Building Enterprise-Level WordPress Projects and the Power of Community: A Conversation with Noel Tock from Human Made

Maciej: Hello everyone. My name is Maciej Nowak, and welcome to Osom to Know, a WordPress podcast where we discuss all things WordPress. My today’s guest is Noel Tock partner at Human Made. Noel code seems a teenager successfully launched his own product and take care of growth at Human Made for a decade now. In this episode, we talk a lot about cycles, hype cycles, product cycles, and product development from an agency perspective. We also discuss working remotely, building stuff for enterprise and what to expect from the future. If you don’t want to miss new episodes and keep learning more about WordPress, subscribe to Osom to Know newsletter at If you watch this on YouTube, give us a thump and subscribe to the channel. This means a world to us. Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Noel Tock.

Intro: Hey everyone, it’s good to have you here. We’re glad you decided to tune in for this episode of the Osom to Know podcast.

Maciej: Hi Noel, how are you?

Noel: Yeah, good Maciek. Thanks very much.

Maciej: Thank you for joining the podcast. I really appreciate this.

Noel: You’re more than welcome. I think, you know, like you, you’ve got something cool going on. I’ve seen some of the previous episodes so having some, you know, nice guest diversity across the board. It seems like it’s working out well for you. So yeah, congratulations. Thank you.

Maciej: Yeah, thank you very much. This is, this is very kind. You know, this, this started recently. We, I have recorded a couple of episodes, but, you know those were, those are very kind words, so I, really appreciate them. Yeah. So, tell me a little bit for our guests as well, you know, about yourself, you know, I see you have very nice, you know, when we were talking last time, the skyline was very nice. The weather was great. I’m sitting, you know, , in my proper winter sweater because the, there is a blizzard outside. So 20 centimeters of snow, but, you know, yeah, no, how, how is it going for you?

Noel: Yeah, no,it’s good. I, spend, you know, a lot of winter time either in South Africa or Southeast Asia. And that helps a lot with all the medical issues I have, like hips and cold hands and cold feet and all that kind of stuff. So yeah. No, it’s, perfect. I’m happy at 37.

Maciej: Oh, 37, not 30 now, not 30,

Noel: not 37 years old, but 37 is a degrees. I wish I was 37.

Maciej: Yeah, Exactly. This was, this was why I was afraid that temperature. Yeah, That’s, that, great. But after a couple of months it can get, you know, you know, tiring now.

Noel: No, I’m used to it.

Maciej: Ah, that’s great. Yeah. You adapted always. Yeah. Yeah. Alright, so you know so from, let’s say a little bit for of a professional background, you know we are a partner at Human Made. Can you introduce yourself from this perspective for our listeners?

Noel: Yeah, absolutely. So we’re, we’re three partners at Human Made Tom, Joe, and myself. The business started over a decade ago. We joined forces by wanting to, I mean, they, Tom and Joe had an agency back then. I had Happy Tables which was like selling themes for restaurants and, you know, that was pretty cool. And at some point we just decided to put everything together because they, we, turned happy tables to theme business into a SaaS like, kind of like Squarespace for restaurants. But, you know, before Squarespace was really something to kind of compete with. So maybe we’re a bit early on, that side of things, but. yeah, that’s where we, came together and essentially since then, we’ve been a WordPress company. I’d say we’ve, we predominantly do agency stuff at the enterprise level. We’ve built a lot of products over the years, be it happy tables, be it WP Remote which we’re managing like 150,000 sites on at some point. We had we had a few plugins and you know, now we obviously have altis in terms of, you know, driving cloud plus digital experiences. My role in the whole thing is Chief Growth Officer. But really, you know, ultimately what it comes down to is I enjoy building cool things with cool people and, you know, wherever that, you know, kicks off I, have a great time. And Human Made that is the, the growth of the business. That is what we productize. That is, you know, where we try to innovate and, you know, bring WordPress to the future, if you will.

Maciej: Hmm. Yeah, that’s super interesting because, you know, from, from my perspective, it’s like you had a business, a product, you know Happy Tables. It was a product and that was growing. And then you merged you know, joint forces with the agency. So can you tell, me a little bit, how did it happen? Have you known each other? Did you, have you been working together first or is it sealed to top secret?

