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This is the second of our live WordCamp Europe 2019 interviews.
It’s with Robby McCullough from the popular Beaver Builder Page Builder plugin.
As is the case with all the WordCamp interviews they are are off the cuff, non-scripted discussions in which the conversation flows freely and there’s no specific objective. I really like this format and I hope that you do too.
We get into quite a few topic with Robby; we discuss the purpose of WordCamps for product owners. Are events like this approached with a ‘show up and see’ mentality, or is there a more organised and methodical list of tasks to accomplish whilst in attendance?
We also get into whether or not Page Builders have a future in the era of Gutenberg. Robby addresses the fact that Page Builders and Beaver Builder in particular offer a host of features not currently in (or ever wanted in) the default WordPress editor. In short, Robby is bullish about Page Builders in the future of WordPress.
We chat about the social side of WordPress. How you can make real and meaningful friendships from events like WordCamp.
Finally, we talk about Robby’s decision last year to make travel a real focus of his life. He’s working with a distributed team and so he thought that it would be fun to explore the flexibility that this offered him. He’s been hopping all over the globe for a year and, as you’ll hear, thinks it’s one of the best decisions that he’s ever made. He knows that it’s remarkable that this is possible and that it’s all down to the possibilities that WordPress creates.
I hope that you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it!
Interviewed by Nathan Wrigley.
And remember… Together we can #PressForward
Featured on this podcast:
Robby: 00:00 But yeah, made the decision to leave my place and go, uh, travel full time, kind of do the digital nomad lifestyle and it’s been, in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been having a blast. I’ve been having a really good time. It’s been really fulfilling. It’s been so much fun. The only reason I’m able to do that, there’s many reasons I have the support of my family and my business partners and my, you know, coworkers and everyone.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:47 Welcome to episode 12 of the PressForward podcast. Thanks for joining us again and if this is your first time with us, I hope that you like it. You can get this podcast each and every week by subscribing to us on your favorite podcast player or by going to WP and UP.org forward slash podcast the PressForward podcast is created by WP and UP. They’re a charity working in the WordPress space to support the WordPress community. The help is freely available at WP and UP dot org each week. At this point in the podcast, I read out some statistics, not always the most fun thing you might think, but it conveys in just a few seconds the importance of the work that WP and UP doing, so WP and UP have provided roughly two and a half thousand hours of companionship and mentorship. We have over three and a half thousand members, over $5,000 have been donated by volunteers and there have been over 6,000 even to attendees.
Nathan Wrigley: 01:53 You can see that there’s a significant need for the support that WP and UP is providing and to that end, we’re always on the lookout for people who are willing to help us. If you’d like to support WP and UP financially, then please visit WP and UP.org forward slash Gif and if you’d like to get involved with WP and UP then please visit WP and UP.org forward slash contact or look for the social links in the footer of the website. Sponsorship is also possible. You’ll be supporting the important work that we’re undertaking and you can be featured on the podcast. Like this
Nathan Wrigley: 02:37 The PressForward podcast is brought to you today by Green Geeks. Green geeks offers an awesome managed web hosting platform that’s built for speed, security and scalability whilst being environmentally friendly. Enjoy a better web hosting experience for your WordPress website, backed by 24 seven expert support and thank green geeks for their help. Putting on the PressForward podcast.
Nathan Wrigley: 03:03 Last week we posted a very different kind of podcasts from the ones that we’ve produced so far. Normally we have an interview with a guest or two and they’re recorded remotely, but during a recent trip to WordCamp Europe we decided to put out some of the recordings that we’d made whilst we were at the WordCamp venue. We recorded them in one of the main thoroughfares of the WordCamp and it got a little noisy at times. You’d expect nothing less though from a crowd of nearly 3000 excited WordPressers and personally I like the field that this provides. The chats were impromptu and recorded in one take. Some of them were long, others were short, some were in groups, many of them, one to one. Some of the names might be familiar and others you might be hearing from for the first time. But all of them were fun to record and I’m thankful to all in our community who took time out of their schedule to talk to me.
Nathan Wrigley: 04:04 They were no prearrange talking points and everything was off the cuff, which led us in some unexpected directions. The order that I’m putting them out in was not the order that they were recorded. So today we talk with Robby McCullough, one of the cofounders of the popular Beaver Builder plugin. We talk about why the Beaver Builder team attend WordCamps and what they get out of it. There’s a discussion about the future of page builder plugins in the era of Gutenberg. We also explore the idea of making friends at WordCamp and the social side of events like this and how Robbie’s been able to travel extensively while still turning up for work. At various points, we do mention anxiety and so this is a trigger warning. So without further delay, I bring you Robby McCullough.
Nathan Wrigley: 04:57 So I’m joined today. I, Robbie McCullough. Hello Robbie. Hello. And there’s nothing weird about, this is the, we’re standing in the hallway of WordCamp Europe in Berlin, and if you can detect any of that, and I’m with my good friend. Yeah, I think my good friend Robby.
Robby: 05:12 I’d hope so. Yeah, it’s been a number of years now that we’ve been at least in touch online. And then we met last year for the first time person. What’s that? Last year? I think it was a year before, 2017 WordCamp London, I guess maybe it was two years ago we missed. That’s right, right.
Nathan Wrigley: 05:28 We didn’t hook up last year. So we’re here at WordCamp Europe and you are representing who, where do you come from? What’s your connection with WordPress?
Nathan Wrigley: 05:36 Uh, I am a cofounder of a plugin called Beaver Builder and I’m coming from California, uh, in your San Francisco. That’s a long way. There’s a little bit of a little bit of a journey.
Nathan Wrigley: 05:46 Was it, is it worth it? Do do you actually enjoy, you know, do you think to yourself, I’m looking forward to this or does it feel a bit like, okay, I’ve got to do another thing?
Robby: 05:55 No, not at all. Very much. I was looking forward to this trip for a long time. Uh, same for coming out to WordCamp London for a variety of reasons. So when we went to London, which is also a fair distance from California, uh, we had a couple of guys that we worked with in the UK that we’d never met before in person. Our teams totally distributed. Yeah. Of course. Yeah. So that was really exciting. And then similarly here in Berlin, um, just the opportunity to meet a number of people that I’ve known online for a long time and never met face to face.
