How to develop the best WordPress products

WordPress is about freedom. This is one of the many reasons for the platform’s success, as well as creating an interesting new paradigm. Developers have a very low barrier to entry, which means that anyone with an idea and time to spare can develop a product on top of WordPress, upload the files to a marketplace and start selling (and making money). With this low barrier to entry, and an influx of developers looking to sell their products, it becomes an exercise of it’s own to try and stand out from the crowd (be the signal amongst the noise).

Fortunately, there are a few golden rules and tips which, when employed, help the product stand out from the rest. Continue reading

What bands and musicians can learn from software companies

“Release early, release often” is what they say in the software game, if you’re applying a LEAN approach. Having a product in the market, and receiving customer feedback, is better than having nothing out there for customers to see, test and give feedback on. “If you’re proud of your MVP, you’re doing it wrong” is another similar quote. This implies that your first version should be quick and dirty, focussing purely on the core concepts of what you’re aiming to achieve, without too many bells or whistles.

For many years, I’ve been involved in and passionate about the alternative music scene in South Africa. While there are a few bigger bands who have “made it”, as it were, there are many independent artists who organise their own events, record their own albums and do everything else themselves to try and make ends meet. These are the musicians who have to keep a day job to sustain their passion for music (ie: they don’t always choose to keep their day job) and have to make sacrifice after sacrifice to realise their dreams. The music industry in South Africa is a true labour of love.

There are, however, a few take-aways from the world of software development, which musicians can apply to their own business, for an almost guaranteed success (provided folks like the music the artist releases). Continue reading

No-one needs your product

This is often a tough pill to swallow, particularly for product people. Having put hours, days, weeks and/or months into an idea which you believe in with every fibre of your being, only to realise that no-one actually needs it. That’s rough.

Of course, this applies to new ideas, as well as re-inventions and improvements of existing ideas. Any new idea is usually either a better way of achieving an existing result, or a way of achieving the same existing result, using slightly different tools, or a slightly different process.

Ask yourself this; Do you really need that new smartphone? Is it not the same as your current smartphone, except with slight improvements and perhaps a slightly different way of doing something?

You don’t need it. You want it. Continue reading

Hacking Myself

For those who have known me for some time, there are a few realisations which are pretty evident; one of which being that I’ve always been a “big guy”. Call it what you like; a “strong build”, a “wide frame”, whatever. It’s all the same. I’m also not really a fan of being told what I “should” do. Think along the lines of “Matthew, you should be exercising 6 days a week, you know”. Not very encouraging.

Couple these points together, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Someone who is a big guy and is being made to feel like he doesn’t want to exercise, even though he knows he should be. Not. Smart.

The tipping point

At the time of writing, I’m 27 years old. While I’m not a walking mountain, I’ve not been happy with my weight for some time. Not being a very sporty person, and being the ultimate pizza lover, are not character traits which sit well together.

It was time for a change, and the only person who could action this change, was me. Continue reading

Forming a writing habit

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I’ve also always enjoyed blogging, and have tried regularly to form a blogging habit. Over the past few months, I’ve managed to break several bad habits (eg: checking my emails on my mobile phone) as well as craft some wonderful new habits, such as a daily 5.5km walk with our beautiful puppy, Maddie. The one habit I’ve yet to (truly) form, is a blogging habit.

In re-reading the above paragraph, I take note of the first sentence above; in particular, they key-word, “writing”. Not all writing is blogging. Therefore, I’ve decided to reframe this goal from a “blogging habit” into a “writing habit”. That sounds like a much more realistic, and specific, goal. Continue reading

JFDI

Just Effing Do It!

What a wonderful statement, that is. When you find yourself hesitating on a task… hey man, JFDI. If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place… hey, JFDI to the rescue. While this is great, I’m pretty certain there hasn’t yet been a singular definition given for this mantra.

I’ve had a few individual discussions recently, with several WooThemes colleagues, on the meaning of JFDI and, ultimately, trying to find out what the phrase means to them. While JFDI can carry many different meanings for different individuals or companies, I thought I’d share mine, and how I feel it applies to what I do.

Continue reading

Characteristics of a Sustainable WordPress Product

A few weeks back, I gave a presentation at WordSesh 2013 where in I discussed the characteristics of a sustainable WordPress product. The key factors I touched on are the product’s ability to perform it’s prescribed tasks, and only it’s prescribed tasks, to the best of it’s ability, harmonising with other WordPress products and increasing in value with every other product which is activated on the WordPress installation.

Here are my slides from the presentation.

Continue reading

Rethinking Email

Almost 2 years ago, I blogged about how email is broken and that we’re all using it incorrectly. Mostly, I was referring to the sending of unnecessarily large files over email, not so much about the day to day use of email.

Every day this week, thus far, my email client has remained closed between 9am and 12pm. Closed. Every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about email, how we use it and what it’s true purpose should be. At times, I’ve felt like my inbox controls me, rather than me controlling my inbox. Hence the periodic closure. Before you throw your hands up in disgust (“OMG! How dare you close your email?!”), let me jump into my email routine, as it stands today. Continue reading

Learning to Fly

I firmly believe that anything is possible and that we should rethink the concept of “the impossible”. Sometimes, the end goal may just take a few steps longer than others, to achieve.

Contrasted to that, I like to see things get done now. Just git-r-dooooone. Generally, I don’t find this too tricky to achieve, as I’m used to the environment in which many of my day-to-day goals reside (code, WordPress, products, value). Having a firm grasp of one’s surroundings makes goal setting and achieving far easier.

My mom always says, I perform best when I’m at the top of my class. Bear in mind, I was a C-average student in school. I believe what my mom means, here, is that I perform best when I’m feeling confident in what I’m doing, and my knowledge of the topic and surroundings. Continue reading

On goal setting and comfort zones

I’m a “lists” person. Give me a to-do list any day and I’ll make quick work of getting it from A to Z. Having a to-do list helps me feel like I’m in-check and on top of whatever I’m working on. More so than my love of lists, though, is my love of checking items off of a list. I love it. I can regularly be found planning out my to-do list for the day, as my first task when I start work in the morning, and I’m sure to check off each item from my list as I go, as well as updating any task reporting tools with the task I’ve just completed (at the moment, we use iDoneThis over at Woo- it’s pretty awesome).

As can be inferred by my love of lists, I like routines. Routines, however small and un-impactful, mean that in some small way, I know what’s coming next (and thus, can do any necessary preparation- either physical or mental). Some may refer to this as a comfort zone.

Continue reading