Tonight’s the new year’s night, and I plan to write about everything that happened in 2016 (boy it was one hell of a year — BTW I ended up completing this article on 10th Jan! 🤔).
Well, hello there. Thanks for stopping by.
It looks like you’re interested in getting to know me better. Well, I’m happy to oblige. You see, for the last couple of years, I publish these detailed and extensive ‘Year-in-Review’ posts to keep track of my progress, changes, achievements, and more. Mostly to help fight that silly imposter syndrome — but hey it makes for a good read. If you’d like to know who I am and what I stand for, then read the following:
I have so much to talk about. And I have incredible news to share with all of you at the end of this post. Anywho, let’s get to it.
Showoff! Yes, that’s precisely the word with which I wanted to start this article. And yes, I know what you are thinking. But hey, I have a story to tell. You see, I come from a diverse background. Tech is not as much common here as it is in the US. Even in the global aspect of things, people do not generally understand software developers and especially what we do at work (— except for sitting in front of a screen all day and night long).
This was exactly the reason why I started looking for different online communities more than a decade ago. Ten years ago I found WordPress, I became a developer and started giving back to the community. This led me to be part of a great online family — the WordPress community.
I love what I do, which is why I like to share it with everyone else. In my real life, not many people understand what is that I do. Most of the members of my family are Doctors or Electrical Engineers (so am I!), but software is a — let’s just say — bit distant of a concept to them. That’s why, I tell everyone especially online, that this is what I do, and this is why I do it.
You’re more than welcome to call me a show-off, but in reality, you should know that I am proudly sharing what I did in 2016, why I did it, and what I plan to do in 2017. That’s just who I am. Deal with it! 😎 (or don’t).
As you grow up, the profession you choose becomes a big part of your life. The other day, I read a case study which stated a surprising fact that many of us spend half our lives in building a dream house only to spend hardly 30% of our day inside it.
Which is true, you put in ten hours of the job (eight for the actual job and two for your lunch break and stuff), at least two to three hours of commute, three more if you have kids whom you have to pick up from school. That’s about 16+ hours a day! Most people only go home to sleep.
This makes me believe more in my career choice, which is a remote job. I work remotely from home, or sometimes in a cafe, or while traveling, etc. you get the idea! That’s why I love what I do. But there’s more!
I have had been professionally committed to the most famous open source CMS called WordPress. WordPress has made a strong impression on my life. This year, WordPress has become more personal to me than any other piece of software code, ever could. You’ll read about it more at the end (#NoSpoilers).
Regular Core Contribution: In 2016, I contributed to all the major versions released for WordPress. Let’s take a look.
4.5: Contributions to WordPress 4.5 Coleman!
— To be honest, my contributions are quite minimal, this time, I worked with Eric Lewis — Network Architecture Cartographer at The NewYork Times and core committer at WordPress, to replace in the networks and sites: usage of “blog” with “site” in docs. WordPress has outgrown itself from just a blog to a complete CMS. It’s only fair we address the lingo.
4.7: WordPress 4.7: The Spirit of Regular Core Contribution — I’ve proudly contributed my fair share to the REST API project. Most of my contribution here had to do with helping make the code conform WordPress coding standards. Just as I contributed to the TwentySixteen theme last year, I also managed to contribute 364+ lines of code in TwentySeventeen theme, which is exciting. And we translated WordPress in Urdu — for the first time.
In 2016, I got interviewed by several blogs and magazines. It’s truly a humbling feeling. Apparently, if you help people and the community around you, they start to care about what you do and why you do it.
I write a lot, like a lot a lot! You can hire me as an excellent and advanced WordPress content writer. This year alone I wrote more than a hundred WordPress articles, but I was not alone. I had a partner in crime, a fellow WordPress journalist Maedah Batool.
Together we wrote and managed an incredible amount of WordPress content. That’s why this year, we are planning to make a debut of our first WordPress content & marketing agency; it’s called WP Content Studio (WPContent.Studio — Work In Progress). Anywho, here are just a few articles that I am pretty proud of.
