Zac Gordon, WordPress Educator & Renaissance Man

Elliott Odonovan Phopograph

Introduction

Here’s our interview with former Treehouse lead WordPress trainer, and WordPress educator Zac Gordon.

Zac joined us in episode 078 where we discussed Javascript and WordPress and Zac plans to build and run a high-quality training course aimed at beginner to expert WordPress developers who wanted to improve their Javascript skills.

In this update interview, we discuss with Zac what he has learned in the process of building and running this highly popular course and what were the key decisions he had to make and what were the things that he feels he did right connect to marketing the courses.

What a lot of people in the WordPress community don’t know about Zac is he is a bit of a renaissance man from an educator to online entrepreneur. Then we have the other elements of Zac live from him being a spiritual teacher and community actives.

http://zacgordon.com

078-learning-javascript

https://javascriptforwp.com

Here’s a Full Transcript of Our Interview With Zac!

JD: Hi there, folks. Thanks for joining us on WP-Tonic, this is show #104. And this is going to be a great show. We’ve got a real friend of the show coming back, and that’s Zac Gordon. He was on with us about six or seven months ago. It’s great to have you, Zac. Would you like to introduce yourself?

ZG: Hi, yeah great to be here. Thanks for having me back on. [I’m] excited. My name is Zac Gordon and I’m primarily a WordPress educator.

JD: Would you like to introduce yourself, my beloved co-host John Locke?

JL: Sure thing. My name is John. My business is Lockedown Design. I actually know Zac from back in the day, when I was a student at Treehouse.

JD: Oh, that’s great. I didn’t know that. There we go.

So Zac, you know, obviously you’re well known in the WordPress community. And a lot of that is to do with Treehouse. And then you went on your own and you’ve been building your own [JavaScript] course. So we thought — you know we have a very mixed group of people that listen to the podcast. A lot of them are running their own business.

A lot of them are interested in membership sites and you’re in a very demanding area — education and membership. I’ve been getting your emails, and I’ve been observing you build your course. So we thought we would have you back and joint interview you and learn from your experiences. So how does that sound, Zac?

ZG: That sounds wonderful. I think this is a huge topic that just keeps getting bigger. — launching your own courses. And I have learned a ton in this process. Probably as much about launching and running a course as I have about JavaScript. So I’d love to talk about this. I think it’s a very valuable thing and hopefully some of the lessons I’ve learned will be helpful for other people already doing it, or planning to get into it. I can give some advice around that area.

JD: Oh, it sounds great. So obviously you had a lot of experience through Treehouse and you had observed how they had run their business. And they have certainly got some very smart people there. But on reflection, what were some of the things that had come up in your own journey to build up your own membership course that you didn’t realize even though you had that experience?

ZG: Well, that’s a great question. I think that to be honest, I had a pretty good idea of what would be coming. In terms of I knew things —I wanted to have a video editor and a motion person. Two separate people on hand so that I did not have to do any editing.

I also knew that I would have to get a membership site up, and I wanted to get the help of a development team. Because I knew that if I left building that site to the last minute — if you look at some of the earlier ones [that were built] — it’s basically a white page with a little bit of styling for the headline and text.

And now we have a really nice custom theme developed — a customized theme. And a huge shout out to the folks at Pango World for helping out around that area. So I knew that I wanted a development team. The stuff that I did not really anticipate — although people gave me advice around this — was the marketing aspect and literally just staying up on emails. It’s been something I’ve done pretty good building up to the course. But as more time has gone into the course, that’s been a little bit tougher.

And then the one thing I didn’t anticipate to be honest as much was — really how big this course was going to get. I thought it would just be like, ahh do a big course on the API and some frameworks. But realizing several months in that I really had to include a whole introduction to JavaScript — from beginning to intermediate — even advanced topics. Very quickly, that that grew the project a lot. So that was a little unexpected.

And the other thing, to just to kind of wrap up the list — and we can go into any of these in more depth if you like — is that I was not prepared to continue to work on the exact same thing over and over again, day after day after day. At Treehouse, I was doing a course or two a month. It was always a different topic. I could alternate between beginner stuff, super advanced stuff, [and] stuff I kind of knew well.

So I’m the type of personality that likes to start things — that likes to get them rolling, but is not always the strongest in completion. So I’ve learned with other projects how to work with teams around that. But I just could not for the life of me find another me, that either I could afford, or that wasn’t twice as busy as I am — to help with this.

