Hey, everybody. And welcome to WP Review, a show that provides analysis on what’s happening in WordPress and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. I also tell you about helpful tools to build better websites.
This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. My name’s Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to the review.
Welcome. Welcome back. It’s been another busy two weeks. And while there’s lots of news that has been covered, that I’m not going to cover it like Awesome Motive acquiring Search WP. There’s plenty going on this week for me to talk about. Now, later on, you’ll hear two things: You’ll hear about this podcast sponsor GoDaddy Pro, and you’ll also hear an interview with me and the folks over at Big Orange Heart about WordFest.
WordFest is an event online, free, that is happening starting July 23rd. Now, it depends on the time zone. I think the earliest it starts is July 22nd at 8:00 PM, if you’re in the earliest time zone. But they have a nifty chart for all that. And you’ll hear about them later.
First, let’s talk about some of the top stories. First up, ‘WooCommerce Patches a Critical Vulnerability, Sending Forced Security Updates from [wordpress.org]’. Now, I know that there’s been a lot of hubbubs around for security updates and what they mean. The vulnerability was unspecified and critical. Identified on July 13th, that’s less than 48 hours, I think since they patched the vulnerability. And it was according to WPTavern, found by a security researcher through Automatics hacker one security program. So it sounds like it was discovered by some arm of Automatic and patched. So if you are using WooCommerce, then you need to make sure you’re running 5.5.1.
Again, [wordpress.org] is currently pushing out forced automatic updates to vulnerable stores. Again, the story here says it’s a practice that is rarely employed. It’s been employed for the Jetpack Carousel Module within the last couple of months. Maybe rarely in the past, more frequently lately though. And, WooCommerce merchants are encouraged to check that they make sure of the update.
So, a couple of things are happening here. I got the notification as I record this last night. I’m on Nexcess. We’ll talk about Nexcess in a minute, but I’m on Nexcess. And they put out their own patch and are working to get everybody updated.
And first of all, these things happen. This is the importance of having somebody knowledgeable to manage especially your e-commerce website because there could be exploitations. I read that the security announcement indicates that WooCommerce cannot yet confirm this vulnerability has not been exploited. And from the security announcement, our investigation into this vulnerability and whether the data has been compromised is ongoing. We will share more information with site owners on how to investigate the security vulnerability on their site which we will publish on our blog when it’s ready. And they are encouraging anybody who is worried about the possible exploitation, to change their passwords after installing the patch as a precautionary measure.
So, as I said, I’m on Nexcess’ managed WooCommerce hosting. And I saw the notification last night, again, as I record this. And honestly, because I am on good hosting, I wasn’t all that concerned about it from a, “Oh my God. I need to do something right now”, point of view: It turns out I was right in thinking that because Nexcess acted probably more swiftly than I would have anyway. Right. So I did have to patch a client site on a different host. A host that is not going to be mentioned on the show at all. But as far as my site goes, I was not concerned.
And that brings me to the next kind of pseudo-sub-topic here, which is, ‘Is Good Hosting Worth It?’ And I’m going to say unequivocally, yes. I would equate it to insurance. Right. Maybe you’re paying a little extra. And maybe most of the time you don’t think about it. But when something goes wrong, you’re happy you have it. Right. I know. And you know, you’ve heard stories about people losing their apartments or something terrible happening, and then they have a big financial deficit. And in the case of losing an apartment or another place that you rent, renters insurance could prevent that. Right. And renter’s insurance is so, so cheap that it really, you know if you rent and you don’t have renter’s insurance, you should probably stop listening to this right now and get it. So I think that good hosting, managed hosting Are the same way. Yes, you get more resources. Yes, maybe you get a dedicated server so you’re not sharing the hosting with other people. But the managed part of the hosting comes in, especially when something goes wrong. So my host acted swiftly and patched. Basically patched the issue, the vulnerability before I even knew what was before I even knew it happened probably. They found out first and did it. So you know that ’Is Good Hosting Worth It?’ Absolutely. No matter who you go with, you know, I have Nexcess. GoDaddy Pro is the sponsor of this show. They offer hosting, including managed hosting, they call it managed WordPress e-commerce and you’ll hear about them later. But, you know, they offer a bunch of tools and there are lots of other hosts out there that focus on the managed part of hosting. So, definitely don’t cheap out on the hosting.
