Next! Starting at Happy Prime

I’ve been talking about this day for about a year, since attending WordCamp for Publishers in Denver last August. Until now it’s been a side gig, so it’s felt a little weird to actually announce it. 🙂

Back in February of 2017, Steve and I spent a few days holed up in a house in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We agreed there was a chance we were going to be on our way out at WSU at some point in the future, that we wanted to keep working together if/when that day came, and that we wanted to do good work with good people on the web.

We talked and talked and talked our way through a SWOT analysis, brainstormed company names, and even started building a product because it seemed easier than coming up with a name.

Last June we got some business, so we had to actually come up with a company name and do all the paperwork. With the hard part of naming out of the way, we’ve been contently operating as Happy Prime in the evening and weekend hours.

Fast forward another year and things happened quicker than I really expected. I gave my notice the day after WordCamp Europe and have been half-time at WSU since early July.

And as of this afternoon, I’ll have officially wrapped things up at WSU and moved to full-time employment at Happy Prime!

I’m very excited about what’s next, and I’m looking forward to tackling a variety of projects with different groups.

If you’d like to talk about the implementation and strategy of big web in higher-ed, scaling or doing other complex things with WordPress multisite, building interesting plugins, or making the web a better place through open source software—please, do reach out, we’d love to chat!

Wrapping up 5 years at WSU today

Five years! Time has its way.

On Friday, July 12, 2013, Michelle and I took off in a U-Haul and a car we had just purchased—our first in over 2 years—to make the trip from Portland, OR to Pullman, smack dab on the eastern edge of Washington state.

I went from enjoying all that came with remote employment to walking in to an office that Monday morning, likely still trying to grasp what exactly it was that I had said yes to.

Five years later, and we’ve accomplished quite a bit.

From day one, all of the code I wrote was in the open. This spread quickly across the team and there are now 303 public, open source repositories on GitHub. I won’t try to claim that many of these are great examples of open source software, but I will say that we have done a good job of showing our work. There is a treasure trove of material for the code spelunker.

I started at WSU believing that public universities should open source their work. I leave absolutely committed to the idea. (More on that soon.)

The platform has been a success. On one WordPress installation, we’ve collected 63 networks, 2025 sites, and 10140 users. I now know what it feels like to manage a large WordPress instance. I’m lucky that we were able to survive with a monolithic stack so long. I’m grateful I was able to transition server management off to WSU’s central IT before walking out the door.

Building this platform is the reason I found myself able to contribute to WordPress so heavily the first few years. It’s the reason I became a maintainer of the multisite focus. And it’s the reason I became a WordPress core committer.

To complete that circle, my contributions to WordPress and awareness of day-to-day development are big reasons why we have had such a smooth time maintaining a stable platform.

The easiest way to reduce maintenance burden when extending WordPress is to be familiar with WordPress.

– Me, in my note to Greenpeace a couple years ago.

My advice to WSU as I leave—and really to anyone relying on a large open source project—is that everything is easier when you are involved in that open source project’s community. The organization does a disservice to the people responsible for the health of the project and to the people using the project if it does not budget resources for that involvement.

/leave #soapbox

Speaking of community! This is where the web team has excelled over the last 5 years. There’s a high chance I’m viewing this through almost-out-the-door-rose-tinted glasses, but in 2013 we had a university that didn’t really trust the central marketing group. As we built out the WordPress platform and the general web framework, we worked hard to solicit feedback and to create and support a community around the web.

On May 9, 2014, we had our first open lab. Since then we’ve had an open lab every Friday morning unless that Friday fell on a holiday. That’s more than 200 open labs with so many great people! Saying goodbye to everyone last Friday was definitely the toughest part of this all.

That’s that. I’m still in the process of reflecting, and I plan on sharing several more lessons. I’m already past due on a write-up to accompany my recent WPCampus talk, “What I’ve learned from 5 years of WordPress at a public university“, and I have been contemplating my collective thoughts for the last few months on the duty of public institutions to use, create, and contribute to open source software. That will get a post soon.

But for now, I’m off for a walk to campus to enjoy my last half-day at WSU. Tomorrow I’m officially a full-time employee at Happy Prime!