So having the discipline — when it always wasn’t the funnest thing to come down into this dark basement — and record day after day — that was probably the hardest thing [that] I wasn’t quite prepared for.

I had anticipated this course would take me four or five months, and I’d be out vacationing for the rest of the year, answering support forum tickets. and I’ll likely be deep — waist deep, neck deep in the quest for quite a bit longer. [laughs]

JD: I can tell you —people don’t know this, but John does — but I am actually also the founder of a whole SaaS product, Zac, in the real estate industry. All built in WordPress and it took over a year and a half to get it developed, and it is still costing me money. Which is twice as long as I anticipated.

ZG: Yeah, that whole wisdom of, “I don’t take three times longer than you plan to take — no, it won’t happen to me. It’ll be fine —”

And oh boy —

JD: Exactly, like hell.

ZG: [laughs]

JD: I was going to ask you another question and then John, you come in with a question. Let’s talk a little bit about the marketing. Cause we had a round table and — maybe you’ll join us on that. But we had a roundtable last Saturday, and we were discussing online marketing that works in 2016.

So what are some of the lessons you learned about effective marketing that has worked? And maybe some of the things that didn’t work?

ZG: Sure, well let me start off with one that was particular to my situation. I don’t know that this will apply to everyone, but it was probably the biggest deal in keeping us afloat — especially with the last open enrollment I did. And that is having partnerships. Not necessarily formal partnerships, but connections — personal ones, with people in the industry who have their own email list — who have their own outreach.

And to kind of backtrack into some other things, so I just did an open enrollment — which I love this course — I have like 30 or so advisors who are anywhere from people who built the REST API to people that run new sites, that are other educators, that are professional marketers.

So the advice I got was to do short enrollment periods, and really build up anticipation for that. Not all the partners agreed, but I really like this idea, especially during the course development. One of the things that’s been really hard is marketing the course, and being honest with people about where you are in development. If you’re marketing an already done product, it’s a little bit different. This course isn’t complete, and so communicating that — in whatever avenue I’m doing — has been pretty tricky, but has helped a ton in thinking through that. So it’s just kind

of an aside, but the other aspects of marketing — were, one I tried to keep a pretty good list, and email newsletter, and I tried to make it fulfilling. So doing things like giving tips from the advisors that people are not going to hear otherwise, and being really transparent about stuff I’ve learned with the course, and like how, “Oh, I’m not going to teach this — sorry I’m going to teach that, because of it.” So then when I did the open enrollment, people were saying how you’ve got to give them free content.

So I gave [potential customers] the top [JavaScript] videos. I just looked up in Wistia what they were, and I put those out. And a lot of people [watched]. We got a couple thousand watches on those, and some signups from that. So that was cool.

I kind of assume like most people [do], “Hey, I’m just going to throw this out on Twitter, and that’ll get the sign ups.” But I could tell you that got this much [indicated with hands] — a couple of partnerships got this much [hands open wider] — and then the other partnerships got this [opens hands all the way].

So this other part — that’s like off the screen — I’m not sure where that came from, but I’d say Twitter only gave me about ten percent of the sign ups. And the newsletter, because I don’t know that the newsletter was super helpful, except that people could not register this whole time.

So people have been waiting [for the course to open]. They’ve been looking to enroll. I get mixed feedback. One of the great things I heard from one of my advisors was that people learn when they’re ready to learn. So if you offer open enrollments that are only a couple times a year, then people may not be ready at that point, and you’re going to lose them.

The benefit I had was I was giving a slightly bigger discount for people who wanted to learn JavaScript because that content was ready. Then when they were ready to jump in. And I kind of like that, because what I can say is that if you are developing a course, it’s a huge amount of pressure to have people in there that are waiting for content to come out. And they are like, “When’s this going to happen? When is this gonna happen?” and that was really hard for me so I was barely scraping by.

I paying rent and taking care of the family, but it felt good to not have it just open to the general public, so I didn’t have to deal with all these questions all the time. And it was kind of a trade-off there, but I’d say again, to just come back to the marketing — really having other people that will help you advertise, and speak out for you, and encourage people to sign up was for me the number one place that really helped. In addition to my own kind of Twitter and newsletter marketing.

