#53 – Matt Medeiros on the State of the WordPress Landscape

Jukebox
Jukebox
#53 – Matt Medeiros on the State of the WordPress Landscape
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Transcript

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley. Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, the thoughts on the past present and future of WordPress.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast, player of choice, or by going to wptavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players. If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you, or your idea featured on the show. Head to wptavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Matt Medeiros. Matt is the driving force behind many WordPress initiatives. That could be the creation of plugins, WordPress news, media, as well as podcasts about all manner of WordPress specific subjects. He likes to juggle multiple projects at once.

Currently he’s the director of podcaster to success at Castos, which is a podcast hosting company with a WordPress plugin. He’s on the podcast today to give us his take on the past, present and future of WordPress.

Many millions of people like to work with the WordPress software, they create websites, plugins, and themes, and extend what the CMS can do. Others, such as Matt like to ponder the broader purpose and direction of the software and the community around it. The Matt Report and The WP Minute have enabled us to hear about what the community is doing, what it wants and where its points of friction are. He’s talked to hundreds of people about what WordPress was, is, and might be. And so he’s in a unique position to pontificate about what WordPress, beyond the software, is.

We start with mats backstory. How he found WordPress and why he started to use it. We talk about how he’s dipped in and out of the community over the years. More excited at times, less so at others.

The conversation moves on to some of the trends that Matt has noticed. He identifies how the software and the wider community have altered over time. We talk about how The WP Minute got started, and how he’s building up a community of like-minded people to consume as well as to create the content that they’re putting out.

Towards the end, we get into the governance of WordPress and the future of the project more generally. There are certainly things that Matt likes, but there are some wrinkles which get aired as well.

We finish up by talking about podcasts and Matt’s work with Castos and how they are trying to make it easier to get your voice out there, especially with their WordPress integration.

It’s a lovely chat with a thoughtful and far sighted member of the community.

If you’re interested in finding out more. You can find all of the links in the show notes by heading over to WP tavern.com forward slash podcast. Where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Matt Medeiros.

I am joined on the podcast today by Matt Medeiros. Hello, Matt.

[00:04:10] Matt Medeiros: Nathan, thanks for having me.

[00:04:12] Nathan Wrigley: You are so welcome. If you’ve been in the WordPress space for, I’m going to say a decade or more, it’s very likely that you’ve heard about Matt Medeiros, but just in case you haven’t, I’m going to let Matt do a little bit of an intro to give us his backstory about WordPress, the WordPress space, the projects he’s been involved in. So, Matt, off you go.

[00:04:33] Matt Medeiros: Well, my newsletter list says otherwise. So, there’s still plenty of people who need to know me. So Matt Medeiros. I’ve been doing WordPress stuff, 10, 15 years. I don’t know how long it’s been. Started a podcast called Matt Report back when I started a digital agency. That’s how I built the digital agency. Ran Matt Report for many, many, many, many years still out there, and now have pivoted this focus on thewpminute.com, which is five minutes of WordPress news every week.

So I’ve been in the WordPress space, agency stuff, plugin stuff, theme stuff, podcasting stuff, YouTube stuff. And now I am the director of podcaster success at castos.com, which is a podcast hosting company, which also has a WordPress plugin. And also the parent company of wordpress.com, Automattic, has invested in Castos a little over a year ago at this point. So it’s podcasting and WordPress.

[00:05:24] Nathan Wrigley: We’ll definitely get into that. I confess I had forgotten that fact. Cast your mind back. Let’s say it’s 12 years ago, something like that. What was the thing that made it WordPress as opposed to something else all those years ago? Could have been Drupal, could have been Joomla, could have been Expression Engine. Why WordPress?

[00:05:40] Matt Medeiros: In fact, it was Drupal, to begin with. That was my first foray into really taking an open source CMS seriously, besides PHP-Nuke, which I had played with, before Drupal. But Drupal came into my professional career as I was head of web services for an ISP, internet service provider.

We used to do things like dial up, ISDN, if you can remember those. T1 lines. And we purchased another ISP that had a web development arm and it was a Drupal shop. And this is around Drupal four and five, around those versions. And the head of design or the head designer at the time, he was like, hey Matt, because we were taking over and other people were leaving and I was going to steer the ship.

He’s like, I want to get away from Drupal. It is so hard to design on top of. Now you got to remember this is, I don’t know, 15 years ago, something like that. And he said, there’s this thing called WordPress. I can really design on top of that. I can do really well with it. I want to try it out. And that was the first theme we bought was the theme called Standard, which was a collaboration way back in the day between John Saddington, Tom McFarlin, and Eric Dye, I believe was his last name.

That was the first theme I ever purchased, in a professional setting. We use that to build themes and do that with our customers. And, and that was the entrance into WordPress. And once I broke off from that company, I just took all that knowledge and started my digital agency with that. And it was domino effect, ever since in the WordPress space.

[00:07:08] Nathan Wrigley: You’ve really had a, like a broad, rich, encounter with WordPress though, because for me at least, anyway, it was WordPress websites and then more recently got into podcasting and those are basically the two things that I’ve done. But, as we’ll probably find out during the course of the show, you’ve really dotted around.

