Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of How I Built It! Dejan Markovick and Tina Todorovic are two halves of the Social Web Suite dream team. They are some of the hardest working, passionate folks I know in the WordPress community and an absolutely joy to talk to. I love the tool and I’m excited to dive into how they built it. . All that and more next, but first…
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And now…on with the show!
Joe: Hey everybody! Welcome to another episode of How I built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guests are the fine people from Social Web Suite, Dejan Markovick and Tina Todorovic. Is that good?
Tina: Thanks for correctly pronouncing our names.
Joe: No problem. It’s something that I strive to do. When I taught in the classroom I didn’t have the opportunity to ask my students how to pronounce their names beforehand, so.
Joe: It’s nice that I can do that here. So I met Dejan and Tina at WordCamp US last year, right, 2016?
Tina: I believe so.
Joe: Yeah. So we started talking about your product, now called Social Web Suite. It was called something else back then though, I believe, Right? It was called …
Dejan: Integrative Social
Joe: That’s right, that’s right. Yes. So, we had a great conversation, you guys sponsored the show early on, which was very generous and I was very excited for that, and I’m very excited to have you guys on the show. So, why don’t we just kind of start off with who you are, and what your product does and how you came up with the idea.
Dejan: Okay, so, my name is Dejan Markovick. Me and Tina, we are living in Toronto Canada, and we were involved for a few years in the WordPress community. That’s how everything started. I visited work in Toronto, and I fell in love with the community and everything and then I got more involved. First, I was contributors to one plug in. Then also I became organizer of work in Toronto for a couple of years, and then I was lead organizer and all that kind of stuff. Yes, and the same time, you know, because our plug ins there were one plugin that was contributing it was like posting to Twitter and another plugin was posted to Buffer. So from that we got idea for something even better than those plugins and platforms, and we came up with Social Web Suite. Social Web Suite is platform that should help users, you know, save time and concentrate on their content or on their business while Social Web Suite will automatically post or scheduling the posts from their sites. Since we deeply involved with WordPress community, we have a very deep integration with WordPress, and that’s it for me.
Tina: So basically we are partners in life and business.
Tina: I guess how that works will be another podcast episode, that we can talk about. Because, like, I have been asked that, like, on every single event that we go to.
Joe: Yeah. I mean that’s really interesting. Right? I’ve talked to Justin Ferriman, he works with his wife as well, and they’ve… I believe they have like separate offices in their house to kind of have like that work life separation, so. That is very interesting right? My wife has no idea what I do. I have no idea what she does. We talk to each other about it, but we have just like a very vague understanding of what each of us does because we don’t work together. So, I’m sure that’s a very interesting dynamic for you guys.
Tina: It is actually. The, well, the good thing is, and they’re like obviously the good and bad things as in life obviously, but like the great thing is that we actually, like, because we have been together for like ten years, we already know what each other thinks before we actually speak. Which is a really good thing, right?
Joe: Yeah absolutely.
Tina: Especially in business you don’t need to, like, you can just look at each other and you already know. So, that’s a good thing. Like, you know, it cuts miscommunication a lot.
Tina: The other thing is maybe there is too much intimacy involved. Like, we are too much intimate so we tell each other things that maybe in a work environment are not really good, or maybe Danny’s upset at me, he’s like more upset at me than, like, it should be on a real, like, I don’t know, work mate. You know? So those are on me as well on him. Those are like some hiccups, but so far I think it’s working really good, and I think it’s working good for us because we are a different side of the business. He’s a developer, and I’m a business person, and I think that’s maybe working better because, like, you have two different, completely different, views. As well as, like, my view is more like a… I am more interested in user friendly products and everything, but at the same time Dan is concerned about the backhand compatibility and that everything is secure and the development stuff. So I think that works well.
Joe: Yeah absolutely. So you guys are kind of different but complimentary, right?
Tina: I guess yeah.
Joe: I mean, finding a good business partner that compliments you is a lot of the battle in starting your own business, especially if not, if you’re doing more than just a solo gig. So that, you know, the fact that you guys are partners in both life and work made that hunt probably a little bit easier. While it has its challenges like everything does, it sounds like you guys are doing pretty well. So that’s fantastic.
What a great way to open the show. I did not think we would open the show that way but I’m really glad we did. That actually clears things up for me, because I know Dejan is a developer. Tina I wasn’t sure what your expertise was. So maybe you guys can talk a little about, you had a couple of plugins on the Repo that seems like a precursor to Social Web Suite. So, when you decided to kind of combine into one service, what did the research look like for that from both the development side and from the business side?
