#452 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Jake Goldman President & Founder of 10up

We interview Jake Goldman President & Founder of 10up one of the leading WordPress digital agencies in North America

Here are the key topics that we discussed with Jake during the interview.

#1 – 10up Releases GitHub Actions for Simplifying WordPress Plugin Deployment.

#2 – LearnDash 3.0 and how 10up helped in the development of this fantastic upgrade of this leading LMS plugin.

#3. Anand Giridharadas Book “Winners Take All.” and how some of the key points of the book can be applied to the WordPress community.

Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic show, this is episode 452. We’ve got a friend of the show back. He’s been on the show a couple of times. Time flies though so I thought it was time to have Jake Goldman, president and founder of 10Up, back on the show. So, Jake, would you like to give a very quick introduction of yourself and what 10-Up basically does?

Jake Goldman: Sure, excited to be chatting again. So I’m the president and founder as you said, of a company called 10Up, that’s 10up.com. We’re a full-service agency that’s focused at crafting amazing websites, apps, digital experiences, mostly for large organizations that are in some ways doing storytelling, content on the web, it be marketing site, or it could be publication. There’s a lot of ways; it can be acknowledged intranet, a lot of different forms that content and narrative take on the web, but we’re not fundamentally doing like ERP applications or games, or fundamentally in the content space and digital. We’re about 180 something people distributed all around the world with major concentrations in Europe and the United States. I spend most of my business days working on the company.

Jonathon: Thank you for agreeing to come on the show. I know you’re very busy Jake and it’s so much appreciated that you’ve–

Jake Goldman: My pleasure.

Jonathon: –Agreed to come back for another chat with me. And I’ve got my great co-host, the good looking one with me Adrian. Would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Adrian: Hi everybody, for those of you who do not know me. My name is Adrian, I’m the CEO and founder of a company called Groundhogg, and we produce and sell digital marketing and sales automation plugins for WordPress.

Jonathon: And I just want to thank the new listeners and viewers. Last month was our biggest viewing figures ever for the show. And I really appreciate all of you that have been recommending the show to other people in the WordPress online marketing on e-learning industries. It’s much appreciated. Before I go into the mine elements of the conversation, I want to mention our major sponsor who’s been sponsoring the show for the past couple of years and that is Kinsta Hosting. Kinsta Hosting is just fantastic, it hosts the WP-Tonic website. If you’re a developer power user looking for something to manage a learning management system or wooCommerce, you really want to look at Kinsta. They offer some of the best performance and best technology, really aimed at WordPress on the market at the present moment, in my opinion. And they’re just fabulous people to work with.

You get the power of Google cloud, you get a really fantastic custom UX-interface, and best of all, we get some of the best support on the market at the present moment; people that really understand WordPress and understand how to set up and support a WordPress website. So if that sounds interesting, go over to Kinsta, tell him that you heard about from the show; that would be really appreciated. So off with the interview, so Jake, 10Up was on the Tab and recently you released on GitHub Actions, seems a really interesting concept. And also you’ve got some of your own plugins. I thought we’d start off saying, what you think of happened, what 10Up plans to do with that platform basically?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, I mean, I’m in sounds clich√© to say, but I’m incredibly excited about what 10Up has been doing recently. They’ve really taken it from a place where you store repository and use store code to really a full automation and integration platform for shipping code. So, one of their larger, more notable features they’ve been trialing for the last year and sort of formally announced and rolled out is GitHub Actions. But GitHub Actions, what you do is trigger events, trigger a series of behaviors after a code’s mission happens the more classic way. People tend to use that kind of integration as things like automatically run an accessibility test or automatically run a code scan on your code when code gets pushed up.

One more, I dare I say more innovative approach that our team came up with and major credit to our open-source practice and [inaudible 04:24] in particular was to use that automation service when you push code. For people that have to maintain WordPress plugins, other WordPress plugin repo to automatically push up certain assets or are code changes or version release at wordpress.org. It’s a little technical for those who have never released a plug-in [inaudible00:04:36] wordpress.org, the way you plug, the official plug-in repo, your plugins still uses a fairly aged way of doing version control, it’s all relative speed. Relatively speaking, I guess, but it uses a subversion which is just not what modern developers use to do most code contribution and most development. A lot of people have their plugins [inaudible 05:01] that’s where they do their active development. That’s where their audience comes in and contributes; it’s where modern developers and most current developers are going.

