Building a WordPress Meetup from Scratch with Joe A. Simpson Jr.

Sponsored by:

Joe Simpson did something that, in my opinion, is very difficult to do. He created a local community out of virtually nothing. Living in Castilla, CA, he built the WordPress Santa Clarita Valley meetup from scratch. And the way he did it, as well as his personal story, is fantastic. I’m so happy I got to speak to Joe on this topic; he offer a unique insight with takeaways for everyone!


Joe Casabona: Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about the Build Something Weekly newsletter. It is weekly, it is free, and you will get tips, tricks, and tools delivered directly to your mailbox. I will recap the current week’s episode and all of the takeaways, I’ll give you a top story content I wrote, and then some recommendations that I’ve been using that I think you should check out. So it is free. It is weekly. It’s over at Go ahead and sign up over at


Intro: Welcome to Episode 192 of How I Built It. This episode is brought to you by Yes Please Coffee, iThemes, and Hostinger. Joe Simpson Jr. did something that in my opinion is very difficult to do. He created a local community out of virtually nothing. Living in Castaic, California, He built the WordPress Santa Clarita Valley Meetup from scratch. And the way he did it, as well as his personal journey, and his story that got him to that point is fantastic.


I’m so happy I got to speak to Joe on this topic. He is somebody who I’ve seen around the WordPress space a lot. He speaks at meetups and WordCamps frequently, and he is just an absolute joy to talk to. Plus he offers unique insight with takeaways from everyone. I can’t stress this enough. I tried starting a WordPress meetup in Scranton, Pennsylvania and I thought I was pretty well connected. And we had an okay turnout but it was short-lived for a few reasons. Take Joe’s advice here. Joe Simpson Jr’s advice. I’m not speaking in the third person. He offers some really, really fantastic advice. So have a listen.


We’ll get to all of that in a minute, but first, let’s hear a word from our first sponsor.


Sponsors: Hey, everybody, this episode is brought to you by Yes Plz Coffee. You’ve heard me talk about them all summer long. And now we’re into the fall. Upgrade your morning with Yes Plz. Yes Plz is a fantastic coffee subscription. They send freshly roasted beans to your door.


As somebody who’s been using it for about six months now, maybe five months, I can say that this works like gangbusters. Coffee just shows up to my door. I have not had to worry about buying coffee in a long time. My wife and I do that because I have like a little analysis paralysis with coffee. I like to try new coffee. So I usually tell her not to get it from the grocery store; I want to order some.


And sometimes we’ll run out. Maybe we had a party. Maybe we didn’t order enough. Maybe we made like two pots one day instead of the normal one pot. But we were running out of coffee. I don’t have to worry about that with Yes Plz. They tick all the boxes because not only do they send me a new bag every week but each week I get to try a new blend of flavors. So it helps me mix it up a little bit. I don’t have to say, “Oh, I really want to try a new kind of coffee.” I get a new kind of coffee every week.


It’s generally on the lighter side. There are hints of fruit in a lot of them. I’m not like a coffee expert but that’s what I have detected. So I love it. I’ve been loving Yes Plz Coffee for, again, all summer. It helped me get through finishing up my HTML book, it helped me get through two LinkedIn Learning courses that I recorded, and it has helped me stay awake since the birth of my son Louis.


So if you are ready to upgrade your mornings with unique blends of coffee beans, sign up for Yes Plz Coffee today. You can head over to and use the code “HIBI” for five bucks off your first shipment in your subscription. And don’t worry, you can skip shipments or cancel anytime. Again, that is and use the code “HIBI” for $5 off fantastic delicious coffee beans shipped right to you. Again that’s


And now back to the Show.


Joe Casabona: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, How did you build that? Today I am excited to have Joe Simpson Jr on the show. He is the senior digital communications officer at Metro LA. And we’re going to be talking about cultivating a local WordPress community in a brand new area. Joe, how are you today?


Joe Simpson Jr.: I’m doing great, Joe. How are you?


