The Secret Ingredient That Made WordPress So Popular Is It’s Basic Framework

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Robert Abela

Today we are going to conduct the interview of Robert Abela from Wijchen, Gelderland, Netherlands. He is the CEO & Founder of WP White Security. In this interview, he has mentioned few important notes that why people belonging to the WordPress industry must go for WordCamp Europe.

I was always interested in computers. So when the opportunity to work as a software tester presented itself, I dropped out of school and took the job.

I didn’t even know what an IP address was when I started, so I attended a few part-time courses. The courses were useful, however, I’ve learned most from the hands-on experience at work. At my first job, I worked my way up from software tester to Lead Systems Engineer in about 5 years.

I consider my first career stint as the most valuable. I’ve learned a lot about networks, the internet, and security. As a systems engineer, I’ve also dealt with every department, which gave me a good overview of how a software company functions.

After leaving my first job I worked for several other security software startups. I’ve worked in R&D, and as a project manager, product manager, sales engineer, and CMO. My last corporate job was as a product manager for a web security software vendor.

Q. How did you get to know about WordPress? Share if there is an interesting story.

Ans: I got to know about WordPress, during my last full time corporate job as a product manager at Acunetix. We needed a blog where we could document our research findings and started using WordPress.

While using WordPress we noticed that there were a lot of opportunities in the WordPress security industry, and since we were a web application security software company, we even built a WordPress security service called Website Defender.

Unfortunately the product never really took off, but it was a good opportunity for me to learn even more about the WordPress ecosystem, and it got me hooked.

That’s how the idea for WP White Security was born. Since my background is in security, I started WP White Security as a security blog and as a WordPress security services company. We used to clean hacked websites, harden the security of WordPress websites, do source code audits, etc.

After that, I began learning how to write code and I had the perfect use case: a WordPress activity logs plugin. I’ve always wished that website owners had such a plugin installed before their website was hacked. It would have made life much easier.

So I started developing the first version of the WP Activity Log. When the plugin started gaining popularity we stopped providing security services and fully focused on developing WordPress plugins. The rest is history.

Q. What’s the most interesting project you have done to date in WordPress? What were your responsibilities?

Ans: That would be WP White Security. That includes building the team, and researching, designing, testing, marketing and selling plugins.
It all started as a hobby, I had just started freelancing and out of boredom I wanted to learn PHP, so I started developing WP Activity Log. In 2018, I was lucky enough to join the company full time. Now we are a team of four and so far we’ve developed six WordPress plugins.

Like with any other jobs there are things that I like and things that I do not like doing. The most interesting aspects of this job are research, discussing and designing the plugins with the developers, discussing and implementing new marketing campaigns, or website changes, and much more. Luckily I work on more things that I like than I dislike.

Q. Have you ever been to any WordPress meetups or WordCamps? Share your thoughts on WordPress Community.

Ans: I’ve been to all WordCamp Europe but 2 – missed the one in Barcelona and the one in Vienna.

WordCamp Europe is a must-go for everyone working in the WordPress industry. The vibe is so positive & everyone is friendly. It’s my yearly “escape from the world” and I love it, because I get to meet people whom I talk with online in person, share a few beers, chat about business, challenges and everything else!

I’ve made a lot of contacts and friends through WordCamps and can’t recommend them enough. They are good for business, but even better for self-development, learning, and making new friends!

I also volunteered in WordCamp Europe Berlin, and helped organize WordCamp Edinburgh, since I was an active member of the meetup until I moved to the Netherlands.

Since I’ve moved to the Netherlands, I haven’t been to a meetup yet though, because of Corona.

As soon as they start again, I’ll definitely be joining a few.

Q. How does your workstation look like? Can you send us a picture?

Ans: I have an adjustable desk and I usually spend more time standing up than sitting.
desk - Robert Abela
I use a laptop / monitor setup with dual monitors and I still use a real agenda / diary. I do not rely on online calendars and agendas – a bit old-fashioned, though very reliable.

Q. What interesting feature do you think you would like to see in WordPress and is currently missing?

Ans: I like WordPress the way it is – very simple. By being a simple platform it allows the users to customize and build their own version of WordPress with plugins & themes.

It is like a stackable framework.

As long as WordPress offers the basic framework – allowing users to publish content, plugins and themes can take care of the rest.

