Meet Justin Sainton, WordPress Expert

justinJustin will be joining us for the eCommerce for Site Owners session, which you can watch LIVE on April 11 and 12. Justin will be teaching us about setting up an WP e-Commerce shop, which is especially great because he is the lead developer for the project.

Where can we find you on the internet?

zao.is is our business site, @JS_Zao on Twitter.  Those are the best places to hit me up 🙂

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Started back in 2007 building a couple non-profit websites using WordPress as a CMS.  Back then, WordPress was this brave, new world to me.  I had zero experience with it, but I pitched it as the “Future of CMS” to the clients, and they bought it.  Happily, both non-profits are still running smoothly along on WordPress 🙂  Once I got my feet wet on those projects, I never looked back.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

It depends – I feel like I’m always in some state of learning – whether it’s with WordPress, running my business, eCommerce specifically, etc.  When it comes to WordPress, I find following core development on Trac to be one of the best ways to stay fresh and always be learning something new.  I also have a ton of great colleagues who are über-smart that I hit up from time to time.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

There’s so much!  I think, as a developer, one of my favorite areas in WordPress is actually the HTTP API.  I’ve been using it for 5+ years and I actually still learn new things about it when I dig through it.  It’s such a helpful tool, especially in eCommerce.

What is the most significant thing you’ve learned about ecommerce over the last 5 years?

That it’s hard.  Really, really hard 🙂  When you’re building a platform intended for usage all around the world, it can be very tricky to ensure that you’ve built something that works in all jurisdictions, across all industries, while still being a usable piece of software.  Also, taxes are just as hard in eCommerce as they are in real life 🙂

What is the one tip you would give anyone considering to add ecommerce to their site?

Don’t use PayPal.  If you can, use Stripe.  Hire a professional, because reasons (See #5).

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Open up WordPress in your favorite IDE, get a cup of tea, and get to know it.  Really spend some time in the source code.  If you’ve ever wanted the magical ability to be able to tell the future, follow along in Trac!  It’s a fantastic (albeit intense and at some times overwhelming) way to stay on top of where WordPress is headed.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

One of my favorite things in the world to do is to play the piano.  I’m not that great at it, but man, I REALLY enjoy it.  Also, I have an incredible wife and three beautiful kids – all of whom make me varying degrees of crazy. 😀


wpsession9_thumbThanks Justin!

If you want to see Justin present on using WP e-Commerce, get your event ticket today!

Meet Mika Epstein, WordPress Expert

mikaMika will be joining us for the eCommerce for Site Owners session, which you can watch LIVE on April 10, 11 and 12. Mika will be teaching us about setting up an Easy Digital Downloads shop and sharing from her personal experience of running an ebook store.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Personally: http://ipstenu.org

WordPressily: http://halfelf.org

Everywhere I am, I’m ipstenu 🙂 It means Epstein.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Around 2007, seriously. Before that, I used WP 1.5 and played with it, but 2.1.2 was the first version I seriously used for more than just blogging. Basically I’d broken my old script, and needed a way to cross-post to livejournal.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I usually learn something new out of necessity. I need to do something, I can’t, I learn. I’m very haptic, though, so I learn by doing and breaking and blowing up. I call it the Ms. Frizzle style of learning, because I know I’ll make mistakes, but I feel like I understand everything better in the end. I read a lot of examples too. I’m the person who thinks the “Hello World” examples are perfect.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Extendability! I love that the basic system works, and I can add what I want. When I started using WP, I had been using MediaWiki and a couple other systems. I was always turning things off because I didn’t need them or want the overhead. The lean and mean WordPress install was magical.

What is the most significant thing you’ve learned since creating an ecommerce shop?

People WILL pay for products, even if you offer them a free option. And they’ll pay more often than they would if you give it away and let them pay later. Basically people are way more honest than DRM seems to think.

What is the one tip you would give anyone considering to add ecommerce to their site?