So we were able to build a solution to automatically trigger all the annoying stuff you probably don’t want to learn if you’re a modern developer, not pushing to wordpress.org subversion repository and just automate that whole process. Both for an entirely shipping new version of plugins as well as more routine stuff that we have to do all the time, like updating in your review file, the version of WordPress that you’re tested up until, or updating the old frequently asked questions or docs or images or sort of just the assets that aren’t the code itself on your repo. So I’m really excited about it. We’ve gotten a lot of traction on it and I think a good example of the way that 10Up is very committed to solutions that simplify things for developers and content creators. And a really good example of a way that we also don’t just hold that to ourselves, we are very determined to lift up an entire community and lift up the [inaudible 05:52] system.

Adrian: For any developers that are listing, I’m curious to know what the actual level of experiences to adopt this new kind of like way of pushing. Because as a developer I have to go back and forth in between GitHub and then move the changes from GitHub to Sub-version and then do the push from Sub-version. So like I am like your core audience right here. So how easy would it be for me to go and adopt this solution, like right now?

Jake Goldman: Great question. I don’t think easy is all relative. I’d say if you’re comfortable using GitHub with a very little bit of learning; just how GitHub Actions works, I think it’s pretty easy.

Adrian: Is it an hour or two hours, three hours?

Jake Goldman: I’d say, and it depends how sophisticated you are [inaudible 06:31] familiarity with action kind of integrations. I’d say less than an hour. Assuming you already have a repo, you’re not getting plug-in and all the other stuff that comes with setting up your plugin. For the first time, if you’ve never done an actions are like continuous integration [inaudible 06:44] might be just some basic fundamental [inaudible 06:45] understand how it works, you might want to do. That could take it longer, but for anybody who wants to get GitHub. I think it’s a pretty easy integration.

Adrian: Right on.

Jonathon: Yes, I think it’s quite exciting because I think a lot more could be done to standardize and standartize; I can’t [inaudible00:07:06] listeners and viewers. But it also just makes the whole process a lot easier, I think it’s really got a little bit bogged down isn’t it, Jake?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, I think for sure. I think hopefully these kinds of tools can sort of abstract away some of the technical debt we’ve encouraged. So, WordPress as a, I can’t even keep track of the anniversaries [inaudible00:07:26] these days, got to be coming on 20, right?

Jonathon: Yeah.

Jake Goldman: Like a 20-year-old piece of software that has committed itself backward compatibility. There can be some rough edges that are legacy technical debt. A lot of that is in our development ecosystems or of what it means. What wordpress.Org looks like, what integration for WordPress means? The more that these sort of like modern tools can at least abstract a way for a newer generation, more modern generation of developers, I think the better off we are. And I think the WordPress community is showing a real commitment to that, so, like putting WordPress.org code based on GitHub to welcome a different generation and a different set of contributors some years ago.

Jonathon: Yeah, that’s great, over to you, Adrian.

Adrian: So you’re also doing some really other kind of interesting stuff in the WordPress community that is not necessarily related to GitHub actions, but you’re introducing artificial intelligence. Everybody loves that buzzword, and they’re doing it, but you’re introducing AI into WordPress in a pretty unique way. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, so I guess we started with the plug. We have a plugin called ClassifAI Plug-in, classify spelled AI at the end instead of with a Y because we’re trying to be a little too clever here. [inaudible 08:40] What ClassifAI does is it uses AI, and if you want to make that distinction, I know people bundle them together, but very specifically, for the most part, machine learning technologies. In trying to figure out how do we apply what are rich set of technologies that a lot of closed CMSs are using, and that a lot of new platforms are using. How do we bring that technology and experimenting with bringing that technology into web polishing? A website ecosystem, and specifically for us, the application that we see in terms of the broader audience that we can get back to is, how do we integrate that with WordPress as a platform.

