Hello Daniele. Our first question is a simple one: tell us who you are and if you’re a member of any of the tech communities!

I’m Daniele Scasciafratte, I’m 28, I’m from Rieti and I’m member of various communities. The most famous is the Mozilla one, especially the Italian one. I’m also an active member of  WordPress Italy and the Industria Italiana del Software Libero, of which I’m also leader. I work in a web agency with some partners, with whom I started to build the WordPress community in Rome.

My study route was very simple. I didn’t go to university, I graduated from Technological Science School and, as I’d finished secondary school, I immediately started working as a programmer. Even today, I deal with programming, mainly back-end and systems, even though I have front-end side knowledge. So I consider myself a full stack developer because I also work with desktop solutions. As for technologies, I use Linux everywhere, all purely Open Source and I’m passionate about privacy and security. When it comes to my hobbies, I love comics – I have so many of them.

Could you tell us why you decided on a career in programming?

I had my first programming experiences in secondary school, even though I wasn’t satisfied with what the school had to offer. In fact, I started working in the world of IT as I think we all did: in assistance. Slowly I realised that what I really wanted to do was programming, because it gave me more satisfaction than computer assistance. Over time, this passion has evolved, in my case as an autodidact, and so I slowly met people participating in events, first national then international, meetups etc. So I started to participate in Open Source projects that allowed me to gain a lot of experience, probably much more than university courses.

Time to share some secrets with us. How do you keep yourself up-to-date? How do you learn new technologies?

Participating in many meetups, live events and conferences, over time I focused on the technologies that I liked and I trained myself by contributing to the projects. I see it a bit like being a mechanic: he knows more when he becomes familiar with the tool and knows how it works because he has to get his hands on it. It’s the same thing with software and technologies: “so how do you do this?”! Not only using the machine as a guide, but also discovering its functions and helping to improve them. I often discover interesting technology via the internet, or it’s suggested to me by a friend or at an event, then I get acquainted with it and if I consider the technology satisfactory for my needs, whether work-related or not, in one way or another I often find myself contributing, whether it’s a ticket, a translation or a patch. I use this process because I’ve seen that over time it’s what allows me to better remember the technology itself. When they make so many of them, when one works often it’s easy to forget about the technologies because, as we know, they change every year. I’ve seen that, in my case, contributing helps me a lot to remember even after some time what technology does and how it works, compared with reading an article and not remembering what it’s called. Everything’s born from that: looking for community and being part of it. The community part and the Open Source projects have allowed me to get where I am today.

Regarding programming, which languages do you use and which ones are your favourites?

My favourite languages are mainly those I work with every day: in my case PHP, Python and often even Bash, depending on the situation. I try to avoid JavaScript now, but since I’m working on developing browser extensions, I do also work with JavaScript. I like these three or four technologies because they let me access, according to language and libraries, ecosystems that let me simplify my life. Every time I have to choose a language to study or work with, I always start from my personal needs and so the desire to learn technology and discover it is even stronger for me, and so I commit myself more than doing a course, which I find very boring because it doesn’t let me directly access my needs. I’ve always used this method: “I need it and then I do it with these solutions”. Then, over time, you focus and use the technologies according to the solutions that you find most suitable.

Do you have any personal projects you’re currently working on?

As a developer, I have many repositories published online, my personal ones and others related to the community. I have practically no stalled projects at the moment since I work on them all periodically according to need. Usually, my projects last a few years.

You’re often a speaker as well, let’s take a look at one of your presentations dedicated to WordPress – tell us the story of WordPress and what’s behind it.

Yes, it was the 15-year anniversary of WordPress. It’s said that over 30% of sites on the internet use the WordPress software. It is, therefore, a very important technology for the internet and the WordPress community has grown over the years as WordPress has grown. We can take, for example, the Italian community, that until 2012-2013 was very absent apart from the fact that it took care of localising software. Today, in 2018, we have over 30 meetups throughout Italy that continue to grow, several wordcamps, including the one in Rome in September.