I’m not on Facebook anymore so I haven’t been using that at all, so I can’t speak to that really.

JD: Alright, got a question, John?

JL: Yeah, I definitely do. One thing that I am really impressed by — when you go to your sign-up page, is you have different levels of partners. These are companies that are within the web development and WordPress space. And what I notice is to become a partner at different levels, they have to have so many sign ups that are employees signed up with your course.

So was this an intentional thing baked into this [course], or did some of your advisors say, “This might be a good way to get these companies invested — like mentally invested in making sure that your course succeeds.” ? And a follow-up question would be, how much of this is seeded by the work that you’ve done throughout the years — not just through Treehouse, but on your own — investing in the WordPress community and being a member of the greater larger community?

ZG: Ok, amazing question. First of all, [regarding] the partnerships — before the course launched I was going to do a Kickstarter which I was advised — I really fought it, but people said it’s going to be way too much time. I was like “No, no, I can do it.” But I got like ninety-nine percent there, and then just canceled at the last minute. So initially the partnerships were people who wanted to support the course in exchange for advertisement. The global sponsors are in each video. So at the end of each video, it plugs them. GoDaddy and Human Made, thank you!

It was huge and so — the other partners were either helping at certain levels, or contributed initially in different ways, and some of them were not even financial. It was actually they contributed to the course, by providing material.

For example, I could give a shout out to a professor who is included in the later parts of this course. Because Scott has done so much work already — educating the public, and answering my questions, and giving the access to kind of rework some of their examples — that they already have out — just to give them one more avenue. I felt like, “Wow, I really want to help support you, and I have a big heart man.”

This was not due to the advisors, but anybody who helps me — like Pango World is up there — but they don’t have 20 plus employees at the company at all. Whereas XWP does. So once the course was launched, I stopped accepting money in exchange for partnerships, and now the model is people are coming on board if they have these licenses. And one of the reasons for this was that I really liked being able to go around the WordCamps and hear that companies were using my content for onboarding people. I mean, it’s a huge responsibility that makes me stop and catch my breath for a second, because I worry, “Oh God, did we miss something?” But the feedback was good.

I felt, “Okay, I want this course to become — if you want to onboard people for JavaScript for WordPress, then this is the place to go.” I felt that it was — to be honest, I don’t know if it was as much of them investing in the course and feeling like they were invested, as much as it was — I wanted it to be when other people come, and they see these bigger [company] names that are supporting it — that are also training their team, then [in their minds] it’s like, “Okay, if these top of the industry folks are going to be using this content, then that kind of vouches for it.”

What I will throw in is that XWP was one of the big ones that came on board, that was like, “Right when it launches, sign our people up in it.” It’s been amazing and their team has provided a lot of feedback. Probably they’ve done thirty to fifty percent of the feedback in the forms and personal emails. And that was cool, because some of their people, I can tell, they’re not beginners with some of the questions they ask. You know who you are!

Then some of them also provided good feedback. So hopefully that wasn’t too much rambling on it. Or if I missed anything — please, please let me know. But that was kind of the direction. Then going forward I’ll slide people in, if they just really want publicity, and want to support it and throw me money — and don’t have ten employees — I’m open to that. That’s cool. But really going forward, I want it to become — partners are people who really are invested, and using this internally.

JD: I just want to say folks, if you want to support WP-Tonic as a sponsor, you can send as much money our way as possible. Me and John will appreciate all contributions, and we would sing the praises of your services and products, won’t we, John?

JL: Sure thing.

JD: [laughs]

JL: We take all forms of currency.

JD: Seriously, we are looking for sponsors. But it would definitely have to be something that we — as they say in the community — that we believe in.

But, AppPresser, you know, we’re going to have to get him on actually. I’m going to have to. I’ve been looking at it when they launched — and they’ve developed it out. It looks [like a] really cool and interesting platform. So you’ve been building up some content for that as well have you?

ZG: First of all, let me say, yes — get Scott [Bolinger] on. He is a smart man who has done a lot and I often feel intimidated when he’s like, “Okay what do you want to know?” And I’m like, “So much.” But he has been super helpful and again I’m doing a lot of reworking some of the stuff that they already have available into the course.

