The James Farmer Interview: Part 1 of 2

Filed as Interviews on July 21, 2009 4:00 pm

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James Farmer is one of the big names in the WordPress MU sphere. He’s one of the guys behind the WordPress MU focused agency Incsub, and also the founder of the poster site of poster sites for the blog hosting platform: Edublogs.org. Sure, I guess wordpress.com is both bigger and probably better technically than Edublogs.org, but this is the mother of all WordPress MU installs, the one that proved that this software can be used for real. If anyone doubted that, that is.

So what are his thoughts on the platform, all the new projects that Incsub has rolled out, and so on? I certainly got them in this mammoth interview, split into two parts. This is Part 1.

First of all, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Incsub?

Incsub is about my 4th professional incarnation, before that I was an editor at theage.com.au, lecturer at deakin.edu.au and teacher at stacks of different places.

Essentially, while I was in the lecturer mode, I started Edublogs.org to fill a need that I had – providing blogs for people – and it grew (really quick) so people started asking me about making similar sites for them.

Luckily I had also got to know Andrew Billits via the WPMU community by that time, he’s a damn great WPMU coder, and hence Incsub was born.

Incsub is something of THE WordPress MU specialist out there. How come you went down that road?

Well, we reckon there’s very little we can’t do with WPMU! Seriously though, it’s an amazing – stunning in fact – platform that we were both using for our own and client work… and it’s what a lot of large organisations (as well as hobbyists) want to use to power their blogs.

We were pretty much demand driven – as soon as we launched it became clear that there were lots of people wanting to use WPMU, and very few agencies specializing in it. Of course that’s not true now, but that’s cool because 90% of them use our code from WPMU DEV Premium anyway :)

farmer1.jpgAh, WPMU DEV Premium. There’s a lot of discussions around GPL right now, people thinking that themes are not GPL and things like that. What’s your take on selling GPL’d content? You obviously do it, but aren’t you afraid someone will download it all and upload to the wordpress.org directory?

Well, there are a few ways of looking at it.

First up, I’m 100% a supporter of developing GPL pluigins and themes – it’s the WordPress license and if you don’t like it then you should probably look for another platform.

Sure, I’ve had my doubts about how it’d affect my business, in the past, and I’ve publicly voiced them – but I’m a convert now :)

My take is that we don’t really sell the content per se – we sell continuous and professional updates, responsive and in-depth support, peace of mind and security and guaranteed continuity… just to mention a few things.

As for the plugin repository, I think it’s safe to say that our plugins won’t be added to it, mainly because the first sentence here goes: “You can add the plugin you’ve written”.

And, even if people did, how would WPMU site owners know they were safe, secure or stable… it’s way too big a risk, and that’s what WPMU DEV Premium removes.

You’ve previously built Edublogs, a successful WordPress MU site if any. Why did you do that, and what lessons have you learnt over the years running Edublogs?

Ahhh, how long do you have? I could go on for days – buy me a few beers and I’ll make your ears hurt ;)

It’s tough to summarise, but I think the real core has been staff, we have an incredible community manager in Sue Waters and our SysAdmin is absolutely unbelievable too (and I’m not telling you his name ‘cos I wanna keep him!) – there’s only so much that Andrew, Lol and I can manage on our own – so finding and employing the right people in the right places has made my life, and the site, so much better!

Monetization, that’s another massive issue, one that I covered in a lot of detail here.

What sort of impact has the release of BuddyPress had on WordPress MU?

Well, it’s interesting. BuddyPress doesn’t really complement WPMU – it kinda takes it over – so while there’s obviously some crossover and it’s generated some interest in WPMU, really it’s like it’s own separate beast.

That’s interesting! So you don’t think it is a good extension of a regular WordPress MU blogging community, to add the Facebook-ish features of BuddyPress?

I think it’s a good extension of WordPress – and another way to use a WPMU site… will we be adding it to Edublogs.org? Simple answer, no, because we can’t.

It dominates an install, so it’d better be part of your plans from the get go rather than a later addition.

Having said that, we’re experts at Incsub of moving one blog platform to another (we recently exported 35,000 blogs off vgb.no
(some archaic Russian platform) to WPMU… so we’d be happy to look into it on a custom build :)

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this interview tomorrow! There we’ll dig into the various Incsub projects, GPL, and other interesting things.

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  1. » Me on the herald incorporated subversionJuly 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm
  2. James » Current News TrendsJuly 22, 2009 at 2:01 am
  3. By phlux0r posted on July 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    BuddyPress can be as obtrusive or in-obtrusive (in a WPMU install) as you make it. It doesn’t have to “take over” at all.

    It comes with its own home theme that, true, takes over the site but that can be easily replaced with a custom home theme (see: http://flokka.com for an example).

    The social networking aspect of BuddyPress can be very low key if necessary or “in yer face” as in the default BuddyPress install.

    Reply

  4. The James Farmer Interview: Part 2 of 2 | The Blog HeraldJuly 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm
  5. WordPress MU, GPL and Paywalls | The Blog HeraldSeptember 29, 2009 at 11:14 am
  6. Me on the herald | The AggregatorOctober 8, 2009 at 11:46 am

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