Nathan Wrigley: 06:24 Yeah. One of the, one of the things that I’m enjoying the more events like this that I go to, the more faces that I see in the hall. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, like for example, you, and then two minutes later you bump into somebody else. It’s kind of like, not really like that the first time. Is it the first time you show up to these events? It’s a bit like, I don’t really know anybody. I feel a bit a bit out of my depth here, but the more you are, you sort of put in the more you get out.
Robby: 06:46 Absolutely. It’s, it’s, I remember our first WordCamp, it was WordCamps San Francisco before WordCamp San Francisco turned into WordCamp us and walking through the halls and knowing nobody, uh, and just kind of looking for people that also didn’t know when you are looking for people to just standing alone or you know, they looking their phone looking bored and yet going up and trying to strike up a conversation to now, I don’t know, I actually haven’t even counted the number of camps I was going through all of my badges. I think I’m above 20. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m above.
Nathan Wrigley: 07:18 Yeah, you’re, you’re far in excessively. I’m on about eight.
Robby: 07:20 Okay. Okay. Yeah. Um, but yeah, it’s like I can barely just walk through the room now without seeing someone that I’ve met before or want to say hello to.
Nathan Wrigley: 07:28 Yeah. Do you, um, do you come here primarily because you’ve got a WordPress product? Are you here to sort of, I don’t know, pitch your services or meet with the people who buy your product Beaver Builder or are you here more, is social as much as it is business or is it more business or more social?
Robby: 07:46 It’s kind of evolved throughout the years. I think we’ve tried to, I always felt like I was kind of doing it wrong, you know, because we never, we would sponsor a lot of WordCamps in the states, but my technique for sponsoring is we’ll do the lowest package, like the least amount of money that we can spend to still call ourselves a sponsor. And then we get the cool name tag and we get the, uh, ability to give out stickers or put stickers on a shared table usually. Yeah. But we’ve never committed to doing a booth and getting that full booth set up with the, you know, the banners. And the tee shirts and all that. And I was wondering if that was something we were missing out on or like get, if we were doing it wrong. Um, but I’ve found that it’s both an opportunity to meet people that use Beaver Builder to meet other business owners in the WordPress space and WordPress users and just kind of getting to know and network with people in the community. Yeah. Um, I enjoy that a lot more. Yeah. And I think there’s a lot of value to it. It’s hard to kind of quantify. Um,
Nathan Wrigley: 08:41 I’ve just had a look through that door. Have you been through that door? I looked through but I haven’t been through. So it’s the, it’s like the sponsorship area and it’s, you know, it’s a real, it’s like a little city they’re building. Yeah. And I kind of think, you know, from your perspective, because you’re not like go daddy or jet pack who’ve got like this massive body of staff. They can just put people there and say to them, look, yeah, you stay there for three days and everything or two days, whatever. And, and that’s, that’s your role. Whereas for you, you know, it’s more about wondering about through the halls and cracking up conversations and yeah, yeah.
Robby: 09:13 You know, this is gonna sound horrible. One thing I always am curious about or I’ll notice is like, there’s always a few folks at camps that I find that are like particularly chatty and, and uh, there’s almost like a technique to, you know, when you, when you kind of like link up with someone like that and like you really need to like be somewhere. I always, it’s always awkward, but there’s always like, oh, I have, you know, look at the time I’ve gotta do something. Yeah. But when you’re in that booth, you’re kind of locked in. Oh yeah. And I’ve seen out on the corner of my eyes sometimes like, you know, like someone I met, they, they, I usually like these are wonderful people that I am. I imagine a lot of times people talk because they’re nervous and I think I see that, you know, here I am talking, I was like, oh my God, am I one of these people
Nathan Wrigley: 09:51 now I think, I think you need to be a certain kind of person if you’re going to play that role. Yeah, probably just get good at it. Yeah. You practice it. The more that you meet strangers, the more presumably the more lines that you develop the, you know, the techniques for opening conversation. I’d be terrible at it.
Robby: 10:06 I Dunno. I Dunno. I think, I think it would be really exhausting. And there was that whole extrovert introvert spectrum to, of whether you gain or lose energy from being around and interacting with people. And um, I always feel like I’m kind of somewhere in the middle or some days I feel very extroverted. Some days I feel very introverted, but I, I think if you’re one of those types of that lose energy, uh, it’d be a really tough thing to do. Yeah. Um, can you start first thing in the morning and go all day? And then, yeah, usually going after party and these things are a bit of a grind.
Nathan Wrigley: 10:32 If you come to these events though, you can sit in the, um, you know, you can sit inside the talks and listen. Do you need any of that? Do you, or do you sort of mainly wander about in the halls and chats to people?
Robby: 10:44 I spend the most of my time in the hallway. Um, I often will hear about a really great, the coffee is, yeah, I wonder if something’s going on up there. Well, I should probably get going. We’re missing the party and you’ve got your line and you’ve got your right. Um, I will often hear about a talk that someone really enjoyed. Oh, you should’ve seen this guy’s talk. It was fantastic. And I will occasionally go back on WordPress TV and watch talks that I miss. Um, and it’s actually in that sense, it’s really nice that almost all of the talks at all the camps are recorded in published on WordPress TV to everything.
Nathan Wrigley: 11:19 Well certainly I imagine from an event of this size. Yeah, the major, the major camps. Do you have any like favorite stories from WordCamps? Is there one particular moment where you met a guy or met a girl or met, I don’t know, or just enjoyed something?
