Podcast Episode

416 – How WordPress Changed My Life (Thank You WordPress!)


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

SpeedMetriks lets you collect that data and save it in your WordPress database so you can get an aggregate view of your visitors’ experiences.

How WordPress Changed My Life (Thank You WordPress!)

After seeing an article on WP Tavern about how WordPress has changed people’s lives, I thought I’d do my own version on the podcast this week.

On the verge of the 8th anniversary of the show

  • Graduated in 2007 with a degree in Electrical Engineering
  • Worked at Whirlpool for 3.5 years, commuting an hour each way to work
  • Took a leap of faith and started my own business to work from home
  • Started the podcast and made friends from all over the world
  • Got involved with the WordCamp community and have spoken at more than a dozen WordCamps
  • Applied to work at Automattic
  • Traveled to some amazing places: San Francisco, Austin TX, Montreal, Park City Utah (twice), Whistler Canada (twice), Belize, Barbados, Berlin Germany, Orlando (twice), Dallas, Fort Worth, Chicago, Philadelphia (all for Podcast Movement)
  • Thousands of interactions with customers
  • Contributing to WooCommerce plugins
  • Interviewed on other podcast shows
  • Created online webinars and other videos to share WordPress knowledge
  • Received hundreds of email messages thanking me for teaching WordPress in an easy to understand manner.

Thank you to Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little for creating a platform that makes it easy for folks to use, fun to troubleshoot, exciting to learn and write code and allowing me to learn something new every day.

I’m thankful that I can work from home and be around my kids growing up, take my daughter to school and love what I do when I’m behind the computer.

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode we are going to talk about how WordPress has changed my life. Right here on Your Website Engineer podcast, episode No. 416.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and today we’re gonna talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart. And, that’s WordPress, and that is how WordPress has changed my life and how things have changed over the last eight years.

And this kind of coincides with the upcoming holiday here in the United States. Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday. And, it is just one of those holidays that you kind of step back, you reflect, and you see how much and what you are thankful for. And so, we’ll get to that in just a little bit. I do have some announcements that I want to share with you and a new plug-in to share.

The first thing is WordPress 5.0 beta 5 is now released. That was posted and released out on November 16, 2018, so just a few days ago. And it has a bunch of stuff that’s been changed. The release date for 5.0 has been pushed back a week to November 27th, so it is going to be after the Black Friday holiday, which is not really a holiday. It’s just a thing that happens here in the United States.

We’ve got Thanksgiving, then we’ve got Black Friday, then we’ve got Small Business Saturday. And then we’ve got Cyber Monday. And so, there’s just a ton of shopping and a ton of online stores and things that need to happen in this week. And so, it’s probably a good idea to push it off until November, and if it doesn’t launch on November 27th, then probably what’s gonna happen is it’s going to be pushed into 2019, earlier parts of 2019.

So that’s something to think about. They’ve changed some things with the block editor of course. They have made sure that PHP 7.3 is supported and they’re continuing to work on the 2019 theme. It’s ready for PrimeTime and you can download it from the GitHub repository. And so, that’s what’s happening with Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0.

As I might have mentioned last week, I’m really excited about 5.0. There are some really cool things that are happening. And I just feel like every time I go back to my non-5.0 version of WordPress, it just feels so slow and so clunky. And so, I’m excited to have the real version, and running Gutenberg on all the things in all of my websites. So that is what I’m excited about.

Another thing that is probably beneficial news that I found this week on WP Tavern, it talks about how the maximum ticket price for WordCamps will increase to $25.00 per day. In the past it’s been a $20.00 maximum per day, but you could always charge less than that. The $20.00 normally includes: the food for the day, the snacks, the coffee, the sessions and spending time there, the swag that’s given out, and just the after-party. And all of the stuff is a lot to try to cover with a budget of $20.00 per day. So, if it’s a two-day camp, most camps are $40.00, but then they will rely heavily on sponsors – from local sponsors and global platinum sponsors. And that will provide the resources for WordCamps on a per individual basis.

So, it has went up to $25.00 per day, so that means a two-day WordCamp could cost $50.00 up from $40.00, and this is all up to the WordCamp lead organizers to decide. And so, this just kind of goes along the lines of inflation. And so, $20.00 in January of 2006 was when that threshold was set, and is now equal to $25.51 in October of 2018. So, it’s just adding an extra $5.00 per day, to kind of cover the cost of inflation since 2006. So, if you want more details, you can read the article over on WP Tavern.

