Teaching WordPress and Scratching Your Own Itch with Brian Richards

How I Built It
How I Built It
Teaching WordPress and Scratching Your Own Itch with Brian Richards
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This episode goes a little longer than normal, but it’s chocked with some great information! We discuss hacking systems (but not in the way you’d expect), how he created WPSessions by basically asking, and why he wanted to bring the WordCamp feel to the online community. We also discussed the need to constantly evaluate if something is working and pivot where necessary.

Show Notes

Transcript

Joe Casabona: Hey everybody. Today’s episode is brought to you by two great sponsors. The first is BrandBucket. Deciding on a name and securing the appropriate domain is often a struggle for entrepreneurs and startups. Endless hours are spent on brainstorming names and attempting to find that perfect name. BrandBucket helps you solve that problem so you can focus your time on solving the more pressing ones. BrandBucket is the largest marketplace for curated creative business themes with a [.com] domain. Names are pronounceable, easy to remember, catchy, and short. The best part is that they are all guaranteed available at a fixed price. So you don’t have to go through the arduous task of price negotiations. Each name also includes a high-quality logo that is ready for immediate use. For a limited time, you can go to brandbucket.com/howibuiltit to get started. How I built it listeners will get a $75 and vAuto marketplace gift card with the purchase of any name.

The next sponsor is Sucuri. Sucuri offers website owners peace of mind, and professional support when they need it most during a security incident. If you need top-notch protection for your website, or if your website has already been compromised and needs to be clean, nobody is better than Sucuri. They’ll protect, detect, and support your website for you. Head on over to sucuri.net to learn more. That’s sucuri.net.

And now, on with the show.

Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, I’ve got my good friend, Brian Richards with me. Brian, how are you doing?

Brain Richards: I am doing well. Hello, internet.

Joe Casabona: Thanks for joining me. Brian is a very smart fellow. We worked together at CrowdFavorite.  He runs a nifty website called WP Sessions, which we’re going to be talking about today, and just a very, very, all-around smart guy. And I see him blushing right now. I’ll try and take a screenshot for the show notes.

So let’s just jump right into it. Brian, why don’t you tell us a little bit about you, and your idea for WP Sessions? How did you come up with it?

Brain Richards: Sure. So background on me and just a couple of sentences. I got a degree in photography because when I went to college, I really wanted to break away from home and go and see some of the worlds myself. And really liked the idea of being in college without any homework. And a photography degree was an easy win for that.

I actually, I had thought briefly about going in for graphic design and briefly about going in for computer programming and decided against both of those paths, and basically freelanced my way through college. And I knew even going into that, my degree wouldn’t matter because no matter what I ended up doing, whether it was in marketing or development or photography or anywhere, my skills were what the employers would care about. Not my degree. And I’d say that’s influenced a lot of my behavior throughout the years. Being able to see how systems work, and work my way through them.

Fast forward, a bunch of years I’ve been working with WordPress ever since college. As a matter of fact, I caught it just before I graduated. So I think we’re on, whereas this may be my ninth year of working with WordPress. Or maybe even my 10th now. And I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. I enjoyed WordPress from the get-go because it was documented well, and there was already even back then a huge number of people who were using it and supporting it through their own custom themes, and custom plugins, and their own documentation and tutorials. And that gave me a really good feeling. And then I got injected into the community through WordCamps, started hosting my own meetup and my own WordCamps, which eventually led me to create WP Sessions, which is more of an approximate for an online, like a virtual WordCamp. That was the original impetus of the idea.

Now it’s more like, I think creative live is a site that someone told me about. It’s like where I bring on an expert, we have a webinar dedicated to them and the topic they’re talking about. And I try to do two of those a month and get people to come in and watch live. So, there you go. There’s a long, long droning story of kind of what brought me from there to here.

Joe Casabona: And I think there’s one or two really, really good takeaways there. Because you said, your experience mattered more than your actual degree and stuff like that. And I couldn’t agree more with that. I managed to get a master’s in software engineering without ever taking calculus, and my brothers and like their friends think I’m a genius for that. It was just like seeing how the system works and what I could do to take the classes I wanted to without taking the math class that I was really, really, really bad at. So that’s cool. The other takeaway here is that you are a pretty heavy backend dev, you know, like proper software architecture stuff. But you’re self-taught, is that about right?

