Is ProfilePress' Move Indicative of a Bigger .Org Problem?

Episode 16 May 21, 2021 00:37:14
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WP Review
Is ProfilePress' Move Indicative of a Bigger .Org Problem?
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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

It’s a packed episode this week – I blew past my 20 minute limit! ProfilePress has made a lot of waves by pulling a bait and switch…but I have a different question: what can plugin authors do to financially support their free work? Plus, I get to talk to Robert Jacobi, who is the new Director of WordPress at Cloudways, Brian Krogsgard departs from Post Status, and a plugin recommendation!

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Episode Transcript

Welcome to WP Review, a show that looks at WordPress news offers opinions, and brings you new and helpful tools to build better WordPress websites. This episode is brought to you by creator courses. My name is Joe Casabona. And before we get to the review, I do want to tell you a little bit about my online course website, creator courses at [creatorcourses.com]. I am mentioning [creatorcourses.com] in these upcoming episodes because I am getting ready to launch the biggest update to my Gutenberg course since. 5.0 came out. And it’s going to include lots of features, lots of updates, a new site that we’re building out, a new walkthrough of the editor, the updated interface of course. And there will be the option to add-on the full site editing course as well. So there will be a whole course, a whole section on how to use full site editing in WordPress that will get updated a bunch between when 5.8 comes out, and when we see more and more features added to it. So it’s a tall order for myself, that’s why I put an add-on on top of the block editor. So definitely check it out. Head over to [creatorcourses.com] and you can use the code ‘WPREVIEW’ all one word for 20% off any of your purchases. That’s [creatorcourses.com] and use the code ‘WPREVIEW’ for 20% off. Okay. Now, let’s get to the review. So a lot has happened since the last episode, for example, Give WP was acquired by Liquid Web. That’s in a special episode. I’ll link that in the show notes. But there is a special interview in this over at [wpreview.io]. And right before I hit record on this episode, Brian Krogsgard announced that he sold his share of Post Status, the WordPress news community that he created 10 years ago or eight years ago to Cory Miller. So you might recall that he brought in Cory as a partner, I think within the last year if I’m not mistaken. And today, May 21st as I record this, he announced that he sold his shares of the company to Cory Miller. So Cory will be taking over the helm of Post Status. So I want to wish Brian the best. I know that he has a few other things that he’s working on. His Ledger Status is one of them. So he’s gotten pretty big into a cryptocurrency and he’s doing really well there. And, actually, you know, I need to review this post again. I’m not sure if he’s going to continue with e-commerce journey. He actually doesn’t mention that at all in the post. So, perhaps he’ll continue on over there as well. But, Ledger Status is a community, a podcast, ledger cast for blockchain, and cryptocurrency education. And I remember when he started this and I thought it was super interesting. So I just want to wish Brian all the best. Congratulations on first of all creating this fantastic community. I gladly pay $99 a year to be part of that community because the first year I was a part of it basically paid for the next, I don’t know, 20 years maybe. And so I will happily be a part of that community. I’m very excited for Brian about what he’s going to do next. And I’m excited to see the direction that Cory Miller takes Post Status in. Cory is an absolute great guy. One of the nicest people, certainly in the WordPress space, but maybe one of the nicest people I know in general. And he’s very focused. He, of course, built iThemes back in I think it was 2008 that Sold in, I think 2018, to Liquid Web, and he successfully exited that company, and they’re still rocking and rolling. But, you know, Cory is doing a lot of other things coaching and building these communities. I just think that Cory is the perfect predecessor? Nope. Successor. Cory’s the perfect successor to fully take over the helm of Post Status. So, congratulations to everybody involved. I’m excited to see what happens. So that’s the positive stuff. There’s a little bit of, so I had a bunch of stuff in this outline and it just kind of blew up over the last couple of dates. Full site editing, the next challenge. Well, so they’re asking over, I’ll link all of this in the show notes. But full site editing, they need help testing widgets for people who want to do that. The next full site editing challenge is out, which is to build a WordCamp landing page, which is interesting. And the feature freeze for 5.8 as far as I know, I haven’t heard anything different is in just a few days as I record this. And so that’s what I’m going to really start doing the course in earnest. Not that the feature freeze has meant