The Caldera Journey So Far and What Is Next

CalderaWP WapuuI started 2015 stranded by a freak storm in a small town in West Texas. I ended it wondering if I had what it took to make it as an entrepreneur. In between I launched a new company or two, traveled to ten WordCamps and the one constant that held was community.

Those two days in Balmorhea, TX population 500, were actually pretty inspiring. After a scary night trying to get off the road and stay warm sleeping on a blocked highway off ramp, my wife and I made it to the one little inn, which was sold out and sent us to the community center turned shelter.

This tiny community, which clearly was not very well off came together to organize food, cots and more to keep over 100 people fed and safe until the roads were relatively safe to travel. Being stuck in an overcrowded community center is not the best experience. But being a part of a spontaneous and self-organizing community that arose to help out strangers made a bad situation into a great experience.

It reminded me of the value of community. You know like WordPress always does.

Back In The Sun

Who knew it snowed in Texas?

Photo by: veeterzySix weeks later, back in sunny Florida, David Cramer and I launched a new company to monetize his plugin Caldera Forms and make other plugins. It was exciting, even if the sales didn’t exactly pour in.

By the end of our first month — gross revenue: about $350 — I knew I was in way over my head as a business person and online marketer. But that was OK. Im someone who went from sort of knowing HTML, to being a pretty badass PHP and JavaScript developer.

I figured I could just hack business until I got good at it. This almost destroyed my business. After about 6 months we had increased our sales to about $1500 a month, which was good, but not enough. Client work was robbing our time and straining our relationship.

More than that, I had essentially demoted myself to junior developer and support representative. I spent my time fixing bugs, helping users and hardly ever writing any fun code.

Knowing I had to try something different, but not knowing what, I started another company as an A/B test on my business. Yah, I’m that guy, who starts another business to test the theories of what is wrong with his business. In the meantime I created a pretty cool new product: Ingot, an automated A/B testing tool for WordPress. Meta right?

All the while, I worked to figure out how to escape or fix the problems in CalderaWP. Over time the business and developer to developer relationship between David and I really improved.

Not shockingly, as our communication improved and we paid off our technical debt, our revenue rose. It’s still not great, but we’re finally in a good place, product-wise where we are ready to grow and grow properly.

If there is one thing I learned it’s that going slow can be a good thing. if Caldera Forms had blown up in a year to the kind of user base we are now focused on building it probably would have destroyed us.

I’m being patient with Ingot. It’s too early to say what Ingot will become and it’s slow growth is a good thing. The support demands are low, and we have plenty of time to figure out how to refine its feature set and really nail how to explain this product’s value properly.

Maybe it’s different with established brands and big marketing budgets, but in my experience, you have to spend a year running your mouth about something before it goes anywhere.

I Am A Developer

I can’t stop thinking like a developer, and that’s OK.

Photo by: NASAThe other thing I figured out is there are a lot of parts of running a business I don’t like. When I’m stressed out it’s normally about the business or money and one of my best coping mechanisms is to learn more about JavaScript.

That last paragraph is the words of a developer, not someone who should be running a business. A short audit of my financials and the number of loose ends in my business is a testament to that.

I embrace that. I’m a developer, and I can’t stop thinking that way. That’s good, and I love the strategic parts of designing products and marketing plans. But I’m done running the parts of the business I lack a passion for, am quantifiably bad at and take time away from the things I am passionate about and love doing.

I love being a developer, I love teaching — writing, speaking and creating course — and I love going to WordCamps to meet new people and connect with the growing group of friends I’ve found in this awesome community of ours.

The Ingot project had a lot of objectives, including trying new approaches to development. The other was to try out to new people I had met in Tallahassee that I believed in and wanted to work with. One of them, I still believe in, but he wasn’t the right fit, nor were we the right fit for him

Growing Toghether

The theme of 2015 was team work

Photo by: Stefan KunzeAs Ingot and CalderaWP grew, it became more and more clear how silly it was that the more mature company was being mismanaged by me, while the less mature company I had was being run incredibly well by Christie Chirinos.