Brain Richards: Yeah. And self-taught is very generous. I think a better term that I’ve been trying to adopt into my vocabulary is community educated. Because everything I know, I learned, thanks to the hard work of someone else sharing what they already know. And I think that was like, that was something that I realized going from high school into college is since I’m paying for my own degree, my education is in my own hands here.

And that means, what I’m here for is to learn things that are interesting and useful to me so I’m going to pursue that. And if a class isn’t interesting, or a project isn’t interesting, and it doesn’t negatively impact my ability to move forward, then I’m going to choose something else. It drove my wife nuts, by the way, when we were dating at the time in college, I would only do part of the assignments for my photography classes. So there’d be the photography portion, of course. And then there’s also a written component to describe, you know, what the project means and an artistic stance on why I’m taking these pictures that fulfill the requirements. And one class, in particular, those were never more than 20% of the overall grade. So I could literally do none of the written components if I wanted and still pass the class with a B. And I thought, “Well, if these aren’t necessary and they’re not really enhancing my ability to learn how to compose a photograph and how to mechanically understand how photography works, then maybe I don’t need to do this part. And I can spend that energy on something else.”

Joe Casabona: Nice. That’s, man, I love that line of thinking. Cause I have like a very similar line of thinking where it’s like, you know, the rules are there, right? The rules are there for a reason and the rules are meant to be broken and finding the balance of that is like my goal in life, I think. And it sounds like you did similar things like that in college.

Brain Richards: Yeah. Definitely. Yes.

Joe Casabona: So, cool. Well, so you are community taught, you do a ton of reading, I know cause you recommend a lot of great books. So, I assume you’re very good at research. And, I’d like to know if you did, like what kind of research, if any, did you do when creating WP Sessions?

Brain Richards: Yeah. Let me step back and talk about how it started. As I mentioned right now, it’s live training with experts. I try to do two a month where I get an expert in and we broadcast, and anybody can come and watch the free thing. And the topics vary from person to person. So in one case, we might have a WP security talk, and in another one, we might have an e-commerce talk and things like that. The impetus for this, when I was working several years ago and didn’t know as much as I know about databases, now, I desperately wanted someone to sit me down for an hour and just talk me through my SQL. So how are these SQL tables structured? What makes for good table architecture? What are the different types of fields and why would I pick one over another? What are some surefire ways of writing a query that isn’t going to cause the site to collapse when I have too many visitors? Those were all things that were going through my mind that I wanted to know better and was frustrated that it would take me a very long time to read through the documentation.

My SQL is documented really well. But there’s a lot of it to read through. And for instance, the information about the types of fields that you can use in my SQL is something like chapter 13 out of many. So like, not knowing much about my SQL, it didn’t really serve me to read all of the documentation to find out the few parts that I wanted to know. Because maybe I’m reading things that I don’t need to know yet, or maybe not even at all. And I can’t notice skip around. So I thought it’d be way easier to just pay someone who’s already an expert in that field, their normal hourly rate, to sit down and just teach it to me for an hour. And I thought that’s not a bad idea. My coworkers would probably benefit from that as well. So maybe I could share the costs there and I thought, “Wait a minute, maybe I could record this because that would benefit my coworkers who couldn’t attend it for whatever reason. And maybe I could even broadcast it to a broader audience and not just my coworkers but other people in the WordPress community who also want to know this. Because WordPress does a really good job of insulating you from ever having to interact with my SQL If you never want it to. At a certain point, you have to, when you reach a certain kind of scale or types of sites that you’re building. But for the most part, you could probably spend your entire career inside of WordPress and never have to crack open a database, theoretically. Anyway, I really wanted this.

And so that was the idea of “Maybe I can find a person or several persons.” Right? Get someone to talk about queries and queer performance, someone to talk about database architecture, and how to go about storing your data, and why you’d want to use certain fields. And then perhaps someone to just generally talk about my SQL. So Paige to them, they each give an hour-long presentation. We asked some questions, it all gets recorded so we can come back to it later. And that sounds amazing. And so I sat on that idea, I thought, “Well, maybe not, this was on a Friday.” I think it was Memorial weekend.

