Is Gutenberg Fixable, or is it a Semi-Doomed Project For 2024?

Join us in exploring the future of the Gutenberg WordPress Project as we delve into whether it is fixable or on a semi-doomed path in 2024. Discover critical insights, expert opinions, and potential solutions that could shape the project’s trajectory. Stay informed and be part of the discussion.

About Jamie Marsland

I’ve built online businesses and held board-level technical and commercial roles at private and publicly listed companies. Before founding Pootlepress, I was Managing Director of Pavilion Publishing Ltd and, before that, Chief Technical Officer of Documedia PLC. My YouTube channel is dedicated to helping people with WordPress and now has over 20,000 subscribers. Visit Also, catch me on Twitter @pootlepress. I’ve built online businesses and held board-level technical and commercial roles at private and publicly listed companies. Before founding Pootlepress, I was Managing Director of Pavilion Publishing Ltd and, before that, Chief Technical Officer of Documedia PLC. My YouTube channel is dedicated to helping people with WordPress and now has over 20,000 subscribers. Visit Also, catch me on Twitter @pootlepress.

This Week Show’s Sponsors

LifterLMS: LifterLMS

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#1—Jamie, can you give the viewers and listeners more background information on how you got involved in web design and WordPress?

#2 – I think you would agree that the Gutenberg project is facing real challenges and needs to progress in 2024. What do you personally see as some of the biggest challenges?

#3—If you were the head of the Gutenberg project, would there be two things you would try to fix immediately that would make the most significant difference to end users?

#4—Do you feel that too often, the fact that WordPress is a semi-open source project is used as an excuse for a lack of focus and effective project leadership and vision?

#5 – How will AI change WordPress and web design in the next 18 months?

#6—If you had your time machine (H. G. Wells) and could travel back to the beginning of your career and business journey, what key piece of advice would you give yourself?

The Show’s Main Transcript And Links

[00:00:00.200] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks. We got a great show here. We got Jamie Marsland from Poodle Press and from his excellent YouTube channel, which I watch a lot of which I find hilarious and very informative. I really appreciate Jamie agreeing to come on the show. It should be an exciting discussion. I’m going to do my countdown, and we’re going to go straight into the podcast part of the show, and we see where we go. So three, two, one. Welcome back to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS. This is episode 905. That’s right, 905. Oh, my godfathers. We’ve got a really great show here, folks. We got Jamie Marzland, the founder of Poodle Press, and his excellent YouTube channel. A great supporter and evangelist for Gutenberg. He’s agreed to come into the lion’s den to face me. It should be a great discussion. I’m sure he’s going to handle me very quickly. He’s much brighter than me. Say, Jamie. I’m pretty confident about this one. Yeah, I’m sure you are. Say, Jamie, would you like to give the audience a quick intro about yourself? A quick 10, 20-second intro.


[00:01:34.440] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah. So after a long corporate career running publishing businesses and software businesses, I started this business about 13 years ago. I think it was Poodle Press. And initially we were just a WordPress training business. So I guess I probably personally trained more people face-to-face on WordPress than anyone else in the world. I’m going to claim that. So I was running two courses a week for about 10 with 20 people a week. And then I also ran courses for the Guardian newspaper, it’s part of their digital masterclass. Also taught at Regents University, and then a lot of private training as well. So it was steep in training to start with. Actually, that’s informed a lot of my awareness of what’s going on in the WordPress ecosystem and how people use WordPress because there’s nothing like standing in front of a room of people and seeing how they use it. So I have years of experience experience of seeing people face to face using WordPress, which actually thinking about it is quite a… It’s been a privilege, really. It’s been fantastic. And then about five or six years ago, we started building, maybe longer actually, we also started building WordPress plugins.


[00:02:45.940] – Jamie Marsland

So now we are a training business with plugins as well, mainly focused around, not originally actually, but focused around Woocomers. So we have a plugin called Storefront Pro, which takes a storefront theme and lets you do extra cool stuff to it. Then, we have a number of block-based plugins like WooBuilder blocks that enable you to customize the product page. Gutenberg Pro adds extra functionality to the core Gutenberg editor, and one called Blockinjector, which is really cool, lets you inject blocks dynamically in any part of your WordPress website, including Woocommerce. So we are now a training and plugin business. And then over the last two and a half years, I’ve been committing big time to YouTube, which is probably where people know me from rather than all the work I’ve done over the last 14 years.


[00:03:32.410] – Jonathan Denwood

But it’s been, you’ve really become an evangelist for Gutenberg. I was going to utilize another word, but I decided evangelist would be the most, and actually, we had a plugin called…


[00:03:44.250] – Jamie Marsland

We have a plugin called Caxton, which was demoed at the launch of Gutenberg in Nashville. I was there in the audience when Matt. I didn’t know he would do it, but Matt Rockenweg showed a little snippet of what our plugin does. So I was all in on Gutenberg in Hamburg before it launched because I could see where things were heading. But we’ll get into some of that stuff as well, probably.


[00:04:05.390] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, sure. I’ve got my great co-host, Kurt, with me. Kurt, would you like to introduce yourself to new listeners and viewers quickly?


[00:04:14.480] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, folks. My name is Kurt von Annen. I own an agency called Manana No Mas. I focus a lot on learning and membership websites in the WordPress space. I also work directly with Jonathan at WP-Tonic and the great folks at Lifter LMS.


[00:04:28.950] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. We’ve got a couple of sponsor messages from our major sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. Before we go into the meat of potatoes of this great show, I want to point out we’ve got some great special offers, plus a curated list of the best WordPress plugins and services. You can find all these goodies for you, the WordPress WordPress professional, by going to Wp-tonic. Com/deals, Wp-tonic. Com/deals, and you’ll find all the free goodies there. What more could you ask for as a WordPress professional? Probably a lot more, but that’s all you’ll get from that bloody page. So there we go. So let’s go straight into it. I think you’ve answered question one in your intro, actually. So let’s go to question two, Jamie. So, would you agree that Gutenberg has excellent potential but that it faces some significant challenges in real progress and is being adopted in 2024? Because I think in all fairness to you, as the evangelist, one of the things I like about your content is that you’re not afraid also to point out there are some problems.


