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Podcasting about WordPress, what I learned in 9 years

Back in 2004, my wife and I were planning our wedding and we needed a wedding website so we registered jasonandjen.com to track our wedding story and keep people up to date on events leading up to our marriage. At that time I was playing with Mambo, which later became Joomla. I was not a fan of their backend interface (reminded me too much of phpnuke and phpbb), so we ditched that in 2006 and switched to WordPress. WordPress back then Automattic was just formalizing itself by filing for trademark restrictions of the WordPress brand and logo. I was just enjoying the fact that I could use a blogroll to share the list of websites I really liked.

How it started

Fast forward to 2011 I started attending Steve Zehngut’s WordPress meetups in Huntington Beach, CA and found that he had a great group of enthusiastic WordPress fans leading the charge to share knowledge and help one another master this collection of php files we call WordPress. As someone looking for community and wanting to know more about WordPress I asked Steve if I could start livestreaming the meetups. I outlined the method of my madness on this talk at WordCamp Phoenix 2013 entitled – How to Stream a Meetup or Live Event. When I would miss a meeting or my camera setup just wouldn’t work, people that stayed home from the meetup would message me asking why I wasn’t streaming. This got me thinking, what if we talked about WordPress between the meetups as a podcast. More on that later..

WordCamps

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2013 WordCamp SF, the beginning of Hallway Track

WordCamp SF 2013 arrived and Sé and I were asked if we could take a camcorder and go interview people on the show floor. Dre Armeda was also asked to do some interviews with Brad Williams as well which made for a great set of videos. We walked around the show floor and did interviews with attendees with the hope of this content being used during the keynote. We did an interview with Bob Dunn and Aaron Hockley and my favorite half elf Mika Epstein. This interviewing format would lead to Sé and I doing what we do best, be extraverts and talk to people at WordCamps, which lead to Hallway Track.

I attended many WordCamps in the west coast of the US but didn’t venture out much past that. With 1 visit to WordCamp MIA where we live streamed from that event from separate laptops sitting about 30 feet away from one another in a outdoor dining area. We had other events and WordCamps we’d stream from either by finding a table and setting up shop or being asked to speak as a panel (instant panel just add water.. cooler)

Podcasting.. not my first rodeo

WPwatercooler wasn’t my first podcast, not by a long shot. Years earlier I did a health and fitness podcast with a friend that lived in WA while I was in CA, long distance podcasting and recording double enders got me into the mechanics of podcasting. I later did a podcast with my wife Jen in the same room which ran for well over 100 episodes. I loved podcasting, a year before starting to attend OC WordPress Meetup I was the President of the OC Podcasters meetup I live steaming their content and thought I could do the same for WordPress folks.

Starting WPwatercooler

I talked with Steve about it and he agreed to help co-host. Sé came along for the ride and so did a huge mix of people – Steve Zehngut, Sé Reed, Chris Lema, Brandon Dove, Dave Jesch, Jon Brown, Lucy Beer, Suzette Franck, Cody Landefeld, Linda Sherman, Verious Smith, Jeff Hester, Dre Armeda, Gregg Franklin, Oscar Gonzalez, Andrews Behla, Ben Metcalfe, Brad Williams, Patrick Rauland, Wes Chyrchel, Scott Bolinger, Drew Poland and Devin Walker. All of those folks listed are just from the first 15 episodes of the show. WILD!

Topics Topic Topics

We talked about all sorts of things from WordCamps to Billing for Site Maintenance, Forms Plugins, Advanced Custom Fields and I loved it. Instead of having to wait a month to talk more about my good friend WordPress I just had people weekly come on our show and talk about it there, I felt like I hacked the meetup calendar and it was cool.

Some of my favorite recurring topics

We started doing yearly WordPress resolutions which was a great way to air our grievances and praises with WordPress, the community and the events we attend. I recall Devin Walker saying

I want premium plugins to be really seamless rather than you’re getting a package in your email and installing it by hand.

Devin Walker

This one from Wes really got me thinking… my worth to a company or a project comes from the experience I have picked up over the years. I love toying around with stuff and learning things outside of what I normally do. Here is Wes from EP15 – WordPress New Years Resolutions for 2013 – WPwatercooler – December 31 2012

I think it’s healthy to have little side projects going. I think that’s where you get the chance to kind of play around with stuff. It always blew me away that whenever I worked for someone else, they were so freaking out. Like “you don’t have anything else going on this side?” I was like, “well, if I did, that would be great for you because I learned everything I learned, you know, while doing all these side projects and I bring it to you”

Wes Chyrchel

Back when Chris Lema wasn’t off running a webhosting company or building WordPress stuff and was just doing WordPress stuff on the side, we spent a lot of time talking about Value-Based Pricing, this is where I go back to what I was saying earlier in that WordPress was REALLY trying hard to make sure that all of our friends were getting paid what we were all worth. Chris always dropped bombs on us during these discussions, check out episode EP20 – Value-based Pricing – WPwatercooler – February 4 2013

I was running my own agency at the time and was just transitioning into working for the first church I would work at. Taking on an IT Director gig and doing a podcast about WordPress sounded like a great idea and ended up it worked out just fine. I got to learn more about WordPress, craft some of the show around problems I was having as well as others my cohosts were having and we were hitting a stride. One in particular is EP23 – How did you get started in WordPress web development? – WPwatercooler – February 25 2013 which I hope helped a lot of people learn where we all started.

