🎙️ Podcast

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In today’s episode, Joe sat down with Joe Simpson Jr. Joe is a Front-End Web Developer and Graphic Designer specializing in WordPress solutions. During days he works at a top-five transit agency, fighting the good fight to ease the commute around Los Angeles County. 

They discuss Joe’s responsibilities in the digital strategy team at Metro Los Angeles, how he started in the WordPress space, his continuous effort for the inclusion of people of color in the open source space, and the planning for the 3rd WordCamp Santa Clarita.  

Tune in to learn how the WordPress environment came to be more diverse!

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 01:11 Let’s welcome Joe Simpson!
  • 04:16 Visit The Source 
  • 06:02 How did you get into this area of WordPress?
  • 08:13 Getting involved in the WordPress community
  • 11:00 Ahmed Khalifa is a common connection
  • 13:00 African-American representation in the WordPress community
  • 17:27 Creating a more diverse space in the open-source environment
  • 22:14 Changes in the WordPress space since COVID
  • 29:20 Everyone’s first time in a WordCamp
  • 32:10 The backstory behind WPMRR’s new branding and design
  • 35:06 Planning for the 3rd WordCamp Santa Clarita
  • 38:30 Proper documentation helps shape a more successful virtual event

Episode Resources

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Howdy folks, Joe Howard here. Welcome back. We have Joe Simpson on the podcast this week. Obviously we always have great episodes when you’ve got two Joe’s on the podcast. Whenever Joe Casabona has been on, it’s been fantastic. And this episode was no different. Joe does a ton of stuff in WordPress. I’ll let him.

Talk about it all here in a second, it was really cool. Being able to talk to him about all of the community work. He does all the organizing, all the volunteering. It really is fantastic to hear about how he’s really stepped into the limelight in the WordPress community and has yeah. Really become front and center.

And from one African-American. In the WordPress community to another I think it’s especially cool to see. We definitely chatted about representation in the space as well, but definitely a lot about how folks can continue to become more central in the WordPress community, especially during these COVID times when everything is digital how can you continue to push forward and really continue to be a core part of the community.

If you want to be. All right, without further ado. Here’s Joe. Hey folks. Welcome back this week. We have, we got a special to Joe episode of the podcast. This week. We have Joe Simpson on here with me, Joe. How’s it going and tell folks a little bit about you your background, what you do with WordPress, you listed a bunch of stuff you with WordPress, when you, when we were booking this call and I was like, wow, Joe does a lot. So it may take a little while, but I’d love to get to tell folks, like all the stuff you do with WordPress.

Joe Simpson: [00:01:31] I’m Joe. Hey I just first wanted to say, Hey Joe, it is the year of Joe. I was just speaking part of the speaker team at Word Camp, Los Angeles. And I think we had six Jos. So I think 2020 is definitely the year of Joe. Yeah. Everywhere I go there, a gel now where it’s it’s a common name and it’s not really a intrude name anymore. So it’s just cool. Still around in the ecosphere. My name’s Joe Simpson. I work with Metro in Los Angeles, which is one of the largest transportation companies in the world.

I’m part of their digital strategy team. I manage our WordPress blog network. We have about 15 sites and it’s constantly growing. The cool thing about it is that all the projects that we’re doing, we’re trying to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation, because, you hear the famous or infamous Los Angeles traffic.

So we’re working to get people out of their cars and on a public transit. So every time a new project. Rolls out. We spin up what we call a vanity site. So we build a WordPress site. We have a really strong brand and I work with our marketing and design teams to bring these sites to life to provide information for our customers.

So I’m always in the WordPress space. So that’s my professional job, but then my alter ego or in my alter ego came into being about three years ago. I had a heart event. And I had to take a leave of absence. And during those three months, I decided to go back to the things that I really love doing.

And one of those things was I was exposed to WordPress about 10 years prior to that, I did a WordPress VIP event. I wasn’t just an HTML guy learning WordPress for the first time. And it was amongst all the automatic team, all the heavy hitters who did all the development for the core. And one of the first things they asked us to do was spin up a virtual site on a virtual box.

And I was like, I have absolutely no idea what this means, but the cool thing was my first exposure to the WordPress community was everybody bent over backwards to help me and make me feel comfortable and welcome me. So spin forward to when I had the heart event. I said, let me touch base with WordPress.

Again, I’d never been to a meetup. I’d never been to a word camp here in Los Angeles, but I said, let me find out what WordPress is really all about. And so I started attending meetups and going to work camps. And from that point for those three months, I think I did 18 meetups and work camps. And ever since then, I’ve just been over the top crazy about WordPress, just trying to learn more and do the things that I really love. So giving back is one of those things and being a part of the community has been incredible.