Having two teams and two companies was a good way to start as we tested out what worked and didn’t work. But, moving forward as we have seen everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, we will move forward as one company.

For the last month I have been transitioning Christie into running both companies together and we will soon merge them into own company known as Caldera Labs.

In addition, my freelance practice and educational site will be folded in. It’s a lot of stuff, but I believe with better organization, focus, some tweeks to the business model, we are now ready to grow quickly and have badass products to back this up.

For the last few months I have been more active in Caldera Forms development than I had been in the past. David is going to remain the lead developer of Caldera Forms and I’m going to balance my time between that and leading the Ingot project. But I’m going to take my time with Ingot and let it develop naturally.

Moving Forward

The theme of 2016 is growth 

Josh Pollock speaks on Do WordPress Better With The WordPress REST API, at WordCamp San Diego 2016 #WCSD
I’m happy to represent my company, but I don’t want to be the only one. Photo by Kari Leigh Marucchi.

Of course, because Josh Pollock and David Cramer, we will keep making prototypes of fun new stuff. That’s something that used to drive me nuts about both of us. There is a ton of stuff that we have both built because that’s how we learn, with no plan to evaluate which of these plugins or services are worth pursuing and which were just fun.

You can expect to see a few of these reach the light of day as we evaluate the stack for good products. We never had a process of keeping track of early ideas, and evaluating them to see if they solve real problems that people will pay for or not.

That’s what’s next? I’ve been spending less time being freaked out and more time writing. My REST API video course was fun to make and pretty well received. Look to see more courses and some online or in-person workshops soon.

Also, we have some exciting updates for Caldera Forms and Ingot, as well as new add-ons about to launch. If you ask me real nicely at a WordCamp — I’ll be at WordCamp NEO and WPCampus this summer — I may tell you about some secret projects.

Have Fun

Seriously, that is the point of all of this, right?

This is me, at WordCamp San Diego using the force to summon an object to me in the middle of my talk. Photo by Joe McDonald.
This is me, at WordCamp San Diego using the force to summon an object to me in the middle of my talk.
Photo by Joe McDonald.

Sometimes I worry that when I tell people “have fun” or “sounds like fun” they think I am being sarcastic. I say things like that a lot and I am generally very serious.

I find what I do to be really fun. Not always, parts of it are not fun, but overall it’s a blast, and that’s what I want and why I do it.

So yep, I’m excited for Caldera Labs, it’s a new approach to organizing and growing our company and our team. It sounds like a lot of fun to me.

So You Want to Make a Commercial WordPress Plugin?

In the end of 2014 I decided to start a commercial WordPress plugin company. In March 2015 David Cramer and I launched CalderaWP. We went to market with an add-on for Pods and add-ons for Caldera Forms.

David and I met when he started contributing to Pods, where I worked at the time, and I was super-impressed by the UI in Caldera Forms. It worked the way I wanted my plugins to work.

A little over a year later I’ve started to look back at how it’s gone and how we could have done better. I want to share this in hopes you can learn something from my experience. This article is based on a tweet storm I sent recently.

To be honest, I was hesitant to write this post beacuse we’re doing OK, but we’re not having the kind of success that I see in the transparency reports from plugin companies that are killing it. But, I want to offer an honest and realistic vision of what it’s like to be a year out, and well positioned for success.

Speaking Of Imposer Syndrome

I just shared a bit of my self-doubt about sharing business advice. As a developer, it has been at time hard for many to get past “I’m not good enough for this.”

Do you know what? Fuck that. One of the best things about WordPress is it empowers us to try new things and learn as we go. That’s been the best part for me.

There are plenty of WordPress developers that are less skilled than me whose plugins sell better than mine, and plenty of developers who are better than me who I do better than business-wise.

Just make stuff and learn. Your version one is going to embarrass you later no matter what. Just don’t skip out on basic security and think you will fix it later. Sanitize and validate every user input and make sure every action has a nonce and authorization check.

If you don’t know what the last sentence means, start with the WordPress plugin developer’s handbook and Chris Wiegman’s presentation on application security for WordPress developers. If you have questions, its the kind of question advanced developers love to answer. Open a thread in the AdvancedWP Facebook and tag me if you need to.

