Tell us a bit about yourself. Please share a brief history of your company:
My name is John Gibson, but I use the alias DJ Johnny Medley for all media- and production-related endeavors. I am one half of the DMA Media Group LLC, along with the founder of Dance Music Authority Magazine (DMA, 1993-2003), Gary Hayslett. Thanks specifically to WordPress, our “deceased” print publication has been “reincarnated” and managed to “come back from the dead” online at DanceMusicAuthority.com. This has been a life-affirming, work-in-progress since April of 2008, but, again, thanks to WordPress, DMA is on its “feet” and building positive momentum every day.
I cannot overstate how much we love WordPress and the concept of an open source community. You are never alone within the WP community and the desire to learn becomes infectious. I never thought that one day I would actually install blogging software on my local machine and get under the hood cutting and pasting code. WordPress grows on you, and that is a very good thing.
We just snagged a spot in Chicago’s OfficePort,which has a significant WordPress user base within the facility. TheChicago WordPress meetup group hosts a lot of functions there, so I feel we are definitely in good company. I also like the fact that OfficePort is in the heart of downtown Chicago, 9 West Washington Street. I worked for Cook County government for nearly 12 years in public relations and OfficePort places me steps away from Chicago’s political nucleus. It’s also very cool to see that Cook County government is running on WordPress; they’re definitely “WP Rockstars” over there.
What is your favorite plugin?
We got very lucky and were able to get DMA into the VaultPress beta program. VaultPress absolutely rocks, and also allows us to contribute to the WordPress community in a tangible way. We love VaultPress because of the real-time, backups it provides; it’s elegant and transparent. Jetpack is another new favorite because it consolidates several plugins into one. Moreover, since it’s from Automattic, you know it won’t be abandoned, but, rather, further developed.
We also rely heavily on Gravity Forms. We want DMA to be a completely open forum where visitors can easily post their own events, clips, or news to share with the world. Gravity Forms makes that possible. We actually got turned on to them at WordCamp Chicago, 2009. It’s funny how things work. The Post Expirator and Duplicate post plugins are also golden; the Expirator reduces the post (event) to a draft at a set time, which is perfect for contests. Duplicate post is cool for recurring or multi-day events.
Tell us about your latest WP project:
We switched over to a different theme at the beginning of this year because we felt “locked” into our prior theme, which was heavily customized. The cool folks over at Solostream really helped us out and significantly reduced the number of plugins we use. One of the goals of the makeover was to lean as much as possible on WordPress’ built-in functionality. We use a custom field called “date” and use “query_posts” to order our events by date, and region (category). We’re on the serious lookout for an even better way to showcase date-specific events, which are primarily parties or podcasts. Recurring events is a specific area we want to improve. We have been looking at a number of events plugins, but nothing seems to offer everything we’re looking for. Since we showcase party flyers, the visual image, as opposed to just text, is essential. I’m sure that a solution will soon manifest; I’m an optimist.
Share one WP tip:
The best tip I can give is rather generic: Just dive in and enjoy WP! WordPress will expand your world purely by osmosis—if you let it. My original role in this LLC was never intended to be that of a web designer, but thanks to timing and WordPress, we managed to save thousands of dollars and actually make our dream a tangible reality. Another cool and significant benefit of the online arena and publishing with WordPress is affordability. Quite simply, there is no excuse for not flexing online. It’s empowering to be able to emphatically state “Dance Music Authority is here to stay!” That is a major blessing that cannot be overlooked or overemphasized; the sense of permanence online publishing provides is a huge advantage over print. WordPress is now the most important software in our studio and that is profound.
What inspires you?
I firmly believe that one should be passionate about what one does for a living. I am an “all or nothing” type of person. “You can’t fake the feeling without feeling,” is a classic house music line which essentially sums up my approach to life. Obviously, there are times when one cannot do what one wants, but it is a good overall goal for those who want to live in “the flow.” WordPress empowers people and has changed countless lives for the better. Businesses have been created and countless ideas have been disseminated thanks to WordPress.
Any tips for people just getting started with Blogging or using WP?
Again, “just dive in!” Because the WP community is so large, it’s easy to get a ton of information to practically any question. One only needs to use “WordPress” in their search term and they will, undoubtedly, find a ton of answers to practically any question they may have. I always start with Google search for any question.. The WP Codex is golden…and vast. I recently got into loading WP on a local machine with BitNami. The WordPress community is mind-blowing and the sheer joy of getting under the hood with WP is, again, infectious. This may sound corny, but you are never alone out there and forums can be priceless.
Do you have a WP hero?
In addition to Matt Mullenweg, et al., it was Brian Gardner’s forum which really turned us on to the limitless possibilities of WordPress. That was in April of 2008. We were at the 2008 Winter Music Conference which takes place in March every year. At that time, we only had an HTML “coming soon” tease page. We were fresh off of a bad experience with a developer who suddenly became impossible to reach after delivering an incomplete site. The biggest rub was that we had to go through him to do anything.
We had to reboot the project, but that was a good early lesson. We lost exactly $1,000 on the incomplete site, but that was the only time we “wasted” money. We moved on early and the design never went live. I’m thankful we got out immediately.
After our reboot, another developer wanted to charge us more than $7,000 for a Drupal-powered site. Given that our previous developer wanted to string us out, I moved on and looked for other options.
Thankfully, we found WordPress.
What is your motto?
“There’s always an answer” quickly became my motto after a few early sessions getting under the hood with Brian Gardner’s themes. I’m definitely not a coder or designer, but I’ve had lots of fun messing around—since day one. I just cut and paste chunks of code—definitely nothing special—but it does feel great to be able to get down a little bit. Playing with code is good for you.
What is your favorite restaurant or club in Chicago?
Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase has been a favorite for years. They just moved to a new location, but the vibe is the same in every venue—straight-ahead jazz, front and center! I’m a fan of virtually any club that features DJs who actually mix, since we take our DJing very seriously in Chicago.
What is your idea of success?
I find that it is important to be passionate about what one does for a living. When that is the case, good things start to happen…naturally. The ability to live autonomously and be financially secure are also parts of the equation. I’m pretty simple. I love technology, music and never want to stop growing.
WordCamp is always a blast and a phenomenal, mind-expanding experience. We’re really amped this year and looking forward to meeting folks and learning as much as we can!