much depending on the release and who’s calling the shots for the release. But it’s the best I can do to make sure the course is out around the same time as 5.8. So I’m really banking on the fact that there are no major interface changes at least. May 25th is the feature freeze for 5.8 that will have Gutenberg 10.9, Ii I’m not, maybe 10.7, if I’m not mistaken. Whatever the latest one that’s out on May 25th. So, I was going to talk about that. But a little bit of WP drama is happening. ProfilePress. I don’t use this plugin. So I’m a total outsider for this, I’ll just say. ProfilePress, which was originally WP User Avatar is making waves in the community, because of, I guess the plugin was acquired by a person and this person then killed their original ProfilePress plugin and, replaced WP User Advertiser Avatar with what is essentially a membership plugin. So it’s called, you know, in the Tavern, you know, Justin Tadlock has the full story over on WP Tavern, which I will link in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. But, you know, he talks about, this is kind of called ProfilePress light because ProfilePress has a premium version and, you know, so that needs to be differentiated. So pre 3.0, the latest version that came out, I’m quoting the story here. “WP User Avatar was a simple plugin for managing how avatars were handled on the site and allowing custom photo uploads on a per user basis. It’s an eight-year-old plugin and people seem to love it. In April 2020, the plugin is taken over by somebody else. And in 3.0, essentially, it is barely recognizable.” According to the Tavern, it’s got a lot more features. It looks like it’s essentially a membership plugin. Or at least a profile management plugin, and it’s getting bombed. People are giving it one-star reviews on the plugin directory, and generally, people aren’t happy. You know, the top comments here on the Tavern, to me it seems like these folks aren’t aware of the community is watching. I deleted the plugin simple straightforward. People are listing, and you know, that it’s been forked and this is really bad. Beat and switch, and things like that. Now, it should come as no surprise to you that I have maybe a different perspective. And this different perspective comes from an interview that Matt Medeiros did with Collins Abonghama, (I’m sorry, Collins if I’m pronouncing your last name incorrectly) He is the ProfilePress Founder, and Matt asked him a few questions about the big change and everything. You know, when he acquired it, they’re a small team of three. He, you know, he’s aware of the feedback that he’s gotten. Now, he says in this interview, “Since the update, I’ve had a flood of emails asking for even more features despite some negative reviews on the WP plugin directory. The vast majority of direct feedback has been very positive” And we’re going to have to take his word on that because we don’t have access to his inbox. But, you know, it’s, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think that the people who are angry are going to leave bad reviews while the people who are happy will email and ask for more features. I think that’s probably a common thing. And again, I haven’t actually looked at the reviews for the plugin. But, you know, maybe if we look at some of these reviews. All right. So the last, like, yeah. Tons over the last, like a couple of days, it’s just all one-star reviews. Don’t update. This is terrible. So, you know, that’s not…The last five-star review was two days and 23 hours ago. And then an hour later is the first. Oh, okay. But actually, that’s a five-star review in the middle of a bunch of one-star reviews, and this is not good podcast content. So I have a few thoughts on this, right? The first is, I mean, it’s bad communication on part of ProfilePress. Just good user experience dictates that big, big changes are bad for the user that you want to do those piecemeal. You don’t want to change an entire interface on a user because now their knowledge of how to use the software goes down to zero. And further this, you know, this is a single serving plugin for a lot of people that did a single job. And it was not good to completely change that. I don’t think. I think if the ProfilePress team wanted a clear path to get users from the free plugin to the paid plugin, there were better ways to do that. I know over on my How I Built It podcast, the Events Calendar team talks about how freemiums has been a really good tool to encourage upgrades and things like that. And they’ve been happy with that. So, yeah. This was a complete bungling on the part of the ProfilePress team From that perspective. You can’t just flip a switch and change software without even communicating and giving a warning. Right. That said, I think that perhaps anyone who gets stuff for free, right? These are people who get free plugins in the WordPress directory. A lot of people in the open-source field in general, I shouldn’t say in the open-source community, right? Cause these are the people who are contributing and giving their time back. But people who get stuff for free are notoriously entitled. And Collins mentioned that in the WP Minute, you