We Discuss The Future of Online Education in a World of ChatGPT & AI

 About David Dashifen Kees

By day,  (they/them) is a mild-mannered software developer working for Georgetown University. By night, they’re essentially the same thing, except asleep. Dash has worked for both public and private universities since 1998. The one and only job they’ve had outside academia lasted a mere eight months before they left the real world and scurried back into the warm embrace of the ivory tower. Most recently, Dash has branched out, earning a master’s in divinity that they’re unsure what to do with. They’re for the Alliance, use two spaces after a period, and you can pry the Oxford comma from their cold, dead hands.




Show’s Main Questions & Topics

#1 -David, WPCampus has recently gone through some major leadership changes what do you see as some major challenges and opportunities that the organization faces in the next 18 months?

#2 – What are a couple of major historical challenges that higher education has faced with online education over the recent years, and in your option, how can they be overcome?

#3 – How is WordPress viewed in the higher education sector, and is it used growing or in semi-decline?

#4- How do you see ChatGPT and AI affecting higher education, particularly how online education with WordPress will be used in the next couple of years?

#5 – If you go back to a time machine at the beginning of your career, what key advice would you give yourself?

#6 – Are there any books, websites, or online recourses that have helped you in your business development that you like to share with the audience?

This Week Show’s Sponsors

Zoho: Zoho.com

Sensei LMS: Sensei LMS

LifterLMS: LifterLMS

LaunchFlows: LaunchFlows

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00.220] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back to the WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress and SaaS. This is episode 760. We’ve got a great guest. I’ve got my great co-host, Kurt, and like I say, we got a great guest. We got David Keys with us from the WP campus. We will discuss the WP campus, higher education, and how WordPress fits in. Is it growing in higher education, or is it declining? What are the new changes in the WP campus? It should be a great interview. So, David, can you give us a quick 20, 20-30-second introduction about yourself?

[00:00:58.810] – David Dashifen Kees

Sure. My full name is David Dashifen Kees Most people do call me Dash, but David or Dash is fine as you prefer. My pronouns are they in them. Since 2019, I have enjoyed working as a full-stack developer for Georgetown University. Although over that time, I’ve crept closer and closer to the back end and further and further from the front end. So I’m not sure my title is as accurate now as it was a few years ago. I’ve been working in higher education since 1998, except for an eight-month gig that I had at a digital agency. Higher Ed, and I have had an entire career already, and I look forward to seeing what the latter half of my working years might look like at schools.


[00:01:50.090] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. I’ve got my great co-host, Kurt. Kurt, would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?


[00:01:56.220] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, certainly. My name is Kurt von Ahnen; we own an agency called Mañana no Mas, focusing primarily on membership and learning websites. And, of course, that’s all about getting things done on time and under budget.


[00:02:08.390] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. And before we go into the main meat and potatoes of this great interview, we get some messages from our major sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks. Are you?


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[00:02:51.980] – Jonathan Denwood

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[00:04:28.670] – Jonathan Denwood

Plus we got a curated list of the best plug ins. If you’re looking to build something on WordPress, which you should be, instead of having to troll the internet and read a load of stuff, we’ve done all the hard work for you. So to get all these great deals and information, go over to WP Tonic Deals, WP Tonic Deals, and you find all the good is there. So let’s go straight into it, David. So obviously there’s been some change. First of all, I’d like you to outline what WP campus is. And also, there’s been some major changes in the leadership of the organization recently. Also, maybe you could go into what you see some of the challenges and also some of the opportunities that WP campus faces in the next year, 18 months.


[00:05:24.620] – David Dashifen Kees

Sure. Wp campus, WordPress campus is a nonprofit organization that focuses on supporting the use of WordPress and the designers, the developers, the system administrators, etc. That support the use of WordPress in higher education. We have, since the mid ’20s, done conferences, both in person and virtual, to try to do what we can to share knowledge and do all of the same activities that you find at any tech conference, but with a really laser focus on higher Ed and how higher Ed use of WordPress might be a little different or come with some other constraints that maybe an agency developing for a business maybe doesn’t see as regularly. You’re not wrong about the leadership changes for the lifetime of the org. Up until this year, it has more or less been run by one individual person, the founder of the org. But she is tired of being a one person show, and the organization reasonably has grown beyond what one person can really handle as effectively. Last year, a group of people, with myself included, undertook the process of writing bylaws documents and setting up all of the necessary bureaucracy and process and systems to transition from what I like to refer to as a benevolent dictatorship into something a little bit more typical for a nonprofit with a board of directors and things of that sort.


