BoldLife 16 – WPShout! – Always in a Giant Ball of String


Fred and David of WPShout! 

Fred Meyer and David Hayes, site runners of WPShout! join us to discuss the mission of their Blog, from unspooling the tangled ball of string that is WordPress, to coding education, to honest online hosting reviews.

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The following transcript was created automatically, please forgive us if there are any typos or grammatical errors.

Jesse: 00:00 Hello and welcome to BoldLife. This is a reminder that the views and opinions expressed by panelists and guests on this podcast are their own and not necessarily those of BoldGrid.

Demo: 00:11 Hello and welcome to it. Another episode of the BoldGrid BoldLife podcast. I’m your host Mike Demo

Jesse: 00:17 and I am your cohost Jesse Owens. And we are joined today by two gentlemen. I have known for, um, what 15 years now, a friend Meyer and David Hayes of the WP shout blog. How you doing guys?

Fred Meyer: 00:34 Interesting. I see. Yeah, thanks rob. Well, hear you.

David Hayes: 00:38 So I remember, I remember Jesse. I was in, uh, I think ninth grade when I met you, so I would’ve, that would’ve been like 2000, so it’s been almost 20 now.

Jesse: 00:50 Oh my gosh. Okay. So you my 35th birthday. So that’s a pretty sensitive subject. Uh, but yeah, maybe if you guys can just tell us a little bit about, um, your place in the WordPress community. Uh, what it’s like running the blog, WP shout and, um, just a little background on yourselves.

Fred Meyer: 01:10 Yeah. Why don’t you to start David? Sure.

David Hayes: 01:12 Yeah. So a Jesse, Jesse friend that went to the same high school for anyone missing that context? Um, yeah, so we been running WP shout I think for, Gosh, that’s also getting up there a while, almost six years. Yeah. I guess the site is existed for 10 years now and we’ve been running it for six. I’m in, basically it started out of just a desire to write WordPress tutorials. We noticed I was doing it already because we run a WordPress blog and I have a bad idea that ideas about marketing a lot, which like I’m going to teach people how to develop websites and then get web development clients from, it turns out that doesn’t work. So if you’re thinking about trying it as a new person to this field, I would recommend against it.

Fred Meyer: 01:56 But I don’t, don’t write articles for the people who are already in your industry. If you’re looking for customers, it turns out.

David Hayes: 02:02 But uh, yeah, so we’ve just been doing it for awhile. Like I been using WordPress for over 10 years and I just, I’ve always appreciated sort of the power that WordPress has to, you know, get you a website online that you control and all of that is coming back into vogue. Um, and it continues to be something that we love to teach people about. Talk to them about, uh, probably, gosh, it’s, it’s hitting fourish years now. I think we have a product called up and running with all the FedEx fanned on that.

Fred Meyer: 02:33 Yeah. So up and running is, um, it’s our kind of our flagship piece of premium content. It’s a course, it’s multimedia, it’s, um, a bunch of chapters that tie into a book as well as videos per chapter and quizzes and a limerick at the end of each chapter and a bunch of other stuff. Um, and for graphics. And basically it’s our attempt to take somebody from about the level of like a WordPress power user who’s, you know, able to manage a blog that was set up for them but doesn’t understand how it works under the hood and take them kind of all the way to being somebody who is actually a WordPress developers working with WordPress has core PHP systems and API APIs to be able to do things like, um, you know, register new image sizes or, you know, create a child theme, write a plugin, that kind of thing.

Fred Meyer: 03:19 And so yeah, I’ve been running spin helping at this point, hundreds of hundreds of people really learn the nuts and bolts of WordPress development. And yeah, that’s, that’s been kind of a really, um, really gratifying thing to come out of our work on. WP shout is, is a really systematic approach to the topic because WordPress development means so many things and it has so many facets and it’s so hard to know where to start in. You’re kind of always finding yourself in the middle of a giant ball of string. And, um, it’s been really good to take a step back and, and really help people with, with that set of issues with,

Jesse: 03:53 I can personally vouch for up and running. I purchased it, um, I want to say nearly two years ago. Um, when I, when I very first entered, um, into the actual professional WordPress space. And, um, I will, I can, I think that was really aptly put that it goes, it takes you from WordPress power user, which, you know, I hesitate to, it would have called myself a power user at the time. Um, but it, it, it played a large part in getting me to where I am now. So for that, I owe you guys both the big things.