know, he says that, you know, reasons he made the change of course. But he says maintaining free plugins is unpaid labor. But surprisingly, very demanding. You get droves of users demanding help. And that’s absolutely true. The people who want things for free or cheap are going to expect the most because they’re cheap and they want to get the most bang for their buck or not buck. And they don’t see the value in hard work. That’s an epidemic, I think in the WordPress user space. But it’s bad for anybody who gets anything for free because they don’t want to spend money. They don’t see the value. But I think this is also indicative of the fact that there’s no clear path for people in the [.org] directory to get from free to paid customers. You know, besides seemingly annoying the users by making changes like this, or flooding the admin notifications by saying like, “Hey, you should totally upgrade.” There’s no clear path for the people who are dedicating their time and their money to put out free plugins and themes to make the ecosystem richer. Right? We saw the banhammer get dropped on Astro because they added affiliate links to some of the copy within the theme. And they broke the rules. I’m not disagreeing with that. But 1 million active installs for a free plugin, that support is not free. They’re putting out a lot of really good stuff in the free plugin or the free theme. And there needs to be a clearer path for monetization. And I mean, this is in part because Matt Mullenweg’s credo seems to be, you know, do things for free for the good of the software. When he was on the Matt Report a few months ago, he said that it would be great to see like free tutorials without like affiliate links done for free, free, free. Making videos is hard. It’s a lot of work. As somebody who has pivoted to being a content creator, it’s unfeasible to do high-quality work completely for free. And it’s easy when you’ve already made your money off of the open-source software. And you’ve got a ton of money. You got more money than, you know, what to do with. But for the people who are grinding, who want to help the, I want to help the community. That’s why I put out this show. That’s why I put out the free content. It shouldn’t be expected that everything should be free. And yes. ProfilePress fumbled hard. They shouldn’t have done it. It was a bait and switch. But I think if there were better tools and a clearer path to monetization for the people putting their time and their effort and their money into putting out these free tools, I think we would see less of this and less of the admin notification spam. So that’s my take on it. Take it or leave it. Let me know what you think. I’m on Twitter. And if you head over to [wpreview.io], you can leave a comment or share the episode. Right? Just let me know. So that’s my take for the week on all of this. Now, for the main segment, I have a very special interview, lots of news, right? Give WP was acquired by Liquid Web, Brian Krogsgard stepped down from Post Status, and Robert Jacobi has taken a position at CloudWays as the director of WordPress. And so I got to interview him after the announcement, and we talked about what exactly that means for him, what that means for CloudWays and WordPress in general. And so here’s an interview I did with Robert. I hope you like it. It takes into a lot of fun stuff. Joe Casabona: All right. I am here with Robert Jacobi. If you saw the news last week, he has joined CloudWays as the director of WordPress. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that today for the main segment of WP Review. Robert, how are you today? Robert Jacobi: Well, I’m doing fantastic. It’s so exciting. Joe Casabona: Awesome. Well, first of all, congratulations on the position. This is great. I’m really glad to see CloudWays bringing you onto the team to manage a lot of their WordPress stuff. Robert Jacobi: Thanks so much. I mean, really, I feel lucky to be part of this amazingly bootstrap company really. I mean, just really crazily successful over the last seven years. Joe Casabona: Yeah. And so, that’s interesting, right? Because I mean, I’ve been in the WordPress space for a long time. CloudWays is a, I think a relatively new name in that space compared to, you know, the WP Engine and anybody else. Pagely was the other one I was kind of thinking. Robert Jacobi: You know, we can say their names. WP Engine, Site Ground, Liquid Web, I mean, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Joe Casabona: Yeah. I blanked on the one I want to say. And I’m like, who am I trying to think of? but CloudWays has been around for a while, but there, is it fair to say they’re relatively new in the WordPress space? Robert Jacobi: I think, you know, concentration on word space, WordPress has been, you know, relatively new. We’ve been very successful in sort of PHP applications, hosting, Magento hosting, and a lot of our customers are WordPress customers. But it’s not necessarily the fact that you know, we’ve been like, oh yeah. We should now [Inaudible 19:55.56] for WordPress as, you know, as much as we, you know, sort of haven’t been in the past. Yeah. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. So before we get into kind of your responsibilities with the company, from what I understand, are you the first director of WordPress? Robert Jacobi: Right. It is a new position that’s really focused on sort of this WordPress business unit. So they’ve kind of reorganized, reconsolidated, understood, you know, the markets where they’re, you know, being where we, CloudWays are being successful at. And WordPress is certainly a tower vertical silo that is getting much, much more attention. Joe Casabona: Awesome. That’s fantastic. And, just to give the listeners a little bit of a background, I think you’re very well suited for the job. Before you joined CloudWays, what was kind of your main gig? Robert Jacobi: Boy, it depends what year you ask. But, you know, I ran an agency based on open source for almost two decades. And at that time we focused on a content management system called Joomla. Heavily involved in the project, was president of the project, and then migrated. And you started the WordPress ecosystem with a company called Perfect Dashboard which was acquired by WP Engine. We work with a lot of hosting providers at that time. And then most recently, really just sort of being an analyst, strategist, and media head around open-source WordPress SAS, and hosting services. And you know, that’s been and will continue to be an ongoing sort of media resource for people. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah. And so you, you have a newsletter, which I always want to call ‘Morning Coffee’. Is that right? Robert Jacobi: Yep. That’s right. Yeah. Joe Casabona: That’s I guess, that’s why I always want to call it that. But, you have the… Robert Jacobi: And wish it always came out in the morning. Joe Casabona: That’s all right. The afternoon coffee is, it gives you a boost for the rest of the day. And I, you know, your newsletter is interesting to me because you generally focus on one story. You have the blurb that takes you to the website. But then on the bottom where you have like the cold-brew right. The stuff that you’ve been writing about for the rest of the week, if that’s, is that accurate? Robert Jacobi: Yeah, That’s right. So on the daily, list that topic of the day. And then I try to pick something else that may have been posted yesterday or the day before some time, you know, it’s cold, but not frozen coffee. So, there’s still relevance to it. Yup. Joe Casabona: Yeah. And, and just somebody who puts out a weekly newsletter where I do more long-form writing there, putting out a daily newsletter is I imagine tough sometimes. But it’s very news-focused. Robert Jacobi: Yes. So it’s meant to be topical, you know, top of mind issues, you know, commenting. Yes, I cheat. I steal from a lot of great resources. You know, if you look at like WP Tavern or Gutenberg at times, and you know, if you really want to deep dive into the content, those are great places to go. I like to look at it as having a different audience and making them aware of these resources. So it’s, you know, I’m not so hyper-focused on WordPress all the time. Though that’s a significant portion of the content, or, you know, again like Gutenberg times where it’s, you know, deep, deep dives into Gutenberg and all the resources, you know. I want WordPress people to know about stuff that’s happening in SAS and hosting and domaining, and then vice versa. People that are, you know, entrenched in hosting SAS and domaining to understand more about what’s going on in open-source and WordPress. Joe Casabona: Yeah. And so that’s actually interesting you mentioned that because one of the stories that you surfaced for me and provided some extra context was around domains and TLDs and a potential price hike that domain owners might see. Robert Jacobi: Oh. It’s happening. It’s not potential. I mean, [.com] is raising prices. And I think the last pricing hike already kicked in or is about. It’s really on the verge of kicking in. If it hasn’t already happened and, you know, over the next three years, Verisign who owns [.com], you know, they’ve planned it out. So if you’re not thinking about it, there will be price hikes. But, big but. first of all, You know, to the end-user, these are price hikes that are going to be less than a cup of coffee in the course of a year. So you’re talking about one to two to three, maybe a $5 increase in what you’re paying for your [.com’s]. So, I don’t, you know, I personally think about it. If you’re running your business around that stuff, that really should not matter. if you can’t afford a cup of coffee, that honestly, a domain name price hike is a much, you know, that’s the least of your problems at that point. And I don’t mean to diminish anything like that, but it’s just the fact that you know, these are not absurd pricing increases, you know. On the other hand, for domain speculators who have a thousand, 2000, end number of domain names, yeah. That’s going to hurt. That’s going to hurt a lot. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. And I mean, you know, and not that this episode is kind of focused around that, but I think you’re right. Like a domain is a critical part of your business. You know, if you had a storefront, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think your rent goes up every couple of years. And… Robert Jacobi: Or they need to sign because it’s been weathered. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Right. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Maybe that’s even a better analogy because it’s not like domain prices go up every year either. Robert Jacobi: Correct. And not in any, like, you know, certainly rent prices go up much higher than just a campaign. Joe Casabona: Right. Exactly. I like that. So all of this to say is that you have your ear to the street in the WordPress space. You know, you broke an acquisition a few weeks ago. I think it was. And it’s totally, it’s a security-related company that’s totally escaping my brain right now. And I don’t have the… Robert Jacobi: It’s a Sectigo acquired Sitelock. Joe Casabona: Sitelock. Yes. Yes. Robert Jacobi: And I know many people know SiteLock and Patchman, you know, as a core, as an adjacent company as part of the Sitelock acquisition. And yeah. I was actually surprised that it did not get as much play in the outside press. It’s a pretty big deal. The Sitelock, you know, is bungled in with hosting packages and, purchased as a separate add-on by, well, certainly saying thousands would be a small number. But, you know, tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of people. So it’s a pretty big deal for Sectigo to acquire SiteLock. And, I’m sure we’ll hear more interesting things from Sectigo and how they look to monetize the integration into their own existing solutions. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And so, you know, all of that to say is I think that this is a really good fit for you. And, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about how your position at CloudWays came about? Did they post something publicly? Did you approach them? Did they approach you, or are they like, we want to do more in the WordPress space. Robert Jacobi: S, a great question. Thanks, Joe. That was a private outreach by the executive team at CloudWays. And we, you know, started some discussions. We talked a lot about vision and mission, kind of how we see things going in WordPress and, you know, not just WordPress hosting, but you know, how do we provide service value, equality, you know, all those wonderful things that are, you know, wordpress.org, mission-critical. How do we, you know, make that happen, you know, around the globe. And the best part is we really saw eye to eye on these things. And, you know, it was Kismet and Karma, you know, any of the keywords there that, you know, it was a perfect connection. Joe Casabona: That’s fantastic. And, you know, when we were talking kind of pre-show you mentioned that this move, and I liked the way you said it here, this move by CloudWays shows that they’re going all-in on WordPress, right? I mean, WordPress is in your title. It’s not the director of open-source outreach or whatever. It’s the director of WordPress. So what falls under your, your purview of responsibilities at CloudWays? Robert Jacobi: Yeah. We like to say that we have sort of three core business units. One focuses on PHP applications. Great. So that covers everything from Laravel to custom SAS’s to whatnot. Then there’s, you know, we have a very solid Magento business unit practice. And this WordPress role involved and now is strictly a business unit of its own as WordPress, you know, CloudWays, WordPress. And you know, everything from strategy partnerships to community, to, you know, a product that, you know, that is underneath that this new WordPress business unit. And, yeah. There’s a lot of work for me to do. Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s great. And so is there like a director of Magento as well? Or is this like a uniquely WordPress? Like, is this unique to what they’re trying to do in the WordPress space? Robert Jacobi: So it’s kind of restructured itself around these three business units. This is sort of the first title around that. Yeah. Joe Casabona: Gotcha. Very cool. Robert Jacobi: Certainly, business owners for Magento, for PHP. But you know, this has really been carved out honestly, because it’s one of the biggest, fastest-growing spaces to be in. Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And so I like that because you know, I’ve met some of the team members. I met Assan for example At WordCamp US. Very nice team. Really great. But what I like about this move is you understand, and are embedded in the WordPress space, in a way that is at least a much more organic way than somebody from the outside coming in and going to WordCamps. I think that’s maybe fair. It’s not a knock on anybody at CloudWays. But I think this is a really good move because you already understand the community. Robert Jacobi: That was certainly part of the equation. You know, that you hit the nail on the head. It’s like, okay, great. We’re getting out there, but we’re not really as integrated or connected, networked with the giant greater ecosystem as we’d like to be. And so this is exactly why the role in a position is created. Joe Casabona: That’s awesome. So, as