Series (6 parts): WordPress Product Launch UX Best Practices→User experience in WordPress products is important. Developers often ignore it. Which is why their products fail to achieve the audience they hope for. Throughout this series, I shared my strategies of how I got 20,000+ downloads, 7,000+ active site installs, 5,400+ Newsletter subscribers, and got featured in the daily top 10 at ProductHunt with roughly 200 up-votes, all that in less than eight months.
Series (4 parts):Kick-start WordPress Development With Twig → Twig templating engine along with the plugin called Timber can help us write super-clean and modular code in WordPress. In this series, I discussed its implementation and integration with WordPress.
Series (4 parts): Building a Welcome Page for Your WordPress Product → Right after you update WordPress, you are redirected to view a welcome page. This welcome page helps you better understand the new feature and bug fixes in the current update. Same is the case with a few plugins. When users install one of these plugins or update them, they are redirected to a welcome page. That welcome page is what I built in this series.
$100,000+ WordPress Giveaway: As many of you already know that I am one of the admins at Advanced WordPress Facebook group along with severalsistergroups. In 2016, I arranged what I call “The Biggest Giveaway in the history of WordPress” — along with my business partner Maedah Batool. It also got coverage at WPTavern. TBH, it took a lot of effort, not only was it hard to keep things consistent but managing about 100 winners their emails, and stuff. Both of us spent more than 200 hours on it, Pro bono Publico.
White Paper: 7 Reasons Agencies Win With WordPress → I wrote and published a white paper with WPEngine last year. It’s now a huge part of my local campaign for WordPress, where I visit the local agencies and convince their development teams to chose WordPress as the go to CMS.
Book: Learning WordPress REST API → A fun project that I did last year was the technical review of this book. My first book as a professional reviewer! My friend Sufyan Bin Uzayr wrote the book. PACKT Publishing along with the author chose me to technically review the entire book as in I have had contributed to the WP-API project.
Even Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) thinks that I write great articles. Just kidding! 😇
I got a lot of press and media mentions throughout 2016, in the form of quotes from different articles I had written and my comments on the current state of WordPress, or the reason behind giving back to the community, as well as advice to beginner developers, etc.
Apart from this, I got featured in WPTavern, Entrepreneur, Tuts+ by Envato, TorqueMag, Inc, Yahoo for Small Business, CodePen’s Blog, CreativeMarket’s blog, SitePoint, and a good deal of other online publications.
On my way to becoming a full stack web developer, I faced one too many issues and then came the business side of things which I am still tryna figure out. For more than five years, I have been a member of two sites which have been enormously helpful. In 2016, I decided to give back to the ecosystem of developers built around these two websites.
The second site that has a huge influence on my career as a developer is StackOverflow. I have been on the receiving end of technical help for more times than I could remember. It’s about time; I started giving back. Some statistics of my StackOverflow profile in 2016 are as follows.
✔ More than 1 Million people read my posts and received technical help from my end. That’s huge!
✔ With 1,400 reputation I am in top 9% 5% devs this year and made it to top 3% in two-quarters of 2016.
Aside from working for my clients, I build and maintain several products, plugins, as well as FOSS — free and open source software — all of which I call my projects. One of my resolutions last year, was to try and curate my scattered portfolio.
With that in mind, I built a new home for my projects called Labs by Ahmad Awais. — It’s still a beta project itself and there’s a lot of room for improvement which is why I have not blogged about it yet.
That said, let’s take a look at some of my projects that I did last year.
I am getting more and more serious about DevOps. This was my first project related to DevOps that is being used by more 10 developers. Things are slow, but I am happy with it. I am already building a backup and restore CLI as well as an image optimization CLI. Things I plan to share this year.
WPGulp grew ten folds last year. A lot of WordPress developers are using WPGulp to automate and improve their theme building workflow. An agency in Vienna, Austria reached out to let me know that they saved a ton of time using WPGulp — and that they wanted to support the project. That was amazing, this free and open source project could use some help.