One of the things that I want to raise right at the beginning, and I don’t know what your thoughts on this are. It’s a bit of an abstract thought. If we were to rewind the clock, say 20 years ago. Both of us have obviously decided at some point, I think the internet is quite an interesting and fun thing. But I genuinely had no idea, it could have been a flash in the pan. Maybe it would’ve represented a tiny sliver of what people were doing. Shops, brick and mortar shops would still be thriving. Websites would’ve been really tangential, hardly anybody might have visited them.

There was no conception that the phone would become a conduit. That you would carry something around in your back pocket. That computers would be basically portable. None of that was a thought, and yet both of us staked more or less everything on it, which with a bit of hindsight was probably the best decision we ever made.

Now, you can talk to computers that sit in a tiny box in your kitchen and it will give you coherent answers to everything. Do you feel like you’re a very privileged person to have stepped into the broader internet and all that that offers?

[00:08:28] Matt Medeiros: My genesis around getting into this space, if you want to go even deeper into the rabbit hole of who Matt Medeiros is, is my family ran a string of car dealerships for about 45 years in my local, my local area. We weren’t like this big massive conglomerate auto dealership. We just had two, family owned and operated.

It was the technology that was moving, fast paced in that world. Consumer internet being born, websites, you know, this all sounds pretty trivial, but back then it was like, oh wow, we can post a car on the internet and somebody can look at it and email us, or most likely call us back then and buy it? Speaking of the privilege that, like being in that space, having a family that ran this dealership, but because I was the youngest one and I was into it. I was the one that put all the technology together, from General Motors, right?

They were literally talking to an 17, 18 year old at the time, as the head of the internet department. Because I was the only one who got it, who understood it. My dad did, but you know, I sort of led the charge on that. And, I remember being in college and, you know, when you look at WordPress and open source, one of my, uh, capstone courses was to build something with, I forget what the terms were, but they said build it with multiple packages. And back then I was learning like Linux and Novell and, and Windows NT.

And I remember building PHP-Nuke with a bulletin board with, a blog roll. And I was building a car site, and I was like, wouldn’t it be awesome if somebody could go to this website and book an oil change for their car by filling out this form. And then if you had questions about repairing your car, you could come to this thing called a bulletin board, and have like this little community.

What I was doing back then was doing everything that social, that we all take for granted these days with the advancement of technology. And I was like wiring it together with little open source packages. So yeah, roundabout way of getting to, yeah, I feel pretty lucky to fall into that space at an early age.

[00:10:30] Nathan Wrigley: I feel that you and I hit a time when you could flip from just having any kind of job into working on the internet, because the barrier to entry in terms of knowledge was so low. You basically had to learn HTML and then along came CSS, it was straightforward.

I think the promise now is much more difficult. I can’t really imagine what it must be like for somebody at the age of 17 or 18. The things that they must need to learn in order to become employable. Speaking of the internet, you mentioned social media and what have you. I wonder what your thoughts are on that.

I know that we’re straying away a little bit from WordPress, but it does touch on GPL and it does touch on the broader purpose of the internet. What are your feelings about how the internet has evolved over the last, let’s say seven, eight years? Things like Facebook, social media, and the associated benefits and harms that go with it.

[00:11:25] Matt Medeiros: I don’t think humans were ready to be wired up emotionally, to the level that we’re at these days. Spanning across many, many contexts, right? From your everyday life of sharing pictures of what you’re eating, what your kids are doing, to more serious things like health, wellness, mental health.

Couple weeks ago suddenly lost my father-in-law and like the grieving factor of online. And you really start to sit back and say like, what, what is this? Like why? Is this value, all of us connected like this? Are we really together in this? Or is it just this digital connection that sort of literally just disappears as the feed refreshes?

And it really starts to have you question all of these things. Now there’s definitely many, many benefits. I mean, friends, that I’ve made through social, the businesses that I’ve built, and continue to build. There’s definitely a plus factor, but there’s a huge negative and, and things that I don’t think human beings are really ready for.

And I look at it in two different ways. One, I have three very young sons, three boys, under the ages of six. And I’m just like mentally preparing on how to onboard them to the internet, how I will do that. But I also see things from the broader perspective, is you and I are content creators. We’re just playing in the WordPress world mostly and softwares and stuff like that.

But I see people who are whatever, they’re into fashion, they’re into tech, they’re into video games, and there’s a burnout factor. There’s a, I must continue to create all of this content to please these people who really don’t care about me, factor. And then there’s those who really become hits, they do really well. And they’re not ready for that fame and that spotlight, because they’re one person with a million YouTube subscribers in their home office.

And they’re not ready for what that’s like, to have all of these humans watching them and asking them for things. And it’s just, it’s not a mindset that I think we’re all really ready for, without some education. But we’re so early that, 50 years from now, it’s, it’s probably not going to be a thing, because we’re, we’re still cresting the analog to the digital. Like you said, the young folks, how are they going to get jobs?

