Recently, two WordPress development companies announced big name hires. The first was John James Jacoby leaving Automattic to join the WordPress development agency 10UP. The second, is Scott Kingsley Clark who has been hired by WebDevStudios most widely known throughout the WordPress community as the man behind the popular Pods Framework plugin. If you remember back in 2011, Scott put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of Pods 2.0. While he originally asked for $1,500 he managed to pull in over double that amount with $4,177. I reached out to Scott to not only talk about his new job, but what will be happening to his Pods Plugin.
First off congratulations on being picked up by WDS, a great group of people. My first question is, can you give everyone an update as to what happened after Pods 2.0 was funded via Kickstarter in 2011. What happened to the money, how it was used and did you really meet the goal the campaign was created for?
When I took over the Pods project, I had a lot of lofty goals. At the time, I was working from home doing various contracting gigs, but wanted to spend more time on the Pods project to get it to the next step, which was what Pods 2.0 was envisioned to be. Pods hadn’t received many donations and it wasn’t covering all the time I was spending on it, but I still put in 110% on it. For 2.0, one of the goals was revamping the UI entirely, nothing left behind. We needed a better field manager, content creation screen, and ensure it all felt like WordPress itself as much as possible.
There was a few other contributors with me who worked on the project off and on, but what we needed was a professional designer / UI person. We knew the only way to get one was to pay for it, and none of us could afford that sort of investment. I set out to take a few weeks off from my main gigs and commitments to work solely on getting Pods 2.0 out the door.
Unfortunately, I planned it out all wrong. I started as soon as the Kickstarter made its goal, I didn’t ask for enough cash to cover my time and the designer’s time, the Amazon/Kickstarter fees took a chunk out, and I had to wait a few weeks after the Kickstarter completed to get the money into my bank account. I found a designer but everyone was busy and couldn’t start anytime soon. I waited around for a few, but found that they couldn’t commit enough time to the project to get it to where we needed it in that short of a timeline. Instead of waiting for the right people and paying once, I hopped around a few and paid for the bits of work each did, but nothing concrete came out of it all.
By then it was too late, it was now approaching 2012, I was running out of steam to be able to carry it all on my shoulders again, and all my gigs that brought bread to the table began to pile up and need my attention again. I contacted Matt Mullenweg to get his input on how to grow the project and get more people involved. He was pretty busy, but when he followed up a few weeks later, he was very interested in helping me get back on track. He asked what we needed, I explained that I had been paying people out-of-pocket over time, and even had some developers helping pick up the slack working on monthly installments.
Matt came up with a sponsorship arrangement that took care of the future ongoing costs to get things back on track. And just like that, Matt and Automattic had swooped in and saved the day. Over the next few months we were committing code left and right, I was speaking at WordCamp San Francisco about what I had learned about content types in WordPress, and we had a beta out shortly after.
Since then, we’ve continued development and have focused on a number of big features for Pods 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3. We’re currently in development with 2.4 now, with no plans to stop, and we’re steadily growing our contributor list. We recently launched our new site with a huge docs section to help make it easier for people to get started with Pods.
During the campaign you had one pledge of $1,000 or more which is the highest pledge available. The reward was to have a feature built into Pods that wasn’t already on the road map for 2.0. Can you tell us what that feature ended up being?
That was pledged by one of my favorite clients, Gina and Anthony Nieves with MarkNet Group (http://marknetgroup.com/), who graciously didn’t want anything new, they just wanted to help us continue the project and get Pods 2.0 out the door. I still to this day consider Gina a mentor whom I owe a lot to. I hope one day I can pay it all forward to someone else in a similar situation.
Have you primarily made a living strictly from Pods development or have you worked with companies over the years as a consultant? Why the decision to work for one WordPress development agency?
In the beginning, Pods never really got many donations, even before I took over. We still don’t get that many donations unfortunately, but Automattic’s sponsorship helps us keep things gliding forward swiftly and covers our time spent on support and code.
I’ve worked with a number of companies over the years while developing for Pods, each one has utilized Pods in some way and some have donated my development time towards the project. I even briefly had a trial run at Automattic but the timing was bad because we had just had our first daughter, I was still working a full-time contracting gig at the same time, and I just couldn’t give it the 100% that it deserved. I was out on my own from about 2009 to 2011, at which point I jumped back into a full-time gig to get insurance coverage for our growing family.
After our second daughter Violet was born in June of this year, I felt all of the memories flood back from when I was out on my own and spending more time with our first daughter Annabelle. That, along with buying our first house and my wife having some unfortunate complications postpartum and being unable to take the full load of watching both daughters, we decided it was time to give it a go again.
This time around, I thought hey, I know some distributed companies are getting really solid now, let me reach out and see if I can find myself the best of both worlds. I contacted Brad and very quickly he responded with enthusiasm. I knew right away after we started talking about how his company operates, the projects it works on, and the team of talented people who I already looked up to, that this was the place for me.
Now that your officially an employee, fans and users want to know what plans if any do you have for the Pods Framework? Will development continue, will it be rolled into a WebDevStudios product or will development cease for a while?
Pods isn’t going away, not any time soon. Automattic has made it possible for us to keep going full force and improve the project unilaterally. We’re looking for additional contributors to help with support and other areas, but we’re doing well with what we’ve got right now. I was able to take some of my income and the sponsorship funds to put one of our primary contributors into an indefinite monthly retainer. He’s currently helping improve our documentation, helping out with support, and helping fix bugs / triage our GitHub reports. Our next release will introduce Loop Fields functionality and some other cool stuff, keep an eye out for it!
There hasn’t been any discussion about rolling Pods into WebDevStudios in any way other than integrating it with their existing products and projects. Anything is possible in the future, but nothing will be done without fully understanding how it impacts Pods in the long-term. My goals that I will NOT stray from have remained: Keep Pods free for all, continue making it easier for people to develop with WordPress, and put any/all funds raised by the project back into it. In fact, I’ve been known to do contracting work and just tell them to donate it directly to the Pods Foundation, a company I setup which accepts donations and keeps Pods alive for the long-term.
How About That
I want to thank Scott for candidly opening up regarding the troubles he experienced with planning, scheduling, and the allocation of funds after the successful Kickstarter campaign concluded. Until this interview, I was not aware that Matt Mullenweg had anything to do with supporting Scott and the Pods Framework plugin. Scott found himself between a rock and hard place and I think it’s awesome that after Scott got in touch with Matt, that he stepped up, came to an agreement with Scott and now the plugin along with development is rolling along nicely. I think Scott will be a nice fit for WebDevStudios. It will be interesting to see a couple of WDS client sites utilizing Pods in interesting ways, if they choose to go that route.