[00:07:09.060] – David Dashifen Kees

I had the honor of being nominated to join the board of directors and then was more or less appointed as president. This year was a little bit of a I don’t want to say a loose process, but we were the first board. We are the ones that determine the way forward. So we more or less people volunteered who were on the board for different roles and positions within the board. I said, I’ll be president. Everybody else took a step backwards and then I ended up being the president. So yeah, it’s amazing to think and to see an organization go through as much change as we did over the course of 6 to 12 months and come out the other side with a pretty functional organization. What helped, I think, is that our community is really quite invested in the org and in the mission and in the goals. So they are happy as long… Things are going to move smoothly and I think folks in the org will be happy as long as we continue to do what we promise to do, and that’s support WordPress and higher end. And that’s what we’re here to do.


[00:08:17.480] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. Over to you, Kurt.


[00:08:20.550] – Kurt von Ahnen

Hey, thanks, Jonathan. My question is actually more of almost like a follow up to that is, what is the.


[00:08:27.350] – David Dashifen Kees

Role that.


[00:08:28.320] – Kurt von Ahnen

WordPress has in higher Ed and the applications that you consider as part of this organization?


[00:08:35.920] – David Dashifen Kees

We see a lot of institutions using WordPress because it’s free and it relies largely on free technologies. As I’m sure most of the listeners are aware, higher education is already expensive. As much as the money that higher education institutions are making and bringing in through tuition dollars and things of that sort, there’s still lots and lots of different reasons that the institution is going to look to try to reduce costs where it can. S o something like WordPress and other free php based CMSs are pretty common. WordPress specifically, we find, has a, at least anecdotally, I don’t actually have quantitative numbers on this one, unfortunately, but anecdotally, WordPress seems to be fairly well liked and somewhat easy to use by folks on campuses that are not necessarily going to be dedicating a full-time programmer or developer to managing the website. Universities are likely to have a staff person who gets assigned to work on a website, maybe as an other duties as assigned role, or they’ll have someone like a communications manager or marketer, the person in that role, filling, using the WordPress site to market and communicate with the students and the staff and the faculty and the parents and alumni.


[00:10:11.580] – David Dashifen Kees

We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without some content management system. There’s too many people at a university that are going to be managing the content of that school. Outside of a very small, specifically focused institution, there’s so many departments, so many research centers, so many different ways that people are interfacing and working with the institutional assets and capabilities that without some content management system, the websites would be impossible to maintain. And w ordpress fills the niche that gives us the right cost for the capacity and the scalability to run a whole bunch of websites for a large institution.


[00:11:00.250] – Kurt von Ahnen

Excellent. That transitions into the question I was supposed to ask, and that is, what are a couple of the major historical challenges that higher education has faced with online education over recent years? In your opinion, how do you think that can be overcome?


[00:11:16.190] – David Dashifen Kees

I was a student during the pandemic, getting a master’s degree. I saw both sides of the last few years. I think schools, whether they be primary secondary schools, higher education colleges, community colleges, whatever, I think everybody struggled in education from kindergarten to PhD level work over the last few years with how do we educate people when we maybe can’t as safely gather in large lecture halls or even small classrooms. WordPress, I think, didn’t have a direct impact on online education with respect to the pandemic, only because without some assistive plug ins and things of that sort. You may not have been live streaming to a WordPress site or things of that sort. But I do suspect that utilizing tools like WordPress and just the ability to quickly edit and update websites would have been instrumental in getting the word out as schedules changed, as professors maybe had to take a step back if they themselves became ill, as staffpersons needed to move around from one place to another in order to support roles that needed to be filled. So yeah, all of the same difficulties that were faced by non education sector folks for the last few years also hit us.