Choosing The Right Product

caldera-forms-bannerLike the developers we are, we chose to work with the plugins we knew the best. On one hand this makes sense: you have to take advantage of your expertise. That said, Pods isn’t the most popular custom fields and content types plugin and Caldera Forms was virtually unknown when we started.

I don’t think that is a fatal mistake, and I believe very strongly in Caldera Forms. But, it did set us up for an uphill battle that should have been obvious to me, but wasn’t.

It’s hard, as a developer, to get passed what you think is cool and evaluate a project as a business.

More importantly, I’ve realized that I can’t prevent myself from thinking like a developer, and that’s OK. This is why we build teams with diverse sets of skills. When I started Ingot, I didn’t partner with any developers.

So You Want To Make Commercial Plugin?Photo by: Kamesh Vedula

Is It A Good Idea?

So do you want to make a commercial WordPress plugin? I think that is awesome, it’s a fun thing to do. But, if you want it to be a business you need to know if it a good business move?

What’s your timeframe to evaluate success? If it’s a year. Then the answer is almost always a big “NO” It takes a lot of time to grow. Think about it, if you only spend 500 hours coding version one, at $100/hr, that’s $50k in lost productivity. That’s a low estimate.

The point is that’s your investment in just getting the product built. You might think it’s free to build since you don’t have to pay yourself, but you still need to survive while you build it and get started and while you’re working on your product you’re probably not getting paid

You don’t have a website, logo, docs or two t-shirts for WordCamps yet. You or any marketting. You need all that. Seriously two shirts of different colors, that way you can wear a branded shirt both days and not have people think you didn’t change your shirt.

Do you have a plan to offset your lost productivity while you develop the product? How long can that last? Hopefully it’s as long as it takes to get the product to be self-sustaining.

How Are You Going To Support It?

So you released your product and some people started buying it. Congrats. Also, welcome to your new job in tech support!

Support is only one of the many costs that having a product.

When you read all of those transparency reports from successful plugin business you need to ask yourself: How long did it take? What are their expenses? How did they get there?

Can You Scale It?

Photo by: Andrew CoelhoIf all goes well you’ll get a bunch of users in your first year who can tell you what’s wrong with your plugin. Then it gets interesting. No matter how careful you are, at every stage of growth, your going to find new problems.

Technical debt is unavoidable and it is painful to pay back.

Now you need to support your users, fix the bugs, figure out what features to add, which feature requests to ignore. You need to find time to actually add those new features and keep doing whatever you’re doing to pay the bills without losing your mind.

While you’re adding those new features and fixing those bugs, you can’t break the stuff that works. Also, your competitors are going to add shiny new features you want and your users want.

At some point someone will tell you that you have to add a feature that your competitors has or they will use your competitor. If its a feature you want to add and can add, do it, but don’t feel like you have to do everything your competitor does.

It is better to let a customer who you can’t make happy go than to make promises you can’t keep to land the sale.

So, Should You?

So should you do it? If you’re passionate about your idea & 💖 building plugins & 💗 building a business, fuck yah. Have fun!

Just don’t think it’s quick money or fall into the “if you code it, they will come” trap. Price it high & fuck those who say lower the price.

If you’re in and need help with development, my company CalderaWP can help.

Just don’t forget that development is only part of what it takes to be successful. Right now we’re at the “Ok going well, but we need to scale it” stage. I have some theories on how to accelerate my growth, I’ll let you know which ones worked & which ones failed.

One thing I know for certain, you must invest in an awesome team and work hard on making that team work together well.

In fact stay tuned soon for a big announcements soon on how we are changing our team and how we do business in order to take our business to the next level.

But to the original question “So you want to make a commercial WordPress plugin?” I can’t really answer that for you, overall but I 💝 it 🙂

More Data, Less Anxiety

There are a lot of ways my business causes me anxiety. This is an unescapable part of being an entrepreneur.