What I haven’t really advertised yet, but I will say — and I’ve kind of let it be known in a few avenues— but Part Four of this course — which is all the real world projects — is going to be completely free. And that’s where this will be. So there’ll be something like a dozen different projects. I just had a couple — well, I won’t get into specifics of people — but we have some really good content. The content is actually written by the professionals who built it, and these are the cutting edge folks — the people who are out in the field, building production stuff with the REST API — and I want that section of the course to really become one of the hubs on the web for tutorials around this. [So] that anybody could go and sign up and take [the course]. And I have a good portion of it already done.

But to get back to the first question of how much of this were you not prepared for — I just haven’t had time to publicize it and get that sign up system ready and separated from the e-commerce sign up to give people access to that. But that’s where the AppPresser content will be. So once I do launch, it will probably be with next enrollment come the fall. All that will be publicly available for free.

JD: Now you said that at the beginning, Zac, that you knew from Day One that you didn’t want to manage any of the video yourself — that you wanted — I think you said — an editor and two individuals, I think you mentioned.

Is it just through your insight working with Treehouse [that] you knew it was an enormous amount of work? So you didn’t want to touch it?

ZG: Well actually, I kind of knew that from working previously — like I used to edit videos for school or music videos for fun that I would do. And it takes forever. It slows stuff down. It slows your machine down.

There’s a lot there that I already knew was a lot of work. What I learned at Treehouse was the benefit of having an audio professional. Someone who has the right software, and can run your stuff through filters, and will take out all the lumps and clicks and really make your voice sound perfect. That’s one of the things I learned there — was, “I’m not touching that.”

So that I knew I wanted. I recommend it if you’re trying to take your course above what that [typical] YouTube level is — above what your competitors are, and you can invest in someone like that. If you ping me personally, I might be able to recommend someone.

But that that was a big thing for me. I knew I needed or I wanted to make my stuff [the same as] Treehouse quality. I wanted to — because I’m a full-time educator, I wanted to step my stuff above what somebody who is just doing a short course on the side may have the resources or time to be able to do. So that was one.

Then motion graphics was the other person. If you check out my history of WordPress video that’s on my blog for free — the history of JavaScript video — it will be scrolling through stuff, and animate stuff, and add things. And I have more stuff in the course like showing how the DOM works and things like that.

I tried to make animations in Keynote. I don’t have the time to finish learning Motion Five or any of that stuff. It’s expensive. It is not cheap. But it was worth it. It can almost be a couple hundred bucks for a few minutes of video motion graphics, so I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped, but that’s in there.

An important [thing] — the other thing that I haven’t done yet but I’m in the process of working on now — is doing some on-set stuff where it’s me on camera, as me. Because for my branding, that was really important. I know that people from Treehouse are used to me going, “Hi, I’m Zac.” That’s really helpful.

So I don’t have any of that yet, but there will be — kind of at the beginning of each section — me talking on camera. Because I wanted that for my branding personally. And I recommend this to anybody else. If you know your own person is part of the branding, look up contact people, and hire a professional videographer.

I tried to do this in my basement three or four times, and that was my original goal. I just could not get the quality I needed. I did a photo shoot with a professional person to get the photos for the site and a few other things, and that was so worth it. Working with a professional videographer is going to be just untouchable.

JD: Sounds like it to me. I think we’re going to go for a break, folks, and we’ll be back. We’ll be discussing more about Zac and his journey, and some of the people that influenced him in the books.

We’ll be back soon, folks.

We’re coming back from the break, folks. We’ve got Zac Gordon. Personally, it’s been a fascinating discussion. So we’re going to dive straight into it.

Got a question, John?

JL: Yeah, absolutely. As far as business books or motivation books — what inspires you? What are you reading? What are you putting into your brain to get stuff out?

ZG: Wow, that’s a super good question.

There’s a couple of sites: Fizzle.co is one. I also saw this guy on YouTube talking about business in front of his Lamborghinis — Tai Lopez. I don’t know, a lot of people may have seen his stuff. It looked a little cheesy, but he has this kind of mini-MBA program, and a couple months ago, I was just trying to absorb as much business stuff as I could, so I did that.

I’ve been trying to read or listen to as many audio books on customer support and things like that as I can. It’s been super helpful, but then it also comes back to me.

People like Patrick Flanagan — who’s an inventor — completely outside of the scope [of what we do, who] would say things like, “I’m not a businessman. I never have been and never will be. I wait for a good idea to come and go with it, and that has worked pretty well for me.”

