“Always. Be. Caching.” – Interview with Jason Cosper

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Today we’re excited to share a great conversation with Jason Cosper. Beyond of being a phenomenally talented WordPress nerd with a strong background in troubleshooting and technical support, he’s also a Developer Advocate at WP Engine, runs the Bakersfield WordPress Meetup and maintains the Lorem Ipsum alternative Hipsum.

Some awesomeness you should know about Jason:

– He’s being engaged with the sphere of web development for 16+ years.

– He didn’t choose the job. The job chose him.

– Even though he’s a pretty big dude, he really really loves tiny dogs.

Go on reading and enjoy 😉 

Thanks for joining us today, Jason. Please, tell us a bit more about your background, how long have you been working with WordPress and about your current ventures.

Thanks for having me!

I’ve been blogging, in one form or another, since 2000. Initially, I was using Blogger because it was easy and outputted raw HTML. In early 2005, I started to outgrow their platform and tried a few other pieces of software.

At the time, I wasn’t all that thrilled with WordPress’ post interface. And everything else (Movable Type, Drupal, etc.) was a pain in the neck to set up. So I kept using Blogger and continued to look for something I liked. A few months later, I watched Matt Mullenweg show off what would become WordPress 2.0 at a conference in San Francisco.

Even though I was comfortable with writing entries in HTML, the WYSIWYG editor was a godsend and the number of available plugins had grown to something that I could start building cool stuff with. So I converted a few sites to WordPress and started spending all of my free time playing around with it.

As for my current ventures, I’m the Senior Technology Advisor at WP Engine. That means I get paid to play around with WordPress and chat with people in the community. It’s a pretty nice job if you can get it. I also run the Bakersfield WordPress Meetup and maintain the Lorem Ipsum alternative Hipsum.

When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?

In mid-2006, I had just started working in support at DreamHost. One of my coworkers had a customer with a plugin update issue and asked if anyone knew WordPress. I was the only one who had spent any time with it, so I ended up becoming their go-to guy for WordPress issues.

I didn’t choose the job, though. The job chose me.

The more I worked with WordPress, the more I started to appreciate its elegance and the people working on it. The tipping point for making WordPress my career came during the first WordCamp. I figured if I could somehow get paid to do WordPress adjacent work — even if that meant handling nasty support tickets at what some considered to be a “bargain” web host — I’d be happy.

Where do you go first to get WordPress news, insights, and updates?

While I’m still a huge believer in RSS and check a number of feeds throughout my day, I keep Twitter open on my second monitor all day long. It’s my news source, water cooler, and changelog all rolled into one.

As a web developer, what are the online communities (e.g. Dribbble, Twitter etc) you like to hang out at and what value do each of them provide?

Well, I kind of covered Twitter above. 😉

Outside of that, I spend a considerable amount of time (mostly lurking) in various Slack teams (Core, Post Status, WordPress in Enterprise) to keep up on everything that Twitter doesn’t cover. I also pay attention to the Advanced WordPress group in Facebook — but mainly because I’m one of the group admins.

What performance tips would you give to beginners (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?

Always. Be. Caching.

If you use a managed host, caching is something that’s handled for you. But if you don’t, a caching plugin like Super Cache or WP Rocket will help you at a rudimentary level to keep your stable as your traffic grows.

That stability will only last so long though. No static page caching plugin is a silver bullet. But any one of them is perfect for someone on a $5 a month plan that’s just starting out. Fortunately, WP Engine will be there for you when you need something even more scalable than a basic static page cache.

Spammers are the worst.

I know that some people are allergic to paying for things, but I swear that Akismet is worth the inexpensive monthly rate. If you can’t afford it, at least consider using a plugin that leverages WordPress’ built in comment blacklist.

Keep WordPress core, plugins, and themes up to date.

There’s a number of services (InfiniteWP, ManageWP, etc.) out there that can help you manage multiple sites, should you have more than one. Find the one you like and get in the habit of visiting its dashboard regularly — 1 to 3 times a week — to keep the plugins and themes on your sites updated.

Two is one. One is none.

Backups fail. I’ve seen it happen. It’s heartbreaking when it does. Even if your host offers backups, consider using a plugin or service (VaultPress, BackupBuddy) that backs your site up to an external server. The relief that comes from having a second way to recover your site in case of emergency can be significant.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

One time I totally nerfed the database of one of my production sites while it was undergoing a traffic spike. I’d had a backup, but it was taken the night before and I’d done a bunch of work on the site. Getting everything back into working order turned into one of the most stressful evenings of my life.

So what does WP Engine do? What do you think helps your solution stand out from other WordPress hosting companies in the field?

WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider. Our solution is for folks looking for a provider that’s interested in helping them scale up their site as they become more successful and grow their audience. We help by managing all of the time-consuming details like WordPress core updates, site backups, security monitoring, etc. so that developers and site owners can focus on their audience rather than site administration.

While we pride ourselves on our speed, stability and innovation, I’m most proud of the level of expertise that we make available to our customers. Because we’ve decided to focus solely on WordPress, each member of our support team is ready to help customers through whatever problems they might be going through.

What are you currently working on?

As the Senior Technology Advisor for WP Engine, it’s my job to know what’s coming down the pipe. In order to do that, I switch between working with nightly WordPress core releases, playing with feature plugins, and doing deep dives on new functionality.

I also have a number of open conversations going with plugin & theme developers to discuss pain points with their code or our platform.

To put it another way, I spend all day trying to drink from a firehose. It’s hard, but at least, I never walk away thirsty.

What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on with WordPress?

I’m really proud of Hipster Ipsum. It was something I built over a weekend as a goof, but it has taken on a life of its own. Hipsum has shown up in Google’s Android documentation, has a fan maintained API and countless ruby gems and node packages.

Plus the single ad on the site keeps me in free beers. So that’s nice.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for theme frameworks to face in 2016?

Honestly? Rising above the noise. It seems like there’s a new theme framework coming out of the woodwork every week. And while each one scratches the itch of a particular type of developer, nobody seems to have asked themselves if another framework is what we need.

The real trick is for up and coming framework authors to find a way to differentiate themselves and make something that’s unique and actually useful.

If you could change one thing about WordPress today, what would it be?

The passion of the WordPress community is really endearing. It’s wonderful to have a bunch of people who really care about something and want to make it better. However, the drama that can sometimes walk alongside that passion stinks out loud.

When #wpdrama rears its ugly head, I do what a lot of people do: put my head down and wait for it to pass. But, honestly, I wish that it wouldn’t ever be a thing in the first place.

What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?

I’m really excited about the (eventual) addition of the REST API endpoints! As someone who is incredibly security minded, the Two-Factor Authentication project is exciting too.

Sadly, it seems like Two-Factor will land some time after WordPress 4.5 drops. But the work the team is doing on application passwords — which should ship in 4.5 — is still going to be crucial from a site security standpoint once the REST API ships.

Have you ever faced the problem of website migration? If so, how did you manage to resolve it: by converting your website data manually or via an automated tool?

In the early days of WP Engine, I migrated a ton of sites for our customers. While I could’ve scripted things, I found that running and manually monitoring the migration’s progress helped me catch issues that I might’ve missed otherwise.

Our support team has things much easier since we released a plugin that handles migrations for anyone who wants to move to our platform.

Tell us a bit about your working setup (hardware + software). Can you shoot us a picture of your desk? 🙂

I’m working from our Austin office this week — I fly out from California every other month or so — so my hardware setup is incredibly basic. Just a 15-inch, 2013 MacBook Retina running El Capitan.

jason-cosper-desk

Back home I’ve got a secondary, 27-inch Thunderbolt Display to help keep me from switching between too many windows. Even though it’s not a Retina display, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

I can do most of my job with a browser and a terminal. I prefer Safari and iTerm2. I have Chrome & Firefox installed and use them as needed — mainly for testing — but I find that Safari is less bloaty than Chrome.

Being comfortable with the command line, I’ve installed Homebrew. Homebrew allows me to install some additional utilities (ack, wget, etc.) that don’t ship with OS X. It also gives me the ability to install OS X apps from the command line.

As far as text editors go, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Atom lately. I fall back on TextMate when Atom seems to not like a project I’ve loaded, mainly because that’s what I used before Atom.

Finally, have we missed anything? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!

Even though I’m a pretty big dude, I really really love tiny dogs. My wife Sarah and I have two chihuahuas — Rowdy and Gomez — who are the sweetest, most curious little weirdos you could ever hope for.

jason-cosper-dogs

I grew up with big dogs, so I never thought I’d have a place in my heart for two pups that are so tiny and delicate. But there they are, wedged in there, between my wife, Irish whiskey, and burgers with blue cheese.
Thanks for having me!

Our team is infinitely thankful for the time Jason has spent to share his expertized insights and motivate us. We want to sincerely wish him great luck with WP Engine, his lovable pups, and an immense inspiration! 🙂 

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Valentyna Tysiachna

Valia is a vivid CMS platforms observer, that’s why she found her dream job of marketer manager at CMS2CMS migration service. Keen English learner, music lover and passionate content writer, she enjoys constant improvement and is open to challenges.
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