The biggest inducer of anxiety is decisions with no clear answer. Nothing makes this happen more than when trying to figure out the best way to describe my product.

I have a few different slogans I use for Caldera Forms, and I’ve never been sure what was the best one to use. It’s a source of constant worry for me if I’m using the wrong one, or if it doesn’t matter at all.

One slogan is descriptive, one says it’s different and one says it’s easy.
I’ve spent a lot of time debating over which one is best and I can make a good case for each. Without any data, I can’t know for sure, and honestly it’s been driving me a bit nuts.

Split Testing FTW

ingot-logoSo, the other night I installed Ingot, on CalderaWP.com and started testing the three slogans. I’m using the new “destination test” feature we added in the last version. This allows me to drop a shortcode into my content, where I normally would use the slogan, and track a conversion when a product is added to the cart.

I might find that the slogan has no effect on conversion rate. Honestly, finding out that I was worried about the wrong thing would be just as valuable. Only when I can eliminate one factor can I move on to testing others.

When you’re in business, you spend a ton of time worrying about all the possibilities, and talking to different people about the different options. That’s important.

So is taking a few minutes to set up an automated test to give you hard data to inform your opinion.

A/B Testing In WordPress The Easy Way Just Got More Awesome

 

Problem, Solution, Repeat

Photo by: Stefan KunzeYour business should solve a problem that you have and are passionate about solving. Of course, it’s not a good business unless that problem affects enough people and they are willing to pay for it.

Ingot exists because I knew I need to so A/B testing for CalderaWP and I wasn’t happy with any of the solutions available to me. The tipping point for me was actually an experience with MailChimp’s A/B testing system.

In MailChimp I started setting up a test in one of my campaigns and then I realized I was pretty sure I had done that test last time, but then I needed to confirm that thought, which turned out to be true. Then when it came time to fill out the field I had tested the last time, I had to look up which variant had won.

I got a little annoyed — especially because after all of that, I had to deal with the anxiety that came with the fact that my list wasn’t big enough to create a statistically significant sample.

It was like every reason I didn’t use complicated A/B testing services for CalderaWP’s website. All of which were built for sites with may more traffic than we have.

That’s why Ingot is a thing. I finally have a simple tool to do A/B testing on CalderaWP’s site that is designed to work on lower traffic sites — we get about 6-7 thousand unique visitors a month.

Online marketer Josh is happy not to have time to do analysis on analytics and split test results. There is now a plugin do that automatically.

No one tell online marketer Josh how much time developer Josh spent making that possible:)

 

I Can Do Anything! So What?

chemexFor Christmas this year, my wife got me a Chemex coffee maker. It’s an amazing gift. This simple tool, when used right makes the best coffee I’ve ever made. Getting the ratios, water temperature — she also got me an infrared thermometer — and pour technique correct is tricky. I’m still getting the hang of it, but when I do it right:)   

It’s a new skill to learn. It will take time to get consistency with it. It’s always going to take more time and effort to make coffee with the Chemex then with my FrenchPress. But, I enjoy the end results, and the process is fun. I don’t have a lot of hobbies, making coffee and doing it right is one of them.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about optimization, Josh optimization, coffee making optimization and conversion rate optimization.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a new conversion rate optimization plugin called Ingot. If you don’t know that, don’t worry, I’ll fix that:) By the way, we got a new logo, thanks to Michelle Schulp and a new website thanks to Jason Lemieux.

ingot-logo

It’s A Moonage Daydream

I wrote last week about what I learned as a developer working on Ingot. I wanted this piece to be purely about business. Nothing about development. The first time I tried to write this it turned into something about David Bowie, which is fine. The send time it didn’t work.

That’s awesome failure, because it is leading me to understand that I can not separate the two. I am not a business person and a developer. I am a developer entrepreneur.

Being a developer entrepreneur is awesome because I can code up my own ideas. It’s terrible because I can code up my own ideas.

There was a time, let’s call it the last few years of my life, when I rushed from “great idea” to prototype. I’ve spent a lot of time coding an idea before even considering the business’ unique value proposition, or whether such a thing exists.