I think the, the issue is, is they lose the fundamentals of building technology. When I was learning how to build a website, I was learning how to build a computer. So I knew that there was a CPU and memory and a hard disc, and these things were storing this content and yada, all that fun stuff. Now, with the introduction of whatever, let’s say, easy web website builders and you just talk to AI and it codes a website for you. There are going to be this swath of people who just don’t know where all of this stuff lives and how it’s all connected. So, that was a deep rabbit hole that I just went down, and I hope we tumbled around it.

[00:14:14] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, really interesting. You mentioned your three children and I think that’s really fascinating for me. I have children as well, and one of the things that I struggle with. On the one hand, I’m really a proponent of technology. I love it. There’s almost nothing about it that I don’t love.

And yet at the same time, I’ve noticed that my children have been born into an era in which technology could be literally welded to your hand and, you know, there’s no escape from it. And so the notifications can come in at all times of day, and night. Stress there on night, so it disrupts things. Like it disrupts the normal cycle of interpersonal relations in a room because, there’s a bing bong on a phone and suddenly you’re distracted.

And the reason for being in the room with other people is somewhat shattered. And then, you hear about people who leave their phones by their bedsides and the phone goes off in the middle of the night and it disrupts their sleep, and all of these impacts. And whilst I am boldly a proponent of the internet, there are aspects of it which trouble me. And I think your wise point there, right at the end was that we’re young to this. We’re 20 years in, maybe a little bit more, but let’s say roughly 20 years in. And so we don’t really know where this is going.

It’s kind of like steering a ship. I’m imagining somebody in 1492, Christopher Columbus or somebody on a ship, you know, they’ve set sail. They know they’ve got a destination, but they don’t know how long it’s going to be or when they’re going to get there. This feels to me like the internet. And I do wonder if some of these things that we may regard as bad habits at the moment will get washed away and replaced, hopefully with more beneficial things. I’m optimistic about that.

[00:15:52] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, I agree.

[00:15:53] Nathan Wrigley: Let’s just turn to the WordPress space, generally speaking. So you’ve been in it for a long time. Certainly much longer than I have. And you’ve been somebody that’s been observing the WordPress space. Not just using the software, but considering it, considering the impact of it, considering the business that can be made around it, and looking at the plugins and the themes and all of that, and having a critical eye on it.

This is a very broad question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. What have you noticed as the main changes over time? Young people to the community, you’ve been in the community using WordPress for a couple of years. They won’t know that there’s been any changes. The software’s just the software, but there’s been a lot. What do you think the main things have been for you?

[00:16:29] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, I’m, I’m going to try to summarize this as quickly as possible that we can break off into different paths that I think are, are relevant. But there was certainly a long span of the same folks doing the same WordCamp talks, I’m not saying this in a bad way, but there was, I don’t know, a 10 year cohort of WordPress that I felt, we were all jiving and doing the same thing, showing up to the WordCamps, and everyone knew each other.

The real pivotal milestone, for better or worse, was the introduction of Gutenberg, and the software and how it was introduced and all that stuff. Those pages in the history books have already been written. I think it was at that point where a certain segment of the community was one, they were like, I don’t want this in WordPress, so I’m done. There was another segment where, we don’t know how to code around this, and I don’t want this coding overhead. And then there was a third, in my view, where a lot of people used it.

Excuse might be the wrong word, but it was certainly a time where, man, you’re 10 or whatever it was, 10 or 12 years into software. That’s a lifetime of using the same shiny tool. And there’s just this natural thing, I think, of all of us who are like technologists or like 10, 12 years in, ah, I just got to try something else. And that was a moment, two thirds of these people are leaving because of these reasons. I guess I’ll leave too, and go find another shiny object.

And that’s where I guess the no code market really stepped in. Not saying because of WordPress, but it was certainly a right time, right place, kind of thing where those tools were getting shinier and better, and it was a great moment for them to somebody else to be like, ah, Webflow, ah, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Coda, Notion, all these things that we’re just like piecing together like we did with WordPress 10 years ago. Now we can do this again here with these shiny, faster free tools.

So that’s the way that I see it. That change in the community over the milestone of Gutenberg, and up until now there’s a lot of fresh faces in here, which is great. But there’s less of this, I don’t know, warm blanket around all of us these days, that used to be there, for a good 10 year cohort.

One of the reasons why I started The Matt Report at the time was, one, it’s because I wasn’t a developer and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know how to talk to developers, so I said, well, I’ll just interview them and, and promote them so that they can get jobs and maybe I’ll learn more people.

But two, when I was at one of my first WordCamps, perfect example, there was, you know, one of the core contributors of WordPress and he would walk by and people like, Oh, I really want to talk to him. I’m afraid to talk to him. So there was like this celebrity status kind of thing.

And that’s when it hit me like, oh, people really care about these other people in the community. Let me go and find them and interview them, and prop them up so other people can meet them instead of being, you know, shy or worried to talk about them at a WordCamp. So I think the biggest change, for me anyway, has been the community in the involvement of everyone.

