WordCamp Europe 2022 is the first major WordCamp to take place as a live event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Organized by the WordPress community, WordCamps are informal conferences where you’re invited to network, attend workshops and watch talks on everything WordPress-related.

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Episode Transcript

Length: 37:28


Intro: Welcome to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress, eLearning, and online marketing to help WordPress professionals launch their own SaaS.


Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS. A nice friend and old co-host, John Locke with me. Andrew is recovering from a party; I had the sense to go home early. Andrew didn’t have the sense, he continued and consequences, tribe. But I had to get myself prepared for you, tribe, and John, my friend, agreed to be my co-host and backup. So, John, thank you for agreeing to do this with me.


John Locke: Of course.


Jonathan Denwood: Would you like to introduce yourself to the Thursday tribe?


John Locke: For those who don’t know me, I’m John Locke. And I run a small SEO and web agency, Lockedown SEO.


Jonathan Denwood: And John not only runs his own business, but he helps me with a few of my projects. I always rely on John, and so can you, it’s not only that, he really cares about his work. So, what we’re going to be discussing in this episode, is I’m in Europe, folks, I have hit Porto in Portugal. I’m going to quickly discuss with John, what’s it like to have a live WordCamp event, the biggest in Europe, and then we’re just going to have a discussion of where we think WordPress is in the second quarter of 2022. Before we go into the main part of this discussion, we have my main sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments.


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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back and I’d just like to point out that we have some great special offers from our major sponsors. Plus, I have some great recommendations for specific WordPress plugins and services, all utilized by myself or by my quality, all rock-solid. If you want to have a look at these recommendations, all you have to do is go to wp-tonic/recommendations and all the goodies will be there.

So, John, I’m in Porto, it’s been almost three years since the last WordCamp, registration was today and I mingled and it was just nice, they have it in a really wild garden with peacocks surrounding it and they’re making a bit of a noise, John, the peacocks are screaming. What do you reckon about that, John?


John Locke: Oh, sounds great. Where I grew up in far northern California, I had a person up the road from me, who had a peacock farm, a little one. So, yeah, I can relate. It sounds great.


Jonathan Denwood: How do you [No Audio – 04:35] they’re noisy, aren’t they?


John Locke: They can be, yeah, for sure.


Jonathan Denwood: One had a go at me, John, he got a bit iffy with me, started pecking my shoe.


John Locke: Funny.


Jonathan Denwood: There we go. Yes, I didn’t respond, it looked a bit mean and tough actually. So, I think what we do is it really struck me, had people all over Europe, as I said, Porto, it’s my first time to Portugal, my first time to Porto, it seems a great city. The Portuguese seem pretty chilled out; everybody I’ve met here has been friendly and helpful, even though some of my questions have been really dumb. And it’s really great actually, to be at a live WordCamp. In some ways, it’s a bit cliche, but it definitely has been one of the major drivers in the success of WordPress in general, would you agree with that, John?


John Locke: The WordCamp’s, I think it’s one of the major drivers. I think the community has always been a driver. The developers and agencies have recommended to their clients that they use WordPress and even as 6.0 has just launched, it’s still the best CMS going right now. So, yeah, I think it’s a big thing to have the community back together again; WordCamps are getting back to normal. I think that WordCamp US is coming up pretty soon as well. But I think it’s great for the community to be able to see each other face-to-face again.


Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, I think, obviously, I’m doing my own virtual event at the end of September aimed at membership. So, I still think, because to go to a WordCamp, the US one, a lot of people are going to be thinking about it and I haven’t seen my family in the UK, so after the event, I’m going to be flying to London to see my extended family, which I haven’t seen for almost four years now. So, it was a hell of a journey for me to get to Porto, but what also has amazed me, is the number of sponsors and companies that I’ve never heard of, John, that are sponsoring the event.

And obviously, I do a podcast and so you keep your ears. It still amazes me, obviously, a lot of them are European-based WordPress companies, plugins, and other services, but what struck me is just the size of the market, I think we just, in America, even though I originate from Britain, we tend not to understand how global WordPress is. What are your thoughts about that, John?


John Locke: I wholeheartedly agree that I think especially in the US, we kind of tend to focus on just the US-centric companies and our coverage and our attention is mostly on the US things, but there are all sorts of companies in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Australia and everywhere else that are, South America, that are all a part of WordPress and they’re all very important to the ecosystem. And we’re very proud of this 43, 45% of the web or whatever it is, but that’s not just the US, that’s everywhere. So, I think it’s good to get that perspective from time to time and realize that we are part of a larger community and not just a US-based community.


Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, no, I really see it as one of the strengths and one of the sunnier places in the WordPress land at the moment definitely has become over the past five to seven years, a lot more international. It’s the premier plugin. It’s definitely become less US-focused, hasn’t it?


John Locke: Yeah. That is definitely correct. There are very thriving communities in a lot of different places that don’t always show up on the US radar. I think outside of a couple of channels like HeroPress, which highlight developers and users from different parts of the world. We don’t really get to hear about them a lot unless it’s some sort of product acquisition or some breakout product that’s happening. And even then, I think we miss a lot of the communities that are thriving around the world.


Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Because, well, also the actual event, as I said, the first day, it was registration and also if you wanted to contribute, it was a day where they split up into various, but the catering, the basic organization, they have a lot of people attending and the catering was top-notch. That’s also to do with it being based in Portugal. What struck me about it, obviously, is it’s an old country, a bit like England, a bit isolated from the rest of Europe, because of the mountains that separate it from Spain.

It developed through colonization, its major, apart from its African colonies, its major colony was Brazil, in the New World. Apart from the rest of South America, which speaks Spanish, speaks Portuguese, and has close connections with the, I think the term is the mother country, but I might be incorrect. But you can see this in Porto, the buildings, all the money that was sucked out of materials. The export of slaves to Brazil, I think Porto was one of the epicenters of all that trade fascinating, but let’s get back because I’m wandering, but let’s get back to WordPress.

So, we’re in the second quarter, we’re getting over COVID, where do you feel in your own heart and of the Friday show, you’ve been part of it from the beginning really. Where do you think WordPress is in the second quarter of 2022, John?


John Locke: Well, I think that WordPress the project, I think it’s really a kind of a turning point, I have seen a lot of people say that they’re excited about full-site editing, I’ve seen many, many people say that they like the block system, the block editor, that they’re diving into React. I’ve seen a few people say that it’s kind of frustrating that it’s been this long; I’ve seen a few people saying that working on sites for clients is kind of frustrating with this editor.

I think some people are getting discouraged that it’s taken a while to integrate these different features into this product, but I think there’s a sense that’s going around the community of who is this product really for because in my observation, WordPress grew because developers advocated for it. It was developer-friendly, it was extensible through custom development or themes or plugins.

And in 2022, it seems the project itself is going in a direction where it’s about, it’s going toward no code and it seems it’s trying to compete with Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify specifically because those seem to be the biggest competitors for market share. Shopify, being a competitor to WooCommerce and Wix and Squarespace being at the low end, with some of the things, and I’m sure we’ll discuss this tomorrow on the Friday show.

But wordpress.com introducing this $5 plan, and with different things that are going on Jetpack is actually becoming modular again. A lot of the legacy companies are being bought up by WP Engine, and I don’t know if you saw this, but Delicious Brains was just, all their plugins were basically acquired by WP Engine.


Jonathan Denwood: No.


John Locke: Yeah, that just happened.


Jonathan Denwood: I’m going to have to change one of the Thanks, obviously, that’s news to me, because I’ve been in Europe.


John Locke: But basically, it’s a sense of where is this going? But the overall sense that I get is this is the best CMS unless there’s something else that comes along. The people that I’ve seen that are saying that they’re going to move to something else, some of the more developer-centric people are moving towards Thematic. The people who are familiar with Laravel, but it’s still definitely better than a lot of the solutions out there. But I think it really is at a turning point, I think Automattic and the contributors that are out there, they’re doing a great job. I think it’s just a sense of where it’s going from here.


Jonathan Denwood: I’ve really been thinking about this, John. And I just think there’s a river, but there are conflicting tides in the river or in the estuary, and this has caused confusion. Obviously, you have the professional developer, the kind of quasi-graphic designer. You have different elements that are quite sizeable that make up the total WordPress community. You have the agencies and then you have the Y individual, and you have the small business owner or the individual that wants to build something themselves.

And these different audiences and their different requirements have at various times at stages chosen to utilize WordPress, partially because the competition was comparatively poorer than WordPress. And secondly, WordPress the plugin ecosystem and its extendibility and price and just the ecosystem, the massive system of themes and plugins and individuals that could help was extremely attractive to people and I still think the fundamentals are still there, John.