Fred Meyer: 04:25 Oh, you’re very welcome. I didn’t know that.

Jesse: 04:28 Um, so one of your articles that you put out recently was, uh, the, um, why most hosting recommendations suck. I, and forgive me if I butchered the title of the article. Um, can you give us a little background on, um, on exactly what you meant by that?

Fred Meyer: 04:48 Totally. And, uh, stop both Dave and myself when we start to ramble and spray spit all over microphones and stuff. Um, so first of all, I will point out that we’re not the first people to, um, to recognize the distortion in the kind of hosting reviews space. Um, there’s a guy named Kevin Ohashi who runs a review signal, which is a really amazing resource. One of the, I would say few, um, kind of truly trustworthy hosting resources on the net. And he wrote an article I think way back in like 2012. I don’t know, I’d have to look at his site, but it’s called like why the hosting review industry or why the hosting industry is assessed pool. So he, uh, he beat us to the, um, to the punch on that and he also beat us to the kind of more disgusting imagery. So, uh, so, um, he is basically making the same points we are.

Fred Meyer: 05:45 And in general, what was true in 2012 is true now, which is that almost any hosting recommendation that you’re going to find online is going to be heavily distorted by the logic of affiliate commissions. And affiliate payouts and what you’re going to find is that almost any review that you’re, that is going to be in the first few results on Google or that when you Google is going to show up as a Google ad words result, which is going to kind of be even before the first organic results. You see any of those things are going to basically strain to tell half truths in a way that puts the hosts that pay the highest affiliate commissions at the top. That’s basically the nature of the problem.

Demo: 06:25 Yeah, it’s very interesting how that has kind of evolved over time. I remember when I was used to be in the Joomla community, which I still am, but when I used to be on the board at Joomla, there were similar things in the Joomla community, you know, fake review sites that were kind of being created by different companies. And what’s interesting about it is the shared hosting space, the margins are so slim that partly because the affiliate revenues are so high in some of these companies pay out large amounts upfront and then you’re battling for pennies. So it’s like this weird chicken and egg situation that the companies have to offer good affiliate payouts to be able to get the business. But it also then creates some of these maybe not as useful resources that are pay to play and like you said, half truth. So how does somebody kind of Wade through that and figure out what’s good for them? Because certainly there are companies that pay out affiliate amounts that are good hosts for some types of people, but maybe that host maybe wouldn’t be a good fit for every person because of maybe their needs or what they’re looking for. Support levels or whatever the case.

Fred Meyer: 07:40 Yeah, I mean, without naming names, um, it’s actually surprisingly across the board that there are a few hosts that people are happy with and many hosts that they’re not happy with. Um, in terms of how a person should navigate that problem, like that’s the, that’s the kind of heartbreaking part of it is you can see where like you can do the Google search that somebody would do if they were just brand new, hey, I want a WordPress website. And like the first 20 things that they’re going to see, no matter what search they run are all going to mislead them. So it’s very easy to navigate the WordPress hosting space once you already know its ends and outs. But um, as somebody who’s just gonna Google best word pressing and go from there, your, you’re really, really behind the eight ball. So for somebody who’s new, who hasn’t yet bought hosting, I would recommend that you, um, obviously read our stuff because we, we make it a point to be honest.

Fred Meyer: 08:40 But in general I think social recommendations are really helpful. There are Facebook, there’s a Facebook group called WordPress hosting that’s basically designed to give kind of peer-to-peer, you know, non financially biased recommendations in the hosting space and that, and asking a set of other human beings, you know, what to do as I think a good place to start. But in general, the problem, I mean the reason the whole thing works the way it works is because there is no good access to information for somebody who doesn’t, who isn’t aware that this is a problem. They just sort of wander in, choose the first bad option that they see in a, in a, uh, organic or even ad based search result and go from there and that, and that’s reliable enough that the whole industry is built around it. That that would be my 2 cents. David. David, what do you think?

