An interview with Zach Tirrell, Director of Product at Modern Tribe

Modern Tribe takes event calendars into the cloud with Loxi, their first SaaS offering. Learn all about it from Zach Tirrell, their director of product.

Zach Tirrell took some time to chat with us this week about Modern Tribe's newest product, Loxi.io. More or less the SaaS version of The Events Calendar, which has been a mainstay in the WordPress plugin ecosystem for a long time, Loxi put a new accent on beautiful design.

Loxi has been in development for about a year or more, and The Events Calendar has been around for about eight years — it’s the oldest and most popular calendar plugin, by far. What motivated Modern Tribe to introduce Loxi now? Was it simply market saturation?

Zach: We’ve regularly fielded inquiries from folks who are interested in solutions for platforms in addition to WordPress. This is no surprise given the growth of solutions like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. Loxi is all about bridging that divide with an easy to use, platform-agnostic calendar solution that’s as capable as it is easy to use.

Our Events Calendar users should know that the WordPress plugins that they know and love aren’t going anywhere. In fact, Loxi is powered by The Events Calendar itself, so Tribe’s dedication to our TEC and plugins foundation will only continue! (Our hope is that Loxi becomes one of the largest installations of our plugin suite. This would allow us even more direct experience in defining and developing around the features most important to our customers; it will also help us to scale the solution.)

How close are the two codebases, and how does this work out for your development team’s workflow? Do you have people tasked to either TEC or Loxi exclusively, or do the same people work on both? I’m trying to think if there are any precedents for this being done before in the WordPress ecosystem — did you have any particular models or pioneers influencing you, or was this largely a new path for you?

Zach: On the backend, Loxi is an unmodified version of The Events Calendar and Events Calendar PRO. We are handling some adjustments by hooking into our own actions and filters, but the main goal is that anything we do there should be contributed back.

We did build a plugin that integrates TEC with Elasticsearch which we are distributing in private beta at the moment. However, the front end of Loxi is built (almost) entirely in React—that code is all specific to this service. That being said, the designer who worked on Loxi is now leading design for our Gutenberg compatibility and many concepts transferred—there is a nice feedback loop here.

The first thing we did last year was build a standalone team that is focused primarily on Loxi. The lead backend dev we recruited for this project is Scott Kingsley Clark, who many will know from his work on Pods. This team focuses specifically on our SaaS projects, while our plugins team is committed to continuous improvement on the plugins side.

Regarding precedent: WordPress.com follows a similar model. We are certainly inspired by their approach to a hosted WordPress where they can experiment with the interface and the data/feedback to inform overall platform direction.

Were there any big surprises in what you learned about your team, your tools, or WordPress – any unexpected challenges or results that really stand out in the process of planning, building, and launching Loxi? What keeps you limber, motivated, focused, and reasonably sane when the going gets rough?

Zach: Forming a completely new team was probably the biggest challenge—people are almost always more complicated than technology. We learned to be a team that plans and scopes together, communicates often, and works through challenges as they arise. Since perfection isn’t possible and iteration is always required, it’s definitely helpful to have humility and a sense of humor along the journey, too.