I actually don’t think this was a bad thing at first. I used it as a way to learn a lot of things about WordPress, PHP, JavaScript, etc. I once wrote most of the MVP for a productivity app just to learn Firebase and it led to my first experience with Angular.

Whether or not that business idea was any good is sort of irrelevant. Having stumbled through Angular once before I had to learn it for Ingot, was valuable. Getting my head around three way bindings with Firebase plus Angular helped me understand how live-updating applications should work, and what’s wrong with how we try and fake them in most WordPress-based apps and plugins.

Not to say that I’m done learning. But I’ve gotten pretty good at what I do and I’ve created a situation where the things I need to do are sufficiently challenging, that choosing what to do and not to do, can not alone be about trying fun new shit. I’ve programmed myself to assume I can do anything, because with sufficient googling, I probably can.

It Works If You Work It

cropped-image-1441085665.jpgBeing a developer doesn’t exactly mean that you can do whatever you want. It just encourages you to think that anything is possible with the right amount of looking stuff up online and experimentation.

This is what is so exciting and fun about what I do. I get to constantly find new and exciting puzzles to solve.

 

Ingot does two types of testing: content testing, testing any type of change in content and measuring clicks to a destination, and price testing, which tests changes in pricing and measures changes in sales and revenue.

Right now, content testing works, and is in the plugin and price testing is still “coming soon.”

Recently, while waist deep in working on implementing Ingot price testing, I asked one of my Ingot business partners to do some testing on Ingot content testing. He found some issues. I told him I’d get to them when I finished price testing.

Then I heard from a few people about how the UI flow could be improved for content testing. I told them I’d get to it when I finished price testing.

Then I heard from a friend about a new type of content testing we should do. You can guess what I told them…

I knew content testing wasn’t perfect. I put it out there so I could feedback. Ship fast, iterate and repeat is a smart way to work.

But it doesn’t work if you don’t iterate based on feedback. It’s not a magic system. As we alcoholics say, the system works if you work it.

Josh Version 12,146

Josh Pollock at WordCamp US
Photo by Kari Leigh Marucchi — Found Art Photography

Startup entrepreneurship is, by definition — IE according to Paul Graham — about businesses with the potential for exponential growth. But, I’ve always felt that nothing big is worth doing if it doesn’t make me a better person. It’s a constant struggle, but I try.

Startups convert pain points into products that alleviate pain points. If the pain point is sufficiently painful and widespread then the business has potential for exponential growth. That is, if the solution, sales process, customer experience, and customer retention can be sufficiently optimized.

I think a lot about this stuff. I built Ingot because I didn’t have a good way of integrating A/B testing into my sites. The existing solutions underwhelmed me and none of them were powered by WordPress. Having the basis of Ingot in place will empower me to using a data driven approach to improving my businesses in 2016.

There is a ton of cool stuff that I intend to do with Ingot that should be useful to others. That’s awesome. But staying focused on improving what we have so far, and building the right features, not just the fun features. That’s going to be the difference, from a developer stand-point between having a product that could be successful and can not be successful.

Notice that I didn’t say adding the right features would make Ingot successful. I said it would make it possible for it to be successful. 

It’s so tempting to think you just need one more featured and then you’re product will be killing it. If only my plugin could do X, then everyone will want it. This is a kind of magical thinking that my ability to add features, and really enjoy doing so, has led me to.

That’s the lesson I’ve learned about business, by thinking as a developer about Ingot, as a business.

 

Why I “Give Away” Most Of My Business Ideas

It never stops me from giving them away. Why do I do it? A lot of reasons. But the biggest one is that hoarding these ideas — presuming that they are all great ideas, which not all of them actually are — doesn’t do me any good.

If some one does run with one of these ideas, its likely based on a problem I have. That means that at a minimum,  I will be able to use this service I wanted. Maybe whoever creates the product will want me involved, maybe they will not.

While I want to be doing a lot of things, at the stage that I’m at in my career, I have limited time. Right now I have two tests before I consider starting something new — do I have time for it and do I have partners that are passionate about it?