David Hayes: 09:24 Yeah, I mean I think you can do a lot worse than asking your cousin or your friend who has a WordPress site what to do. I mean I think that tends to bias towards people being like happy enough with what they have and not realizing what else is out there. But I do think, you know, if someone tells you they tried a host and it was bad or good, that is a much more truthful data points than you will find on arbitrary web pages. In my experience in exactly the way Fred mentioned, because there is this distorting effect of money breaking news. Everyone money has a distorting effect on people’s statements. Um, it no one expected it after 10,000 times. [inaudible]

Jesse: 10:06 well, you guys are saying is you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. In this case, you can believe exactly anything which was worse than usual. It’s so hot. Take. Um, thank you. I think one of the, one of the, like you said, you, you could do worse than asking your cousin or your brother. But for me, I think that’s one of the most, um, uh, one of the most encouraging parts about the WordPress community as a whole is that I, there was another post on WP shout a where is the WordPress community? PSU found it just by, just by being here on the blog, by going to a meetup, by going to work camp, things like that. I’m getting within the, the Twitter sphere of the WordPress community. Um, you’d be hard pressed to find a more, uh, integrity filled community than then that type of person. And you know, that social recommendation in that case I think is a, is a really important part.

Fred Meyer: 11:13 Yeah. I mean I totally agree that the only thing I’d add is it’s nice if you can, if you can get something that’s a little bit, um, that has a number of voices weighing and because you know, your, your brother or cousin might’ve just had a very unusual good or bad experience or might not. Um, it’s like if you can hear the same thing from 10 or 20 people, which is kind of what I like that, that WordPress hosting Facebook group for, then the recommendations do start to average out with a little bit of a larger sample size and you’re still getting recommendations from people, real human beings. So, so that’s a nice resource to, to spread beyond kind of the opinions of just one or two people close to you. Sorry, David, what were you going to say? Yeah, for sure.

David Hayes: 11:54 For sure. And also like, you know, going to your WordPress meet up, there will be a consensus and any room where like, you know, five to 25 WordPress people are gathered. Then it won’t, it probably won’t be as error prone as like a random question to a random business owner who bought a random hosting plan.

Demo: 12:14 Yeah, that’s interesting. So I’ve speak, I’ve spoken at dozens and dozens of word camps. I’ve gone to hundreds of open source hosting. We’re not hosting open source events, some of them hosting events, uh, over the last decade. And I always get asked the question, be it, you know, WordPress Joomla, general small business, who’s the best host? And I really always have to ask the question to answer the question. It really depends what you’re looking for because there are different types of hosting. You’ve got managed hosting, a shared hosting cloud, et cetera. But what I always tell people is, hey, go out in the hall. Go Talk to the hosts that are here. First of all, talk about your pain points that you’ve had in the past or what you’re looking for and see if you have ha, see if they might be able to fit your services.

Demo: 13:04 Because I always find that if you can like meet these people face to face, you can always get a good gauge of, not always, but a lot of times at a lot of these camps you can talk, Kinda talk and get a gauge of kind of the hosting quality at some of these events. Now sometimes there can be a very polished booth experience and maybe not have a good product, but for the most part, um, I always encourage people to at least talked at their local word camps to the, uh, companies that are there as a starting place and then do your own research and some of the resources that you guys,

Fred Meyer: 13:36 yeah, you know, that, that’s an interesting point. And, um, honestly my experience has been, um, I would say would kind of contrast with that. Um, so there’s, there’s a particular company that, that I’ve got in mind that, um, is, uh, is at almost every word camp cause they have a big marketing budget. And, um, if you talk to the folks who work there, they’re actually pretty much anybody that you meet at any word camp is going to be, in my experience, a nice person. Um, and that’s just one of the wonderful things about the WordPress community and in particular, like the folks who work at this at this host are, are super, super, super nice people and they’re really passionate about, you know, putting their company’s best foot forward. And, um, you know, if you say, Hey, I, I’m wanting to do this, they’re like, wait, we never thought of that and they’ll write it down, you know, really good people.