Another article that I want to share is about all of the WordPress – or all of the Automattic themes, free themes on WordPress.org, including Storefront, are going to be ready for Gutenberg support when 5.0 comes out. That’s more than 24 themes, and it is just something that the theme team has been working on over at Automattic. And they are working on making sure that whenever you set up something inside a Gutenberg and whatever you see in Gutenberg, that’s exactly what you get when you publish a website. So, if you are running one of those free themes by Automattic you should have no problems converting over to WordPress 5.0.

The last thing that I want to mention is, and I posted this as an email newsletter on Saturday, I believe, is actually when I finally got around to doing it, is a short video. It’s less than 10 minutes, or right around the 10-minute mark, and it shows exactly how I update my plug-ins. It’s very similar to what we talked about last week of how to keep my site updated and how I update things on a local environment and then I push them to the cloud via a terminal and GitHub, and all that kind of good stuff. So, I did a 10-minute video kind of showing what it looks like to update a plug-in. And obviously it would take shorter amounts of time if I wasn’t talking through every step and doing that. So, I have a video available. There’s a link in the show notes for that.

And I’m also going to create – I’m going to try find the time to create, amongst holiday travels and whatnot, a longer-form video of how you can set this up and get this running on your own site, for your own site in your local environment. So, it’s a little bit – it takes a little bit of set-up and configuration but once it’s done and once all the geeky stuff’s done, you kind of forget about that. And then you can just walk through the motions of updating a plug-in on a local environment and then, pushing those changes to your live server. I love the work flow and I use it every time I have to make an update or a change to a website.

So that’s the video. You can find that in the show notes for episode No. 416.

Then there’s a plug-in that I want to share with you. It’s called Speed Metrix, and this is kind of a cool plug-in. You know there are all kinds of plug-ins out there on the repository. There are more than 55,000 actually. And this is a brand new one. I’ve never seen this before.

It basically pulls in information about the different users and their experiences on their website. So, every website visitor has their own unique device, their own unique network connection, and they’ll experience your site differently. Some will be fast, some will be slow, and it’s hard to know what their experience is really like. And so modern browsers record detailed timing information about the visitor’s experience. And Speed Metrix allows you to collect the data and save it in your WordPress database, so you can kind of look through and you can see how fast a page is loading for customers or people coming to your site – that kind of information.

So, if you’re interested in that, you’re waiting to learn some of this information, you want to try to make your website faster, I recommend checking out Speed Metrix. It’s on the WordPress repository. And as always, there is a link in the show notes for episode No. 416.

Today I want to talk about how WordPress has changed my life. And this is kind of going off a thread that happened by Morten Hendriksen, Rand-Hendriksen, and he is a prolific speaker in the WordPress space and just an overall great guy. And he has done a lot with Gutenberg and just kind of helping to move the technology forward. And he created a post last Friday just about, “What are you thankful for?” And hundreds of people responded on Twitter and talked about how, “I had created an agency,” or “I built a website for a friend and now I have 120 clients,” and all of these different things.

So, I thought, this is a good topic, the week of Thanksgiving. Let’s talk about this just a little bit, and some of the things I’m super thankful for, because WordPress honestly changed my life eight years ago. I guess, yeah something along those lines, eight years ago is when I started this, this whole ordeal of kind of being an online entrepreneur if you will.

I did graduate from college in 2007. I went to the Ohio Northern University and I was a Polar Bear there, graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. And I had, before my senior year was even halfway over, I had secured a full-time job at Whirlpool, Whirlpool Corporation. And I was gonna work in a factory in Marion, Ohio. Marion was about an hour from where we were living, so I had an hour commute each way. I worked in a factory. I helped bring in an assembly line from a closed plant when Whirlpool purchased Maytag the year earlier.

I worked on the assembly line as a supervisor, so I helped kind of run and maintain an assembly line for six months. And then I also was an electronics test engineer, so I got to come up with these different factory diagnostic tests to make sure that all the buttons turned on and all the lights and switches and everything worked on the dryer. Because every dryer got started before it was shipped out to make sure that everything was plugged in correctly and whatnot.

So that was what I was doing back in 2007. I worked there for three and half years making that commute every single day. I mean, honestly, by the time that I was ready to leave, I was so engrossed in – I was more excited about the drive because I love listening to podcasts. And so, I would spend that whole hour listening to podcasts on 2x speed, so I could get twice as many podcasts in. I was just filling my mind with positivity and just other people talking about creating their own business and doing their own thing. I was like, “ok, this is something that I’m gonna try.”

I had discovered WordPress in 2009. It was for a buddy of mine who was interested in building a website. He was running for a local county commissioner position in a county close to where I was living. He was a friend from college and I said, “I could build this.” And he had kind of a template kind of created and I was like, “Let me see if I can do this in WordPress.” I knew nothing about WordPress. It was 100% frustrating. It took me four times as long as it should have for each page. It was just a really frustrating experience.

