Shane Pearlman [Modern Tribe] – WordPress Community Interview

July 28, 2016 in Community

We recently caught up with Shane Pearlman at WPCampus. Shane has been in the open source space for many years. He co-founded Modern Tribe and both he and his team have years of experience with the benefits of utilizing WordPress to solve complex website builds at scale.

In the video below, Shane shares his knowledge and opinions on a few WordPress and community-related questions.

Stop by our blog for more from WPCampus and interviews with other influencers in the WordPress community!


Shane Pearlman:
Sure. Hi, I’m Shane Pearlman. I’m a partner at a company call Modern Tribe. My Twitter handle is justlikeair.

2006, 2007, I think it was around then that we started using it as one of the many CMS solution options we were using to build sites at the time.

God, there’s a lot of them. To be fair, some of the adoption level and the impact we have on some of our open source plug ins is amazing. The events calender is getting really close to 500,000 active users. We’re going to hit 4,000,000 downloads. We’ve got a betting pool going on to which day, but it’s coming up really soon. That’s kind of amazing. Just to know that on average, if I go to a website and I look and they’re using an events calendar, 50% odds it’s ours. That’s awesome.

I really like what we did for McMillan Publishing for education. We built a … In partnership with a number of other agencies. It’s a very big project, but we built a distribution system for applications for classrooms. Student learning tools, books, quizzes, surveys. All the things that a teacher uses, but we built the whole interface using WordPress so that teachers could choose and distribute content in their classrooms. It was one of our first really big projects where it was not WordPress for any form of media at all. There was no web publishing part of it. There was no story telling part. It was an application for software. That was a really cool project.

Some of it is going to be obvious stuff. WordPress is this really interesting challenge. On one side, as a community we have this intense commitment to backwards compatibility and I think that’s played such a huge role in WordPress’s success. A lot of people are trying to build bigger sites. Don’t want to worry about having to hit upgrade. I saw in 2010, I saw the guy that did the year without pants, Scott Burkin. I saw him give a talk. Actually that talk is what drove us into the premium plug in business. When he got on stage it’s like;”Look, I have a problem and I need you to solve it. I make my entire living from my website. I’m an author, I’m a publisher. My living, my revenue depends on my website.” He’s like;”Hang on, I have my WordPress site and I was trucking along and one day I got hacked. My site went down forever and I had to pay people to fix it.

It is really frustrating and affected my livelihood. When I went out for help everybody was like;”Why, you mean you don’t upgrade? Obviously you got hacked. You just need to update.” He’s like;”Oh okay, I didn’t know. It’s just a website. What do I know? I’m an author. I’m not a web developer. I started hitting the update, update, update. Then an update crashed my site. Now I’m trapped. If I don’t update I’m going to get hacked and will lose my livelihood, but if I hit update you might take my site down and I’m going to lose my livelihood. What the bleep am I suppose to do?” He’s like;”Whoever solves this for me, I will pay you money.” Which was the moment I was like, and that is why people would pay for something that’s free. That was the moment where … Until then I just couldn’t understand why premium plug ins would exist.

It was trust. It wasn’t convenience. This guy doesn’t care about convenience. He needs his website to work because his family’s livelihood depends on it. When it matters, suddenly free isn’t worth that much. Trustworthiness, dependability, support. Those are worth something gladly paid for. We have this interesting problem on WordPress. One side, as a community, we’re committed to backwards compatibility. We want the stability of the system. Problem is, the longer you carry that weight behind you, the bigger and bigger it gets and eventually it blocks innovation. That’s why Automatic went and bought Calypso. That’s why, I think, the WordPress API becomes in some part a path to the future, because unless we can also find ways to innovate, despite this necessary need to support our history, we’re going to stagnate. Other things that I think for the future of WordPress. There’s a very quiet arms race, arms race is so vicious a word. It’s not the right word, but in the builder community. Right now everybody is trying to figure out how to get people more control over their website. Layouts. We’re going to see a lot more work towards front editing experience, drag and drop layout management. I’d say within the next 2 years the average person will have a way to design their website without actually having to code. I’m pretty sure that’s where the community’s headed.

I think something we’re going to see a lot that isn’t WordPress itself, but is going to influence those of us who have budgets and who are doing really interesting things with WordPress is, we’re going to see a lot more work around personalization. You’ve got Google 360 that just came out. You got Adobe Target. You have Optimize League, who are starting to move from the EB test world to being able to say;”Hey, we’re going to serve different content and website based on who shows up. We’re going to use the big data out on the web to figure out are you a dad or a mom who’s coming in and if so let’s tell you a different story as a user and let’s cater to you.” I think we’ve heard these promises of a catered personalized web for 20 years. I’m pretty sure we’re going to actually see it happen in the next 2, because the tools are there now and we’re all learning how to use them and trying to figure out where they work and where they don’t. Usually there’s people like us who get paid to go beyond the beating edge and it takes us a year or 2 to dole that edge enough that the rest of the community can use it and it becomes affordable and we’re being paid to do that stuff right now.

As a business I always worry about the fact that I have no transparency in the .org whatsoever and yet it has a huge impact on my income and I don’t like that. I don’t necessarily need to control it but at least I’d like to know;”Hey, we’ve had revenue dips and TEC’s sometimes.” We’re always like;”Why?” I can be like;”Well, i can see somewhat that something’s happening on .org that affects up but I can’t even tell quite what because I’ve got no transparency and yet it has a huge impact on me.”


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