Joe Casabona: I am fantastic. Thanks so much for joining me. I am happy that we get to finally record this because it’s been a long and winding road between weather and personal schedules, and my son being born. I’m glad we finally get to get on the podcast.


Joe Simpson Jr.: I know we were playing a lot of virtual tag, but it was definitely worth it. I’m so happy that you had your son, and you’re doing well, and we’re on the air.


Joe Casabona: Thank you. Absolutely. I’m excited to talk to you today because especially…We talked a little bit about this in the pre-show. You mentioned that especially with doing things virtually, cultivating a local WordPress community can be difficult. You seem to do it really well. I’ve checked out a bunch of your WordCamp talks and your community focus on your website, which I will link in the show notes over at But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, as you mentioned at the top, my name is Joe. You could just call me Joe Joe as a nickname if you need to. Only family members get to call me Joe Joe. I’m here in Castaic, California. Which for those that don’t know the California area, there’s a couple of amusement parks. There’s Disneyland as well as Magic Mountain. And we’re near Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, which is just north of Los Angeles. I’ve been here for almost 30 years. As you mentioned at the top, I work for Metro Los Angeles. I’m part of the team that’s trying to get folks out of their cars and onto public transit. So I’ve been part of that team for quite a while, but I’m on the web team there, the digital strategy folks. So that’s exciting. I handle our WordPress network there.


In addition, during the night sort of my alter ego is in the WordPress community. I’ve been really active in the past three years. I got back into it, had a serious heart event, but that sort of changed my life and got me into WordPress in terms of building a community and giving back to that community. So I’ve just been going gangbusters for the past three years.


Joe Casabona: That’s amazing. Not the heart issue, but getting back into the community is amazing. So you live near Six Flags Magic Mountain. I’ve been there once. I’m a huge Disney fan. So anytime I’m even remotely there, I try to hit Disneyland. My brother and I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain, and we had a blast while we were out there.


Joe Simpson Jr.: I guess it’s one of the largest ones in the country. And if you like roller coasters, they’re everywhere. Like just out my window I could sort of see it.


Joe Casabona: That’s awesome.


Joe Simpson Jr.: So I’m very, very close to the park. Just one exit north. So next time you’re here, come by and visit.


Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s fantastic. Absolutely. We live close to Six Flags Great Adventure, which is I think another one of the bigger ones. So big thrill ride fan. So that’s super cool. Your day job is to get people into public transit, which is great because I have suffered through LA traffic before, but you’re also a big part of the WordPress community. And that’s why we’re talking today. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the WordPress community that you’re a part of and your role in it. What exactly you do to try to cultivate that community?


Joe Simpson Jr.: For those that may not have context, the WordCamp Los Angeles is sort of the mother WordCamp and WordPress community closest to me. I’m 45 minutes from that. My journey sort of started when I was taking a leave when I was healing from my heart event. And I said, “Hey, let me get back into WordPress. I really want to give back. I want to do for others.” So I started driving to area meetups.


Again, this is crazy. I went to about 18 meetups in the next three months all over Southern California from as far east as Riverside to Orange County, which is far south. I sort of got ideas about what I wanted to do in my own meetup because I found myself getting home at 10:30, you know, spilling coffee in a dark car, you know, trying to stay awake driving back from all these meetups. So I had all these ideas.


Orange County had a great organization in terms of they had three different flavors of business, the design meetup. Riverside had a certain style. Pasadena was humorous. Downtown had speakers. So I took what I thought was the best from all of these meetups and I said, “Hey, let me start one so I can be in bed by 10:30 instead of on the freeway.”


So I started one in Santa Clarita. But the funny thing about it was Santa Clarita had nothing in terms of WordPress. Folks had to travel down to Los Angeles, which I mentioned was 45 minutes. I think the last WordCamp seems…Santa Claus was an adventure, which is an hour away, in 2014. So other than going up to Sacramento or down to Los Angeles, there were no options for WordPress activity in our area. So I decided to start one.