The other thing I’ll say here is most of us are running digital businesses where we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay for a storefront. The amount of money we would pay for a year’s worth of managed hosting pales in comparison to a monthly rent check for a commercial storefront in most places. So make the investment on the hosting. It’s the best thing that you can do for your website.
Okay. So those are my thoughts for, ’Is Good Hosting Worth It?’ Again, if you need to patch WooCommerce make sure to do that as well.
The next story here is that Nexcess has rolled out via a service they have called WPQuickstart. A membership site with WP QuickStart by Nexcess.
So a few weeks ago, maybe a couple of months ago now on the show, I talked about how all of these acquisitions in the WordPress space we’re likely leading to something. If you pulled at the threads of these acquisitions, you could see certain patterns. Right? WP Engine acquired Flywheel, which was hosting specifically for designers, they acquired StudioPress. And that is, again theme shops, really beautifully designed themes, they acquired Richard Taber as part of this whole thing too. So Rich, a great designer, and developer. So, you know, you could see maybe WP Engine is making a play for designers. GoDaddy Pro, or GoDaddy in general, they’ve made lots of WooCommerce and e-commerce based acquisitions, including that of SkyVerge. So, you know, you could see them in their tools. They’re making the play towards the greater WordPress e-commerce space.
Nexcess over the last several months has made a bunch of acquisitions. They acquired Kadence, a theme. They acquired the Events Calendar. They acquired Restrict Content Pro, and Give WP. So I thought that they were going to focus on membership sites, maybe subscription sites, right? Not necessarily traditional shopping cart-style e-commerce sites, but membership sites where you have subscriptions or you have donors. And now, today, they have rolled out an easy way to launch membership sites with WP QuickStart. So basically you sign up for hosting, you walk through their wizard of sorts, and you configure a membership site using Restrict Content Pro. But, email support is included here. Built-in payment integrations with a bunch of different stuff, multi-level subscription prep packages, and insights into membership subscription payments and business performance. I think that’s really important. So I set all of this up myself and I did it pretty easily in January using Restrict Content Pro as well.
But having this tech stack here to help me walk through this and get the building blocks in place, probably would’ve made it a lot easier. So I just wanted to touch on that because it’s a little bit of a follow-up from a few months ago or a few weeks ago where I talked about what these hosting companies are doing? And it looks like Nexcess has made a move that is congruent with the acquisitions that they’ve made. So I’ll have links to all that and everything we’ve talked about in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]
The last story I want to touch on here is a WPTavern article written by the venerable Justin Tadlock called ‘Contributing To Open Source Is Better Than Any College Degree’. And I thought that this was just an opinion piece of his, which if that’s how he feels based on his personal experience, it seems like it is. But this was actually a quote from Matt Mullenweg in a conversation he had with Josepha Haden Chomphosy, (Josepha, I’m really sorry if I’m mispronouncing your last name. God, Joseph, I’m really sorry) on the open verse project a couple of months ago. And here’s the quote as quoted by the Tavern, ‘Because, of course, you know, contributing and being involved with open sources, probably the best way to learn a technology, better than any college degree.’
Now, lots of people have written their reactions to this on Twitter or their own blogs. I’m going to strongly disagree with that statement on two tenants here. The first is that you can’t make a blanket statement for everybody, especially with the hubris of, “I created WordPress, look at how great it is”, Right. Like I created the…maybe one of the biggest open-source projects in the world. And so of course, I think it’s better than a college degree. But also, I think that lack of formal education hurt WordPress a little bit in the beginning. You know we didn’t have… and this is a blanket statement, I know. But based on some of my observations, I think we could have benefited from more formal training in programming whether it’s a college degree or not. But I learned how to program in college and I learned how to do it the right way. If you look at the WordPress database, for example, there’s no way anybody who knows anything about database design would have designed it the way it’s designed. Throwing everything in an options table or in a metadata table or whatever is not a good database design. It was very narrow in scope. It was just a blog. And now it’s an e-commerce site and now plugins need to either create their own tables or throw everything in this catch-all table.