Tina: Oh, okay. So, basically, yeah. As they had mentioned we had the few plugins, and we were receiving actually, like, daily feedbacks from our users. Like asking us to build some features. I’m guessing, like, all the plugin developers receive that from time to time. But this was, like, really more like building features from the application point of view, so we didn’t, like, we couldn’t build any more features in the plugins. First of all, we don’t want build, like, put everything in the plugin and, like, you know, slow down the site and affect performance and security issues and those types of things.
So, we were trying to find a fine balance between making our users happy at the same time and then making everything else working. The other thing is, like, because we had an agency as well, so we had a lot of clients that had, that needed help, with the social media as well. So they were asking us to build something like some custom platform or something for them as well. So, we had like, and then we sat and thought about it, and we came with an idea. Afterwards, we actually talk too, beside our users feedback and the research with our clients and users, we actually talked with Chris Lema. You know that? You and Shawn Hesketh and a bunch of our other friends from social media world as well. So we can, like, combine everything, and that’s how we came up with the Social Web Suite pretty much.
Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. So, Dejan, I want to get your side of it to, but it sounds like you guys got user feedback, which is always important, you were scratching your own itch, right, which is something that comes up on this show a lot. And then you put together, just like, the greatest mastermind, you talked to Chris Lema and Shawn Hesketh, the both of them have been on the show, and they’re advice to me has always been invaluable, right? It’s been incredible, kind of business changing, advice. So, you guys definitely talked to the right people.
Dejan: Yes. We were following the community, you know? And Chris Lema is a leader in some way there, you know, especially for the business companies, you know like, Walkers Business and that kind of stuff. Shawn Hesketh, he is a design you, and now even marketing you, he’s helping us a lot. Like, we just had a meeting with him yesterday.
Tina: Yesterday, actually, yeah.
Dejan: About our new site and he gave us some feedback, which was amazing, great. I don’t know what is the good words for that. We are so happy and at the same time blessed to have opportunities to work with those guys. So, now, like, even after every meeting with them, like, we are happier and happier and we know that, how we can improve our product and how our product is already good, or that we are now in better, but we are coming from better in like, maybe two weeks.
Joe: Nice. That’s, so, by the time this show comes out you guys’ll be definitely in beta, perhaps fully launched, and, so… I mean, let’s just jump right into it. You guys have, do you still do agency work? I guess we’ll have a precursor to this question. Do you still do agency work?
Dejan: I do consulting.
Joe: Okay, cool. It’s because I know you guys have been working on the product for quite a while at this point, we’re recording just shortly before WordCamp US 2017, so we met about a year ago. How did you build Social Web Suite? Dan, were you, like, the main developer on it, did you hire other people, how did you divvy up tasks? Things like that?
Dejan: So, because of when we did agency work we were working with some people to, and I did also development, and then when me and Tina got idea for that I was also consulting other people. My friends were developers, and I am also developer. And then we decided, for example, to use Laravel, and for a frontend panel. Then we hired the guys who worked with us during the agency work, so now they’re working with us as full time employees. Unfortunately, I don’t do development, but I’m very much involved in architecture and me and Tina, Tina is given a running stand ups every day, every weekday.
She now also became technical and she does to.
Tina: But don’t ask me any technical questions please.
Joe: Uh, that’s-
Tina: Don’t get there.
Joe: That’s great, so you have essentially a team of developers working on the product for you. You built it on Laravel, which is, you are the second person that I’ve talked to today that mentioned they built their product on Laravel. It was a WordPress centric product but they built the non-WordPress area in Laravel. Which is really cool. I guess it’s something I’m definitely gonna have to look into now. And you decided on Laravel. So why did you decide on Laravel I guess?
Dejan: So, we were analyzing all frameworks in PHP because I’m pretty good in PHP. I know also DocNet, I also did some work in DocNet, but I’m more familiar with PHP, and then we were analyzing all those frameworks. Then we found out about Laravel Spark, that’s the actual platform that we are using. And the good thing about Spark is, like, it has some stuff that is integrated. For example, stride payments and that kind of stuff. Which we are working on that right now. So, and that was the decision, you know, for us and of course we read, or we read the reviews of it. We were talking to a lot of people about, you know, which platform to use, and you know, Laravel is a top-notch platform in PHP and…
Tina: As well as there is a, like a lot of community out there using it. So if, I don’t know, we got stuck somewhere or we wanna implement something, we can always ask around.
Dejan: Yeah, in forums, in groups
Tina: Yeah, so that’s also great thing about it.
Dejan: It’s great platform.
Joe: Man, that’s fantastic. I mean you guys have definitely sold me on it. I’ve heard it, you know I’ve heard it here and there, I followed Jeffrey Way, who does the Laravel- Laracasts, right? But I never really looked into it because I was always deeply in the WordPress space. But, expanding your skill set, especially if you’re familiar with PHP, is very very important.
