Jason Bahl Joins the Gatsby Team to Work on WPGraphQL Full-Time

Jason Bahl, creator of WPGraphQL, is joining the Gatsby team to work on WPGraphQL (and its immediate ecosystem) full-time.

Gatsby, the immensely popular static site generator for React.js, lets users pull data into pages from WordPress, Drupal, Contentful, Google Docs, AirTable, markdown, and any other data sources. It is used by tens of thousands of developers and downloaded nearly 500,000 times each month.

Gatsby founder Kyle Mathews created Gatsby Inc. as a company to further the project’s goals, and received $3.8M in seed funding in May 2018. The investment is being used to build cloud services for Gatsby and improve Gatsby’s core open source software. As the company has grown, Gatsby is beginning to invest more heavily in the open source ecosystem that surrounds the project.

With WordPress powering 34% of the top 10 million websites, it’s only natural that Gatsby would look to WPGraphQL, one of the most promising projects in the WP ecosystem, for its next investment in open source. The more WordPress developers Gatsby can get using GraphQL and JavaScript, the more it benefits the greater Gatsby ecosystem.

“The number of developers using Gatsby to build sites where the content is managed by WordPress is growing,” Bahl said. “The current `gatsby-source-wordpress` plugin pulls data into Gatsby using the WordPress REST API, but the REST API has a lot of pain points that are proving to be very difficult to get past.

“WPGraphQL solves many of those pain points already, and has potential to solve even more. The more robust WPGraphQL is, the better it is for all JavaScript consumers, whether it be Next.js, Gridsome (a Vue static site generator) or Gatsby.”

Bahl followed the Gatsby project from afar before striking up a relationship with the team through the various Slack channels where the community is active. A year and a half ago, he moved the docs.wpgraphql.com site from WordPress to Gatsby, where the content is stored in Markdown files on Github. This allows users in the community to contribute to the docs by submitting pull requests.

In February 2019, Bahl gave a presentation at WordCamp Phoenix on “Building Static Sites with WordPress, Gatsby and WPGraphQL” After that he saw more growth in the crossover ecosystems – more people in the Gatsby Slack asking about WordPress, and more developers in the WPGraphQL Slack asking about Gatsby.

“I’ve been following all things GraphQL for a few years, so Gatsby has been on my radar for a while as Gatsby uses GraphQL to create a ‘content mesh’ where data can be pulled from many sources into one Gatsby site,” Bahl said.

“The more I followed Gatsby from afar, the more intrigued I was. The development experience of Gatsby is great, especially if you enjoy React, which I do.”

Bahl is active in both Slacks, on both GitHub repos, and on Twitter, helping people build Gatsby sites with WordPress and GraphQL, which is how he developed a relationship with the team.

“In mid April I made it known to a few people that I would love to work on WPGraphQL full-time if I had the opportunity,” he said. “On May 30, Kyle Matthews direct messaged me on Twitter saying Gatsby is planning on investing in WordPress more and they’d love to chat. The following week I had some video calls with Kyle, Sam, and some other folks on the Gatsby team, and they made me a formal offer to join the Gatsby teams to make WPGraphQL the best it can be.”

The WPGraphQL project already has a rapidly growing library of extensions for popular WordPress plugins, despite the fact that the project has not yet reached a stable 1.0 release. Bahl’s new opportunity with the Gatsby team will enable him to work with the community’s momentum to get WPGraphQL further on its roadmap.

“Working on WPGraphQL full time will allow me to work on features and bugs that I’ve not had adequate time to focus on while also maintaining a full time job,” Bahl said.

“WPGraphQL is used in production by many already, but it’s still pre 1.0 because of some breaking changes I foresee but haven’t had adequate time to dedicate to addressing.”

Bahl will also be available to provide better resources for the community, such as documentation, example codebases, and courses and tutorials, in addition to attending more WordCamps and other conferences, participating in podcasts, and interacting on GitHub issues, Slack, and other communication channels.

“It will also provide more time to focus on conversations on whether GraphQL should be part of WordPress core (or not), and educate the community and core maintainers on the tradeoffs,” Bahl said.

In hiring Bahl to work on WPGraphQL, Gatsby is making a significant investment in the WordPress community that depends on this project. The improved support and quicker pace of development should bring peace of mind to those who are already using WPGraphQL in production.

“I’ll also be working closely with other members of the Gatsby team to make the experience of using Gatsby with WordPress a great experience,” Bahl said. “We have a lot of ideas about how WPGraphQL can make the Gatsby + WordPress experience a fantastic one for developers and users alike.”