WordPress People: David de Boer

This summer 3000 WordPress people will meet in beautiful vibrant Paris for WordCamp Europe. We would like to introduce a few interesting attendees who work with WordPress and are active in the community.

Our second interview is with David de Boer, entrepreneur, developer and frequent WordCamp speaker from the Netherlands.

Netherlands /@davdebcom / davdeb.com/

Phillip: Let’s start with the usual – where are you from? Where do you live? Where do you work?

David: Okay – I’m from the Netherlands. I don’t live close to Amsterdam, and I do live close to The Hague the International City of Justice as they like to call themselves, in a small village.

What do I do? I code, I’m a developer, a marketer – a bit of an entrepreneur, I create my software products. So I have WordPress plugins, and I have Joomla extensions – oh I’ve said it! And that’s what I do. And sometimes I do custom work – mainly payment integrations that are a little bit my speciality. And lots of marketing for the software products – newsletters and search engine optimisation, keeping the website nice, developing new features, stuff like that – oh and I speak, of course, that’s how I met you. I speak at conferences for fun.

You have a payment plugin, I think we can say it, it’s called Paytium, and it’s for paying things on the internet easily, and it’s a Dutch system, right?

Yes – Paytium is the name of the Plugin and it integrates with iDEAL and iDEAL is the biggest payment system in the Netherlands. While in other countries credit cards are the most popular payment method, in the Netherlands it’s actually iDEAL.

You can pay in the supermarket with iDEAL aswell?

No, it’s the biggest online payment method. In the supermarket you can use your bank card or cash and then online for webshops, you can use iDEAL.

David speaking about trends in online payment at WordCamp Netherlands 2016
David speaking about trends in online payments at WordCamp Netherlands 2016

So you made a WooCommerce plugin and also a Joomla extension for this, and that’s what you maintain?

Yes, that’s correct. I have Paytium, the one in the WordPress repository, that’s a standalone plugin, so you don’t need WooCommerce. And some people find it easy because you don’t have to set up a whole shop. You just use one single plugin which has the selling part and the payment integration in one plugin. And then I have another one on woocommerce.com which I developed with WooCommerce, which they sell on their site. And then the Joomla business.

Which is basically the same just that it’s called an extension, not a plugin right?

[laughs] They have different names so in WordPress we call everything a plugin and some people would say this is an extension for WooCommerce, but it’s actually still a plugin. In Joomla, everything is different so they call it an extension and an extension can be anything that extends Joomla, so the extension is a component or a plugin or a module or a language pack or a template (theme). And a module is most comparable to a widget in WordPress, so it gets complicated really fast if you’re not familiar with the terms.

Alright – and what are you working on right now at the moment?

Good question. I launched this new plugin, Paytium, last year; it was a bit of an experiment because it doesn’t use any other eCommerce plugins. I was just curious to know if there was any demand for people just using one single plugin in a super simple sense using shortcodes to create a tiny shop – like only a buy button. And then people can press that buy button in your post or your page and then pay and go back. That’s it. There is not a lot more.

There’s no shipping methods and no complex configurations. I wasn’t sure if people really wanted that, needed that. I hoped they needed it, but I wasn’t sure. I just created it and put it on the repository, and then within a few months, I saw that people started using it and that they liked it and that they wanted more features. So at a certain moment I said – okay well it’s really great to see that you guys are using it, but I don’t have a lot of time to create all these features, because I also have to earn an income.

So the idea came to create extensions, and that’s what I’m doing now, creating extensions for that experiment. It’s actually not an experiment anymore, people like it. Last week I was working on an email-extension, so when someone submits a payment, you can send them an email.

I think that would work nicely for donations right?

Yeah, that’s the first group of people that started using the plugin, for donations, because it’s really simple. And then I started noticing people using it for other things aswell. So most people using it at the moment are non-profits, and they just collect donations. Then people started using it for other things like selling ebooks or other things. I’m also trying to communicate that. It’s more than just for donations. But I like the way that you just put something on the repository and then wait and see how people use it. You don’t have to have too many assumptions beforehand. You put it on the repository and see what they use it for.

Your plugin is a contribution to WordPress. How do you think this contribution helped you?

I always find the contribution question a bit – not complex per se, but it’s always interesting because I always have a feeling that contributing is also something you can do for yourself. It’s not like a selfless act. Maybe for some few people, WordPress lead developers – they invest a lot of time, and it will be extremely selfless for them to do that, but for me – I like speaking. One of the things I like to do is speak at WordCamps. At the moment you don’t get paid to speak at WordCamps, so that’s coming out of your own pocket. But it’s so much fun meeting new people and teaching other people things you know about. That is not just contributing as a selfless act but also good fun for yourself. Same thing with the plugin. I could say it’s a contribution and people can use it for free. I’m only thinking about creating extensions now. But again it’s a lot of fun, and you get a reputation. So I have people who have contacted me so I could do a custom integration for some other system, because they saw my work on Paytium and then thought well – he could help us with this integration for something else. You get something back, at least in my case. Not completely selfless.

David & Phillip at WordCamp Europe Vienna 2016
David & Phillip at WordCamp Europe Vienna 2016

There’s also a business side – of course. I always say this myself – contributing is often also a business. You get to know people and people get to know you and that’s how business relations start. Right?

Exactly. I don’t see it as a black and white area. It’s all grey.

And it helps you with your business, and it helps you having fun.

Yeah – you could say contributing is a way of life. But that might be tacky.