That’s awesome. So, that’s a little bit on the development side. Tina, it was mentioned that you do, you run the stand ups and do QA. From building the product, from that standpoint, what are the stand ups like and managing a bunch of developers? Do you know how, how do you run those?
Tina: Well, I run it, like… Sometimes I run, like, the stand ups alone, or sometimes we run it together. It depends, like, if the developers obviously have some technical questions that I can not really answer. So I’m more from like a user point of view and the project manager, but I try not to nag too much. Because like the developers, the most hateful question that you can ask the developer is, “Okay, when, when that will be done? When that will be finished?”
So, yeah, they already know that I’m trying to, like, be nice to them. But at the same time I have to, I have to know the deadlines. I have to know the roadmaps, because we are trying to align our marketing about it, around it as well. So the stand ups daily are usually, like between, I don’t know, 15 minutes and half an hour. It depends really. We are all just exchanging ideas, like, they are just telling me what did they do, if we need to do something. I like the stand ups is because they’re much better than, like, you can better communicate than if you just write emails or something like that first of all. And then second of all, I love our developers to be involved in our platform. So we always encourage them to give us their ideas, opinions, and thoughts.
Joe: Nice, nice. So are you working with a remote team or is everybody local to Toronto?
Dejan: No, team is remote. Only me and Tina we are local, and we have written the guy in Europe and two other guys also in Europe. And so, yeah, so we have a stand up every morning. We follow agile style of managing, and that kind of stuff. But we are not to strict. So, for example, for each feature, or each big feature for example, now big feature is in a payment sequencementation, and so we have a ticket, and then we create the check list there. And then, each morning we go to the check list and see how it’s going, you know, do they have any problems? How we can help and that kind of stuff, and you know, like… But as Tina said, like, we are really open, like, we share everything with them.
You know, and we love their feedback. For example, sometimes they are giving us feedback regarding design, and you are all of them not designers, but they are talented people. And I think that’s really important, you know, like… We are treating this as a family. We told them from the start, this is gonna be family thing, and from the first day until now everything is like that.
Joe: Nice, that’s fantastic. So, you have a remote team and so to, I think Tina mentioned this before, it’s a little bit easier to hash things out face to face than via email or something like that, right? That’s, you know, getting that face time is really important, so.
Dejan: Yes. We use Laravel Spark and all that kind of stuff during the day. But we have a stand up each morning.
Joe: That’s excellent. So, awesome. So it sounds like your process is pretty great, you have bigger tasks, you break them up into smaller tasks, you’re using Laravel, and then of course the WordPress for the plugin and things like that. What kind of transformations has your product gone through? Let’s say in the last year, right, since, kind of when we first met. What are the, kind of the biggest transformations?
Tina: Well I think, I think that the first one actually was the one that you actually mentioned. The name, the brand, the naming. And that was while we, I don’t know, we just liked the name Integra because it’s like integrates with all the different, you know, social networks and those types of things. But then after talking to our friend here who sold his software company, and then after talking to Chris Lema, and after researching, we figured out that it is too generic. So we wanted to change the name and branding to something that it’s not that generic, that it’s, like, more us. And that was actually the, I think the biggest change at the beginning.
Now, well… There are like a lot of changes that we are doing. You know how it is in a development basically. You make a lot of changes all the time, right?
Dejan: And we also make changes based on the feedback from the people that we get.
Tina: Based on all the feedbacks, yes.
Dejan: So for example, we got amazing feedback from some company from India, and they have a huge new site, and they post about 400 posts per day, and they have 50,000 posts on their site. So, it’s cute, right? And you know, so, we actually, you know, tested and implemented the changes in our plugin so it can handle that big site. So now, like, we are like, enterprise ready.
Joe: Nice, that’s awesome.
Joe: Very cool. So, again, it sounds like, you know, user feedback, beta testing, and things like that are super integral to your process, which is very refreshing to hear, right? There are certain philosophies where it’s like you just say, “No, no no.” Because you know what’s best for your product. But I mean, your users are what’s driving it, and it’s very important to listen to them. So I love hearing that.
So, we are, it is November 2017, as we record this. What are your plans for, let’s say launch, and the future? You know, what is, what is the future hold for Social Web Suite?
Tina: Well, we will continue building the features and integrations and everything based on our users feedback, as you said, we are like completely user oriented. That’s why we actually built the platform and everything, because we want to help other people, and users.
Dejan: Our users are our heroes.
Tina: Our users are our heroes, yeah.