So ClassifAI connects to popular machine learning services that are in the cloud, all of which have free tiers. So if you’re not doing this; that massive volume of publishing or integration, you might need to pay a use fee. If you’re a smaller publisher or have your own website, probably just use their free tier, and be more than successful. So it integrates with like IBM, Watson Microsoft, [inaudible 09:35] AI services at the moment, which everyone again, can register for, for free. And then provide solutions like automatic tagging or automatic taxonomic classification. You don’t have to assign to your tags. We have a behind the scenes hidden taxonomy. So automatic tagging classification, anybody that’s worked in or had a website or a newsroom with more than two or three people creating content, knows that like the creep of misspelled tags and categories and everybody’s different lens on how something should be cataloged is a perpetual problem.

So the idea of even if those tags aren’t perfect, the idea of letting the machine learning algorithm, letting something on the cloud do that classification for you, can really both streamline the process, remove error that can sort of, [inaudible 10:20] SEO where you have all these misspellings, you have these like one article pages in archives. It’s also a really interesting SEO insight we found, if you think about like what Google is doing when you went to classify your content, how Google is understanding your site, they’re not human beings, going in and reading and reviewing your page. They are also creating machine learning-based bots to try to go and understand what the website’s about. Of course, they don’t tell you exactly how they do that. They can vary for good reasons they want to constantly sort of move that ball.

But having a different set of services go in and say, “Hey, as a bot, let me tell you, these are the things I understand this article to be about” can actually be a really interesting insight into how other services like Google consumer site. There are some really need tech in there about automatic all text generations that will send your images off to the AI services return, especially for more generic images, an all-text description, really important for accessibility. Also helpful to SEO–

Adrian: Sound like if you’re to upload an image of a woman with a cup of coffee to your blog post, I guess the media library would automatically generate, like, “this thing”, whatever the Alt texts and images, woman with coffee.

Jake Goldman: Yes.

Adrian: Like that.

Jake Goldman: Exactly, it’s actually, you know, so it has, when you can get really into it, it has like a– when can configure it, I think we set it to [inaudible 11:36]% by default with like hooks and filters; you can change it whenever you want. There’s a threshold for certainty that they’ll return, so they’ll say like 80 or 90% certain that this is the description. You probably don’t. If like you’re uploading screenshots of your custom application or taking photos of your family–

Adrian: Probably not going to work.

Jake Goldman: –Or this generic man and woman in front of table; it’s not a magical elixir for the problem, but it’s fairly Erie for things like celebrities or it just has my coffee cup sitting on a table, it’s [inaudible 12:06] good; those services at this point. The same type of fundamental technology, if you’re on like Google photos or I photo, your apple photos or something, the technology that automatically classifies things you can like search in for a tree, it automatically pulls up your photos, that same kind of technology. So like photo descriptions are pretty well-trod machine learning area where we’ve gotten pretty good and these cloud services [inaudible 12:32] descriptions so–

Adrian: Wow.

Jake Goldman: Yeah, you got the basic idea.

Adrian: Before we go into the break, is this currently available?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, so if you’ve got to Classifai Plugin you can download it right from the websites. There’s no cost to it. It’s a totally free plugin. We do ask that you sign up on the site to get it. That’s because we want to be able to have a relationship and reach out to people, especially if there are major updates or breaking updates to the plugin. And it’s also on GitHub, speaking of which, you can download it there as well.

Adrian: Plus with your new GitHub Actions probably.

Jake Goldman: So yeah. It’s actually not on the wordpress.org repo [inaudible 13:09] GitHub Actions.

Adrian: Alright.

Jonathon: I think we’ll go for our break and we’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathon: Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the new show, intro, and new adverts. I thought I’d go a little bit upmarket and go classical. That’s if my editor remembers to put the new intro in this episode. But before we go back into this great interview with Jake from 10Up, I just want to talk about one of our other sponsors and that’s Lifter LMS. Lifter LMS, what can I say about Chris and Tom? They’re a great partnership. It’s a great plugin. If you’re looking to build a learning management system and looking to build it on a great platform, I WordPress and that’s what I think you should be doing. You really want to look at it this plug-in because it’s got all the bells and whistles and it’s got a track record as well for support and functionality. And they are building out a load of new functionality for the plugin in 2020. So go over to Lifter LMS and tell them you heard about them from this podcast.