So, you know, I just, I don’t like…First of all, it’s a little smug, it’s a little bit of a smug statement. And I know people are probably gonna think, well, I mean, you’re talking about how great colleges. You had the opportunity to go to college and actually use your degree, and I get that. But, you know, to say contributing and being involved in open source in this context where you’re the founder of one of the biggest open-source projects on the planet is better than any college degree, you know, I think that’s patently false. I think you could say it gives you more practical experience than most college degrees, I’ll see that point. But you know, I think a lot of people, I think, well, the people in my circle that I saw come across my Twitter feed found this statement disagreeable. And I’m not disagreeing with Justin’s assessment here. Right. Justin’s personal experience obviously resonates with what Matt said. That’s why he wrote the article. And you could say that my personal experience, you know, I feel like contributing to WordPress did more for me than my college degree. But in Joe Casabona’s personal experience, I am way better off. Thanks to both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Media Information Technology and Software Engineering, then I would have been contributing to open source at all. Right. So, you know, I just think, a college degree is…I’m from the same generation as Justin’s, right? Where we were taught you have to go to college. You have to go to college and Matt too. Matt’s only a couple of years older than me. You have to go to college. We found out that you don’t necessarily have to go to college. Right? A lot of programmers I know didn’t study computer science. I think Matt himself studied Pol Sci or something like that. And so, obviously, you don’t need to have a college degree to be good at your job. But everybody learns differently. I guess that’s what I’m saying. That’s a nice way to put it instead of dumping it on mat as that. Maybe that’s not fair. I just, you know, I got a lot of value from my college degree. I think a lot of people could get a lot of value from their college degrees. And I think it’s very easy to dump on college because it’s expensive and maybe most aren’t doing it the right way. I think I got a very good education from the University of Scranton. And then I decided to teach there because of it.
So everybody learns differently. Contributing to open source certainly gives you practical experience writing code, especially on a project as big as WordPress working with a remote team. But college gives you context for your profession that you wouldn’t otherwise have. If you go to a good school where they’re not just saying here’s an if statement, right, if they’re not just teaching you a specific skill or a specific language, you’re learning a lot more than just how to write code.
So there you go. That’s a strong opinion. That’s longer than I wanted to go. But that’s how I feel. All right. Let’s talk about something happier, maybe. Definitely not me talking as much.
I had the pleasure of talking to Dan Maby and Hauwa Abashiya, which I just butchered her introduction in the actual interview. So I’m really sorry again about that. They told me about organizing WordFest, and why it started. This is the second event of the year, which I didn’t realize. So, you know, you’re about to listen to the interview. So, I’ll just go right into that.
But before we get into that, I do need to tell you about this podcast’s sponsor. That’s right. This podcast GoDaddy is the exclusive sponsor of WP Review. So I’d like you to know about GoDaddy Pro. I’ve talked a lot about hosting in this episode already. Well, let me tell you.
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Joe Casabona: All right. I am here for the main segment of WP Review. I am here with Dan Maby, he is the founder/director of Big Orange Heart, and Hauwa Abashiya (I practiced this in the pre-show) who’s a WordFest organizer. We are here talking about WordFest, which as this episode comes out is about a week away. And I just wanted to interview you both. This show’s a media partner. I wanted to interview you both about what it is, how it works, why people should tune in.
So let’s start with this, this is called WordFest Live. It’s brought to you more or less by Big Orange Hearts. Why don’t you tell us first what Big Orange Heart is?
Dan Maby: Sure. Yeah. So, Joe, thank you. Appreciate the chance to come in and chat with you. I am a Big Orange Heart for those that don’t know it is a registered nonprofit. We have a mission to support and promote positive wellbeing and mental health within remote working communities. A big focus for us is around enabling communities to come together and even people to come together, particularly at this time, in particular, we’ve gone through this, you know, this period of separation and, the, you know, the ability to deliver event is something that we’ve worked hard to do to enable people to be that community that we would, that we know we love.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s fantastic. And, you know, I was talking to a friend at a wedding over the weekend and we were both talking about how we were before the pandemic was very, like, we are men, we need to handle our problems. And, we both actually saw it. You know, we both spoke to therapists throughout the pandemic for various reasons. And, you know, it’s, I’m glad to see that there are organizations like Big Orange Heart that are helping people as well as taking the stigma out of it. Right? And no one’s invincible and sometimes you gotta talk to somebody and get the help you need.