Joe: Ah, that is the pull quite of the century. That’s definitely what I’m using.
Tina: So, and the, so we already have a lot of, basically features, that our users are asking us to do. Obviously unfortunately we can not, like, we don’t have time to implement all of them at the same times. But, I have a travel card, like a travel board actually, especially just for the features. And we have a road map for, like, day two day three, and those types of things. It depends, obviously depends. Like, if several people ask us for the same feature and it aligns with our road map, obviously we gonna built that first and then some other features maybe later in the long run.
But that’s pretty much our future for the launch. We are hoping that we are gonna fully launch it before the WordCamp US, but we will be ready for the World Camp US crosstalk 00:20:18 for special,
Dejan: And celebrate all the work inaudible 00:20:19
Tina: Yes, for special deals as well as my birthday.
Joe: Nice. Very nice. So, is your birthday, like, over WordCamp US? Will you be at WordCamp US?
Tina: Well a little bit before, on the 29th of November.
Tina: So we are deciding now maybe to, like, take a week off or something, so to celebrate it in Nashville we’ll see.
Joe: Nice, that’s awesome. Well, I’ll have to buy you a birthday drink, because here’s a, here is a fun story for the listeners.
All three of us were at CaboPress, a business conference in Cabo held by Chris Lema. I was there for my birthday, and so, right when it stuck midnight, Tina and Dejan and a few other people there sang happy birthday to me at midnight. It was very special. I really appreciated that. So, I will be sure to repay that favor to you in Nashville.
Dejan: You are very welcome. It was special for us, you know, to hang out with you.
Tina: Yeah, it was awesome.
Dejan: It was amazing.
Joe: Awesome, awesome. Well, we are coming up on time. I can’t believe how fast this interview has gone. But I do want to ask you my favorite question. And both of you can give your separate answers if you’d like. Do you have any trade secrets for us?
Dejan: Okay, so, for us trade secret is actually networking.
Dejan: Both me and Tina, we were really shy. I don’t know if you can believe right now, because, now when we talk to people they say like, “Oh my God.” They cannot imagine that. But we were really. I, and then, everything started when I think, our involvement with community, I was involved before in workers but not with community. Like, it started in 2015, work in Toronto, and then after Toronto you know we said, like, “Oh, this was amazing. Let’s see Montreal.” And then we went to Montreal because Montreal is like, five, six hours, from Toronto. And then we started, you know, like, visiting other cities and other conferences and WordCamp US; the fist one, second one.
And you know, for us, like, this is the, you know, I don’t know if it can be trade secret but you know, like, we love to go out we love to hang out with people. We like to network, and you know, like, that’s it.
Joe: Nice, that’s fantastic.
Tina: Yeah, I think that’s the best way to go as well as maybe… You already have use-, like, if you already have users obviously, and if they ask you some questions, over email, like, I tend to go to like a meaningful conversations with my users as well. So now just replying to them, “okay you can do this this and this, or you can do this,” or, like, “this is how you fix it,” and like, you know, I don’t know.
Some people do the support tickets like that. I actually like to talk to them a little bit more because you can find a lot of things about your users that way, and they are more open to talk to you about, like, what they, why they, are using your product. Which is really important to you afterwards, right? And to give you some feedback about the features and those types of things. So maybe that will be a little bit of a trade secret, like, try to listen to your users.
Joe: Yeah, no, I love that. I mean you, you forge a deeper connection that way, right? When your users feel like there’s somebody on the other side of the screen. That’s excellent advise that everybody should really heed. So, awesome.
Well, so we are at time. Where can people find you guys?
Dejan: SocialWebSuite.com, and Social Web Suite also at Twitter and Facebook. And… Tina?
Tina: Yeah, and, or you can find us, like, Dejan Markovick or Tina Todorovic on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, whatever. You can always send us an email.
Dejan: And on many WordCamps there, that are close to Canada.
Tina: Next one, yeah well, next one is WordCamp US.
Dejan: Yes, yes. But usually we, like, we visit, you know, local WordCamps of course. In Montreal, Toronto, sometimes we go to Boston. We went Chicago, Indianapolis, yeah.
Joe: Nice, very nice. You guys are making the rounds, doing the networking, as you said earlier, so awesome. I will link all of that stuff in the show notes. Dejan and Tina, thank you so much for your time and coming on the show today, I really appreciate it.
Dejan: Thank you for the invitation.
Tina: Thank you so much.
Outro: Fantastic. Thanks again to Tina and Dejan for joining me. Be sure to check out Social Web Suite. There’s a link in the show notes, as well as a video that tours the whole thing. I use it and I love it.I be
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And until next week, get out there and build something.