Greg Ziółkowski

Working on Gutenberg

I’m a passionate programmer and open-source contributor living in Poland. I craft code at Automattic, contribute to the WordPress core, and co-host the Gutenberg Changelog podcast.

Greg Ziółkowski // @gziolo

When not working, I enjoy taking long walks in picturesque Oleśnica with my charming wife Ania and adorable daughter Zuzia.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Greg Ziółkowski: My name is Grzegorz. I’m a passionate programmer and open-source contributor living in Poland. I craft code at Automattic, contribute to the WordPress core, and co-host Gutenberg Changelog podcast. When not working, I enjoy taking long walks in picturesque Oleśnica with my charming wife Ania and adorable daughter Zuzia. I’m a huge sports fan who plays basketball, runs, or rides a bike. I also highly enjoy watching, god knows how many hours of NBA and soccer games. I love traveling, so I would not mind swapping programming into strolling, snorkeling, or simply lying on beaches of paradise islands, which I dream of seeing all of.

Why and when did you decide to become a developer?

Greg Ziółkowski: It’s tough to tell when exactly and why I decided to become a developer because it was long ago. I started learning programming in high school at the age of 15. I wrote my first basic program in Turbo Pascal in the computer science class. It took maybe two or three years until I started exploring how to build a website. The idea that you can put something online and people worldwide can see it seemed thrilling. I continued learning web technologies HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and quickly ran into the necessity to learn PHP and MySQL to streamline the process. The fun fact is that one particular website I created in 1999 is still available online at http://foto.ziolo.eu. It hasn’t got any code updates for many years, so it retained the old-style look when the 980px site’s width was the norm.

The rest is history. I studied control engineering and robotics at the Wrocław University of Technology. I had many opportunities to improve my programming skills in different environments and technologies, but my passion for web technologies continued. I enjoyed learning all types of topics related to computer science, so I decided that it would be great to find a job to dive deeper into programming concepts even more.

Why did you choose WordPress?

Greg Ziółkowski: I created my account on WordPress.com in July 2007, but I hadn’t used it much until 2015 when I joined Automattic as a JavaScript Wrangler. 2015 was also when I migrated my website to WordPress from my CMS of choice back then – Drupal. I must admit that I had a lot of experience developing with Drupal at that point, but almost none with WordPress integrations. Well, I think I helped to build two or three simple websites with WordPress.

The rest of my journey follows my time spent at Automattic. Initially, I’ve been working on WordPress.com subscriptions like plans and domains. Eventually, I switched to the team that overlooks the development of the block editor in WordPress core.

What were your initial thoughts about WordPress?

Greg Ziółkowski: As a part of my preparations for the new role at Automattic, I moved in 2015 my blog gziolo.pl from Drupal to a WordPress instance hosted on WordPress.com. The migration process was super simple, and I caught up very quickly with the new user interface. I liked all the features of WordPress included in the initial setup. I was able to build almost the same structure as with Drupal, but the learning path in WordPress is much shorter, and the overall configuration was less complicated.

There is also a fascinating story that helped me quickly discover the power of WordPress. My sister blogged about her efforts to get back to sports activities after a severe knee injury. Her post written in Polish from 2009 received massive traffic and nearly one thousand comments in a few months! That was mind-blowing.

What do you love and what do you hate the most about WP?

Greg Ziółkowski: As a developer, I love the overall philosophy of the WordPress project. In particular, the commitment to keeping backward compatibility. I also appreciate the extensibility model based on hooks. I firmly believe that those are key factors for WordPress becoming highly popular.

At the same time, as a WordPress core contributor, sincerely, I wouldn’t say I like the constraining implications imposed by the need to maintain old APIs indefinitely and the infinite customizations unlocked by hooks.

I love the overall philosophy of the WordPress project. In particular, the commitment to keeping backward compatibility.

What do you consider your biggest success?

Greg Ziółkowski: The answer is pretty simple here. My most significant achievement is becoming a maintainer of the open-source project that powers 43% of the web! I’m incredibly grateful to my employer Automattic for giving me a chance to work on non-proprietary software. In particular, for the fantastic opportunity to work on the Gutenberg project that led eventually to becoming a WordPress core committer.

What was your biggest fuckup?

Greg Ziółkowski: I remember one incident from 2017, which wasn’t such a big disaster, but it was pretty stressful. There is continuous production deployment at WordPress.com for the Admin UI (Calypso). My commit blocked all further deploys on WordPress.com for a few hours after landing an innocent patch (https://github.com/Automattic/wp-calypso/pull/12404). It turned out that a CLI argument passed to the Node command worked differently when bundling JavaScript code in the production environment. We had no choice but reverted all changes.

How do you see WordPress’ future?

Greg Ziółkowski: The future is bright now that we have celebrated the arrival of block themes and the full site editing experience of the recent WordPress 5.9 release. It’s just the beginning of the journey because these new workflows need to mature while the adoption rate accelerates and the community helps steer further development. 

I’m excited about the possibilities that the block paradigm opens for a performant and highly interactive frontend experience. I’m also optimistic that we will eventually reach the point where any web developer can use WordPress to create the site they want, with the absolute minimum amount of knowledge and code written.

If you like this interview, pleas share it.

Read other interviews:

Interview: Denis Žoljom

I’m a Croatian-based software engineer/small trade owner. I love to tinker with automation and consider myself a more backend developer.

Interview: Greg Ziółkowski

I’m a passionate programmer and open-source contributor living in Poland. I craft code at Automattic, contribute to the WordPress core, and co-host the Gutenberg Changelog podcast.