Category Archives: Faces of WordPress



  • Mike Toppa
  • WordPressing since 2005
  • WP Level: Advanced, developer
  • Website:
  • Twitter: @mtoppa

Even though Mike Toppa takes a plane to WordCamp Nashville, he considers himself an honorary member of the Nashville WordPress community. We agree – he’ll be talking to developers Saturday for the third consecutive year.

He started blogging in 2004 with Movable Type, and after growing frustrated with its limitations, tried WordPress based on a friend’s recommendation in early 2005. His first post was titled “Hacking WordPress” because he was trying to figure out how to have a custom page as homepage before the platform built in that ability. And he’s been hacking WordPress in one way or another ever since.

As a developer, Mike loves the flexibility and accessibility of WordPress. “Even novice programmers can hack away at it and get a real sense of accomplishment, like I did when I started, and experienced programmers can make it do almost anything,” he says.

“The other thing I love about WordPress is the community. My first WordCamp (Philly in 2011) was an incredibly positive experience for me. The sense of community, the new things to learn, and the real sense of joy among everyone there was just amazing. It was not your typical tech conference. I think both of these things are a big part of why WordPress has become such a hugely popular web platform.”

He’s done professional WordPress development off and on for years, and previous positions include Director of Development for WebDevStudios and managing the WordPress VIP project for NBC Latino. He also has half a dozen plugins that that he maintains in repository.

Lately, Mike is focused on helping people write more maintainable and flexible code, especially for plugins. He takes his experiences from working in Ruby on Rails and other environments and finds lessons for WordPress development. Right now he’s trying to improve how unit testing is done in the WordPress environment.



FACES of WORDPRESS: Christopher Joel Wilcoxson


WordPress can change your life. Just ask Chris Wilcoxson, aka Slushman. He was a speaker last year at WordCamp 2013 and we think he’s pretty great at what he does. Chris always knew that he wanted to work on the web, but pursued other directions in life until he was brought onto a project working with WordPress. Learning WordPress redirected him back to his passion for web development, so much that he got a degree in it from Belmont University.

“It’s a lot easier to use than other systems,” he says. “Wordpress has everything laid out. It makes more sense.”

Chris is one of those developers that tries to push the platform as far as it will go… and then some. Through his company, Slushman Design, Chris has worked on all kinds of WordPress development projects: building plugins, creating themes, websites for clients and even applications that can be built on top of WordPress.

Originally, Chris used Blogger but wanted to expand the functionality of what he was doing. He found “I started playing with it and figured out how to set up a self-hosted version (via, out of necessity because I needed more out of it.”

That need for more is the driving force behind the advancement, stability and power of WordPress and its developers.

Here’s a list of power-users, blogs and tutorials that Chris follows and recommends. You can also check out his work and follow his blog:

Smashing Magazine
Theme Designer
Core Developers
Matt Mullenweg
Otto Wood
Mark Jaquith

For new developers looking to push their own creative boundaries, Chris has one caution. “When you’re Googling around trying to find tutorials on what to do- check the dates! There’s a lot of really old stuff that doesn’t apply anymore. Always go with the most current thing. Realizing this early on would have saved me a lot of time.”

FACES of WORDPRESS: Alisha Lampley


Coily Locks is more than Alisha Lampley’s blog; it’s a perfect example of the power and gravitas that WordPress provides for its users. “I started this blog as a way to share my natural hair journey, the craziness that is motherhood and my love of food, fashion and most importantly…wine!”

“I was on Blogger,” she says. “And then I joined a couple of blogging groups. A lot of people told me that if I wanted to make money and monetize, it would make more sense to switch over to WordPress.”

Alisha’s been using WordPress for over two years. She loves being involved in the WordPress community, as well as the free resources, tools, tech support and plugins. Alisha’s constantly challenging herself to learn new tricks and best practices. “There’s still plenty of stuff where I’m like, oh, I didn’t know it did that!”

That’s the beauty of WordPress, just like wine, it only gets better with age.