[00:06:05.560] – Jonathan Denwood

So, how would you describe the landscape that Gutenberg finds at the beginning of 2024, Jamie?


[00:06:14.580] – Jamie Marsland

I think it’s a good question. I think it’s important to differentiate between… I think one of the ways to look at Gutenberg, and a helpful way to look at Gutenberg, is… Yeah, thank you for the CSS group. I just did a video a few minutes ago, so it’s getting a good reaction. Is almost to look at it as the separate applications of Gutenberg. There’s a block editor application of Gutenberg. There’s a Tumbler application of Gutenberg, a Drupal application of Gutenberg, and a full site editing or a site editing application of Gutenberg. And I think if you look at where the block editor is, I think that’s mature, and I don’t have any issue with saying that’s a fantastic product. I often hear this when people say, Well, beginners can’t use it. But Trust me, I’ve been in a room and I’ve trained thousands of people on Gutenberg, and I’ve barely ever had anyone… I mean, this is not anecdotal. This is me in front of people, seeing how they use it and complaining about it. If you bring somebody into Gutenberg who has never used WordPress before, they’re a complete beginner.


[00:07:22.790] – Jamie Marsland

They love it if it’s taught in the right way. So I’m really confident about where the block editor, the editing experience is at. Obviously, there’s things you can improve, and we’ll probably dive into some of that stuff. But I think as a product, I think it’s really great and mature and amazing and lets people do really cool stuff. I think if you take Block Themes as an application of Gutenberg. I think that has massive potential, but that has probably the most work to do from where I sit. And I think a lot of that work is the UI. I think architecturally, I think it’s incredibly powerful what’s built So every single block theme, regardless of what block theme you have, lets you customize. It has a theme builder in it, right? Every single one, regardless of which one you use. And the theme developer doesn’t have to build this stuff. Everything I’m about to mention, they don’t have to build this stuff into it. It just comes. So you have global styles. You have a theme builder. You have… Kurt, we were talking off there. You have a commerce builder, where you can customize the product page and the shop page and the My Account page, that stuff is all built into every single block theme out the box.


[00:08:36.550] – Jamie Marsland

And it has the ability to create custom post types. Sorry, not create, but customize custom post types and create new page templates. So every single block theme starts off with this amazing level of functionality that you just don’t get out of the box. If you just built a classic theme and you didn’t build any settings into it, a block theme naturally, just by the nature of the architecture, has this amazing functionality just built in the box. You don’t have to do anything. I could go off and take the 2024 theme and use the Create Block Theme plugin to create my own theme, and I’d have all this amazing functionality which rivals other page builders out of the box. So I think that the architecture is definitely there. There’s obviously things you could do to improve it. But I think the biggest issue for me when I look at block themes is the UI and the difficulties around the UI. And I think some of that complexity is around how you take a block abstraction and a page editing experience and you move that across into a theme building experience. And I think that’s where threading that needle is a really…


[00:09:37.970] – Jamie Marsland

I wouldn’t underestimate how challenging that is to do. But it’s almost like we’ve done the harder It’s the hard architectural stuff has been done with blockbeams, a lot of the plumbing. It’s the UI polishing that needs to happen.


[00:09:51.710] – Kurt von Ahnen

If I could just jump in, because in your introduction, you mentioned something, and then it came up again in that answer, and then And it’s one of the challenges I face in dealing with clients, because I have as an agency, I get clients that are beginners and clients that have used page builders and that whole gamut, right?


[00:10:08.770] – Jamie Marsland



[00:10:10.140] – Kurt von Ahnen

And I’ve been using WordPress since 2004. And so I’ve seen a distinct change along the way, almost phases in the intended use that people are trying to do with WordPress. I think there’s a certain air of dissatisfaction for people that have been in it for a long time because we’re expecting it to have continued to grow at some pace. Then we interviewed Matt Mullenweg and he said, Well, we’re seven years into a 10-year project, and it reset the grid.


[00:10:39.640] – Jonathan Denwood

I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know where that bloody idea came from, but there we go.


[00:10:45.740] – Kurt von Ahnen

How, Jamie, do you see, having trained so many people, how do you see the intended use of it has changed or morphed or the expectation of it has morphed? And then has it kept up with the expectations?


[00:11:01.140] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, I think block themes have an issue at the moment in terms of adoption, which I just spoke about. But if you look at things like cadence and generate blocks and ASTRA, in terms I was looking today, actually, just before this, in terms of those block plugins, Cadence is 400,000 active installs. It’s getting about 10,000 downloads a day. Spectra is 600,000 installs, 8,000 a Generate blocks is 200,000 installs, about 2,000 a day. So these are succeeding. And people are, if you look at the reviews, people are absolutely loving those products, and those are all built on top of Gutenberg. So I’m not sure I’ve answered your question, but I think there is a… I think it’s been to do what they’ve done as in introduce a new editor while WordPress still carries on along its path is not an insignificant project to try and do something like that. And sure, they have There’s definitely been issues, but the potential is incredible, I think. And where we’re at is the stuff that’s planned for this year in particular, I think like pattern overrides, I’m incredibly excited about. The next iteration of block themes. There’s some really cool stuff coming our way.


