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Today I talk with two people. Maja Benke and Amir Helzer. They are both interviews which were recorded in the corridors of WordCamp Europe, so apologies for the background noise.
The reason for two guests is because time was short when we recorded.
First up is Maja Benke. She’s been using WordPress for a long time and has really embraced the WordPress community. We talk about her involvement with that community and how she’s made a place for herself in it.
Next, we’ve got Amir Helzer. He’s the founder of OnTheGoSystems, the company behind the successful translation plugin WPML as well as Toolset, a plugin to help you get more from WordPress with less code writing.
We talk about his company and how they manage a team of 90 + employees; what techniques they use to keep the team updated and productive.
We also talk about how the company recently updated their pricing to a subscription service and how that’s gone.
Finally we touch upon how the Gutenberg editor has become a focus for their plugins, how they are refactoring the plugin architecture to fit into the new editing experience, and hopefully offer their users a future proof solution…
Interviewed by Nathan Wrigley.
And remember… Together we can #PressForward
Welcome to episode 29 of the PressForward podcast. I’m Nathan Wrigley and I want to welcome you back and if this is your first time listening, it’s great that you found us. We’ve got something a little different for you today. Two guests, Maja Benke and Amir Helzer. So stay tuned for that. But before that, let me tell you a little bit about what we do and why we do it. To PressForward. Podcast is created by WP and UP. It’s a nonprofit working in the WordPress space to help you and anyone who you know. Our website is at WP and UP dot org and there you’ll find out a whole lot more, but to summarize, we’re here to support you when you need it. That support could be concerning your mental health or physical health, perhaps your business or skills. It’s easy to access via the phone, email, or chat, and the URL is easy to remember too. It’s WP and UP.org. Forward slash contact. The WP and UP community is growing and listening to this podcast makes you a part of that community. We still love more people to get involved though. There’s no real template for what that involves, but some ideas for helping out the podcast out might be, you could talk about this podcast on social media or on your own website. You could rate it on Apple podcasts or you can subscribe to us on your favorite podcast player, which can be done by simply going to WP and UP.org forward slash podcast dash feed. Another way that you could get involved is by joining us on our upcoming summit. It’s called do summit good, and the details are at WP and UP.org forward slash summit. It’s an online summit bringing the WordPress for good community together. It’s completely online and completely free, bringing various for good entities and funds from within the WordPress community together to talk about relevant topics and share knowledge. The event will feature nine sessions with 13 excellent speakers, and it all starts on the 3rd of December, 2019 which is also known as giving Tuesday. We’ll be fundraising throughout the day, and all donations collected will be shared evenly between the entities and funds featured across the event. So be sure to join us places are limited so that you are elegant WP and UP.org forward slash. Summit. Thank you.
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 we thank green geeks for helping us to put on the PressForward podcast.
Okay, so on to today’s episode. Today. I talked with two people, Maja Benke and Amir Helzer. They’re both interviews, which were recorded in the corridors of WordCamp Europe, so apologies for the background noise. The reason for two guests is because time was short when we recorded. First stop is Maja Benke. She’s been using WordPress for a long time and has really embraced the WordPress community. We talk about her involvement with that community. And how she’s made a place for herself in it. And so without further ado, I bring you Maja Benke. I’m joined byMaja Benke. Hello. I got that right. Yes. Yay. So Myra and I have been having quite a nice long chat to the side of the podcast area where we’re, where we’re currently recording and, and we’re going to talk today a little bit just for a short period of time, maybe 10 minutes or something about the WordPress community. That’s okay.
Yeah. Excited about it.
Okay. So how long have you been using WordPress?