I went through the official process and I started one here in Santa Clarita. The thing that I was fortunate about was that we had a lot of resources here in the city. I connected with our library, and so I had a sort of a built in audience there. We would make announcements over the loudspeaker there. So a lot of folks that would take their kids to do their study time or whatever, they would drop in while their kids are working. So it was a perfect way to sort of build the initial community. Within two years, we kept growing and building and we had our first WordCamp. So it sort of went in that cycle. But there were a whole bunch of steps in between that sort of build it.


Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I love that because I mean, that’s the power of a WordPress meetup. Especially if you go through the foundation, you don’t need to worry about funding or anything like that. I love that you partnered with a local library. Because I was one of the co-organizers of the Scranton, Pennsylvania, WordPress meetup, and I didn’t think to do any of that. My friend and I, we just kind of put up a meetup page and hoped for the best. Luckily, we were both well connected enough in the WordPress community and in the Scranton community that people did come and it was worth still doing. But man, partnering and connecting with the libraries such a great idea. So there’s your first takeaway, listeners. If you’re looking to start a WordPress meetup or any kind of community building is look to your local library.


First of all, was it just you, or did you have any co-organizers or other people who helped you?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, it was just me at the beginning. But I felt fortunate in that during that trek around Southern California I met a whole bunch of folks that have been in the community. And you know, you’ve been in the WordPress community yourself, everyone is so giving. At my first meetup, the folks from Pasadena, a couple of people that were organizers there came up. So I’ve always had a connection where people would…If I had to ask for someone to come in and speak or someone to give me some advice, there was all but always someone there to help me. So even though we were physically far apart, people would drop in or Zoom in and give me some advice. That was very, very helpful.


Joe Casabona: That’s awesome. How did you put those first few programs together? Because I can’t even just imagine. I know personally that it could be scary if you put together and set time, a few hours aside for your evening and nobody shows up. Like that doesn’t feel great. So how did you put the first few programs together to make sure that people came?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, in another life, I was in Toastmasters and I sort of leaned on that public speaking track that you go through. The first meetup was sort of introducing myself. So I basically talked about my story. That sort of spiraled into how to get speakers and things of that nature. So by sharing my story, I found that a lot of folks get involved. I know I presented that same topic at Orange WordCamp Orange County, and one of our organizers at our WordCamp said, “Hey, Joe, I saw you at WordCamp Orange County, and it inspired me to get involved.


So I think the thing that I try to do is I try to be genuine. But I also show them that by giving back or inspiring other people to give, people usually do that. So it’s been pretty amazing. That sort of got me through. You know, at the beginning you’re trying to get the word out.


And I would add in addition to having the library as a resource, our local newspaper, and local radio. And that was one of the advantages of being in a small town, although Santa Clarita is one of the fastest-growing cities, we had immediate access. Like the radio station is right up the street from the library and then our local newspaper. So I was able to get on their calendars and use all these free resources in addition to social media to try to get the word out. And that has slowly built our group. I always say, even when we’re doing topics, in terms of the WordPress community, everything’s open and most things are free to learn. So I say, “Don’t go premium right away. Always go free, and learn and then grow from there.” So that message seemed to resonate also.


Joe Casabona: That’s so great. Local newspaper, Local radio. Again, echoing my own experience, we didn’t do that with our meetup. But when we had our WordCamp Scranton, we got the local newspaper to run a spot, the local TV station came out and interviewed us and talked about the WordCamp. That really helps turnout. Because there were a lot of local people who I did not know personally who ended up coming to this event because they saw it on TV. It was only 20 bucks and they got a free lunch out of it. Definitely take advantage of the resources available to you locally. And like you said, don’t just rely on social media because if you don’t have a local social media following, then it’s going to be hard to build a local community.


