Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode I’m really excited to discuss this we’re going to be talking about exactly who is this WordPress and joining us for that conversation. I would like to welcome from Hero Press Mr. Topher DeRosia Welcome to the show.
Topher DeRosia: Thanks for having me on.
DV: So excited to have you on I know that you know I really enjoy talking to you at work camps over the years and so now I’m going to talk to you impress this a little bit. I say switch things up a little bit, especially with the pandemic kind of limiting or access to work camps. But for everyone listening, we’re gonna explore basically topics with Topher based on his experience writing here our pricing if you’re unfamiliar, Hero press, it really gives a voice to the WordPress community and tougher is going to kind of go into some of the specifics behind it as part of the interview. But really kind of also looking at how he views the lessons he derived from the the that work and how he thinks of WordPress at large really excited to do this interview with you here today. October so thanks for joining me. Over I’m going to ask you the same question I asked every guest and was also a question you when you created your wordpress.org profile if you remember that from back in the day, but could you briefly tell me your WordPress origin story? When was the first time you use WordPress?
TD: First time I used it was not long after one point I was. I had wanted to get into blogging in the late 90s. A couple of my friends did it and I tried getting into it. And this was really before I was a programmer. And so what was involved is things like downloading Perl modules and stuff like that. And I said nope, not for me. And then I learned PHP and then the early 2000s. WordPress came out and I looked at it and said, Well, this and so I was teaching at the time at a university intro to web development, and I’m required my students to each have a project each semester. And so one semester I chose did a project myself to build a blog, and I did and I used it for 10 or 11 years. It was very simple. It was not at all like WordPress. But then. So like through the 2000s I built custom PHP, MySQL apps and I got really tired of building admin interfaces and all that kind of stuff and dealing with security. So when WordPress 3.0 came out in 2010, I looked at it said, Oh, those are custom post types. That’s exactly what I needed. And I haven’t really done anything besides WordPress ever since which I now think was a mistake. But I have been all in on WordPress for 12 years now.
DV: And stressing now he said we’re pressed version 1.0 Do you mean the first version or literally version 1.0 Did you know that there’s zero? Yeah, okay. It was point seven.
TD: yeah, yeah cuz I remember the splash. That’s that’s what made me look at it again. So, boy, I’m remembering memories now. So the mere fact that I remembered like I saw the splash come out and do what it was means that I probably was aware of WordPress in those got seven out of eight range. But 1.0 came out and made me look at it seriously again.
DV: I never realize it started at point seven until I got the backstory interviewing Mike Liddell on a prior episode. That’s that’s pretty early. And then it sounds like you were building you know, had a couple of episodes actually about this recently. I’m pressed this WordPress is an application framework, but it seemed like that 2010 moment with custom post types and Fields was really what kind of brought you into the fold fully. Through your application development works that sound about right.
TD: Yeah, very much. So that was that was a real paradigm change for WordPress from blogging tool to CMS.
DV: Wow you’re like taking the words right out of my mouth. I mentioned that same paradigm multiple times and press. I have a whole presentation around it actually have a big star in 2000 because of the paradigm change happening. Now we’re going to Gutenberg.
TD: Yeah. And it is another I would say it’s as big if not bigger, but definitely as significant the change.
DV: Alright, so you’ve you’ve seen a lot of change, and I know you’ve seen it firsthand, but you’ve also seen it through the voices that you share through hero press. So for those unfamiliar, what is your press and how did it come to be?
TD: Your opinion started is a website here press.com That is a collection of essays from people all over the world who have leveraged WordPress or the community to make their lives better. We have essays from single moms who can work from home and not have kids in daycare, older folks on their third or fourth career people in how you say it, repressed economies, making really excellent wages for their part of the world. Just people from everywhere, how they found WordPress and it really changed everything for them.
DV: That is gonna say that resonates for me because I asked this, you know, tell me your origin story of every guest and I’ve done this like 230 some odd time weeks in a row and so I get a lot of these stories and it just resonates. So like I could see you’re like seeing that in a moment. But like how did you think to start the site like why did you start it and that’s a great story.