Joe Howard: [00:04:03] Yeah, man. It’s cool to hear all the different facets of WordPress you work in. I want to start on the first area you mentioned, which was like your professional area of WordPress. Is there like a site or sites that people can go to check out this like WordPress in this kind of environment?

Joe Simpson: [00:04:19] Oh sure. Our mothership site is currently under we’re in a transition. We’re looking to move that to WordPress, but our news blog we’re run by a board of directors, which is. Consists of like the mayor is the head of our board, the mayor of Los Angeles, mayor Garcetti, and a number of political officials.

So they run our site and we have a WordPress blog. That’s called the source and we have it’s Spanish language Academy equivalent. They’ll pass the hero and they’re basically the news arm of our agency. So those are two high profile sites. The source.metro.net. Gonna help pass that. Pass the herro.metro.net.

Those are both in WordPress and they’re really active news blog. So they, between five and 10 posts a day covering our agency, providing information to our customers. So they’re very active very high volume. And so that’s probably the first place you should look. And then we have other sites that are spun up based on projects, like the plan.metro.net. We had a ballot measure initiative a few years back. To fund some of our transportation products on up this site, which was a multilanguage thing. So we get to do some fun things in WordPress and that where I fit in with our agency.

Joe Howard: [00:05:26] Yeah, so cool. I think there’s so many people in WordPress are either like agency, folks or freelancer folks and work on those small, medium sized businesses.

There are some people that, are working on enterprise level stuff, but This is a, this big public space is not something. I think a lot of people in WordPress experience in their like WordPress journey. So it’s always interesting to, to hear about folks who are, did you get into that? Like how did you get into that area of WordPress? And was that something like you, you found a job doing this and then you ended up. Using WordPress for it, or were you involved in WordPress? And then you’re like, Oh, this job does WordPress in this domain. That’s so cool.

Joe Simpson: [00:06:03] The story that most people have, we had a lead developer in our CSS. God is they both left our agency within a month of each other and they handed me the source and they said, we need to redesign it. And here you go. And fortunately we have budget and they sent me up to the WordPress, VIP intensive workshop in Napa. That spring. And that’s how we started, previously our CSS goddess, she did all the wrong things on WordPress, not to disparate.

Anyway, she, we have all the records, all of us when we started out, she developed directly into the parent theme in those candidates. So my first thing was to build a child thing. And fortunately our site was migrated to WordPress, VIP, which is the enterprise flavor of WordPress. Time magazine. A lot of the CBS local television networks are on that and it’s like an enterprise flavor, but what it did for me, fortunately, it forced me to learn how to commit, to get up and work and develop the right way and submit code the proper way.

As a designer, I had to quickly learn how to work in a setting that most people that work in WordPress did. So I was fortunate in that way that I thought it was forced to learn WordPress quickly, but then I had to learn it correctly.

Joe Howard: [00:07:16] Yeah. Yeah. Gotcha. Cool. And the other side of the WordPress stuff, you do more in like the volunteering and the organizing. I gotta read off. All these things you listed here, man, you’re volunteer Wrangler. It was good. Easy in the most positive sense, you can be a WordPress crazy volunteer Wrangler or press accessibility day or press community. Deputy work camp Santa Clarita, lead organizer, or press Santa Clarita Valley meetup, organizer Elementor or Santa Clarita Valley meetup organizer, and programming team at WordCamp us.

So clearly you enjoy. The WordPress community and helping out and continuing to grow and evolve the WordPress community, this stuff, all you’ve done is this, how long have you been doing community stuff over the past couple of years? Over the last few years?

Joe Simpson: [00:08:04] Like I mentioned, my heart event was in 2017. So since 2017, I’ve just been like a ball up, house of flame of the things that you mentioned, there were just not enough. This year I’ve taken the COVID pandemic. As a way to get back into the process that I had three years ago, we’re all forced to stay at home. And a lot of folks took that as an opportunity to step back and step away from some of their community endeavors.

But I took it as, Hey, I have another eight going on nine month period where I can learn more and learn about an area that I’m interested in and WordPress. Like you mentioned the WordPress accessibility day, which is Joe Dawson’s event in October, it was a 24 hour accessibility focused WordPress event.

And I said, join their team on make and said, Hey, I’m willing to do whatever, because. I had some accessibility experience in my past, but I wanted to learn more. And we started a meetup here in San Fernando Valley. One of the people that are part of my team, she started a meetup that was really focused on WordPress accessibility, and we’ve just been doing more and more.

Actually, I submitted that information to you on the questionnaire. No ability in Austin, Texas is having an air competition, which is their air accessibility, internet rally. And so a whole bunch of teams from all over the world come together and build sites for nonprofits. So a group of word pressers, including myself, we just completed that.