Fred Meyer: 14:31 But it’s like, it just sort of happened to me that, you know, I was talking to these folks at the, um, 2018 WordCamp us and then like maybe a month after that, um, I found out that the domain registrar service of this same same company that the service they have where you, I mean through the company, they basically track, um, domains. You enter into their like registrar field. And if you don’t register it, they will go ahead and register it. So when you come back around a week later, the domains been bought. Now you have to buy it for, for a big markup. So it’s like these people are great people, but the company is like this sort of vicious squid, octopus alien like thing. And um, that was a really depressing experience and it, and it just reinforced kind of a trend that I have seen over and over again where it’s like these are good people. It’s just that the company is dictated by kind of market realities that are kind of beyond any individual or even small group of people’s control. So yeah, that’s been an experience for me and, and it kind of made me almost want to do the opposite thing and sort of take a step back and not, not kind of conflate like the goodness of people with um, you know, the, the bad behavior of companies.

Demo: 15:52 That’s interesting because for me, I always find, and I don’t disagree that sometimes some of these larger organizations, yes. You know, policies and stuff can change. But if you do have a contact or somebody you met a, what I was getting at is then you have a point of contact. If you need support help and you’re not getting resolution on the normal channels, you could send an email to Bob and maybe met at a word camp and you’ve got his business card and you’ll usually get that issue to get in taken care of. Now obviously baby Bob can’t control what the company does as a policy standpoint, but they might be able to knock some heads around and get your site back up, align if there, if the normal support channels failed. So that’s what I was trying to get.

Fred Meyer: 16:35 Yeah, definitely. Definitely true that that’s definitely true. Like having a, having a contact and you know in any, in any hosts you choose as a, as a, it’s a great thing. Definitely agree with that.

Demo: 16:46 Well, what we’re trying to do at bold grid, and we’re working on it right now, we hope to have it live. Summerish I’m hoping it’s currently in the building stage is we have lots of hosts that offer bold grid by default and you can use bold grid on any site, but we have a lot of hosts that we’ll install the free version or paid version depending on what they decide to offer their customers. And a lot of people look at our hosting list and say who’s the best? And again, it always goes back to, it depends. So we’re trying to make a tool where we can help people like highlight or rank what their priorities are and maybe it’s price conscious, maybe it’s phone support, maybe it’s application level support, etc. And rank and kind of give some good quantable data because a lot of people might recommend one host, but that might be too expensive for a new cupcake shop that is just starting.

Demo: 17:39 So to help kind of way through all those different variables. So we’re working on that to try to help people navigate our users navigate which hosts might be a good fit for them at least when they initially search. Yeah, that sounds awesome. I think definitely the point of like, how important is your website to your business is crucial to how much Flint should expect to pay for it. And that’s a big variable in the whole mix. You meet a lovely person from a very expensive host, you shouldn’t probably buy very expensive hosting, but this is matter for your business.

Fred Meyer: 18:10 Yeah, I definitely agree. And you know, folks, um, you know, you can buy hosting that’s way too high end for your needs. And, and David and I and are doing client work, I’ve run into a number of people who have, you know, basically these vast empty mansions of paid for hosting. Um, and it’s just like, yeah, why, you know, and then so there’s all kinds of ways to, to, you know, get the hosting. It’s not quite the right fit for you. And you know, if that tool that you’re mentioning really helps folks with that, I think it’s great.

Demo: 18:41 Yeah. When I was doing agency work at the last couple of agencies, I can’t tell you how many times we would talk to a client and it’d be just a small business SMB and they’d be like, yeah, I’ve got a dedicated server. Exactly. Why? Oh cause it’s dedicated. It’s in the name dedicated. And I’m like, yeah, but you have like 5,000 visitors a month. It doesn’t, that doesn’t fit what you’re trying to do. But I have been guilty of it too. Right? I’m, you know, think, oh man, this asset app I’m going to build in PHP is going to be so popular. So I got, I’m going to do all these docker containers. I’m the put, you know, as your backup. And all of a sudden I have $500 a month in infrastructure and I don’t even have a product.

