“They just want to get stuff done.”

There is a large contingent of people who just want to get stuff done, they don’t want to fuss with the tech. They don’t care about open source or owning their data. They don’t want to install a theme and setup their widgets, or search thousands of results to find the best SEO plugin. They don’t want to setup “managed hosting”, an SSL certificate, or a payment gateway. They just want to sell their products and make money as fast and easily as possible.

Source: Perspective on WordPress – Scott Bolinger

WordPress isn’t easy. It’s just relatively easy compared to other content management systems. It’s in this grey area between a simple DIY SaaS product and a web application framework.

The WordPress community pulls in two directions. On one side, we’re pulling towards enterprise usage by making WordPress more sophisticated. Think REST API and WP-CLI.

On the other side, we’re pulling towards small businesses and hobbyists and bloggers by making WordPress even easier to use. Look at the Customizer, Gutenberg, and the growing popularity of plugins like Beaver Builder and the ecosystems that grow around them.

The open source upside of WordPress is still a strong selling point. The fact that you can migrate a WordPress site from one hosting provider to another, the fact that you don’t have vendor lock-in the same way you do with SaaS products. That’s all great.

But as Scott covers in his post, those are moot points to a good number of people. Maybe even the majority of people. Because they just want to get their site up and running. And they’d rather deal with a solution from a single vendor who they can call up if something goes wrong.

Getting help with WordPress is harder. There’s more to troubleshoot, and depending on where the problem is, the solution may be out of scope of whoever’s providing the support.

This is why I fall back to the “it depends” response when someone asks if it’s better to use WordPress or a website builder. It depends on your comfort level; it depends on your budget; it depends on what you’re trying to build; it depends on how you want that to evolve.

These days I’m generally in favour of site builders for small businesses. WordPress gets recommended for publications (blogs, media sites) and sites that need more sophistication (basically acting like a lightweight web app).

There’ll always be a need for web professionals.

Websites are the quintessential digital asset for any type of organization.

Yet there are a lot of small businesses out there with no web presence.

New products are coming to market all the time to address that need. GoDaddy’s GoCentral website builder, for example, was launched this year.

These sorts of products are supposed to make it easier for small businesses to DIY. But even with ridiculously easy-to-use products, they will still need help.

Take DNS records, for example. Dealing with DNS records is a lot like setting up the internet in your home. You don’t think about it very much once it’s configured. But if things suddenly stop working? Oh man.

Now we’re opening the can of worms that is technical troubleshooting.

There’s a problem. We don’t know what the problem is. We gotta figure out what it is first. We gotta play doctor. Identify the symptoms. Find the cause. Prescribe a (possible) solution. Administer and wait and see if it works.

Keep reading…

Getting into civic tech + Code for Canada’s Toronto open house

What positive impact can technology make on small communities across Canada?

That’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how local Canadian communities like the Kawarthas can use technology to stay economically strong and culturally vibrant.

I brought this up with my buddy Lucas Cherkewsi at WordCamp Montreal in August. He told me about the civic tech movement, and how it’s focused on these kinds of questions.

How can technology improve the public good?

After chatting with Lucas, I made a mental note to check out the Civic Tech Toronto group, then I attended my first Civic Tech Toronto meetup last week.

It was great. There were lots of people and lots of projects going on.

And those groups weren’t just sitting around pontificating. They were getting stuff done. (And this isn’t a once-a-month thing, either. This group gets together every Tuesday evening.)

As a new attendee, I had to sit in on the Civic Tech 101 orientation. That’s where I heard about Code for Canada.

Coincidentally, Code for Canada was doing an open house just a couple of days later. I went, and this is what I learned.

Keep reading…

On WordPress, career development, productivity, and life goals. (Hallway Chats)

Do what you love and get paid for it. Success means looking forward to going to work every day, looking forward to getting up every morning, really entwining what you do professionally with your interests personally so that it complements each other. With what I’m doing now at GoDaddy, I feel like I’ve finally hit that point.

Source: Episode 12: Andy McIlwain – Hallway Chats

Thanks to the crew at Hallway Chats for having me on the show. Really enjoyed the conversation. Even though it’s a WordPress-centric community podcast, I liked how we went deep on other topics. 🙂

A few of the tools I mentioned:

(I’m a sucker for tools and systems.)

From a production standpoint: I love how Tara and Liam are running this show like a well-oiled machine. From the guest onboarding and question prep to the follow-up postcard I got in the mail (!!!), it’s clear that they’ve put a lot of thought and care into their process.

A world of decentralized fun to be had.

There’s a whole world of fun potential consumer products that let people do computer things that don’t involve reading ads on Facebook or viewing promoted tweets.

A decentralized web is harder to create than a centralized web, especially when overcoming non-technical user adoption. Is the upside of a decentralized model worth the effort? (Or rather, will time and changing circumstances create the perfect opportunity for a stable decentralized web to emerge?)

From the same article:

A precondition for the success of these distributed platforms is a shift towards user-controlled data, the ownership of a user’s social graph and her intellectual property created online.

Will there come a time when the average person will have more concern over the ownership of their personal information and personal IP?

Development of the WordPress REST API is under-resourced.

The toughest challenge facing the REST API team right now is resourcing. There are only a few people working on the API regularly, and we need help to build out our projects—which is hopefully where you come in.

Source: REST API Roadmap – Make WordPress Core

WordPress is shaped by its contributors. These are the people who show up and do the work. But when contributors don’t have interest in an aspect of the project, that aspect gets neglected, e.g. data collection and user testing.

This wouldn’t be big issue if it wasn’t for the ecosystem that’s built up around WordPress. We have large businesses (like GoDaddy, where I work) and small businesses (like the agencies and freelancers in GoDaddy Pro) building products and services that depend on WordPress.

Cue Five for the Future, a call to action from Matt Mullenweg. Back in 2014, Matt started asking for organizations to contribute 5% of their people to working on something to do with core development.

Contribution comes in many forms. My skills are by no means core-worthy, but I’m trying to do my part through hosting user meetups and sharing product education. At the other end of the spectrum, my colleague Aaron Campbell is a full-time core contributor. And I know freelance contractors who regularly contribute bits and pieces when they can.

If you’ve got the developer chops, the REST API could really use your help. This is a core feature of WordPress that’s been dragging out for a long while now (development started around 2012/2013). It finally shipped to core in 4.7 and there’s more to be done. You can get involved.