WP To Twitter is one of the most popular plugins available in the WordPress plugin directory. It has reached over 1,000,000 downloads. Basically this plugin enables you to automatically create tweets to your twitter profile when the blog content is published. You need to create a Twitter application and insert the OAuth setup keys in to the plugin inorder to enable its functionality.
This plugin was developed by Joe Dolson. He is a freelance web developer and accessibility consultant. www.joedolson.com is his personal website and you will be able to find more information about the plugins created by him. Recently I had the chance to get an interview from him about his plugin and what he thinks about WordPress Development. I hope you will have something to learn from his interview.
1. Brief introduction about you and what you do
I’m a freelance web developer and web accessibility consultant. I work for clients in a wide variety of areas, but prefer to work for small businesses and non-profits.
2. How long have you been using WordPress ?
I started using WordPress in 2006. I’m definitely not one of those people who has been using WordPress since day one, but it’s definitely been a while!
3. How long did it take to become an expert in WordPress ?
I’ll let you know when I get there! Seriously, WordPress is really a pretty substantial application there’s a lot of meat to it, and I definitely don’t know it all. I’m the kind of person who likes to just dive in so I started building my own themes right from day one, and that decision definitely forced me to pick up a lot of information pretty quickly. But I didn’t really start to understand WordPress until I started building plug-ins; plug-in development has taken me much deeper into the structure of WordPress. I still don’t really consider myself to be an expert: there are wide branches of WordPress that I know very well, and other areas I have yet to learn fully.
4. What was the motivation for creating WP to Twitter plugin ?
A friend of mine (Pierre Far, now working for Google) was building his own URL shortener, and wanted people to be testing his API. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to explore a new facet of programming by developing a WordPress plug-in which would work with his service. Twitter was still a pretty new tool at the time, and tying a URL shortener to the service was an obvious connection.
5. What sorts of challenges did you face in developing the plugin ?
The initial development was mostly about learning how the WordPress plug-in API worked. It was also long enough ago that I don’t particularly remember what was challenging at the time. I based the plug-in on an existing plug-in which already handled posting to Twitter; so that part was relatively simple, although I did make some significant changes to the underlying code right away.
6. What makes your plugin stand-out compared to similar plugins ?
Honestly, you’d have to ask somebody else somebody who has really compared my plug-in to others. I know that my plug-in offers a huge amount of flexibility and options, which many of the other plug-ins don’t. But I’ve really chosen to keep developing my plug-in according to my own goals, and haven’t spent a lot of time looking at other people’s work.
I’m not trying to compete with other plug-ins, so I’m not looking to clone their features. I think that the great thing about the WordPress plug-in repository is variety: you can frequently find several plug-ins which generally do what you want to accomplish, and people should absolutely pick the one which suits them best.
When I was writing this plug-in, the major WordPress to Twitter relationship was the plug-in Twitter Tools. One feature which that plug-in has and mine doesn’t is that it pulls your Tweets from Twitter and posts them to your blog. I’ve had people request this feature from time to time, and I usually just suggest that they use Twitter Tools. Personally,that feature was one of my reasons for developing my own tool: I really didn’t want a tool which posted to my blog.
7. What is your plan on future of this plugin ?
I launched a Pro extension to WP to Twitter a couple of weeks ago, called WP Tweets PRO. This is a secondary plug-in which you can purchase on my site. WP Tweets PRO is designed to work with WP to Twitter, and adds a set of new features to WP to Twitter. I decided to release a pro extension for two reasons.
First, WP to Twitter is already pretty complicated given what it does. Adding even more features was going to make the settings page just that much more difficult to use. Second, I want to have more time available to improve my plug-ins. Building, supporting, and improving a WordPress plug-in is a lot of work if I can turn part of my work into a revenue stream, then I can spend more time improving my work. Otherwise, that work always came in second to my paying clients.
8. What is the secret of the WP to Twitter plugin being so popular ?
Chance and longevity, I suspect. WP to Twitter got a good foothold early on, which made it worth continuing in the first place. When Twitter moved to OAuth authentication in August 2010, that was a major rewrite for all Twitter plug-ins — and many authors didn’t bother. I certainly considered whether or not I wanted to do it for a very long time, before deciding that I was going to go ahead. As a result, August 2010 marked the death of a large number of WordPress plug-ins that required authentication with Twitter.
9. What is your message to beginners of WordPress plugin development ?
The most important thing to know when writing a WordPress plug-in is the WordPress plug-in API. I see a lot of plug-ins which use complicated and unreliable hacks to accomplish something that you can do with just a few lines of code if you use the plug-in API.
There are some great books about WordPress plug-in development. I’ve reviewed a couple: WordPress 3 plug-in development essentials, by Brian Bondari and Everett Griffiths and WordPress Plug-in Development Beginner’s Guide by Vladimir Prelovac. Vladimir’s book is great, but being that it’s now going on 3 years old, it won’t teach you a lot of the most up to date stuff. The 2011 volume from Brian and Everett, however, is definitely still well worth reading.
10. Is there any plugin that you think is missing on wordpress plugin repositery ?
Undoubtedly there are dozens of them; but my greater concern is with trying to improve plug-ins which exist, but aren’t very well implemented. I’m passionate about web accessibility, for example, and there are vast numbers of plug-ins which do interesting and valuable tasks, but are not very accessible. My long-term goal is to be able to commit enough time that I can start building out a whole suite of WordPress plug-ins which use high-quality code and produce accessible output.
11. How do you want to see wordpress in 2 years from now ?
The biggest thing I want to see is an improvement in accessibility on the administrative end. The front-end is mostly in the hands of theme developers, so you can generally create a very accessible web site using WordPress, as long as you know what you’re doing. But the admin is very much a different creature, both in degree of complexity and in the ability for a developer to change it for a given installation.
I know that what this really means is that I need to get personally involved in core development – and that is my goal for the next year. That’s another reason for me to be releasing pro plug-ins if I can get my WordPress work to help support me, I can do a much better job of helping to support WordPress!