Jesse: 19:28 So when, when you’re looking for hosting companies, you know, there’s, there’s different factors that that are gonna apply. D is budget. Your concern is 24 hour support. Your concern is, uh, is North American support. Your, your priority is, um, do you need your hosting company to run your backups, update your WordPress and plugins and things like that. Um, and so there’s, there’s so many factors that can influence the decision. And like you said, it’s almost impossible just searching on the Internet to, to determine that priority and yeah, that that is, that’s one of the things that we’re hoping to accomplish with this. Um, obviously they are going to be bold grid hosts, but we have a variety of hosts from, from uh, you know, very, uh, very simple shared plans to, um, to be feed vps and dedicated servers. Um, and so yeah, it’s determining what’s going to be right for the customer. And I think a lot of this, if you think of it from the other direction, the hosting company probably isn’t trying to be evil, uh, but they may be selling the wrong products to the wrong people and that leads to a lot of descent dissatisfaction as well. Um, and so that, I think that might be a big chunk of it as well. People are getting affiliate links to the wrong products.

Fred Meyer: 20:46 Yeah. Mean, I love, I love that sentiment, but there are definitely a number of hosting companies. It’s not like they’re trying to be evil. Evil is something that just happens when you don’t care. And uh, there are a number of companies that that made that decision pretty, pretty much.

Jesse: 21:01 There was, were there, there will be bad actors for sure. Um, absolutely. Um, but we can always mitigate. I think there are there plenty of fish in the sea out there who are genuinely trying to, to sell their customers the right products.

Fred Meyer: 21:18 Absolutely. Yeah, definitely agree. I mean the experience of having you know, the right hosting for you is as well. I would say it’s almost as good as the experience as having the wrong host is bad. Like when your host works, it’s such a good feeling. It’s like, you know, you, you call support and the person like cares about you and actually understands what you’re asking and is patient with you. I mean, you know, it’s, your site is suddenly fast. It’s like, it’s such a good feeling, I think in part because it’s pretty hard to find the right host for you without having at least probably one or two bad experiences that, that kind of, um, give you context for just what an amazing job a good host really does.

Demo: 22:02 Yeah. I always kind of use the analogy that hosting is key. If they were theme parks that, you know, I’m a big Disney fan for those of you that know me, um, loved Disney and Disney cast members. They’re just ingrained with just such a good service attitude. And then universal, all their, they have a great product. Their customers, their employees are nice and polite, but they don’t have that extra light go above and beyond. And you kind of noticed that in hosting that there are some hosting companies that are very service focused. And then when you find someone in a service focus company and you get an attraction that’s not so great, you notice it. Or The opposite is true that if you have a host that isn’t service focused, any find someone who takes ownership, you also take notice, suffer. Like, oh, wow, I wasn’t expecting this.

Demo: 22:54 I was expecting to go in and have to like elevate the three levels of support. So there’s definitely two sides of that. If a host is really good at service and they don’t hit the mark all the time, you notice it. And then if a host isn’t known for the good service and they, you do need to get a good employee, uh, you’d notice that as well, which by the way, if you do get a good interaction in any company specific, um, send a tweet out or an email and say, hey, Joe was really great, or Billy or Susie helped me out just because that really does help those team members get recognized.

Fred Meyer: 23:26 Yeah, definitely. And, and you know, I’ve, I’ve had exactly the same experience where, you know, I’m expecting to, um, you know, have to do this whole kind of song and dance and I’ll meet somebody and they’re just like on it. And it’s such a good experience. And I think there’s a specifically know in terms of support. And I think being support for any kind of hosting is such a hard job because, um, you know, the people who are calling you have all, all absolutely all manner of problems and many of them, um, you know, think the problem that they have is completely different. It there, they’re not even thinking in remotely the right way about the problem that they have. So it’s like you have to, you know, you kind of have to teach like kindergarten through masters degree level stuff depending on the two people that are coming in. And everybody’s frustrated and pissed off and this isn’t what they want to be doing with their day. And so when you meet somebody in support who just like really zeroes in, even, you know, at a company where you’re not, especially at a company where you’re not expecting that, it’s, it’s such a good feeling.