What’s Next: Complete rewrite for version 2.0 which will also include a WPGulp CLI — A dynamic approach to automating WPGulp without having to edit or configure anything.
You Can Help: I really want to build a free video course for WPGulp, if you or your company are interested in sponsoring my work, I’d gladly like to talk to you. Support for this project will be very well perceived by the WP developers community and will improve their general understanding of advanced build tooling. So, what do you say — let’s talk.
This is a new WordPress plugin which I built out of a mere need of something like it. Labs by Ahmad Awais project is powered by this plugin. It helps you fetch GitHub’s API to display data in real-time while caching it at the same time. It also parses the GitHub’s readme file from markdown to display HTML content. It’s a beta software with 7 releases and will soon have a version 1.0.
WPCustomize is boilerplate related to the WordPress customize component. While it is out there in the open, I have yet to write about it. I have plans to release a product related to the customize component. More on that later this year.
One thing I always wanted to do was share my Sublime Text workflows with the other developers. In 2016, I started doing that with the release of WordPress Customizer Package For Sublime Text! The best thing about this project was the emails that I received. I think I replied to more than 500 emails related to this package. Most of them were thank you notes along with feedback on improvement.
Stats: 2,000 Windows, 471 OSX, and 248 Linux users are using WordPress Customizer package.
Most Popular: It got featured on the homepage of PacakgeControl.io as the 9th most trending package. Yay! ⓦ
More Data: WordPress Customizer Package for Sublime Text is the 2nd most relevant and 10th most popular Sublime package for WordPress. It has already been converted to Atom’s package by a fellow developer.
What’s Next: A major update is due, I am half way there. Need to release it along with the product I have been working on.
Are you writing better headings which are more readable? Use TitleCaseIt! It has been a loyal friend to many. Several bloggers are using it to make their lives easier. How do I know that? Well, it’s hosted on GitHub, and when GitHub went down last year, many known writers and tech journalists reached out to acquire about why TitleCaseIt was down. You might recognize one of them; Jeff Chandler from WPTavern. 👀
My CF7Customizer plugin has seen a steady growth. I think I marketed it pretty well. I am working on a major rewrite and a pro version of this plugin both of which are almost ready, preparing the marketing assets and taking care of a few product related to-dos.
Before I became a full-time developer, I used to be a User Experience designer, that part of me helps me put my products to better use. I built this boilerplate, to help WP devs improve the User Experience of their plugins. So, far the response has been pretty good.
Something interesting for the local community. I built a small CLI to help with automation and control for the famous local internet service provider called PTCL. I am using it to do some pretty useful stuff at home, RaspBerryPie & Arduino FTW.
For about two years, I have been selling this EDD WordPress premium theme. It has seen a steady growth this last year. I along with two fellow developers who work with me as my part-time employees; started providing premium support for ProductPress at $100 per hour.
This was an interesting experiment for us and we helped out about seven customers with custom cart and SaaS integrations. But considering what I have planned for the next three years (will announce soon), I am thinking about selling ProductPress to better focus on portfolio consolidation. If you or anyone you know, is interested in acquiring this theme, get in touch.
Stats: 62% growth in revenue as compared to 2015. About 500 copies sold.
I got serious about WordPress development six years ago, though, I had been developing WP sites for a decade now. Four years ago, I started getting involved in the WordPress community and built an online family. This had been the best thing that happened to me in the chaos of world wide web. I have made incredible friendships, partnerships and found like-minded folks all over the world.
About the same time, I started giving back to the local community which was non-existent at that time. I thought about starting a meetup group but it was way too early for many reasons. That’s why I started with Workshops on the subject of well, “WordPress”. After more than 30 workshops and four years later, many local folks have started to care about the WordPress community. Here’s what happened in 2016.