Oh, that’s a good question. I think I started around. 10 years ago? No. Or maybe eight, something like that, like a long time actually. yeah, so I use it as a blogger platform at the beginning and after a while and was switched to the web design area because I really liked, design and Brooklyn was WordPress and helping other people too. Fix their problems with WordPress the head. And, yeah, it was pretty amazing. And, did you fall in love with it quickly? Not quickly. So the first year I had so many troubles to set it up and to get this wide because I’m coming not from a technical part. so it was kind of a hard way to get interested. and after a while, like maybe two years, I started loving it a lot and was really kind of, you know, you kind of. Get a better understanding of the software. And it was kind of this moment was like, okay, no, I understand this. This is great right now. And for this part, I just really loved it and I was so happy if you could help other people with the problems in WordPress. And I went to Facebook groups about WordPress and gave support over there. And so this was pretty amazing. And it did this for a couple of while, and I heard that WordPress is open source. But, not really knew what it means, opensource. And I was like, I was kind of Google it and tried to found definitions, what exactly open source is. And I founded this kind of, it sounded a bit weird, like a lot of pupil can developing a software and I thought it’s kind of insecure because everyone can put code in it and write some nonsense and totally, and I was like, okay, that’s kind of weird. Like I don’t get it, but okay, it’s working. It’s nice. Done. And then 2015 I attended my first WordCamp in cologne in Germany, and I was like, wow, I totally missed out this community so far. And I couldn’t believe that I used WordPress for so long and I’ve never been inside the community. And I finally understood what open source and community means. And I get so addicted and Belden love in the very prescriptive immediately and still a big lover of the community. Are you the kind of person that walks into a room full of strangers and can talk. And you just all go in and hello? okay. That’s an interesting question. So it depends on my mood. Sometimes I can, but I remember like the first time in Bedford, of webcam, cologne, what kind of view, because I was attending a warm up party, which is, it takes place before the conference. and it were mainly people who know each other because they are part of the community already. So that’s in this room. And it was a pop in Germany. and everyone was sitting on tables and were talking to each other. And I only saw guys, Oh, and everyone in there, I was like, Oh my God. Like this is a bit too much, because if they were standing, you know, can just join the group and maybe leave. But like sitting somewhere on a table of strangers, it’s like more committed. It was like, Oh, okay. And Oh my God. So I just not turning around and leaving. It’s like I was kind of short to think about like, maybe I should just laugh, like no one saw me so far, so maybe I should just leave. so I’ve just kind of asked the first table, is this the bird press thing? Or it’s like, yeah, yeah, sure. Just come join us. So we’re sitting there and they were kind of like my first friends I made in a virtuous community. They were a bunch of people from Hamburg who attended WordCamp alone. yeah, and they were super, super nice, super friendly. I never felt excluded at all from this very first moment. You do view people that you’ve made friendships with fruits from WordPress. Yeah. Actually like for some of the tables, the first table I attended, one of them is really good, good friend of mine, even being not living in the same city, he’s one of my best friends and he’s also here today where I’m super happy about that. You finally can see each other again. I didn’t believe this was possible actually. The internet came along and then kind of people started to meet in non, in online communities. I thought it was all a bit weird. I thought that that, that can never develop into a real, a real friendship. I was completely wrong, you know, and attended my first word camp and I saw in real life people who I’d seen online and it suddenly occurred to me, well, that was a silly position to take. And now. I don’t know what the phrase is. There’s this little phrase which keeps coming out, something like that, come for the code, stay for the community, or something like that. And I believe that. I think it’s, I think it’s an amazing thing. I think it’s really special, especially these WordCamps, you know, I’ve been to, I’ve been to events for all sorts of reasons and I, I don’t like going to any of them particularly. But I like coming to these, definitely like for me, I