[00:12:54.540] – David Dashifen Kees

But I think we’ve learned that it’s not as easy to talk about transfer a classroom into an online setting as it is to transfer, say, a stand up meeting or an all hands or something like that. So yeah, I think that was the biggie. And then there was there’s always the push and pull of online education, which is how do you make the connection with the people you’re in the classroom with? Felt most acutely for the last three years, but even prior to March 2020, the way to try to build the classroom feel, the ability to feel like you can just sit down next to somebody and maybe ask about the homework from last night or see what they’re up to. I suspect that most classrooms, everybody comes in, sits down and immediately looks at their phone anyway. But maybe in a perfect moment, you would turn to your neighbor and say, Hey, how are you doing today? But that possibility of connection is a lot more difficult when everybody logs into the Zoom room and feels like they need to mute upon entry, maybe doesn’t even have their camera on, maybe isn’t even actually fully present because it’s just a lecture and it’s being recorded.


[00:14:18.950] – David Dashifen Kees

So you’re there for the attendance purposes, but you’re actually in another monitor playing a video game or what have you. So the focus and the attention and the capability that a person has in a classroom to look out around the room and get a sense of whether you’ve lost your audience or not, that’s a lot harder online. There’s a lot of interesting challenges that educators have had to overcome related to online learning. The schools that were already doing some distance learning, whether for their continuing education classes or things of that sort, were well positioned, I think, to do a complete transfer to the web since March 2020. And those that weren’t as versed, I think, scrambleed and had a much bigger lift than some other places did.


[00:15:08.000] – Kurt von Ahnen

My son is homeschooled, and I can tell you that his school was a little bit more of a scramble. Nine different platforms to sign into and passwords and parental authorizations, and it got a little messy. But with that, I think I should pass back to Jonathan.


[00:15:24.730] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I just got a comment of what you said, Dave. I think there’s two factors that you really point your day out. I think one factor, which is my own opinion, is that online education, when it comes to higher institutions, has historically been impaired because it’s been seen as a cost saving mythology. And that has had historical consequences about how it’s viewed, the quality of it’s been viewed. And the second point is that I think all distributed companies, all companies that have had rapidly become distributed face problems about how do you maintain culture and a difference. And I don’t think it will ever go back. I just think that you’re going to find hybrid solutions both in higher education and in businesses where you have weekend retreats, micro retreats, different combinations. So that’s my little bit of a reflection of what you’ve said. You’ve touched upon it. So how is WordPress seen really in the higher education? Do you think it’s growing or do you think it’s in semi decline? And the reason why I put this question to you, because I’m wondering how all the changes in WordPress around Guttenberg about full site editing, about the fundamental changes around JavaScript.


[00:17:17.000] – Jonathan Denwood

Is that had a effect on its growth in the higher education sector? Or is it not really affected it at all?


[00:17:27.640] – David Dashifen Kees

Again, I don’t really have quantitative numbers to share, sadly. But my impression is that WordPress has more or less held its own. I don’t get a sense that interest has really increased or decreased simply because I think there are always going to be folks that are looking for a solution that has low cost and high capability. When you’re in that world, you’re looking at pretty much WordPress and Drupal. After then, it just comes down to what is your hosting provider support? What is your…


[00:18:02.860] – David Dashifen Kees



[00:18:04.820] – Jonathan Denwood

You’re getting me hot and bothered now. You’re bringing back some bad memories, David. Using that word Drupble with me. Oh, my God. My blood.


[00:18:16.790] – David Dashifen Kees

Pressure is different.


[00:18:17.680] – Jonathan Denwood

I can feel my heart pumping, David.


[00:18:19.920] – David Dashifen Kees

For Georgetown University, where I work in 2018, 2019, I guess I joined the team in 2019. So it was prior to my joining, the decision was made not only to change hosting providers, but actually to also switch from Drupple to WordPress because they were on a version of Drupple that was old enough that the lift to go from Drupble whatever to the current version in 2019 was going to be heavier actually than converting the entire fleet of hundreds of sites that we manage from Drupple to WordPress. W e jumped right into Guttenberg while it was still in beta too. W e didn’t even really give, at least at Georgetown, we didn’t give our folks the option to stay with classic press or with the classic editor. Just threw them right into the block editor. W e’ve had good luck with it, though. T he places that I’ve seen that have continued to use WordPress over the years have also seemed to be slowly moving in the direction of Guttenberg. The block editor’s power has become, I think, a little bit more evident to people as time goes on. I think this was my sense, personally, when it was starting to come out, when it was in beta, was just, why are we doing this?