Right now, every idea fails the “do I have time” test, so no new business ideas have any value to me. But, if they have value to someone, who may be passionate about it, then awesome, great for them. I’ll trust that they’ll pay it forward, and if not I’m in the same place I started anyway — no net loss.

Too many people horde their business ideas. I don’t share mine only because I have nothing to loose, and somewhere between nothing and everything to gain by sharing them. I share them because I’m not under the illusion that I can create anything great by myself.

Only by sharing my ideas, bouncing them off of others can I evolve them, or realize that they were not as stellar as they seemed. More importantly, only by talking about my ideas can I potentially find out who is really passionate about making the right ones happen.

Is Your Product Indispensable?

There are two types of products — products that make something easier and products that makes something possible. Keep in mind that “possible” is relative to who you are selling to.

If you don’t know who you are selling to, or what those people can and can’t do, then you are not ready to sell anything. Once you do, imagine the story your users will be telling themselves about your product:

Doing X used to be a pain. Then I purchased product Y. Now X is easier and faster.

If that’s the story that users tell about your product, that’s good. You have a real value proposition for them. That said, it’s nothing compared to this type of story they could tell about your product:

I used to want to do X, but didn’t know how. Then I purchased product Y. Now I can do X.”

You see the difference between these stories your ideal customers can tell themselves? In one you reduced their pain in exchange for money. If the pain is enough relative to the available funds, and how cheap they are, then you have a sale.

In the other story — they wanted to do something, but couldn’t, until your product made it possible. That product is indispensable. It’s not a “nice to have,” it is  a “must have” something your ideal customer can’t live without.

The Secret To Secrets

I love experiencing a great conference speaker in person, but opposed to most people I don’t feel the need to try and somehow absorb the wisdom of every slide with the camera on my phone. During these talks I want to yell the same thing, I want to yell in an art museum, “you can’t capture this experience with a camera! The pictures are better on the internet anyway!”

I don’t, because I’m not a total asshole. Instead, I take two deep cleansing breaths and get back to enjoying the experience of the art or kick-ass presenter.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of seeing Chris Lema present at WordCamp Miami on blogging. This talk was so good, that at one point, without even realizing it, I had my phone in my hand to take a picture of a slide.

You see, in the middle of this talk, he announced that he was going to share his secret for writing consistent and consistently awesome content. He built it up as a big reveal. When he finally switched the slide to his big reveal, which was clever, but not earth shattering, I couldn’t resist grabbing my phone — despite knowing that the picture wouldn’t allow me to absorb Chris’ awesome blogging powers.

I didn’t actually take the picture, because my phone’s camera sucks, and I knew I could download the slides later.  But I should have, as it would have helped set up this story.

People Taking Photographs With Touch Smart Phone During A Music

What he showed off was actually really smart, but his “secret” is not earth shattering or incredibly unique. If you watch the video of the talk, don’t just skip to his big secret secret. Make sure to not only look at his process, but listen to when he talks about the amount of work, discipline and dedication he puts into blogging. Then study what he’s been doing every day for years.

I’m doing pretty good with my blogging and my business right now. But neither are anywhere close to where I want them to be. I want to scale both by at least an order magnitude. IE I want posts on this site to go from hundreds of views to thousands of views, and go from a hundred or so downloads a month on CalderaWP.com to two thousand downloads a month.

For awhile now, I’ve been on a quest for the secret of how to accomplish these goals. I know it’s not like finding a new, shinier sword or magic amulet in a video game.

sword in the stone

I’ve been talking to a lot of people to get their opinions. I’ve organized a mastermind group. I’ve change what I talk about in my articles for Torque so I can explore these projects, and conduct interviews and research on relevant topics.

WordCamp Miami was very well-timed for this quest. The day after Chris’ talk on blogging, he spoke again after Cory Miller, of iThemes and before Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner, OptinMonster, List25 and a whole handful of other successful products. That’s as solid of a three hours you can get for a business owner.

As I heard these three awesome entrepreneurs share their secrets, one after another, I actually got way too many good ideas. More good ideas than I could ever put into practice in my business. So many great ideas, that I will have to choose which ones I try to implement.