I think the decision that Automattic made, which was made almost four or five years ago, that the real focus was going to be around JavaScript and React, was extremely controversial. Obviously, Laravel and the improvement to PHP have occurred also, and some of the  PHP through modern frameworks like Laravel have been solved. But the reality also was JavaScript and their whole ecosystem populated by UX and modern web development was increasingly turned into JavaScript frameworks in storing data, being more responsive, and being able to build more modern which in some ways is out of the scope of the WordPress.

With the bulk of WordPress websites, they won’t be needing the requirements of a web-based application that we would probably be looking to build through React or Angular or one of the other popular JavaScript libraries. But I think the reason, why they chose to go down that route, was that increasingly WordPress was being siloed. A lot of web developers were looking at WordPress, looking at its PHP base, looking at the technology behind it, and were saying, this is out of date.

This is somewhere we don’t  can be about the skills that we’ll need to learn, where we might be doing some WordPress as a hobby or as a form of income, but we have our main job during the day where we are working in JavaScript; we can’t really utilize the same skills. I think the leadership crazily said WordPress was going to be siloed and that was one of the reasons why, and there were various other technical issues.

So, I’m more understanding of why that choice, but it has made, if you want to become a plugin or do hardcore WordPress work, the skill level and the. One of the strengths of WordPress is that there was definitely a road that many went down, where they started off with CSS and HTML, and then they gradually learned WordPress functions and they learned some PHP and they learned of jQuery. And you could do a lot, but that was also, if you wanted to move further, these skills were very easy to increase where you could build plugins.

There seems to be more of a divorce, more where you’re really going to have to move your skills, these skills I’ve just outlined are still very relevant with client work or certain level work, but if you want to [No Audio – 22:24] up, you literally have to learn a really stiffer mountain to climb. Am I waffling or is there some truth in what I’m saying, John?


John Locke: Yeah. Okay. So, what you’re bringing up is something that I think is important to touch on; when WordPress was primarily a PHP-based CMS like Drupal or Jumla or ExpressionEngine. The one thing that allowed it to grow and allowed people to develop on it and recommend it to clients is there was a lot of documentation around the functions, the hooks and filters, and different things that you would use to develop with it. And in the five years or so, since the Gutenberg project in the block editor has been being built out, there’s not as much documentation about how to do things.

This is a severely lacking need. And this is part of the frustration right now. I don’t know if it’s a lack of resources or a lack of volunteers. I don’t think there are as many people volunteering time for free as there were in the past. But that is a need that needs to be addressed if they want to continue the growth and continue the adoption of the block editing system, is having complete documentation of where, and when people go to solve a problem or figure out how to do things with full-site editing or the block editor or whatever aspect of WordPress 6 is they have to have this documentation shorter, that’s a big part of it.

When you talk about talent, the drawing talent, and that’s another great thing that you bring up is part of the decision, maybe was, if we move this toward JavaScript frameworks like React, then we’ll be able to attract talent because that’s kind of the hot thing, where it’s versus PHP, though it’s reliable, a lot of things are still built on PHP.


Jonathan Denwood: Well, the funny, I think we need to go for our break and we’ll continue this when we come back. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.


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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back, folks, enjoying this discussion with my friend, John. We’re doing a bit of a dive about where is WordPress in the second quarter of 2022. Hopefully, we’re not boring you, I’ve enjoyed the discussion, and hopefully, you have. Before we go into the second part, I just want to remind folks that I do a great newsletter; it’s based on the discussion, the Friday show, which is a round table show. We have a special show coming up tomorrow. I’ll be telling you more about that at the end of this particular show, even though you’ll be listening to it next week.

So, I probably won’t do that because it’s probably about, in general, you want to join us live on the Friday show anyway. I also do a newsletter, which you can get every Monday, and you can sign up for that, I do a personalized editorial and I also comment on one of the major stories that we discuss on the Friday show, you can get that by going to wp-tonic, newsletters, wp-tonic/newsletters. Sorry, I had to break that up; I thought it was time to go for the break. I think it was also because I think for obvious reasons and understandable reasons; the WordPress project found its 19th birthday. I think that was Mike Mullenweg and, is it Martin Little?


John Locke: Mike Little.


Jonathan Denwood: Mike Little, I always get that wrong. I think they did a little piece. And it’s always been developer-driven and I think another reason why it was linked to what I said and what you were saying, is that it’s been very important to those that are the most influential in Automattic and WordPress, that it’s seen [No Audio – 00:28:39] part of the bigger web development community. And I think it’s always been a bit of a silo, because fundamentally, all of these CRMs like Drupal, Joomla, and ExpressionEngine, have always been driven by hooks and filters and PHP functions.

