A quick interview with Justin Tadlock (Theme Hybrid)

I started messing around with WordPress back in 2007. Justin Tadlock was already an active member of the, way less crowded back then, WordPress community. 10 years later, I asked Justin if he’d be interested in answering 10 questions. These are his answers.

Hi could you tell us a little about yourself and background?

I grew up in Alabama and am now currently living here. I earned a B.A. in English from Auburn University with primary concentration in creative writing and a secondary concentration in journalism. I’ve worked all sorts of jobs like grocery store stockboy, field hand who picked watermelons and baled hay, English teacher in Korea, and all kinds of other things.

My interests are far and wide. I garden and hope to run my own farm one day. I plan to publish at least one best-selling novel. I’m currently relearning how to write using the Spencerian Cursive method. I’m also just starting to use fountain pens, which are a joy to write with (no idea why ballpoints ever became more popular).

When did you first stumble upon WordPress?

I first started using WordPress in 2005. I had given it a try once before that. Primarily, I was looking for something easy to use for blogging. As someone hoping to be a writer, I needed a useful tool to do that online. WordPress worked better than anything else I tried.

What product / website of yours are you most proud of and why?

I don’t generally think of things in terms like that for whole projects. I generally take more pride in the tiny, reusable bits of code that gets used in many projects. Or, simple ideas that I’ve had over the years that many other developers are using today in themes/plugins on millions of sites.

From a non-coding standpoint, I’m proud of the book, Professional WordPress Plugin Development, that Brad Williams, Ozh Richard, and I wrote. Being able to publish a book was a life-long dream. WordPress gave me the opportunity to make that happen.

Have you had any epic fails so far that you’d like to share with us?

Probably the most epic fail I had was a free memberships program at Theme Hybrid. I thought I could bring in a lot of members for free and upsell them to a larger membership plan. That didn’t work out. My monthly revenue was only about a 1/4 of what it was.

In your opinion, is the premium themes / plugins market saturated? Are there any opportunities out there?

It’s only saturated if you don’t have a specific niche. You’ve got to find your angle, your little slice of the pie, and focus on that. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. I think the plugin market is more wide open than the theme market though. There’s more room to be innovative.

What’s your advice to new theme / plugin authors?

I mostly covered that in the previous answer, but here’s another, more important piece of advice. Be passionate about your work. People always ask me, “How to make money online?” I always tell them to find something that they’d do, regardless if they ever made a single dime. I enjoy making themes and plugins. Some of them make me money. Some really don’t. Of course, there are things that I do in order to put food on the table. But, most of my work, that’s me doing things that I’m passionate about.

If you had the chance to add a single feature in WordPress core, what would it be?

Most of the big features I’ve wanted over the years are now in core, so my list is getting smaller. From a developer standpoint, the feature I want to see most is the post status API fleshed out.

Is the inclusion of the REST API a decision in the right direction and why?

I’m sure it’s a good thing. The greatest thing about having the REST API is that it will bring developers with other backgrounds to the community. The huge developer community is what has made WordPress great over the years and will continue doing so for years to come.

What’s your current hardware / software setup. Any apps you can’t live without?

I’m using a Sony Vaio laptop I got 4 or 5 years ago. It’s been the best laptop I’ve ever had in terms of longevity. I used to go through a new laptop every year. I’m in the market for something new at the moment.

As for software, I use the following tools on a daily basis.

  • Notepad++
  • Atom (for writing rather than coding)
  • Chrome
  • Slack
  • Photoshop

What’s your typical day like?

I’m on my winter schedule now, so this will change when it’s time to start gardening again and I get more daylight hours. I keep to a fairly strict schedule every day so that I stay on track.

  • 6:00 – Wake up, piddle around, check email.
  • 8:00 – Work.
  • 12:00 – Lunch.
  • 1:00 – Work.
  • 4:00 – Exercise, yard work, etc.
  • 5:00 – Final work-related stuff like email.
  • 6:00 – Dinner.
  • 7:00 – Activities like reading, watching some TV, etc.
  • 11:00 – Bedtime (though I’m often an hour behind).

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