So I’ve just been, trying to learn as much as possible on areas that I love to learn about. And it’s just taken me to places and I’ve been able to meet people. That I would have never met before, especially now in a virtual environment, it’s more like a war, the world has come together in terms of WordPress. So it’s really exciting. And that’s what keeps me going is it’s really an exciting endeavor.

Joe Howard: [00:09:46] Yeah, that’s so cool, man. I like, I really like the idea of, I think it’s important for everybody to, be a continual learner. Everyone’s heard that before. I’m not telling people anything new. You always want to be learning and try new things and experimenting.

But I really liked the idea what you just said in terms of. You can really do good for the world and give back and volunteer for things and get great learning opportunities from it. I think that gets lost. Sometimes people think I’m just, maybe I’m doing free work or I’m just, what am I getting back from this work?

There’s a ton you could learn about accessibility about all the things you’re talking about. I did a podcast recently with a med and he, we talked about all the additional. Pros you can have from making your content more accessible to everybody. And it was really eye opening to me because I hadn’t thought of half these things and it was total people should definitely listen to that episode, but I dig what you’re saying there. I think that’s very cool. Very true.

Joe Simpson: [00:10:39] It’s a small world. Med, I listened to that podcast, which is great by the way, he’s been to our meetup. Like when we did the work, when we did our accessibility meetup day. Yeah. We had him on to speak about captioning and he’s an incredible story. I first heard him at WordCamp Europe.

And like I said, now that the world smaller, I just reached out to him on Twitter and said, Hey, would you mind coming? And speaking on that topic, I saw it at work camp Europe. I was initially scheduled to speak at WordCamp Europe, but. When they downsized when they went virtual, I didn’t, but I saw his presentation.

I was like, this guy is, has got a great story. So he’s dynamic. And like I said, your podcast was awesome. I generally walk the Hill every morning before sunrise as part of my workout routine. And that, I usually listen to a podcast and that was a great. Podcasts to listen to while I was walking by the way.

Joe Howard: [00:11:28] Nice. Yeah. Thank you, man. Yeah. And this is a med Khalifa for folks who may not know who a med is, but he was on episode 118, just a few episodes ago, a couple episodes ago on this podcast. But yeah, fantastic dude, fantastic episode. I’d be interested to hear a little bit more about, because you mentioned during COVID times, there are a good number of people who have stepped.

Back from some of the community stuff they were doing, the community stuff has changed. It’s entirely digital. Now there’s no word camps. There’s no meetups. There’s no in-person meetups until 2022. So this is really, we have another, at least another year of this. I wonder to touch on that a little more, because I think that two things that kind of come to mind, one is Christie, who is on who coasters podcast with me.

She we’ve talked before about reinventing. Like the WordPress community leadership and not only reinventing it, but like always preparing for like the next crop of people to be leaders in the space and to continue to rotate that I was bigger into the WordPress community, probably two or three years ago.

And I’ve taken a step back with that thought like there’s a next crop of people who are going to come in and carry that torch. But I also want to talk to you specifically about what this looks like with a lot of people stepping back as. An African-American individual stepping into doing a lot of community work.

I haven’t seen a ton of African-American representation in the community leadership, especially in the community. There’s some, but in like community leadership, I have not seen a lot. So I’d like to hear your thoughts on it, what it feels like to be doing so much community work as a black man, as someone who’s coming into that, into this space. I just guess, want to hear your experience and your thoughts on how it’s been.

Joe Simpson: [00:13:05] It’s been a great full circle moment. And you may not know of color that I saw on stage an African-American male was you can see Pago and work camp Chicago. We didn’t play on it. I know it’s the perfect transition, but that was my very first work camp that I was accepted to speak at.

My son was attending Michigan state university. And back then it was, I think it was a new feature in the admin where they added the location to the admin. And you could search for WordPress or . That was cool. Yeah. And I put in East Lansing and work camp, Chicago popped up and I said, Hey, let me apply to speak.

And so I did speak that day. And one of the first people in one of the tracks that I saw was you. And I was like, wow, this is incredible. And you talked about your company, you were talking about all the things that I wanted to learn about. I want to learn how to be my own businessman one day. So part of my journey back was learning these things, learning.

I was setting about paving, these runways, where I could take off into whatever my career led next. And you were one of those inspirational people. I was like, wow, he’s on stage and presented. And like you mentioned, I think. In the three years since I think I’ve seen five people of color, five African-American men on stage.

