WPWeekly Episode 214 – Chris Lema on WordPress in the Enterprise, Market Share, and Calypso

In this episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I are joined by Chris Lema to discuss WordPress in the enterprise, the on boarding experience, and Calypso. Lema shares his experience beta testing a Windows version of Automattic’s new desktop application. We discuss how WordPress is going to grow its market share from 25% to 50% and how important Jetpack is to reaching that goal. Near the end of the interview, Lema shares what he’s most thankful for as it relates to WordPress.

Stories Discussed:

Automattic Unveils Open Source WordPress.com Desktop Application for the Mac

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

WP TAO by Michal Jaworski and Damian Gora from Poland, is a free powerful WordPress plugin for tracking website visitors. It allows you to identify your users and keep track of their activities in an easy to read digital dashboard and log format.

Cool Timeline is Narinder Singh’s first plugin in the repository. It creates responsive, vertical story lines in chronological order based on the year and date of your posts.

The Force created by Rohit Motwani from India, is a Hello Dolly clone that when activated, replaces music lyrics with random quotes from Star Wars characters.

What I’m Thankful For:

This has been a rough year for me. I’m struggling with my health and maintaining a schedule as a distributed worker. A dear WordPress friend of mine (Kim Parsell) passed away at the beginning of the year. My grandma was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I’ve been dealing with wild swings between feeling positive and downright depressed.

The thing I’m most thankful for this year as it relates to WordPress are the people who make up the community. Some are personal friends, others live on the other side of the world. Their consistent reinforcement of positive vibes has helped me get through some turbulent times in my life this year. To everyone who has and continues to give me encouragement, advice, and positive reinforcement, thank you.

What Marcus is Thankful For:

This year was one of the hardest years for me in terms of professional struggles and hardships. I lost relatives and friends, a job, and had to start from square one. I had a lot of support from within the WordPress community coming really close to working with a few people directly. In the end, it was my WordPress skills that landed me a new gig, which I now call The Dream Gig.

I’m thankful for the opportunities to meet people from within the WordPress community in real life. From Chris Lema and Cory Miller to Jeff Chandler and beyond. Every time I meet someone, they not only share their successes, but their struggles. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one and be able to use their strength and perseverance to fuel my drive and passion for WordPress.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share what I know to thousands of people around the world. I feel the best sense of accomplishment when I receive an email from someone that’s stuck on a particular problem and discovers a solution after they hear me talk about a plugin or technique on a podcast. It’s a great outlet for me personally that I hope to continue for many more years to come. Thanks to all who are listening and to those who are listening for the first time.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, December 2nd 9:30 P.M. Eastern

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13 Comments


  1. Hey, Jeff. Happy Holidays!

    With a bit of time having passed since the debacle that the WordPress Helpers sadly turned out to be having been resolved, I wanted to weigh in here on the two main points you mention above. Hope that’s OK.

    First, I absolutely concur that WordPress’ continuing growth absolutely depends on Jetpack. Of course, it’s no secret that I’ve always felt that way; after all I said it in January, in one of the first posts at The WordPress Helpers (http://wordpress.answerguy.com/wordpress-jetpack-market-share-big-brother/2015/01/29).

    Second, unless we redefine what market share means, that 50% thing isn’t going to happen. And that makes me sad.

    Let me be clear that I’ve not soured on WordPress, and there’s nothing in that statement even remotely related to the way things went with TWPH. I always believed continued growth of the sort that MaTT has been calling his goals for a while now to be unrealistic.

    OTOH, if the REST API thing works (I’m skeptical) and that redefinition thing happens, maybe WP can keep expanding. We’ll see …

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    1. I have a question. Earlier today I’ve read an article on TechCrunch and remembered that I’ve saw your comment there (http://techcrunch.com/2015/11/28/gillmor-gang-more-gravy/). Judging from your comments I have the feeling that you really dislike WordPress. If you don’t feel comfortable with WordPress why did you named your previous company (now renamed) “The WordPress Helpers” and work with WordPress in general?

      p.s. This is not hate just something I’ve wondered.

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      1. Denis, I didn’t take it as hate; I appreciate the open discourse.

        I don’t dislike WordPress; quite the opposite. However, I believe MaTT is making a lot of mistakes and AS someone with quite a bit vested, business-wise in WordPress, that upsets me.

        The WordPress Helpers was designed and operated in the hope that we could help (grow) WordPress even further and my comment there (http://techcrunch.com/2015/11/28/gillmor-gang-more-gravy/?fb_comment_id=946051698801413_947063508700232, to be specific ), while harder on MaTT than I’ve ever been before publicly was … I hope … reflective of that.