mean at traveling a lot, for example, and a really, really love to attend the local meetups because it feels like you’re just visiting friends that you don’t know yet. And for example, we did a, we had a translation day, which takes place all over the world once a year, and to translate WordPress, and I organized the one in Berlin actually. But I booked a travel and totally forget about DeMita VAP plans and it was like, Oh shit. Okay. If you have a different organizer who will be there, it’s fine. It’s been hot actually. Who’s the local leads? today. and that wasn’t Tessalon Nikki. I was like, okay. Then I will just, you know, be on my computer and do it on my own in a hostel and just attend to do the live stream and everything. I was like, Hmm. Maybe Tessa. Nikki also has a meetup and maybe they’re doing also something about the translation day. So it was writing them. I was like, Hey, are you doing anything about translation day? Because I didn’t sign any meet up and it was like, Oh, what is that? I could just, we’re not aware of it because they were really, really fresh media. They were just there for like, I don’t know, two, three months or something, and it was like, no, we’re not really doing anything but totally give us a call. We can, you know, you can meet, you can chat because you’ve got this person. Awesome. Two days later, they wrote me a message like, Hey, by the way, we actually set it up at translation day so we will do something. And then it was there and it never translated before. so showed them how to get in the system. How’s it going? I don’t speak any Greek, but, there started to transplanting some strings and. It was pretty awesome. And I met them last year in bed raid. Also a real friends. I mean, I wouldn’t say like real friends, but definitely cool people like to see on a regular base, even on meetups and WordCamps and when you come to these things, I’m just looking around and basically most of the people that I can see, I don’t know. I don’t know. Most of them. I know a couple of, I know you have. Yeah. But not all of them. Yeah. Do you, do you come with the intention of, I’d like to leave this word camp having met more than I knew when I started? Or are you, are you into, I’m going to come and see the ones. I know. I really like that kind of both. I mean, of course I want, I’m always really excited about the people that are now ready to see them again. but I think the good approach for cam and also meet up is also to know new people because, I mean, it’s kind of a. Maybe it sounds like a lame phrase, but I really like it. It’s like strangers or just friends who didn’t have med so far and yeah, and it’s totally true for WordCamps. Definitely. And yeah, so it’s probably just one. It’s like I’m from balloon originals or there so many people here that I know because I’m also in the building community and there’s the international community. And I’m just so happy about every person I meet and just a little bit sad. I don’t really have time for everyone because just too many people. Yeah, two thousand three thousand three thousand did they all show up? I don’t know, but we sold over 3000 tickets. We sold out unbelievable first word come Europe. That was sold out. Actually, that’s a lot of people. I’m guessing that a certain proportion for, for one reason or another won’t be able to make it, but it’s still an awful lot of people. Yeah. I’ve kind of developed this. I think it’s fair to say that WordPress has kind of become my life. Is that, is that a sad thing? No, it’s not actually not like, I mean, I also have friends who are not involved in vigorous community, surprisingly, but a lot of friends are from the WordPress community. And because I’m traveling a lot and work in other places sometimes, it’s always great to have kind of like a starting point to know people. And. She has something in common. Because if I tell him my family about directors committee and what I do, they’re not really understand what I’m doing. They even know what it is. They know what it is because I showed them. Do you think, like if you walked into a supermarket and in Berlin and said, you know, some random stranger and they asked, what do you do? I work with work with, they know, it really depends. So if I’m in a coworking space or like in kind of this, you know, startup tech scene, the definitely know. So sometimes I’m. I’m still like, well, I don’t know if you know, WordPress. And it usually, it’s like, yeah, of course. And then, you know, I said, well, yeah, I am doing whispered for staff, but also I’m, I’m contributing. And then usually people not really know what contributions. and they usually ask like, Oh, so you’re working at WordPress? I was like, no, you’re not employed by work. Exactly. And then, yeah. And then you can affect X.