[00:19:28.890] – David Dashifen Kees

No one’s asking for this. What’s the point? I’m a complete convert now. I totally get it. This was something that folks who weren’t me saw on the horizon and said, We can make web editing a little bit different and something that feels and looks separate from a Google Doc or from a Word document. That’s actually been really beneficial for our editors. They have a sense, I think, that, okay, this block and then this block and arranging things in that context, I think feels more natural to people that are used to maybe laying out print designs or magazine layouts or things of that sort. Those communicators and those marketers that I mentioned earlier find the block editor really comfortable. Even if as a developer, it’s more complicated to build a block editor block 4, and you’ve got to now know React, at least enough React to build a block. You’ve got to make decisions about static versus dynamic block. Go dynamic. There’s a lot of considerations for the IT staff, I think, that have come up over the last bunch of years between the block editor and now full site editor and block themes. But I think all of those things, when they’re handled well by the IT staff, translate to a really smooth experience for those who are actually editing the site.


[00:20:50.780] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, yes, sorry. What happened?


[00:20:53.690] – David Dashifen Kees

I don’t know. I don’t know. Oh, I know what happened. Sorry, excuse me. I got automatically logged out of my university email, which caused the tab to shift in Chrome, and so I lost track.


[00:21:05.910] – Jonathan Denwood

I apologize. It’s got a vibe of its own. I think that’s a good place. The machine is telling us that we need to go for our mid break. It’s been a fascinating discussion. Please continue listening. We got some great questions for David after we go for our middle break. We will be back in a few moments, folks.


[00:21:29.680] – David Dashifen Kees



[00:21:30.120] – Kurt von Ahnen

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[00:22:39.460] – Jonathan Denwood

We’re coming back. I just want to point out, folks, that if you’re looking for a great partnership, why don’t you look at partnering with WP Tonic, hosting your clients’ websites with us? We’ve got great support packages, so we deal with all the niggly day to day problems that drive you crazy. Don’t they always ask you for support just before you’re going for that trip, that weekend trip or anything else? Well, we can deal with all of that. Plus, we can help you with the technical side of building out large websites. We’re a real partnership at WP Tonic. You can find all this out by going over to WP Tonic partners, where we run the leading podcast. My team and myself have got over 15 years experience in WordPress. We’re true hosting partner. So, David, let’s throw it over to Kirk. I got lost there, Kirk. So let’s throw it over to Kirk there.


[00:23:48.230] – Kurt von Ahnen

I get the AI question, and it’s interesting because it seems so new, but we seem to be talking about it all the time. But on the other hand, you’re almost tired of it because it’s such a dense topic, comes up all the time. But how do you see chat, GPT, and AI affecting the higher education segment, especially in terms of the WordPress thing in the next couple of years? I just jumped into B ard last week and I was like, All right, well, this is better than chat, GPT. It’s just one after another after another. But how’s it affecting you in higher education?


[00:24:24.150] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s only a small question, David. Yeah.


[00:24:27.630] – David Dashifen Kees

I think we have only scratched the surface of the impact that we’re going to see over the course of the coming years as artificial intelligence becomes more readily available and affects us in ways that we probably can’t even think of yet. We all have probably seen the articles about folks that are using chat GPT to write term papers or the bots that are passing the bar examination and things of that sort. We think of these as cute experiments, but how would anybody make that happen in a space that is in a classroom? How could you use chat GPT to cheat on your finals when you’re in a room with a Proctor? We don’t know. But I also know that there are people thinking about augmented reality glasses. S uddenly chat GPT is in your field of vision and maybe not other people’s field of vision. You are using this device in some way to get around even face to face interactions. The biggest thing for WordPress is I’ve already seen folks and I have myself used it to say, chat GPT, how would I write a plug in that does the following? And it gets pretty close.


[00:25:42.680] – David Dashifen Kees

It knows WordPress fairly well because the code is open sourced. So it has a.


[00:25:48.090] – Jonathan Denwood

Huge amount.


[00:25:49.390] – David Dashifen Kees

Of domain knowledge in WordPress that can really get you started. Anytime I’ve asked it that it hasn’t been exactly correct, but it’s been 75 ish, 70 % correct, and that’s enough to get started. If I was really stunned, if I asked chat GPT a question, it might give me a new way of looking at trying to get to a solution. I think that for tasks that are extremely straightforward or that have been repeated frequently online, things like changing the length of the excerpt for a post in WordPress that comes up perennially, and it’s something that you end up doing based on the needs of a given site here and there. Chatgpt probably knows how to do that. I worry for the junior developer position in the near term where folks might say, We don’t really need a junior developer. We’ll just ask our mid level or senior developers to use chat, GPT and get started. Of course, though, that’s a short term fix because eventually your mid level and senior developers are going to retire and now you have no junior developers because all you’ve used is AI. But maybe by the time that happens, AI will be even better and all of us will be out of a job.


