WordCamp Europe is about a lot of great people meeting in Paris this summer. In our new WordPress People interview series we will introduce you to people who are active in the community and use WordPress every day.
Our first interview is with Bernhard Kau. Bernhard is a PHP developer living in Berlin, Germany. He is a passionate WordPress user, plugin developer and community member. He also organizes WordPress events, like the WordPress Meetup and WordCamp in Berlin.
Phillip: Hello Bernhard – welcome to the little interview for the WCEU website where we want to introduce people working with WordPress who are active in the community. We want to start this easy. So just tell us — where are you from and where do you live?
Bernhard: Okay – I’m originally from Mannheim, Germany, but I’ve lived in Berlin since 2008. I’m a web developer and I work in Potsdam.
Cool – so you live in Berlin? Which part of Berlin?
It’s called Steglitz, it’s the south-west of Berlin.
And your work is in Potsdam. What are you working on?
I work for — I would say a small agency, and we build websites with different CMSs. So not only WordPress, but I’m like the WordPress expert in the company. And I also work with other PHP-based frameworks.
So your primary job is programming WordPress websites or is it more plugins?
We only do the programming; we don’t have any designers in the agency. So we usually either get a theme a customer wants to use or the design from a design agency or we hire someone to design a website. Then we code the theme and the plugins. I usually do the plugins because many of my colleagues can code themes quite well, but they’re not so experienced in larger plugins.
WordPress is a good choice for content driven projects
Nice – so what are you working on at the moment, like right now?
Many different projects. One is a multisite platform where we have job markets for different car dealers in Germany. So there’s a company that has clients which are car brands, and they have different car dealers throughout Germany. The company provides a job market and the application process as a service for those. We built some custom post types for that. We also work for a governmental institution, and we implement a huge intranet application for them including LDAP authentication and some custom databases and stuff. So that’s a very big project as well.
And you also code that intranet completely in WordPress?
Yes – because they also want to share lots of information like press articles and things like that. We just added the additional functionality they need to the WordPress-based website.
Alright cool – and what would you say are the benefits of working with WordPress for you?
When you have an idea of how to solve something, it’s quite easy to get started. In some of the projects, I work with frameworks like Symfony. They’re much more flexible in like the tiniest details, but there’s a very big step you have to take until you have something that runs. With WordPress, you have a running system, and you just implement some plugins to add the functionality you need. So when it’s like a content driven project, a CMS like WordPress is better than having a pure PHP framework where you code everything like a login, user registration, database tables, things like that. So for some projects, that’s better, but for most projects, a CMS like WordPress is faster.
So next to working you also contribute to WordPress and the community. What do you do there?
Oh – lots of small things. I think the main part is writing some cool plugins and making them available through the WordPress repository, organising the WordPress Meetup in Berlin, organising the next WordCamp Europe and WordCamp Berlin (which has no date yet, but hopefully very soon). Then I also help in many Facebook groups, answering questions. I contribute a little bit to WordPress core, usually on a contributor day, translating things — many different things.
That’s a lot! How do you think contributing helped you personally in your profession?
The first thing I did with WordPress was actually writing a plugin, which might not be the usual first thing you do with WordPress. Then I started blogging about that, and I also put that plugin in the WordPress plugin repository. I learned a lot from using other plugins and writing patches for the core. And also having my plugin in the repo helped a lot because users would tell me which part of the plugin does not work with their installation. They gave me tips for new features I could add. I even get feedback from core developers sometimes who check my diffs when I commit a new version, and they tell me there’s something I can improve, there’s a better way to do that. So having your plugin in the repository and having everyone checking it and using it helped me a lot as a developer because you learn a lot more. And you’re also forced to look into new things you didn’t have in mind when you write the plugin for yourself. That’s usually what I do — I either have a problem, and I solve it somehow, and if I think it’s good for more people then I put it on GitHub and or in the repository. Then when people see the code, they give me tips.
Future of WordPress for the end user
Cool! Where do you think WordPress is going? It’s already very huge, what do you think will happen in the future?
With the new focus we have with releases, that could be quite interesting especially with the — I wouldn’t call it a page builder, but the thing that improves the editor that I saw today —
The blocks? (link)
Yes, there was a short blog post about the blocks. They look quite interesting. I didn’t look into it in detail. Things like shortcode are fine, but for most inexperienced end users, they’re way too complicated. Like having the correct syntax and knowing what an attribute is and how to separate values and things like that. That’s not really user-friendly so if you have something more convenient for the end user – that might be a big step.
Yes, we will see how this evolves. What are your plans for the future working with WordPress? Will you keep going like this? Or maybe start your company?
My own plans are attending new WordCamps. Last year I went to eight different WordCamps, and I travelled to new countries for this, and there are some WordCamps in my mind I want to travel to. Maybe Tokyo — not sure about that but that would be quite interesting. And then regarding WordCamps, there’s still the plan to get WordCamp Europe to Berlin, not next year but maybe 2019, we’ll see. And beside that improving my skills and learning more about writing better plugins. I’m not sure if I would go freelance. I think I’m not the type of person to go freelance — especially when you’re only a developer that’s not so easy. I’m not so creative in designing a website; I’m more creative in solving problems. So when someone comes to me and wants a website that’s something I couldn’t do on my own, or not easily.
WordCamps as a way of travel
Cool – let’s come back to WordCamps. Why do you like visiting so many WordCamps?
[laughs] As I said last year I went to eight of them and besides Christmas holidays I didn’t do any other vacations, and for me, it’s both — it’s learning new things, having small vacations over the year and especially meeting friends and new people. I’ve been attending WordCamps since 2011. There’s are a lot of people you see at many WordCamps, and it’s always nice to hang around with them before and after the WordCamp or after the sessions and at the party – things like that. It’s also about finding out things about different communities. Last year I went to Bilbao, Spain and they really had a local WordCamp for the local community because they not only had sessions in English and Spanish but also in Basque. For the warm-up party, they also invited all the members of the local meetup not only the attendees of the WordCamp which I liked very much. That’s things you learn when you visit other WordCamps in Europe and not only the ones in Germany where you always see the same people.
[laughs] Yeah – that’s true. We come to the last questions which would be “Why will we see you at WordCamp Europe?”, but I guess you already answered that in detail – so thank you very much, Bernhard, for the interview and see you at WordCamp Europe!
Thank you, Phillip! See you!