Taco Verdonschot – WProfessional of the Month

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It’s been a month since our last interview, in which we met Petya. Today, we bring you Taco Verdonschot, Community Manager at Yoast and an active member in the WordPress Polyglots team. Taco’s one of the nicest guys out there, so don’t be afraid to approach him on a WordCamp 😀. Here you have our interview with him:

Thanks for the interview, Taco. It’s a pleasure to have you here! For those who read us and don’t know you, please tell us something about you and your relationship with WordPress.

Hi, thanks a million for having me. I’m Taco Verdonschot, online mostly shortened to Verdo because people can’t pronounce my last name, and I work as Community Manager at Yoast. Through Yoast, I started working with WordPress. At first as a developer, but very soon I moved on to customer support. That meant I had to learn everything about WordPress at a completely different level, instead of just understanding code, I learned why people want to do certain things with WordPress. And that’s proven to be a never-ending learning experience.

Currently, I spend most of my time on Customer Support at Yoast, organizing WordCamp Netherlands, and the WordPress Polyglots team. And I recently joined the WordCamp Europe 2017 organizing team, which is going to be a next level challenge, I hope!

WordPress is constantly changing and evolving. How do you stay up-to-date? Who do you follow?

To learn about what’s happening in WordPress, I’m subscribed to Post Status. Especially the Post Status Notes newsletter is epic if you want to keep up.

Being active in the Polyglots team also gives me an idea of where the project is heading. A lot of upcoming changes are discussed there, and need to be translated. And while translating, I oftentimes look at the Trac tickets for the changes made. Trac itself is a great way to see where the project is going, but reading everything that’s happening there is almost impossible. The only person I know who’s able to keep up with every single Trac ticket is my colleague Sergey.

And if you’re not that much into code, just reading the About page of every release is really valuable.

If you’re on twitter, some of the most interesting people to follow are @yoast (of course 😉), @calevans, @helenhousandi, @perezbox, @karimmarucchi, @petyeah, @sergeybiryukov, @afercia, @dradcast, eh.. Should I continue?

What’s the contribution or development you’re most proud of?

For me, my biggest achievements in WordPress are being accepted as speaker at WordCamps. Every time I’m accepted it feels like a new accomplishment. And every time it’s scary as, eh… as it can be!

I’m also really proud to be part of the WP polyglots team. This may be the most diverse team in the WP community, and everyone on it is working their asses off to get WordPress, all the themes, and all the plugins translated. The best thing, you don’t have to be a code-guru to help out! Just go to the First Steps of the Polyglots team and start translating!

Sometimes we make things look easy, when they aren’t… Why don’t you share an epic fail with us?

The fun thing about being new to a project is that you still have to learn everything, and thus aren’t that quick at things. For example, submitting a patch to Trac. So, I was prepared. I found a bug I could fix, wrote the patch and submitted a bug report to Trac with the intention to upload my patch and fix it.

Being new, it took me so long to find how to upload my carefully prepared patch, that one of the core committers beat me to it and submitted his patch before I could upload mine, rendering all my hard work useless.

And then I saw I just overlooked the Upload button that was in my face all the time 😅

WordPress is highly customizable, thanks to both plugins and themes. What plugins and themes do you recommend? Do you miss anything in WordPress?

Since we’re not an agency, I don’t have to fiddle with themes and plugins that often.

But, what I really do think is that most websites need Yoast SEO or Yoast SEO Premium. WordPress is out of the box good for SEO, but far from perfect at the same time. A good SEO plugin will help you overcome most of that. The reason I prefer Yoast SEO over other SEO plugins is, besides that I work with Yoast, because Yoast SEO isn’t just doing the technical SEO for you. It’s also really helping you, the author, to write better content.

Besides SEO, you’ll also need a fast website. If your solution is a caching plugin, you’d be best off with WP Rocket. It’s extremely user-friendly and gets the job done.

When it comes to security, SecuPress is the new player in the market. But it’s also a really promising player. Of course, just installing a plugin doesn’t solve all of your security issues, but SecuPress is the closest to it.

There’s plenty of people working on WordPress (or considering to). Do you think it’s possible to make a living out of it? In your opinion, what business opportunities are there?

I’m doing it, so yes it’s very well possible to make a living thanks to WordPress. In fact, I get the feeling that more and more people start to understand that Open Source and Free aren’t the same thing. The fact that the source is open doesn’t mean that no-one spent time on it. And as with every business, time is money.

At Yoast, we have a development team of 8 people working on our products, the most important one being our free Yoast SEO plugin. Those developers can’t live off compliments, they need their monthly paycheck. In order to pay them, Yoast will need to make money. That’s why we have premium products and services.

That’s why it hurts a bit to see there are plugins in the repository that remove the branding/ads from the free Yoast SEO. Those ads are there because we need to inform our users about our premium products. And if you don’t want to see ads, purchase Yoast SEO Premium. For just $69 a year the plugin is ad-free, and you’re actually helping Yoast SEO.

If you’re thinking about getting into the WordPress (plugin) business, go watch all talks by Tomaz Zaman. I’d like to quote his talk at WordCamp Split (Croatia) 2016:

If it’s not making you money, then it’s a hobby

You can make money working with WordPress, but only if you’re not working for free.

Where do you see WordPress in 2 to 3 years? How would you like it to evolve?

Like Matt said during his State of the Word 2015, the future of WordPress is in expanding to more languages/locales. One of the changes, that’s already being worked on, is that strings in JavaScript should be translatable like strings in PHP are. With full support for multiple plurals, for example.

But, far more important is that the translator community needs to grow. WordPress 4.6 was shipped with 50+ languages. That sounds like a lot, but if you realize that we know almost 7,000 languages worldwide… we need more help at translate.wordpress.org!

Finally, who should we interview next? Tell us 3 WProfessionals you want to see here.

My nominees are:

  • Brad Williams – for being an awesome dad (totally ask him about the Philly Cheesesteak photos), old-time WordPresser, and organizer of WCUS.
  • Peter Nemčok – for being WCEU organizer, polyglot, and one of the nicest guys out there.
  • Helen Hou-Sandí – for being a brilliant conference speaker, outstanding developer, and WP4.0 & WP4.7 release lead.

Thank you very much, Taco, for your detailed answers; it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Stay tuned for the our next interview!

by

He obtained his PhD in Computer Science at UPC. David leads the analysis and design of our services and the user support area. He's interested in a variety of areas, including conceptual modeling, virtual reality, and 3D digital printing. He contributes to the WordPress community by participating in meetups, seminars, and the WCEU.

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