[00:27:01.900] – David Dashifen Kees

I’m not that much of an alarmist in general. I do think, though, that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in tech in the same way that we were, say, at the Industrial Revolution or in the 90s with just the Internet being released to the public, smartphones. This is the impact that I think AI is eventually going to have on all of us everywhere. Higher education is going to just be a place where the content generation piece of some of the AI that have been very popular over the last couple of months is going to be felt most keenly. I know of one professor, this is absolutely an anecdote, and it’s a sample size of one. But I know of one professor that actually just didn’t assign term papers this year, just wanted to see, or I guess this semester, just wanted to see what the class that they were teaching felt like without assigning papers because they didn’t want to have to deal with the question, which was, was this chat GPT or was this Susan in the second row? So they just didn’t worry about it.


[00:28:06.430] – Jonathan Denwood

Just to chip in, Dave, I really got such mixed feelings about all this because it’s a rule which is brief, as I’m concerned. But when it comes to education, I really think the possibilities are fantastic. The ability to have somebody, artificial intelligence, really giving you individual, customized training is going to be just fantastic because I think one of the struggles is that we’ve lived through the enormous expansion of information, knowledge being available on your fingertips. A bigger explosion of the variability of knowledge than what we saw with Guttenberg in the 17th century with the printing press. But unfortunately, what we haven’t seen, David, is being able to transfer that knowledge into higher education standards and outcome. We’ve seen a actual disparity between different social economical groups about outcomes. Because I just think it’s really hard if you don’t get the fundamentals, the foundations. It’s like not getting the foundations of a building, correct? You can build anything on top, but it’s not going to be that great. We’ve really struggled to really get people, if they’re struggling, when they get over their face in what I call that knowledge hump, really understanding the subject, which a great teacher can really assist in getting a student that’s at that hump, ready to give up, but they manage to push them forward and overcome that hump.


[00:30:19.600] – Jonathan Denwood

And we’ve just failed in so many aspects to utilize all this knowledge to really help a lot of students get over the hump. But on the other hand, I’ve noticed that a lot of the writing that chat GPT provides is very what I call benign and 101 ish. It’s at best filler, not very good filler, but a lot of websites are filled with articles that are just filler. So it’s a duality there. So I just I’ve been waffling along there, David. So what’s your response to what I’ve just outlined?


[00:31:05.520] – David Dashifen Kees

Yeah, I think you’re right that the current capabilities of chat GPT and other systems for content generation are not poor is a bad judgment because they can get things pretty correct and they can write copy that has some good adjectives and calls to action and whatnot. But it’s not as polished yet as what a skilled journalist or a skilled communicator is going to be able to do. But they’re going to keep getting better.


[00:31:36.740] – Jonathan Denwood

Sorry to interrupt, David, but they might because you already… I think it’s more that somebody actually knows the subject above a certain level. But also you’re seeing a lot of the, like, Reddit, Twitter. You mentioned WordPress being open source, so the data has been available for them to absorb. But you’re finding a lot of these other areas where they’ve been utilizing, like Reddit, they’re already talking about wall in them off, so they won’t have access. Do you think that might affect the actual progress of these systems? A lot of the area is being walled off. That information will only be available for that specific engine, if you understand.


[00:32:32.190] – David Dashifen Kees

Yeah, I think it would because enough data being removed from the pool that an AI bot would have the ability to analyze will reduce the capabilities of the bot. I have no idea if Wikipedia is thinking about doing this or not, but imagine if Wikipedia said, You know what? We’re going to figure out a way to try to make sure that chat bots, at least legitimate chat bots that might listen to the request in the header that says chat bots go away or whatever. Illegitimate chat bots. Illegitimate AI bots are going to have that’s a separate problem. But losing access to the wealth of knowledge and history that exists in Wikipedia would seem like it would have to hamper the learning capabilities of something like chat GPT. You couldn’t ask it about the War of the Roses and get a cogent response if it couldn’t go out and find historical data about what that war was about. I think if things get locked down, as things get locked down, it’s going to impact the capability there. It’ll be interesting to see if that happens if we see money exchanges hands, like a researcher that says to an organization that has a lot of these data, we’ll give you X dollars.