Nathan Wrigley: 11:35 Again, this is, this is probably not an appropriate story. Is it okay if I tell it, uh, at WordCamp? Which WordCamp? Or was it? Uh, I don’t remember which camp it was. We were at a WordCamp and we were doing a dinner and then after the dinner we saw this party. We were on a second floor and we looked across the way and we saw this party going on and it looked really fun. There’s flashing lights and people dancing. And so a group of us were like, okay, let’s go try and find that party. And we wandered over and it was in a hotel and I was on a second or third floor. And we weren’t invited. We have no idea like what the party was. So I was trying to be very nonchalant and I went up to the hotel concierge and I said, hey, like we met some people earlier at the bar and they mentioned they were throwing a party here. They invited us, they said we could just, you know, come in and and mentioned the party and you guys would be able to help us find the way in. And the woman Kelly raised her eyebrow at me and she’s like, the only thing that’s happening tonight, here is a, is a high school dance. Oh this supposed to be the wrong place. It should be lined out of there before anyone started asking questions.
Nathan Wrigley: 12:36 That is a good story. I didn’t really have any like perfect, good stories, but quite a few of them have. I think for me it’s about like loads of little interactions. It’s like a thousand little things that have happened and I couldn’t point to one exact thing and say that’s the best. I’ve attended some fabulous talks, but I really enjoy just hanging out in the hallway and just meeting people and I’m getting better at that. I did suffer from the hole, right. If I, well, when I came to the first one, I kind of had this impression that if I just show up and just stand there, it’ll all come to me kind of thing. Because, you know, WordPress WordCamps had been sold in that way. You know how big the community was. It took me about five minutes to figure out, actually, no, that’s not going to happen. Nobody’s going to come and talk to me. So, you know, I figured out quickly, just butt into a conversation. Nobody cares. It’s completely fine. Yeah. We’re all talking about WordPress and the whole thing is, I mean, I don’t know about you, but where I live, if I walked up to some random person in the street and said, I work with WordPress, they genuinely wouldn’t know what that meant. No idea. Yeah. So it’s quite nice to come to these events and you can actually open your mouth and talk about WordPress and geek out on it. Um, and just from that level, I like it just, it’s like a vent because I like being a node. Yeah. And I never get to nerd out in my normal life. So from that point of view, it’s really knows. How many of you guys have you brought
Robby: 13:55 For this it’s myself and my business partner Justin. And he brought his wife with him on this trip. Europe trips. So they were out in the Netherlands. Um, they, they’re your uh, their daughter and son I think are with the in-laws. Oh No. So they have a little break to go and do their, yeah. To their trip.
Nathan Wrigley: 14:12 Do you, do you view it as like a business expense? So what I mean by that is from the point of view of, so you know, whether you pay for it out of the business bank account or whatever, that’s not really my question. It’s more at the end of this. Do you s do you sum this up as a, as a, as a wind for your business? Is it worth it for Beaver Builder to show up? Is it just about, look, we’ve shown up, we’re on the attendees list, people have seen that I exist, or, you know, do you go away thinking, actually I met this guy and I met this lady and we talked about this and these, these things are gonna happen in the future because of it or
Robby: 14:45 definitely it’s definitely value. Again, it’s kind of hard. It’s a, it’s an intangible value. Um, and it’s kind of hard to, to quantify like when we look at the receipts that we spend on plane tickets and hotels and all that and saying, well, are we going to make, you know, it’s cost us $1,000 to come to this camp where we’re gonna make that back. It never really lines up like that. And, um, but part of our kind of approach to, to marketing and our strategy is to really embrace both our community in the WordPress community. Um, and too word of mouth has always been huge for us in influencer marketing, uh, meeting folks that have, uh, you know, a voice in the WordPress community and, uh, and they’re like, there’s a number of people I can think of that have said this to me. They said, yeah, I recommended Beaver Builder to someone. Uh, I don’t use page builders, but you know, I went out with you guys and you guys are solid and I know if you know, I’ve heard so many good things about it, word of mouth that it’s the first one I recommend even though they don’t, they’ve never used it before.
Nathan Wrigley: 15:42 Yep. Um, from my point of view, I think it’s just, you know, I don’t have a product to pitch. So for me it’s just about showing up and hanging out with people and attending talks with that in mind. Like gonna put you on the spot a bit here. Have you got this event planned out? You know, do you, do you come with like a laundry list of, okay. It would be really nice if by the end of this I’ve met this person, this person attended this particular talk or are you like me just sort of showing up and just go with it, see what, see where it, see where the wind blows and where I get taken.
Robby: 16:12 My approach to camps is changed. I’ve tried to be a little bit more strategic or do a little bit more homework ahead of time so I will always check the attendees list. Before, I think a week or two ago, I pulled it up, the list of people that ended long list. It’s a huge list past the A’s takes about about three minutes. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t paying much attention, but yeah, I was, I was scrolling through and I saw eight or nine people that I recognize and I was like, gosh, it’s going to be a great camp yet. And I realized I was still on a, yeah. And then I got frustrated that, you know, last name I, I’m McCullough so I’m way down the list. No one even knows I’m here. I pulled the page up on my phone and it was taking forever to load. Like it doesn’t, don’t put it on your phone.
Nathan Wrigley: 16:55 Are you planning to meet particular people or planning to attend a certain talks? It sounds like you’ve got a bit more of a plan than I have.
Robby: 17:02 Um, so I, again, if I’m honest, um, I haven’t looked at the talk schedule yet. There’s a couple people I know that are talking that I am interested. I always enjoy seeing talks by certain people. Um, so not so much on the talks. I’ll look at that tomorrow and, and kind of pinpoint if there’s anything I really want to see in person or not. But as far as the people that are here, uh, yeah, there’s a number of people, uh, one gentleman in particular is Puneet. Yeah, I saw him pass. I didn’t get a chance to say hi, but we’ve been talking for years and I’ve never met him before. Yup. Uh, another friend of mine, a guy I met in Iceland, his name, he goes by Rarst. Um, but he’s from Ukraine and he has a really hard time getting a visa to the states. So I’m really looking forward to spending some time with him. And that’s also one of the nice things about coming out to WordCamp Europe as opposed to some of the u s based camps that I usually do as you get a much broader, um, group and diversity of people from different places. And then unfortunately, the visa situation. Yeah. Uh, that’s not the first time that’s happened where I’ve been looking forward to meeting someone. Uh, and they weren’t able to come to a conference in the states because of visa issues. Okay. And I understand it. It’s actually been an issue for this camp too. There was a number of speakers that weren’t able to get visas, so frustrating.