[00:19:24] Nathan Wrigley: Did I get a sense, I could be wrong. Forgive me if I got this sense and my spidey sense was tingling in the wrong direction. But, I kind of got a feeling about three or four years ago that you, you kinda fell out of love a little bit with WordPress and were seeking paths new. But then you’ve drifted back in, drift is the wrong word, you’ve come back in with great aplomb, you know, you’re back in making all the content and what have you. Is that true? Did you find yourself in that miasma, thinking I don’t really know whether I belong anymore?

[00:19:55] Matt Medeiros: Picture us in the, in my therapist office, and you’re sitting across from me with your pen and notepad. There’s a lot of things that go into that feeling. You’re not totally wrong. But, as you know as a content creator, you continue to create all the content. And quite literally, I burned out on the YouTube stuff because it was just a hard slog on the Plugin Tut channel. But then it was, how do I really grow this? How do I grow this podcast and, bring in other, other voices? Because the same thing I just mentioned about this 10 year cohort, all the same people.

I could feel those effects on the content that I was doing. That’s when I started to introduce the no code, maybe the more business aspect, SaaS developers, stuff like that, and bringing that into the fold. It certainly, my love for WordPress, it actually goes much deeper than the software. I think that WordPress itself is, speaking of like jobs and education. This is a tool that can empower individuals, local organizations, states, towns, to put people into a workforce.

And WordPress is, I think, a great learning tool. A great building tool to do all that stuff, aside from the fun web stuff that we can do with it. So you’re not too far off, but there was sort of a reshaping of how do I introduce new voices? Because I could feel probably just like you, the social media, the engagement of everyone sort of just getting burned out from the same old thing in WordPress, and that was probably me shifting the way I do content at the time.

[00:21:32] Nathan Wrigley: So shifting more recently, your content creation, it’s not entirely this, but you’ve moved to a new moniker. You’ve got The WP Minute. Just give us a bit of an insight into what the intention was there and how it’s going.

[00:21:46] Matt Medeiros: We can thank our mutual friend Davinder Singh Kainth for getting me into this, uh, yet another content rabbit hole. But I also thank him very much for pushing me in this direction. I had an idea that I pitched to him one day and I was like, hey, probably just like your spidey sense went off. I’ve gotten really busy with the Castos day job, three young boys. It’s like, how the heck can I even do long form content anymore?

So I wanted to do short form content and I approached Davinder and I said, hey, what I’d really like to do is a spoken version of your, of your newsletter. Fast forward, to make a long story short, he just said, how about you just start your own and I’ll just support you and I said, I don’t really want to do my own, I just want to, just want to piggyback off of somebody else. And that’s how we, we got into The WP Minute. So it’s your favorite five minutes of WordPress news, every Wednesday. But it’s really grown, to, uh, a small but mighty community. Just introduced Erik Karkovack, who is a top WP Tavern commenter, as the head editor or the editor of The WP Minute.

So he’s working for me, air quotes, full time as the editor of putting together all the news, curating the news. And then I read the news, every Wednesday, and it’s just a short five minutes, so you’re busy, you’re a busy WordPress professional, you don’t have the time. We get all the top headlines for you and summarize it for you. And we have a fun community. So if you’re into the news, I, I certainly recommend The WP Minute.

[00:23:10] Nathan Wrigley: How do you decide what stays in and what’s goes out? I face this problem. I have to decide which podcast episode I’m going to make, but it’s much more straightforward because the stuff that I’m producing content on, probably won’t matter whether it’s next week or the week after, it’s less critical. But for you, you’ve really got one shot and you’ve got to presumably try and get all the good bits in in five minutes. That’s hard, because in the WordPress community, as you know, I can talk about it for at least an hour and a half every week. How do you decide what stays in and what gets cut onto the floor?

[00:23:41] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, so I look at the WP Minute as probably the best thing that I’m ever going to create for WordPress, right? So Matt Report, all the plugins, themes, services, consultations I’ve done, I feel like the WP Minute is the best thing that I’m going to contribute to this community. As far as I can see, and I look at it as community driven journalism without, self-promotion on this point.

The idea is if you really want to have a hand in the news, you could join the membership and be part of this, and you join the membership to support it, because it costs money. And I try to be as transparent as possible of, there’s hosting, there’s podcast hosting, there’s paying Eric, there’s paying Raquel, there’s paying Pat to run this team.

And the idea is if you want to get the stories out, you join us for short money to support the whole cause. And what I call the members, they call them producers. So you, the community member, can help produce the show. And as you know, Nathan, you get people knocking on your door to promote their product, promote their thing, and it’s like, hey, great, put your money where your mouth is and if you want your news to be heard, submit it to, what we call the link squad at The WP Minute. It’s a member curation. So you have the editorial team, myself, Eric, Pat, Raquel, and then you have the members who contribute the news. We all watch the news.

You know, I got some Slack bots wired up. We get all the hot topics pumped right into the Slack channel so we can all collaborate on it. But then everyone sort of gets to have a vote. So people who put in their links, if their link makes it to the news, then they all get a credit thank you, both in the newsletter and the podcast. Now the idea is it’s supposed to be a five minute show. So if there’s a ton of news and somebody has voted for their top 10 slider plugins for October, chances are that one’s not going to make it. But we’ve had some times where we’ll cut a story from make.wordpress.org.