In fact, learning the basics of WordPress has allowed Alisha the opportunity to start a home business in addition to her blog, selling custom jewelry through Origami Owl.

“I wouldn’t have done that otherwise and it’s where all the traffic to my site comes in,” she says.

For new users, Alisha recommends the following plugins:

  • NoFollow. This plugin provides fine-grained control of linking for SEO purposes, containing a package of tools to increase your control of the rel=”nofollow” tag on every link on your blog.
  • JetPack. Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of
  • Broken Link Checker. This plugin will monitor your blog looking for broken links and let you know if any are found.
  • Google Analytics. The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin allows you to track your blog easily and with lots of metadata.

And for those of you looking for some expert advice on wine, be sure to check out her blog:


Alex Patin

  • Alex Patin
  • WordPressing since 2010
  • WP Level: Developer, WordCamp Nashville 2013 speaker
  • Website: Alex Patin

If you want another example of how WordPress can enable you to be master of your own destiny, look no further than Alex Patin. Alex has been working with WordPress since version 2.9-ish, in 2010. He started as a user, and has been developing full-time for two years and is now a freelancer full-time.

He was introduced to WordPress after a friend convinced him it was better than Joomla, another open source publishing platform.

“I do a lot more development than design now. Back when I first started I had limited coding skills. Finding WordPress and great open source themes was a way to put my work up on the Internet immediately. I instantly thought, ‘Yes, this is awesome.’”

Learning WordPress itself that pushed Alex to beef up his development skills. “I wouldn’t be working in web development right now if it wasn’t for WordPress. I’m a person who’s very passionate about learning new things and developing new skills, and the fact that WordPress exists is why I’m able to do what I do. It’s involved in everything I do.”

While the WordPress platform pushes Alex to keep learning and growing, the community that surrounds it is what has made the work a stable, successful and fulfilling career choice. If he gets too busy, he refers projects on to friends.

“I knew that when I left my last job, I would still be able to feed myself, because I got work from my friends because they’re too busy. I’m to the point now that I pass on work to other people. The people in the WordPress community just pay it forward.”

WordCamps are a big part of Alex’s involvement, starting with WordCamp Birmingham in 2012. He was a speaker on the WordPress Themes panel in Nashville 2013 and has been part of the design team for this year’s camp in Music City.

“I learned so much there and had a great weekend.. Since then, I’ve been going to as many different WordCamps as I can. There is so much to be learned from other people, and I like to experience what other people are doing with WordPress in different places.”


Liz Fulghum NoSleepForSheep

A decade ago Liz Fulghum was a freelance web designer who started exploring options beyond static HTML to give her clients more control over updating their sites.

At the time, the main blogging platforms had been b2 (the precursor to WordPress) and Movable Type. Developers were hacking them to run regular sites, and a cadre of what became WordPress founders launched an early version they said was “born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL.”

They named it WordPress. Liz tried it and hasn’t looked back. She used it to develop microsites for artists as part of the digital design team at Sony BMG. She launched her own agency, NoSleepForSheep, in 2011 and she and her team design and develop custom WordPress sites for artists, businesses, non-profit agencies and are moving in to app development.

“These days, there’s a certain elegant simplicity to WordPress that is particularly remarkable given how powerful the platform really is,” Liz says. “WordPress maintains an incredibly user-friendly front end while allowing developers the ability to create pretty much any type of functionality you’d need for a modern, database-driven website.”

WordPress is a forgiving platform that allows newbies to learn at their own pace. “Don’t be afraid,” Liz says. “Push the buttons. All of them. Almost anything that can be done also can be undone.”

For budding developers, Liz advises they learn how to build themes from scratch.

“A theme requires exactly two files to be fully functional,” she says. “Even if all you do in your career is customize pre-built themes, you can’t beat the level of understanding you’ll earn from building out your own theme at least once.”

As part of the build-up to WordCamp Nashville 2014 Faces of WordPress will highlight members of Middle Tennessee’s great – and growing – WordPress community. We will feature WP users at all levels, newbies to advanced developers. And mark your calendar. This year’s Big Event is May 3, 2014.