I have to explain community opensource. Okay. But yeah, so it kind of depends where you are. Like I think my family not really understands it. My kids, I’ve got three kids and they all know that daddy does something with WordPress, but they don’t have WordPress. I’ve showed them a couple of times and they get really bored. Yeah. I actually got a kid’s workshop. Maybe this would be something for them. It would have been a nice idea. I think it was going to, is it today? I think it was yesterday. I’m doing the controverted day. Well, that would be the best time to do it with it. Yeah. So do you think that there is something. How to describe this without, without sounding weird, is it, is there something different about this, this collection, let’s say these 3000 cause they’re all here, these 3000 people. Is there something that makes them different from a regular 3000 people out on the street? Other WordPress people? Definitely nicer, different, more interesting, more attuned to what you like. Okay. This is a bit hard not to, but I would say that I would say it’s definitely a difference. Between, because we have a code of conduct and we not only have a code of conduct written on paper and put it on drawer, we actually have a code of conduct that it’s lived from the community. And there’s, I think this is really amazing. like, especially as a woman in tech, sometimes, you know, you get kind of weird comments, especially outside of the community. and you know, if you want to say something, it was like, well, this was not really cool kind of police, not, you know. Reduce me on something or sexualize me. Yeah. outside of the wellness committee, people as on erecting, like, Oh, come on. It was just a joke. Don’t be so sensible inside the WordPress community. even if a person would react like this and totally get a support of the community. So if another person he is this, I would actually step up usually for you, or if there’s not happen, you can always, you know, ask, hold onto your organizer or you can tell them. And the code of conduct is really. Like lift and you can totally tell that people are really, really nice to each other, really supportive. I’m super open, super friendly, and it’s kind of a safe space. Like every word can every meet up feels like a totally safe space. And for example, I was last year, like a couple of weeks ago, I was in Bristol on the merge came and it was kind of, I saw from the attendees list, okay, this will be a word game where I don’t know really, people like, it’s kind of unusual because going to many words comes and usually there are a bunch of people that I know. I was kind of felt like, okay, even I’m longterm a member, not the community. I will go to a WordCamp that had red, don’t know that many people, and I was like, Oh, hopefully I feel fine. And immediately, like after an hour, after two hours, I felt like totally home because I made so many new friends. I. Well, she, I think she co co co organized the Bristol one. Oh, there then definitely I saw her. yeah, I actually do. Oh yeah. Actually the OG organize the team was just amazing and it’s a touch, a really actually to head a really cool thing. they had kind of a award. For here called the community person are really nice person. So they said, okay, if you, if you heard, or if you, if you see that someone is extra supportive, nominate them and they get like an award for that. I was like, Oh, that’s an amazing idea to do. Totally grades that it was really a super friendly, awesome. Yes. And you’re the first person ever to bring up the code of conduct. I realize. Really interesting. I think because it’s such a standard, normal thing to have, like we not really think about it, but especially if you’re going to, for example, I don’t want to say any specific thing, but if you go into other kinds of events that have downed habit and weed are maybe coming from different areas, like backgrounds in, in a job way or professional way, we’d have never heard something about code of conduct. It can be really hard sometimes because you know, just like personal behavior, we feel uncomfortable and be, you not really know what to do. And I think especially if you’re like a first attendee, sometimes it’s hard maybe to tell how, how important to code of conduct is or how serious that they take it, but you really get the support from people around you. Like they’re really stepping up. Something happens. And honestly, it’s not happening that often. Like I’m, I’m so many words. I mean, sometimes it’s there, but then they will take care of it. but usually it’s always super friendly and supportive. And, you know, for example, even like the first camp I attended, you know, we are come in a room full of men. I mean, there were not that many, but still was only men at the beginning. And we later to Kim woman, I felt really intimidated, but it were from the beginning, so friendly and so nice that I never had to feel it. We can always kind of feel as a woman, and maybe I totally get them wrong. it was just sometimes experience you had maybe before. but I’ve, I told you wrong that, Oh well maybe could be intimidated. Like not at all. They were so great and yeah, sadly, we’re going to have to cut this one short because I think we were just getting into the, into something nice, rich and meaty because Matt Mullenweg was about to speak and I think most people would like to go and hear him. So thank you so much for talking to us. That was very nice. And you take care of.