[00:12:18.580] – Jamie Marsland

And there has been a step change in terms of the leadership. I feel the step change in terms of the leadership and the caliber of the people that are working, not that they weren’t before, but the caliber of the people that are in that team now, like nick Diego and Rich table and Justin Tadlock. So it feels like it’s been a step change in terms of two things. One is the demand for pace of change. I can feel that when I speak to them. And I also feel like the communication has taken a big step change, especially in the last couple of months, actually, in terms of the outreach that that team is doing. So I’m pretty hopeful for where we’re at.


[00:12:56.210] – Jonathan Denwood

I I agree with you a lot with your statement there. I think it’s five years a bit late. I think the situation can be turned around quite rapidly, and I think what you’ve just pointed out, Jamie, is a good sign. It’s just a shame that it’s taken such a considerable amount of time for that situation to fundamentally change. I do also agree Yeah, but sorry to interrupt.


[00:13:32.210] – Jamie Marsland

We’ve had incredible successful companies that have, like I’ve just gone through the stats, that have built incredibly successful products on top of Gutenberg that are having a major success. And if you look at the stats of how many people are using Gutenberg, which I sent you, I think a few months ago, Jonathan. It’s astonishing how many people are using it every day to post and create content. So it definitely feels really slow, but I wouldn’t underestimate how… Well, a couple of things. One, the challenge of the project and also the challenge of an open source project. It’s not like you can just pull it… When you speak to the team in running this stuff, it’s not just like-Can I respond to that? I’m just going to finish my analogy. It’s not like you can pull a lever up here and suddenly something comes out the bottom. And you have this real conflict in an open source project where you have some people saying, We need more direction, we need more direction, you need to tell us what to do. Actually, those same people in the next breath are saying, We need more say, we need more democracy.


[00:14:26.860] – Jamie Marsland

So it’s not an easy It is slightly chaotic by the nature of WordPress, and it always has been, really.


[00:14:35.660] – Jonathan Denwood

My response to that is that I can see where you’re coming from, and I think there’s an element of truth there. I also think it’s a crutch that’s been utilized to cover up a project that’s been mismanaged quite considerably.


[00:14:53.220] – Jamie Marsland

I would say go and get involved in it.


[00:14:55.640] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m not prepared to, because I’m not prepared to spend-I’m not saying to you, you don’t have a say unless you get involved in it.


[00:15:06.770] – Jamie Marsland

I’m saying, go and get involved in it and see how it’s run.


[00:15:09.880] – Jonathan Denwood

I don’t need to. I’ve observed the way it’s run, and I have not been impressed until recently because of the quality of people that have now taken over to some extent, and they have the credos and leadership ability. In my opinion, until recently, it’s been a dog’s breath of a project.


[00:15:34.810] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, but what I’m saying is you can’t say that stuff unless you know the detail of how it’s run.


[00:15:41.700] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I do, Jamie. I just disagree with your synopsis.


[00:15:44.530] – Jamie Marsland

You’re disagreeing on something you don’t have any knowledge of.


[00:15:48.090] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, we have to agree to disagree on it, Jamie.


[00:15:50.870] – Jamie Marsland

Well, all I’m saying is if you criticize the project and then you’re saying you’re not prepared to go and find out about how the project is run, I think that’s an issue.


[00:15:58.380] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I do know how it’s been run. I just don’t agree to be actively involved in it. That’s why we’re agreeing to disagree, because I don’t agree with the framing that you’re putting around by position, Jamie.


[00:16:12.700] – Jamie Marsland



[00:16:13.630] – Jonathan Denwood

Which is Fair enough. But I think it has enormous potential. I do also agree with you with the UX design element, but I link that to the actual poor project management and the poor leadership of the project. Sorry to interrupt, but what are you basing on? No, we’re going to have… I’m totally up for it, Jamie.


[00:16:41.370] – Jamie Marsland

It’s an easy comment to say, but what are you basing that on?


[00:16:45.010] – Jonathan Denwood

With the statistics in your own, the poor uptake in block themes, you just pointed out Kaden, which isn’t a full-site editor.


[00:16:57.480] – Jamie Marsland

Sorry to be a pedding, but what I’m saying is you can look at the stats, but what I’m saying is why are you drawing the conclusion? I mean, you may be right, but I’m just saying, unless you know the detail of how it’s project managed, it feels like a bit of an erroneous comment to make.


[00:17:11.010] – Jonathan Denwood

Because of the output, and we’re six years into-Sorry, please. No, it’s good.


[00:17:17.790] – Jamie Marsland

But you can have the best project management in the world and you can still have poor output. What I’m saying, it’s an easy and slightly lazy comment to make that you’re going to say the project management terrible when you’re not actually knowing the detail of how-So you link quality project management.


[00:17:37.170] – Jonathan Denwood

You don’t link outcome with the actual quality of the supervision and leadership. Normally, poor outcome is around the management and the leadership of a particular project, Jamie. Based on my experience, you might have a totally different position, Jamie.


[00:17:56.590] – Jamie Marsland

I’ve been in projects where the project management has been brilliant and the output has been terrible, especially corporate, some corporate ones. And I think I’ll push back on that. I mean, I don’t think that it’s been terrible as well. So I think it irritates me a bit because you hear this a lot with Gutenberg, lazy comments, but people don’t know how hard it is to actually run a project like that unless you get into the weeds of the detail. And sure, it’s not perfect, but it feels like you need to know the detail of how this is run if you’re going to criticize the project management. If you don’t know what the project project management processes are, you can say the output’s.


[00:18:33.430] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, but like I said, we have to agree to disagree because I feel-What’s your view on project management if you’re not aware of what the project management is. Well, I am, Jamie. I’m perfectly aware.


[00:18:47.050] – Jamie Marsland

Let’s get into it. Which bits? Which bits of the project management?