The community exploded when the project itself exploded as a diffusion. But there are not only people who want to learn to use it better but also people who want to understand how it works, because they want to offer more and more services to their customers. In my case, I started using WordPress just for work. I saw its merits and its defects and I’ve been using it since version 4.3 from 2012, I’m a Core Contributor: there are also my patches inside WordPress.

You can say that WordPress is community-based. Without the community, there would be nothing. There’s support from large international companies, but everything starts with the community of people who dedicate their time according to the project, whether it’s marketing, graphics, development and so on. There are no companies behind it deciding the direction of the project. Thanks to some companies, there are employees who run the project or who can contribute continuously; this is a good example of Open Source. Everything else, however, is done by the community and our Italian one is now very large, which shows that there is a sense of the fact that software is not just a tool. How can WordPress be interesting today? Why is WordPress important today? Probably everyone knows it and there are those who love it and those who despise it. The advantage of WordPress is that it is easy to install and to use. The question is how to do everything.

The classic war between operating systems is that there are the simple ones and the complicated ones, but the difference lies in who uses them. WordPress has now shown itself to be a reliable tool for creating websites, portals and applications because it has a strong community behind it, frequent updates dedicated to security and it allows everyone to participate, to join the project and understand the mechanics, because understanding the mechanics allows you to be a better mechanic than any others in the market.

In our agency, everyone contributes to the project in different ways so we can offer a better service than our competitors. WordPress is important because it allows you to have a site in no time, with some plug-ins and themes allowing you to make it even faster and you can already have an MVP (Minimum Valuable Product) to check if your business idea, company or startup is feasible. So it offers many opportunities in terms of time, quality and money. WordPress definitely allows you to maximise time and money. As far as quality is concerned, it depends on how the solution is implemented. We celebrated WordPress because in the meetup are people who work with WordPress every day, so it’s right to celebrate the Open Source project that lets you bring home your salary every month and lets you meet other people, find new friends and even new customers, and learn new things. All this because we want to know more and more about this technology.

Why did you decide to talk about WordPress? Would you like to increase the community behind it?

Absolutely, yes, because the meetup is made up of people and it can’t always be the organisers themselves proposing the topics. This was our problem with the meetup until we wanted to organise and promote and push people to do the first talk. So we’re not just doing the meetups to recruit new community contributors, but we want new people who want to bring their experience to the meetup, because it’s all a quid pro quo that in our case makes a lot of difference. It’s very interesting to hear the working experiences on big projects as little things you’ve learned and what’s been discovered, everyone gets enriched when someone else shares their experience and in meetups this is fundamental. We’re working on growing locally and having new experiences to share.

In your opinion, why should a user be interested in WordPress? Or a new developer who wants to enter the market? Why should they use WordPress?

There are many aspects to consider – 30% of sites use WordPress and this means extensive job opportunities because it’s a very common technology. It’s very easy to learn, being an Open Source technology and having a very wide community behind it. There are lots of free plug-ins available. It’s possible to make prototypes of your solution very quickly. You can cover 90-95% of the functionality necessary for any project without implementing it from scratch. All this means saving time and money. In addition, programmers who know WordPress well are highly in demand. In our sector there’s a lot of work for the junior figures who simply configure WordPress, but someone who knows the platform thoroughly really has very good opportunities as a senior figure. Knowing WordPress also means learning PHP and more! Learning to program WordPress, therefore, means learning to use many other technologies that are very current today and that can be reused in other contexts.

What piece of advice would you like to give to your colleagues or those who want to follow a similar career path to yours?

The first advice I would like to give is to start planning something that’s useful to you. I use this approach to learn any languages. Knowing a technology well before using it for work is certainly an advantage. Then I recommend the world of Open Source, which I like so much because there are plenty of opportunities to learn thanks to communities, meetups, documentation and tutorials. Moreover, you can also study how it works; when I learned JavaScript, I remember that I also studied the source code of the language to understand how it worked. Remember, always try to learn from those who do it best. You can never stop in our line of work. I consider it very important, because as I said before I didn’t graduate, I went to technological/scientific school, and I’ve worked as a programmer ever since I finished secondary school. I’ve also joined Codemotion, FOSDEM and many other events as a speaker. You can never stop learning. This makes you competitive on the market too. Not everyone knows the internal mechanics of a project.