SSL is for everyone, even if it’s hard. You make your mark by being trustworthy, and HTTPS means (generally) you’re safe. Except for the Heartbleed thing. I’ll talk about that in my session!

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Have fun. I never set out to being an expert, I just wanted to write and post news. I became an expert in the things I did because I’m good at them. But you don’t HAVE to code like Helen to be a WordPress expert. Find what you’re good at and enjoy, embrace it.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I’m a member of the SCA – Society for Creative Anachronism – which means I spend my weekends playing pretend with my friends and it’s totally awesome.


wpsession9_thumbThanks Mika!

If you want to see Mika present on using Easy Digital Downloads, get your event ticket today!

Surprise! Watch *TWO* Sessions in April

wpsession10_thumb For the first time ever, WPSessions will be hosting two live sessions in a single month. This isn’t a surprise to keen observers of the homepage, of course, because they have already seen the “Upcoming Schedule” section towards the bottom of the page. What you’ll notice now, if you hadn’t already, is that there are two sessions scheduled for every month going forward. I’ll be writing more about this soon.

The important takeaway for now is this: in addition to “eCommerce for Site Owners” on April 10 & 12 – featuring Mika Ipstenu, Patrick Rauland, and Benjamin Bradley – we are also exploring “eCommerce for Developers” on April 19 – featuring Andrew Munro, Daniel Espinoza, and Glenn Ansley.

To give you a taste of what to expect from these sessions, here’s a teaser video:

But wait, there’s more!

You can save 20% on your ticket to the Developers event if you buy it in the next 72 hours.

Not only that, if you buy an early-bird ticket to eCommerce for Developers, you will also be sent a 50% discount code for eCommerce for Site Owners. This means you could attend both sessions, all 6 presentations from all 6 experts, for only $40 – if you move quickly.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your ticket to eCommerce for Developers today!

wpsession10_thumb

Join us for “eCommerce for Site Owners” on April 12

wpsession9_thumb This month is actually a very special one at WPSessions. For the first time ever, we’ll be hosting two live sessions in a single month!

The first session is “eCommerce for Site Owners”, and that will be taking place on April 12th, starting at 1pm ET. You can save 20% if you register before Friday, April 4.

In this session, Mika Epstein, Patrick Rauland, and Benjamin Bradley will walk you through installation, configuration, and actual usage of Easy Digital Downloads, WooCommerce, and iThemes Exchange. By the time the event is done you should know precisely which plugin is right for you, and how to get up and running with no hassle.

I could write all about it here, but all the information you need to know is on the session’s product page.

I do, however, want to say thank you the sponsors for this event. Easy Digital Downloads, Exchange, and BackupBuddy are all stellar products built and supported by even-more-stellar people. You’ll get to hear all about two of those products during this month’s session and see first-hand why I like them so much.

Meet Drew Strojny, WordPress Expert

drewstrojnyDrew will be joining us for the Building a Membership Site session, which you can watch LIVE on March 29. Drew will be joining Chris and Shawn in a panel discussion, answering your questions about the ins and outs of running a membership site. Drew has a particularly unique vantage point because he has run his own successful sites AND also runs an incredible membership platform called Memberful. Don’t miss this opportunity to ask him questions!

Where can we find you on the internet?

The Theme Foundry: https://thethemefoundry.com
Memberful: https://memberful.com
Twitter: @drewstrojny
Github: dstrojny

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Back in 2008 most of our small business clients needed a website they could manage themselves. They certainly didn’t want to be paying us every time a change needed to be made. I had been using WordPress for our own site and I figured it would be easy enough to teach them how to use it too.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I’m very much a do it yourself learner, and I’m lucky there is so much great information available on the internet for do it yourself learners. I usually dig into the subject matter at hand and try to find some experts in the field to research and look up to.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

I can’t name a specific feature (lots of great features to choose from), but I love the extensibility and flexibility of WordPress. It gives you the power to do so many things quickly and easily with your website. It’s also very reassuring to know the software is continuously being improved by the WordPress.org developer community.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone building a membership site?