Hey, we’ve got WordPress 6.1 release candidate one is ready. Please test it. Those are things that we always include to raise awareness, but if there’s acquisition news, community news, Tumblr News, like things that are really big and impactful, those things might drop because those things happen a lot more. So that’s not the most educated answer of how we select the news, but it is a community effort, and then within the confines of, hey look, this is also short form, so we try to keep it to five to seven minutes every week. People have said to me, why isn’t it called The WP Minutes?

[00:26:07] Nathan Wrigley: You’ve been doing this like you said, for such a long time, and so you’ve been inspecting the community and what have you. You’ve got this media channel now, WP Minute, I know you’re doing a bunch of other stuff, and we’ll get onto that.

Have you noticed over the last 10, 12, 8, whatever number of years. Have you noticed that the audience has changed? The desire of the content for the audience has changed? Because, when I started listening to WordPress content, really the only stuff I could find was how tos. It was, here I am, I know stuff about code. I’m going to tell you about code. Whereas now, if you look around, I feel that you can get news on almost everything.

You know, you’ve got news about accessibility. You’ve got news about governance. You’ve got news about the plugins. You’ve got news about the themes, full site editing. The list could go on and on. And it seems almost like we’ve really properly got a little ecosystem where you don’t need to code, you could just be a community member talking about the community. So any thoughts on that?

[00:27:05] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts on that. I talk about this topic a lot, I really just put all my cards out on the table and I could be totally wrong and it wouldn’t, certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But I think that the audience size, and again, this goes back to your spidey sense from before. I think that the audience size for the type of content that you and I put out is maximum, if you had the whole globe of human beings in front of you, the whole earth is probably about 8,000 people, out of whatever, 8, 9 billion people.

I think that’s our cap for WordPress news, the inside baseball or how, how the community is put together, the ins and outs of the project, right. I think that the cap is 8,000 people. Now, the cap for how to put together a WooCommerce store, vastly different, right? those are the ones that, I mean, that’s hundreds of thousands, if not, uh, I don’t know, millions of people, who would want that kind of content? So I think yes, it has changed. I think the one constant is content that is still developer centric, is still the king of WordPress content, because there’s just far more WordPress developers who care about how to put sites together, than it is about the business side of WordPress and, maybe the community side, right?

So I think that it has certainly shifted, although maybe even has gotten even tighter into the development space with the introduction of Gutenberg, full sight editing and just the general changes of WordPress.

So, I know that if you told me 10 years ago, could you have made a business out of, whatever I, Matt Report and The WP Minute, I probably would’ve said no, I’m just trying to like grow brand awareness, which I was. I think I’ve successfully turned it, air quote, successfully turned it, into a media business, but it’s still very, very small. Very appreciative to like the sponsors over the years, and I have done really well compared to the larger podcasting industry, But, the audience I think for the stuff that, at least that I do, not trying to put you in the same bucket as me, is pretty small. It’s just people going in and out, all the time.

[00:29:12] Nathan Wrigley: Given that we’ve both hitched our cart to the WordPress space, what are your thoughts about the future? Because I personally feel at least anyway, that the future is quite bright. I’m fairly optimistic about the progress around full sight editing and the block editor. I can well understand why people have become dissuaded with the desire to use WordPress into the future, I can understand that. But I feel that there’s light at the end of that tunnel, albeit, I don’t know how many days, weeks, months, or years it’s going to be before the train finally emerges out of the tunnel. But for me, it’s important because I do podcasting. I do content in the WordPress space. I would like to think that WordPress has a bright and glowing future. Maybe you share that optimism or maybe not.

[00:30:02] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, I feel like I’m a realist in the fact that Automattic will take over wordpress.org, and it’ll just be more of a prominent upsell to either Jetpack or wordpress.com. And there is nothing wrong with that in my eyes, okay. So let’s just set that aside for a moment. I’ve recently, so hold that thought.

I’ve recently been using Ghost, another open source CMS and, I’m using their paid version because like the folks who would make that decision to not have to maintain WordPress, get a hosting account, do plugins and themes. I said, hey, for this little side, side, side project that I’m working on, I’m just going to pay ghosts 30 bucks a month.

And I want to be carefree like everyone else who picks these no code tools. This is what they’re all saying. This is why they’re all moving there. And I’ll tell you, yes, Ghost is good in the lane that Ghost runs in. But just the other day I was like, ah, I need to add a landing page, or I need to edit the footer.

And I go to the help docs and it’s like, install your code editor. Set up a local repo., like run docker containers, and I’m like, I don’t want this. Where’s my full sight editing? Where’s my Beaver Builder? Where’s my Elementor? I just want to edit this one thing. Why can’t I do it? There is a luxury in WordPress that I think a lot of, a user interface luxury. Uh, a no code luxury. Call it what you want, that when I just want to click something and edit, for all the faults that you hear people complain about speed and performance. Man, put this up against the Ghosts, the Webflows, the Wix’s.