        Thanks,

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      2. Hi Jeff, (re: post on the other site which I’m not going to reply to since they use FB login)

        I’m curious why you think WP has topped out. I still run across a lot of websites that aren’t running WordPress (nor any CMS). IMO, that’s just plain goofy (the technical term). If true, that means it has a way to go unless some other platform is going to gobble up those sites.

        But, I am happy to see that Matt is looking outward a bit, as while the WordPress community is awesome, they/we tend to be a bit too internally focused. That’s something I’ve harped on a good bit too (ex: you’ll probably see my posts around questioning why a blogging platform has such a horrible commenting system).

        Anyway, I’m just not seeing why some peak has been reached.

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      3. I see. Well people learn from their mistakes and everybody has a unique viewpoint. What matters the most is the community and WordPress is in pretty tricky situation in general. Big changes cannot be made because of backwards compatibility and in the same time minor changes are not enough. I guess we will see in the future where the WordPress will go.

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  2. Gentlemen,

    Sorry to hear you both experienced a tough year. Often this solopreneur world we live in isn’t as glamorous as it it looks on Twitter. Add the variety of life and it can make for a difficult times to get through. Know you’re not alone in this journey and if you ever need to chat — look me up.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing, you both do great work.

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  3. Wow, Chris, what a great interview! Heh, I’ve got a story about how I just discovered it… ;)

    So, I’m driving around, doing some errands and going to pick up my little guy from school. Somehow, I missed the introduction as to who was being interviewed.

    As the interview progressed, I’m really resonating with this guy (even the part about being a pastor… as I’ve worked in the church, teaching, volunteering, and some leadership as well) and thinking, man, I’m going to have to make a note to connect with this guy when I get stopped.

    When I stopped, I paused it and looked at the screen and… it’s Chris Lema. I’ve been following you for some time… LOL!

    Anyway, I especially loved the part where you talked about volunteers. The attitude you expressed is something that has bugged me as well (both within the WordPress community, but also when I’ve led teachers and education programs). IMO, for any effective volunteer effort, there has to be some kind of quality control and leadership, even if it’s somewhat informal. The “I’m doing this for free, so I do as I like” just doesn’t cut it in a community.

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  4. @SteveW (sorry; “reply” not available):

    Literally, WP isn’t topped out; it’s gained another 1.5% or so of overall market share this year. But given its prior year-over-year growth, you gotta be concerned (and … 50% … ? Sorry, but never gonna happen)

    I also agree that MaTT looking outward is a good thing, and to his credit was talking about that early this year as well, although the context at the time was that “the community needs to look outward”, not that Automattic did.

    My issue with the decisions being made and reason for concern about the continued growth of the platform transcends all of that. REST makes WP itself all but obsolete (think about it; WP is really just a backend to PHP and MySQL, and REST reduces “WP” to nothing more than a database schema).

    OTOH: Calypso is Automattic creating a REST-driven front end to that schema, so if the world flocks to it then with any luck the commercially-driven WP entity manages to maintain some control. But that’s at the expense of the community, isn’t it? It drives people to the hosted platform.

    I have thoughts about what would have been a better plan, but they’d only sound self-serving/sour-grapes-ish, and I’m not interested in taking that posture. WP is what it is, and as long as easily-accessible host-it-yourself options remain available and develop without getting forked off the commercial version of WP, WP will continue to hold a dominant position for quite a while.

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    1. Hey Jeff,

      re: growth – Yea, I’m not sure how quickly it would/will happen, but I guess my thinking is… what will that other 75% be running on? A certain amount is going to be truly custom stuff, and then there are SquareSpace type stuff. I don’t know what percentage they make up. But, the rest seems to be static stuff built with various old tools and Adobe stuff, which eventually people will discover is a bad idea. What do they switch to? It would seem WP will pick up some of that, even if they do little to nothing (so long as they don’t head the wrong direction).

      And, for all the stuff I might complain about, WP has gotten more robust, easier for the non-techie, w/ better hosting options, and most of it’s deficiencies can be filled with a bit of know-how (ex: I complain a lot about the comment system, but there’s Disqus… it’s just more a matter of principal).

      re: look outward – I agree there. I wrote a comment here on another post regarding that the other day. IMO, the community and Automattic are too developer/inward focused. My complaint about the comment system is a symptom, for example. Basically, it’s good enough for the developers, and just considered something to be fixed by 3rd party stuff from what I understand. Many aspects of WP are like that.

      I guess that’s where JetPack is outward looking in filling those holes with a known quantity, right from the trusted source. The problem is that, IMO, the JetPack solutions aren’t often good enough (comments, again, are a great example).

      re: REST makes WP obsolete – I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I’m not sure I get that. Does it mean the backend needs to go away? I see it more as a new front-end tool. I guess that’s what you’re saying too… but is that a bad thing? (Why would it hurt the platform or growth?)

