Shane Bishop of EWWW Sharing His Success Story
Shane Bishop of EWWW IO

Shane Bishop – Founder of EWWW Image Optimizer

My name is Shane Bishop, a WordPress plugin developer, and website performance nut. I’m the lead and only developer of the EWWW Image Optimizer, a plugin that I launched on WordPress.org back in 2012. That was over 9 years ago, and you’d barely recognize version 1.0 today!

I live in Montana with my wife, 2 kids, and 3 dogs (including our gigantic Saint Bernard named Yogi). From an early age, friends told me I had a knack for figuring out computers, and when my parents bought our first computer (at the ripe old age of 11), I already knew I wanted to build software.

I started studying Computer Science at college, but it wasn’t until a few years into college that I discovered the power, and simplicity, of the code used to build the web. I started my first “blog” with just raw HTML and CSS, learning tricks from csszengarden.com along the way.

The Journey Began

As I was learning to code in college, I also began discovering the joy of tinkering with computer hardware. I didn’t have a lot of cash, so learning to upgrade my own desktop was the only way to go.

When I built my first HTML page, it was hosted on an old machine I had cobbled together from the spare parts left over from my endeavors. I was running a Counter-Strike 1.x server on our college LAN and used the web page to post updates for the folks who joined us regularly on Friday nights, and throughout the week when we needed a break from homework.

In 2005, I discovered WordPress as I was looking for an easier way to maintain my blog. However, I tried out b2evolution and a couple of others before finally settling on WordPress 2.0 early in 2006. Over the next several years, I worked with Joomla for our college Intranet site during my job with the IT department.

After I moved back to Montana, I took a job as the IT Director for our local community college and rebuilt their website with Drupal. It was a very small college, so our small 2-person department was responsible for just about anything that had wires attached. As we worked with Drupal, I began to learn a smattering of PHP, and on the side, I started building websites for a couple of businesses with WordPress.

I needed something that would be simple to work with, and after spending a lot of time with Drupal, I knew it was anything but simple. Powerful, sure, but not something I could see using for my local clients who were anything but tech-savvy.

The Need for EWWW

EWWW Logo

EWWW IO Logo

During my work on the college website, I had dabbled in performance testing with the Yslow extension for Firefox, and I was using jpegtran to optimize the images uploaded by our PR department.

I was always looking for tools to make things simpler, and with the (already) huge number of available plugins for WordPress, I hoped there might be something to take care of image optimization automatically.

There were only 2 plugins at the time (2012), WP Smush.it and CW Image Optimizer. The first one, WP Smush.it, caught my attention right away because it was powered by Yahoo’s Smush.it API. This API was also used by the Yslow extension I was already familiar with, and so I gave it a try.

However, I quickly discovered the same thing that many reviewers had already complained about, which was that the Smush.it API was unreliable. It was also limited to images smaller than 1MB, and I already had plenty of images larger than that on my in-laws’ greenhouse site, which was the whole reason I needed an optimization plugin, to begin with.

I looked next at CW Image Optimizer, which was a fork of WP Smush.it. CW used littleutils via the command-line using PHP’s exec() command, but littleutils was not available on my shared hosting server, and there was no way to install it.

When I discovered littleutils was using jpegtran (among others) “under the hood”, I wondered if I would rewrite CW to use jpegtran directly, and the result was the first version of EWWW Image Optimizer. EWWW was an abbreviation of my business, Exactly WWW, and also my dry humor showing through, as in “EWWW, those images are huge and bloated and need to be optimized!” I know, I know, I’m terribly clever like that…

I don’t know exactly when I realized this, but I enjoyed coding more than building websites. More than that, the number of folks that began downloading EWWW IO shocked me. There were 500 downloads in the first week, and it kept growing. Folks began asking for help, and I’m a sucker for a person in need.

As EWWW IO grew, I spent more and more time on it, and even when I first launched the paid service to go along with it, I was still working full-time at the college. It took a toll on my health and learning to balance work, life, and rest became a necessity. It’s still something I struggle with, but I have to be intentional about taking breaks and vacations, or I’d be no good to anyone.

It’s hard to pick just one moment that stands out, but every time the plugin rolls over to the next 100,000 active installs, it’s a rewarding reminder of how many folks I’ve helped with EWWW IO. It’s also incredibly humbling to be trusted by so many to help solve their image optimization woes, and something I strive to not take for granted.

The first service for EWWW IO was a simple image optimization API to offload the image optimization process. This allowed EWWW IO to work on web hosts where the exec() function wasn’t available, and would eventually allow me to make tools like TinyPNG available at a cost that wouldn’t break the bank.

Along the way, I built the S3 Image Optimizer plugin as an add-on to let EWWW IO scan S3 buckets directly, and I adopted the Imsanity plugin after the late Jason Hinkle passed away in 2016.

In 2017, I launched an image optimizing CDN to make it easier to automatically scale images. Later, it would allow us to make WebP image conversion easier than ever before. Then, in 2020, we launched SWIS Performance, a plugin containing all the performance hacks that I use for my own sites.

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Adam and I both work from home, so we don’t have an official office. But here we are:

Shane Bishop & Adam Montague

Adam Montague & Shane Bishop

Advice for Business Owners

Find a need and fill it. EWWW IO started with solving my own problem, but discovering that I wasn’t alone in this need. There’s not much more rewarding than helping people solve their problems. You might not always get to see the fruit of your labors, but when you do, it’s very exciting.

