WordCamp Sacramento Speaker Q&A: Rob La Gatta

WordCamp Sacramento Rob La Gatta

Get To Know Rob La Gatta

Rob La Gatta is the Head of Quality + Support at Modern Tribe, a remote digital agency comprised of freelancers + traditional employees. Coming from a background in journalism, Rob got involved with WordPress in 2009 as lead project manager at a Seattle company building blogs for lawyers on Movable Type and, later, WordPress. When he’s not working to support Tribe’s customers or building out the company’s QA infrastructure, he can be found bicycling or hiking around the North Bay.

We’re thrilled Rob will be speaking at WordCamp Sacramento 2015 on the art of replying to reviews on WordPress.org.

Speaker Q&A with Rob

Why do you think learning how to reply to reviews on WordPress.org is important?

Replying to WordPress.org reviews is unquestionably an art form: doing it right can have great benefits for your plugin’s reputation and can give you valuable feedback on what your customers need. Doing it wrong on the other hand can alienate users, making plugin authors look like a jerk or — worse — like they just don’t care.

People are going to write reviews about your plugin whether or not you give them ‘approval’ to do so… it’s the nature of WordPress.org. When Modern Tribe started seeing an uptick of reviews on our core product, The Events Calendar, a few years back… we had no idea how we wanted to handle them or what our goals in replying would be. Through trial and error we developed techniques that let us reply to everybody without sinking a ton of time into it; more often than not, even the harshest of critics can be turned around to give a 5-star review with the right level of empathy and care. Who wouldn’t want that?

What is your history or experience with dealing with WordPress.org reviews?

I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now; in fact, the process I defined for replying to reviews of The Events Calendar has been solidified + documented to the point where I have handed the responsibility off to someone else. I suspect in turn that he will be delegating it in the near future. The more refined and well-oiled a process is, the easier it is to rope others in and share the burden.

Over the course of my time with Modern Tribe, we have received (and replied to) nearly 1,000 reviews for our plugin. But the amount of time spent there has been surprisingly small, through using simple strategies we’ve developed.

How did you get started with WordPress? Why WordPress?

I fell into WordPress unexpectedly — it was not something I had any particular interest in at the time. The company I was working for, LexBlog, built law blogs for legal firms around the world, and they were finally beginning to transition away from Movable Type and towards WordPress. I remember my first demo of WordPress confused the heck out of me — the distinction between Posts and Pages, for example, was different from how Movable Type handled content… and was something I just couldn’t get past. (Looking back on that now I laugh since it seems like such a small and easily understandable difference!)

From there, one WordPress-related gig led to another and I ultimately found myself coming to work with Modern Tribe at the beginning of 2011. I’ve been here ever since.

What is your favorite thing about WordPress?

The enthusiasm of the community is huge, and is indicative of a broader feeling permeating throughout WordPress: that we’re all working together to build something that is still figuring out what it wants to be. Everyone who has an idea or goal with WordPress can put that into the ring for discussion and it may well make it into a future iteration of WP core. Politics and drama may sometimes ensue, but — more than any technical piece of specific function of WordPress — the value of this community and the range of skill sets that feel comfortable coming to the table in such discussions (everyone from newbies to seasoned devs) is hugely valuable to me.

Can you share a couple WordPress plugins that you love or recommend?

I am personally a big fan of Gustavo Bordoni’s FakerPress WordPress plugin. Gustavo has been refining it continually over the past few months, and it serves a simple but hugely important purpose: allowing you to easily create fake dummy content for use during testing.

Another plugin that I’ve had use for recently has been Coupon Creator/Coupon Creator PRO, from Brian Jessee. Coupons are one of those things that folks who want to incentivize their communities online don’t realize the value of until they see them in action. This is a simple, lightweight plugin that lets site administrators create + publish coupons on the fly. Anything that gives users incentive / rewards for using your product and makes them that much more inclined to come back again in the future is always a win :)

Resources or recommendations?

The biggest way to get started with WordPress, speaking from personal experience, is to just create a test site and start publishing. Learn the ins and outs of creating content and viewing it on the frontend — very quickly, the pieces of the puzzle will start to make sense. (Notice, for example, how the admin screen for creating posts and pages and many custom post types alike is almost identical? That’s not just a coincidence!). These are the types of patterns that will reveal themselves as you play around. Like most things, a hands on experience is second to none for learning here.

On top of that, the best written guide for WordPress basics doesn’t come from any third-party website; it’s the WordPress Codex itself. The codex is such a huge resource for users — and I’m always surprised while troubleshooting customer bugs when I hear they’re unaware of the Codex’s existence. It is the perfect tool for helping users help themselves with all-things WordPress related.

Check Out The Speakers

WordCamp Sacramento 2015 is bringing you an awesome line up of speakers from not only our greater Sacramento region, but throughout California and beyond. Check out our speakers page to see the 2015 WordCamp Sacramento Speakers, and be sure to follow them on Twitter.