So Saturday and Sunday go by. And then Monday goes by, it’s a holiday, I’m off of work. And I’m thinking, “It was actually a really good idea. I think I’m going to do something about it.” I hopped on while we were driving across the state, my wife was driving. I bought the domain name from my phone and I started a direct messaging a bunch of WordPress experts that I really liked and respected and said, “Hey, would you ever be interested in perhaps, speaking on some topic for me, for pay?” And they said, “I was already interested. And now that you said for pay, I’m even more interested. So, yes. Let’s talk.” And, I think I made a list of something like 50 people. And then I reached out to, I think maybe 30 of them right away. And all of them said, yes. So I already had more than a year of speakers who are ready to go, which made it kind of awkward to kind of schedule beyond that, to say like, “So you said, yes. How does April of next year work for you?” Like, “Ah, talk to me in January.” I said, “Okay.”

So I didn’t really do research in the sense of, are there other people who want this? I did research in the sense of doing the people I want to learn from actually want to teach me, like, would they agree to do this? And lo and behold, they said yes. And I thought, “Well if I can get all of these amazing people who know what they’re talking about to say, yes, I’m sure that between my audience and their audience, there are other people who are going to want to hear them.”  And I decided I would set out a few thousand dollars to just experiment with this. And hopefully, I’d break even, and maybe not, but we’d see where it’d go. I’d give it three months to get a fair shake and just see. And it was profitable immediately. It took me about a week to put the page together to start accepting money for the very first session, which was building plugins. And I got Pippin Williamson and Daniela Espinoza and Topher DeRosia to all come and talk about different aspects of plugin development. And from there and then onward, it was profitable. It wasn’t crazy profitable. But I earned back my investment plus, what it would’ve cost me to bill out my time to run the session from the very first session. So that validated the idea for me. 

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. And, you put it together relatively quickly, it sounds like. And, which I think when I skip ahead to one to this next question, cause I mean, it’s flowing pretty well into it except now I’m recognizing it. So it’s just a little worse now. But you put it together pretty quickly. And how long ago was this? Was it like the..

Brain Richards: this was 2013, I believe.

Joe Casabona: 13. Gotcha. So setting up a website is a relatively quick process, right? For someone like you or someone like me, install WordPress, put a page up from whatever. But the recording stuff, even in 2013 for me, was like this big hill to climb. I don’t know why. It was just, it was like a mental block that I had. So I’m really curious to see how you built the site, but also like how you went about choosing the tools to do the recording when you got your sweet microphone setup and things like that? I’d be really interested to hear about that stuff.

Brain Richards: Sure. So that’s kind of the point of the podcast, right? So the actual building process, I knew that I could do this on a shoestring budget right from the get-go. So I recognized that Google Hangouts had a hangout on air feature, which would let you broadcast. And they would spit out the live broadcast directly to YouTube. And WordPress embeds YouTube videos perfectly with oEmbed.

And I knew from working with WooCommerce myself and helping friends build sites that I could do a lot of things to manipulate the purchase process there. So in terms of the infrastructure that supports it, I have a basic WordPress install, of course, with WooCommerce installed for handling transactions. And the recording and the broadcast features all come from Hangouts. So Google Hangouts, well, actually now it’s, funnily enough, it’s YouTube live. And one of the broadcast options for YouTube live is Google Hangouts. So they went from Google Hangouts on air to a page that says, this is now a feature of YouTube live. So you click the link to jump over to YouTube live, except that new terms of service you go, “Okay. Set up a new live recording. How do you want to do it?” Custom inputs, Google hangout like a Google hangout. Thank you. They didn’t even bother like changing the name or any of the parts of it. And so, that was dead simple, right? I just, I set that up. I set it so that it’s a private thing. So only, people, I invite or in my case, people who are on my site can see it. And once the live broadcast is done, the recording is immediately available. So anybody who missed the live event or wants to go back can do so immediately. 

And I’ve augmented that a bit. I also have a Vimeo Pro account, so I throw all the videos there as well just for redundancy. And I’ve been meaning to go back, haven’t yet to go back and edit them, and trim off the beginnings and end so it cuts right to the point when someone, you know, years after the fact, in this case, goes back to an old one, they get right into the juice and they don’t have to sit through a couple of minutes of me bantering on about what they’re about to learn. Because they already know that because the sales page now fully articulates what it is.

So we’ve got WordPress, WooCommerce, and Google Hangouts doing most of the heavy lifting. And then I do all of the access restrictions using some custom code that I put together. That’s really lightweight, it just checks if the user has purchased a certain product or not.

