True confession: I might kinda like platform

After seeing a talk given by Yvette Pasqua on Tackling technical debt at scale, I started dividing our developer work into two areas: product, and platform.

Product is almost always plugin development or theme development.

Platform encompasses the underpinnings: the git to Bamboo code deployment pipeline, the mySQL databases, configuration that is put in the wp-config.php, and tools needed to move content from stage to live. Dark launch is part of platform, and so is a new, related process that I’ve been working on lately that I’m calling content branching.

The tools to support content branching are all written in shell scripts with WP-CLI commands embedded in the scripts. On this project I’ve definitely expanded my shell scripting skills, and I find that to be quite fun.

I have long thought of myself as an applications developer first and foremost, with the ‘ops’ part of my skills firmly placed in the past, from before I became what I really wanted to be: someone who makes things.

In fact, it has only been in recent years that I’ve realized I actually do get great joy from solving problems, one of the defining characteristics of good ops people. I long conceived of myself as a creative who got great satisfaction from making visible things and happened to be able to develop the technical skills needed to express myself in code. I shied away from an identity as a problem solver – after all, I was so bad at math in school, how could I love solving problems?

I stopped trying to deny that about myself a while ago, but still I have complained many times about being drawn away from product work by the constant need to build out and shore up the platform. Maybe because product is where we make the visible things. Platform is all invisible, there’s nothing pretty to look at except a bunch of green success messages from WP-CLI (and those are never on public view the way a web site is). The great joy of platform work is in solving the problems. Oh, so many problems.

green success messages
Trust me, this is pretty awesome. Many problems were solved to bring us these success messages.

I think content dark launch was the turning point for me. My source of distress is no longer that I never get to work on product, it’s that platform’s needs are so overwhelming that I found myself blurting out in a recent meeting I am drowning! [1] This is, I can now see, a personal evolution. As an enterprise CMS WordPress is so primitive that there’s lots of room for new ideas and novel solutions to certain kinds of problems. Content dark launch is not very well-trodden territory in the world of WordPress writing and WordCamp talks and it is thrilling to bring something new(ish) to that world.

Day to day as I write my scripts for content branching, I feel happy. I love solving the little problems at each step, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of solving the larger problem. So I must confess to myself and the world: I like platform. I might even love it a little.


[1] It’s okay, I’m better now.