[00:33:59.940] – David Dashifen Kees

Well, the.


[00:34:02.250] – Jonathan Denwood

Reason why I mention is, David, because it really affects universities because universities provide a lot of free courses and information online. So in some way, they will be players in this decision to lock down their own IP content in some ways. Do you think that they’re aware of the value of their own IP, a lot of universities?


[00:34:30.760] – David Dashifen Kees

I think that’s a mixed bag and a mixed question. I think especially because a lot of schools do host class content online, a lot of universities, a lot of higher education systems in general, probably feel like there is still something of real value to matriculating and showing up in the classroom or more recently online to have the school experience, that there’s a social aspect to being a part of the university that a person doesn’t get if they’re just visiting whatever it is. Edu and downloading the course materials. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes when something like chat GPT can farm the content of all of the classes at a given university, especially if there’s historical information that might impact the generation of tests or quizzes in the future. My father tells me stories of the fraternity days back in the 70s where they just had reams of tests in a filing cabinet. So if you were taking whatever 101, you could go down to the filing cabinet and riffle through the old tests and pull out a couple of them and study those as a way to maybe get a jump on your classmates who wouldn’t have access to those.


[00:35:52.440] – David Dashifen Kees

Chatgpt, if it has access to all of them, might actually be difficult then as a professor to say, Well, I have to come up with a whole way of doing new examinations because I can’t rely on my old ones because I know that they’ve been farmed out to the AI. There’s all sorts of things that I think could come up that could change the way that the educators and the administrators have to think about what their content is and how readily available it needs to be. With luck, similar to the robots text file that can tell bots not to index this portion of a site or things like that, will eventually get similar controls that the Honorable Forms of ChatGPT and other AIs will respect. So that wherever it is. Edu can just say, Hey, please stay out of the courses folder. And that may be enough. But I don’t know, there’s always the other bot that scrolls around the internet and just grabs the data and doesn’t always listen to the late requests.


[00:36:58.510] – Jonathan Denwood

No, you’re totally right. So let’s go on to the next question. I’m going to twist this question a little bit. So if you had a time machine and you could go back in your career and give yourself some advice, but I’m going to add a little twist to it, Dave. Also, if you could go back in your time machine, is there somebody that you would love to be able to interview yourself? That would be fun.


[00:37:29.510] – David Dashifen Kees

The first one is a little bit easier. What would I tell myself to do differently? I started working in online programming in 1998, like I said. At that time, JavaScript was awful. T here was a solid 6 to 10 years or so of my career where JavaScript was more or less to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. T hat lingered in my own mind for quite some time. I eventually got over it. But I have the same feelings now about frameworks like React, despite it being a part of WordPress. So I think if I could go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be in the early aughts to be like, No, stop. Pay attention to JavaScript a little bit better. It’s going to become really important over the course of the next 10 and 15 years. And that importance only gets bigger and bigger as tools like React and Vue and back in the day, things like Angular became really great at making the web do just phenomenally cool things that I couldn’t even dream about in 1998. Pay attention to JavaScript, I think, would have been my message to myself back in the day.


[00:38:43.130] – David Dashifen Kees

The ow, who would like to go back and interview? I don’t know. Whoever decided that line ending would be different in Mac and Linux based systems versus Windows, I would love to get those people in a room, lock them up, and force them to come to.


[00:38:58.900] – Jonathan Denwood

A you’re not allowed to change. You’re getting a bit. You’re not allowed to go back and change history. You’re not allowed to go and talk the top of the conversation.


[00:39:09.780] – David Dashifen Kees

All right. Well, I’d love to. That’s one thing I’ve never understood fully. I do think it would be interesting to go back and talk to some folks who were… I guess I wouldn’t have to go back, many of them are probably still with us. I’d love to go back and talk to folks who are working on browsers in the late 90s and into the early aughts that saw the rise of Internet Explorer to just the majority share of all website browsers. Then how they felt when upstart browsers like Firef ox and Opera and eventually even Chrome came on the market. Now we’re back in that same place with Chrome just having this astronomical market share on the browser market. I’d love to pick the brains of the folks who either disrupted that market, the folks that like MoZilla and Opera, and eventually broke down the hegemony that that Internet Explorer had and had constructed. By no means am I trying to compare, say, Chrome to IE, whatever it was in the late 90s.