But I’m like, “I kind of like this.” It was right around the time that WordPress came out with the menus, the dynamically created menus that you could do right from the dashboard, and then that’s what I really liked. That’s what hooked me into WordPress, was the ability to create a menu. And you didn’t have to kind of think through your entire site, and then you could copy and paste HTML pages over and over again and build out your menu and whatnot. When you could dynamically create a menu and it would change everywhere, that’s what sold me. That’s what I got hooked on.

And I want to say that I was at WordPress, it was 2.7-ish I believe is when I started that – 2.7, 2.8 – something along those lines. It was right before 3.0. And so that’s where I got started, and I was like, “you know what” – my wife was moving for, we needed to move for a new job for her – and I was like, “You know what, I’m not driving what would be two hours to a job that I only kind of liked,” and I’m like, “Let me go ahead and try this thing on my own and see what I can do.”

So, I ended up starting my own company. Hartzler Digital Media was launched in December – I guess it was in September-ish of 2010 – and that’s when I started kind of building websites for folks on the side. I was still trying to figure out my area, my niche, like what I would do and who I would work with. Around the same time, I took a course about creating a podcast. And so that’s when Your Website Engineer was created, almost eight years ago, and that was in early December 2010.

And so, I started that and just got friends, or made friends, from people all over the world which was really cool. I have email communications with a lot people just by listening to the show and interacting with, is super fun. And going to WordCamps and whatnot is just really cool to meet people that have listened to the show and have encouraged me to continue creating content. And so, I think that has been one of the big lasting impacts of how WordPress has really changed my life.

Let’s see, what else happened? So, I did that, I worked at Hartzler Digital Media. I had my own business for three and a half years. And this was about the time I learned about Automattic. I was in the WordPress space. I had a podcast for three plus years, and I had really never heard of Automattic or what Automattic was or had no idea. And so, I started kind of researching and figuring out. I was like, “Hey, this sounds like a cool company to work for,” and it would give the benefits of having healthcare and not having to charge people.

Because my big passion is helping people learn and understand WordPress, but I didn’t like charging people. I could answer hundreds of emails a day about how to do this and how to do that, but I never really liked the charging piece. I really didn’t like saying, “Ok, well now you owe me $300 for this fix that took me thirty seconds because I knew exactly what to do.” And so, that was kind of what steered me towards Automattic. I ended up finding the position. I did a trial there and really enjoyed the whole experience, learning about internal workings of Automattic and just helping WordPress.com users get up and running with their WordPress sites.

And so, I applied to work there and then I started almost five years ago. So, there’s almost a five-year anniversary that’s coming up in December as well. And so, this is a great point to kind of reflect and think back through all of the things that have happened and changed because of WordPress.

And so, I’ve traveled to some amazing places. My wife and I have traveled to quite a few different places on our own. But ever since I started working at Automattic, I started trying to write down all the places and here’s what I can remember as places that I’ve traveled because of WordPress: I went to New Hire Orientation in San Francisco; I’ve been to Austin, Texas a couple times for team meet-ups; I’ve been to Montreal for my most recent team meet-up; Park City, Utah twice for the grand meet-up – for my first two years of grand meet-ups; and then for the second two years of grand meet-ups were in Whistler, Canada, so I’ve been there twice; I’ve been to, let’s see, Belize and Barbados. These places were amazing and so much fun to spend with other colleagues, people that I get to work with.

I took my wife to Belize as part of that trip, so she was able to come there. I went to Berlin, Germany for an all-WooCommerce trip once I joined the WooCommerce team. I’ve been to Orlando for the most recent grand meet-up, and there was another conference in Orlando that I went to. I’ve been to the Podcast Movement all five times. And so, it’s been in Dallas a couple times, Fort Worth, Chicago, Philadelphia. Those were all for Podcast Movements.

And then I’ve spoken at dozens of WordCamps around kinda the state region around Ohio. So, I’ve been to WordCamp US – that’s down in Nashville. I’ve spoken at WordCamp Louisville, and then all the ones that are in Ohio and all the ones that are in Michigan. And I’ve been to WordCamp – I guess I forgot on my list. I went to WordCamp Europe which was in Austria, so that’s another place that I’ve made a trip to. And all because of WordPress.

I’ve had thousands of interactions with customers from woocommerce.com. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of emailed questions and just responding, and via email helping people understand and learn WordPress. And so, I’ve contributed to WooCommerce plug-ins – these don’t get notoriety, I guess, like it does contributing to WordPress Core – but helping and figuring out bugs and fixing those.