Dan Maby: Absolutely. I mean, this particularly. But this experience that we’ve all gone through in relation to the pandemic, it’s an experience that none of us have ever been through before in our lifetimes. So it’s something that’s been unique to each and every single one of us. And yeah. We have very different challenges, very different experiences to, you know, to come through it. So that’s, yeah. The conversation around mental health is something that we really need to normalize. And I appreciate the opportunity to come to talk with you and talk about Big Orange Heart to help, you know, help with that normalization of the conversation.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. And so, this event, WordFest Live, which is happening July 23rd, it’s a 24-hour event. And so it’s no matter where you live in the world, there will be events, talks, and things in your time zone. Tell us a little bit about how WordFest Live came about?
Dan Maby: So, as you know, as I mentioned, our mission around reducing social isolation is a big focus for us. And delivering events is a great way for enabling that. And we’ve, you know, we’ve been delivering in-person events for a very long time prior to the pandemic. Of course, when we got into the situation where we couldn’t deliver those in-person events, we looked to deliver a virtual format and quickly realized that the tools that were available at that time, just simply weren’t fit for purpose in terms of what we were wanting to do. So we actually set about to build out our own solution and we’ve been delivering events through that solution for about 14, 15 months now. We’ve had someone, a regional, wherever. I think we’re at 13 to 14,000 people through that platform, over that period of time. And we sat down the back end of last year. So back end of 2020, board level and said, look, what are we doing? Where are we going for 2021? You know, how do we continue? There’d always been a desire to deliver a lot of larger-scale in-person events through Big Orange Hearts. Of course, it was an opportunity for us, you know, here’s a platform that we’re delivering all our monthly events through.
Let’s take that, let’s scale that up. So we set about having that conversation with a wider group of volunteers. And that’s where the likes of how many of the other volunteers came in and how it’s been a journey. Hasn’t it. Should we say?
Hauwa Abashiya: Yes, but then we always like, are you on these journeys with you? Dan gets an idea and we’re like, “Yeah. That sounds really good. Why don’t we just go ahead with it?”
Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s amazing. And you are the sponsor lead for the event?
Hauwa Abashiya: Yes, I am.
Joe Casabona: And so for context, this is the second event of the year, 2021. I mistakenly thought, you know, it’s been, I mean like pandemic time is like 14 years. Right. So this is the second of the year. And I know that sponsorship is super crucial because these events are actually free for attendees. There is a recommended donation button. I would strongly recommend registering and making that donation cause it’s like 10 bucks for just a wild amount of value.
And so my experience with sponsorships is I am generally better in-person talking to people forming those relationships. What it’s like being the sponsor lead for a global virtual event?
Hauwa Abashiya: Ooh. I think in some ways, it’s the same cause you’re still having to talk to sponsors. Because even when we did like WordCamp London, most of them are not in London, so they still have a bit of engagement. But I think…and you, sometimes think of, because it is a virtual event I don’t have as much to do. But that isn’t true. Because eventually, the event brings its own challenges and these things you have to think about. Okay, you’re going to have a booth. How are we going to set that booth up? Even though it’s virtual, you know, there are things that the sponsor will want to do that they normally would do at an in-person event. And you’re thinking, well, how can I replicate that? Or at least some part of that in a more virtual environment. And also trying to find new sponsors. Cause I think, you know, sponsors are probably, it’s probably different now. But I remember when we first thought is probably getting used to that idea of a virtual event and how will it work. And you know, what benefit can they see for them? And then yeah. What benefit will also be towards the attendees as well? So it’s been an exciting new challenge, but challenges that I enjoy.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s fantastic. And so you mentioned that you’re also the WordCamp London sponsors lead in 2019. Those relationships…
Hauwa Abashiya: Did we have one in 2019?
Dan Maby: I think that’s the last one.
Joe Casabona: I’m cheating a little bit.
Hauwa Abashiya: Yeah we did. No, my time’s…Time is magic for me.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. It’s pandemic time. Yeah. So. I suspect that those relationships helped kind of move over here. You probably had some contacts from WordCamp London that you were able to reach out to for these events.