So I have a product in WooCommerce for each of the broadcasts, and then I have a session custom post type that I made for storing the video, and the session description, and the broadcast time, and the topics, and show notes, and connecting who the speaker is, and the sponsors, and things like that. And then I connect the sponsor, or, sorry, the session to the product via post, posts. And then when someone lands on the page, it just checks through a series of conditions. Are they an admin? So me, if so they have access. Are they a VIP members? Yes. Okay. They have access because the VIP member has access to everything on my site. And if failing both of those, have they purchased the connected product or products in this case now, I’ve got to set up so you can purchase one of many products to get access to some of them. And if you ask to have access, if not, it says you need to buy one of the following to get access. 

So just real simple filterable logic so I can change it at any point to control whether or not you as a visitor can see this particular piece of content. If I were to start over now, I probably could just use the memberships for the WooCommerce plugin that SkyVerge just made because that handles access restrictions really well. But nothing like that existed for WooCommerce in 2013. And I didn’t want to go with any of the other membership specific plugins because I wanted to use WooCommerce for a bunch of other business reasons. 

Joe Casabona: Gotcha. Yeah. And that sounds very similar to the reasoning that Brian Krogsgard mentioned in one of the earlier episodes…

Brain Richards: That’s right. Yep.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Basically, Woocommerce gave him the flexibility to sell other things that are not digital goods. Cool. So for restricting the YouTube videos, how do you do that? Because to my knowledge, if somebody got ahold of the YouTube video right from the hangout, wouldn’t they be able to embed it somewhere else?

Brain Richards: Yes. So part of this is working on the honor system. It’s unlikely that somebody’s going to just swipe the video and share it everywhere. So during the live broadcast, it’s mainly security through obscurity. So with the YouTube URL, the hangout, the broadcast itself is unlisted. So nobody’s going to find it unless they’re given the URL explicitly. I put the URL embedded on my site directly so anybody who’s paid well, actually anybody who’s there, it’s free to watch now. So it doesn’t really behoove anybody to copy that URL and share it with the rest of the world because everybody can already watch for free. And the initial iteration you had to pay no matter what to show up, to watch live broadcast, to show up to watch the recording. And then somewhere along the lines in year two, I made it so that you could come to the broadcast for free. Cause I really wanted people to participate. I felt the greatest value, for me, was being able to ask questions in real-time to the speakers. And I thought the best way to do that is just to make it free to get people to show up. And I was correct. 

And instead of seeing a dip in prices, because now everybody can get it for free. Why would they pay for the recording? I actually saw a rise in payments because people were more likely to buy the recording after they’ve watched the live broadcast. And more people in the door, it gets more people talking about it, which means more eyes on it after the fact so that all worked out in my favor and everybody’s favor really because it spreads the information out to more people.

And so, yeah. So nobody’s going to bother to share a YouTube link that’s already free. Or at least if they do it, it doesn’t hurt me at all. And then afterward, this is where I started moving things over to Vimeo pro. Vimeo pro you can lock down where videos get embedded, so it can only be embedded on my site. And not anywhere else. And then also with that, I gave people the ability to download. So now someone could download the video for offline usage and share it that way If they wanted to. I haven’t noticed anybody pirating it. People who watch my content seem to be pretty, pretty careful about making sure the money gets to the people who created it, which I appreciate a lot.

Joe Casabona: Nice. So what [Inaudible 20:51.95] that’s great. And I mean, you offer a set, like you offer a good amount of value and you offer it to, you know, creators, developers, and I’m sure they can empathize a little bit with hopefully people not stealing their stuff. So that’s cool. That’s very cool. I’m glad to hear that. So you mentioned iterations. So in the first iteration it would, it was pay to, you know, pay to view the live site. And then you moved away from that. What other major transformation, I guess, has WP Sessions gone through in the last, you know, three years.

Brain Richards: Sure. So it’s gone through quite a few. And the original iteration, like I mentioned, my thought was to get three different presenters for each session. So the session was three presentations. It was three hours long and they were scheduled on a Saturday. So I did it once a month. One Saturday a month. I got three amazing presenters to come and share about a similar topic. So the first one was plugins, the next one was business, the third one was really deep tech things. So performance and optimization related things. Then we went into the themes and Bootstrap, and a whole bunch of other things.