Mario Scott

  • Mario Scott
  • WordPressing since July 2013
  • “Advanced amateur”

Mario Scott is no stranger to technology – he was a technology information systems operator/analyst for the U.S. Army for six years; maintained and provided technical support for software, hardware and networks at Fort Campbell for three years; and, as a contractor, reviewed and monitored risk management procedures for information systems for Department of Defense accreditation.

But he didn’t meet WordPress until July 2013 when he was researching content management systems for a website to serve as umbrella for integrated media/entertainment projects. WordPress was the perfect fit for the nascent Mario Scott Enterprises.

What struck Mario, beyond the platform itself, was the large, supportive ecosystem of the WordPress community. “The breadth of the community is just huge,” he says.

He began attended WP Nashville MeetUps in January 2014 after getting a new job as a client services analyst at The Tennessean and no longer had to commute to the Clarksville area. Mario’s been experimenting with different templates on as well as learning CSS and tinkering with custom post types.

“It is not a steep learning curve, and you don’t have to go into the code if you don’t want to,” Mario says. “It meets you wherever you are and you can go as far as you want.

“That’s what I like about WordPress,” he says. “It’s the Swiss Army of websites. It’s nuts what you can do with it.”


Beth Downey

Beth Downey, a self-taught front-end WordPress developer with sprclldr, started her career in graphic design but later decided to transition to web development.

“As wonderful as design is, the subjectivity of it can be frustrating. Code is like math, it either works or it doesn’t. It’s like baking versus cooking.”

She started web development by teaching herself HTML to code MySpace pages—”stupid-easy” work that got her interested. After taking a CSS course tailored for print designers, she knew she wanted more. In 2012, she started working with WordPress and hasn’t looked back.

“Once I got a little taste of the magic happening, PHP got slipped in on me,” she says. “I like to say that web development is like Fraggle Rock. HTML and CSS are the Fraggles, that’s what everyone is looking at. Meanwhile, the Doozers underneath are doing all the work but no one knows. That’s PHP.”

Her origin as a graphic designer gives her a unique perspective on the development process. At Sprclldr, she and founder Kenneth White work with designers and small agencies to create custom themes.

Understanding the design aspect lets them stay true to the visuals, while WordPress makes all that “Doozer” work of site functionality easy.

“Because WordPress is so malleable, it’s different than other platforms, in my experience. You have so many different ways to do something,” she says. “But someone can walk into it and figure it out if they have just a modicum of experience with the internet.”

The openness of the WordPress community supports Beth’s drive to figure things out on her own. At MeetUps she found the opportunities to learn were abundant. “People are extremely generous with knowledge,” she says. “You almost don’t even have to ask. You can show up and learn. People want to make it easier for others.”

Her advice to anyone interested in learning more is to do exactly what she did – go to meetups and be open to what others have to offer.

“Attend as many WordPress meetups and Wordcamps as you can,” Beth says. “There is knowledge being distributed for free in the WordPress community. It’s yours for the taking. Everyone is still learning and everyone has something valuable to share.”

As part of the build-up to WordCamp Nashville 2014 Faces of WordPress will highlight members of Middle Tennessee’s great – and growing – WordPress community. We will feature WP users at all levels, newbies to advanced developers. And mark your calendar. This year’s Big Event is May 3, 2014.


Noe Lopez

Noe Lopez was quick to enter the WordPress fold. In 2011 as a Web Design and Interactive Media student at the Art Institute of Tennessee here in Nashville, Noe was tasked to create a website requiring audio functionality.

Here, a musician is usually a stone’s throw away, and his neighbor just happened to need a WordPress site for his band. Noe completed his assignment and was on his new career path – a big change from being a supply manager in the Marine Corps.

Noe, then and now, loves WordPress for its ease-of-use. Clients used to have to contact him directly to make even the smallest of changes – now they can make those changes on their own, leaving Noe free to take a client’s big idea and “bring it to life using code.”