Hauwa Abashiya: Yeah, we did. But I think at the same time, those people are also understanding what happens at a virtual event. And I think that that is something some sponsors are still trying to get their heads around especially as we’ve now had quite a lot of, you know, virtual events in different lives or different programs have moved online. So it’s that challenge of, well, okay. What else can I give you? So, you know, it’s listening to the sponsors, trying to adapt, and figuring out new things that we can actually provide them that make the experience enjoyable for them. And enjoyable for the people that are gonna be attending.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s fantastic. And, you know, again, as a podcaster who generally is podcast sponsors, I don’t need to worry about the logistics of, you know, these virtual booths which bring us to kind of the last thing I wanted to touch on here, which was, you know, kind of what can attendees expect? Why should they come? Why should they come to the event? What are they going to learn? And it sounds like there’s. And, you know, it’s not just going to be PowerPoint presentations, right. There’s going to be a lot of stuff.
Dan Maby: There is. It’s been interesting where she sets out at the start of this event as a team. One of our mantras was to simplify. We delivered the last event and that was quite a fate to undertake. We delivered 48 sessions over 24 hours. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of challenges in relation to it. But equally, we said, you know, how can we know making it slightly simpler for us as a team? And we set about, and we actually ended up in a situation where we did live in 66 sessions this time. 48 to 66. But it’s, you know, in terms of the content and in terms of what people can expect across the event, it’s really varied. I mean, this is one of the wonderful things I really enjoy about the WordPress community is the diversity and the variety across it. You know, are we talking to hardcore developers.
Are we talking about, they’re talking to marketers. Are we talking to, you know, designers? Are we talking to users? There are so many different skillsets across that spectrum of WordPress, which is why we retook the routes to open up a, you know, an open call for speakers. And, you know, we had a phenomenal response from both events in terms of the number of people that stepped up to deliver sessions.
And I’ve got to say, we had a fantastic lineup last time around. It just feels like it’s been leveled up again this time around. I’m really looking forward to delivering these sessions into the committee.
Joe Casabona: That’s awesome. And I know from my point of view as a speaker last year, one thing I appreciated was, first of all, I got a really nice intro from my… I think it was Robert Jacoby. I’m pretty sure he intro to me. But it was really clean, you know. It was, we had the green room, I was prepped. What’s happening? Got the intro and then we ran the prerecorded talk if I recall correctly. Right. And I was kind of able to live-tweet the points I was making during my talk, and I was able to participate in the chat without having to get distracted.
So, you know, from a speaker standpoint, generally the virtual events I’ve been to, I was either giving the live talk or trying to kind of manage both. So that was the first time I experienced that. The prerecorded thing, whichever.
Dan Maby: Excellent. Again, it did kind of an interesting journey with that. We’ve spoken with many speakers from the last event. I was trying to get some feedback and understanding and we actually opened up the opportunity for speakers to present either recorded or live this time around. I think we’ve got about 25% of speakers have selected to go live this time around. So interesting just to hear that on their experiences from the root side of that.
Joe Casabona: Yeah. I know I don’t do any of my podcasts live because you know, what if? It’s not so much like the, what if I mess up? I mess up a lot in life and I’m just very good at recovering from that. But the internet connection is generally the thing that gives me the, you know, the jitters, I guess.
So, awesome. And so, tell us now. Where can people, again, this episode is out on the…It looks like the 15th if I’m reading my calendar correctly, July 23rd. What time/time zone? I was starting at like, you know, zero/UTC?
Dan Maby: I’m laughing because, how are you…
Hauwa Abashiya: I let Dad has the timezones. Cause, “Ugh timezones. Oh, yeah.” I think we were kicking off with zero, zero UTC this time.
Dan Maby: Yeah. Midnight UTC. So Universal Coordinated Time, which, you know, trying to pick a zone, and we have to pick a time zone, and we have to work from that single time zone in the UTC. Yeah. The idea of 24 hours meant that there was an opportunity throughout that full 24 hour period that people can. No matter what time zone they’re in, can come and participate. But do check out if you’re on [wordpress.live] on the homepage or on the schedule you’ll see that the schedule actually maps to your local time based on your browser. There’s also the UTC time listed. So do check it out. Just be mindful that obviously, you know, we’re starting out, we’re saying the 23rd of July, it may actually be the 22nd of July for you. Just depending on the 24th, the earliest time.