Demo: 24:29 Excellent. So we’re getting to kind of the end and I want to make sure we have enough time to talk about WordCamp Denver, um, which is both your guys’s local word camp. So can you talk a little bit about when it is and how people get more information about it? I’ve been the last couple of years, always had a great experience, especially a two years ago where it was onDave week from WordCamp for publishers Denver. So I was able to spend two weeks in Denver and I didn’t think about it and I went home in between and I’m like, why did I do this?

David Hayes: 25:03 Yeah. So look, Camp Denver is where Camp Denver is on July 27th and 28th this year at the University of Denver. They have a beautiful campus in sort of south Denver. Um, and yeah, I’m on the organizing team. I’m wrangling all the sponsors. Um, but yeah, it’ll be a great time. We are upgrading ourselves from two to three tracks this year, so it’ll be a little more developer folks that a little more, uh, business focused, a little more, uh, new user focused. So, uh, we’re really excited about that part of it and I think it’ll be a great time. The way we do it is we have workshops on the second day. So it’s just a half day where you come to a four hour workshop if you’re able to get a ticket early enough. So definitely keep an eye out if you’re in inner near Denver. Uh, because our workshops typically do so up quick.

Jesse: 25:52 Very cool. Um, why did you have to pick my wife’s birthday to hold WordCamp?

David Hayes: 25:59 You know, we really, we really, uh, we met with the DEU and they were like, can you do this day or this day or this day? And we’re like, no, Jesse wants to come and can’t.

Jesse: 26:13 I will still be there but I’m, I might pay for for sure. Um, our, our, we still expect x accepting speaker applications or are those all those are closed?

David Hayes: 26:25 Um, we are probably gonna start announcing within the next couple of weeks who has accepted to come and give a talk. So we’re excited for them.

Jesse: 26:34 Any, any comments on, uh, what kind of topics we can excite?

David Hayes: 26:37 No, I mean other than the track thing, I’m not gonna disclose any information, but we’re as I, we’re going to have a track that’s focused on like you’re brand new to WordPress cause a lot of people who come to our camps all across the country are brand new to WordPress and we’re also going to have one that’s like, yeah, you’re actually, you’ve been fiddling with WordPress and you want to upgrade into being a real developer and you want to learn the cool new things. Um, and then there is that business focused one for the people who are just like, I’m running an agency and I’m struggling with clients or, whatever.

Jesse: 27:08 And, um, are you, is the call for volunteers still open?

David Hayes: 27:11 I believe it is. That is online. And if anyone wants to sponsor word Camp Denver, we’re always listening.

Jesse: 27:18 Well that’s their ships and volunteers still. Oh, cool. Well, uh, thank you guys very much for coming. It was an enlightening discussion. Really interesting. Takes, um, WP shout is a WP a great source for a unbiased opinions as well as a lot of, uh, learning content. Um, and particularly up and running, which I like I said personally recommend to anyone wanting to get deeper into WordPress development. I’m friend David. How can people follow you online? Uh, follow, keep up with what WP shout is doing and everything else.

Fred Meyer: 27:54 Yeah, so the, the best way would be to get on our newsletter, which you’ll see a link on, on the WP shot site. We, we send a newsletter out every, uh, every Tuesday and that’s got a new free, uh, in depth WordPress tutorial as well as a quick guide to doing something, a video quick guide to doing something in WordPress and links to cool stuff around the web. Um, we also would love folks to drop by our Facebook group. We have a closed Facebook group is just called the WP shout group. You’ll, you’ll see it on Facebook if you search it. And that’s where we, we have ongoing conversations with, with folks who, um, are working to be WordPress developers and, um, who have questions or ideas or whatever. So those are the, probably the two best ways to connect with us. Excellent.

Jesse: 28:41 And You can follow a pole grid on Twitter at bold grid. Um, and you can join our Facebook group at team orange. And Mike,

Demo: 28:52 you can follow me on Twitter at MP Mike

Jesse: 28:56 and I am at Jessecowens. And thanks again David and Fred.

Demo: 28:59 Thank you.

Fred Meyer: 29:00 Thank you guys. Great to talk to you.

David Hayes: 29:02 Thank you for having us.