WordPress & Vanilla: Interview with Brendan Sera-Shriar

By: CT Moore, June 30, 2011

As part of Microsoft’s efforts to promote interoperability, we’ve been asking members of the Open Source community to share their insights and experience with Open Source technology. If you’d be interested in sharing your views or know someone who would, please leave a comment below.

Brendan Sera-Shriar

Meet Brendan Sera-Shriar (aka @digibomb). Brendan is a lot of things: a WordPress designer, community manager with Vanilla Forums, co-founder of Mobile Camp Montreal, and a whole bunch of other things.

I recently asked Brendan a bunch of questions about Open Source: the role it plays in our works, what he sees as the most important platforms, and even what he thinks about how Microsoft is embracing it. Here’s what he had to say.

How did you first get involved in Open Source development?

I was teaching at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in the Digital Media Arts program (4 years ago) in Toronto. I was asked to teach designers the basics of building a website, not an easy thing to do. I accidentally came across WordPress, and started playing with it and thought to my self “What a great way to show designers how to build a website”. Using WordPress I was able to teach the basics of MySQL, PHP, and CSS.

The outcome was so successful that the students asked me if there was a PHP User Group in Toronto they could join to better their skills and take WordPress even further. As it turned out, there wasn’t, so we decided to start our user group and called it “PHUG”. Initially PHUG was about a few students and I getting together outside of class to learn more PHP and work on some cool side projects. Eventually PHUG evolved into something much greater. We started running FREE workshops in the city, eventually membership grew to 4000 strong.

We decided to host WordCamp Toronto 2009, as a way to build the community and show love for the software that started it all. As time went on we worked with other open source organizations such as Firefox.

My love for open source grew and I began a whole new career.

What makes you passionate about Open Source technology?

I think the statement from dropthedigibomb (my personal blog and lifestream) sums it all up:

I believe in Open Source Design and technology and practice this philosophy in all my work. It’s about using Open Source Tools to create an interactive, engaging, accessible, and intuitive experience for every community.

It is my goal to bring Open Source to the commercial workspace, deliver alternatives, and change the face of design as we know it! It is our responsibility to build a better web and help foster Social Media and Networking.

What is your preferred Open Source platform and why?

WordPress! The reason being I have spent most of my career, or should I say built my career, on WordPress. Its been there for me through thick and thin and helped put food on my table and keep my family healthy. Seriously!

What other/upcoming Open Source technologies are you excited about?

I would be remiss if I did not mention Vanilla Forums. What we are doing at Vanilla is revolutionizing conversations and changing, the online community at large, opinion on what a forum is and can be.

What I am really excited about is the future of open source mobile technologies.

What Open Source platforms do you see as having the most importance potential in the coming 12-18 months?

Definitely WordPress, they are always pushing the boundaries. BuddyPress has a few surprises in store. Then there are a couple of other low key platforms starting to make some ripples like Elgg, KickApps, and I can’t forget Drupal.

What do you make of Microsoft’s recent efforts in interoperability and

to embrace the Open Source community?

Using the terms Open Source and Microsoft in the same sentence is not as unheard of as it once was. Microsoft has been hard at work trying to understand and connect with Open Source communities and offer a wide range of solutions.

Microsoft, the older brother who doesn’t share his toys, is finally starting to grow up! There is a ton of potential to develop a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with the Open Source world and turn this dysfunctional family into a “Rockwell Painting”, or at least get through dinner without arguing.

Microsoft needs to take great strides in order to be fully accepted into the brotherhood. Making some of their source code available, developing free software, and offering tools like the WebMatrix is an excellent start.

It is difficult to say whether or not Microsoft will ever be fully accepted and embraced by Open Source communities, but we are listening, watching, and waiting to see what happens next.

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