And the biggest problem there was actually scheduling the thing. Because as you can imagine, it’s really challenging to get three people who live in completely different parts of the world to find a single Saturday that works for all of them. And then it also didn’t bode well for attendees because they would show up or rather I was really only catering to people who lived in the US for the broadcast. The US and maybe England is as far across the pond as we could go, where it was still a convenient time for everybody. It was too early in the day for people in Australia, and too late in the day for anyone farther East than Australia. And so, I thought, “Well, this is crazy. Maybe I should just make it one presenter.” And we broadcast at whatever time is most convenient for them. And then we also get whoever else is also available at the time to come and watch live. And if it’s free, it doesn’t really matter if they can’t If I’ve scheduled it at a time that’s inconvenient to them because they can come back and watch the recording later. And so a whole lot of things got better when I switched to that. I was able to schedule speakers more easily. I ended up with more people attending because even though the time, the broadcast time was less predictable, it happened to be more convenient for a greater number of people. And it was also free. So more people were inclined to show up because they didn’t have to part with their hard-earned money to see if this information is actually useful to me. You say it is but is it really?

And then because I broke it apart from being three presenters at once to one presenter at once, I was also able to cut the price down to a third of what it was. So it bounced around. And the first version, it was $30. And then in the later version, it was 19 and it was 18. I think it’s currently 15, but still, it’s very little money to get an hour of an expert’s time. Like there’s no way you’re going to hire someone like John Blackburn who created the Query Monitor plugin to sit down and personally train you about all of the cool things it does for an hour. I think his session even went longer, like maybe an hour and a half for 15 bucks. Like that’s just, it’s impossible. But thanks to collective bargaining and having lots of people who can come along and pay 15 bucks. All of us can sit down and get an hour or in this case an hour and a half of his time to learn some really useful tips.

And so that’s the version currently on. And I get one to two speakers a month to come and share their expertise. People can come and watch for free, and then afterward they can choose to pay for the recording. And once they’ve done that, they can download it and watch it offline. Or they like, they have access to it forever. So it doesn’t really matter if they downloaded it or not. 

And for a little while there, I’d been pursuing courses as well. So sessions are really good one-off like, here’s a really interesting thing you need to learn. And I wanted to go deeper. And I reached out to several different experts and asked them, “Would you be interested in recording?” You know, something that’s about two hours long and sitting down and really hashing out all the different parts of that. And I got a bunch of people to say yes. But it turns out it’s a lot harder to get people to commit to a two-hour block. And really for them, it’s more like an 18 hour to 20-hour block because for two hours of finished footage, you probably have closer to three or so hours of recorded footage. And to plan out for three hours of training material, you need like three hours per 20 minutes. I think that is what worked out for me when I was playing with it. So you need about 20 hours to produce this two-hour thing that gets broken down into four and five-minute segments. 

And so the ones that I was able to get are amazing. So Pippin did one on recording your first plugin. Tolman did one on performance and optimization, which is my favorite one by far. He really, really gets into the hard details on fine-tuning a site for better performance. And Tim Nash did one on WP CLI, and there’s a couple of others on there and they were amazing. But they took way, way longer to produce than I was expecting because it took the person producing them much longer to record the stuff. And it took me a bunch of time to go through, cut out all the um’s, cut out any of the messed up spots where they go to show a demo and they get a 500 error. Well, what’s this? And then they fix something in their local environment and then it works. So the end product is really polished and really well-made. And I’m really proud of it. But it didn’t work the way I was expecting because it’s just such a huge time sink on all of the content producers’ side that I wasn’t able to keep to a schedule that made it useful for my audience. So that’s basically been cut out.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. You know, I kind of went through the same thing over the summer when developing the blog course. I was going to do all the videos and then I thought all the videos were weird. Because it’s mostly advice. So like I just kind of sat down for a couple of hours a night, every night, and just like pumped out 20 modules worth of content whether that be like shorter videos and stuff like that. So developing a course is,  you know,  no joke. It’s a lot of work. 