Don’t wait! Planning a complex strategy isn’t a good use of your time. Your most avid supporters and readers are going to sign up anyway, even if you offer them nothing in return. They’ll pay you because they want to support your work. Nothing more. If you already have an audience, every day you wait to start your membership site is costing you money.

The first step is to get some simple membership software like Memberful set up with your website, and announce that option to your loyal supporters. Use the announcement post to plan out what you’ll offer and solicit some feedback from your community. Most importantly, this will get you selling right away. It will also lay the groundwork for offering some paid content in the future.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Learn by doing and watching others in the community. Contribute to WordPress is some way and start attending WordPress events. The WordPress community is accepting and friendly, so find a mentor to help you get more involved.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I played football at Duke University and was a 2 time captain of the football team. I was then picked in the 2004 NFL draft and spent 3 years bouncing around the NFL as a journeyman lineman with a handful of teams. It didn’t end up working out as a career choice, but it was an amazing life experience. I got to watch Super Bowl XXXIX from the sidelines in 2004 and have an NFC Championship ring to show for it.

Meet Chris Lema, WordPress Expert

Chris Lema Chris will be joining us for the Building a Membership Site session, which you can watch LIVE on March 29. During his presentation, he will walk us through a multitude of excellent tools, platforms and services for running membership sites. By the end, you should know precisely which setup will be best for your needs.

How and when did you get started in software?

I started working with software as a database and systems analyst in 1994. It was at Berkeley Lab and we were just starting to play with the Internet and browsers and what we could do with them.

What compels you to try so many new and different tools?

A lot of people are really good at using the tools they know. But I find the real value – for others – is when you’re aware of which tools are best of the job – which is less a function about knowing one really well, and more about knowing the differences between them, so that you can make the best decision possible.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone building a membership site?

Start simple and small. Make sure you solve non-technical issues like attrition before investing tons of money into software solutions.

You seem to have a lot of great advice. Where else can we read your opinions on membership sites and software and other things?

I write regularly at chrislema.com

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I wrote my first software application when I was seven – copying hundreds of lines of code out of a magazine.

Meet Shawn Hesketh, WordPress Expert

shawnheskethShawn will be joining us for the Building a Membership Site session, which you can watch LIVE on March 29. He’ll be teaching us the lessons he’s learned from running a wildly successful membership site over the past 5 years and, in particular, the things he wished he had known before starting.

Where can we find you on the internet?

I’m nearly always “on” via Twitter @leftlane, but you can also find me on Facebook or Google+. And I blog infrequently at ShawnHesketh.com.

You can follow @WP101 on Twitter as well, in addition to its own Facebook and Google+ pages.

Oh, and I’m always open to helpful pull requests for the WP101 Plugin at: https://github.com/leftlane/wp101plugin

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I started designing websites in 1994, using WYSIWYG apps like Adobe Pagemill. As my skills and the complexity of my clients’ sites increased, I migrated to more powerful apps like Adobe GoLive and Dreamweaver. But by the mid-2000s, clients began to request the ability to edit their own content, using their web browsers, and after attempting to learn several CMS systems, I was relieved to discover WordPress 2.3 in late 2007.

Compared to Joomla, Drupal, and Expression Engine, I found the WordPress UI to be super-intuitive, and thankfully, so did my clients. So I began recommending WordPress for nearly all my web design projects, and with very few exceptions, I’ve never looked back.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I think I learn about most WordPress resources via Twitter, and thanks to the many talented WordPress developers who are willing to share their discoveries and hacks, it’s a gold mine of learning. But I also subscribe to  Post StatusWP Tavern, and Torque, which is where I often hear about new WordPress products and services.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

Honestly, the best “feature” of WordPress is actually the community itself. Like so many others, I turn to Google whenever I’m stumped, and I’m surprised how often I land on tutorials by the über-talented Carrie Dils, or Bill Erickson. I’m grateful for the help that’s readily shared by others within the WordPress community, and I’d be lost without their help!