[00:40:19.630] – Jonathan Denwood

That would be deeply unfair. But I do.


[00:40:25.980] – David Dashifen Kees

Think the monoculture of browsers that is no better than, say, a monocultural farming practice. The innovation is going to help keep the web doing new and interesting things. Luckily, it seems like even the reduced market share of folks like in MoZilla with F ireF ox, it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing them down from innovating. Chrome, even yesterday, was talking about changing up the interface to remove the lock icon in the address bar because people are confusing it with safety as opposed to simply encryption. There is still the innovation going on in browsers and in the way that we access the web. But I think that would be an interesting group of people to go back and talk to to see the contrasts from this moment versus a similar feeling of browser dominance in the late 90s and early aughts. That’s great.


[00:41:24.750] – Jonathan Denwood

Over to you, Kurt.


[00:41:27.540] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, now he’s got me all self conscious, Jonathan, because just yesterday I was troubleshooting a site in Chrome and I needed to open up a new browser. When I clicked on Microsoft Edge and when Edge popped up, I was like, Oh, this isn’t so bad.


[00:41:42.240] – Jonathan Denwood

Then I thought, People saw me.


[00:41:44.380] – David Dashifen Kees

People saw me.


[00:41:45.180] – Kurt von Ahnen



[00:41:45.400] – David Dashifen Kees



[00:41:46.000] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’d be so embarrassed.


[00:41:49.200] – Jonathan Denwood



[00:41:49.580] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, you caught me. I want to ask about books and websites and online resources and stuff that you would recommend to share with people in our audience, especially with being in higher Ed and stuff, you might have a different perspective than some of our other guests. We get a lot of entrepreneurs and stuff, but you might have something different to throw at us.


[00:42:12.020] – David Dashifen Kees

I love LinkedIn learning and I have the privilege at Georgetown of having access to LinkedIn learning through the business. I have no idea if that’s common elsewhere. I suspect smaller scrappier agencies might not have the cash to shell out to just get all of their employees access to a tool like LinkedIn Learning. But that’s great. Just the ability to be like, Hey, I need to learn about this thing. I’m going to go to LinkedIn Learning. So that’s great. I find that super useful. T here’s all sorts of stuff out there to learn about. I honestly think the thing that I’ve found most useful for trying to learn something new or solve a problem that I haven’t encountered recently has actually been small, focused social networks like Slacks and discords. Being able to drop into, to tout WP campus again for a second, to be able to drop into our Slack and just say, Hey, everybody, I’m running into this problem. Has anybody solved something similar? One second. Excuse me. It’s great to be able to access the knowledge of all of those people in one place like that is really quite interesting. It’s not really a book.


[00:43:26.410] – David Dashifen Kees

I guess it’s a human book, human set of knowledge. But that’s been fantastic and really affirming not only when I can get the help, but when I could be the person providing the help.


[00:43:39.670] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, that’s awesome. When you mentioned the decentralized stuff like Slack and Discord, I see a bunch of folks touting Mastodon and stuff now. Just as a follow up question, how do you recommend to others that are new to those types of environments? How do you get them started? Because I remember my first try, it was Slack. I turned it on and I went, I don’t know what I’m doing. I turned it off.


[00:44:04.560] – David Dashifen Kees

It’s strange because each channel in a Slack or a Discord feels almost akin to, for me, like the old AOL chat rooms where you’d have a list of chat rooms in one little dedicated area on the screen. You’d click the topic you wanted to talk about, and that quick you had just access to people. T here’s a whole group of people that didn’t experience that chat room based internet from the 90s that I suspect you hit Slack or Discord and you’re just like, I don’t understand what’s happening here. I think Discord actually does this a little better than Slack, at least in my experience, because you can lock people down to a specific channel that has how do you use this? Where do you go next? There’s a little bit more of an onboarding process that seems some discords have built in recently. I also think that having an obvious channel or location that is for how to use this is handy, whether it’s a space that has pinned articles, but frankly, no one can find pinned articles. Just a space that says, what do I do here? A channel named that or how to use this thing will, I think, help folks when they get into that space.


[00:45:25.430] – David Dashifen Kees

Also, I think as silly as the Discord stickers are when somebody joins your server, you have the option to push a button and you get these animated little characters that pop up and they take up three inches of screen real estate. They’re quite large. That’s good, guys.