Sponsors:  This episode is brought to you by iThemes. Did you know that 60% of website breaches occur because a vulnerability could have been patched but wasn’t? That means having software with known vulnerabilities installed on your site gives hackers the blueprint they need to take over your site. Every day it gets harder and harder to keep track of every disclosed WordPress vulnerability.


In fact, just recently, there was a huge vulnerability that affected something like a million sites that was overlooked or maybe just wasn’t patched quick enough. If you don’t follow the WordPress news, then you wouldn’t know. Right? I get a bunch of WordPress newsletters, that’s how I knew. But not everybody does that.


To solve this problem, the iThemes Security Pro plugin, the iThemes Security Pro plugin created a better way to protect your sites against software vulnerabilities. That is the number one culprit of compromised WordPress sites.


Let me tell you, I have been using iThemes Security Pro on lots of my websites. They come included with my hosting provider, and it does a lot more than just scan and patch vulnerabilities. It adds brute force protection. If somebody’s trying to brute force my website, I get notifications of lockouts and IP addresses and things like that. It includes two-factor authentication and password list logins and even has compromised password protection, as well as a whole lot more designed to keep you and your website safe and your customers’ information safe. If you have an eCommerce website or just a website with user information on it, that’s super important these days.


So to sum up, the iThemes Security Pro plugin, designed to keep your website safe without you having to worry about it, checks for the latest vulnerabilities, patches them automatically so you don’t have to, and does a whole lot more. You can get this plugin by going over to and they’ll give How I Built It customers 20% off with the code “How I Built It” at checkout. That’s to get the best WordPress security plugin to secure and protect your WordPress site. Make sure to use “How I Built It” at checkout to get 20% off.


And now back to the show.


Joe Casabona: Your meetup is now how many years old?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, we started in January of 2018. So we’re almost three years old. We were on a fast track like I mentioned, once we set up that. I think in my very first presentation at our meetup, the last slide said we’re going to do a WordCamp in Santa Clarita. So we’ve been able to do that twice over. So we’re coming into our third cycle. We’re on a fast track.


But one of the great things is that now that everything is virtual, we were one of the first virtual WordCamps. I’m always willing to try something new. Actually, that opened up a whole new audience in terms of virtual community in WordPress. I know a lot of folks have gotten burned out from Zoom or online things, but for me, it seemed to open another door, which I’m willing to say yes to anything as well. In terms of learning, I think we all learn when we’re forced to say yes to some things we may not always say yes to.


Joe Casabona: So yeah, for sure. I’m a big proponent of learning by doing. So if I’m trying something out and seeing how it goes, then iterating is a great way to learn. This is actually a really good transition point. You’ve probably been virtual for the past six months or so as we record this maybe. What was making that transition like? And then we can get into kind of coming up with content for your meetups.


Joe Simpson Jr.: The transition, unfortunately, it reminded me of what I went through in terms of my heart event. I had to stop everything. Once I left the hospital, I mean, I couldn’t go to the restroom without passing out initially. So I had to relearn everything. I think we were all forced to stay at home. I took that to mean, how can I continue to do my WordPress work, but in a different way? And I think right around that time back in April, I think WordCamp San Antonio was coming back online as a very first event. So I said, “I’m going to do exactly what I did before. I’m going to volunteer.”


I volunteered to participate in WordCamp, San Antonio. And then we were the second one so right off the bat I got to work with the video team at Blaze, I worked with the organizers, and I sort of started picking things that I could use and incorporate into our WordCamp. That was one of the processes that I immediately did. I started to learn the things I didn’t know. I wanted to find out how it worked behind the scene to run an online event.


So I worked very closely with the video team, I asked a million questions to the organizers of the very first few events. Then I was involved with Kent. Along the way, I think I’ve been involved with most of them except for the European ones. So I’ve just been volunteering to do anything and everything. That sort of got me going in that other direction in terms of virtual. And then that made it a little easier. Now, in turn, I turned around and I’ve helped others do theirs and then I’m going to be a mentor. So it’s all cyclical in terms of the learning cycle for me.