So, the way of developing has always been a bit different, because you had to learn the kind of WordPress way, you a good PHP developer you didn’t have to do that, but it was really obvious if somebody you were taking over a project because it tended not to be utilizing the full power of the platform. But then I think one of the key things is will there be the tools you mentioned at the beginning, and I have to check up on the story, that Delicious Brains has been bought out by WP Engine.

I’m not totally surprised actually, I didn’t hear anything on the grapevine about it, but I think Delicious Brains have been earlier on in the year they made that email, one of the founders, that caused a lot of controversies, didn’t it. And I think they were struggling with the custom fields, weren’t they from earlier and I’m not totally surprised that they sold, in a way. But I think that’s a very key technology and that’s one of them, which is linked to your statement about a lack of documentation using React.

If you look at it, I’m not in any way an active developer, but I like to watch what’s going on, and if you’ve watched any online videos about modern web development, about utilizing React and all of the building tools  very much an object-orientated developability. Where you could do PHP as object orientated as well, tended to be a developer and you didn’t have to utilize object-orientated PHP, it could be more function, more linear-based, more classic methodology, which is easier to learn if you’re doing it, rather than trying to learn the object-orientated framework.

I think one of the key things, John, is are there going to be the tools available and custom fields is one of them, and pods is another; are there going to be a number of tools that  to utilize blocks and develop products where you don’t have to become full, knowledgeable React . If you’re having to do that, you can get many better-paid jobs by being a React developer, there’s a shortage, am I waffling, or is there something to what , John?


John Locke: Yeah. That’s a great question. So, with ACF fields, you can create Gutenberg blocks for the block editor, that’s definitely a thing. There’s a story that Brian Coords, from MasterWP, put out this morning talking about people leaving WordPress, comparing it to people leaving California for states like Texas or Idaho and saying, yeah, there’s going to be a few people leaving, but the community is still pretty strong and the project is still pretty strong.

Blocks are basically, you’re using JSON instead of PHP to create basic, objects. I’m going to spin this a different way and I think the challenge with WordPress as it approaches its second decade, is we see a lot of these early pioneers exit, and by the way, Delicious Brains is not acquired, it’s just their plugins, as far as I can tell.


Jonathan Denwood: Right.


John Locke: But a lot of these early creators that were driving the tools, a lot of them are selling or exiting to hosting companies or larger companies. And I think that the challenge with this phase of WordPress is going to be attracting new talent and attracting the next wave of entrepreneurs and developers and talent and I think that there’s a natural process that’s going on right now, where this is becoming more of a global market and it’s becoming more open to everyone.

Where I think before, a lot of it was the US and Europe-based and Asia, but I think now, it is everywhere and there are thriving communities everywhere that are innovating with this and I think the old plugin system, a lot of people are pivoting to things that are based on the block editor. So, I think we’re going to see more of that in this next phase of WordPress, as far as, product development, as far as, code-based development.


Jonathan Denwood: Well, I want to wrap up the podcast, so you’re okay that we have some bonus content? Because I want to discuss two things in the bonus content, that is full-site editing and also the onboarding experience, because I think these are two crucial areas that need some  and maybe a different direction, but we are just commentators, we have no power. But please join us for this bonus content, you’ll be able to watch the whole interview, it’s the Thursday interview show, tribe.

But I hope my discussion with John, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this, please leave some comments either on iTunes or on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel, if you’re watching this. As I said, you’ll be able to watch the whole interview on the WP-Tonic, YouTube channel, please leave some comments, give us some feedback, that would be great, about what we’ve discussed during this episode. So, John, what is the best way for people to find out more about you, your services, and what you’re.


John Locke: The best place to find me is at lockedownseo.com and also on YouTube, Lockedown SEO.


Jonathan Denwood: And thanks for jumping in today and, as I said, Andrew’s suffering from his activities last night. I had more sense; I was tucked up in bed, folks, with my cocoa in my slippers. We’ll see you next time, Andrew should be back. We have  be a great interview. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.


Outro: Hey, thanks for listening, we really do appreciate it. Why not visit the mastermind Facebook group and also to keep up with the latest news click wp-tonic.com/newsletter. We’ll see you next time.

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