After all, that is the “secret ingredient” that made WordPress popular, and created the WordPress community.

Q. Out of the current plugins and themes which one do you like the most and why?

Ans: A bit of self promotion; our plugins, obviously. At the moment we have six plugins:

WP Activity Log: A comprehensive real time user monitoring and activity log plugin. It helps thousands of WordPress administrators and security professionals keep an eye on what is happening on their websites. It is also the most highly rated WordPress activity log plugin and has been featured on popular sites such as GoDaddy, Kinsta and WPBeginner.

Password Policy Manager: This plugin enables you to configure strong password policies for your WordPress website and multisite network, thus helping you make sure your team members’ and users’ passwords are strong and often changed.

WP 2FA: A dead easy to use two-factor authentication plugin with which you can harden the WordPress user login security within just seconds. The plugin supports a wide variety of 2FA apps, such as Google Authenticator, Authy and many more.

Admin Notices Manager: This plugin allows you to manage the admin notices in your WordPress dashboard. The idea is simple, to have a distraction free dashboard and read the admin notices at your own convenience, and never miss an important WordPress core or developer message.

Website File Changes Monitor: A file integrity monitor plugin with an exclusive smart technology that recognizes WordPress core, plugins and themes changes, so it doesn’t raise false alarms of legit file changes. With this plugin you can get notified of any file changes over email, thus allowing you to identify leftover files, infected files (in case of a hack) and developer changes.

Activity logs for MainWP: This is a MainWP extension which administrators & agencies use to keep an eye on what is happening on the child sites from one central portal – the MainWP dashboard. Activity Log for MainWP is the only official activity log extension for MainWP.

Q. Any awesome technology you want to share other than WordPress?

Ans: We are purely focused on WordPress, however, there are a number of tools we use that make it possible to work in a distributed environment. For example, we use Trello to organize and prioritize our projects and Slack to stay connected. As we are currently operating as a 100% remote workforce, we’re relying on communication more than ever.

Q. Do you like/love what you currently do in WordPress?

Ans: I love it.

WordPress gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, travel more and most importantly, be grateful for being given the opportunity to provide work for others. It sounds like something basic that thousands do, however, there is something special in building a team, and seeing everyone work together.

Q. Where do you find yourself after 5 years

Ans: Hopefully still here, doing what we currently do, but in a more advanced way and perhaps more high quality plugins 😉

Q. Share something about your life other than work

Ans: I have three children and live in the Netherlands, by the German border.

I love my work and I also love the outdoors. I do a lot of cycling, mountain biking, running, hiking, the occasional camping etc. If it is an outdoor activity, I’m in for it.

Q. To whom you give credit for your success?

Ans: A lengthy list of people:

A very old friend of mine, David Vella (Altaro CEO) who introduced me to the real internet.

Nick Galea, my first and only boss (for 14 years) for giving me every opportunity to learn, and a lot of chances.

Jean Galea (from WP Mayor) for introducing me to the WordPress community and being a guidance in the early days of my WordPress adventure.

The WP White Security team, Radostin, Daniel and Martin, who of course are part of the success.

My parents, for never approving any of my career decisions, thus giving me the drive to succeed whatever it takes.

Last but not least, actually, the most, My wife, for being patient, listening to my nonsense theories on how things should work, and for not minding me not being around much and being always on the go.

Q. Can you give us some reference for whom we should conduct an interview next and why?

Ans: Ryan Dewhurst, Founder and CEO of WPScan. I’ve known him for years and like me, he is coming from the web application security industry. He got into WordPress with WPScan.

Q. How do you reward yourself?

Ans: I’m happy as long as I get a daily dose of outdoors, and a long distance run or mountain bike ride over the weekend.

That’s my reward.

Q. Any suggestion for WordPress beginners?

Ans: WordPress is a great platform backed by an amazing international community.

Yes, it is harder to get started than a simple 5-minutes install, but there is always help available on forums, Facebook groups, LinkedIn and also at meetups.

You can never say, you might end up making a lot of new friends, as many in the community did.

About Sonnal S Sinha

Sonnal S SinhaSonnal S Sinha shares exciting WordPress themes, plugins and other WordPress related news for our viewers. He also posts selected WordPress developers interviews from time to time.