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you have the skills to develop or have the desire to do so, I think that’s a fantastic place to start. From there you might find that you love developing themes, or maybe plugins are more your style. Or, you might get bored easily and decide to develop as a freelancer where you’re solving a new problem every day.

But if you fancy showing people how to solve problems, or even teaching them new skills, perhaps blogging and writing would be more up your alley.

No matter what you choose to do, don’t keep doing it unless it’s helping you achieve your goals. And don’t be surprised if it takes a surprising turn and your hosting business turns into a theme shop or vice versa.

 

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    WordPress & Beyond

    Truthfully, I’m terrible at making plans. While I have ideas on where to go next, many of those come from the many folks using EWWW IO. There’s always another need to fill, but I strive to stay on task and “on mission” so I don’t get spread too thin.

    Those in charge of the direction of WordPress have no such problems, they have long-term plans, and Gutenberg with full site editing is just one of those plans that are starting to come to fruition after several years.

    I was surprised that some folks seemed surprised by WP 5.8, as the early communication regarding Gutenberg was pretty clear. Matt (and others) wanted to see WordPress compete better with WYSIWYG site editors (Wix and friends), and Gutenberg was the vehicle to do it.

    I don’t know that any competitor could be seen as a viable threat to WordPress as long as core developers continue to innovate and give us the tools to make new things possible with every release.

    I think we’ve come to a place where too many people, especially in the business of building websites, value open software. Any software that wants to challenge WordPress’ dominance must be open to encourage developers to get involved. This is the strength of the plugin and theme ecosystem, that anyone with a knack for code can make a difference.

    My Love for the WordPress Community

    It’s been difficult to travel to a WordCamp given my remote location, but I enjoy virtually attending WCUS and watching recordings from various WordCamps around the globe.

    We do have a (very small) local meetup where we help local folks to learn how to use WordPress. Even though it’s small, it helps to grow the WP user-base, and we learn new things all the time while researching answers to questions folks ask during our meetups.

    I’ve worked with a lot of plugin and theme developers over the years, usually on compatibility issues. But two stand out among them all. Jordy Meow of WP Retina (Perfect Images) and other image-related plugins. He’s always got something cooking and is always on the lookout for new ways to help folks with their images.

    Brad Touesnard and his team from Delicious Brains have been a pleasure to work with over the years also. I’m really intrigued by their new(ish) SpinupWP project that is a fresh take on managed hosting, and I’m always impressed with the quality of their plugins.

    How I Keep Myself Updated

    I follow some of the discussion on the WordPress Slack channels to keep abreast of what is happening with images and media in WP, and of course, WP Tavern is always a good source of WP news.

    A common theme though is feedback from EWWW IO users. I don’t read as many news sites as I used to, but I often get tidbits from fellow EWWW IO users where I’ll learn something entirely new.

    Another great resource I’ve already alluded to is WordCamp recordings, and as many meetups have gone online, there are more resources available now than ever.

    You might not have 900k folks using your software, but get connected to other users, developers, etc. Talk to people who are doing what you want to be doing, learn from them any chance you can.

    I Have a Life Other Than the Work

    I’ve always enjoyed computer gaming, and early on when I wanted to develop software, it was all about video games. Being able to build something that was so much fun was terribly exciting. That never happened, and while I don’t have a lot of time for gaming anymore, I enjoy a good game of 0 A.D. every so often.

    The kiddos are getting old enough to join in, and it’s great fun to see their enthusiasm in building whole civilizations within an RTS.

    But I can only spend so much time on the screen, so when I need to unplug, I’m chucking frisbees at metal baskets, aka disc golf. It’s a ton of fun, and we’re fortunate enough to have a fantastic course nearby. Our disc golf club just put in a new course and we’re working on another one. It’s somewhat stunning for such a small town, but there’s no reason to let that hold us back!

    The holidays have always been about family for us. Many of my fondest memories are at Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings, even more so since my best friend was also my cousin who enjoyed computers just about as much as I did. We even roomed together our first year at college, before he was lured away by his future wife. 🙂

    I’m not huge on travel, but when I do, I love the outdoors. The Black Hills of South Dakota is one of our family’s favorite destinations. It’s also halfway to where my in-laws live, so it’s a great place to get together for us.

    There is always something new to see, but our perennial favorite is Reptile Gardens, especially for my daughter who wants to be a veterinarian.

    Oh boy, we have three dogs. Scooter is a Labrador-Dachshund mix, however, that happens… and Kangaroo is a Labrador-Border Collie mix. They’ve been a part of our family for over twelve years, but recently we added Yogi, a St. Bernard that’s larger than both of them combined. He’s a ton of fun, no exaggeration!

    Can’t find a pic of all three of them together, so here’s one of Yogi:

    Shane Bishop Pet

    Shane Bishop Pet

    I Reward Myself by 

    As mentioned before, I love disc golf, and it’s always a blast taking the kiddos out for a few holes. But beyond that, a big reason for everything we do as a family is giving. So whether it’s to our local church, to an orphanage, or a random act of kindness, our greatest joy is in giving from what we’ve been blessed with.

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