But I will say that I’ve learned a ton about better planning — about better estimating, and haven’t actually been able to apply some of it.

I realize like, “Wow creating or working with true business models takes a lot of work, and I’ve got to go record videos.” So I don’t really have the time for it, but it’s made me think a little bit smarter about things. But to be honest, I’m still kind of flying by the seat of my pants — just trying to make sure we could pay rent and take care of the family and things like that.

Be ready for the next enrollment. So I wouldn’t say that, although I have observed [and] I absorb a lot, I haven’t got a ton of a chance to put into practice. Now I do have some other businesses I own, [like] Web Hosting For Students, which is the world’s largest hosting company for students.

So in that area, I’ve been able to put a lot more into practice. I hired a full-time marketing person, who has been doing wonders since I have not been able to give the business that much time. And I also have other ventures — little side projects that I’m kind of planning, on the potential that I don’t get another full-time gig or something like that.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about those planning things in advance. That’s where the business courses have been most helpful. [I’ve been] really trying to assess ideas and come up with a Minimum Viable Product first.

Boy, did I do the opposite and completely the wrong thing with this JavaScript course. I’m like, “Here’s a master course. It’s going to have everything. Let’s do it.”

Oh my goodness, this is not what they would recommend in most of the business things I’ve been learning. It’s more like, “Do a quick thing on this and see how many people signed up, and if you get interest, and then if there’s enough, get more people to sign up and pay a bit more. Then build out the next bit of content in the next [phase].” And I was like, “How I’m going to drop this gigantic thing out?” That is not how I would probably do it next time around.

JD: Yeah, I understand and that’s what the mythology — the startup mythology says really. But let’s look at your own situation. You have a lot of following from Treehouse. Their production is pretty top-notch. So if they [potential students] came to your site, and it wasn’t similar in quality and the course was not up to the Treehouse level — I think you would have gotten some considerable blowback. So it’s trying to take a middle path, I would suggest.

Because a lot of people that going to join your course because of what they’ve seen on Treehouse. They have certain expectations. Do you think there’s any credence in what I’m saying, or am I just blabbing, really, Zac?

ZG: Oh no, absolutely. That was a very important thing for me.

For those who are following from way, way back when Treehouse first made the decision, I was going to do something called WP DevCasts. Kind of a Laracasts-type of product. And one of the reasons I veered away from that is that I had an opportunity to brand myself as independent of Treehouse, but still at that quality. So I felt that whatever I was going to do, it was important that I took that next big step. And that’s probably some helpful advice for any of you folks out there. You know, whenever one door closes, another opens, and it’s a step up. It’s an opportunity for us to raise our vibration — to raise our vision, and to raise how we put ourselves out to the world.

That’s what I was really trying to do.

Actually that word “vision”, just to go back to the previous question really quick — with the business books and ideas — at the end of the day, this was a vision for me. I think it wasn’t just my vision, but a shared one. So I feel that with anything, if it’s that powerful, on the vision, that it just moves you — and stirs you to the core of your being — that you’ve got to do it then. Do it and the good Lord will provide — you know — make it happen if it’s if it’s intended to.

This is not good business advice from what I’ve learned, but I feel that it’s for me it was a big motivating factor.

JD: Well I’ve learned that one person’s path isn’t exactly another person’s path. You are talking to an English person, so when you say follow your heart, I’m not too sure about the English side of me — but maybe that’s just me.

John, got another question?

JL: Sure. So as far as you talked about you wouldn’t do things the same way that you did this time — for your next product that you release, would you more backwards figure out where you want to be, and then backwards engineer it from there?

And would you more ladder people in? Say sell them a small product, and then a medium product, and then a larger product? And what kind of lessons do you think you’ll be applying in the future releases?

ZG: OK, so in terms of tackling another project, or how I would do differently, like I said, I do have some other projects in the works. And I’m more working around that goal of trying to provide a minimum viable product. So let’s say that it may be 10 videos at the end, but I’m just going to release a 30-minute one and get people’s engagement — and how much they want to build up the community around a bit, and see what it is that they’re asking for. And then build based off of that.

Now I don’t know how that would work for this JavaScript for WordPress, as I would have maybe dropped an API course that was pretty short, and then a React one that was pretty short, and built off of those. But the thing was that I also knew enough about the community — that the way people learn development in the WordPress world is kind of back-ass-wards from how people will often learn it if they’re trying to become a full stack developer.