That’s the secret to secrets, they are only valuable if you choose the right ones, and put the work in to make them work for you. These people I look up to are successful because they followed through on the “secrets” which were never really secrets that they learned.

Will I get to the place they are one day? I hope, but it’s not going to be because I kept looking for secrets, and found the ultimate secret to instant success. That’s how video games work, but I’m not very good at video games, which I don’t have much time for these days anyway. Not with the amount of time I’m putting into creating my own success, slowly, one day at a time.

Was The #WooMattic Deal About The People?

There has been a lot of speculation and analysis about the WooMattic deal — why it happened, what it means for the future of WordPress.com and the ecosystem as a whole. A lot of people have assumed Automattic bought WooThemes, so they could use WooCommerce to power a WordPress.com eCommerce offering.

That seems like a funny reason to spend what is rumored to be $30 million. If they just wanted to use WooCommerce, they could have just installed the plugin. If that’s why, then no one can ever complain about spending a few hundred or thousand on WooCommerce add-ons.

I think the real value here, besides a new revenue stream, is the people. Automattic is growing rapidly and finding employees who can thrive in a distributed company has to be a constant challenge for them. They just got fifty-some new employees, all of which are used to working remotely.

And yes, a lot of those people are experienced in building a WordPress eCommerce platform. WooCommerce-powered or built from scratch, a hosted eCommerce platform would be a very smart thing for Automattic to branch out into.

In addition,  the leadership of WooCommerce is used to managing and planning a retail product-based business. Automattic is, for the most part, in the software as a service (SAAS) business. While Automattic does sell products, like Akismet and VaultPress to the self-hosted WordPress market, those are still SAAS products.

If Automattic is looking to make a major change, and start selling more products to self-hosted WordPress users, which would make sense, then they just acquired some new talent that is super successful at doing so.

I’m not denying that this acquisition is probably a sign that there are more eCommerce offerings coming from Automattic. But, I really think the move is less about WooCommerce, and more about product-based eCommerce in general.

 

 

Making Change Requires Tough Choices

Changing your life in big ways requires a lot of choices, but that doesn’t make the hardest choices suck any less to make. When making these choices are essential for reaching your goals in the long-run you have to trust that you are doing the right thing.

Last week we released Pods 2.5.2, which is a minor maintenance release for Pods, but it is a significant release for me. It will be the last Pods release that I will be actively involved in.

Starting in June, I will be reducing my responsibilities, and commitments to the Pods Framework project. While I will stay on in a limited role, and probably will always be involved, I am now preparing to step away from direct involvement with the core Pods plugin, as well as most of my day to day responsibilities.

It was not an easy decision to make, as my job at Pods is the best job I ever had. It has taught me more about being a part of an open-source community and being a developer than anything else I have ever done. More importantly it has allowed me to work with some incredible people. I will always be grateful for having been able to work with the Pods team — Scott Kingsley Clark, Phil Lewis and Jim True, as well as all of our awesome volunteer contributors.

I am forever in Scott’s debt for giving me this opportunity and allowing the job to evolve with me. Being a part of Pods, has been an incredibly gift in my life. It made me into a better developer, by a million times, it introduced me to new people, including my business partner at CalderaWP, David Cramer. Being associated with the project helped me get me better freelance business, helped legitimize me in the WordPress community, and helped me find my niche as a developer.

The reason I decided to make WordPress development my business was I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Balancing my commitments to Pods, the freelance work that still pays most of my bills and the two business I set out to start is incredibly difficult.

Earlier this year I launched CalderaWP. It’s been a ton of fun and hard work. The work we’ve done so far is awesome and I see a lot of success in our future.

I did give up on the other business I was looking to start due to a lack of time, and partners as well as a way too ambitious scope for a minimal viable product (MVP) that was riddled with the technical debt. That’s OK, as I have a similar business just starting out, Foundri. Our WordPress and Pods-powered MVP is more reasonable in scope, and I’m jumping into it with tons of experience.