we kind of wrap up here, what are the first few things on your plate as Director of WordPress at CloudWays? Robert Jacobi: I do have a pretty solid, you know, like quarter by quarter plan. And we’ll just start with just quarter one. Quarter one is just really tightening up our community engagement, you know, making sure we’re having the right conversations, and right doesn’t mean we’re right. Just talking to the right people and, you know, getting feedback. In a lot of cases, understanding, you know, where have we missed opportunities to contribute back to the project, for example, how, you know, how can we get more involved with that, that’s a new much stronger commitment. So you’ll see us much more in like WP CLI, you know, really, you know, backing things like that on the open-source side. And yeah, we want people to know that we’re doing that too. So, you know, it’s just really exciting and just hits like all my personal buttons. And, you know, having a company that’s bootstrap itself, you know, to this position. And being able to be like, yeah. We’re gonna sponsor some developers. They’re going to take care of this on the open-source side. And yeah. We’re going to be, you know, involved with WordCamp Europe and, you know, WordFest and all these other things moving forward. And participating sessions and, you know, I’ll make that [WordPress.org]. Yeah. The first quarter project is really just getting knee-deep and all these things. Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s great. And those are things that, I mean, you, are already doing right. I think you were the emcee for my WordFest talk last year, right? Robert Jacobi: January. Joe Casabona: Oh, gosh. January. Yeah. I mean, pandemic time. It’s like a month as a year. But this is great. Well, Robert, congratulations. Again, if people want to learn more about you and about CloudWays, where can people go? Robert Jacobi: Just go to [cloudways.com]. Yes. You can look me up on LinkedIn, Twitter, search Robert Jacobi. But CloudWays all in, we’re you know, WordPress for the win. Joe Casabona: Thanks again to Robert for joining us this week and telling us a little bit about the position. All the best. Great. Good luck to him in everything that he does. And I’m excited to see what happens with CloudWays. Lots of exciting things happening here in 2021. Now, let’s wrap up the show with a recommendation. I like to recommend a theme, a plugin, or an event at the end of the show. And I just rolled out the redesigned to How I Built It. [howibuilt.it], I’m working out some of the kinks. But one of the things I wanted to do was have different navigation for users who are logged in and users who are logged out. I want to surface some of the membership stuff for my members while promoting the membership for non-members, and logged out people. So, thanks to Chris Lema and a blog post. He wrote I found a plugin called Nav Menu Roles by Kathy Darling. It is a fantastic single-serving plugin that does exactly what you expect it to do. You can create a menu, a single menu, which is what most themes support, or at least a single menu in a single menu area. Right. I would love to see more themes or maybe full site editing support, showing one menu for logged-in users, and another menu for logged-out users. But maybe we don’t need that because we’ve got Nav Menu Roles. So the way Nav Menu Roles works is you go to the menus that you’ve created. You go to the menu item and then you can choose the display mode. You can choose to show it to everyone. You can choose to show it to only logged-in users, or you can choose to show it to only logged-out users. And if you choose to show it to logged-in users only, you can restrict the menu item to a minimum role. So if, for example, you find yourself as the admin, always going to a single spot in your WordPress website, you can have that in the main navigation and restrict it to only administrators. So the way I’ve done this is I have a menu with about 10 items. Some of them are for everyone. But some are for only logged-out users like the encouragement to join the club. And some are for only logged-in users like a direct link to the account where they can get all of their member benefits. So I will link that in the show notes as well. It’s called Nav Menu Roles. It’s available for free In the WordPress plugin directory. So if you have WordPress, you go to plugins, add new, search nav menu roles. That’s three different words, and three separate words I should say. And you can get it installed and working very quickly. A big fan of it. It works perfectly. So, that is it for this episode of WP Review. Episode 16, I think it is. Thank you so much for listening. To get even more WordPress insights, and to subscribe to the show, you can head over to [wpreview.io/subscribe]. You can find all the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Let them know. “Hey, if you want more WordPress news, Joe Casabona is sometimes uniques takes on the WordPress ecosystem. Check it out.” Thanks to creator courses for sponsoring. Until next time. I’m Joe Casabona, and I’ll see you out there.

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