Nathan Wrigley: 18:13 They put on a, there is a charity WC or is it I got that the wrong way around. Donate WC. I don’t if you know Marcus Boltzmann I’ve, yeah, yeah. He walked here, right? Yeah, totally. He’s here. I haven’t, he’s looking really well. Give you high fit. Yeah. Tan and fit, right. Like, but he walked to you what, 500 miles from Rotterdam?
Robby: 18:32 I was gonna say, we should note that he didn’t just like have a hotel down the street and he walked in, he walked like he really walked.
Nathan Wrigley: 18:38 Yeah. Um, so he did, yeah. 500 miles over a 30 day period and um, and he’s here and you made it, you know, you know, you missed a couple of hours but the primary reason he was doing it, he’s got this charity called donate WC and the more money they raised, basically they find somebody in the community, in a part of the world where those restrictions apply, you know, it’s difficult financially or maybe the visa restrictions getting in the way and on the strength of your commitments to WordPress and on the strength of the, what you say you’re going to do if you get accepted, they’ll pay for your flights, they’ll pay for your accommodation and all of that kind of stuff. It’s really nice. Oh, that’s us.
Robby: 19:18 I knew he was doing the walk for a charity purpose, but I wasn’t familiar with the details. That’s really cool.
Nathan Wrigley: 19:24 It’s a really nice charity, you know, if you think about it, there couldn’t be a better charity. You know, he’s walking into work. I mean, it’s all about getting people to work down. Um, yeah. So let’s, let’s change tactics for a bit. Let’s just talk about Beaver Builder. Okay. Okay. Page builder. Yes. Page builder. Like I don’t know how many people listening to this are going to be fans of page builders, whether that that’s their thing or not is pay, you know, a page builder is still growing in the area of Gutenburg. Do you think a couple of years from now we’ll still be talking about Beaver Builder and all that? It’s all of it’s competitors.
Robby: 19:54 Hey, I sure hope so. Yeah, I think so. When Gutenberg was announced as to going on two and a half years ago, uh, there’s definitely some concern on our part as it sounded a lot like the core team was kind of getting into page builders space. Um, and as the project, the Gutenberg project for regressed and developed, it became a lot less daunting. I think we were able to see like the core team has to build for a massive audience. Um, and they have priority leads to some of the issues they’ve been having with accessibility and um, they, they have to move at a much slower pace and they have to build a tool that’s kind of conserve the largest group of people possible to be effective. Yeah. Whereas tools like Beaver Builder and other page builders, um, we can go a little bit deeper. Uh, so like one of the moves we did in response to Gutenberg was to kind of double on professional users, people that are building a lot of websites, freelancers, agencies, types like that. Um, and kind of hone our feature set to improve the, the kind of quality of work life for those folks.
Nathan Wrigley: 20:58 Does that mean the right move from a business point of view, looking back, because I knew you were, you were up to that, but maybe somebody listening to this didn’t, so you decided less, less about the, the casual WordPress user, more about like agency owners and things like that cause that paid off. Do you think, is your audience still growing? Do you know? Do you find that the, you know, you’re still getting receipts for recurring yeah. Recurring payments and so on.
Robby: 21:21 That’s interesting. No one’s ever asked it. Kind of straight forward like that. Um, be real. There is still growing which are, you know, forever grateful for the whole page builder market is growing. We’ve seen a lot of other players coming into the space. I think Gutenberg also kind of legitimized page builders amongst the, you know, within the WordPress community. Again, like with that first WordCamp page builder when we are in San Francisco and we told people we were working on a page builder, people have this like, like visible reaction. I’m like scoff at us. Like why, why, why would you do that? Like why do you want to do that?
Nathan Wrigley: 21:53 Do you think though that in the future that will be the way just about all of us interact with WordPress. Do you think, you know, whether it’s Gutenburg or Beaver Builder or one of your competitors, do you think that that that’s just going to be the UI that we all use and obviously you’re hoping for that, but does it feel, because from where I’m coming from, it makes no sense not to do it that way. I just can’t, but my business is now stacked on, on page builders and in particular Beaver Builder and I just can’t see, I just can’t see that not being something people are going to just take on.
Robby: 22:24 I think there’s still going to be edge cases. Um, I think that there’s always a tendency in technology to kind of uh, abstract and simplify things. And that’s essentially what a page builder is, is it’s, you know, adding a visual interface to what we were previously doing with code html and CSS and hand coding. Um, and explaining like in like the, the developer crowd, um, there’s still folks that love that coding experience, like thinking about like the terminal and people using uh, like bash terminals and canvas analogy or using like them and v like some of the bash based text editors. Like there’s some die hards, folks that get letters around the user interface are not gonna switch over. I think there’ll probably be edge cases where folks are still going to be working outside of a page builder, particularly when you’re talking about things like leveraging kind of cutting edge browser technology or um, anything that’s that’s if experimenting and kind of New Territory where page builders haven’t reached yet. Um, particularly like, cause some of them like new browser technologies, like when flex box or a CSS grid, some of these things start coming out in there and they had like experimental might not use it on a production site, but people are going to start building with them and experimenting and using them.
Nathan Wrigley: 23:33 Then this year kind of out the blue for me, I didn’t see it coming. Anyway, assistant, we’ve got this new product called assistant now. It’s kind of a product for other people to build on. That’s, that’s what I think it is. So it’s kind of like, well do you want to tell us what it is? Cause it’s quite exciting.
Nathan Wrigley: 23:49 Um, it’s, it’s an interesting time for assistant because it’s still very much in development and we released an early build, an early version of it, so it’s publicly available. Uh, we’ve been developing it out in the open, it’s on get hub. Yep. Um, but we’re still trying to figure out and navigate exactly where we want to take it and how we can hopefully develop a business around it. Uh, the, the core idea though is, is to create a suite or a platform, uh, where you can build apps for WordPress and it’s all react based. It’s off front and we’re going to get like leveraging is kinda some of the more modern, um, development frameworks. Uh, but it’s, uh, yeah, we, we still aren’t, I guess it’s been changing a lot. So we, we released a version of it. We actually entered a contest called Plugin Palooza. Yes. The plugging contest it and due to backward cam petition did we did, we didn’t notice it was, that was really fun. Uh, we did. So yeah, we won, we won the contest. Uh, but then after that we talked to a lot of people. We were able to get it in front of a lot of people and get some feedback and we kind of went back and like wipe the slate slate clean and, and started out really kinda started rebuilding a lot of things and rethinking a lot of our ideas. Um, was that out of WordCamp? Yeah, yeah. At WordCamp Orange County.