I’m very happy about how things are developing in my life. To reach my goals, I know things need to change. Changing your life in big ways requires a lot of choices. In order to change from being a freelancer who makes time for his entrepreneurial goals, to being an entrepreneur who budgets time for freelance work to pay the bills I’ve had to make a lot of hard choices.

Honestly, these were choices I made, subconsciously before I ever really became aware of them. One of the hardest things that we learn, as humans, is to recognize, consciously, what subconscious decisions that we have already made. Accepting these decisions as valid is, tricky as these completely true gut feelings can easily be confused with laziness or procrastination.

Some were easy to accept, I’ll never agree to make another website or do anything that involves writing CSS. I make developer tools, and create and implement architecture for  WordPress as CMS type sites and apps.

The hardest decision to accept was that it was time to move on from the best job I have ever had: community manager and contributing developer for the Pods Framework. I struggled this for awhile, until I found the clarity to understand that I could never leave Pods.

Putting these two truths together, that I couldn’t keep putting the kind of time, and emotional energy into Pods, but that I couldn’t leave the project left me with an obvious solution. I’m so grateful that Scott, the fearless leader of the Pods project, accepted my proposal that I dramatically scale back my hours, responsibilities and financial compensation starting in June.

Earlier this year, I committed to “get out off the house” more. Part of that was just signing up for some cool things I saw happening in town, that I would normally put off because I was busy or they cost money. One of those was Tallahassee Startup Weekend. As a result, I have an awesome team of people working with me on my new startup, Foundri.

But, for weeks I wasn’t getting started on coding our MVP. I wasn’t making the change, in both mindset and priorities in what I was doing. Having to tell Scott, and the rest of the Pods team that I had to pull back, and knowing that Pods 2.5.2 is the last Pods release I’m going to be involved with sucks.

But, once I told Scott and the rest of the team, and put my other decisions into action, I actually started working on the Foundri MVP. It’s simple, modular, and while not feature complete, it works from the start. I’ve gained the maturity as a developer/ entrepreneur to start small with something I can grow into something bigger.

But, I trust myself that I’m doing the right thing. I got into this — WordPress development, because I wanted to be an entrepreneur and knew that meant I needed to learn to code things myself. What I didn’t expect was that I would fall so in love with programming and with the WordPress community. I didn’t know that I would receive the incredibly gifts that I have received from Pods and the WordPress community.

What I know, more than anything is how lucky I am. To have the opportunities that I do, to do the work I do, and to have my wife and my family.
So I’m leaving the best job I ever have, but I’ll still be a part of the project. And I’m reorganizing my life around my goals. And I’m working on some really incredible plugins, not only at CalderaWP, but some other awesome stuff including Lasso, a beautiful front-end editor, for Aesop Interactive and Epoch, a killer live commenting plugin, for Postmatic and more.

And yes, I’m still doing too many things. One fo the most important things I’ve learned from working at Pods is the value of having a team of people with diverse, yet overlapping talents, that you enjoy working with. Working with others can be frustrating, but nothing great ever gets done alone.

I’m super proud of everything that has been accomplished by the Pods team while I have been a part of it. I look forward to being able to spend my Pods time focused on improving Pods Templates, our REST API add-on plugin, and other important projects. I’m truly lucky that I get to stay involved with this great group of people. Community and success isn’t made out of code, it’s made out of people exchanging their gifts with each other.

The New Work/ Work Balance

I love a lot of things about what I do, but most of all that it’s stupid fun. I’m mid-transition from freelancer to business owner, which has been a fun new adventure. But the side-effect is I don’t get to write as much code, something I love to do.

The  secondary side-effect of this is that I love writing instructional blog posts about WordPress development. As I’ve made clear before, I primarily do so to give myself an excuse to learn something interesting or cement the knowledge of a fun new skill I learned.

So, I haven’t been blogging a lot either recently. That sucks because I love writing  about writing coding almost as much as I love writing code. Also, my blogging has always been about marketing myself.

This is the new challenge, and I’m starting to face it with this tiny little post. And  the code I wrote to add a micro-blog within my blog 🙂 More on that soon…