So it’s just been something I wanted to focus on. I know for me, I want it to be behind the scenes too. I know initially when I got into the community, I wanted to volunteer for one of the local word camps, but their teams were so tight that they didn’t have an additional space for me. So I said, Hey, I’m crazy enough.

Let me start my own meetup here in Santa Clarita, which I did. And then within a year, We did our first word camp. And for me, it was an opportunity for me to leave. And I was like, I want to see what I can do within WordPress and in an open source environment, it’s really up to your effort. And so I was like, I’m going to get out front and see what I can do and see if I can inspire other people to get involved.

One of the best things about doing that was a couple of folks that started meetups in our area. There was one gentleman he said, and he saw me on stage. And he was just about to stop doing his meetup in Bakersville, his name’s Mike Kiley. And he saw me on stage and I talked about how I got into the community and why I got into the community.

And he said it inspired him to keep going. And they still doing it to this day or another gentleman at the West Hills meetup said he saw me and he volunteered to work on our work camps. So to me, it’s not just inspiring. African-Americans it’s inspiring diversity and people that feel like they don’t have an opportunity to get involved.

So that’s probably the biggest thing for me. It’s seen others do it and seeing others do it well, and it’s not even, I know for me, it’s not a thing that I put out there for people to say, Oh, he’s an African-American doing this and that. It’s just, when you see people do it, they do it. It doesn’t really matter. Where they come from. And like I said to me, it’s an added bonus that you were an African-American male that was speaking about business and marketing at word camp Chicago. And that inspired me. And I took that and took it back home.

Joe Howard: [00:16:04] Yeah, man, I totally hear that. I follow MKBHD on YouTube. He’s like a tech like reviewer and does a lot of cool tech videos. And I remember one comment is I don’t usually look in the comments, but one time, I guess I did look in the comments because I remember he did one on. Like what it was like to be like a black influencer and the, like one of the top comments was like, the reason I like all your stuff is I think you’re the best tech, whatever personal YouTube, not just the best black tech person on YouTube. And that always, that kind of stuck with me. And I hear is that resonating with you a little bit, man. I’m trying to remember exactly what my topic was and that word camp Chicago. I tried to look it up on word camp TV just now, but I think they maybe never got it up on word.

Yeah. But it’s all good, but yeah, I think huh, man. So as someone now who’s in the WordPress community speaks in the WordPress community organizes, like what are your thoughts about. Trying to make it a more diverse space. We talked before we came online here on this episode about kind of the lack of.

I’ll say African-American cause that’s what were talking about African-American representation in terms of speakers at WordCamp us. And I think, I remember from think it was 2017 or something. It was like one out of like 45 speakers was African-American and I was like, that’s crazy. I remember thinking I’m not even talking about it being like, this is that’s crazy.

That’s like way lower than the percentage of black people in WordPress. Like how come the representation isn’t there. Wondering if you feel the same and if you’ve. Thought of ways to continue to maybe recruit more people into the space to continue to give people equal access, to be able to speak, to apply, to speak, to be selected as speakers.

Joe Simpson: [00:17:36] I know for me it’s second nature of the family that I came from, my grandmother who was a matriarch. Was it a woman. My mom is the matriarch of the second level, my sister. And so it’s always been natural for me to work in unison with women or other folks of color to make the team stronger.

I know when we did, I’m proud of the fact that at both of our word camps, we had over 50% female speakers as well as male. So it’s just been part of, I know what we look for and I know what I look for personally. I always look for interesting topics. And it seems to work out that it’s a diverse pool that we choose from.

I know there’s, I’m working on a project with WordPress. We’re looking to do something with the historically black colleges and I’m working with Allie, your colleague on that. So we’re trying to bring more people into this space in the African-American community. I know for me, I’ve seen people in marketing in design of African-American descent, but I want to see more developers.

So how do we do that? And for me, While the events that I go to, I’m always scoping out connections or people to bring into the space. I know at our first work camp, there was a developer in the audience and African-American developer. So hopefully on our next event, he’ll speak. So to me it’s just a matter of being aware.

And I think if you raise awareness across the board, that’s how diversity happens. I think a lot of these tight-knit groups, I think I mentioned before, I wanted to get involved in a work camp earlier, but the group was so tight. You couldn’t really get into it, just opening up those groups to be aware that there’s other options is the first step.

Some folks have had me on podcasts that I wouldn’t think that I would be a guest on just because of my message and my message of inclusion. So to me, it’s working. Just through osmosis, it trickles down. So that’s exciting. I think it goes back to your point about where do we want WordPress to go from here?

And I think just being in those rooms and having those discussions where you haven’t been before is the first step. And then as you bring people along and bringing people that are talented, people that are interesting, that are creative, those different voices are going to take it in a different direction. So I’m excited to see what happens next.