Joe Casabona: That’s great. I know that the WordPress foundation helped out a lot with making the transition and things like that. What would you say was the biggest challenge of transitioning to virtual? Because I can imagine that maybe finding speakers is a little bit easier because now it’s anybody. They don’t even have to travel. But maybe not. Maybe people don’t want to speak at a virtual WordCamp. What was the biggest challenge in moving to virtual?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, it was a couple of things that you mentioned, Joe. One was we had already selected our speaker panel but it was based on an in-person event. There were some people that dropped because…and I would say the biggest challenge is a lot of folks that have been in the community for a while, they really look forward to that in-person interaction. And not having that, you lost part of your audience right off the bat. There are some people that really wanted to do the in-person thing. So that’s the biggest challenge.


It seems the organizing teams that have been around for a while or they’ve been in the community for a while, they sort of pass on the virtual event because they want to continue to do the in-person. But the greatest thing, and I always try to twist it and turn into something positive is we did get more speakers. Even though we had a set lineup, people reached out and said, “Hey, Joe, if you need a speaker, I’m available to do something virtual” because, like you said, there was no travel involved. We got someone from Italy to come in and speak at our WordCamp. We had volunteered from Bangladesh, India. So it opened up a whole new ballgame.


I have a friend, ex-military, he worked at Metro with me, and he said he encourages doors to close because there’s always another door opening. And I took that to heart. In terms of what I do in WordPress, it may have closed the door for in-person temporarily. We even lost a couple of our organizers because we went virtual. They were really looking forward to the in-person thing. So I took it as another door opening. And it’s been a lot of fun to do it differently for the past six months.


Joe Casabona: Wow. That’s wild and really cool. Because there is a lot more opportunity, right? I’m speaking at Amy Hall’s WordCamp in October about podcasts. Not WordCamp. WordPress meetup. And I know that’s California based. So we had to work out the time a little bit. She moved it up a half hour because 7 is like 10 for me. But there’s a lot more opportunity. And I think that’s really cool.


If people are listening and they’re like, “I want to start a WordCamp in my community or a WordPress meetup or any kind of meetup, what’s your advice for figuring out content and getting speakers? Because in my experience, just asking people to speak, like saying like, “if you want to speak about something, join us or apply or let me know” hasn’t always worked. I’ve always had to explain explicitly ask a group of people. So what’s your advice for coming up with topics and getting speakers for your meetup?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, virtually it’s opened up some new opportunities as well. I think we’re always trying to innovate. I have a couple of folks in my community that are just as crazy as myself in terms of trying to do things. We’ve done a joint meetup. So for example, in honor of WordPress Accessibility Day, which is coming up, we decided to do a three meetup accessibility day here in the north of Los Angeles. So we’ve teamed it up with the San Fernando meetup and the Santa Barbara meetup and we did an Accessibility Day. So we brought in speakers from all over to do it. So it was like a mini WordCamp.


So having those connections in the WordPress community, I treated it the same way. So every WordCamp I’ve gone to, I’ve taken notes. So I would say if you’re looking to do this, attend a few meetups, attend a few WordCamps. And when you see a speaker, that’s interesting, I usually make a note and I try to reach out to those folks. And a lot of times, it’s just me asking. I try to do it nicely. I’m trying to be genuine. But I really appreciate someone that conveys their topic or something they’re passionate in. So I’m always on the lookout for folks who I drop into other meetups for the same reason. And so I found speakers that way.


Then I also work with other meetup organizers to find out if they could come in, and in turn if there’s someone that they know that could come in and speak. So that seems to work for us in terms of getting speakers.


Joe Casabona: Great.


Joe Simpson Jr.: And then as a last resort—and I’m sorry, to step in again—I always reach out to the foundation for recommendations. They’ve been incredible along the whole process. Like if I have questions. One of the biggest takeaways that I have in terms of the WordPress community is that a lot of people that walk through the door may not know everything that we know as organizers of meetups and WordCamps. So I always try to onboard them as I go.


