Interview With Jonathan Wainwright (AKA Waindigo)

By The Sandman · Dec 10, 2013 ·
  1. The Sandman
    Can you give us a brief biography?

    I’m Jonathan Wainwright, owner and founder of Waindigo, a company that develops add-ons for XenForo.


    How is life in Maidenhead?

    Maidenhead is great. It is a town to the west of London, so I am about 10-15 miles away from Reading, where XenForo is based, and about the same distance from London.


    What is your educational background?

    I grew up in Rothley, Leicestershire (not far from where Chris Deeming lives). Later, I studied Mathematics at the University of York. I then returned to the University of York to study IT in 2010, and immediately after that I set up Waindigo.


    Tell us about your faith and how it impacts your business and your life in general.

    I have always believed in God, but never really understood the implications of that until about 8 months ago after I locked myself out of my office on a Saturday night. Having nothing else to do the next day, I suddenly felt the urge to pray for a friend who was in hospital and found myself at a church in the centre of Maidenhead that I didn’t even know existed before then. Over the months that followed, I filled in the gaps in my knowledge about how God sent Jesus to earth to take the punishment I deserve for rejecting God in my life.

    I have done a lot of things in my life that I am not proud of, particularly while I was struggling with all the pressures of the XenForo court case at the beginning of the year. But it is knowing now that God was in charge of my life and was getting ready to bring me back into a relationship with him that makes me love him now more than ever and makes me want to follow his will in every part of my life. I am still trying to work out what that means in business – obviously, I still need to pay the bills – and just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I won’t still make mistakes.


    What is your full time occupation now, and what was it previously?

    I now work full-time as a XenForo developer. When I left university, my first job was a training contract with an accounting firm. After nearly 3 years, things got a bit messy and I was threatened with legal action over some software that I had written that the company decided they owned. I had already decided that I wanted to do something more IT-based, so I left and went back to university. After a year at university, I applied for another accounting company in an IT role, but just before I was due to start the job they received a devastating reference from my old boss and said they had no choice but to revoke the job offer. At that time, I thought my life was effectively over because I would struggle to get a job anywhere.


    Please tell us about Waindigo Enterprises and the Waindigo Foundation. Is it home based or do you have offices?

    Waindigo Enterprises is my company, and also acts as the trustee of Waindigo Foundation, a charity I set up. The foundation was set up in January as an alternative to asking anyone who has benefited from our add-ons to donate to the company. We thought that asking people to donate to a company felt a bit weird and noticed some other developers were asking people to donate to a particular charity. Having our own registered charity means that we have some say over which charities the money is used to support, but anyone donating can be confident that we are legally obliged to ensure that the money will only ever be used for charitable purposes. So far, we have raised over £1,000 and hope to raise much more in the coming years.

    There is also a third company, Waindigo Industries, which is owned by a friend of mine from university, Dominic. He codes a lot of the smaller add-ons that we release from his office in London.

    I’ve done a lot of working from home, but I am now in my third office. The first was a shared office in the University of York and the second was a similar shared office run commercially in Maidenhead. After 6 months, they hit us with a 50% rent increase. Unsure what to do, I went for a quick wander around town and bumped into the vicar of the church I had just started going to – I’ve never bumped into him in town before or since. Needless to say, we now have our own office in one of the church buildings that they use for Sunday school. Its a great space and its always open (when I'm there) if people want to drop by and say hello.


    What does your daily schedule look like?

    That’s a difficult one, because I’m so disorganised and I have a bad habit of staying up late and then sleeping in – though that seems to be quite normal in this job. I always start the day doing a bit of bible reading, then I answer as many PMs as I can, usually spend some time on the phone to Dominic, and if I have time left after that, I might fit in a bit of actual coding myself.


    Although you have the most add-ons of any resource contributor on XenForo.com you don't charge non-commercial users for any of them. Why is that?

    Lots of reasons. Firstly, it keeps it simple. Once you understand our licensing, you’re done, and we don’t plan on changing it either. Secondly, we feel that it is good for XenForo to have a good number of quality, free add-ons, and what is good for XenForo is good for us. But thirdly, and most importantly, every add-on is paid for by a member of the community and they do have the choice not to release it like this. We do subsidise the cost quite a bit if they agree, but we also make the same argument that what is good for XenForo is good for them. There is a great community at XenForo and the fact that we are able to not charge non-commercial sites for so many is surely a testament to that.


    How did you get into coding add-ons for the XenForo community?

