Omar Reiss is Partner and CTO at Yoast and WordPress Core contributor. He’s also WordCamp speaker and plugin developer. You can find him on Twitter and other networks. We reached him at WordCamp Torino, where he had an interesting speech about the future of WordPress.
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Q1: What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
I am a major in Philosophy and during my masters I also pursued a career in Web Development, so I learned how to program and from there after my studies I ended up with Yoast as a software architect and quickly grew to become manager and CTO of the company and basically this is how I got involved in WordPress, as Yoast is the biggest SEO plugin in WordPress.
Q2: What should readers know about all the stuff you’re doing in WordPress these days?
Q3: What about your role as a developer in the WordPress community?
I try to bridge the gap between modern engineering and WordPress core community basically. WordPress is a legacy application with a lot of unstructured or poorly structured code, and I think WordPress would benefit from adopting more engineering practices and more abstraction, so I’ll be an advocate for that and at the same time honoring the WordPress core philosophies and ideals.
Q4: What challenges did you face in getting to where you are now professionally?
Well, I never expected to be working with the computer so I had to most often change my view of who I am, so I think the main challenge is like I constantly have to adapt my sense of identity a little bit. I thought I was a philosopher who will write books, then I figured out that it’s really important for me to learn, and I thought there is no better place to learn than in the IT, because it goes so fast and you can do so many things. So I decided that I would have worked with computers. I wanted to work in Amsterdam and be in the big city and have an exciting life but then Yoast turned out to be in a small village in the East of the Netherlands where I never saw myself living, so I had to adapt my expectations and then just follow my intuition, so it’s mostly about adapting expectations, but apart from that everything is pretty cool, right?
Q5: Has anything surprised you while coming up in the WordPress world?
It’s still not clear to me how decisions are being made in this project, but I think that’s not the biggest surprise. The biggest surprise is how do we get stuff done after all. The biggest surprise is that we actually build a great product that many people benefit from. That is the main surprise.
Q6: What does the future look like for you in the WordPress world?
To be honest, I’m not sure. It depends also very much on what’s needed. I want to work with my talent and if I can use my talent in the context of the WordPress community I’m having to do so, but if I have to code to get something done then my influence will be much lower because that’s just not where my biggest talent is, so it depends on what I can get done without coding.
Q7: What do you look for in a WordPress host?
I look for modern server technology and I look for a care-free solution for end-user. That’s the most important thing I look for in a WordPress host. Personally, as an engineer I would like to have freedom in taking ownership of some of the DevOps myself so if I can, for instance, use modern deployment techniques or configuration and management tools for me is a plus, but I think for the WordPress community, in general, it’s mostly important that it’s a good managed solution based on modern server technology that is care-free.
Q8: You’re a philosopher, and the word philosophy means “love of wisdom”. What is your philosophical approach to coding (and WordPress)
I see great similarities between the practice of a philosopher and the practice of a developer or engineer, and the similarity is the fact that you are in both cases always creating an abstract model of a certain reality. Only in philosophy it’s theoretical and it’s abstract, and in programming it’s very practical and it’s applied, so you actually define a program that actually works. You’re actually creating a world but it’s a very similar thing. You need to come up with an abstract model of reality over the main, and that’s something you do all the time in philosophy, understanding the domain that you’re looking at and really trying to come up with the right abstractions.
Q9: In your speech you introduced the Servehappy technology. Can you shortly explain what it is about?
Servehappy in my view is an information framework within WordPress that will help WordPress and users of WordPress to keep server technology up-to-date. It’s like, as a community, we go the extra mile to inform and help and assist users in upgrading the server technology that’s underneath their WordPress so this will now be employed for informing users about their PHP version, but it could also be used for MySQL version, it would be used for a Curl library version, and all that kind of stuff. It will enable us, as a community and as an ecosystem, to keep ourselves technology up-to-date and safe and secure and fast.
Q10: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
I enjoy reading, I enjoy listening to music laying on my couch, and I enjoy walking in nature and just being amongst friends and amid conversations.
Q11: Whom should we interview next & why?
I think you should interview Luca Tumedei (https://twitter.com/lucatume). He’s one of my closest friends in the WordPress Italian community and in the WordPress community in general. I think he has a really original outlook over development and technical solutions for WordPress.