Joe Howard: [00:19:45] Yeah, very cool. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Allie has a new initiative out teaming up with Michelle from the give WP team underrepresented in tech.com, where Joe, if you have not created a profile, you should create a profile. I created mine a couple weeks ago, and it just for folks too, who are looking for opportunities to be on podcasts or write guest posts to be on a webinar they can create profiles.

So that. We have a database of folks who are underrepresented in tech and also the ability for companies to come in and look for opportunities or provide opportunities. Hey, I’m looking for someone to speak at my WordCamp. I’m looking for someone to be on my podcast. They can find and make their collection of folks.

They have. In there, worlds a little bit more diverse. I remember when Allie came on to WP bus, one of the first things she said to me was like, Hey, you’ve got a lot of like white men on the podcast. Like when I go onto the podcast page, like six out of the eight people are like, just like white men.

And, that’s generally the makeup of the WordPress space, but how can we do more? To make sure we’re getting voices from every single corner of the WordPress space and every single every single kind of voice needs to be heard. And this is a great way for me to be able to do that. So we’re going through, all this database and getting some, a really diverse array of people for the podcast. Yeah, if you haven’t checked it out, Joe, definitely check it out.

Joe Simpson: [00:21:02] Yeah. I saw the link the other day. It was a current release. I know they did another story on it this week, so it’s definitely on my words. And like I said, Allie is pretty awesome. Her energy is very cool.

Joe Howard: [00:21:12] I know, tell me about it. That was on before we even hired her. I remember thinking like energy, we could use that, we have good energy, but she has like pure through the roof energy, positive, positivity and stuff. Yeah, she has been a great addition to the team. I wanted to even dig in a little bit more to the changes in the WordPress community during COVID.

Cause we did talk about this, but I haven’t been like super community involved in the past six months or so I have one year old now, almost one year old. So somewhat of a step back. Thank you. I taken somewhat of a step back, spending more time with my family and a little less time doing the online meetups and doing, obviously not going to.

WordCamp Europe and us, like our team usually would meet up with those every year. Cause they’re not happening. They’re not happening in real life. I wanted to see what your thoughts were on. Like how are people feeling in the WordPress community? Do you feel like people are staying positive and like transitioning well to the fully duty?

Or do you feel people are like maybe hurting a little bit and being like, man, like I really need like a meetup. I need that physical connection. I need that, WordCamp, Europe, I’m not going to. Europe next year. I usually would be. You feel people are doing okay or you feel like they’re having a tough time.

Joe Simpson: [00:22:19] A little of both. I think there’s a lot of pain out there and I don’t want to just, disparage that in any way. So I’m always cognizant of that. And there were quite a few people that say, Hey, it’s too stressful right now. And then when I feel better about things, I’m going to come back and that’s fine.

And I think the message that I’ve always stressed since that time is there’s folks like me that are willing to pick it up. And carry it now. Cause I know in the Los Angeles community work camp, Los Angeles skipped a year because a lot of the people that had done it for years and years, there was talk that they may have been burned out.

And to me, there were folks that were waiting in the wings that were ready to pick it up and it has resumed. But during this time of COVID, there’ve been a lot of folks in a lot of conversations in the meetings and meetups that I’ve been involved in. We want to pick it up and carry it until. Everyone comes back because it’s given so much to us and it’s been a sense of inspiration.

Like I said, you mentioned how how you described Allie as energetic. I feed off of that. I draft off of that kind of energy. So my messages, hopefully. The folks that have stepped back, hopefully we’re taking good care of it. And when you’re ready to come back, it’s that? I think people come in and out of the space all the time for different reasons, but this one is a major one and just know that there’s folks all over that are willing to step in.

There’s another image. And I wanted to give a shout out to back when I did my work camp in April, there was a gentleman that volunteered from Bangladesh. And I was thinking, wow that’s interesting. Why would he want to help? And ever since then he considers me a mentor, but he’s been on every single word camp.

Since as a volunteer and it’s grown the community way. So to me, that’s, what’s exciting. Those are spaces where it’ll grow. I think in terms of WordPress, I know at the beginning on our team, specifically half of our team quit, they said, I just want to take a break because of COVID. And that was totally understandable.

And so from that point forward, it seems like that split propelled what we’re doing and there’s, and like I said, there’s a number of people that continue. And I know for me, I’ve volunteered for most, I think. Most camps except for a couple this year. So it’s been exciting again, to get involved because I wanted to learn about the behind the scenes, how to be, how to manage these things.

Because again, that would benefit me in terms of running my own business, meeting people, networking, soliciting people, to speak at events, working with sponsors. So to me, all those skills are very valuable to anyone. So I would suggest. If you’ve taken a step back, or if you want to get involved, I would encourage you to, because it’s like life skills or business skills that you can apply elsewhere. So it’s been very helpful to me.