Joe Casabona: There’s also a very nifty journey chart here, right? It starts in Australia at 8:00 PM, July 22nd so, which is a CST time zone. It looks like. Yeah. Time zones are very tricky. I spoke at Word Sess years ago back before Brian Richards took it over. And it was 24 hours. And I took advantage of that fact because it was also our, my wife and mine first dating anniversary.
And I took her to the New York City (I’m from New York so I just call it the city) to see Wicked on Broadway. And I gave the talk at like three in the morning from a New York City hotel room so that I could like get it all in. But I’ll never forget that. So, no matter what your favorite time of day is to consume content, there will be something for you here at WordFest Live. And people can register at [wordfest.live]. Is that right?
Dan Maby: That’s great. Yep. [wordfest.liveforward/register]. As you mentioned, there is an optional $10 donation at that point of registration. You can also join us as a micro sponsor through that registration process if you choose to. So the $250 donation at that point, the micro sponsorship reflects more of the actual cost for tickets for us to deliver such an event. So yeah. If that is something that’s feasible for you, then we’d love to have you on board.
Joe Casabona: Fantastic.
Hauwa Abashiya: And if you also want to get a sponsor, sponsor, we do have a couple of slots available. So check that out. And yeah. We’ll get you set up anytime.
Joe Casabona: Stellar.
Hauwa Abashiya: Yeah.
Joe Casabona: And this is, there are…First of all, this is a, (I just said stellar and then I saw the stellar WP logo) not to like to call out specific sponsors. But yeah. Great opportunity. The sponsorship money. The donations of the micro-donations go to creating this event and to Big Orange Heart. Right. Which is that’s officially a non-profit organization.
Dan Maby: It is. Yes. Yep. Yeah. So all, when you go directly into Big Orange Heart to help us deliver mental health, free mental health and wellbeing support into our community.
Joe Casabona: Awesome. Awesome. Well, it’s a great event and an admirable cause. Thank you both, Hauwa and Dan for joining me today, I appreciate it.
Hauwa Abashiya: Thank you!
Dan Maby: Very welcome. A pleasure to join you. Thank you very much!
Joe Casabona: One more thing before we go, Big Orange Heart WordFest Live is doing live captioning for this 24-hour event. And so they are looking for a few additional sponsors to help fund that. I know how important captioning and transcripts are. My podcast has grown because I’ve had transcripts and it just makes the events more accessible.
So, once again, head over to [wordfest.live]. There is the registration, of course. And then there’s the sponsors’ tab. If you could support making the event accessible to people all over the world no matter how they consume content.
All right. Thanks again to Dan and Hauwa for joining me today.
Now, this brings us right into our recommendation, which is WordFest. You just spent 15 minutes hearing all about it and all the fun things that they have prepared. So check it out. I would strongly recommend it. I’ll be part of the festivities doing community interviews with various folks that are involved in the event. I think it’s going to be a good time. It’s a free event. Again, I would recommend that you do the $10 donation because it goes towards helping people.
And I guess if I’m going to recommend a tool, one that I came across today, I haven’t had to, I haven’t had a lot of time to test it, but I’m always excited about tools like this: InstaWP. It is an instant serverless way to build a WordPress website. So if you want to try a word, if you want to try something with WordPress, check it out. There are a lot of these tools. This one’s relatively new. It’s still in the beta program. But you know, again, if you’re looking for a way to quickly test something, then [instawp.io] is the tool.
All right. That’s it for this episode. We covered a lot of ground today from Is Good Hosting Good? To: Do We Need College Degrees? to a fantastic event. All about remote workers, WordPress, the community, and mental health. What more could you ask for? Well, it’s almost the weekend. So I guess you could ask for a good weekend.
Thanks so much for listening. For all of the show notes, you can head over to [wpreview.io].
Thanks again to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring WP Review. Check them out for free at [go.me/wpreview.io]
And until next time, I’ll see you out there.