I was looking at card.co, the other, I think it’s card.co. It’s like a super simplified like page building, five page portfolio site and I wanted to upload multiple photos. This was for again, the passing of my father-in-law and I wanted to put a little memorial site up, and I had hundreds of photos that I wanted to upload and I had to upload one at a time. And I said, no, I just want you drag a bunch of photos like I do in WordPress into a media gallery and display it. And these other tools just, they just don’t do it as easy as WordPress.

So, like you, I’m, I’m an optimist on using WordPress. It’s the learning curve and the maintenance. But I think that’s a world we’re all slowly moving to where, that will all continue to get simplified by Automattic, by web hosts. Full sight editing. Oh boy. I’m really struggling with that big time. Gutenberg, yes, there are still some things I really struggle with, but there are some other great tools as alternatives that I use. And that’s the patchwork that I’m doing now.

[00:32:38] Nathan Wrigley: The grass is always greener. There’s always that, I’m going to try that other CMS and see how it goes. And I’ve done the same, I’ve always ended up back with WordPress. It always seems like a, a comfortable pair of shoes. Terrible analogy, but there you go.

[00:32:52] Matt Medeiros: WordPress, a comfortable pair of shoes.

[00:32:54] Nathan Wrigley: Let’s get into the awkward business of Automattic and your thoughts around that. And you mentioned a moment ago that you thought that wordpress.org was moving inexorably towards being dominated by Automattic. What makes you say that, and does it trouble you? You went to great pains to say that it didn’t trouble you, but maybe on some level it does?.

[00:33:14] Matt Medeiros: I think that the biggest factor here is communication, right? It’s communication from WordPress leadership. It’s communication from Jetpack and Automattic. These are signs that are quite obvious. So, I forget six months ago or something like that, I interviewed the uh, president or CEO of wordpress.com, talking about their new price points because they had done new price points.

And the obvious gorilla in the room to me is, what are we doing with WooCommerce? We collectively as Automattic, like, when are you really going to compete with Shopify? And you know, he is, oh, you can compete with Shopify right now. You can just sign up for a WordPress.com. Yeah, but it’s nothing, it’s nothing like going to Shopify to start an e-commerce store. Nothing is guiding you as a merchant, as a store seller, as an entrepreneur.

So these are obvious things that I can see, that everyone can see are the obvious paths to monetization to Automattic. And I think, one, we all step back and say, What would WordPress look like without Automattic? What would that world look like? Who would it be? Would it be Salesforce? Would it be Oracle? Would it be Microsoft? Do you want them in the lead of this software?

I think that the best steward for all of this stuff, .org included, is Automattic. The challenge is, communication, direction. And do we all really get a seat at the table, question mark? And I fight for that seat at the table from my point of view, which is the website builder, the entrepreneur, the user, not a developer, certainly not a developer. But from my perspective, these are the things that I fight for. And I fight for WordPress to be open source because I think it is, in a world where we all go closed source, like I said before, this is things that could impact local economies.

This is a tool that could get somebody who’s really struggling in life, to get a job in technology because you know how to make a WordPress post. These are the building blocks of the fundamentals of the internet, in my eyes. So, to me it’s, hey, go Automattic. Tax us, air quotes, tax us. I know this is interesting, me being in New England and you being in England to me, for me to say tax us. But that’s fine with me. I used to say the same thing when I used to sell themes. Why is this process so difficult? Why don’t we have the data? Why isn’t dot org just a marketplace?

I am fine getting a 30% tax. If I can sell my goods in a place that’s trusted, secure, that we’re true partners with. And it just hasn’t happened because I feel that all roads lead to, we’ll monetize WordPress, this is Automattic speaking. We’ll monetize WordPress through Jetpack, wordpress.org, and then we’ll eventually upsell, hey, if you don’t want to host it yourself, come to .com, or Pressable. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s just everyone, I think needs to sort of just face the fact and build their business, their plugin business around that.

What I don’t like is overstepping and, and the hidden paths to upsell without anyone saying anything, ala Jetpack. I still think Jetpack is good for the right user. In fact, I used it on that memorial site because it’s a fantastic tool for quick and easy. But I think it’s also going to dominate other SEO plug-ins, other contact form plugins, the blue collar digital workforce that I try to advocate for a lot in the content that I put out.

[00:36:35] Nathan Wrigley: What do you think about the governance of the project? So at the moment, we have the model, which is often called the benevolent dictator for life, and it kind of trickles down from there. Would you like there to be forays into altering that model? Are you happy with the fact that there is one person governing for life, or would you like to see little bits of that chipped away, chunks of the project, which are governed by the community more?

[00:37:00] Matt Medeiros: I really appreciate the three conversations that Matt and I have had on my podcast. I think it’s been three. I don’t think that there is, when I have a problem with my MacBook, I don’t call up Tim Cook, and say hey man, come on my podcast, let’s talk about this Apple ecosystem you’ve got here, speaking of a 30% tax. It’s great for us as a community to have a single person that is semi approachable to have conversations with you. To be at WordCamps and have this, literally armed lengths away, to have a conversation with. Having said all of that, yes, I would like change. As I’ve told Matt, he does an insane amount of stuff.