Workshops: I conducted eight workshops in universities like UET (University of Engineering and Technology) and their campuses such as City Campus, Lahore KSK Campus, a Live event in NWL, NS-UET Multan, and a remote event in BZU. As a rough estimate, I taught more than 20,000 students about Open Source and WordPress in 2016. I wish foundation could support this cause and I could keep teaching software devs in our country about WordPress in years to come.
Meetups: I conducted and managed several WordPress meetups through the community’s local WordPress Lahore Meetup group. Apparently, people loved this effort. This year, I plan to do the same but with more consistency.
WordPress Pakistan Slack Team: I started a WordPress Pakistan Slack team to help the local community with several things like WordPress translation, WordPress jobs, etc. You are more than welcomed to join us. There are about 100 local WordPress developers on this team — at the time of writing.
Podcasting: I have been seriously thinking about starting a podcast for the local WordPress community. Wish me luck.
DevOps Meetup: At the end of 2016, I started another meetup group which is focused on all things DevOps especially related to WordPress at scale. It is pretty new at the moment, we took part in the #Hacktoberfest by GitHub & DigitalOcean. I talked about how to self-host WordPress and cloud scaling.
One of the highlights in our local WP community this year was WordPress getting 100% translated to our national language i.e. Urdu. This is a huge accomplishment for me and for 110+ contributors who made it possible. Four years of efforts in trying to grow the local community — around already existing users of WordPress — have finally started to pay off. People here are getting excited about all things WordPress.
I contribute to a good deal of open source projects, some of which are mentioned below. Most of these contributions are very minimal, or trivial at best. That said, I am mentioning some of them here anyway, to demonstrate what I do in my free time i.e. review code libraries of my dev friends.
WordPress: As mentioned above, I contributed code to the core WordPress software for each release in 2016 i.e. 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7.
TwentySeventeen: In 2016, I again contributed to the default theme called TwentySeventeen. I added 364 lines of code. My contributions were mostly related to the WordPress coding standards, a few Yoda conditions, bits in customizer as well as third party script updates.
Oh-My-Zsh: I am a big fan of Zsh shell and Robby Russell’s Oh-my-Zsh which is a delightful community-driven (with 1,000+ contributors) framework for managing your Zsh configuration. Includes 200+ optional plugins (Rails, Git, OSX, hub, Capistrano, Brew, Ant, PHP, Python, etc.), over 140 themes to spice up your morning, and an auto-update tool so that makes it easy to keep up with the latest updates from the community. I contributed to the OSX bits of this framework to provide easy aliases for showing and hiding the hidden files, and stuff like that.
WP Customize Posts: Weston Ruter proposed a proposed a Customize Posts project to edit posts and post meta in the WordPress Customizer. I contributed to this project off and on, mostly to improve and refine UI for the post date control and the reset button.
Sublime Package Control Channel: I contributed to the Sublime package control channel not only to get my own packages published but also spent a good deal of time helping them out with several pull requests, to share the burden of maintaining an open source project.
Delayed Admin Notices: My dear friend, Matt Cromwell; coded a demo plugin to demonstrate delayed admin notices, I contributed to it by making it conform to the WordPress coding standards.
Github-to-WordPress-Deploy-Script: Mike has an awesome GitHub to WP.org deploy script. I improved its commit messages but later ended up with a complete rewrite that I plan to open source this year.
WP Code Reference: I have also started contributing code examples to the WP Code reference.
Metabox WP Plugin: Rilwis has a great meta box plugin for WP which I use in several projects. I contributed to this project to improve the map field as well as the date picker field.
Persist Admin Notice Dismissals: My friend Collins wrote a PHP library for persistent dismissal of admin notices, I contributed a little code highlighting to improve its documentation. Nothing much but it’s a good library in case you want to use one.
EE-VV-Wordmove: Joe wrote a guide for local and production WordPress environments. I contributed to CamelCase for WordPress.
I guess, I should stop here. Enough about the professional life already :).
2016 has been a year that I won’t forget very quickly. I say this both in a right way as well as the bad way. The headline here is that I was not able to work for about five months last year. That had an impact on my yearly revenue but nothing I can’t recover from. AH! I am still running a profitable business but I had to take some amount out of the rainy day account. So, let me go through what happened last year.