TD: I love the story. In 2014 or 15 I think 16 I was working for X WP which is WordPress agency and the owner was not really involved in the company anymore. He he headed off to managers. He was off doing other things in the world. And one day he sent me an email right before Thanksgiving and said you’re not working for X WP anymore. I want you to build something new and great for WordPress. And that was all email said. Like I got up from work. And that was my email and I’m like to know what what do I do? So you know, and I said, What am I doing? And he said, that’s your journey to discover and she was giving me freedom to build something new and great. Anything I wanted. He envisioned a business a product but I struggled to come up with a new product and he had rented hired an Indian web development agency and said to me, if you need to build something, use them their time for a month. Just they’re your team now. So I got to meet good friends. Just one of the guys there. Steve was Jeep and at first he was very formal. You know, a contractor can choose employer. But over the weeks we got to know each other better and better became friends and what do you mean? He expressed frustration that his agency was having a really hard time getting good contracts from the west from us basically. They were basically a bunch of contractors who got together thinking that if they were a team, they could do better and it wasn’t working out and he didn’t know why. And I said well, I don’t know business. I’m not a business guy. And I don’t know India. So I don’t I don’t know how to help you. But I couldn’t let it go. And I asked some friends if they had any ideas. And Sam Seidler who now works for you and me and said to me, we’re camping by just happened and the organizers are successful WordPress businessmen in India, you should ask them. And I thought, Oh, that’s a great idea. So I connected them. And they did. They had great information for him to help them out. And I thought, well, what if we went around the world and found people who were successful and had them do a presentation to their peers, where there’s their countrymen or whatever. And so we were going to do something like Ted Marino TED videos. Sure. Yeah, we were gonna do Ted. So we were gonna travel around the world with a camera crew and find people who were brilliant and have them do a talk to at the time we were very geographically focused, so you know, the people around them.
DV: So you’re given this mission to do something new and great for WordPress. You can just ever this kind of situation with GE and you get the kind of synergy with the other group out of Mumbai. And you’re thinking like, okay, Ted Talks and a few of them. And I’m really curious how this parlays in, versus today. We’re going to first break we’ll be right back time. To plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more press this just a moment. Anyway, welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on W EMR. We’re in the middle of our episode discovery exactly who WordPress is in joining us for that conversation is Tofurky a Roshe. Of hero press two for right before the break, you’re telling us this kind of origin story of Hebrew press and how you wanted to kind of do these kind of TED Talk style videos all around the world and people telling them WordPress right. I’m curious though, how does that then parlay into what he represses today?
TD: Yeah, well, it’s very expensive to take your camera crew around the world. So Dave, the guy who started this said that we need to do a Kickstarter. And we were looking for 60,000 Australian dollars because he’s Australian. An Australian company is about 48,000 us. And what I didn’t know at the time is that more than the money what he was looking for is interest. So what he really wanted was $60,001 donations. You want to hear from 60,000 people that yes, this is a good thing. And we on the first day, we got $25,000 but then that was kind of it. We did not the Kickstarter was not successful, and the project failed. And part of the deal was that I was all in on this. So I didn’t work at x WP anymore, and and it was over. And so I went out hunting, but people started emailing me saying, hey, this project was important. Please don’t let it go. I thought, well, I’m unemployed. I’m not going overseas, the video crew so how could I do this? And I thought that if it were in text, then the contributors could create it themselves or just email it to me, you know, traveling. There’s no months of editing fancy videos, they can publish weekly if we wanted to. And so I went to the one of the people who’s gonna do it. I said, Would you just read it? I said, Sure. Andre Savchenko. He’s the first one. And it worked. And then I thought, oh, no, I have to get another one for next week. So I contacted somebody else. And I was like four weeks before I realized maybe I should think ahead and you know, who wants to lose?
DV: But, like I noticed on your site, the 19 pages of contributors. I guess you’re kind of getting into how or why you did that. But I just curious like, why so many contributors because it sounds like you’re trying to tell so many stories as possible. Yeah. And like how does how does contributing work like because other people were curious about contribute.
TD: There’s an open forum on the website that you can apply to do an essay, but the vast majority of them are people that I find and explain what I’m doing. And ask them nicely if they will do an essay. And most people say no, my story is boring, or I’m not interesting, or I have nothing to say. And after a conversation, they’re like, Wow, I had no idea that I had all this stuff. So I think we’ll need three people ever have convinced me that they should not do an essay?
DV: So you think like, I mean, I know WordPress, and I mean, I’ve benefited from this personally, you know, provides a medium for learning building websites and optimizing websites. Do you feel like it’s like imposter syndrome or dizziness or like what do you think the reluctance is at first?