Nathan Wrigley: 25:06 that’s kind of like another good use case for, um, for these things. You know, his WordCamp events is just, uh, just get some feedback. Like what we’ll do you actually think of our products? Yeah. As opposed to an email form or something. You can sit down with actual users and chat to them about.
Robby: 25:18 that’s not the first time we’ve done that to a, busting out a computer or just doing a live demo for someone. And then reversely like I’ve seen many things that people are working on, uh, from their laptop at WordCamps.
Nathan Wrigley: 25:31 Yep. Yep. Um, let’s change tack again and talk about like the social side of all this when you, yeah. One of the big reasons for coming to these events. Well for me at least anyways, you know, you come to the event, it is very sociable but then the event ends at such and such o’clock in the afternoon and the year you’re free to do what you like. What have you got planned? Have you made any sort of like plans to go out, meet particular people? Are you, are you hoping to do some exciting stuff whilst you’re in Berlin?
Robby: 25:57 Uh, that’s another area where I feel like I have room for improvement. Uh, so one of the things I love to be a part of and I try to do as often as I can, although I find, I find more often I participate in more than it, but it is like hosting a dinner or hosting like a small kind of intimate get together. Um, which I guess we kind of did last night in a sense of accidentally did that last. It all, it all Kinda came together last minute.
Nathan Wrigley: 26:22 But you’re right, there’s quite a few of the people who who have a product and obviously they would like to gather their community. So I don’t know, a week before you get all these Twitter announcements and you get things through the email saying if you’re there, come to this event at this particular time. I suppose that locks those people down and you know, you can have those jokes, but it just organically happened for us.
Nathan Wrigley: 26:40 Yeah, I guess there’s another, we’re talking about how I prefer to do, I mean I feel like maybe it’d be more effective to be a little bit more strategic and plan ahead of time. Um, but yeah, I find just kind of playing things by ear, it gives you the most flexibility because you never really know what’s going to happen. Like someone might have a dinner or someone might be doing drinks or there might be an afternoon or like all the hosting companies do these epic after parties with open bars. And there, those are always really fun.
Nathan Wrigley: 27:04 Um, but in terms of like coming to these events, I think, you know, you come for the code and what do they say? You come from the code and you get a community. There’s a little phrases in there. The word press likes to sort of like bring out all the time. Do you, um, do you sort of see that as, as equally important? You know, would you show up to this event if eight o’clock when all the doors shot you, you had to go back to your hotel? Or do you do enjoy like the fact that you’re in Berlin, you know, you’re in a completely different path. For me that’s huge. It’s just so pleasant to be here. But the weather’s nice coincidentally while we’re here. I’ve never been here last night. And when we were driving through the city, I was just thinking, this is fabulous. This is such a wonderful experience. I kept looking everywhere and going, God, look at that. This is great. I was really like a child.
Robby: 27:49 Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had similar experiences, uh, the opportunity to travel to new places and then have a community or have friends, have people that you can go out and explore and, and share the experience with, uh, is really, really special. I’ve found that with WordCamps and other conferences to be one of my favorite things. So again, be like, going back to the question too of like, does, does attending a WordCamp justify the expenses? Like for us coming overseas, like doing long haul flights and coming to Europe is a little bit more expensive than like going up the road to Sacramento or down to to La. So, um, there’s always that kind of balance of like, well, you know, I’d go to, if I could, I’d go to all the WordCamps I can be kind of have to pick and choose. Yeah. But getting to go to a, to a city like Berlin, which is just completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced before. And then getting to share that like with folks like yourself. Yeah. What we did last night and get an all together and getting to have some fun and, and uh, so yes, I’d still come if that didn’t happen, if we all just camped out at the hotel afterwards. Uh, but I think it’s one of my favorite parts is kind of the, the after after party scene.
Nathan Wrigley: 28:57 Yeah, there’s a lot going on. I mean, of course you can take part in the after party stuff that, that is organized by the company or you can just do your own thing. And I think that’s what a lot of people do. You know, there’s going to be about two and a half, 3000 people here and I don’t suppose all of them are going to go to the same events that that’s not going to work.
Robby: 29:13 There is a fantastic tweet that went out at WordCamp us this year as one of the top most interacted with uh, tweets and it w I forget her name. Um, that said, if it was in the, I’m going to paraphrase what she said. Like, I’m hosting an inner introverts meet meetup tonight where we all go back to our hotel rooms and chat on Twitter. Ah, how that one. It was cute everyone. Yeah. Everyone loved it. And retweeted from their hotel rooms, right. You have to go along.
Nathan Wrigley: 29:37 I mean it’s, it’s really nice. I, I’ve still got the feeling that I need to, I need to meet some more people. Um, you know, I’m still in a room full of strangers, but the nice thing about these events, uh, I don’t know how true this is. People say it all the time, but this community honestly feels a bit different. It feels a bit special. I mean I’ve, I’ve worked with other CMS is like Drupal and attended their events and they were good, they were nice. But there is something, there is something that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t know quite how WordPress has managed to achieve so many nice people in the same place at the same time. But they are genuinely nice people. And I’m wondering if it’s like the false nature of it, you know, people are willing to give back for the greater good, but it was just talking to somebody in lunch just now and she was making the exact same point. You know, you’d just relentlessly meet actually nice people. And I think a lot of people don’t come to these events because that’s one of the primary things that this charity is trying to get people to do. You know, we’re trying to get people to open up about all sorts of issues. And one of the ways that we feel that it would be good to sort of like bypass the problems is to get people to attend these events. But it, but it turns out that a lot of people can’t make that jump because well, for one reason or another, you know, it’s, it’s difficult. Maybe financially it’s difficult, but also they don’t like the idea of being in a room full of people that they don’t know. Sure. But your experience, my experience has been relentlessly good. Would you agree
Robby: 31:10 I would, I would? Yeah, I think, um, you seem like a very social guy. Again, talking about the whole like introvert, extrovert spectrum, you know, I got on, I don’t really think I fall on either ends extremes, but I, I know I have some, I’m not an introvert. I guess. I wonder my, my mom, I’m very like some dear people in my life. My mom is very, very introverted and I’m sure the thought of doing something like this would just like drive her a little crazy beforehand. Like just knowing that the, the, the energy that it was going to take to get here and meet people and do the small talk thing. I think some people maybe are, are, uh, able to enjoy it more than others. Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. The, the small talk thing can be difficult to overcome garnet or just like the social anxiety or they tended stemming back to the idea of, of like mental health. I think some people really thrive in this environment where it’s, some people might, might not.