[00:18:50.640] – Jonathan Denwood

I think there’s group thought. I think comes from a passive-aggressive management style of WordPress and Gutenberg, especially. I think it’s down to not at now, I think this situation is changing for the better, but a groupthink mentality that is ingrained in the WordPress project, where passive-aggressive techniques of or blocking. I’d rather not, actually, because I fear the consequences of really being honest about it, Jamie, which are commercially would be considerable. So I don’t feel I want to go down that pathway, Jamie.


[00:19:49.890] – Jamie Marsland



[00:19:50.650] – Jonathan Denwood

Because they are, because a lot of people have been cut out, blocked. Their financial situation have been damaged when they’ve attempted to try an input. And as you know- That may have happened, but I ran a one hour video stream with Brian Cordes last week where we forensically took apart what some of the issues with block themes, and actually the reaction we got was really positive.


[00:20:23.810] – Jamie Marsland

So you can only speak from your own experience, really, with this stuff.


[00:20:29.800] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I’m tempted to remark about my opinion about Brian, but I’m not going to. I think I’m going to throw it over to Kurt for the next question. Over you go, Kurt. You’re muted, Kurt.


[00:20:46.640] – Kurt von Ahnen

I was hearing some feedback, so I turned off my mic, but it wasn’t me after all. But in any case, the next question deals with Jamie, if you were running the Gutenberg project, would there be two things that you would fix immediately and what would make the most significant difference to end users? But then I couldn’t help but think about the user experience, the UX that both of you had commented on. And then I think I’m also a Spectra user. I’m also a Cadence Blocks user and Cadence Pro. And it’s so much better in those environments than standard Gutenberg, right?


[00:21:25.890] – Jamie Marsland

In what way?


[00:21:27.940] – Kurt von Ahnen

So, yeah, if UX was one of the two things, I mean, how would you tackle that without…


[00:21:33.040] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, in what ways do you think it’s better in those ?


[00:21:36.640] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, I just think if I load up a standard fresh WordPress install with 2023 or 2024 is the a game, and I start playing around, trying to build something, there are options for padding, for the placement of things that just aren’t as obvious to adjust as it is using or using the cadence tools. You get more options in the right side editing menu when you have those things installed.


[00:22:07.160] – Jamie Marsland

Sorry to interrupt again, but which bits in particular do you think are missing?


[00:22:13.120] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, for me, I’m not a CSS person, so I need to see the visual button. I need to see the tool. And so for me, it would probably say the padding and sizing. I’m thinking directly, and maybe it’s changed. Maybe I’ve become so dependent on the crutch that I haven’t I realized that the broken ankle was healed. But the column selection, the column size selection and cadence, to me, is much more direct and obvious.


[00:22:39.060] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah. You have padding and margin now. I’d recommend anyone listening to this, go and fire up a copy of Insta WP and install 2024, because that’s probably… That’s going to give you the fullest richest experience at the moment of core Gutenberg, because if you do that, you’re going to have margin and padding and line height and all those things you’re going to get in some of those things you just mentioned. Obviously, there’s going to be some things you’re not going to get, but that’s going to be your And I think it is one of the areas that it’s been one of the missions of my YouTube channel to show people what is possible in core, because there’s loads and loads of, not missing, some misinformation, but there’s a lot of un awareness of actually this stuff is just available for you and you can just do it in core now. A lot of this stuff is there. It’s not immediately obvious where it is, like if the padding and margin are hidden behind three dots. So it’s not incredibly simple for you to see, not as nicely laid out as some of those pro add-ons, but they’re there.


[00:23:47.120] – Jamie Marsland

For a lot of the sites, when I used to train people, the call would have been absolutely enough for the type of sites they were building, for sure.


[00:23:57.750] – Kurt von Ahnen

Nice. What are the two things What do you think you would fix immediately if you had the option to do so?


[00:24:02.980] – Jamie Marsland

In terms of high-level stuff, I would engage professional user testing tomorrow. From an external company, I would get WordPress companies to fund that piece, and I make that part of every single release cycle. I think that would be… Just feels like a no-brainer to me as somebody that’s coming from software development, user testing. And then I’d I would set the block theme team a challenge for a year, and I say this has to be as easy to use as a classic theme in a year. That’s your goal and nothing else. That’s your primary focus for the next year is that. Because I think from where I sit here, I think that’s the biggest issue for block themes, the UI, and making that as easy to use. And I think it’s a heck of a challenge. But that’s what I would set them, those two things, I think.


[00:24:59.920] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. I mean, if we look back on the last roundtable show, Jonathan called me out in front of the other panelists for being the- Me?


[00:25:06.980] – Jonathan Denwood

Me? Me? Me? Me too, that girl.


[00:25:10.440] – Kurt von Ahnen

But I’m the one that said, putting a new user in WordPress standard the way it is, like you said, there’s no complaints. It’s like handing a child an iPhone or an iPad or a tablet, and they’re playing games and they’re functioning. My issues, my obstacles, my speed bumps always came when somebody had used Divi or Elementor or something, and I’m like, Well, here’s your new site. Let me give you a tour. And they’re like, Well, this doesn’t do what I want it to do. And that’s where I’ve had my personal stumbling blocks. And of course, we mentioned that on the panel show, and I got slightly crucified a little bit, but I just didn’t see that new users had issues or problems because they didn’t realize what they were… Maybe they didn’t realize what they were missing, or maybe they didn’t realize… Maybe other people don’t realize it’s already there, as you’re starting to point out with, hey, download a new version and see what’s up there.


[00:26:03.250] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, and I do think there’s a… I have quite a few people on my training courses that are coming from Divi and are using Elemento, and they’re coming on the courses and they’re completely stuck with those tools. And they see the block editor, and suddenly it’s really It feels easier for them to use than a page builder. So I think part of this is in the… There’s a big part of this, which is the education piece in terms of just making people aware that this stuff is possible just using WordPress and a bit of The last few shows we’ve done, education has been the linchpin that’s come up from a few people, Matt Molenbeek being one of them.