Next up, we’ve got a mere Helzer. He’s the founder of on the go systems, the company behind the successful translation plugin WPML as well as toolset, a plugin to help you get more from WordPress with less co-directing. We talk about his company and how they manage a team of 90 plus employees. What techniques they use to keep their team up to date and productive. We also talk about how the company recently updated their pricing to a subscription service and how that’s gone. And finally, we touch upon how the Guttenberg editor has become a focus for their plugins, how they’re refactoring the plugin architecture to fit in with the new editing experience, and hopefully offer their users a future proof solution. And so now I bring you. Amiyah hell is that? So it is the second day of WordCamp Europe. I don’t actually know what day it is. I think it’s Saturday. Saturday. Okay. So it’s Saturday. Second day, we’re back in the hall outside of track number one. And today I’m joined by Amir Helzer, who is the CEO of on the go systems follow founder of see out of OD on the go systems. but possibly that’s not the name, you know them by. They’re more widely known, I guess, with the words, toolset and WPML. Yeah, exactly. Which hat are you wearing in this conference? Are you a toolset hat or a PML hats? I started with my bicycle hat in the morning. I’m willing me tools. A tee shirt. Okay, so what we’ve, just before we started recording AMEA told me a nice story about how they actually got here. How far away is your hotel? I think it’s seven or eight kilometers. Okay. And in Berlin, bikes are a big thing. Yeah. I taught myself, you’re not in Berlin if you’re not riding your bicycle. Okay. Did you get one of those? Put your phone on the bike, Uber kind of style. They’re just lying around everywhere. Bikes. And you pick one up and rent it for however many miles you want to do. No. So we’re in Israel and we’re supposed to know how to navigate. And we studied the hoods before we went out of the hotel and we got lost. Where did you end up? in a little bit of a, something between a construction site and a bicycle is cycling and, I don’t know. I don’t bring it up. I think the putting up, some, some new highway. Okay. And everything by the sides of it is a construction zone. Google doesn’t know it yet. And the fact is that people follow the advice and kind of hop over the burials. So Google kind of get a confirmation that it’s possible. So you’ve actually, you’ve spoiled Google maps,
but you made it. Have you enjoyed it so far? You very much, yes. What, what’s the point of you coming to these events? I mean, do you come with the, I want to meet people agenda or do you come with the, I’m going to stay on my store. Firstly, we should say you’ve got a sponsor’s area. We have a small table. and first of all, we all work remotely, so it’s a social opportunity inside the company. We’re like 20 people here. Yesterday we went to a very nice last time we hung out. We tried to go to a club. But they’re all impossible lines. We ended up having bill somewhere else. but so first of all, we use it, inside the company as a social event. And other people are doing the same. And because of this, it’s a really relaxed atmosphere. So it’s, it’s nice to talk with people. We’ve had conversations with folks from invertible, from thin infusion, from elemental, from, flu muse. From a offer funds that we know from or from previous work. And I think because nobody really came with our hub agenda, it’s nicer to hang out and we actually get more done. Yeah. So the 20 people that you’ve brought, how as a proportion of the company, how much is that? Well, 98 altogether. So there’s still four-fifths back at back Manning the fault. Yes. And how, how people here are also still walking so. Thursday and Friday were supporters had shifts and they did some work, some from here, from the wifi, some from the hotel. So I think clients aren’t even noticing this. No, I mean, yeah, I mean, I’m sure that your 80 people would be managing the four admirably. Did you, did you sort of cherry pick the 20 because of a sort of specific part of the business that they represent? Maybe they’d like in, in marketing, we tell everyone, whoever wants is welcome. this year we paid for half of the expenses. and anyone who could and, found it convenient personally during. Okay. And do you have, you said you’ve sort of like got a fairly loose agenda. Did you come thinking, okay, I would like to leave having met this person and this person and this person and I want to leave having, I don’t know, come to an agreement with this person and this person or do you just show up and hope no one showed up? Cause, The real serious work that we do. We don’t wait for an event like that. We just get it done. We walk the Holly around all of us remotely, so there was no point for, I think there’s no point for us to wait until we’re here to close any real deals with someone that we work with on a regular basis. So I thought it would be better to leave ourselves open and then engage with people as we meet them. And that actually turned out pretty well, so people came to us. We weren’t completely available. We weren’t tied up with a busy schedule. And we, we opened a number of very nice opportunities for subs. And how’s the stall gone? Do you find that that kind of thing is worthwhile?
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