I think there’s a sort of a marketing term called the curse of knowledge where we assume that everyone knows what we know. So I try never to have that and I always onboard people all the time in that way. That creates relationships where they want to participate. So you’re always cultivating someone to join as well as you’re reaching out to others to come back and help. That seems to work for me.


Joe Casabona: That’s a really great point, too. Because it is easy to think like, “Oh, I know this, and I think it’s easy, and I’m not the smartest person so everybody probably thinks it’s easy.” A super clarifying moment for me with that is when I was in college and I was talking to my friend, his name was Joe as well, Joe Conley…


Joe Simpson Jr.: That’s great.


Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. Joe Conley was a math major and insanely smart, and we were both in a calc class, and the math is not even remotely my strong point. And we’re talking and he told me he is a math major. I’m like, “I’m comp sci.” I’m like, “If I can do computer science, and you’re a math major, you can definitely also do computer science.” And he goes, “Man, my brain doesn’t work that way.” So it was like boggling because I thought this guy was smarter than me so he automatically knew what I knew.” So never assume. I gave a talk about that. Never assume while teaching.


But the big takeaway for you here I think is just ask. If you want somebody to speak at your meetup, or a WordCamp, or on your podcast…right? I reached out to Joe, and I was like, “Hey, do you want to come on the show?” And Joe graciously said yes. My…let’s say my batting average here because I love baseball is probably like 800. Like 80% of the time people are going to say yes. And if I get a no, it’s for “timings not right” or “no, I don’t like doing that.” But most of the time, people are going to say yes. I’ve gotten most of my guests from just reaching out and asking.


Joe Simpson Jr.: So now you just dropped in a great nugget that I have to follow up on. Does that mean you are a Pirates fan?


Joe Casabona: I live in Pennsylvania. I am born and raised in New York. So I am a Yankees fan.


Joe Simpson Jr.: Whooo. Okay. My wife is from New York as well.


Joe Casabona: Oh, nice. Whereabouts?


Joe Simpson Jr.: She’s a big Yankees fan. She’s from the Queens area.


Joe Casabona: Okay. Wow, from Queens, but a Yankees fan?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Yeah.


Joe Casabona: Wow.


Joe Simpson Jr.: Yeah, I know. We were married near old Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows. So I know the area quite well.


Joe Casabona: Awesome. My mother grew up near Flushing. That’s awesome.


Joe Simpson Jr.: But I was going to say, transitioning back to what you said, I have found that asking sometimes it doesn’t work all the time. But I found that by doing and people seeing that I’m always willing to give. I’ve had a couple of converts who were really hesitant to get involved at the beginning, but now they’re seeing we’re all giving back and we’re all growing our community. So now even those people who are a little hesitant to get involved do so.


I think just, again, being genuine and asking nicely, most people are willing to share what they know. And you know, in this community, it’s not like being a peacock but people are proud of what they do. I’m just about highlighting and showcasing what they’re doing, and in turn, we learn from them because they’re passionate about talking about what they’ve done.


Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great point. Most people want to share what they know, right? I know that maybe in some other industries people keep what they know close to the chest, and don’t want people to steal the idea. But you know what? An idea is just an idea unless you do it. So if you’ve already done it, tell people how you did it. That’s always worked out for me. I’ve never heard somebody steal an idea and get rich off of it because I talked about it at a WordCamp.


Joe Simpson Jr.: I know. And that’s funny. I come from a corporate environment. It’s sort of [unintelligible 00:31:16] department versus department. You’re trying to fight for promotions. But WordPress has been totally opposite. And I think that’s what drew me in and that’s the energy that keeps me going. So it’s worked out well because again, it’s been a great outlet to sort of do too good and sort of learn about what I really want to learn and what I really want to teach others. So it’s been great.


Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by Hostinger. Hosting is a dime a dozen these days, with lots of places claiming to be optimized for platforms like WordPress while also being affordable, but they don’t deliver on that promise. I know because I’ve tried a bunch of different hosting companies. But you know who does deliver? Hostinger does. I recently started using Hostinger for a personal project and I was blown away by how easy the setup was and how affordable their packages are. Just a few dollars a month. They offer the best price to quality ratio I’ve ever seen. And again, I’ve used a ton of hosting companies.


Their dashboard is well designed and easy to use. They offer a free domain and SSL certification and they’re optimized for WordPress. Music to my ears. When I set up my site, I was happy to see they put some real thought into the WordPress onboarding and setup process. Buying a domain was easy, then you pick the template you want to use, and they set up the site for you in mere minutes. Plus, they use Astra for all of their site templates with an assist for Elementor. So I know the site will be fast. I think that is such a great idea and addition. Again, it shows that they really thought about what they’re doing here.


Plus, they have caching and you can very affordably add Cloudflare for a CDN. Between that and daily backups and being able to manage WordPress plugins without having to log into the WordPress dashboard, I was sold. So if you’re looking for affordable hosting for your side project or business that’s fast, secure, and optimized for WordPress, Hostinger is it.


Head over to to see what plans they offer. I recommend the business shared plan. Use the code Joe Casabona for an additional discount. That’s, and use the code Joe Casabona at checkout. Thanks to Hostinger for sponsoring the show.


And let’s get back to it.


Joe Casabona: As we come up on time here, I do want to ask you one more general question about how do you figure out what to talk about? I know like we talked about, oh, you see people speak at WordCamps. But as far as the kind of content do you think will serve your community best, do you just talk to people at your meetup and say like, “What are you struggling with? What do you want to talk about?” Or is there another method for you to figure out kind of what topics should we cover over the next couple of months?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, we do it a couple of ways. In meetup, you can sort of pull folks as they sign up for your event. So we have a couple of questions in there that ask: “What do you want to learn? Have you heard of WordPress, WordCamp, WordPress meetups?” So we get an idea of the level of knowledge that they have and the things that they want to learn there. During our meetups, we do different formats. From time to time we’ll do a happiness bar, we’ll do a showcase style meetup where we get to see everyone’s work.


And I know for me personally, and I feel like everyone that’s on the WordPress journey sort of has similar questions along the way. You know, you start with the theme, but then you want to do more with the theme, then you want to develop a little, then it all grows in a similar fashion. I know the things that I’ve tried to learn are things that people may want to learn, so I mix those in as well. So we find topics from the people that attend, from some things that I’ve achieved along the way. And that sort of builds our agenda for our meetups and our WordCamps.


And I try to be open. One thing that I try to avoid is some WordCamps have a very specific focus. I mean, I always try to be open and listen to our audience. For instance, this past year in our community, accessibility has been really big. So we’re thinking about doing a WordCamp for publishers. We’re thinking about doing a WordCamp for accessibility.


Joe Casabona: Oh, wow.


Joe Simpson Jr.: Yeah. So maybe focusing in. But like I said, it’s all dependent on what our community wants to know. So I try to keep it open and keep it flexible.


Joe Casabona: I love the showcase format. I don’t think I’ve seen that at any WordCamps I’ve participated in. That’s really cool. Because you just kind of get to go up there and show your work, I imagine, and talk about maybe how you built it, which is something I’m all about as the title of this show. That’s great. Be open, think about things you’ve tried to learn, and pull people when they sign up for meetups in, or wherever, if you’re using some other thing. I think that’s a really good idea.


As far as accessibility goes, I think, that’s been kind of top of mind for me as well. I have a book coming out—It’ll be out by the time this episode airs—about HTML and CSS. I had a whole chapter on accessibility.


Joe Simpson Jr.: Awesome.