[00:26:38.350] – Kurt von Ahnen

He said, We need better education.


[00:26:40.380] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah. Well, that’s part of my goal, really, on my channel. I’ve partnered now with wordpress. Com as well. So I’m producing a series of videos for them. And Inbato Tuts, I’ve been on their channel as well. So it’s just trying to spread the message out there because I think it’s really important that Gutenberg succeeds. I think that’s partly why I’m so passionate about it. I think it’s super important that WordPress, more than ever at the moment, that Gutenberg wins out. And that’s why I’m so passionate about it winning because of the larger ecosystem that we’re facing, or going to be facing, I think, in the next few years.


[00:27:20.000] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. Jonathan, back to you, sir.


[00:27:22.210] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I totally agree with you, Jamie. I think it’s time for us to go for our middle break. We will be back in a few moments with this fabulous discussion with Jamie, and we’ll see how it moves on. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. Coming back, folks. I think Jamie is getting more relaxed. No, I’m not. No? It’s only a discussion, Jamie.


[00:27:58.470] – Jamie Marsland

It’s not- It’s just firing up.


[00:27:59.580] – Jonathan Denwood

All right. It’s only a little discussion, Jamie. Before we go into the second part of this great discussion, I want to point out we’ve got a great newsletter that we publish every week with the leading WordPress and text stories, plus essential write-up from me. What more could you ask for, tribe? Probably a lot more, but it is fabulous. So please sign I’m begging you. But to find out more about the newsletter and sign up for it, go over to WP tonic. Com/deals. Wp tonic. Com/deals. And you can sign up for the FAB newsletter. What more could you ask for? Probably a lot, but like I said, that’s all you’re going to get. So I’d like to discuss, it’s not on our list, but I think it’s linked to our discussion in the first half, Jamie. Your fabulous discussion with Kevin Gary. Gary. Gary. It was a fabulous discussion. I think it’s one of the best discussions I’ve seen in a long time. It was the landscape that you covered. Obviously, Kevin’s been on my own show as well. He came on my radar because you interviewed him, basically, and it was such a great discussion.


[00:29:46.030] – Jonathan Denwood

He’s obviously extremely passionate and a very great expressor of his opinion, his passionate opinion. I think one of the… Because you pointed UX design, but I think one of the areas that Kevin was very passionate about is that he felt that the Gutenberg project was trying to be everything to everybody. And that leads to a very mediocre product in his own opinion. Obviously, you’ve had a bit of time. Obviously, you responded in your interview with him, but have you pondered? You’ve had time to ponder a bit more. How would you respond to that key criticism that he expressed?


[00:30:39.900] – Jamie Marsland

Well, that his mission is to democratize publishing.


[00:30:44.340] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I think his main criticism is that it’s trying to be aimed at a lower level, and then it adds additional functionality so it can meet designer developers like him that are very class-based focused, and it doesn’t meet what they see as their requirements, and it would have been easier to have built it as a class and then modified it, so it could be utilized by people that that particular section of the WordPress design development community, they’re not really interested in that. A, does that make any sense to you? And B: do Do you think I’ve placed… Because I’m putting words in his mouth.


[00:31:34.440] – Jamie Marsland

That’s fine. I think that’s a good summary. I think a lot of these debates I’ve been thinking about, not Kevin, but a lot of these debates lately, they all come back to abstraction, I think. I think that a lot of these days, and a lot of WordPress debates, they all center around abstraction. So WordPress is an abstraction on building sites with HTML and CSS. And then you have plugins are an abstraction, so you don’t write code to create a WordPress site, for example. And then themes are an abstraction, so you don’t have to create templates and add fonts and all that stuff. And a lot of these debates are really debating what level of abstraction is right within WordPress, within a monolithic CMS like WordPress. For example, should you be able to develop plugins within WordPress? Should WordPress have a plugin development environment in Obviously, that’s an insane thing to say. But if you take that to the… That’s what we’re saying with… You could label that argument and say, Why are we trying to write custom CSS within a CMS? Css should be handled by the theme. And then you add that into your…


[00:32:48.750] – Jamie Marsland

That’s an abstraction that you add into WordPress. And there’s an argument to say we should be having code editors to write CSS in WordPress, but it’s just a debate on that level of abstraction that everyone’s demanding from it. And in my new world of speaking to loads of people on my YouTube channel, I can speak… A week and a half ago, I was speaking to the agency BigBuy, who’ve done this amazing project for the Times, where this is The Times newspaper in England, where they’re basically got this editorial workflow that’s coming in from their news desk that fees into Gutenberg, that’s talking back to the news desk, that has this incredible workflow all built into WordPress, and they’ve got hundreds of journalists using the system. So they’ve got that one perspective. And then you’ve got perspectives like Kevin, he’s talking to the small agency market who control the… From what I understand the philosophy behind that is they don’t let their… They don’t like to let their clients access the websites and they control everything for them. So it’s a very tightly controlled environment. So that’s another perspective. And then, so you’ve got all these incredible There’s incredibly different perspectives happening in WordPress, and I’m speaking to a lot of these people now.


[00:34:05.960] – Jamie Marsland

But I think a lot of the issues is people are… They just see their own perspective and they think, Well, that’s WordPress. And that’s just not the case. WordPress is this incredible platform that’s being used for a million things that we… I speak to a lot of people in my new world of YouTube, but even I’m completely blown away by the stuff that people are doing it with it. So it does have to be this almost agnostic platform where people can build into it what they want to get it out of them. And I think a lot of the toxicity and vitriol comes from the fact that people aren’t aware of the other-I think it’s a lot of people are not prepared to have a grown up discussion, Jamie.


[00:34:47.910] – Jonathan Denwood

We can agree to disagree. I’m not saying that I’m right. I just got my honest opinion.


