0 was launched just three months back, and now they are moving towards the next launch. You have contributed to WordPress core. How was the experience? Is it tough to work on the patches? Share your working experience with John Blackbourn.
Tom Harrigan: WordPress 4.1 is coming up quickly and this is the first core release I’ll have contributed to. That said, my contributions were extremely, extremely minor, but a good first step. I’ve been wanting to contribute for a long time, but it took a while to pull the trigger. Now that the trigger has finally been pulled, I hope to contribute regularly.
The experience was great, and it was made easier by current contributors. Drew Jaynes took some time to talk with me on IRC to make sure I had what I needed to have, and he pointed me in the right direction. I had a few conversations with Scott Taylor between karaoke and WordCamp Saratoga that helped me a lot as well.
In addition to those conversations, Mark Jaquith has an old but excellent post on contributing to core, and Patrick Rauland has worked on a video series detailing how to contribute. Once the basics are understood, creating/submitting patches is easy.
I’ve not had too much experience with John, but he took some time to talk over a patch/ticket with me that’s still in progress. Maybe 4.2 will see that one get in to core. I think he’s doing a great job on 4.1, everything is organized and all of the IRC/Slack chats look pretty constructive. Can’t wait to see 4.1 in the wild 🙂
Cloudways: We all have a life other than work. Let’s discuss your interest. What do you do during the weekends? Do you like music or any other thing?
Tom Harrigan: Soccer is a big one for me. New York Red Bulls did well in the playoffs this year for the MLS cup. I recently became a bit of a comic book geek. I had a bit of a quarter life crisis around the time I proposed to my wife, went on Craigslist and started buying out comic book collections.
I always listen to tunes while coding and my playlists range wildly from Hillsong, to I See Stars, to dubstep and Backstreet Boys. Other random interests/hobbies include the drums, bioinformatics and craft beers.
Cloudways: I found that you recently joined All About WordPress. I’m one of the admins in the community. Do you think these WordPress communities are helping individuals candidly with their coding and development skills?
Tom Harrigan: Yea, I saw it mentioned in a write up and got my butt over there 🙂 The best thing about WordPress is the community. That said, it’s not just one community, we have many subgroups: bloggers, developers, designers, “web assemblers”, everything in between and more.
They all need an online community that fits their needs and skillsets. Some should help individuals with their development skills, like WordPress Stack Exchange. Others exist for the average user, the advanced user, the beginner.
Communities like ManageWP.org provide a great insight into the news, tutorials, and blogs from those that make up the community as a whole. Of course, meetups and WordCamps are just as important for bringing together the local WP communities. These all add to our experience in WordPress and help make it something special, successful, and strong.
Cloudways: We have one-click WordPress installation on our platform. How was your experience with Cloudways cloud hosting?
Tom Harrigan: I went through the setup process and gave it a spin using AWS. The configuration was really quick and the management dashboard is intuitive. Nice touch with the video tutorial while the server is being set up.
A couple of things I really liked include the ability to easily clone the application from the Cloudways console and an addon for load testing. Also, once I went in to the WordPress admin dashboard, I noticed that W3 Total Cache was already installed and configured.
You can follow Tom Harrigan on Twitter.
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