[00:45:42.110] – Jonathan Denwood

What animal do you think I would be?


[00:45:45.080] – David Dashifen Kees

Well, you know what? They’re random, so you don’t get to pick your own. What you get is there’s like five or six of them that when you click the button, it just randomly chooses for you, which is a little bit less interesting because it would be interesting to say, I’m going to be a cat or a unicorn or whatever.


[00:46:01.940] – Jonathan Denwood

I think I’ll be a toothless dragon. There you go. I lost my tooth. I’m just happy I’ve got my own tooth still. There you go.


[00:46:14.090] – David Dashifen Kees

I’ll be a.


[00:46:14.640] – Kurt von Ahnen

Rhinoceros because he’s unpredictable.


[00:46:17.520] – David Dashifen Kees

But these stickers create a way that as people join the community, they get a warmer welcome, I think, sometimes than in Slack, where it’s just a little note on the screen that says so and so joined the general channel. T hat makes a person feel a little bit more welcomed, maybe. I’ve seen folks that then just say like, Hey, I’m new here. What am I doing? I think there are I think as these different tools add features, maybe they’ll get even a little bit better at the onboarding process. But you’re not wrong, Kurt. These things, especially if you log in and there’s 15, 20 channels that are immediately available to you and you just the cognitive load of figuring out what you want to listen to and what you want to spend your attention on is that’s not nothing. I think those of us that use these tools regularly forget that someone who’s not used to them is going to be quickly overwhelmed. Yeah, I think.


[00:47:17.140] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. It’s been fantastic talking to you, Dave. Hopefully later on in the year, you might consider coming back. I think it’s been a great discussion. Dave, what’s the best way for people to find more about WP campus? A lso, are you going to be doing a physical meeting this year? M aybe you can give us some info about that.


[00:47:45.870] – David Dashifen Kees

The best thing you can do to learn more about WP campus is go to WP campus. Org. That is our website that also has information on how to join our Slack. So if you are a WordPress user in higher education, feel free to join our Slack and introduce yourself. We have an introductions channel so you can find it and say hello. We are right now preparing for our conference in July. I believe it is July 12th through the 14th, but don’t quote me on that. Check the website, make sure I have the dates correct off the top of my head. It’s on campus at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, here in the United States. The weather in the Deep South in the US in July is going to be hot. It’s going to be sticky, but we got buildings with air conditioning, so hopefully we will be good to go. But yeah, this will be our first in person conference. Well, it’s a hybrid conference. You can attend remotely. I think they were even talking about possibly having a few of the presentations be handled by folks who were remote. But this will be the first time we’ve offered any in person opportunities since before March 2020.


[00:49:08.110] – David Dashifen Kees

Luckily, Tulane, who was supposed to be our 2020 conference location, has been willing to just extend our reservation and our invitation from 2020 to ’21 to ’22, and now finally to ‘ 23 when we will get to go and visit New Orleans and Tulane. I hope.


[00:49:27.170] – Jonathan Denwood

It really goes well because I know it’s been a difficult couple of years dealing with COVID and everything. But I think under your stewardship and your other team members, I can only see great things for WP campus. So, Kurt, and I’m very supportive of it. Cool. Thank you. Kurt, what’s the best way of people finding out more about you and what you’re up to?


[00:49:53.240] – Kurt von Ahnen

Thanks, Jonathan. Linkedin, I say it every week. I’m on LinkedIn all the time, and I’m the only Kurt von Neumann on LinkedIn, which makes me the easiest Kurt von Neumann to find. So we’ll connect there. It’ll say follow, but hit connect. But we’ll do a quick call. We’ll figure out who each other is. And if there’s a way I can add value to you, I’m there to do so. Other than that, anything that’s Mannyana Nomas online is typically me. And if you search me out on Google, you click on any of those links and there I’ll be. Yeah. And if you.


[00:50:21.280] – Jonathan Denwood

Want to support the show, folks, please share the show on your social media networks. That’s the main way new people are going to find out about the show. So mention us on the show, push it to Facebook, Twitter, whatever platform you utilize, the new ones that we’ve been discussing and tell some of your friends about the show. We’d love for new people to join us. We will be back next week. Got some fabulous guests in May. Got some great conversations like what you’ve just listened to with Dave. We will be back soon, folks. Bye. 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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