So Jake [inaudible 15:05] been really impressed is your work with another learning management plugin in the WordPress space; that was LearnDash. I was really impressed with the UX design and functionality. So, what are your views about WordPress, and what we can look forward to in 2020 for it to become more and more of an application platform?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, so my view on WordPress is there’s a series of really important applications that are predominantly about content delivery, that WordPress is well-positioned. Especially as it gets smarter with JavaScript and it embraces different kinds of layouts, and it embraces [inaudible 15:50] API, well purpose is well-positioned to be a major player. So like a learning management system is a great example of that. Fundamentally, LMSs are delivering content, they’re delivering learning modules, maybe a video, maybe media, different ways of consuming content, but they’re fundamentally about knowledge delivery. WordPress is a fantastic foundation to build an application like a learning management system because it is fundamentally good at content delivery, and content organization, and content management. I think like mobile apps, web applications that are fundamentally about sharing media information, WordPress is well-positioned to be a good choice as a delivery vehicle.

I tend to get more skeptical when we get into talking about it just because it’s a generic application platform, like do I think like if Uber wanted to rebuild their engine for car tracking that it makes sense to do that in WordPress? I don’t. Like, do I think I would build the next-generation video conferencing platform on WordPress? No, so I think when we talk about WordPress as an app platform, yes there are certain kinds of applications that I think it’s really well positioned and it gives you a lot of stuff for free and really well positioned to support. I’ve always sort of cautioned this community of about trying to push it and think of it as just a very generic like programming language-based foundation for building absolutely any kind of applications.

I just think that if you push WordPress into that space and you start getting into an argument that’s less about its merits as an interface platform for content and more [inaudible 17:22] that’s just basic underlying engineering capabilities as a framework. I don’t think if you’re looking to build your next-gen video platform or your next-gen car tracking system, I don’t think WordPress holds up [inaudible 17:35] wise compared to other more modern application stacks. So if there are things it’s really good at, I think we should focus on building applications, mobile applications, LMSs, intranet, building on top of its core strengths, which content delivery and organization.

Jonathon: Yeah, it’s really fantastic. I know last time you came on the show we had a similar discussion and you haven’t changed your position, but also know other people that really push a slightly different view. But I basically agree with you actually, so over to you Adrian.

Adrian: So continuing the conversation. We should focus really hard on making WordPress the ultimate content delivery system that we possibly can and focusing only on solutions that do content delivery. In what ways do you see that we could drastically improve the content delivery system that we already have? So, are there currently things that you see? I mean, if you look through the roster of 10Up’s homepage, there are some serious businesses and organizations on there that do massive content delivery on a daily basis. Where could WordPress improve or by default that doesn’t involve any sort of hacking it or anything? Where could WordPress unproven or to improve that content delivery flow?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, it’s a great question. And to some degree, it depends on the part of the market that you’re aiming at because I think there are different challenges in different segments of the market. I’m going to say you go downmarket to like very small personal sites; the sort of the small sites of SMB sites. I think fundamentally its challenge is continuing to evolve like it’s block editor to make more dynamic layouts, more dynamic templating that doesn’t feel like you have to get a degree to create it. So it’s like competing with like the square spaces and the–

Adrian: Which is where we’re going; I mean that’s where it’s all headed, isn’t it?

Jake Goldman: Yeah, I think to some degree. I think at least at the SMB side of the market, you start moving more up into the larger side of businesses and you start moving up more to the enterprise. It’s a very different set of challenges that’s less about like I want to say if I can click and drag and drop, click and build. And it starts pumping into challenges that have more to do with things like personalization, workflow, and things like machine learning and AI that we’re dealing with, things like content distribution and syndication to multiple channels. The good news is, part of the reason WordPress is still our preferred platform, it’s actually very bullish about the things WordPress is doing in that space.

I could chew your ear all day long on like in the very high-end market we work in like it has competitive weaknesses in that space when it comes to things like personalization in particular multilingual is a challenge on the high-end of the market. But if you believe the road map has been laid out to us for Gutenberg, multi-lingual and core multi-lingual support, at least some foundational version is on the road map for the next couple of years. I think that if it wants to be a first-class platform for like collaboratively laying out content and pages. I think the sort of synchronous like Google docs, like editing module, is an area that it has to conquer, that is also on the Glutenberg road map; that is also part of this transformation that the WordPress editor is going through.

Adrian: I actually saw a video on Facebook and it’s like they have some sort of like very early beta version of that collaborative working. So I’m super excited to see what that looks like in the future. So that you don’t click on a post and it’s like, so-and-so is currently editing this post. It just drops you in and shows you where they’re currently working so you [inaudible 21:11].

