An Interview With Andrea Rennick

in Blog

WordPress MultiSite (usually called WordPress MU or WPMU) is a great feature that allows you to install multiple installations of WordPress. It’s what powers the hosted. Whilst it used to be a stand alone script, it was integrated into the code version of WordPress this year.

I am aware of how WPMU works however I don’t have much experience with using this feature. Therefore I contacted Andrea Rennick, a WordPress developer who has worked with WordPress MultiSite for years. Andrea, along with her husband Ron, have published several great eBooks on the subject and they have released some fantastic plugins for WPMU too.

Andrea has kindly agreed to answer some questions for you all. I hope you enjoy the interview :)

For those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you and your work.

Hi! I’m Andrea Rennick, and I started playing around with WordPress over 6 years ago, just for my own blog. I just kept digging deeper and deeper, seeing how it all worked, and fell in headfirst. :) I would occasionally help m mommy blogging friends with issues they had with their blogs too, but nothing full time. At some point, I found out about what was then called WordPress MU, because I wanted to start my own small version of for homeschoolers, as that’s what they used. I took a long time to figure it out, realized this feature didn’t really have much documentation and started a blog called WPMU Tutorials. Through that, I started to get actual client work, and since my kids were getting older I had more free time – enough to become a freelancer full time. It was so attractive, my husband Ron started helping out more and more and eventually gave up his corporate job to work at home with me, building large sites for clients, writing custom plugins and offering consultation on this WordPress MU feature.

Then the core developers of WordPress decided to roll WordPress MU (a separate program) into the core of WordPress itself, now called multisite or a network, and Ron was brought in as a guest contributor to help out with that. At the same time, I had been writing about it more and more, helping people in the forums, and realizing it was hard to be everywhere at once. We were turning away far more clients that we could ever handle, repeating a lot of the same advice in consultations, so we finally clued in that writing extensive ebooks on specific tasks, and writing handy timesaving plugins for some extra multisite features, would be the best way to help more people. We actually had started working on, then took a break to work on the merge, as it was called.

Multisite is basically a hidden feature in WordPress that allows you to run multiple blogs/sites using one codebase and one set of themes and plugins. I wrote a free ebook explaining how to set it up.

You were one of the co-authors of the popular book ‘WordPress All-In-One For Dummies’. How did this come around? Have you written many books before?

WordPress All-in-One For DummiesNONE! At last not print books. When Lisa Sabin-Wilson asked me to come on board with the book project, we had just started working at plans for, so I hadn’t even written any ebooks for that yet. Just one I’d done on setting up wordPress MU, which was eventually downloaded almost 20,000 times.

Lisa called me up, told be about the book and said something like, “We’re planning a section on multisite, and need someone to write it, so of course I thought of you!”

It really was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. So many details! But in the end, I think it made me a better writer. The feedback from the editors was invaluable and showed how many assumptions I had been making about the reader. It really helped me realize that I need to keep the audience in mind, and remember the days when I was new at this too.

Both you and your husband Ron are very experienced with WordPress MU. Can you explain to our readers what is so great about WordPress Multi-Site and why you are both very passionate about this feature?

I think one of the things that blows me away continually is that this part of the codebase is what Automattic uses to run – and they give it to you for free. You can set up your own blog host however you like, and they just gave it to you. And you don’t even have to use it as a blog host – I know many users (including myself) use the multisite feature to consolidate their installs on one server, so they only have one codebase to manage. Even better is the freedom – it’s one thing to set up your own blog to give yourself a voice. It’s another to help empower others by giving them the space to give them a voice where they will be heard. One of the other things about the work we’ve done at ebooks is to empower others with knowledge that we have so they can go on to develop sites for themselves and their dreams or to even travel the path that we have – become freelancers. Or better freelancers.


Can you tell us more about your WP Replicator plugin and what it do for users?

Ah, this was fun! Sometimes Ron and I toss around ideas in our home office and this plugin was a result of one of those days. It start with me asking, “What if?” and Ron basically coding up the plugin to see if it can be done. The Replicator plugin came about after seeing people ask over and over again if there was a way to make a blog or site in the network act as a template and then be able to copy that template any time they wanted, or when new sites were made in the network. We also had a client that requested the same functionality.

So that’s what we did. Now anyone running a network can, with one click, copy a template site to make a new site. Theme, content, plugins settings, widgets – the whole thing.

Do you plan on continue working on WordPress Multi-Site or would you like to release plugins for the regular version of WordPress too?

While we do focus on the multisite aspect of WordPress, from time to time we release a plugin that can also run on single sites. Some of the work we’ve done with BuddyPress is on single sites as well.

I think the closest we ever get to single site usage is a plugin that works with both. :)

I think the closest we ever get to single site usage is a plugin that works with both. :)

Is there anything that you think WordPress is lacking? (i.e. some functionality that should be included in the core version)

I think it’s pretty full featured now. The only things I see that core needs is some specific areas of improvements in terms of user management and media handling. Someday we’ll all get there though.

With over 13,000 plugins in the repository, and who knows how many more available outside of that, I truly believe there’s nothing you can’t do with WordPress.

What is your favourite WordPress theme or theme framework?

Right now, we’ve been working a lot with StudioPress, since we built an add-on plugin to be used with the Genesis framework and BuddyPress together. I must say I’ve been a fan of Brian Gardner’s work a for a long time and it has been a great experience working with Studiopress for this project.

So we’ve been digging deep into Genesis and have been quite pleased.

What are you 5 essential WordPress plugins? (i.e. plugins that you install time and time again and can’t do without)

Well, keeping in mind that I work mostly with multisite, these are the 5 I use most often:

What can we expect from yourself and Ron over the next year?

More of the same. :) We’re constantly working on new things in the background and you can expect something new at least once a month.

A huge thank you to Andrea Rennick for taking part in this interview. You can find out more about Andrea at Ron & Andrea, WP eBooks and WordPress Must Use Tutorials.

Comments (2)

  • Comment by Ron Rennick
    Ron Rennick

    WordPress MU was merged in last year vs this year.

    Thanks for the exposure :)

  • Comment by felix

    Thanx Andrea and Kevin for this great interview. I use the MU feature for all my theme demos since Andrea & Ron turned me to it at the Montreal WordCamp 2010. It saves tons of work.