Joe Howard: [00:24:57] Yeah, totally resonates with me. I think you were mentioning before about how you started this WordPress meetup and turn it into eventually a word camp, which I think is a common route for a lot of WordCamps you start a meetup and get some local people there. And it really helps to be able to have a local word camp.

If you have a strong meetup there, I guess this is talking about in real life, with digital, you can reach out to the whole community, but you did that. That’s a crazy entrepreneurial thing. To build a community like that, a local community is like you built a business, if you have a hundred people in your meetup, it’s a hundred kinds of customers you have, right.

Or a hundred trial users. That’s the same thing. And so a lot of these, I think a lot of those skills crossed over. So people are thinking about, I want to build a business, that’s my main focus. Maybe I can find some time, do some community work or volunteer that work. Can and the learning you do in those volunteer opportunities and those organizing opportunities can easily transition over to building a better business faster.

And I think that’s something like you just mentioned that I made that connection to that. That’s totally true. And so if people are, I know there are a lot of folks out there who. May not have been super involved in the WordPress community in the past, or maybe a step back, but there are so many opportunities.

Now I know with, community leadership like Joe, you jumped in and the first time you said, Hey, what can I do? That’s all you need to do. You’ve got to find the right Slack channel and message, the right person and be like, Hey, what can I help with? What do you need help with? I’m here to volunteer. You can get a lot of those learning opportunities by just not even being super proactive, just like being a little bit proactive, a little proactive, and that can spark something that like leads you to being a pig person in the community, Joe.

Joe Simpson: [00:26:32] Yeah. And the great thing is that these opportunities like people need help, to run any event or run any company. You need a good team of people that are helping you. So I think a lot of times at the beginning, a lot of folks were like, who is this guy? That’s so energetic and wants to help. When they realize that I’m in it to win it, or I’m really there to make a difference, then it grows into a relationship.

I think a lot of the meetups are great opportunities that were work. Camps are great opportunities to see makers, to see people who created businesses or created plugins or created themes or products within the WordPress space. And those people want to share the information if they feel like they have something to benefit from too.

So that’s part of why I volunteer as well. I know I mentioned the WordPress accessibility day. One of the reasons why I wanted to volunteer was I was learning more about accessibility. And Joe Joelson is the godfather of creating accessible content in the WordPress space through one of his plugins.

So I wanted to pick his brain about, went into building that plugin and working on that event, we got closer and he said, and he saw that I was willing to really take a big role in helping him out. So it worked out both ways. And to me, it’s a mutually beneficial to someone that is looking for benefits. It works out for everyone. To me, it’s a great experience.

Joe Howard: [00:27:48] Yeah, that’s really cool, man. I think like over the past, I don’t know. Three or four years, like I’ve started to be known more in the WordPress community. Like people know about my company and then people know about it, makes them on podcasts. And I, I’m webinars and I promoted the company pretty well in the WordPress space.

I think. So I think like I’m somewhat, well-known in the WordPress community, but I remember my first word camp us where I came to word camp. Let me go back farther than that word camp Lancaster, which was. The first word camp I ever went to were camp Lancaster, like 2014 or something, 15, something like that.

And I remember going to get a shirt made WP buff shirt with our old, like pretty horrible logo on it. Get one shirt printed at a local thing to make sure I had a shirt. And it was just me and a few freelancers, like working on WordPress sites at this company. And nobody knew who we are and I was just there.

Hey being nice, helping out. I think I gave a talk that day that was like, please don’t go and look up that talk anybody. Like it was like, everyone’s first talk. You don’t ever want anybody else to see it a few years later. But I, that what you said, I think was important about what the first time you’re there.

It’s no one really knows who you are. They just know you’re just respectful, friendly person who wants to help. And that’s how it’s always going to start. So I would urge people like that would be my shout out from this episode, the people like. Don’t feel bad if you’re new or if you don’t really know what’s going on, WordPress community is so friendly and welcoming, go volunteer and help with something it’s not going to be until your third, fourth, fifth time doing something that people start to even recognize who you are anyway.

So don’t even worry about that part yet. The biggest thing you can do is be helpful. Try to make the world a better place. And if you do that over a year, Hey, you can continue to break through and it’s honestly, especially easy right now because you don’t have to go and travel to camp or go travel. Like you can do everything from your computer. So there’s actually I think less of a requirements to be able to do that.

