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An Interview With Konstantin Obenland, Code Wrangler At Automattic

An Automattician Code Wrangler, a podcaster, a sports fanatic and an inherent lover of traveling, Konstantin Obenland has lots to share. And whenever he manages to squeeze in any time, he updates his personal blog.

Happy to present Konstantin Obenland today. He talks about reviewing WordPress themes, WordCamps, his popular podcast (Cain & Obenland), Code Wrangler and more.

Konstantin Obenland on himself and his journey

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am really good at watching sports! It doesn’t matter if its American Football or soccer, I excel at watching both. I also like to travel, see new places, and take pictures of me in front of capitol buildings: http://konstantin.obenland.it/category/capitol-buildings/

How did Automattic happen?

When was still in college I contributed to the Twenty Twelve default theme. After I moved to the United States I was looking for a job, when Lance Willett, the project lead of Twenty Twelve, encouraged me to apply. I went through the process and eventually joined!

On Code Wrangler

If you weren’t a theme wrangler, what would you have been?

I’m actually a Code Wrangler now, I haven’t built a theme in over a year. I just haven’t bothered replacing my old business cards 🙂
After school I was hoping to land a job as a Scrum Master, or an Agile Project Manager in a software company. I majored in Business Administration and am an active member in the Scrum Alliance. I didn’t receive any responses to my applications after moving to the US, so Automattic just happened to work out.

What do you like best about reviewing themes?

Not a lot, to be honest. It is A LOT of work and a very thankless job at that. But it pays you with knowledge. After you’ve reviewed themes for a while, you’ll get an idea about what a good theme should look like, what it should be able to do, and what it shouldn’t. You see a lot of bad code and bad practices, but you also see a lot of great code by very smart people. In the end, I would say, my time as part of the Theme Review Team enabled me to contribute to Twenty Twelve in a meaningful way, and to join Automattic.

What are some of the top reasons that themes get rejected (other than not meeting the guidelines)?

No theme should be rejected for a reason other than not meeting the guidelines. That’s why they exist, so theme authors can prepare their themes accordingly and theme reviewers have a reference to base their review on. Within those guidelines the top reasons would probably be license issues, spam links, or code errors. Theme reviewer’s goals are to get as many themes in the repository as possible, so they’ll work with theme authors to get their themes ready for approval.

Who came up with Cain & Obenland in the Morning? What’s the story behind that?

Ha! I don’t even know who came up with it. It was probably me 🙂
We were watching the NBC show “Community” where they had a segment like that, and we found it hilarious.

We thought about how awesome it would be to fill it with WordPress content and shake up some WordCamps with that. So we did! Essentially the only purpose is to give us a good time, any enjoyment the audience gets out of it is just a nice side effect.

Konstantin Obenland on WordPress

What does a WordCamp mean to you?

WordCamp means meeting the community. I have the opportunity to go to more camps than most, and I cherish every single WordCamp experience. There are so many amazing people out there who are passionate about WordPress! In the beginning I went to every session I could to learn more, now I’m spending more time in the hallways talking to people, trying to learn how they use WordPress and where their pain points are with it. WordCamps are a great opportunity for the folks that work on the software to meet the folks that actually use it.

When can we expect a default WordPress drag and drop theme?

When someone makes one and suggests it as a default theme!
I’m not sure it’s really a theme’s job to provide that drag and drop interface, it should probably be done by a plugin or core, so the theme’s job can remain displaying the content, not managing it.

I’m sure that there are lots of people who can code and want to contribute. Perhaps they can’t figure out just how they can do so (despite the book), how can these people still contribute?

The best starting point is probably http://make.wordpress.org/
There people can find the group that is most suited to their needs and get involved there. Every “team” has guides on how to get involved with them and where they can be found for chats etc.

Any resources that you would like to recommend for learning WordPress theme development?

Yes, ThemeShaper is a great resource, specifically the theme tutorial: http://themeshaper.com/2012/10/22/the-themeshaper-wordpress-theme-tutorial-2nd-edition/

If you were taking this interview, what’s the one question that you’d ask yourself :D?

What was your favorite part of your trip to India?
And my answer would be: Holi!

Konstantin Obenland

 

You can find an archive of his presentations, WordCamp talks and podcasts on his personal website. And no matter what part of development do you care about, I’m sure you’ll find something interesting.

Meanwhile, follow our very own Code Wrangler, Konstantin Obenland on Twitter @obenland.

 

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