Jake Goldman: Editing this block, yes, I think we’re fundamentally moving in the right direction, were fundamentally embracing the right things to keep the platform strong. So I’m bullish on continuing to be a great solution for that part of the market. And I think it’s healthy for us to have a healthy ecosystem of solutions like that classify plug-in, like other solutions that are out there in the ecosystem. I’m sure many of the solutions you offer as integrations that round out that core with sort of the missing pieces of different segments of the market.

Adrian: So what do you think of WordPress as kind of like, do you think it would be possible at one point for companies focused on let’s say content over it because that’s where WordPress is really, like as you said, that’s what we’re really, really, really good at. Do you believe that WordPress could be used as kind of like your all in one solution for let’s say love bottom of the market, not necessarily like your enterprise-level companies in fortune 500, but SMBs in like the lower-end of the market? Do you think WordPress makes a good all in one solution to do all of your business through there? So let’s say you have your CRM, your eCommerce, and your content delivery all in WordPress, or should you be focusing on separating that out?

Jake Goldman: “Can it” is a dangerous question, when you’re talking about technology and probably can if you want to bend it hard enough. Do I think we should? No, I don’t think WordPress is ever going to be a 10th of like the invoice management system that something like a FreshBooks or QuickBooks is going to be. I don’t think WordPress is going to be, I mean, maybe for a very basic small business needs, but I don’t think it’s going to be the email marketing platform that MailChimp is. You can kind of integrate with MailChimp, you can simplify the workflow to send things over there and make the process of getting things out easier. I think I can say authentically for the better part of my career, I’ve always had this model of like one size fits all, it’s nobody particularly well.

And I think trying to be a Jack of all trades, [inaudible00:23:16] to do all things, where you end up with, in my experience, is a platform that’s not particularly great at any one of those things. Like I’ll be a little Hottie here in say like HubSpot trying to create their own CMS, I just think that’s a silly direction to push, and I think that’s a warn space. I think all they’re going to do is diminish the value of the platform by creating what will probably feel like a second rate CMS and then sort of devalued in itself. So I think WordPress trying to solve for we are like where your email marketing platform and where your invoice management system and tool or trying to do everything, just creates a sub-par experience.

I think the future is specialization, I think the future is companies and businesses and software solutions open source or not that are really good at a particular space, and are really good in this world of restful APIs and all these standards that we’ve built are really good at integrating with other platforms. I don’t know much about Groundhogg, but just hearing like the pitch, I imagine that may resonate for someone like yourself with the idea that rather than WordPress trying to solve every single problem, the real key is, how do you make WordPress play really well with solutions that are really good outside of the ecosystem.

It’s not to say that I don’t think there are more places WordPress can expand into, it’s not that I don’t think there are areas for innovation in WordPress, might be some frontiers we can conquer and really do well with. I would just caution us from sort of losing what we’re really good at. Being really good at something and trying to become this generalist platform that kind of has this like mediocrity of everything, and trying to do everything around it.

Jonathon: Well, we’re going to continue that kind of thread folks in the bonus content. You’ll be able to watch the whole interview on the WP-Tonic website and our YouTube channel. But we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show here. So, Jake how can people find out more about you and your company and what you’re up to?

Jake Goldman: So 10up.com, 10up.com is our website. I’d say at least once a week on average, [inaudible 25:24] times a week. There are new blog posts on there, letting you know what we’re up to and what we’re working on. It’s also just 10UP on Twitter. I’m Jakemgold, Jakemglod on Twitter. Those are probably the right places to go to see what I’m thinking about and see what the company is working on.

Jonathon: That’s great, and Adrian, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?

Adrian: You can go to groundhogg.IO, and you can find out all of the plugins that we offer in terms of digital marketing and marketing automation for WordPress,

Jonathon: And that’s great folks, and if you really want to support the show, go over to iTunes and give us a review. It really does help the show good, bad, ugly, or indifferent. I don’t care. Just leave us a review and it’s great to read them, and try to be funny, put in a laugh, a smile to my face is a great achievement. We’ll see you next week folks with another great interview. See you soon folks, bye.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the WP tonic podcast, the podcast that gives you a dose of WordPress medicine twice a week.

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