Today we have an interview with one of the most prolific WordPress bloggers, Sarah Gooding. I first became aware of Sarah's writing when she blogged at the WPMU site and always found her articles to be the most interesting. She has since made the move to WPTavern where she is employed full-time by Audrey Capital, the investment company founded by Matt Mullenweg and works alongside Jeff Chandler to cover the latest WordPress news.
I thought it would be interesting to catch up with Sarah and see what it's like to be a full-time WordPress news journalist.
Hi Sarah, Could you tell use a little about yourself and background ?
I’m a WordPress journalist at WP Tavern and I spend most of my time writing and keeping up with the news. I have a frontend developer background and have been building websites since the late 90’s. In my spare time, I like to build free WordPress themes and plugins.
How did you first start using WordPress ?
Drupal was the first CMS I worked with for publishing. When I first started doing client work, I’d build sites with Drupal, WordPress, Magento, ExpressionEngine, whatever the client wanted. But after awhile I started to specialize in WordPress, right around the time that BuddyPress was first released to the public. BuddyPress capabilities blew me away and caused me to get excited about building with WordPress.
What was the move to Audrey Capital like, how did they approach you etc ?
Jeff Chandler asked me if I’d be interested in writing WordPress news full-time and told me that they were looking for someone. I interviewed with Matt, everything fell into place and I started writing for the Tavern in September 2013.
What is it like now writing for one of the largest WP news blogs ?
WordPress is constantly improving and it’s a challenge to keep up with everything going on with core development, the community and surrounding ecosystem. In addition to writing about all the major news, I try my best to put a spotlight on the most exciting and creative things that people are doing with the software. Historically, WP Tavern has been a place where anyone is welcome to join in and talk about WordPress. Facilitating healthy discussions about topics of interest to the WP community is part of daily life at the Tavern.
You have written for a number of sites, have you thought about starting your own WP related blog ?
Not really. Writing about WordPress is my full-time job and everything I write related to WP goes into the Tavern. I really enjoy working with a team. Jeff and I work together to set goals and bounce around ideas for posts. He has an excellent memory for details and happenings in WordPress' history and a raw/honest approach to community news that I appreciate. The WP community is so varied and diverse that it’s important to have multiple voices and perspectives on the news, beyond just a handful of news sites. I know there are people out there who swear loyalty to reading only one or two WP news publications, but I think it’s important to read widely. If you limit your reading, you’ll miss out on so many interesting perspectives that never reach any of the major WP news sites.
What does your daily routine look like ?
I usually wake up in the morning and check my sources for any important news that needs to be written right away. When you’re publishing all the time, year after year, the tasks of comment moderation and replies start to take up more time. In addition to writing, I spend a good deal of time reading make.wordpress.org posts and IRC logs to get an understanding of the big picture and changes that are coming to WP. This often requires testing WordPress core, plugins, themes, and development tools in order to keep up to date. I also spend time every day getting in touch with people for interviews and investigating happenings in the community that might be newsworthy.
How do you generate ideas for posts ?
I write about a wide range of WordPress-related topics, basically anything that would be useful to know. Our audience ranges from casual WordPress users to developers to people who run WordPress-related products/services businesses. Many of those who have a strong interest in WordPress news are folks whose lives and commercial endeavors are built on top of the software. They have heavily invested their time and efforts toward developing skills related to building with WordPress. I make it my business to find out what’s useful and interesting to them and try to deliver along those lines. Maintaining credibility as a top news outlet requires an unswerving fidelity to the public interest. It also requires putting in the time and effort to provide accurate information. This is what we strive to deliver in our posts at the Tavern.
Do you have any tools or software you recommend for blogging / organising posts etc ?
I use the WordPress mobile app primarily for comment moderation and quick edits while on the go. Anyone who wants to blog regularly should have a solid note-taking web and mobile app for jotting down post ideas and keeping track of related resources. Many of your best ideas will come to you while on the go or while you’re in the middle of something else. Having a place to keep notes is really important, even if it’s just a paper notepad. I’ve used every notes app out there and am constantly torn. Right now I use Wunderlist because I need that psychological gratification of seeing notes crossed off, as opposed to deleted. It also allows you to set subtasks, due dates and prioritization. But the sync is terrible between devices - not nearly as fast as Simplenote or Google Keep.
Do you use any special tools plugins behind the scenes at WPTavern for tracking posts / collaborating ?
We like to keep tools to a minimum and only add them when necessary. Jeff and I use Edit Flow on the Tavern for sending editing notes back and forth on post revisions. Akismet and Jetpack are both fairly indispensable for our publishing needs and email subscribers. We rely heavily on Publicize, Jetpack Comments, Subscriptions and WordPress.com Stats.
What do you think of the current state of the WordPress blogosphere ?
WordPress publishing software currently powers more than 22% of the web but the number of sites regularly blogging about WordPress is still relatively small. As the number of WP users grows worldwide, I expect that the demand for WordPress news and learning resources will also increase. The software is becoming easier to use with each new release. At the same time, WordPress is also becoming more open for creating applications and integrations that allow you to use its features outside of the traditional admin dashboard. Automattic’s new Postbot app and AppPresser’s mobile framework are a couple good examples of this. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg said that he thinks the future of WordPress will be much like a web operating system. As the software evolves to allow for more unique uses, the world will want to know what people can do with WordPress and where it’s going. WordPress news publications will continue to be an important part of communicating that while providing a public forum for discussion.