Brain Richards: Yeah. And then a more recent iteration has gone through just since this summer, I’ve started doing personalized training for teams. So I talked to a lot of different agencies who are all lamenting the same sort of facts. So they want to help their developers with some professional development, get them learning new skills, get them engaged in and better problem-solving techniques, better project management workflows, different things like that, and sending them to conferences. Iit is extremely expensive, right? To send a few people to a conference is multiple thousands of dollars to accompany all of the flights, and hotel, and meals, and ground transportation, and event tickets. And then just subscribing to services like mine or Lynda or anywhere else is generally neat, but not super useful. Because the topics aren’t extremely relevant to whatever the team is working on here and now. And so I put together this team training package, where basically I sit down at the forefront with whoever’s in charge of the development team and say, “Okay, what things are you guys working on? What topics are useful to you right now?” Right. And you’re looking to learn more JavaScript-based techniques or Rest API integration. Do you want to talk about this or that? Or what have you, and so we can put together a catered curriculum just for them.

And each week that we do it, we step back and we reevaluate and go, “Okay. This was this, what do we want to do for next week? Do you still want to talk about this?” And that has worked out really well for the few teams that have piloted through it. So I’m excited about that.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Yeah, that sounds great. And, well, and I can vouch for you there. You’re very good at that. So that’s very cool. Yeah. That’s very cool to see that getting off the ground. So that’s a relatively new idea. You’ve gone through a few iterations, do you bounce these ideas off anybody? Do you get business advice, direction about features and things like that? You know, I’m kind of billing this podcast as like a worldwide mastermind group kind of, and that’s been a big topic of this podcast. So, you know, are you part of one, do you work with other people, and get advice, and talk to specific people?

Brain Richards: Yeah, for sure. I have an amazing mastermind that I meet regularly every Monday. Or if weren’t all available on a Monday, we bump it to Tuesday or Wednesday. On very few occasions we’ll miss a meeting. But for the most part for the last year and a half, I think we’ve been doing it. We’ve met every week to talk about each of our businesses and what we’re going on. And the format of that has changed a bit as it’s gone through.

Now, each week focuses on a different person in their business. And we talk through basically, here’s what we’ve been doing for the last month, because there’s four of us, here’s what I’m planning on doing for the next month. Here’s Business-related things. Here are personal related things because those two are really deeply intertwined, and the personal motivations and factors deeply influence all of the business decisions that you’re making, and how you’re going about executing what you’ve been talking about. So it’s been tremendously valuable. I can’t stress enough how useful it is for all of us to have a mastermind. I think all of us have benefited from it. So if you’re running a business and not in a mastermind, you should change that immediately. You should find some friends that you’ve been talking to off and on and formalize it, and put together a mastermind plan.

Prior to that, I was casually bouncing ideas off different people. Chris Lema is a good friend and he gave me some advice early on. I’ve got connections to lots of other WordPress developers. And so I’d ask them, is this a topic you’re interested in learning about? Is this something that’s valuable? When I booked speakers, I talked to them about what they think and where should be moving next. and regularly or not regularly, I would occasionally check in with my audience and say, “Here’s what we’ve been doing. Here’s where I’m going. Does this excite you too? Is this what you want? Do you want more of this? Do you want more of something?” And that part was always disappointing because so few people think you’re genuinely asking for their advice and they don’t reply. I have a hard time with that. And I wish I could do better there.

Joe Casabona: Getting feedback, it’s tough.

Brain Richards: It is. It’s like pulling teeth in a lot of cases. Because I think the problem is most people want to be polite. Or they don’t care about being polite and they’re just critical, and they give you nothing but criticism without any action, like, here’s what I would like instead.

Joe Casabona: Right. I don’t like it or it’s not working like, things like that are not actionable.

Brain Richards: Right. Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Cool. Well,  So that’s great. Definitely, like masterminds have come up so much on this show. So it’s definitely worthwhile. The one that I’m in has been really helpful as well. With that, we are banging up against the time limit and there are two questions I want to ask you. So we’ll make this like a lightning round. What are your plans for the future and what trade secrets do you have for us?

Brain Richards: Awesome. So plans for the future, I want to dig in deeper on this team training prospect that I’ve been exploring this year. I think that relevant topical instruction is probably most valuable to most people, right? The impetus for WP Sessions was I wanted to learn about some database stuff specifically because I was running into this problem where I had really inefficient queries and a project that I needed to fix right away. And I didn’t know who to turn to. And to be able to hire someone, to sit down with me that week and teach me would have been amazing. Funny side note, I still haven’t had a database presentation on WP Sessions, even though it was the very first one I ever wanted to do. That one has been surprisingly difficult to lockdown.