[laughs] Yes – that is a little bit tacky. On to the next question. Where do you think WordPress is going in the future?

Well, the first WordCamp I went to was WordCamp Europe in 2013 in Leiden in the Netherlands which actually is relatively close to Amsterdam. One of the things that stood out for me was the talk by Andrew Nacin about updates and automatic updates. I think it was relatively new, and Andrew Nacin was talking about it, and I remember Matt Mullenweg also talking about that at a different moment. The idea of having Chrome-like updates, updating in the background, that you don’t even know that WordPress is updated and maybe in the future that you don’t even know that a plugin or a theme is updated. I’m not sure if we will get there, but that’s one of the things I find most interesting for WordPress. If at a certain moment you get constant WordPress updates and you don’t even know about it.

That would be nice. That would also solve a lot of problems.

They would, of course, need to be stable and not break anything.

[laughs] Yeah and work on PHP 5.2.4

[laughs] Yes – preferably. Supporting that version, it should probably work. That would be interesting. And everybody knows which things were announced at WordCamp US like the switching to a different release cycle. I’m also really curious as to how the editor blocks will work eventually.

Yes, that’s also interesting.

Well, I think you’re actually asking what I think and not for me to repeat what everybody has read and heard.

[laughs] We all look at WordPress and see what’s happening. Although you and I are not actively working on core, we see where it’s going, and we can only comment on that, because we are not actively changing it only in ways of contributing to WordCamps or Plugins.

There seems to be a move toward site builders, the SaaS versions, Wix, Weebly, stuff like that. You can see this in the Customizer and the focus which is being put on that. And I’m okay with that because it would be easier for my own Mother to build her own site. Stuff like content blocks are also a great solution for her. I actually had that problem with her three weeks ago. And I thought – ah this it what they mean with content blocks! But I hope that when the UI moves more towards a user-friendly weebly kind of interface that the power we are used to as long-time users is still there under the hood. So a pure interface for non-technical users won’t take away the power we are used to.

And what are your plans for the future with WordPress? You already said you’re working on those extensions for the plugin? But what else? Keep your business going?

Yeah, that for sure because the extensions are potentially a new part of my business if they are indeed as popular as people are trying to convince me of. “Everybody wants it! Please build it! Please build it!” They really want that email functionality. I try not to think too far ahead because then I just get crazy with “Oh I have to do this and that and that”. So that’s one of the biggest things in my mind right now to build those extensions and then see what happens and if people want them, need them. And see if I can keep on expanding the plugin, because there’s now a good reason to apart from just wanting to do this but also that knowing when you spend time on it your income is increasing so you can actually buy bread at the end of the month.

I always wonder how much work is the support for the plugins. How much do you think your support work is in the percentage of your whole work. Twenty or thirty percent?

That’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t have a direct percentage. I do keep track of all my time. I use toggl.com, and it’s just a time tracker. I think most of the time at the moment is in development not in support because it’s a relatively new plugin with just over 600 active installs, but it is increasing so let me just check. Ah in the last six days it was about eight emails, and it’s a free plugin, and I still have to reply to them. So for this plugin, it’s not that big. I get about one or two emails per day. Most of the time they don’t cost a lot of time because it’s simple things like “Can I do this?” and then you just reply with “Yes!” or “No, that’s not possible.”

[addition: David did the math and support for all his plugins and extensions is about 10% of his work]

Alright, we have to come back to visiting WordCamps. Why do you like visiting WordCamps?

One of my favourite things is actually the food and the parties. I always try to combine visiting a WordCamp in another country with speaking, because that makes it a lot easier to connect with people. Especially if you’re not speaking the same language. So I’ve been to Spain and Germany. And when I go to other countries I’d rather be a speaker than just go as an attendee. I have never tried the other way. I have never been to a WordCamp in another country without speaking, excluding WordCamp Europe. So I actually don’t even know what it’s like not being a speaker. I just assumed that it’s more fun being a speaker. People that know the area take you to fun places, to fun bars or restaurants. You get real fun conversations and just regular fun without too much business talk. What was your question?

[laughs] It’s all good. It was why do you like visiting Wordcamps, and you answered perfectly.

[laughs] The most important track for me is the bar track. Do they call it the bar track? No – the hallway track. I don’t visit a lot of talks from other people. Because when you’re a developer most things are things you already know. For example basic CSS stuff. You know the basics already, so I don’t go to these kind of talks. Most of the time I’m just talking in the hallway with other people. It stays fun to meet real end-users, not just your friends, not just the other people you keep seeing at other WordCamps but the real end-users. They always have interesting ways of using WordPress, or interesting questions. It’s good to remember that these are the people which we are working for. People that don’t really know what a widget is or how it works.

That’s true!

And you can meet these people at WordCamps. Not always, but sometimes they find their way to a WordCamp, and that’s pretty interesting.

So will we see you at WordCamp Europe 2017?

Yes, still have to find my apartment, so I hope I’m not too late but I’ll be there, yes.

I already got mine for 34€ a night.

34? That’s like super cheap! Is it an apartment or a room?

It’s not shared. It’s a very small apartment – only 20 square metres plus bathroom. mini-kitchen in the room. It’s like when I was a student back then.

I wanted to say the same, but I thought no I wouldn’t say that, and then you said it yourself. I had the same when I was a student – a studio. One room and a bathroom.

That’s all you need. Alright – thank you David – that was our little interview, and we will see you at WordCamp Europe I guess!

Yes – see you there! And good luck because you’re volunteering. Lots of luck with all the preparations!

Thank you!

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