Joe Casabona: And I thought, “Man, I don’t think I’m doing this the right way.” So I read Accessibility for Everyone by Laura Kalbag. I think I’m saying that right. I’ll link it in the show notes. I learned a lot there and through other resources, and I was happy to include that chapter because it’s important and really interesting. I appreciate that that’s been a big topic for you all this year, too.


Now, before we go, I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is do you have any trade secrets for us?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, it may be corny, but my trade secret is just be nice. I think nice goes a long way. I think if you’re willing to really genuinely give…I mean, I think a lot of times, we don’t really give without expecting something in return. I give without expecting anything because what you get in return is so much more rewarding. Again, I know that’s sort of idealistic, but I truly try to give without any strings attached. And I think that’s really difficult, especially nowadays, where there’s so much going on outside that’s sort of come, you know, a lot of conflict. Yeah. But I think if people really stop thinking about their personal interests and give to others, we’ll be fine.


Joe Casabona: I love that. I love that. When the pandemic started, I did free 15 minute consults for people who wants to start a podcast and some dude just point blank was like, “What’s in this for you?” And I’m like, “I just want to help people. I have a course fine. I have a done for you service, fine, but I don’t expect anybody who’s looking for a free 15 minutes from me is going to be ready to purchase those things.” I think podcasting is a great medium and if I can provide somebody like a small piece of advice to help them, then that’s what that 15 minutes was about. It’s about generosity, and like you said, giving without expecting anything.


Joe Simpson Jr.: And that’s awesome. Again, not to [unintelligible 00:39:09] too much is you were really inspirational for me. I’ve seen you on stage at WordCamp. And just seeing what you’ve done and how much content you produce is very inspirational for me. Today, I have a camera based on one of your setup videos. So to me, this is sort of full circle in a weird way. But like I said to me, seeing that people have done it…And that’s the great thing about the WordPress open source community is that anything you think you need to do, someone’s probably done it and they’re willing to talk to you about it. So, yeah, this is a treat for me. But again, keep doing your great work. Again, people on this side appreciate it.


Joe Casabona: Awesome. Thank you very much. People listening can’t see but I was blushing pretty hard there since Joe knows the kind of camera I have. He probably saw it. Thank you, Joe, so much. This has been great. I’m excited to release this episode right around the time I’m releasing other WordCamp related content. So this is going to be just a nice centerpiece for all of that.


For those listening, if they want to learn more about you and your meetup group and what you do, where can people find you?


Joe Simpson Jr.: Well, you can find me @JoeSimpsonJr. So if you’re on Twitter, @JoeSimpsonJr. One word. Gmail, I have a website, You could find me there. Our meetup is WordPress SCV. That’s our official WordPress meetup. And you could find us on Twitter, Facebook, etc by looking up “WordCamp Santa Clarita.”


Joe Casabona: Awesome. I will link to those resources and everything we talked about in the show notes over at Joe, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.


Joe Simpson Jr.: Oh, thank you, Joe. This is awesome.


Outro: Thanks so much to Joe for joining us this week and for the kind words. I said this at the top of the show, but he was just such a pleasure to talk to. His trade secret is definitely reinforced by his personality. Just be nice. Nice goes a long way. That’s absolutely true. You attract more bees with honey. I think that’s what they say.


And give without expecting anything. This goes back to something that other people in the WordPress space, myself, but also Chris Lema and others have been saying, especially since the pandemic started, be generous. Be generous with your time. Help people. Give without expecting anything because you know what? People remember that. And Joe is proof of that.


So again, lots of great advice. I’ll include lots of stuff in the show notes that we talked about here. One of my goals as we go into 2021 is to have more robust show notes that are not just links but are takeaways and things like that too. Of course, if you want the three main takeaways from every episode, you can sign up for the Build Something Weekly newsletter over at That’s


For all of the show notes, you can head over to And you know what? There’s a signup form there as well for Build Something Weekly. That’s for all of the show notes, the transcript, our sponsors. Thank you to this week’s sponsors, Yes Plz Coffee, iThemes, and Hostinger. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *