Jon Penland

Writer
Jon Penland

Jon is currently the Head of Sales and Support for Kinsta, a web hosting company that specializes in managed WordPress hosting. But he has long been one of the most productive writers at WhoIsHostingThis.com.

Background

Prior to freelance writing, Jon spent a decade in the business world. During that time he worked as a retail Store Manager, as a construction Project Manager, and as an Account and Sales Manager in the sale and distribution of custom engineered pumping systems. He also earned an MBA from Georgia Southern University, graduating with honors and a 4.0 GPA.

During his time in the business world, Jon's most enduring hobby was learning about web technology and build websites. Eventually, he found a way to turn his hobby into a career.

Experience

Jon has been a freelance writer, hosting support engineer, and WordPress developer. He's written over a hundred articles for WhoIsHostingThis.com.

He also has an acute case of wanderlust. While he does now live permanently in Georgia, he and his family spent two years on the road and crossed the entire country, from the outer banks of North Carolina to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state. He did this all while writing great material for WhoIsHostingThis.com and other upper-end tech websites.

Jon writes a bit of everything for WhoIsHostingThis. He has written scores of expert reviews of hosting providers, programming resource guides, front-end development tutorials, and even a bit of SEO copywriting.

Getting to Know Jon

WIHT: What was the first website you ever built?
Jon: Around the year 2008 I stumbled on a training program that taught the basics of online marketing: SEO, keyword research, affiliate marketing, and building a content-driven website. I didn't put in enough effort to make any money with the program, though I wish I had — hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

What I did managed to accomplish was to publish my very first WordPress website. It was bad, even by 2008 standards; but I look back at that project as the thing that got me started down the path to where I am today.

WIHT: How many websites have you built?
Jon: Well, the answer to that question depends on what you mean. Right now, there are a half dozen or so sites live on the internet that are either my own projects or sites I built for clients.

However, if you count the number of times I've redesigned and redeployed my own websites, client and personal sites that I created but that have since gone offline, and the sites I build as I work as a freelance writer, then the number has to be closing in on three digits if it isn't solidly into three-digit territory already.

WIHT: Who do you use for hosting?
Jon: My first host was Bluehost. I signed up with them twice: first when I joined that online marketing program in 2008 and a second time when I launched Intro To Pumps. However, I eventually switched over to SiteGround due, in no small part, to the avalanche of positive user reviews I read here at WhoIsHostingThis.

WIHT: What's your most popular website?
Jon: Back when I was in sales, I created a site called Intro To Pumps. At the time, I built it to pad my resume and to try and enhance my career in the pump industry. I've since left the industry but Intro To Pumps is going stronger than ever and now ranks in the top search results for several competitive terms.

WIHT: Code from scratch or use a CMS?
Jon: Most of the time I build sites with WordPress because I do a lot of writing about WordPress. If I were building any sort of content driven site, there's no question, I'd use WordPress. However, if I were building a simple static site I'd probably code it up from scratch using Bootstrap.

WIHT: How did you learn web development?
Jon: I started by studying web development at Treehouse. There I learned HTML and CSS, and played around a bit with JavaScript, PHP, and WordPress. After that, I gained a lot of experience by building my own project sites. That was all of the training I had when I started working as a writer.

Since becoming a freelance tech writer I've also completed a Udemy course on web development, taken several courses on WordPress development at the WPMU DEV Academy, and worked my way through about half of Eloquent JavaScript.

WIHT: Mac, Windows, or GNU/Linux?
Jon: I'm a Windows guy but only because of cost and convenience. I'd love to be a Mac guy but I'm unwilling to pay that premium. Recently, I've gotten involved providing tech support for a premium managed WordPress host, Kinsta, and I'm getting my first taste of Linux.

WIHT: What do you love about freelance writing?
Jon: The freedom. As a fulltime freelance writer you can work the hours you choose to work and work them from absolutely anywhere — and I have! For about 2 years my family roamed around the country in an RV and freelance writing made that possible.

WIHT: What do you hate about freelance writing?
Jon: Working as a writer is a production-based arrangement, but writing is a creative process. This creates a bit of a problem. You have to write in order to earn, but the creative part of your mind doesn't work on a schedule.

Right now, if you have a regular job and take 15 minutes to browse social media, you still get paid during that mental health break. Not so for a freelance writer; those 15 minutes are unpaid. Successful freelance writers have to be disciplined and learn how to force themselves to write even when they don't feel like it.

WIHT: What are you favorite books?
Jon: To be honest, as the father of several small children, I don't do a lot of reading these days; unless you count Dr Seuss or classics such as Little Blue Truck.

When I do get the chance to crack a book I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction alike. My favorite non-fiction works are scientific in nature but oriented towards a lay audience, Cosmos by Carl Sagan and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson are two personal favorites that fit into this category. On the fiction side of the equation, nothing comes close to the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child as far as I'm concerned.

Selected Writing

Jon writes a lot of different stuff for WhoIsHostingThis.com. His favorite pieces run the gamut. We've listed some of them here.

  • JSON Intro and Resources: isn't it amazing that the most popular modern data transportation format wasn't created, but discovered? JSON is used everywhere and it exists by accident — an unintentional byproduct of exiting browser capabilities. How great is that?

  • Learn and Master jQuery: old school JavaScript programmers can be forgiven for hating jQuery — it makes it trivially easy to do things that once took a great deal of skill, thought, and effort to accomplish. No aspiring front end developer can afford to skip mastering jQuery.

  • The History of Search Engines: it's almost hard to remember a time when we had to remember much of anything. These days, as long as you have a smartphone and nimble thumbs you have the collective knowledge and wisdom of the human race at your fingertips, and we owe it all to search engines.

  • How to Make Sliding Door Buttons: the simplest joy of programming for the web is the ability to throw a few lines of code together to produce something that's interactive, beautiful, and genuinely useful. Sliding door buttons are a small touch, but they are indeed beautiful and genuinely useful interactive additions to your webpages.

  • GNU Smalltalk Resources: there are lots of flavors of Smalltalk, but only one flavor, GNU Smalltalk, bills itself as "the Smalltalk for those who can type." What more do you need to know?

  • InclusiveHost Expert Review: if you review hosting providers for a living, you can get a bit jaded. But every once in a while, you stumble across a host that surprises you. InclusiveHost is a smaller host offering straightforward plans, but they stand out because they haven't cut any corners.

  • R Programming Language Introduction and Resources: data mining is big business, but thanks to R, it doesn't take a lot of money to get started. Statistical analysis doesn't sound very exciting, but when one of the best data mining packages is free and open source, it's something to get excited about.

  • WordPress.com Expert Review: WordPress, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org are pretty much all the same thing, right? Sure, just like Linux, OS X, and The Open Group are all the same thing.

  • 101 of the Best Free Joomla! Extensions: WordPress has the big numbers, but that doesn't mean Joomla! isn't just as interesting. Finding 101 of the best free extensions for Joomla is a great way to learn about the CMS in second place.

  • What is RSS?: you already know you can use RSS to subscribe to other website's updates, but have you ever thought about using RSS to build a newsfeed for your own website?