We have spoke a lot about Speaker Diversity and back in 2018 we got into it EP293 – WordCamp Leadership & Speaker Diversity – WPwatercooler

It trips me out to think that back in 2017 we were talking about Gutenberg on the show. EP247 – WordPress custom fields vs shortcodes – WPwatercooler and we are still talking about it and some of us are just barely now starting to use it.

One that doesn’t need a link to since every episode in which we talk about the new version of WordPress is the damn Media Uploader / Media Manager. Man, that thing needs and overhaul.

Our numbers early on

Since we were only a handful of WordPress YouTube channels doing this sort of format our viewership with quite high, so much so we made YouTube partner and then we joined Fullscreen.net as one of their shows on their network. Ad deals and perks for being part of the network and sharing traffic with cross promotion lead us to some huge numbers in our first year of the YouTube channel. We were also but in a handful of WordPress audio podcasts too which allowed for some growth. First to market sort of thing. As more and more people were on our shows we started seeing what happens in opensource, replication. I loved that we were not the only WordPress podcast out there and it was awesome to see more and more of them cropping up. Some were focused on WooCommerce (something I don’t specialized in and honestly don’t care about) and a few for various agencies and webhosts. What made WPwatercooler unique from the get-go was that we were self funded and didn’t have any sponsors or people dictating what we were going to talk about. It was freeing and let us talk about whatever we wanted. With some of these other shows it felt almost informercial-esque and I had people tell me so when they visited our show after being on another one.

Fullscreen, the company, folded and our numbers went back down to what most WordPress channels were doing, besides the tutorial channels that I still feel were spending a decent amount of money in ad spend to get the millions plus views on a 2 hour video about a WordPress theme, that’s my assumption at least. All along we kept to our format of talking about WordPress, the community and the plugins and themes that made us happy. We bitch and complained about webhosts that did us wrong and having our agencies get paid more for project. It was an empowering endeavor we were on and our guests really liked being a part of it.

Sidequests

Hallway Track

We started a few more shows, one of which was Hallway Track which was seasonal. Whenever Sé and I wanted to talk with folks at a WordCamp I’d grab my gear and start recording.. streaming and photographing sometimes doing all 3 at the same time. It took us back to the old times of interviewing folks at WordCamp SF the precurser to WordCamp US.

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Sé reed interviewing matt cromwell at wordcamp la

WPblab, Smart Marketing Show, & Community Connectons

Bridget Willard and I started a show called WPblab using a new online streaming conversation tool called Blab.im it started out as a Q&A show where random… I mean RANDOM people could hop in and talk with us about WordPress or anything really. Think about trying to do a show on Chat Roulette, that what we were doing. We had a blast doing it and then found that doing what I was doing with WPwatercooler using that toolset for streaming would be better. We moved from that and after a few changed landed on Smart Marketing Show helping folks learn how to market their WordPress products and services. The show had an amazing run and was a pleasure to do. I found that with some upcoming commitments I needed to sunset the show. Marketing is really interesting but it’s not my passion and with my commitment level changing I thought it was a good idea to close out the show. Concurrently Bridget and Jen Miller started a show called Community Connections where they interviewed people in the WordPress community and how they are building community for and around them.

Community

One thing I love about this community is how much we love to share. We share time, we share knowledge, heck we even share how each of us can make more money with the products and services we all build. We sell and buy from one another. This community became family for me. Between WordCamps and Meetups to Disneyland trips to cruises we did a bunch together. Here are some photos of those times

In conclusion

Community is what you make of it and these projects we choose to do together (such as WPwatercooler) are what you make of it. If you are thinking of starting something I hope you find awesome folks like I did in keeping that thing going be it by effort, time or skill. Thanks to all that have been involved in WPwatercooler, we appreciate you and your time, skill and effort making it what is was and what it is now.

If you stuck around this long, here are my sales pitches

WPwatercooler is what we make of it. We’d love to have more folks on the show, more diversity in a myriad of ways be it skill, job titles, regionality, different social and ethnic backgrounds, different genders, sexual orientations. We’d love to have you on the show.

Pitch #2 is an easy one, I need resources. I’m looking for a company with a heart of gold that would love to pay for high quality transcription services for use as blog posts and as captioning for YouTube and Facebook. We have multi track audio that we feed into Descript, we’d love for a company to pay for a human to take that multitrack record and really transcribe it with accuracy I just don’t have time to do myself.

Watch Episode 400

Lastly, like I end every episode of WPwatercooler, if you haven’t already, we’re an audio and video show you can consume our content both ways, here is some links on how you can subscribe.

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I'm an IT Director for a church & founder of WPwatercooler where I make WordPress related shows.

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