      The way I see it – even if it always has to connect to WordPress.com – is that Automattic probably wants that traffic/data/connection. That’s where the future value to them might be, not in forcing everyone onto WP.com. Be sure to listen to Chris’ comments on this episode of the podcast if you haven’t already.

      My interest in it would be developing specific custom interfaces for particular tasks, primarily for internal clients. For example, instead of teaching someone how to go to WP Admin and create Woo Commerce products and such, make a simple ‘tool’ they just launch and add products. (I’m sure you get the power of that… but just for the sake of clarity.)

      So, I’m not sure it’s at the expense of the community, at least any more than say Google giving you search, or Facebook giving you an account, or Disqus giving you a comment system, etc. is at the expense of the community. It’s an expense, of sorts, (i.e.: data collection, ad potential, etc.)… but seems a model the world is quite in love with. So, I’m not sure that will hurt WP’s growth.

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      1. Steve, your point re: “if not WP, then what?” is certainly well taken. And at 25%-ish market penetration WP is certainly the biggest … as in … no-one else is seriously worth considering id size (i.e., potential support channels) is your concern—and it should be.

        But all those small players (I’m NOT talking about the Joomlas and Drupals of the world; I mean home-grown tools from Apple/Google/Microsoft, when , not if they get their acts together) make 50% seem pretty unlikely. And the Squarespace-like tools … there are about a dozen viable ones now, and even if we accept that they are very bad ideas for portability purposes, 1% x 12 “being there” because people don’t understand the stakes supports my no-way-50%-happenstheory.

        REST is the big variable here, and you seem to understand/accept my premise. WP has always been made of three things: PHP code, MySQL database, and the backend that one installs using “the famous 5 minute install”. REST essentially makes the back-end unnecessary, although in truth anything that could write to the database always made it so; it was just too much work pre-REST.

        So now we’re left with PHP (oops … maybe not … ) and a MySQL database which ultimately is constructed in a way that is in no way unique and, by nature, not special.

        So none of it is remotely proprietary and in REST Automattic has lowered the barriers to accessing a pre-WP-formatted environment without using “WP” to the point that it’s almost trivial. THAT’S FINE. In fact, it’s great and certainly strongly within the spirit of open-source. But I believe it to be all but a certainty that the fork between the .COM and .ORG implementations is coming.

        Which is where the community thing gets hairy.

        When we launched http://wordpress.answerguy.com in its original location, I got quite the lesson in how the community works. Without comment as to whether I should have approached things differently, it’s clearly incredibly insular.

        What I learned that was FASCINATING is that the community—over 99% of whom have no direct stake in WordPress (i.e., Automattic) was ferociously protective of … the whole thing. Fork the .ORG and .COM worlds and there becomes very little reason for that ferocity to persist.

        So the .ORG folks (that’s most of “us”, right?) are developing things that are less compatible with the .COM part of things than ever, and the chasm only continues to grow over time. And now we get back to my original point: Automattic is trying to push people, way more aggressively than before, to their managed hosting platform.

        But that platform, now at odds with distinct from what’s good for the community is … oh wait, I just said it, didn’t I?

        The one rallying cry that remains (like, the ONE) is that Automattic is thus far continuing to talk and act “open source”. My concern is that the phrase has become hollow and deflective of reality.

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      2. We’ll see on the % thing… you might be right about all of that stuff added up. And, people aren’t always well-thought-out in how they pick their web-dev tools. :)

        But, I’m not sure Automattic is trying to push people TO the .com, as much as they are trying to get people TIED to the .com.

        (Again, if you haven’t listened to the podcast… do!) But, basically, the .com has to make money. But, they might not have to do it directly. They might be able to do it indirectly via ad revenue or data (the way a lot of ‘free’ stuff works).

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  5. @Steve: (“reply” unavailable again … )

    Certainly the idea of freemium and similar business planning applies here as it always has for Automattic and does in so mays places, and I’m not saying “I’m right”. I believe I am, of course, but … thank goodness for that! ;-)

    And ultimately there are two great truths here, that 50% fantasy not actually being one of them. 1) Yes, the company needs to make money (like … at this point I believe they NEED to; refer back to my “pay the VCs” point), and 2) there’s nothing wrong with making money!

    And as my dealings with Automattic went in a way that I found incredibly short-sited on their part and left me disappointed (although in the wake of http://wordpress.answerguy.com we’ve moved onto a plan in http://thewebsitehelpers.com that’s going to monetize faster and perhaps bigger), I obviously have a predisposition to see Automattic’s actions through a jaded lens.

    AND as I said yesterday, Calypso being open-source deserves to be at least mentioned; MaTT and Co. are sticking to their roots at some level.

    But I still see enough of a divergence between the way the .ORG software “is” and the path being forged for .COM that the fork thing looks pretty big—and that it ultimately has the potential to be a community destroyer.

    This has been fun, Steve. Thanks for indulging me!

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