post

2010 in Review

Family

Izzy

This year our family grew by one. Andrea & I have our first grandchild. If you click on the thumbnail, it takes you to Andrea’s flickr set. That picture is from Christmas morning. She is a delight (of course) and having her here for her first Christmas was very special for both Andrea & I. Without anything else, Izzy would have made our year ๐Ÿ™‚

WordPress

In the summer of 2009, I sent off an email volunteering to work on the merge of the WordPress and WordPress MU code bases. A few weeks before Christmas 2009 I received an email from one of the WordPress leads asking if I was still interested in working on the merge. On Jan 5th I was temporarily given commit access to WordPress trunk. The temporary access lasted considerably longer than what I was initially expecting.

In 2009 I had spent quite a bit of time doing some exploratory prototyping and had a fairly solid feel for what was needed to support existing WP installs, existing MU installs and allow WP installs to be converted to the equivalent of a MU install. My estimate for getting a functional but rudimentary merge completed was 1-2 weeks. We landed somewhere in the range of 11-12 days. I was kept on the WP commit team until a few days before WP 3.0 was released in June.

Working on the merge & WordPress was a huge amount of fun. Nearly all the development work I’ve done over the last 20+ years has been working alone. One of the things I really enjoy about the WordPress community is that there are many opportunities for collaboration. The core platform is collaboration in a major way and, in addition to the success of WordPress 3.0 dev cycle, I got to know quite a few of the people who contribute to WP core.

The main challenges I had while working on WordPress 3.0 were the time commitment, IRC & trac. Time commitment I’ll discuss later. I didn’t really know what IRC was until I started using it in January. Essentially, it is a dedicated group chat channel. When we had dialup Internet and a single phone line, Andrea & I sometimes used gchat (or yahoo messenger before gchat existed) to communicate while she was connected (because I couldn’t call her). But I’ve hardly used chat programs out side of that. Ironically, building a TCP based group chat server and client was part of the curriculum in one of the programming courses I taught.

Getting a 45 year old brain used to having something like IRC running all the time is a real challenge. Even after more than 5 months, I only connected up to the IRC channel for part of the day. Most weekends I checked the IRC logs a few times a day to see if there was urgent that I needed to address.

WordPress trac is the site where people report and discuss bug reports and enhancement requests. Every one who has a wordpress.org username also has access to create or comment on trac tickets. Keeping up with all the trac activity requires several hours a day. The folks who do keep up with trac on an ongoing basis gained a whole new level of respect from me within a couple days of starting on the merge. It requires more than a little dedication.

StudioPress

Andrea & I have partnered with Copyblogger Media and StudioPress to provide BuddyPress support for the Genesis Theme Framework and most of the official StudioPress child themes. Our first iteration of BuddyPress support for Genesis and Genesis child themes consisted of a Genesis child theme that supported a psuedo-grandchild theme. The biggest issue with supporting the BuddyPress theme components this way was that it involved an integration process. The integration process had to be repeated with each update to our child theme.

In mid August after I had had a chance to catch my breath from working on WordPress 3.0, I looked at the possibility of converting our child theme to a plugin. By the tail end of summer I had most of the functionality ported over to a plugin and we began a beta. While it was in beta, I continued development and by the end of September all of the functionality had been ported over. BuddyPress 1.2.6 required updating the theme support, so our beta was extended until about a month ago when we officially launched.

Ron & Andrea

2010 was our second full year as a WordPress based business. In our first year and a half we had learned quite a bit about what it was we liked to do, the work we didn’t enjoy and the type work we should avoid. Our goal last year was to re-orient our business toward those things we enjoyed more and gave us better revenue stability.

Two of the critical things on the list were to switch from a WordPress MU focused business to one focused on WordPress and shifting the type of work we did so that less of our revenue was dependent on me. Although we had quite a bit of work to do once WordPress 3.0 was released, the time I invested in core development definitely addressed the shift from MU to WP.

In 2009, about 90% of our revenue came from development projects. Nearly all the development work fell to me. In several projects Andrea handled all of the implementation but her work schedule for that was dependent on when I had the development work done so she could implement. A year later, we are somewhere in the range of about a 50/50 split between project revenue and educational & commercial revenue.

2010 was the year where we wanted to arrive at a final decision as to whether we would continue with the WP based business or I would go back to doing corporate project management. Over the last few months business has stabilized to the point where we are comfortable that we will be able to sustain a reasonable revenue long term. So, we are definitely going to continue working within the WP community.

However, we are not in the place where we could sustain me making the kind of time commitment to the WordPress project that was required while I was a core committer for WP 3.0 (which was well over 50% of my time). Between Andrea & I we are planning on contributing 25% of our combined time to WP core, BP core, forum support & free plugins and themes. We are fairly comfortable that that level is sustainable long term.

This fall we discussed the pros and cons of incorporating a business and have decided that is the route we will be taking over the next 2-3 months. We have already decided on the business name and had initial discussions with our lawyer. So, hopefully we will have something to announce on that soon.

Summary

In 2010 we were extremely busy & sometimes fairly stressed. Other than Christmas, the only breaks I took from work were WordCamps which I really enjoy. Even though they are still focused on WordPress, WordCamps are a really good break for both of us. In September, we lost the engine in our 10 year old car. I had really been hoping the car would make it to at least next summer. Replacing it set us back quite a bit on our financial goals for the year. However, overall, we had good progress on those goals and we are really looking forward to our plans for 2011.

About Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.

Comments

  1. Keep good work. I like ur article! Thanks all you’ve done!

  2. Cheers, Ron! Thanks for all your hard work on a very successful WordPress 3.0 release!