Nathan Wrigley: 32:00 Yeah. Um, yeah, that’s a good point. The nice thing though is the, the talks can be a real good, good, a good way to solve that problem. You know, they’re on more or less all the time. You don’t have to stand in the hallway. Yeah. Yes. The whole way can be a space where you just find a chair. Yeah, you can sit. But equally if you’d rather do those kinds of things. But my, my, my words of advice would be if you just show up and give one ago, you know, go to one nearby, give it a go. It doesn’t have to be as big as this or as you know, it was as magnificent or you know, there’s like 45 things going on at once. Here you could go to a local meetup and you have the sort of same kind of experience. Meet some people online, hang out with them, develop friendships and then, and then kind of ask, are you going to that one and see how it goes. Yeah. Do all of your team, do all of your team like thrive in this country? Did you drag them all along from time to time or are there some people who stay away?
Robby: 32:54 Ah, yeah, some, some more than others. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. We, we don’t drag any drag anyway anyway. Yeah, yeah. No. Yeah. I mean like, so Justin, my business partner that the here with his wife. Yep. Um, he also enjoys traveling. I think myself and Justin enjoyed the, doing the traveling and doing the WordCamps a lot more than our other partner. Um, who’s a little bit more of a home body. So we tend to kind of hit the road and do a lot more of these than, but he’ll, he, he also comes out when the timing’s right.
Nathan Wrigley: 33:25 And the Nice thing is you buy the ticket, which is fun. I don’t understand how the, I mean, I know that the sponsorship counts for a lot. So all of the people like yourself who put these sponsorship deals together, in the end, it all adds up to a ridiculously cheap ticket. I can’t remember what we paid for this. Was it like 50 bucks or something like that? Spot? It’s the number more than, yeah, I think they’re always around $40 and in no way, shape or form. Does that cover the cost of what we’re oh yes. Yeah. No, not even. I mean, it wouldn’t even cost to cover the cost of like half of the food. Um, yeah. Well the, and the fact that there’s so many volunteers, um, the volunteers are all wearing orange shirts this time around or are, no, it’s pink. Pink, right? Yeah, we’re doing orange, but there are those years. I just, I, you know, I could, I lost count after the first 20 or 20 and yet five people look at it. There’s so many people volunteering and donating their time to make these things happen. Yeah. I mean, having a distributed team like you do, do you get the guys to, Oh, where are your people? Like where on the planet earth? Yeah. Beaver Builder employees live.
Robby: 34:25 We’ve got a couple of guys in the UK, right? A couple guys in the Philippines. We have a few folks in the states and then we have gentlemen up in Canada. Okay. Uh, so we’re pretty well spread out. Uh, we’ve also, we were talking about like the visa issues and just the logistical issues. There are difficulties that come with kind of arranging travel and this and that. We’ve, we’ve been trying to put together like an all hands, like get everyone in one place at the same time for a while. And that’s been really difficult. Um, like where in the world can we do that? So like one of our guys doesn’t like flying, which is like, well, I’ll come to him or maybe you just can’t make it. And then we’ve, uh, we’ve like our guys, uh, like getting visas arranged and then putting a d like you put a date on the calendar in two months and just let everyone scramble or do you do it a year ahead of time and just hope that when a year from now comes, everyone’s still interested in it. It like, yeah, we’re still going right. Things haven’t flopped.
Robby: 35:17 Have you ever succeeded though in getting the vast majority of your people in a place at the same time? We haven’t. No. We haven’t done it yet. Um, I, I know I’ve been seeing this for years. I S I feel like I haven’t been saying to D for, but I, I really want to. Yeah. I really want to make it happen. Um, I’mworking towards it. I’m hoping it happens sooner than later.
Nathan Wrigley: 35:35 I know. I don’t know if you’ve seen Matt Mullenweg, he’s got this, I can’t remember what the URL is. I think he’s distributed.blog. Yeah, I think you’ve seen that he’s talking about, I mean I think you did a ted talk as well, but yeah, I mean automatic I think 900 people. Yeah. And they managed to somehow keep that cohesive and managed to, you know, keep it going. I can’t imagine running your team. Does it, does it cause any problems? Are there any times that you just think, I wish that person was awake or you know, I wish they were sat next to me. It would be good. Let’s have an office, please, let’s go for an office instead of this distributed model. How does that work better for you?
Robby: 36:10 It’s got its ups and its downs. We win. We win. So we started before Beaver Builder. We were a client service agency. We were a web agency and we, the three of us just to, Billy and I shared an office and we transitioned around the time we started Beaver Builder too. They, they will kind of moved out of town and we decided to take the company remote. And so we got that kind of contrast between our being in an office together versus all working from home. And we definitely lost some of the just inherently collaboration that comes from sitting in the same room and being able to kind of yell over your shoulder or have the guys come over and look at something on your screen and just jump into a face to face conversation. Um, but then I also think we gained a lot, uh, the opportunity to build a remote team. You know, one of the things that, this is something we’ve, we’ve, we learned a lot from automatic and really kind of modeled a lot of our, our company after what we learned from them. Uh, but, but just having access to the entire world as your talent pool to pick and choose from the Higher Brown. Yeah. As opposed to especially we were based in the bay area where it’s very competitive. Yeah. I particularly with like development.
