Interview with Plugin Developer Alex Choo

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I first met Alex when I reviewed his Plugin WP Text Ads for Problogger about two years ago. Since then I was finally able to pin him down for a quick interview. You can keep up with him and what he’s doing with WP Text Ads at the Plugin’s official website.

What first brought you to WordPress? What project were you involved in that first included WordPress?
I first used WordPress when I started with a friend. We needed a blog for it, and I’d heard good things about WordPress. At that time, we had to choose between WordPress and Movable Type. As I wasn’t familiar with Perl, I went with WordPress. It was version 1.5 then. I think TicTap still uses version 1.5!

Now, I recommend WordPress to everyone who’s looking to start a blog. Perhaps I’m a little biased but what can you expect from a fan? 🙂

The really good thing about WordPress is its super fast install (usually hassle-free too) and its ease of use. The large community of users and plugins also makes it very attractive as a blogging platform.

What, to you, is the single most important addition to WordPress lately?
That would have to be the sidebar widgets. It takes away the pain of modifying the sidebar PHP code, and it’s so easy to test widgets against it. This feature alone makes WordPress very attractive because anyone can create a blog with many useful functionalities. Developers love it because it’s so easy to code for a widget.

The developers of WordPress made a right decision by incorporating widgets by default into the WP 2.0 installation.

But there’s one thing I am concerned about, and that is the search for the ‘next great big feature’ for WordPress. I think many features ought to be added in as plugins, and not in the default WordPress package. That’ll prevent bloat and avoid confusion for novice users.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment with WordPress?
That’d be WP Text Ads. I’d created a few plugins before that, and some are still on the WP Text Ads blog. But WP Text Ads takes the cake because it serves one useful purpose – avoid paying commissions for selling text link ads. It solves a real problem for people.
Where did you get your inspiration for WP Text Ads?
It was actually a friend who said how great it’d be to buy and sell links without paying commissions. We talked about, and decided to go even further by selling per page text link ads. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry on with this discussion so I took it up upon myself.
If you could change one thing about the WordPress community, what would it be?
Ryan, are you trying to get me into trouble? 🙂
Any words of advice for aspiring WordPress Plugin developers?
Read the documentation, and look at the source code of your favorite plugins. Not every function is documented, unfortunately. And those that are documented are not always clearly explained, so you’d need patience and some trial and error.

The WordPress forum is very useful too.

Where do you foresee WordPress going in the future? What’s missing that’s needed to take it to the next level?
Unfortunately, more bloat. That’s inevitable as you add more and more features into any software. I hope the developers can draw a balance between features that need to be a default feature and those that ought to exist as plugins.