But I think my favorite aspect of WordPress itself is simply its extensibility. I can’t remember the last project I worked on that didn’t make use of at least one Custom Post Type, and these days, there just isn’t much that you can’t build within WordPress.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone building a membership site?

Assuming you’ve already validated your idea for the membership site in the first place, my top piece of advice is to give careful consideration to the platform on which you will build your site. Will it be around for the long-haul? What payment gateway(s) does it support?

The most challenging thing we’re currently dealing with is migrating from older membership plugins that are no longer being actively developed, and the fact that we’re stuck with thousands of recurring subscription profiles in PayPal. Migrating to a new membership plugin now requires some tricky custom coding, since all those PayPal IPN notifications will break in the process, requiring us to re-invite all our members to re-subscribe on the new system. Don’t get stuck like we did!

Read everything my friend Chris Lema’s written about  membership sites and make an informed choice that will serve you and your members for years to come. I’m also blogging about the lessons I’ve learned along the way, in hopes of helping others avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way.

But even more important, never lose sight of the fact that it’s all about people. Whether you’re building a membership site around a hobby, shared interest, or how to build a successful online business, ensure that every piece of content you create and every single interaction with your members is helping you build long-lasting connections and relationships that will encourage, empower, and enable folks to accomplish their own goals. In the end, it’s all about them… not you!

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

In my experience, one of the best ways to become more proficient in WordPress is to start answering questions for others. Often, their questions will drive you to look for answers you might not otherwise have come across on your own. Whether it’s answering questions for your own clients, at your local WordPress Meetup group, or helping people in the  WordPress.org Support Forums, nothing else will stretch your own knowledge quicker!

You may not consider yourself an expert, but remember… wherever you are with regard to your own WordPress skills, there’s someone else who could benefit from you’ve learned.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

If you follow me for any amount of time, you’ll quickly learn that I’m a bit of a cigar aficionado, and I’m always down for a nice cigar and a glass of Scotch with a late-night conversation. But many people don’t know that I’m also a huge sports car enthusiast, having raced a Mazda MX5 for years in our local sports car clubs. We also watch just about every Formula 1 or IndyCar race on TV, and we try to attend almost any race within a day’s drive. If it goes fast, I’m probably a fan!

Meet Adam Pickering, WordPress Expert

adampickering Adam will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you canwatch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be teaching us about how he built a theme shop that has morphed from niche to niche, becoming even more successful with each iteration.

Where can we find you on the internet?

On twitter as @adampickering_

[Ed. Adam’s current theme shop, Astoundify, is among a select few reputable sellers selling amazing themes on ThemeForest]

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

Back in 2008, when I saw a need for band WordPress themes, there wasn’t really anything out there that looked decent. At the time, I was working with a band as their sound engineer. They wanted a website, so I decided to create a set of WordPress themes for bands and called it BandThemer.com. They ended up using one of the themes so it was a great place to start with WordPress.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

The ability to make almost any type of application or website. If you can think of an idea you can built it with WordPress.

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I usually search for new projects on GitHub to see what others are working on, and also check out sites like hacker news, designer news, and https://news.layervault.com/stories to see whats trending and to keep fresh.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

Don’t let fear hold you back. Try something completely new and innovative when starting a new business. Think about how you can make a new spin on an old idea or create something that has never been done before.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

If you’re looking to get into WordPress, reach out to others in the industry to see if you can collaborate on a project or create a plugin or theme that extends an existing platform. I think if you can collaborate with others you can reach a larger audience than trying to do it all by yourself.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I’m really into cooking. I spend time most evenings creating new recipes i’ve seen on television shows or something I’ve seen online. It’s a really great way to relax.