Nathan Wrigley: 37:15 Yeah. So what’s your, what’s your like daily, like how do you coordinate stuff? Are you slack based or teamwork based or, yeah.
Robby: 37:22 Yeah, we use slack. We have a pro, we use Asana for project management. It’s been evolving over the years. Um, both our roles kind of as founders, but then also our day to day and, and um, our team and their roles. We, we, this year brought a couple of folks up. We kind of like gave them more of a managerial role. Right. Um, and then also we’ve, we’ve kind of got things well-oiled now, so there was points in time where, uh, things were a little bit more kind of Loosey Goosey. We hadn’t really figured out or dialed in a routine in a system. These days things run relatively smoothly and that we’ve, uh, ever, I mean we still have, I don’t know how this has like worked out so we haven’t lost a single person that we’ve been working with our same team very well from the beginning. I think we’ve, yeah, I guess it speaks to something that we’re doing right. Yeah. Um, but it’s great because they are not having that turnover means everyone’s comfortable in their roles. For the most part, everyone’s been doing what they do for so long. Uh, things flow really nicely.
Nathan Wrigley: 38:20 One of the things which I think is nice about working with like WordPress or anything online, frankly, is the ability to kind of open your laptop. I can see Dan over there doing some work on a staircase. Yeah. Behind us. And there is, he’s doing some work. He’s, he’s, he’s working online now. You’ve had a really intriguing year and I think a lot of people go into things like web development to do what your, you last year feels like. Tell us about your last year because it, you know, I think this is so, such a nice story for people who kind of maybe a bit fed up, stuck in an office and think, what are the possibilities with my WordPress career? Tell us where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to.
Robby: 39:03 Uh, I’ve been everywhere. Yeah. I run a lot of ground s yeah. So, so at the beginning of this year, I got rid of my lease. I had a cottage that had been staying in for the last, it was a nice cottage. It was a really beautiful place. It was a really hard decision to leave that, that place that I lived at. Cause I loved, I loved my house. I had my office set up all dialed in and yeah, everything was very comfortable there. Uh, but yeah, I made the decision to leave my place and go, uh, travel full time, kind of do the digital nomad lifestyle. And it’s been, in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been having a blast. I’ve been having a really good time. It’s been really fulfilling. Uh, like I had a very comfortable place in my life for the last few months has not been like comfortable per se. It’s been, um, quite the opposite. Uh, but it’s, it’s been, it’s been so much fun. Uh, and uh, the only reason I’m able to do that, there’s many reasons I have the support of my family and my business partners and my, you know, coworkers and everyone, but we’re a distributed team so I’m able to work from anywhere. Like Dan sitting on the stairs over there. When he was always, he was there. We talked about mini fled. But I’ve, I’ve, I’ve done some work from some strange places that so on and give us a few, I own like airports, train stations on trains, on buses or you know, then of course like it’s rare, but like from like the beach and Thailand, you know, or you’re just like looking over a picture, escalate sand beach and lounging out, you know, Pina Colada
Nathan Wrigley: 40:32 Do you actually get, okay, I’m going to ask this question very, I think I know where you’re going. Yeah. Fill out about this. I tried to get as much done. Do you feel like, um, your team might be sort of thinking wow, life is Robby, so in the Thailand beach, you know, there is again, yeah. Or is it like, are they really cool about it? No, I’ll reframe that question cause I don’t want to put you on the spotlight. What I’m going to say is, do you feel you get as much done or do you find it difficult? You know, because given the choice of the beach, yeah. Or Yeah. Okay. Eight hours of work, I kind of know where I end up.
Robby: 41:06 Yeah. It’s a fair question. I have been, so I actually was struggling, I guess one of the things I guess I’ve struggled with kind of for the last several years is that feeling of burnout. Yeah. Okay. Um, and even when I was working from home there were, there I, I kind of tend to, to go through periods of like very high productivity and then periods of lower productivity. Um, I’ve always kinda been on that ebb and flow. Uh, but I found working from the road very inspiring before the kind of nomad this, this year. But when I was traveling before working from the road, um, it was an opportunity to like really focus in. Um, I guess it depends too where you’re going. Like, yeah, like there I’ve visited places where there’s so much excitement, like staying in a big city where there’s, you know, parties and people walking around and like things you want to go do versus like going to a, like I wouldn’t visit my grandma up in Washington. She, she lives in like a little island, very remote island up in Washington state. And like, there’s not a whole lot to do out there. And Grandma, bless her heart, she goes to bed pretty early. So I was there, you know, it’s like seven 30. I was like, Oh man, there’s nothing to do. I’m saying like, Allie might as well write some blog, but I might as well like knock some workouts. Yeah. Yeah. I still feel like I kind of have that ebb and flow of productivity. Uh, and it’s been a learning experience too. So there, this hasn’t been the most productive time of my life, but I also haven’t fallen off the map. Um, navigating time zones is really what’s been a learning experience when I was traveling in Asia and there was just a tiny little window and I could do meetings and for me it was like 12 or one in the morning. Uh, it was like 9:00 AM for Ryan guys back in California.
Nathan Wrigley: 42:42 So do you feel though that it’s kind of rejuvenated you cause you used the word burn out and you know, maybe maybe we could just drop into that, what that felt like. So were you kind of feeling that if you were carrying on, despite the fact you lived in a great place and you were very happy with your environment, did you feel that the way that you’d got things working or the amount of time that you were doing, if that had carried on, I don’t know, maybe you would have ceased to be productive or cease to be interested in what you were doing and this complete change around of your life looking back a benefit I guess.
Robby: 43:16 I think so. Yeah. Yeah. Um, along with the idea of burnout, uh, I found working, I was living alone and working from home I found it very isolating. Um, you know, there, there’d be like 24 hour periods where I wouldn’t, she’s like not see another human. Yeah. Uh, and I actually, I don’t think I really realized how kind of draining that was on my psyche until I moved out this year. And that’s been one of the kind of most rewarding part along with getting the travel and explore and see all these really cool places. Um, I’ve been making an effort to do a lot more kind of shared housing situations like renting a room or staying in hostels or traveling with friends. Uh, and then just meeting a lot more people, um, being out on the road and kind of getting out of that situation where I was living and working from home, working from coffee shops or working from coworking spaces and just immersing myself in a lot more social activity of you.