To new developers, he suggests two things:

  1. Learn PHP
  2. Don’t be afraid to break a website (as long as you back up the site beforehand!)

Noe graduated this past December and now works for AhSo Designs where he was previously an intern. WordPress was more than a career change for Noe; it was a life change. Actively involved in the Nashville WordPress community, he is very passionate about what he does and loves sharing his experience with others. You can see his WordCamp 2013 talk “My First 3 Months Working with WordPress” on



  • Barry Cantrell
  • WordPressing since 2009
  • WP Level: Developer

Like many in the WordPress community, Barry is a self-proclaimed Jack of All Trades. At any give time, you can find him working on projects involving branding, design, animation or development.

When it comes to web development projects, though, WordPress is his platform of choice.

His first introduction to WordPress came in 2007, with version 2.2. The relationship did not flourish and Barry, for a time, moved on.

“It was so clunky back then that I tried it for a couple websites that I dropped it for a couple of years. I came back around WordPress 2.7 or 2.8, in 2009, when image uploads were really beefed up, and that’s when I fell in love with it,” Barry says. “I’ve been using it pretty religiously ever since. There are very few constraints to what it can do.”

Barry’s use of WordPress was all client-driven.

“I needed a content management system better than what I was using… I had been doing my own PHP/MySQL stuff. WordPress in comparison is so easy to get up and going, and allows for such great flexibility for the end user. Not having to go through HTML editing with each client – I love that.”

Working with a platform that is accessible and flexible is important for Barry, whose web development projects typically involve basic business and informational sites. The platform’s continual evolution keeps him coming back.

“I already enjoyed working with PHP, but when WordPress added the featured image option, that got me excited as a developer because of what I could do with it. Meta boxes and custom post-types have made my sites flourish, whereas before I was using categories. Custom post types have been a huge deal to me, and, of course, the ability to write plugins and widgets. It’s those steps forward that keeps me excited for WordPress.”

“The natural progression of WordPress is really cool.”

You can find Barry on twitter at @barrycantrell

As part of the build-up to WordCamp Nashville 2014 Faces of WordPress will highlight members of Middle Tennessee’s great – and growing – WordPress community. We will feature WP users at all levels, newbies to advanced developers. And mark your calendar. This year’s Big Event is May 3, 2014.


MaAnna Stephenson

  • MaAnna Stephenson
  • WordPressing since 2006
  • WP Level: Expert User, WordCamp Nashville 2013 Speaker
  • BlogAid

MaAnna Stephenson found WordPress when she needed to create a blog for her book site, which she had built in static HTML.

Within two years, she launched BlogAid, offering classes and consulting to help non-Geeks learn the ways of WordPress. She’s created a vast video tutorial library, her “Tips Tuesday” podcast is hugely popular and, if Google+ means anything to you, more than 3,600 people have MaAnna in their “circles.” Among them are other well-known WordPress and G+ experts.

“Learning WordPress changed everything about my business. I moved away from being a coder and into the User and management side of owning a site,” she says. “I change my business model at least once a year to keep up with the changes in tech, online business trends, and WordPress itself.”

She built BlogAid while working fulltime as a field service electronics engineer. As WordPress grew up, so did BlogAid and earlier this year MaAnna left the “day job” to devote all her attention to her own business.

Often clients come to BlogAid after going it alone. MaAnna trains other people to create and run successful websites, which includes learning to harness the power of WordPress itself, SEO, content marketing, and conversion.

“There is no other field of endeavor where folks think they can make money overnight without having some idea of how to do it. It costs way more, in both time and money, to try to do things on the cheap and figure it out as you go. Those that invest in their online business make more money than those that don’t. That’s the bottom line.

The old coder in MaAnna relishes getting early looks at WordPress updates as a beta tester and appreciates that the WP team develops at a plugin level first before adding new functionality to the core.

“I believe that will be the future of WordPress and give it the ability to grow in different directions for different business models,” she says.

As part of the build-up to WordCamp Nashville 2014 Faces of WordPress will highlight members of Middle Tennessee’s great – and growing – WordPress community. We will feature WP users at all levels, newbies to advanced developers. And mark your calendar. This year’s Big Event is May 3, 2014.