By the end of 2015, I knew that my health was kinda deteriorating and that I was ignoring it by working long hours and eating junk food. I even started a Stupid-simple WP Developer Fitness Challenge! which I was able to follow for about 33 days before I gave up on it.
🤔 The 3-Months Break: Right after the first quarter of 2016, I literally fell ill. Being a single male, who’s living alone away from the hometown (Multan), I was eating all kinds of junk food in the form of Zinger burgers, Pizzas, and bakery items. I didn’t know how to cook food and neither did I have the time to do it.
😟 Finally, my body gave up and I fell a victim to food poising that led to increased cholesterol and uric acid levels in my blood. That’s it, I had enough of it and ignoring my health any longer would have been very dangerous. I weighed about 120 kg at that time.
🍩 So, I took a three months long break from everything. Like, I literally fell off the face of the earth — for my clients. I moved back to my hometown to spend some quality time with my parents, ate healthy home-cooked food and about two months later, with some basic cardio — I had improved my health a lot.
😎 I lost about 15 kg weight. By the end of 2016, I weigh about 99 kgs, my cholesterol/uric acid levels are just fine, I feel much better, and my eating habits have improved a lot. This is such a big deal for me. I feel confident that I am only going to make it better now.
With every passing year, the concept of stability is getting more and more prominent in my head. When I got ill last year, I went through what they call a change of perspective about life. You see, I left for college about a decade ago and then became a digital nomad i.e. I didn’t stay in one place for longer than six months.
✔ I Bought a House! While moving from one place to another was a lot of fun, last year I finally took the plunge and bought a house in Lahore. It is an incredible milestone for me as a self-employed individual. (Pics at the end of the post!). Will deal with the loan, I know, I will.
👀 I had been searching for a new pre-built house, and in March 2016; I found one — which as you can imagine was perfect. I couldn’t wait for things to get settled since the bank was taking quite long. I ended up selling a good chunk of my online properties (products + blogs) and one of my partners acquired my company along with the six employees.
🚘 Moreover, the new garage needed an upgrade. I have had been dragging with me a Suzuki Mehran for as long as I could remember. It was a gift from my dad. Anywho, the acquisition of my products also paid for a brand new Honda City. AH! (Pics at the end of the post!)
I do make money you know! 😂 Not everything I do is for free. Though, I have to admit that I am not as transparent as many would want me to be. People often reach out to ask about how I make money while working for an open source software. Yes, that is, in fact, a true story. I make money while working for an open source software i.e. WordPress.
To be a bit more transparent this year, I am going to talk a little about how I make money just enough to pay the bills and get by. That said, don’t over-think it, I have a diverse background which makes it a bit hard to explain things which I am about to.
My prime source of earning is consultancy. Being a WordPress Core contributor, I have a very good understanding of the WordPress community. Add to it I love to talk, teach and help people — that actually helps me get connected to a good deal of WordPress folks — product devs, bloggers, marketers, and a few policy makers in giant WP companies.
I have been a marketer, designer, blogger, and now I am a full stack web developer. All of this becomes useful to my clients when they want to analyze if the product they are planning to build and spend several hundred thousand dollars on; is a good market fit or not. And that what pays the bills. Interested in my perspective? Let’s talk!
A big part of me is a teacher! If you ever get to know me better then there are three things you’ll discover about me.
I’m a talker.
I love to teach.
I crack a lot of jokes.
Let’s talk business!
Teaching: I love teaching to an extent that I keep finding ways to earn more by teaching. You can almost always find me talking to my friends about how teachers in our culture do not get paid well enough.
Blogging: I started blogging as a way to teach online about 13 years from now. Later, I started to making money off of it. AdSense by Google has been a loyal friend. But Google’s updates like Panda & Penguin made me rethink about blogging as a career, which was why I sold my private blogging network in 2012 — to pursue a career in WordPress as a programmer. Last year, I sold another blog and a few of them are still helping me earn some side income.