    After my accounting career was effectively over and I didn’t know what else to do, my family reminded me that I’d always wanted to run my own business. After only a month in business doing basic web development, I found out about XenForo and empathised with their David vs. Goliath situation (the court case against vBulletin). Even without really understanding the code that I saw, I could just tell it was going to be a joy to work with, and immediately started teaching myself how to create add-ons. That was 2 years ago.


    What's your favorite part of coding add-ons?

    Probably the most enjoyable part is teaching other people how to code add-ons. At the start of this year, Dominic joined Waindigo, and I have been teaching him how to code add-ons. Seeing how far he has progressed and now having two of us creating add-ons full-time is a dream come true. I would love to be able to train more people and keep growing the company.


    What's your least favorite part of coding add-ons?

    Fortunately Dominic is very patient as I am a terrible teacher and can be a bit impatient too, so teaching is probably my least favourite part at times too. It's something I really need to get better at. Probably that and I also dislike not being able to spend as much time on some add-ons as I would like – that’s the obvious downside of having so many add-ons!


    Which single add-on of yours are you proudest of?

    This is difficult because the ones that I am most proud of are the ones which I want to spend time on to make them as good as I can, and then they become the ones I am least proud of because I don't have time, so they feel unfinished. The one that I am really excited about at the moment is Tabs by Waindigo – I have so much planned for it, and will hopefully actually have some time to make it into something really amazing.


    What is the significance of your username and avatar?

    The colour indigo is quite mysterious because there are only really 6 colours of the spectrum/rainbow (the primary and secondary colours), but legend has it that Isaac Newton (a Christian) assumed that there must be seven, because seven is such an important number in the Bible, so he made indigo the sixth colour of the seven colour spectrum. At the time there were also only seven known planets in the solar system (which probably influenced his thinking), of which Saturn (my avatar, and Waindigo's logo) is the sixth.


    What's your opinion on the current state of affairs in forum software in general and specifically regarding vBulletin, Invision Power Board, and XenForo?

    I don’t know much about IPB or VB. It certainly looks like VB has had its day, which is amazing given how big it was a few years ago. But then we probably shouldn’t be so surprised – the bible (and, of course, thousands of years of history) reminds us that all the great powers of this world that appear to be unstoppable, have all fell spectacularly in the end. I don’t spend much time trying to predict the future, but I do hope that forums continue to be popular and that XenForo becomes the number 1 platform, as it deserves to be, and will continue to try and help that happen as long as I can.


    What advice do you have for people just starting out as coder?

    I would just remind them not to think too much of their first few add-ons. I think there is a tendency for new coders to post questions but not want to give too much information away because they think their add-on is going to be so amazing and someone else will steal their idea. Learn how to walk first, and don’t worry about how successful your first few add-ons are going to be. There are so many people willing to help, but you have to give them a chance at being able to answer your questions and offer genuinely helpful advice.


    What are your favorite books? Movies? TV shows? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?

    I don’t really read books (other than the bible, of course). I love comedy – I have good memories of discovering Old School and Anchorman at university, and grew up with Austin Powers and Dumb and Dumber before that.

    Anyone outside the UK probably won’t understand how horrendous this is, but my music collection is basically every “Now” album ever released, mixed in with a few random albums I’ve collected over the years and, more recently, some Christian music. I’m sure people have been killed for less.

    I don’t really play video games, although my housemate has been showing me his Xbox One. I pretty much eat or drink anything, so I’m going to skip this question, and also because I probably use the answer as my password for my bank or something.


    What do you do for fun and relaxation?

    Well I used to code for fun when I was an accountant, and now it is my job, and I love it! Funnily enough though, I did actually enjoy spending time recently helping a friend with their accounting course, although I don’t usually spend my free time doing that.

    I try to spend as much time with friends as possible, especially on Sundays. I also spend every Wednesday night helping out with a kids group of 7-9 year olds, which is a nice change from coding or answering emails.


    What do you know now that you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

    The fact that Waindigo is a stupid name for a company would probably be a good one. And it would be great just to tell myself how much God is intricately involved in all aspects of my life and is not just something to think about for a few hours on a Sunday.


    Tell us something else about yourself that most people don't already know.

    Since I was about 10, I have collected plastic cards (e.g., credit cards, loyalty cards, phone cards and gift cards). I have thousands, and still can’t resist picking up new ones if I see them when I’m out and about. No idea if they are actually worth anything.


    What does the future hold for Jonathan Wainwright?

    Looking forward to spending Christmas with my whole family, including my beautiful niece Isabelle who is having her first Christmas.

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