[00:34:55.180] – Jamie Marsland

I wasn’t disagreeing with what you said.


[00:34:57.870] – Jonathan Denwood

No, that’s what I mean. I was just saying, I think there is always a difference of opinion because people are doing such different things with WordPress.


[00:35:11.420] – Jamie Marsland

A class-based approach might be great if you’re an agency, but a class-based approach can be terrible for somebody that wants to edit their own website and change the design of it. How are they going to go in and edit all the classes if they don’t have a to-do about CSS? So in that situation, it’s really bad. A bricks builder might be great for Kevin, and he’s doing his agency stuff. The times would go nowhere nearer, nowhere nearer a page builder like bricks. They want to stick as closely as possible to core. The same with TechCrunch, which was the human made project, and Skyscanner, who they did another project with. So that’s the beauty of WordPress, that you can pick and choose the tools that are out there in the ecosystem to suit your own requirements. But I think there would be greater empathy if people had more awareness of what other people, what other cool projects were doing with WordPress, and then see the worlds as much bigger than their own tunnel. And again, that’s part of my mission on my YouTube channel to start to bring some of those stories to people. So there is this great awareness.


[00:36:19.540] – Jamie Marsland

They’re amazing. I mean, just mind-blown stuff. They’re doing BigBuy, the agency are doing with the Times. It’s just phenomenal stuff. And this is the Times newspaper, one of the oldest incredible Newspapers in the world, and it’s being run by Gutenberg now. Fantastic. With a headless CMS. It’s really cool stuff.


[00:36:38.410] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I totally agree with you, Dia. I think I think there’s two criticism of Kevin.


[00:36:49.030] – Jamie Marsland

Let’s not go there. I don’t want to criticize Kevin.


[00:36:53.560] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I’m not criticizing. I just want to put this to you and you can respond. I think I don’t agree with everything that Kevin agreed. I don’t agree with everything that comes out of my mouth. I think some of the criticism that Kevin’s received is… I think it wasn’t your interview, because I think your interview with Kevin was extremely constructive and respectful.


[00:37:27.030] – Jamie Marsland

There was no rancor at all.


[00:37:28.810] – Jonathan Denwood

No, it was a great I really love Kevin’s content.


[00:37:33.290] – Jamie Marsland

I think he’s a natural educator, obviously, and I think he’s got an amazing YouTube channel, and he’s really passionate, which we need more passionate people in the WordPress community. And I don’t really see him getting… I mean, I don’t follow a lot of this stuff, but I don’t see a lot of criticism out there.


[00:37:51.010] – Jonathan Denwood

I think he’s just got a tribe- I think some of the criticism he received was when he did this video where he did, in my opinion, a very intermediate layout, and he said, In native Gutenberg, you couldn’t really do it. I agreed. I personally feel it was a very intermediate layout, and I do expect that in native Gutenberg, you should be able to do that type of layout. I think the second criticism, and I think some of the critism-I think it’s I think you could do in about five minutes in Gutenberg.


[00:38:31.440] – Jamie Marsland

Brian Cordes did it, and he did a really cool video on it as well. But yeah, it’s a pretty simple layout that you can do within gumbo. But again, some of the more complex stuff in that layout was the hover effect stuff. Which again, you could write some… I think Kevin, when he did it, he was writing a lot of CSS for it. I watched this stuff. It was really cool. But if you’re abstracting that, you say, we’re just going to use a plugin for that stuff like 20, which again is what level of abstraction? WordPress Because it’s all about abstraction. What do we need to do to get the job done? Are you going to go and install your own server? Are you going to go and build your own CMS? Are you going to go and write your own plugins? Are you going to go and write your own theme? So it’s just a debate around abstraction a lot of this stuff.


[00:39:16.460] – Jonathan Denwood

I think the second criticism that he has faced, and I really love to get your input if you’re prepared to give it, is this attack that he receives, that he’s pushing his own book of business. Because I went on and had a discussion, an interview with Matt Madeis, and he brought this up that he thought that Kevin should be, and I want to find the right word here, his position should be taken into account, his own book of business, his own products. And I don’t really follow that, really, Jamie, because everybody’s got their book of business. Their position is influenced by their commercial needs and requirements. It just really depends, is their argument’s based on facts and knowledge or just their personal opinions. That’s what I consider. Have you been a little bit bemoozed by this attack that he’s received because he’s just pushing his book of business?


[00:40:32.750] – Jamie Marsland

You got me defending Kevin now, which is a weird-It is, isn’t it? It’s a weird place to end up. I don’t see any problem with that at all. People have really… It’s not like he’s hiding it. He’s incredibly open about the fact that that’s what he’s pushing, and it’s purely part of his pitch. So I don’t have an issue with Kevin doing that at all. He’s perfectly open about the fact that he’s selling his own products. And I I predict that Kevin will be… Here we go, here’s a bold prediction. I predict Kevin will be fully Gutenberg in about a year and a half, two years time. What’s his space?


[00:41:09.140] – Jonathan Denwood

You never know, do you? Definitely will. All amazing things have happened.


[00:41:13.250] – Jamie Marsland

No, he will, because he’s got ACSS, which I think he’s already supporting Generate Blogs, and I think we’ll see where we are in two years. But that would be my prediction. And nothing wrong with that. That’s a really valid place to be.


[00:41:27.180] – Jonathan Denwood

So over to you, Kurt.


[00:41:30.400] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’ll just try and lighten the conversation and say, how do you see AI changing both WordPress and web design in the next year and a half?