Joe Simpson: [00:29:46] For me, when I had my heart event I had to start over at zero and what it taught me was all the barriers that I put up before that event, they were just bullshit. Excuse my French. All of those things went away and you can achieve so much more when you have no fear or you really want to really give. And to me, giving unselfishly has been really, that’s been the basis of everything. I know. Like we had talked about earlier, I don’t really expect personal accolades from this kind of work.

I’m getting other benefits from. Benefits may not be really apparent to everyone else. And I think that pureness or that, that sense of purity is what resonates with folks that I work with. And to me, hopefully it’s inspiring because. We can really do a lot more if we really truly give. And I did have a question for you though.

Joe Howard: [00:30:37] Yeah. Go for it.

Joe Simpson: [00:30:39] I want us to spend it. I know. Like I said, you are my first, the first African-American male that I saw on stage and what was inspiring is to see how your company has changed and grown. And I’m a graphic designer, so I love your new brand. Can you tell me a little bit about it and I love the vibrant colors. And who did you work with on that? Wasn’t an internal designer. I’m sorry, I’m sidetracking this show, but I always, when I see things that are visually interesting, I want to know the backstory.

Joe Howard: [00:31:06] Yeah, for sure. For folks who listen to this podcast pretty frequently, we actually did a podcast episode. I think we did two podcast episodes about it, and we have a nice blog post up on the blog about it. So people can go check it out. I’m looking up right now just to see like what the URL is, because I can’t really remember exactly what it is, but yeah, it’s just, if you go to the. Blog and do a search.

It’s just like the new WP buffs has arrived and it tells this whole story. If people want to get into the weeds of things of all this stuff, but I’ll do a high level right now about it. Yeah. We got to the point where we just realized we needed a new website, a new branding. There were a lot of reasons for this we’d grown a lot.

In the past few years, we were a much different company than we were three years ago. We had new services like our white label program. Which we plugged into our old website, but like we wanted to, we needed to re UX everything to make it all make sense. We’d raised our prices also. So I think we needed like a more premium, professional feeling brands to match some of those pricing increases.

And yeah, we actually worked with a company to. They did the rebrand and the website redesign for us, a company is called dos media. I think their company is dosed on media. I’m just finding there, I’m finding that website now so that I can give them a shout out. Go stop media is a website. They’re awesome.

Honestly, the reason how I got hooked into them is Brad tuner. Who’s been on this podcast before he runs delicious brains, which is a company you may have heard, but he has a whole blog post about how he worked with them on his rebrand for all his plugin. So I. Got connected with them. And man, they were.

Awesome. Two guys who run a premium design shop. They did our new branding and they did design the new website for us. Yeah, and working with them was super easy. And then we did all the development in house made some design changes last minute, not last minute, but in the development process, just for.

It’s because things are always changing and yeah, launched. And I think launch pretty successfully. We had like our record sales months, the month we launched and the month after we launched. So those are our two highest grossing months are our two biggest sales months ever. Not our two biggest.

Revenue months ever, but our two biggest sales months ever. So it did well. And then we had a new floor of of sales activity, which has been good. We usually get like one to two sales a day. One to two new customers are white label partners right now. Hopefully that kind of answered your question. I think you just asked random general.

Joe Simpson: [00:33:28] Yeah, it’s very nice. Like I said, it definitely stands out, which is what you want your Mark to do. Yeah. Very nice.

Joe Howard: [00:33:36] Yeah. I like answering questions too. I’m on a lot of podcasts too, so I’m always interested in people asking me questions. But one thing I did want to finish up, we can start wrapping up now, but the thing I wanted to wrap on wrap up on was that you are planning a new work camp right now in the middle of COVID stuff, or you’re at least in the beginning and planning cycles of starting to plan for the third annual WordCamp Santa Clarita. And so just want to know how that was going. I assume you’re having a digital event. I know you’re having a digital event. So what does that look like in terms of planning and how’s the planning going? How’s it different than how it usually is?

Joe Simpson: [00:34:07] We’re in the very, very early stages. Now I think the WordPress WordCamp events are going to be more regional. So there’s discussion of whether, we’re going to combine multiple Southern California WordCamps into one event. So that’s the big holdup right now.

What we were hoping to do was maybe, there’s been a work camp for publishers or, work camps that have a specific goal in mind. Again, since we’ve been doing work a lot of accessibility this year, we’re thinking of a work camp for accessibility. So that’s a theme that we’re thinking about.

It’s great because now that this past eight months, I’ve targeted a number of folks that I think would do great in a virtual space. I know they’re looking at doing more workshop type events in the WordPress space. So that’s exciting too, because our word, our WordPress meetups are really focused at beginners in hands-on like most of the times.

