13 May 2020

Development and community, interview with Mark Howells-Mead

Matteo Enna > Articoli > Development and community, interview with Mark Howells-Mead

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I believe, my passion for the WordPress community, was born during the WordCamp in Zurich 2019. That’s how, the idea to make this interview, took its beginning. So, let me introduce you to Mark Howells-Mead, developer with twenty years of experience! How amazing is that!
On the 14th of September 2019, backpacking, I left for Zurich to participate in a WordCamp. And I liked it so much, that in a few days I got tickets for another three WordCamps. Among various seminars that I followed, I particularly liked that one of Mark, the developer with over 20 years of experience and with a strong love for the WordPress community.

Mark have presented a talk, which was entitled, as: “There’s more to life than WordPress: 20 years of experience in 10 minutes“.  In this talk, Mark gave the summary, in just 10 mintues of his 20 years of life, as a web programmer, talking about CMS, Community and WordPress.

So, let’s ask Mark a few questions to get to know him better!

You are familiar with WordPress for 17 years already. What are the most important memories you have got about the CMS?

I started helping out the original developer before WordPress was even called WordPress! Those were the early days of open source content management systems and it taught me a lot about how to work with others when we were geographically far apart. It also helped me to progress my technical knowledge and get used to working with a group of developers; until then, much of the work I’d done for websites was on my own, or with a couple of colleagues in the same company. It was a great feeling to start working with a large number of people all over the world.

Aside from that, the milestones have been personal ones for me; starting to use WordPress for a lot of work projects about thirteen years ago, my first WordCamp in 2014 and becoming part of the “offline” Swiss WordPress community, leading a team of developers at the largest dedicated WordPress agency in the country, and becoming partner at our agency Say Hello at the beginning of 2019.

Developing for almost 25 years! Wow! How has the world of programming changed during these years?

The availability of information online has changed the development world massively, as it’s so easy to sit down and learn stuff these days. Back in the 1990s, you had to learn directly from a college or another developer, so the wider reach of the internet – which was still fairly young when I started – has helped an amazing number of developers to get into the field of programming and design.

There’s also been a huge change in the way that people work on projects – back in the days of IT, knowledge was kept pretty close to the experts’ chests. These days, it’s much more about sharing knowledge freely and working together to find the best solutions to problems. The developer community in Switzerland (and across the world) is in constant contact with each other and we share often, even though we’re all working for agencies who are theoretically competitors. Sharing knowledge and working across boundaries means that the solutions get better, which benefits everyone.

You are active in the WordPress community, and you often participate as a speaker. What value does the community have for you?

Anyone can work on technical solutions in isolation, but the community provides a human side – without it, the work would become much more stale and boring, and there would be no inspiration and exchange of ideas. The social aspect and getting to share my knowledge with younger or newer members of the community is key to me. It’s a way of giving back to the community which has helped me to get where I am today, and to encourage it to continue to improve and expand.

Anyone can work on technical solutions in isolation, but the community provides a human side Click To Tweet

If we talk about community, it is important to talk about a Free Software. What are your thoughts about it?

I think that it’s important to distinguish between free software, and open source software. Offering software for free is no guarantee of quality – the reverse, in fact. If you’re giving stuff away for free, then there’s less reason for you to do a good job. If you’re contributing to open source projects (like WordPress), then you become part of a group of people who are all working towards a common goal, and learning from each other. Contributing in this way makes you a better developer, and the end product becomes much more reliable. This encourages more and more users and clients to use the end result, which encourages a good economic ecosystem to grow around the original core software.

For those, who want to stay updated about your life, career and events, which social networks can you suggest, to follow you?

I’m most active on Twitter (@howellsmead) and Instagram (@permanenttourist). I’ve also been running my blog at permanenttourist.ch for sixteen years, which I continue to update often.

Rosadigitale Week

This interview is a part of the series of articles, dedicated to “the week of rosadigitale“, an event dedicated to equal opportunities.
This year I have organized the interviews in pairs, with the same theme. The interview with
Mark, is a part of “Zurich Interviews”, dedicated to the wonderful people, well known in the WordCamp Zurich.

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