Informative Interview With Otto42

Bob Dunn who is the author of BobWP.com has published an excellent interview with Samuel Wood otherwise known as Otto42. In the interview, we learn the origin of his nickname Otto. However, I think one of the most interesting points in the interview are Otto’s thoughts on plugins.

If I have 100 plugins all doing their own thing, and I just combine them all into one file somewhere, then the code remains the same and there’s no advantages in doing so. Having them separate, with their own names, and their own descriptions, provides a way to keep track of things. I use snippets a lot too, but I put each snippet into its own plugin, for simplicity of management.

The number of plugins doesn’t matter, the code is what matters, and where that code lives is unimportant. WordPress itself implements a lot of its own internal functionality in the same way a plugin would do so.

His response has been very consistent over the years. In 2011, he pretty much provided the same answer when Ryan Imel of WPCandy published an article about the same topic. I also chimed in on this topic in 2011 where I discussed Plugin Quality, not Plugin Quantity. This is one of those things in the world of WordPress that I’ve seen change over the past few years. The line of thought used to be that you could only run so many plugins before you ran into problems or, you shouldn’t run more than a certain amount. I’m glad to see this urban myth slowly but surely, being put to rest.

3 Comments


  1. Otto is the WordPress guy who walks the talk.

    PHP is an “interpreter”, as opposed to a “compiler”, and that makes adding plugins to an existing PHP program (WordPress) attractive, easy, and cheap. Indeed, they can be viewed as “object oriented” extensions (anything OO is Good).

    It’s true there used to be problems with adding lots of plugins. WordPress also used to force everyone to use “admin” as the administrative login username. Dumb things happen … but Firefox also had a parallel hangup with larger plugin-counts.

    It’s not true anymore. You can go at least moderately hog-wild on plugins, and not end up a hog on ice.

    It is still an evolving situation. And in some cases & contexts, a devolving situation, too. Plugins reinforce the old wisdom that great freedom can be a big burden. Wide flexibility and a wealth of choices also lead to ‘issues’ … but of the kind we like to have.

    Those who are capable of looking at the HTML for their webpage can spot one of the gotchas with plugins: that some of them stuff code or data into your page. Sometimes whether they are doing anything or not. With just a few plugins, this behavior is relatively modest in cost, but with dozens of plugins doing this, you can end up with stupendous amounts of ‘crap’ in your page.

    Conflicts between plugins are now fairly rare. Used to be a big problem. But as we go to larger and then really-large numbers of plugins, the challenge of identifying that occasional conflict, when one does arise, becomes severe. You need to be prepared, with techniques & tools, to deal with what can no longer be fixed, just ‘by hand’ and ‘by eye’.

    Larger numbers of smaller and simpler plugins are an inherently better & smarter use of the general plugin-idea, than smaller numbers of bigger and more-sophisticated plugins.

    WordPress stands to sort of enter a second adolescence, as the potential of well-designed deployments of larger & larger numbers of plugins become practical, and the advantages become clearer. Firefox is hoping to join WP … in what is now looking like an actual ‘strategy’.

    There should be a niche or business-opportunity here, for experts familiar with WordPress and with a growing array of themes & plugins. The sheer amount of attention required to know what is possible, and the combination of theme & plugin pieces to make it happen the way the user would like, will exceed what many users will be able to devote.

    There should be an emerging product-category, consisting of nicely-chosen collections of others’ theme & plugin work, presented to various classes of users, as ‘just what they would have made themselves’, if they had the time to review & compare the hundreds and even thousand of choices involved, and make the right picks.

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  2. Hey Jeff, thanks for sharing this! And yes, his thoughts on plugins is what gave me the idea to do the interview. When I attended his session at WordCamp Seattle, someone asked him something very similar. And as I am part of the “quality over quantity” camp, I was glad to hear his thoughts.

    Cheers and thanks again!

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  3. @Bob Dunn – Thanks for publishing the interview. I’ll have my first opportunity to meet Otto myself next week at WCSF.

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