I speaking at word camps, it’s on how tos and it’s aimed at beginners. So we’re looking at doing more workshops than in previous years. We’re looking at making sure that the word camp is accessible. I know at the beginning, I know word camp, San Antonio did it on a different platform and it wasn’t as accessible.

And there was a dust up in the community about it. And so from that point forward, they went with a different process that was more accessible, but we still have more work to do so in this. Time since that first event, I met people like a med or someone like Meryl in Austin, Texas, who are people that have a disability.

And they’d given us a lot of good input on how to make sure that the next event is going to be as accessible as possible. So I’m really excited about that. We have a lot of great leaders in our region. Sumner, Davenport is our. Guru on accessibility. So she’s been my organizing team here.

So I’m looking for her to take a bigger role in shaping it in terms of accessibility. So we’re excited about that. We’re hoping to do something different, but something even more accessible and inclusive for all people. So it ties back in message of this talk, which is more inclusion, more diversity. So we’re excited.

Joe Howard: [00:36:08] Yeah, very cool, man. The accessibility thing is it’s hard to get a hundred percent, we did the virtual summit WP MRR virtual summit earlier this year, and we were probably about 90%. There in terms of accessibility, but we had a few things that weren’t as accessible as they should have been. And we learned from them and we’ll fix them next year.

I know how there’s so much should do. There’s a lot of different aspects from captioning to making sure the actual WordPress site is accessible to making sure it’s accessible on different devices and browsers. Yeah. I’m sure you can probably use some of the learnings from some of those word camps in your word camps, right?

Oh, now you know what to focus on a little bit more in terms of. Some of the things that didn’t go perfectly in other word camps while you can, no, you can use those. Hopefully they did a write-up or something. We did a big post summit write up of the things we did, things we did wrong to that I believe is on the WP buffs blog as well. So you can go read that and other people can not make our mistakes too. So definitely give it a read.

Joe Simpson: [00:37:01] Awesome. Yeah. And we’ve been doing a lot of documentation too, and that’s part of giving back to the community. Like a lot of the folks on the work I was on the work camp, US team before it was canceled. And we were trying to implement a lot of the lessons learned from the earlier word camps. So now we have eight months worth of work camps and as we go into 2021, it’ll definitely help shape a more access.

Joe Howard: [00:37:21] Awesome. Very cool, man. Thanks again for hopping on. This has been. Super cool. It was really cool to connect with you. I don’t think we connected here before. And so it was really nice to finally do that. Tell folks a little bit about where they can find you online, social media, personal website, all that jazz.

Joe Simpson: [00:37:35] Oh, sure. My, my site is Joel Simpson, junior.info. You can find me anywhere on social media, just Joel Simpson, junior. So Twitter slash Joseph junior Facebook’s last show Simpson, junior, that kind of thing. So Joseph Jr is a place to find me. I’m on Instagram, all the different social media places, and I’m just starting a YouTube channel. I just purchased a much better camera. Hopefully you can see what we’ve been doing here. And so I’m producing more videos and producing content, hopefully to set up a self service or a business where people can pick up tutorials and things of that nature. So hopefully that’ll be coming out soon with the focus on accessibility and user experience.

Joe Howard: [00:38:12] Yes. Awesome. Very cool. We also recently started YouTube channel and we do a WP AMA there. So I’m not sure if you’ve done it already, but if not, we’ll cook you up with Allie and she’ll have you on to do it and ask me anything session, because that would be cool to have you on there as well.

Joe Simpson: [00:38:25] Awesome. Thanks so much, Joe.

Joe Howard: [00:38:26] Yeah. Cool. All right, folks. If you are a new listener to the show you can. Give us a review. We love our five star reviews, at least something you learned about this episode. Hey, Joe taught us about, accessibility and how to do at word camp during COVID let us know so we can send Joe a screenshot and thank him. And it also helps us to know what new episodes we should do, what topics we should do.

Hey, if someone. It’s three, five people left reviews about Joe’s episode. We’ll have Joanne again, we’ll do more episodes. Exactly similar to Joe’s or parallel to Joe’s. So those reviews help us in topic selection as well. Also, if you’re a new listener go and binge mold episodes, we’ve got like 120. Are so old episodes of content, no matter what, your challenges building a business or trying to increase your monthly recurring revenue. I could say a million things right now, but any WordPress challenges you’re having, we’ve probably talked about it in the past. So go search for it on WP mrr.com/podcast, and see if there are any episodes for you right now.

If you have questions for us at the show Christie and I do like to do the occasional Q and a episode, shoot us a question or a collection of questions, yo@wpmrr.com and we will get them answered for you. That is all for this week. We will be in your podcast players again next Tuesday, Joe. Thanks again for being on man. It’s been real.

Joe Simpson: [00:39:41] Alright, Joe.

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