Writing: I am not a writer but I play one on the internet. 👀 Seriously, I am an accidental writer. If you skipped the section about what I wrote this year, just scroll upwards and read more about me.
If you’d like to talk me into working with you as a teacher, blogger, or an advanced WP content writer then slip in your email.
Last but not the least, I make software products. These products vary from premium WordPress themes and now plugins as well as design elements, E.g. mockups, UI/UX kits, and other small automation scripts (which is a new hobby). I am also planning to release a few macOS apps, which I’ve been working on (pretty inconsistently).
I love partnerships. Partnerships are fun. Last year, I wrote about My Vision: WordPress Collaboration Over Competition. The response I got from being transparent was great. By the end of 2016, I had partnered up with three new developers. We are still running strong. Sadly, life is not that easy, sometimes partnerships fail. Yes, all that glitters is not gold. But that’s all part of the life. I am happy with that.
In 2016, my business made about 24.07% more profit as compared to 2015. Revenue on the other hand was about 37.86% down. That’s because, some of my products got acquired.
🎉 I got married in December. Many of you already know, Maedah Batool — is now my partner for life. She’s also a WordPress core contributor and an Electrical engineer and has been deeply involved in the local tech scene. She teaches WordPress and develops sites for non-profits. Like me, she writes a lot and calls herself a WordPress Journalist. If you’d like to know more about her, you can read her HeroPress essay → The Making of a WordPress Journalist.
🙌 WordPress not only empowers 27.2% of the internet, but also my life. We actually bonded on the fact that we both liked WordPress. One thing led to another and last year had such a perfect ending. I know her for about seven years now, we have worked together on a dozen of projects in the past. This has been the biggest change in my life. Sharing my life with someone like her is going to be awesome.
⚡ The WPCouple: Since WordPress hacked our lives and got us close, we thought about making it a fundamental part of our lives. That’s why we have decided to call ourselves The WPCouple — and we are pretty serious about it. 😎 We registered a domain last year, called WPCouple.com — wrote some content on it, ran a huge $100K giveaway and then got busy with our wedding planning. Right now, we are planning to start a cool WordPress podcast together. Wish us luck! 💯
So, that was it. 2016 was a phenomenal year in its own way. It’s interesting to think about how you are going to spend your entire year and then you let go of your resolutions right after the first two weeks. While I was able to meet 70% of my goals last year, life — as you know happens. This year, I plan to do the following.
WP SaaS and REST API: I have had been working on an interesting project in the hope to consolidate my portfolio and focus on one project/company. This project can be it. It’s a cool WordPress project which is about 43% complete. This is my first attempt to release a SaaS product. I want to give it at least next two years of my life. It’s a huge project and I hope you all will find it interesting as soon as I launch it (expected launch in the first quarter of 2017).
Premium WordPress Theme & Plugins: I have spent about thirteen months, off and on, working on a WordPress product with my business partner. I am trying to create a complete ecosystem of small WordPress plugins that could be used by people who plan to make travel niche sites with WordPress. But before that, there is a giant custom theme which is about to be released. It’s 99% complete, I am setting up the site and writing the documentation.
Podcasting: I am thinking of starting two podcasts this year, I am not so sure about it, but I do plan to try. Podcasting is something completely new to me — something I haven’t tried before. I think it will be a fun thing to do.
Teaching? Surprise, surprise!
That’s all folks. Life is full of good and bad incidents. It’s not as smooth as it looks and it takes a lot to stay happy, help others, and contribute to a cause. I hope you all get to complete your goals this year. Here’s to an incredible 2017.
Looking forward to your comments!
BTW! If it’s not too much trouble, don’t forget to share this post. It would mean a lot to me!
Takeaway my professional opinion on open-source, developer relations, growing your business with family, and everything in between! Delivered to your inbox a couple of times every year. I'm even funny at times. I hate spam — pinky-promise!