Nathan Wrigley: 44:06 Have you got like a, a, a place that you’ve enjoyed this year particularly? You know, like a country, a beach, a town that you went to and you thought, oh, I could, I could settle down here for awhile.
Robby: 44:16 Um, yeah, there’s been a number of, um, there’s a number of us, so, so our mutual friend David Waumsley put me up in his place, which was really nice of nicest guy. I knew this already, but meeting him in person, he took such good carry out in India in Goa. Yup. And that was fantastic. And that was like one of the really more kind of special, um, part of it was just the extreme, like, like traveling to India was extreme and it was one of the more difficult places to travel to in terms of like logistics and getting Internet and figuring out how to navigate around with taxis and currency. And, uh, so, so it, that was, that was special. I, it’s, I don’t know so much if that’s like a place I would settle down in forever. I definitely want to go back and travel around India somewhere. I’m sure David would have you back. Yeah, I hope so.
Nathan Wrigley: 45:02 Yeah, I think he would. Um, do you feel like with the, with the work side of things, has, has the fact that your, your remote, has that kind of demoted you in, in your decision making capabilities? You know, do people, you know, Justin and Billy, the other guys that founded Beaver Builder, do they kind of make the decisions and then s like farm that work out to you or are you still very much, what I’m trying to get to here is, has, has your role been forced to be changed by the fact that you made a decision? Okay, I’m going to go off or do you still have the same sort of structure and the same decision making process and basically is your job the same as it ever was?
Robby: 45:39 That’s a good question. I think that, so yeah. No, we still, what’s happened, I guess it’s interesting is, is um, some of the things that maybe we otherwise would have discussed. Like one of the ways we, we’ve kind of managed our team, the three of us together is to get everyone’s input on big decisions and we’ve all kind of found our own sub-disciplines or disciplines within the business. Like Justin’s, our development lead, Billy’s our logistics and business finance lead. And I kind of tend to gravitate more towards the marketing type of things. So if I was making a big decision that was within the marketing kind of realm of, you know, wha are we going to spend money on this or are we going to do that? I would always run those decisions by the guys. And it was rare that we ever had a disagreement or if I came up and said, hey, this is something I think we should do, this is what it looks like. What do you guys think? Um, it was almost always like thumbs up and that, that kind of went all aisle across the board. We, we rarely would kind of block what anyone else wanted to do or thought was going to be effective. Um, one thing I noticed is that like some of those decisions were just being made without doing the POW first, which was, which was fine. Like it was probably making us more efficient. Yeah. Um, cause they’d be like, yeah, I’m just going to go. I think Robe will be fine. They call me Robe. We all have our like nicknames for each other. But I think Rode will be fine with this. Like if not, you know, we can always reverse it, but like in a couple of days and you’re just going to go for it. Yeah. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: 46:59 Oh that’s nice. So it’s worked out in every way that that decision has, has, has been good. So fast forward a year from now. Yeah. Are you still going to be on the road? Do you think? Are you still enjoying the experience or do you think at some point you’re going to be back seeking a flat or a room to rent?
Robby: 47:15 I Dunno. One thought I had about doing this, this travel stint was that I wanted to move out of the, I’m from the San Francisco Bay area. I was born and raised there. And lived there my whole life and I kind of had this urge to move and live somewhere new. Um, and so I see this as kind of maybe being a transition to moving somewhere. Um, but I am really enjoying the, I, I will also, I think it’s, I think I’m still in like a phase where it’s new and exciting and this like full time travel. I’m having a lot of fun with it. I could see it getting like losing its, its thrill eventually. Yes. I’ve talked to a lot of people that have done similar kind of yeah. Travel stints and eventually everyone kind of wears out on it or loses interest.
Nathan Wrigley: 47:55 For me. It was a very southern moment. I was enjoying it and then suddenly one day I thought, I want to go home now. Yeah. Oh No, I, and it was fine. Um, do you, did you ever catch yourself like pinching yourself because you know, the world is not made up of digital nomads. This, you know, despite the fact that in our community there might be a significantly higher proportion. Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, man, how did this happen to me?
Robby: 48:19 Yeah. Oh No. Yeah. All the time. Every day. And not even just with like the digital, I think about that. Like you’re waking up in Berlin and like, you know, like w the fact that I, uh, am running a business and, you know, don’t have a like a boss. Like I did. I had some, you know, I had some great jobs before I got into the whole web tech knowledge. You think we all said something like really crummy job. Just looking back on some of that and uh, yeah, I pinched myself all the time. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: 48:43 Um, it is, it’s so remarkable. What amazes me is that, you know, we, we’re all using WordPress. So WordPress is a choice. You know, you could use a whole range of other systems, but you want to build a website. Okay. WordPress is a choice. And yet so many people have decided that’s the choice. And then inside of that, people then think, okay, how am I gonna make my pages? And there’s a whole range of ways that you could pick to do that. You know, literally hundreds of which many people have decided to plump for what you’ve got. So it’s like a niche within a niche, within a niche and it supports your life. Yeah, it’s, I mean it’s breathtaking, you know? My guess is that if you were in a different community, let’s pluck Drupal out the sure. Presumably that’s much more difficult. You know, if you had a page builder for Drupal, the audience would be less so the, the, so many little things that had to align to make, to make WordPress popular, to make page builders popular, to make your page builder popular, to enable your wonderful life. Here we are in Sunny Berlin.
Robby: 49:46 Yeah, yeah, I know, right? Yeah, yeah. I think, I think that’s everything I want to ask. Is there anything you want to say? Where do we find you Robbie? Oh Gosh. You can find me on social media, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all that under Robby McCullough a, but our, the best stop is our website, Devin p Beaver Builder.com and they have a contact form there. And you want to check out what we’re doing. Thank you. Thanks very much for chatting to us today, Robby McCullough. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.
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