Meet Matt Medeiros, WordPress & Business Expert

mattmedeiros Matt will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you can watch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be teaching us how to build an audience and a community around your business and services. This presentation is particularly important for anyone who is afraid to market or sell themselves.

Where can we find you on the internet?

You can find my podcast at: http://mattreport.com
You can find my company site at: http://slocumthemes.com
You can find our Web shows at: http://youtube.com/slocumstudio
You can find my mentorship site at: http://wpmentor.org
You can find me on Twitter as @mattmedeiros

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

In my previous career, I was Director of Product at a local ISP for 6 years. One of the companies we acquired had a web design arm back in mid 2006 that built using Drupal. I was tasked to lead that division and it became very clear to me that Drupal (at that time version 5) was too complex for the client’s we were working with. I discovered WordPress and The Standard theme around that time and have been using WordPress ever since.

From there, I started my own company with my Father called Slocum Studio. Today, we offer WordPress development and design services, themes and support.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

From a business development standpoint, it’s super flexible and can solve many issues for many verticals. We can build amazing blogs, e-commerce stores and custom web apps for different needs. I truly believe WordPress will be an OS for the internet.

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I’m fortunate to have a great team at the agency lead by Scott Sousa and I lean on his expertise very heavily. When we’re researching something new or brainstorming a new feature for a theme or plugin, it literally starts by the writing on the wall.

We start sketching out the new ideas, how we envision the flow and design and start rapid prototyping. It’s a team effort to build new “stuff” on WordPress.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

I’m going to take the cliche route that I once mocked: Just do it and don’t be embarrassed of your first version.

You will fail.
You will pivot.
You will learn.

It’s a continuous cycle when you’re growing organic.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Tune into podcasts and get involved with the community. Don’t get overwhelmed, find yourself a mentor or start following some smart folks on Twitter. Engage them, but don’t hound them. Absorb the conversation going on around you and stay curious.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

Probably the most interesting thing is that I started this company with my Father — something a lot of folks are surprised to hear. It’s not our first business together either. For most of my life we worked together at a Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership he owned.

Meet Andrew Norcross, WordPress Expert

norcross Andrew will be joining us for the Running a WordPress Business session, which you can watch LIVE on February 15. He’ll be telling us what it’s like to leave a stable job to run an independent business (and how simultaneously great and terrible it is to make that decision). If you’re looking to venture out on your own, this session is not one to miss!

Where can we find you on the internet?

Usually twitter (@norcross), since that’s the only social network I actually use. I occasionally jot stuff down on my personal site (andrewnorcross.com) and post weird stuff to tumblr (x.norcross.co). Oh, and when it’s business time, reaktivstudios.com.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

About 7 years ago. I had built a server and had to install something on it. After fighting with Movable Type for a few weeks, I got WP up and running and haven’t looked back.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

This is an instance where the sum is greater than all the parts. While I love certain parts (combining CPTs, taxonomies, and meta data), the fact that I can dig through and find the best tool inside of WP to accomplish what I want is fantastic. I rarely feel limited.

What resources to you turn to when you want to learn something new?

It usually starts with needing to accomplish a specific goal. Once I have an idea of what I want, I start with the ol’ Google to see what else is out there. I look for plugins that may already exist, or other folks who have tried to do it. At this point it’s more mastering specific parts than learning something completely new.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone looking to start a business?

Get your shit in order. my own experience, and many others I’ve spoken with, is that when it gets moving, it goes FAST. If you don’t have your house in order (admin stuff, taxes, workflows, etc.) you’ll struggle a lot more than you’d otherwise have to. Get a good foundation and you can build as needed.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Don’t try to become an “expert”. Try to learn your craft the best you possibly can, and figure out where your way of solving problems matches up with the overall needs and opportunities of the community.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I spent almost 10 years in the banking and finance industry, and didn’t write a line of PHP (or HTML or CSS, for that matter) until I was 26.