I have had a couple patches in WordPress Core files, and so my name was in the contributor list for a couple different versions. I also had the ability to create podcasts – online webinars and other videos to share WordPress knowledge. That’s one of my favorite things. I was gung-ho about doing this video last week, and I was like, “How long could this possibly take? It’s gonna be a 10-minute video. I’ll probably record for maybe 15, 20 minutes and then I’ll edit it down. Maybe I’ve got an hour and a half in this whole thing.”

Well I ran into some issues, and there was a – my sequel wasn’t running properly on my computer and it took me forever to debug and troubleshoot while that was going on. Then it was an hour later, but I learned so much. I learned, “ok, I need to remember to do this, I need to do this.”

Building this video just kind of got me fired up, and the passion behind how much I love teaching and how much I love sharing knowledge that I learn every day. And sharing that either on this show or in video form or just helping create a free resource is my way to give back to the WordPress community of how I can teach and share my knowledge with others.

Let’s see, what else? I’ve received hundreds of email messages looking for – and thanking me for teaching WordPress in an easy-to-understand manner. It’s the same with webinars and same with speaking at WordCamps. It’s just really nice to talk to people. And I’ve just made a ton of friends and you guys encourage me all the time to say, “Thanks, this was awesome, I really liked this, this really helped me out, I can’t believe that I didn’t know this before.”

The thousands of views on YouTube videos and what not. I’m just so thankful for just being able to create and share my knowledge. And then it benefits and helps others figure out how to use WordPress more efficiently. It takes some of that frustration out. I can tell that there’s gonna be a ton of videos that need to be created and a ton of content that needs to be talked about when WordPress 5.0 comes out and this new Editor is around.

And so that’s one of my goals, is just continue to give out free high quality information to let you know about how to maintain your website, and to maintain keeping your site safe and secure and online, collecting orders, making money, and allowing you to do what you do without having to hassle or have headaches on the WordPress side.

So, I want to say in closing it’s kind of a heartfelt thank-you for Matt Mullenweg, Mike Little, for creating this platform that makes it easy for folks to use. It’s fun to troubleshoot. I say “fun” in quotes because sometimes it’s just like, pull your hair out, like what’s going on. But I love that. I love spending time just trying to figure out why is this that should be working, not working. There’s got to be a variable, there’s got to be some piece of the puzzle that’s out of line. So that’s one of the things that I love. I thank those guys for that.

And it’s exciting to learn about WordPress, discover new plug-ins, to write code, to make your site do something different. And I thank them for allowing me to learn something new every single day. I don’t think that would’ve happened if I was still working at Whirlpool or working at some other corporate job as an engineer. Sure, I would learn some stuff every day, but I learn dozens of things every single day just by helping others figure out what might be going on, on their site.

So, I’m thankful that I can work from home. I can be around when my kids are growing up. I can take my daughter to school. I’m thankful that I can shift times around and I can work what’s convenient to me. The internet is always online and there are always people around. And so, I’ve got the most flexible job in the world where I can set my schedule and I can work what’s convenient to me. I love what I’m doing when I’m behind the computer. Every day, it’s like, “Ok, how can I make – how can I do this better, how can I make this faster, how can I help this user out, so they don’t struggle anymore? How can I word things?” And so, it makes a lasting impact, and it makes it easier to understand.

Those are some of the things that drive me when it comes to WordPress. And I’m so thankful this holiday season as we get close to Thanksgiving, of just the opportunities that I have to share knowledge of WordPress, how I’ve been given the gift of articulation, I guess. Being able to share this technical knowledge in kind of an easy consume manner, and I think all of my skills just kind of line up to do exactly what I’m doing – teach others how to use WordPress and make the most of their online portfolio, online store, online website.

And so, that’s what I want to share this week. And if you’ve got some time as you are celebrating this holiday season, just spend some time in thanks for what WordPress has done. And let me know. You can comment here in the show notes for the episode for 416, or you can write me an email and just let me know how WordPress has changed your life. I love those types of stories and I’ll definitely read those and share them.

And so, that’s what I want to share. I will send out some stuff as in you’ll probably be hearing this podcast after the fact. But Black Friday through Cyber Monday, any of the plug-ins, any of the things that I really enjoy using, plug-in-wise, or services, I’ll let you know about that, and hopefully include a short video or short testimony about how I use that certain plug-in or service. Just to let you know what types of things are on sale. A lot of times there’s sales that they’ll do a full year subscription for half price, or whatever, so you might want to snag one of those deals. If you’re listening after the Black Friday, hope you had an enjoyable time and you found some killer deals on different things.

That’s what I want to share this week. Next week I’ve got more WordPress-specific things that we’re gonna talk about. And until then, take care, and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.