Automattic, wordpress.org, Tumblr, and Automattic is like 25 different products. One of them my favorite, which is Simple Note App, Jetpack, and all the other stuff that he does in life. How can he do it all? And I think that is a real issue. We look at the last couple of weeks ish, he’s actually talked more openly about where he wants to go with Tumblr than I feel he has with WordPress dot org, and how can you balance that?

I think it’s a super challenge. I think, he thinks he can do it and he is doing it, but I think there should be some level of change. And Josepha again gracious to have her on the podcast once. How much can she possibly load on her back to do all of the work that she does? So, yes, I mean, I don’t have the answer for it.

I don’t think it’s easy. I think a lot of people think that it’s easier said than done. But there should be something, some kind of governance model change, which I know people have pushed for in the past. I just don’t see how, how Matt can steer so many ships at once.

[00:38:46] Nathan Wrigley: Speaking of steering a lot of ships. You’ve not only got The WP Minute and various other bits and pieces. You’ve also got a real interest in how podcasts are made, not just because you’re making podcasts and you go through that whole editing process and interviewing guests, much like we’re doing right now. But you’ve also taken a great interest in the technology behind how podcasts work. Actually just occurs to me, many people might not even know that there is a whole industry behind podcasting, but there is, and Castos is one of them. How long have you been now with Castos and what do you do over there?

[00:39:19] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, so two and a half years, something like that. Director of Podcaster success. I try to make podcasters coming in to Castos successful with their podcast, however they might define success, Again, joining Caso because one, I’m a podcaster, two, they have a fantastic WordPress plugin.

There’s a commitment to open source, on the WordPress side, there’s a commitment to open RSS. These are two worlds that collide greatly with me, and I’m a huge proponent, of course on open source and open distribution. You know, the perfect example is what’s the difference? Well, the, difference is a Spotify where you have to have the Spotify app to listen to a particular show, and open RSS means you can subscribe and distribute anywhere that accepts RSS.

The world of podcasting, it’s funny, it continues to grow and there continues to be this excitement around it, but it continues to be more in more corporate interest. There is a tiny, tiny, tiny open source team that’s sort of leading the charge for, I’ll dumb it down, but RSS standards.

It’s called Podcasting 2.0, and you can go to the podcastindex.org, and they run their own index, which is different than Apple, right? So Apple has their index, but you have to, you know, register and do all this stuff with Apple. Podcastindex.org is an open, so think of it as almost like wordpress.org, if you will.

And they’re really leading the charge of enhancing the RSS feed. Doing things, more things in the RSS feed, like micro payment support, transcripts, chapters, live feed item tags, chat, cross platform chat. So they’re introducing a lot of this data and information that can help podcasters, and their challenges, similar to WordPress. They have to get other podcast hosts and other podcast apps to support these name spaces so that it’s for the greater good of the whole podcast economy or, or industry, right?

So, you know, I’m a huge proponent of that. Again, to talk about like the approach of Matt, Matt Mullenweg to pull it back. I know, well, Matt’s from Texas, one of the head guys at Podcast Index is from Texas, Adam Curry, and I sent an email to Matt and Adam and I said, hey, you guys should talk to each other. You both know each other, you’re both into open source, open distribution. You all should have a conversation.

And they, and they had a conversation and that Matt tied together the Pocket Cast team to them, and they had some great conversations. So, yeah, open source, open collaboration, it’s a great thing and I hope to keep waving that flag for podcasting.

[00:41:52] Nathan Wrigley: That’s really interesting. I wonder if we are on the cusp of something akin to RSS with things like Mastodon, based upon Activity Hub, which is very like RSS. So essentially it’s an open platform where you can attach your social media stuff. I don’t know if you’ve come across this exodus from Twitter over the last couple of weeks.

But there seemed to be a lot of people who, over the last few weeks have made up their mind that they would like something a bit more open. They would like to be able to get the content and post the content that they wish without the constraints of being logged in to some proprietary system. And in many of the comments that I’ve seen in people’s flight from Twitter, they keep talking about podcasts and how podcasting, 20 years ago, I believe it was Dave Winer who came up with the spec for RSS for podcasts, I could be wrong about that.

But just how, with the benefit of hindsight, the whole RSS open nature of podcasts, so take Spotify and all those other things out of the equation. The fact that my podcast, your podcast, is available completely for free. You don’t need any sort of system, particularly, you just need to subscribe to a podcast feed, which is held on the website. Just how breathtakingly clever that was with a bit of hindsight.

[00:43:03] Matt Medeiros: Yeah, yeah. Adam Curry as well helped, lead that charge. And he’s, he’s the one that’s sort of leading up the podcast index stuff, and podcasting 2.0 stuff. Yeah, it is great. A lot of the technology is, it’s very easy to implement, right? It’s all part of the RSS feed.