TD: Oh, a lot of people really feel like they are not interesting, like, like everyone else must be more interesting. Why would anyone want to read about me? And it not very hard at all, to have a conversation with somebody and learn something about them and go, that’s fascinating to me. I had no idea that anyone had ever done this or said that or lived there or all that stuff.
DV: Yeah, I don’t know like for me it’s kind of about this. It kind of reminds me of like volunteering for WordPress is like I don’t want to be at the arcade even think today the support table at a word camp where there’s content and calm. Whatever anyways, I don’t want to be at that. Feel. I’m technical enough and you’re like, well, you’re more technical than someone. Right? There’s someone yet to be able to help there. And I think that’s probably I guess a blocker for people is thinking like, Well, what I have is in advance. It’s like it’s advanced for somebody like you have something Yeah.
TD: Yeah, it’s the same, same issue. Getting people to speak it working. What do I know? Who would want to listen to me? Well, I would want to listen.
TD: and I have had some folks from the Drupal community say, Oh, this sounds like my community. Yeah, yeah. But I haven’t experienced that. Like with Mozilla or something like that, you know. I first the PHP community is pretty, pretty tight.
DV: Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah, I think largely, there are a lot of good examples and open source for sure. So you have these contributors. You got to find them around the way through here they have an interesting story, ask them to contribute and they’re thinking like, Well, what do I have to talk about? That’s interesting or not? How do they then you convince them to do it? But how did how did you think that contributors choose their topics to share specifically? This contest?
TD: Yeah, so there’s, there’s two basic rules. One is you have to include your WordPress origin story. But the other is that each contributor is writing to their peers. And they get to decide who that is. It could be people their age, gender, their ethnicity, their culture. People with their own name doesn’t matter. They get to pick they get to decide who would benefit from hearing this story. Who was going to hear me and say, Oh, that’s like me. Maybe I could do this.
DV: So it’s not writing to an audience like it’s not like they’re I’m a technical person and I’m going to write to a marketer to educate them. They’re going to try to pick someone that is kind of a birds of a feather, if you will, in terms of either like technology choice or geography, like those kind of things.
TD: Right? Although they could if they want, I mean, it’s totally up to them who they write to but it’s really about enablement. How did WordPress enable you? You know what I mean?
DV: Yeah. Okay, now that totally makes sense. So it’s about the essays primarily are focused around either speaking to peers or generally an audience and then really the through the focus of how to leverage WordPress to help you in your career.
TD: Right. And that’s one of the reasons you asked, like, why there are so many, and it’s because many of them are writing to the people who live around them. People they went to college with people who speak their language or leaving their country or their culture.
DV: So with all these people with with all these different potential, you know, topics and things like this in the last couple of minutes before our next break, what are some of the themes that have emerged from some of these essays over the years?
TD: A great examples. Today I talked with a woman today I said, Have you ever heard of your friends? She said no. And I gave two sons three senses. I said, what I’ve just told you your press is essays about from people who have their lives changed by WordPress. And she got so excited. She’s like, Yes, this is great. My life was terrible. She was at a dead end job that she hated. And she read a blog about starting an online store with WordPress. She did that. And she got so good at building it. That she started doing it for other people. And now she’s like a community manager at a WordPress agency or something. It’s completely revolutionized her life. And that’s really common. A lot of people get into it. For one reason, whatever, whatever it may be. Maybe they want to be a blogger because they lost their job or something. And they find that they like it and they’re good at it. And it just grows and then they’re making a living with it and everything is different.
DV: So if I’m hearing you that the theme one of the themes is that many of maybe most people actually changes their way of working the job, they have the job they’re doing. Not so much. I’m switching from Drupal, to WordPress per se, but more almost transitioning like my career in a sense, was a theme I heard you said I’m sure.
TD: Yeah, very much. So. Yeah, we have one live one from a guy who was a construction worker, and was in a terrible accident, spent six or eight months in bed and was bored, silly and there was a computer there. And so he started messing around with WordPress. And by the time he got out of the hospital, he got a new career.