So I felt that I knew enough to know, “Okay, I’m really going to have to do this, this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this.”

So I had kind of this big picture view, and I don’t know how well it would have worked to try to tackle that piecemeal. But I can tell you with the stuff I’m doing now going forward it’s like, “Okay, let’s just try this little bit and see how it goes, and then we’ll go from there, and see if there’s more demand.”

JD: So you did mention about your hosting company, and I didn’t know about that, but how did you get into that business. And how long have you been running it?

ZG: Great question. I got into that around 2005. I was just starting teaching. I was a high school web design teacher. I was also a Community College web design teacher and I was teaching at some Art Institute type places. I basically would go in and see this huge range [of students]. I also taught middle school — little technology classes — so I’d see this huge range of what people used for hosting, whether it was at a college, or they have their own server setup. Or I kid you not, some of these schools have like one 1&1[hosting] account and just splice that sucker for all their students.

Or some of them would each semester, you had to buy a different hosting account, depending on what your teacher recommended. Some of these teachers got kickbacks. Some of them would have got fired for getting kickbacks. And then some of them at the lower grade school stuff — you weren’t allowed access, because of No Child Left Behind and Federal mandates that actually have in there, some restrictions on what technology you could have in the classroom, that gives potential information about you away, or gives you access to certain things, or firewalls were blocked — and all these things. Like you might not be able to access cPanel, because it’s on port 2087 in some schools. But you could in others.

So very early on, I started just giving people from access to my servers that I had running through Liquid Web. Love them back in the day. I had an account for business sites that I made for other people — you know, just web design on the side. I also ran a web design company, so that’s how it started.

And then after a year or two, some other teachers got in touch, and they were using my service. And I just threw it up on the web because I like making websites when I have an idea. You know, they’re not thinking things through too much, my host. So I started out as like 11 dollars a year for a small account, just FTP access or one gigabyte — yeah, one gigabyte for 25 bucks a year. Which is still the price today. And it started doing pretty well. I had international students. I’ve been on the first page, or top two or three of Google for a number of years now.

Then when I went to work for Treehouse, the funniest thing happened where they contacted me. They contacted Web Hosting For Students not knowing that they just hired the owner of it. And they were like, “Hey, would you partner with us to offer hosting for students?” and I was like, “Wait a minute, do you know…hold on let me explain it…” It was really cool, and they were on board, so I was one of their perks and then was in some of their videos and then that kind of dwindled out and didn’t keep on going — especially not after I left the company.

But that’s what got me to the point where I was then dealing with having to scale tens of thousands of students. But early on man, I answered all support tickets, I did all network administration on the side. And today it’s a team of like seven people or something that are working around the clock, answering tickets, keeping infrastructure up.

I’ve been offered to be bought out a couple times. I’ve worked with a couple of different companies that wanted to partner, but now it’s completely us. We’re running on ODH, that is quality servers and that’s pretty rad.

JD: There you go. I know a really good WordPress podcaster you can sponsor, Zac. [laughs]

ZG: I have to tell you, at 25 bucks a year, and our profit margins, all we are able to really sponsor is giving away free accounts to any hackathon students, which we do —

JD: I understand, but it’s just a bit of English humor.

ZG: I know, but I will say, I would love to get it to the point where — I don’t even personally advertise it or talk about it too much, [unless I have] an opportunity — but now it’s a really stable and growing company, and yeah, hopefully it will get to that point.

JD: Yeah, you’ll have to see. I’m going to have a kind of question here. Now obviously it was just coming in my mind that you might have a view on this — Lynda.com was bought by LinkedIn —

ZG: Bought by Microsoft.

JD: And now LinkedIn has been bought by Microsoft. And obviously, I don’t know how much of that decision was linked to LinkedIn owning Lynda.com. It’s a difficult one to judge. How do you see online education — you know Lynda.com is a very big player in it.

Do you think the purchase by Microsoft is exciting, or do you think they will dispose of Lynda quite quickly? Does it really fit in? Or do you think it’s going to be a really important part of their plans?

ZG: Well, first of all, let me say that from a personal economic view of the world, there is a TED talk [showing] that something like five companies own the majority of every company in this world, at some level. Whether through investment or directly. So I think, one, it’s just a sign — when I used to teach history back in early 2000s, it was really hard to show the students the financial web, and who owned who, and how that all worked, even though I knew it did.