So I don’t know how that’s going to transform to the masses because it’s, as you can imagine, much more expensive for me to put together a catered presentation for every team. I’m basically sitting down and doing something fresh for each team, for each week that I’m doing it. And in some cases, I can have one presentation carry over from one team to another. If we’re talking about, you know, working with the WordPress Rest API, the general bare bones I put together in a presentation once, and then I can retool the slides to be to the specific use case of a given team. But that doesn’t scale to hundreds of people or even thousands of people. And it doesn’t even scale to dozens of teams. Like right now, at my maximum personally, I can support 10 to 12 teams in the pipeline. And so to grow beyond that, I need to bring in another instructor. And to grow beyond that and cater to individuals who are looking for topical advice, I need something different entirely.

So I’m, that’s what I’m exploring. That’s what I’m trying to bring to the future, is something that’s even more relevant to someone here and now than, you know, here, I learned about this or learn about this that you generally want to know about, but aren’t taking action on.

And then trade secrets. Ah, I have so many. My biggest personal takeaway in life is that systems are easy to exploit and everyone should be exploiting them to their advantage. And when I say it that way, people get kind of uncomfortable because exploit, it isn’t a real pleasant term, right? When you hear the word exploit, you think someone’s taking advantage of someone else or security exploit, right? You’re, it’s usually not a good thing when someone says that they’ve been exploited. But when I’m talking about exploiting systems, I mean finding ways to make them work better, not just for you, but for everybody. 

In college, I exploited systems so I didn’t have to take classes that weren’t useful to me. And I was able to graduate sooner and spend fewer dollars so I could get into the workforce and actually contribute and do things that mattered to me and to other people.

And building WP Sessions, I exploited that I’m a good connector of people. So I talked to all of these experts that I know and all of these people that I know that want to learn these things. And I put them together and I go, “Hey, you want to learn this thing? Here’s this person that knows this thing really well” Meet each other, enjoy learning about it. There are so many other ways that you can do that. And I’m talking abstractly here, which makes it kind of hard to apply in a concrete situation. So, let me say, generally speaking, an employer isn’t going to care how long it took you to complete a task or when you got it done so long as you get it done within the budget that they’ve expected, and within the timeframe that they’ve expected. So that takes you an hour to do something that they were expecting to take four hours, that’s amazing. You’ve just done something that costs 25, a quarter of their budget. Don’t use those extra three hours that you’ve gained to just put your feet up on the desk and collect money for nothing. Use those three hours to improve the workflow for the next task to don’t just jump right into the next thing that you need to work on. Spend a few minutes to slow down, to think about how you can better improve other processes, other systems. Use the resources that you have to educate yourself, to educate your coworkers, to educate your clients, to document what you’re doing, to build bigger and better and more useful things, I guess.

And the other trade secret that goes hand in hand with that is that people are generally nice and interested in helping you, and sharing what they know. WP Sessions exists because I happen to know that people are people so I can reach out to these people who might seem like they’re unapproachable and say, “Would you like to teach about this thing?” And they’ll go, ”I would love to teach about that thing. I’ve been spending the last six months learning about that thing. And I want other people to know about it too, so they don’t have to spend six months. They can spend six hours and be up and going.” So exploit systems to your, and everyone’s benefit. And approach people because they are more inclined to help you than you might expect. But don’t exploit people because that is bad. Don’t ask people to work for free. That is not what I’m trying to communicate. 

Joe Casabona: Totally. Oh man, that is great advice. And that is the reason that we have this podcast. I asked people to talk about their product and they were willing to come on the show. So I am living proof of this advice. Everybody out there, it doesn’t hurt to ask. And definitely make them make the most of what you’re doing. I love that.

So with that, Brian, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate them.

Brain Richards: You’re welcome so much.

Joe Casabona: I appreciate you coming on the show. I also appreciate our sponsors, BrandBucket and Sucuri. Remember to check them both out because they are great, great services.

I also want to mention one more time, the Patreon that I’ve started over at patreon.com/howibuiltit. You can get access to lots of extra content, extended interviews, transcripts, and much, much more starting at just $1 per month. So make sure to head on over and check that out.

And until next week. Get out there, and build something.

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