[00:41:38.130] – Jamie Marsland

How far is this going to go? I put a Twitter poll out yesterday, and I think I had about 150 replies. It was like, when do you think AI will replace software developers? I think the answers were 50%, and I put like one year, five years, 10 years or 20 years. Then I have one which was never. 50% of people said never, which I thought was I mean, that’s never. I mean, never is a really long time, right? So I think AI is… I think it’s incredible, and I think we’re not able to understand the impact it’s going to have yet. I do some days and it scares me, but I think a lot of us are just, where this is going, it’s going to be crazy. I think it’s going to shake up everything. I can’t think of anything that’s not apart from maybe eating out, something like that, probably.


[00:42:32.140] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, anecdotally, we have a user at Lifter LMS that is in the AI space, and he needed things. He was like, I’m not a developer, but I need my site to do front-end course builder. I need my site to do AI course building assistance. I need my… And he literally asked AI to build these things. He put them in the website, and the thing works and functions. It might not be the most elegant code, and it might not be what someone as a developer would say, This is quality stuff. But he needed something to happen. He asked AI to make it happen, and it works. And it’s weird for me to step in and go, Well, I think AI is a waste of time when I can see that something like that just worked.


[00:43:12.470] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, I have a few of my friends are doctors, and one’s a heart surgeon, and he’s telling me some of them. One’s an oncologist as well, actually. And they’re telling me some of the stuff that’s happening just in the medical sphere in AI, and it’s mind-blowing. And it’s also impactful in terms of if you’re a radiographer, I’m not sure if that’s the right term, but you’ve trained for seven years. Ai can now or will be able to do that job better than that person. And so that has big implications. So I think there’s a lot of head in the sand stuff at the moment in terms of what’s probably going to head our way and how that’s going to shake up our industry.


[00:43:53.690] – Kurt von Ahnen

To continue the question or expand it a little, I have a really big automotive power sports background. That’s where I come from. And as people got used to the idea of plug in your car and find out what the fault is, they think a diagnostic is a computer thing. I have found that there is so much more value in a seasoned technician to understand, hey, that fault code doesn’t mean the O2 sensor is bad. It means your air-fuel mixture is not right. And it means there’s 20 things that could cause that. And if I breadcrumb that troubleshooting, that problem solving. So in that situation, organic overcame synthetic. And same with I interviewed a guy who was a famous award-winning copywriter, and he said, The cool thing is I’m more valuable than ever. Because AI is kicking out junk like crazy, and they need a skill level of mind to come in and clean that up.


[00:44:52.870] – Jamie Marsland

I’m seeing that in YouTube as well, actually. I think I’m working with a few companies now in terms of YouTube consultancy because they’re seeing the impact SEO AI content is having some of that traffic. How you can create unique, interesting, valuable video content is a really, for now, until AI can do it properly. But I think people are always going to want the human interaction. I think Video is a really interesting space for that stuff.


[00:45:18.220] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. Just an outsider looking in, it’s like, do you double down and get really good at your craft and become a master, or do you abandon it because AI is going to steal your job? You got to make that It’s a decision, right? Yeah.


[00:45:31.540] – Jamie Marsland

But I think things like trust, building trust with your customers so you can lead them along that journey is going to be essential. Having those relationships, guiding them along that stuff. So I think if you’ve got transactional relationships with your customers, I think it’s time to change those relationships pretty quickly because I think AI is going to impact on that stuff.


[00:45:50.970] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think you’re totally right. I just love to question you about how you get your ideas for some of your videos because they’re such fantastic. You brought your daughters in, and they’re just fabulous videos. Where did you get that idea from? Because they’re just fantastic videos.


[00:46:10.640] – Jamie Marsland

I’m planning to get my mom on it on the channel soon, which I think I’m going to And my plan with her is to show her AI for the first time because ChatGPT has now got a… You can talk to it, which is really exciting. So I’m going to video her reaction talking to AI for the first time. So in terms of my ideas, I get ideas all the time. I stick them in a spreadsheet. And when I started So on the channel, I had three ideas, and now literally I’ve got over 250 ideas, which I’d love to make videos for. So I’m making a bit… There’s a few cool ideas. I’m making a video with WPSolid about hiring an ethical hacker to try and break into a WordPress website, which is going to be a really fun video. So the idea is just, what can you take and make it interesting and educational as well. So bring on my mind.


[00:47:03.090] – Jonathan Denwood

I think you’ve done such a fantastic job because most of your videos are always entertaining.


[00:47:10.680] – Jamie Marsland

You don’t see the ones that I don’t make? I can. I made one yesterday, which I thought was brilliant, and I watched it this morning. It’s just boring as hell, so it’s not going anywhere near YouTube.


[00:47:23.220] – Jonathan Denwood

How do you deal with not… It’s so easy to upset people in the WordPress space, right? I had this… Like I said, recently, I’ve had an interview. Matt Madeas interviewed me, and I said that it was a bit of a shock to me that actually people cared about my views or what I say, really, Jamie, because I got this idea that nobody listens to anything. However, I don’t think they should listen to anything I’ve got to say, Jamie. But I’m amazed. I’m I can say one sentence, and I’ve been told that there are people in the WordPress space who will never forgive me, and it was just English sarcasm. Yeah. So, has that become a reality as your channel has grown? Yeah, a couple of things.


[00:48:21.840] – Jamie Marsland

One is that English sarcasm is dangerous because you’ve been schooled in it. You take subjects in it when you go to any new school. So you either learn sarcasm or you get beaten up at school. So we all come out with that terrible thing. So you have to stop that because that doesn’t translate culturally. And then the other thing is there are specific points like you probably realized that you say stuff and people are listening and it means something. So you need to… It happened to me when I released a video about bricks last year, which was me flailing around hopelessly with bricks for the first time. I didn’t put it on YouTube; I just put it on Twitter, and it was just literally my first go. And I was hopeless, and I was obvious that it was my fault and it wasn’t bricks. And it was my first proper social… Thanks, Lance. It was my first social media pile-on. Somebody shared it in the bricks group, and then Kevin corralled the troops, and everyone started piling into me big time, which was… It made me realize the big mistake of making the video and putting it on Twitter because people would take it out of context, and it wasn’t clear enough to explain. That’s pretty clear, but I wasn’t clear enough in explaining what the purpose of the video was, I think.


[00:49:35.140] – Jamie Marsland

But it also made me realize that what you say matters at a certain point. It’s all right to say it doesn’t matter, but it does. I think I’m more careful now about what I say.


[00:49:46.820] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, I am. I might not show. You might think, what the hell is he talking about? But I’ve modified things a little bit. So let’s go on to the last question, which is one of my favorites. So if you had a time machine like H. G. Wells, and you could go back to the beginning of your career and your business WordPress journey, are there one or two tips or insights you’d love to tell yourself? Would it not be coming on this podcast?


[00:50:19.750] – Jamie Marsland

No, this has been great fun. I love this stuff. I think it would be to start my business earlier to understand when you’re young because I think when you’re young, you feel like, especially if you’re English, this innate fear of failure drilled into you at school. Just because of the way the education system works. I would have told myself to go off and fail 10 times and try and do my own business when you’re 21. It’s pretty good that I didn’t because I learned some stuff by running companies and understanding how boards work and how public companies work and all that stuff. So that did have value, but I would say to myself, and especially to my kids now, there’s never been a better time to start your businesses and do your own thing. Don’t be enslaved by just feeling like you’ve got to go off and work for other people. There’s never been an easier time to go off and do your stuff. So I’d probably say to myself: take more risks when you’re younger and don’t worry about failing. Go off and fail a few times and learn from it quickly.


[00:51:29.200] – Jonathan Denwood

I think-It’s one thing here is all these…


[00:51:33.670] – Jamie Marsland

I’ve been around some successful entrepreneurs on my journey, and the only thing that’s connected them all is that they haven’t been brilliant people. Sorry if you’re listening. They haven’t been geniuses, But the one thing that’s connected them all is they get up and do it again and do it again and do it again and fail and fail and fail and fail and they don’t care about it. That’s the biggest lesson I would go into.


[00:51:56.170] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, well, I’m used to failure because I’m a dyslexic. So, Can you imagine a lot of the great business leaders are, aren’t they?


[00:52:03.740] – Jamie Marsland

A lot of the successful people are.


[00:52:06.270] – Jonathan Denwood

Going through the English education system in the ’60s and ’70s as a dyslexic, I got used to dealing with failure and moving on. It’s been a fab discussion. Where do you, honestly… Obviously, I had to interview a great leader, and he said, I’m one of the most… What was the phrase he utilized for me, Kurt?


[00:52:43.520] – Kurt von Ahnen

He described you as being a little critical.


[00:52:45.820] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m a little critical. I’ve seen, but I passionately want Gutenberg to be the solution, Jamie, no question asked. If people want to use something else, good luck to them. But I want Gutenberg, by a considerable margin, to be the de facto solution for WordPress.


[00:53:12.920] – Jamie Marsland

Go and sign. So just let me finish up for infoWP, install 2024, and play with it for two hours. That’s what I recommend everyone do. Get some hands-on experience with it, and then you’ll have an idea of what’s possible.


[00:53:27.680] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, so, but are they—I’ll try my YouTube channel. It’s a great channel as well. But with the, and I agree with you, some of the quality of people involved recently, things seem to me to be moving in the right direction. Where would you like WordPress? Where would you like Gutenberg to be, let’s say, six months by the end of this year? We’re at the end of the first. Where would you personally like it to be?


[00:54:05.670] – Jamie Marsland

I would like to be able to give a block theme to one of my daughters. I did a test a while ago where I gave her a block theme and cadence and gave her 10 tasks to do, and Cadence was much easier for her. I want to repeat that process. Sorry.


[00:54:23.790] – Jonathan Denwood

Some of these comments are really… Where do I get these comments from?


[00:54:29.020] – Jamie Marsland

I would like to be able to give her a block theme in a year and have it be as easy to use as a classic theme. That would be my dream scenario for Gutenberg over the next year. I think that should be the priority.


[00:54:40.970] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s been fab. So, what’s the best way for people to learn more about you, Jamie, and your thoughts and ideas?


[00:54:48.190] – Jamie Marsland

Yeah, Twitter is @Poodlepress, P-O-O-T-L-E-P-R-E-S. And then YouTube, if you go to YouTube and Google Jamie WordPress, you’ll find me there.


[00:55:00.090] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fabulous. I hope you will agree to come on the show again because I think it’s been a fab discussion. Of course, Jamie understands my humor. Do you think it is humor or I’m just deluding myself, Jamie?


[00:55:13.020] – Jamie Marsland

No, I understand your humor, Jonathan.


[00:55:14.670] – Jonathan Denwood

All right. I don’t, so here we go. How can people find out more about you and what you’re up to, Kurt?


[00:55:24.810] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, apparently, unlike Jamie, nobody’s finding me on YouTube. So you got to find me on LinkedIn. I’m the only Kurt von Annen on LinkedIn, and anything that’s Manana Nomas online generally leads back to me. I’d love to have you over there.


[00:55:37.740] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fab. I also want to point it out, folks, that if you’re looking for a great WordPress hosting partner and you build membership or community websites on Buddy Boss, why don’t you look at becoming a WP tonic professional partner? We love you to come on board. We got some great packages. I’m sure you’ll find them attractive. You can find more details by going over to WP-Tonic/partners, WP-Tonic/partners. We love you to become a professional partner with WP-Tonic. It’s a fab solution if you’re building membership community websites regularly. We will be back next week with another great interview and another friendly interrogation. We will be back next week, folks. See you soon. Bye. Bye, Ron.


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#905 – WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress & SaaS With Special Guest Jamie Marsland, Founder of Pootlepress was last modified: by