Now it’s really easy to see, and I think first and foremost, this is just an example of how most of the big companies work. You know that somebody owns them — somebody owns them — somebody owns them [and so on].

And that’s just kind of the nature of things. I cannot see Microsoft being like, “Lynda.com is a bad idea, let’s just dismantle it.” I can’t imagine that would be a good move on anybody’s part [to dispose of the company]. And whether they decided to pick up LinkedIn because it had Lynda, man, I just don’t know. But I bet that there have been at board levels like people swapping between and knowing what’s coming ahead of time and seeing these moves for some time, since way back. So I don’t know. I think that’s just kind of the nature of how things operate at this point. But I can’t imagine Lynda.com going away. I want to give a shout out to Morton [Rand-Hendriksen] —amazing educator there.

Jason Silva who has gone on and done some courses there. I’m a huge fan, man. I remember learning CSS from Lynda from a CD-Rom from Lynda, in part way back in the day. Who’s one of the big [guys from that era]? Meyer? Eric Meyer.

JD: Yeah, I learned from Eric Meyer. He has disappeared a bit, hasn’t he? His wife was ill. I apologize to him. But I didn’t know that his wife was very, very ill for a period of time. And I think that took up a lot mentally and spiritually.

ZG: As it should.

JD: But he was a great educator, wasn’t he? He had a fun way of teaching, didn’t he?

ZG: One of the first ones on the web. Talk about a good dry sense of humor there, although pretty warm, too — yeah, so I don’t hate man. I love everybody trying to educate and change the world. Just because I had the opportunity to work at Treehouse doesn’t mean that I’m against anyone else.

Lynda has some, but you didn’t even suggest that, but I’ll just throw that out there. Man, we’ve got to support each other.

JD: Yeah it’s an enormous market, isn’t it? It’s like hosting, isn’t it? It’s enormous. There’s a lot of hosting companies, and that’s not going to change. So you just have to find your own part, don’t you?

Thanks for our answering that very wide question. I just can’t read my mind.

Got a question, John?

JL: Yes, sure thing. What other people in the WordPress or even the larger web design or web development community — or just in general do you see doing a good job educating people and being themselves? But also teaching people how to become better versions of themselves?

ZG: Wow. Okay, first let me caveat this by saying that every time I meet a new WordPress person at WordCamp, this list grows, and I’m not going to have off the top of my head a great huge list that’s going to include everybody, because I think there are so many people rocking this and doing this well, whether it’s people — Man let me — I don’t even want to start shouting names, one, because sometimes I forget people’s last names, or don’t pronounce it correctly but I will say, if you go to the advisor page on my site, JavascriptForWP.com/advisors — every single one of those people I believe strongly are either working at a personal level or trying to educate a bigger level.

I’ve gotten to know just the people that work on the training team for WordPress, they are all volunteering time, and they could be getting paid for this stuff. I don’t know if they know that, but that’s pretty amazing. All the people who create plugins and then blog about them, and write about them — that’s amazing. Some of the educators — you know, I could not have worked at Treehouse without Tom McFarlin because so many times I had to go to his blog, or somebody like him, and just look up stuff. So the people that take the time to write this, it’s just so valuable, and it was cool at Treehouse because I got credit for teaching people and my name was out there, and my face and people recognize that, but there are so many other people who probably more folks learn from — just because you’re posting free stuff online. So if I could give a general one to anybody who creates something and then writes about it at a pretty rich level and then I’m speaking of rich — Rich Robinkoff, who I hired as a project manager. He spoke about the heart of WordPress and contributing and the work-life balance thing and how to give back, and I think that’s pretty amazing. He touched my heart in a big way, and now he’s working with me as a project manager for the JavaScript course, which I would be a hot mess without. There are some companies that — like one of the people that comes to mind are the folks at ServerPress.

I think they’re so real, and they’re so good. They’ve been a huge help in giving advice and just in reaching out to the community and being there.

I also want to give a shout out to Pantheon. They’re one of the partners, and they’re one of the people who I think have one of the most interesting and maybe sophisticated hosting platforms that are catering to WordPress. I know that there they’ve got a big hustle in a mind set on “How do we educate people around this?” “How do we share this message? How do we get out into this WordPress world?” And they care a lot about it.