And, you know, the challenge is, is sharing that data. So, it’s a, I don’t know if platform war is the right phrase for it, but you know, if you have your podcast on Spotify, Spotify can give you more analytics. They can do things in app that are for the better of the, of the listener. But don’t forget that it will be for the better of Spotify first, because they’re going to be the ones that run the ads and take a larger chunk of the profits or what have you.

Whereas open RSS, we’re all fending for ourself, and as the more collaboration and the more people who support the innovations, the better we’ll all be. But that’s the challenge. To get everyone on the, on the same page. It’s, it’s actually no, a lot of similarities to WordPress.

[00:44:01] Nathan Wrigley: You mentioned a moment ago that you feel that podcasting is still growing? I, I honestly have no insight into that whatsoever, but it does feel much more of a mainstream thing this year than it was last year and the year before that and so on. Is that in fact the case? Is there still a case to be made, is there data to back up that, yeah, podcasts really are still growing, and if your business or your interest, your hobby is something that you want to plunge into a podcast, it’s probably worth your time and effort.

[00:44:27] Matt Medeiros: You have to kind of look at it, obviously I’ll call myself an insider to the podcasting space, but there is a lot more money and a lot more interest coming in from what I’ll call the corporate level. And the corporate level translates into Wondery’s, Amazon. Amazon owns Wondery, which is probably the premier podcast production company creating fiction, true crime, entertainment podcasts. And that’s all backed by advertisement. That can be openly distributed, but because Amazon owns it, if you listen to it on Amazon’s music app, then you get it without the ads. But if you listen to it on Apple Podcasts, you get it with the ads, right?

So there’s this big interest in advertising, and celebrities and movies and movie industry and all that stuff. Then there’s the flip side, there’s you and me. The guys that make probably a few thousand dollars a year, instead of a few million dollars a year, like the big boys.

If you go to podcastindex.org, I’m looking at it right now. There’s 4 million podcasts in the index. I think Apple says around two and a half million. But there is a stat right below that, that within the last three days there’s been 109,000 updates to podcasts. And in the last 90 days, 483,000 have been updated.

So of the 4 million, yes, there’s a bunch that have probably either just ended, you know, it’s just a series of content that people have done. Pod faded where they have given up. The true earmark to that is 483,000 in the last 90 days. So people get scared of the 4 million mark. Like, oh my God. How is my podcast going to live within 4 million? But when you look at the data of 500,000 active within the last 90 days, you still have a shot, and yes, the answer is it’s still growing for the hobbyists, like you and I.

[00:46:14] Nathan Wrigley: It’s really amazing. I feel so privileged in a way that I made the decision to get into it a little bit early when things were probably less competitive than they are now. That I’ve just kept banging on with it week week after week. It’s, yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Uh, I realize that we’ve used up a lot more of your time than I should have done, I apologize. So I’m just going to round off with one very simple question. You’ve been in the community many, many years. Let’s imagine five years, 10 years into the future. Do you reckon you’ll still be

[00:46:40] Matt Medeiros: here?

Yeah, a hundred percent. I’ll be using WordPress, as far as I can see, again. One, because I love it as a publishing tool. Two because I believe in it as a tool for somebody to learn and educate themselves and, and find a new opportunity, whether that’s coding, designing or writing. This is a tool that can impact economies. Three, I love, I just love the idea of, of open source on the web and really believe in that wholeheartedly. So yeah, I see myself sticking around.

[00:47:09] Nathan Wrigley: Matt Medeiros, thank you for joining us on the podcast today.

[00:47:12] Matt Medeiros: Thanks, Nathan.

On the podcast today we have Matt Medeiros.

Matt is the driving force behind many WordPress initiatives. That could be the creation of plugins, WordPress news media, as well as podcasts about all manner of WordPress specific subjects. He likes to juggle multiple projects at once.

Currently he’s the Director of Podcaster Success at Castos, which is a podcast hosting company with a WordPress plugin.

He’s on the podcast today to give his take on the past, present and future of WordPress.

Many millions of people like to work with the WordPress software. They create websites, plugins and themes which extend what the CMS can do. Others, such as Matt, like to ponder the broader purpose and direction of the software and the community around it.

The Matt Report and The WP Minute have enabled us to hear about what the community is doing, what it wants and where its points of friction are. He’s talked to hundreds of people about what WordPress was, is, and might be, and so is in a unique position to pontificate about what WordPress, beyond the software, is.

We start with Matt’s backstory. How he found WordPress and why he started to use it. We talk about how he’s dipped in and out of the community over the years; more excited at times, less so at others.

The conversation moves on to some of the trends that Matt has noticed. He identifies how the software and the wider community have altered over time.

We talk about how The WP Minute got started and how he’s building up a community of like-minded people to consume as well as to create the content that they’re putting out.

Towards the end, we get into the governance of WordPress and the future of the project more generally. There are certainly things that Matt likes, but there are some wrinkles which get aired as well.

We finish up talking about podcasts and Matt’s work with Castos and how they are trying to make it easier to get your voice out there, especially with their WordPress integration.

It’s a lovely chat with a thoughtful and far sighted member of the community.

Useful links.

Matt Report

The WP Minute

Castos


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