DV: Yeah, I can definitely, you know, join the chorus there on that one with the stories that I’ve heard. It is really amazing how dominant that theme actually is within WordPress. I really want to kind of unpack a little bit more about your views in the community. We’re going to take our last break and we’ll be right back. Time to plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more press this just a moment. Everyone welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on W Mr. We’re learning exactly who is WordPress with Topher de Roshe of hero press Tober. Right before the break. We were talking a little bit about the seeds that have emerged from here and crashed and we were talking a little bit about this kind of notion that we’re addressing a sense kind of changes your career, just like a new techy learn because you’re always building sites but this mean that many if not most, experienced almost change a career. Were there any other themes that stood out to you over the years? Yeah.
TD: This is I’ve struggled with whether this is a WordPress thing or an open source thing. But there are a lot of people who work in not Western countries who are able to get remote jobs. With really excellent pay compared to their neighbors. There’s a guy that I’m still talking to about an essay. He lives in Bangladesh. And a bunch of years ago, he got married and they had a kid and he had to leave his very small village to go live in the big city to make enough money to support his family. So he didn’t live with his wife and child. They stayed home. And then he got a job with a large WordPress company that you absolutely know but I’m not going to tell you and they have a policy of paying everybody the same. So him in his small village in Bangladesh was making the same as somebody in San Francisco or one which as you can imagine, is pretty dramatically different for cost of living. And so now he supports his entire extended family 30 or 40 people
DV: 45 According to the person he tells the story and he tells it publicly so it’s you’re not mentioning their name. I’ve heard it but yeah, that’s that’s an amazing part. So you got to tell that story. I hear a press. Not yet but I’m working. Oh, you’re going to Yeah, I definitely want to read that one for sure. Because I’ve heard that gentleman speak of that in the past from that company. And I think that’s a really cool part. Um, no, like one of the things we’ve touched on a little bit here during this interview is the notion of the community aspect of WordPress, not just the tags easily like that’s really important to most people or is it really just, you know, the vocal few that that happened to engage or do you think it’s a dominant part of the value most people get out of WordPress
TD: and it’s hard to say it feels to me like it’s the biggest deal of all. But then I look at the actual number of people in the whole world that use WordPress, and I bet most of them don’t care.
DV: thought leadership, the technologies that are available, the those things I think everyone relies on even if they don’t participate in the community, but I think that those things don’t really exist without
TD: Yeah, I wouldn’t agree with that. WordPress has like as a project, WordPress wouldn’t exist without the community. It’s just there’s no question.
DV: So speaking about the community and WordPress existing, you know, we have a whole new generation of web developers that are coming out of school and, you know, looking to work learn, or maybe not looking maybe incidentally end up learning web development like Chris app. What are your views on paths for young people starting building with WordPress, like how will we nurture the next generation of the WordPress community? Oh, boy,
TD: I think there are two steps one, I think it has to be deliberate. If we don’t pay attention to it and do it on purpose isn’t going to happen. But I think also what we practically need to do is make it fun, easy and interesting. I know a lot of people that got into web development by hacking templates on Live Journal, which wasn’t even real HTML. It was like Live Journal code. And it just it just got to do it because it was fun and it was easy. There was no dramatic changes in just a few minutes. And I think if we can continue to make WordPress like that, then we will continue to get young people who just find that fun.
DV: So is this like word camps or better like I know like the training group has spent quite a lot of time I know, Courtney Robertson’s part of that in the Corps, volunteer groups. Really spending a lot of time focusing on kind of teaching young people WordPress, is that your view is like it’s like almost like course content and things like kit camp summer camps.
TD: I don’t think so kid camps might get it. But kids don’t want to read courses. They didn’t want to be. They don’t want to learn stuff like that. They want to figure it out on their own that that magical learning where they’re like, ooh, that’s neat. Let me push a button and see what happens. You know,
DV: like trial and break and then repeat. Yeah.
TD: So that you know, I mentioned Live Journal if if there was a site like it, if wordpress.com were more hackable, more twistable then more kids would get into it. Tumblr was like this for a little while. When Tumblr first came out, it was very popular with young people because they could just sit with it and and easily make themes without any coding and stuff like that.
DV: Yeah, you talked about this earlier, like that kind of instant gratification for making minor tweaks and yeah, major changes and I think that’s a really good point. And thinking about how we nurture the next generation beyond just in person or virtual learning. But any case this has been super interesting. Thank you so much for joining me today to over
TD: Oh you’re welcome.
DV: Yeah, of course of course. So glad happy to have you back after those listening. If you’d like to learn more about what Tober is up to please visit hero press.com. Again, this has been your host David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.