I’ve had some conversations that are just really amazing around [web development] — and those guys really touched me. I want to say that they’re not maybe a unique case, [in] that there are a lot of folks doing this right — but they are definitely one of them who came from more the Drupal world into this and aren’t just stomping their boots and saying, “This is the way it is.” They are asking the right questions, and are trying to understand the community, and see how things work — seeing “How do we better explain it?” and that’s really amazing to me.

JD: Oh thanks for that. I think we’ll finish off for now, but how do people get hold of you, Zac, and is there anything that you want to publicize at the end of the show — that you want to bring to the audience’s attention?

ZG: Sure,. Well, first of all, you could find me on Twitter @ZGordon . You could check out my site WP.ZacGordon.com for the WordPress stuff or just ZacGordon.com if you want to see the wide variety of weird inspiring tech and non-tech things that I’m into.

And then the JavaScript for WP is my main bread and butter and passion right now. So the course is not available for sale or it’s not available for enrollment, but it will be sometime come this fall, which is also going to be around the time when I’m going to be doing A Week of REST with the folks from Human Made. So A Week of REST is going to be in the UK in September. If you have the chance to get your company to send you out there, I think that there’s still some space left — do that. That’s going to be like the best part of this JavaScript for WP course — in person and it’s being built and taught by all the folks who are most of the team that works on the actual API, including myself.

So that’s going to be super rad and then A Day of REST is going to be coming to the US later this year. So I want to plug that and just reach out through the folks at Human Made and show interest in that and then hopefully A Week of REST can come to the U.S. too, because that’s [what] I really love after finishing this course — to go and start teaching it in person, and doing some intensive workshops — have you walk out of there in a week. Just, you know, JavaScript steam coming from your head. So that would be cool.

Yeah, those are the ways to reach me. I don’t really have too much else to plug at the moment. Just kind of heads down.

I really appreciate this opportunity from both of you for me to come out. I’ve just kind of gone dark, literally. It’s dark down here and I’m just writing and recording, it’s so much work.

JD: We can see you. So, my beloved co-host, how can people get a hold of you?

JL: Well you can find me at my website, LockedownDesign.com and you can follow me on Twitter — I’m @Lockedown_ . How do the fine people get a hold of you, Jonathan?

JD: I’m on Twitter @JonathanDenwood . I’m all over the place, as Zac said I’m a force of nature, aren’t I, Zac? Or they could go to the WP-Tonic.com website. We’ve got over — we’re on — episode number 104, so a hundred and four, so we’ve got a hundred and four episodes already.

ZG: Wow.

JD: We do a round table on Saturdays folks, that we do partially turn into podcasts on Blab.im It starts at 10am PST. We normally have a great panel of WordPress experts from the community. You’re most welcome to join us live and see the antics.

Afterwards we do an open session so if anybody’s got a WordPress problem or they want their site reviewed, and they want some wisdom from my co-host — they’re not going to get too much from me, but maybe wisdom for my co-host — we’re there for you. So join us on Saturdays.

JL: 10am Pacific on Saturdays for the first hour with the panel, and then 11 a.m. Pacific for open questions. We do site reviews and there’s usually some panel people hanging around still, so check it.

ZG: And I completely forgot, I need to totally interrupt. I’m so sorry but I forgot to mention Tonya from Know The Code.

This woman has blown my mind. Since leaving Treehouse, she’s one of the most passionate educators who is doing this full time and KnowTheCode.io .

Just her backstory on HeroPress — and so much to talk with another full-time person who has so much passion towards education. I just realized I can’t leave this the show without giving a direct shout out, so sorry for interrupting there, but go read about Tonya and check out the work she does, because it blows me away.

JL: Honestly, I’m super glad you said Tonya because I was hoping that that’s who you would say.

ZG: Oh yay, yes I did. and you should have her on your show, too.

JL: That’s a great idea.

JD: Just to finish off, if you could go to the website and iTunes and subscribe to the show, and if you could give us a review that would be fantastic. We love feedback and please join us on Saturday for the 10am Pacific Standard Time in the morning. We’d love you to join us.

Thank you so much, Zac. It’s been a great discussion. I think everybody should enjoy it. And join us again for the next episode of WP-Tonic.

ZG: Bye everyone.

JL: Peace.

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