Noel: No, everything’s open. Oh, okay. No, we, I met, Tom and Joe randomly on a client call. And a client was very nice. And it was, it was gonna be like my, it was gonna be my first sort of exposure to what the client does, what their ambitions are. So there’s a bit of like a pitch deck and everything. And they had already been working with that client for, you know, a certain amount of time and being like having no employees, just being the two of them. And. By the end of the pitch from the client, I was like, Hmm, you know, this is, this is a bit too ambitious. I don’t think it’s gonna, it’s not a project for me in, in terms of, you know, what the expectations were from the client, how it’s gonna unfold. And so I, called up the, the two guys after and I was like, Hey, Palm Joe really cool meeting you, but I’m, you know, I don’t think I’m gonna be working on this project, but we should stay in touch. I think like a couple weeks later, I decided to fly out to Manchester you know, and like a 25 euro Easy Jet flight or whatever, and flew out, met the guys out in Manchester. They had never met any of their clients, anybody from WordPress before. They hardly ever went to the big city. Let’s call Manchester to big city and it was really funny to me because they already had clients like PayPal, you know, Sony doing microsites, and then the Chicago Tribune with a large multisite. So they already had like a couple things going on then. And, you know, I, met up with them and I was like. Hey guys, look, this is, we’re, I’m selling this. I have this theme business, I have these themes, whatever, but I’m talking directly to, you know, restaurant owners who want a food menu thing. They wanna be able to put up events. And, you know, this was when custom post types came out, and that was like the big attraction for me to, WordPress. And I loved leveraging custom post types to create these different content types and make WordPress feel like it was completely something else. And yeah, I pitched them on that. I was like, Hey, let’s take this and turned into a SaaS business, right? Where someone goes on a website and they, they sign up and then there was a, there’s like the builder there, right? And at the beginning it was very much like a WordPress interface, but then we had like multiple revisions that were just. You know, we used Knockout.js at some point. And years later you know, you’re from Poland. I, came to speak in Warsaw war Camp Poland, 2014. And I think, you know, my talk title was WordPress, but I redacted all the letters in between because to me, you know, WordPress was not gonna be the big consumer brand anymore. It was gonna be this thing kind of pushed underneath. And, you know, that’s what I was pitching essentially then that, you know, people were gonna build other things on top of WordPress and then the brand kind of falls away. And in some ways that has happened, but, you know, in different ways that we expect. But at the time, at least, you know, like that’s what we did. We, made WordPress invisible. The, the SaaS context, but that’s how we met. At some point we just, you know, we kept working together. I was involved on the agency side too, you know, just helping with sales helping consult whatever it is. You, just kind of mix everything together at some point, right? Like you’re all passionate about the same thing. You’re passionate about open source, you’re passionate about the WordPress project. There’s a lot of momentum, right? I could have fallen into like the Joomla project or the Drupal project and probably been as passionate about it all. But it would’ve had, I, I would’ve added like a different level of success or a different path of success than, you know, maybe like the, what we had instead with WordPress and this kind of whole honeymoon phase, if you will, of, you know, WordPress growing to being like an absolute. I don’t know you know, monster in terms of the market size and the, size of the plugging ecosystem. So that was a very long answer to, to your question, .

Maciej: Yeah. But very, yeah. Very nice answer. I, appreciate this. And you know, this is also, there’s that component of betting on the right horse, you know, with, with WordPress. There was something that drew your attention and, and to better at this technology. And you know, when I’m listening to this, I, wasn’t aware of the, you know of the story. And this is even more interesting for me because it’s like I was thinking about Human Made as they, for like big platforms and the original stories. Okay? There were big clients at the beginning, but no, immediately after this, there was a product to scale. So this is very interesting, you know that product component because. There’s s right now, and, want to unpack all of those boxes, , and but I’m thinking about this in a way that you know, I, have a lot of friends who, who have agencies software agencies, not only WordPress, but you know Ruby, Python and so on. Everyone wants to launch its own product. And this is like, I wonder, is it like, is the grass greener on the other side? We, try to do this as well with one of like a product PMI product about, is it like grass is also, is always greener on the other side because I have also an a friend of mine. Product business, they have mobile application, very known, very known product application in their category. And they are now starting development business because, you know, they build a great application and they are asked by their friends, okay, can you help us with, can you help us with this? So the majority of companies start doing product and, but there are a couple of companies that are also starting to do business uh, sorry, services work. So this, this is like a little bit counterintuitive, but my point is like everyone is trying to see what’s on the other side of the, you know, of, that part between services and products.

Noel: Yeah. Yes. I agree. People, people dance between the two, you know. I’d say that, that, there’s a lot of similarities between the two. When, you know, the grass was greener both on the agency side and the product side. When WordPress was just in its growth phase, right? If you’re well positioned as an agency in 2011, 2012, you know, we were one of the, the first WordPress VIP partners and also we were quite large, and then we’re based out of EMEA and you have TenUp that’s like based in the us you know, there weren’t many of us in Europe. You know, there’s just enough business for all of us. So I’d say, you know, both the agency side and the product side has become a lot more mature. So the, product side has become more productized and there’s, more product tactics and there’s, there’s, there’s more iteration and there’s more critical sort of thought and approach in terms of how you build things. And then the same is, is, true on the agency side, right? Like you can’t just build. You know, just a random website for a customer that doesn’t have outcomes. Like those, those websites are products in themselves. So you as a consultant or someone that’s, you know, spending clients’ money has to also be part of that outcome. You can’t just say, Hey, look, we’re, we’re just coders. You ask us to build this you, you take a, a certain, assuming the, the client is receptive to that kind of reproach, but you take a, you, you take part in, the product that they are building. So I think it’s, you know, we, are becoming multidisciplinary in terms of how we have to think about these things. Because 10, 20 years ago, building a website was the outcome. That was a binary thing. We have a website, it’s on, or it’s off. That’s it. And nowadays, yes, the website’s on, but like how much money is it generating? You know, what is, what’s the attribution model? Are you, you know, is it the first click? Is it the last click? Like, who’s. Who’s, responsible for the engagement, the revenue it, it’s much more challenging. And in, in, in a world like this, it’s, you know, sometimes less about WordPress and much more about this overall outcome that is being generated, and that happens to be just a bit further away from WordPress than we’re used to.

Maciej: But was it ever around about WordPress? Because my, my feeling is maybe, you know, because we, were later. I mean, we started we started 2011, but with different business. So we were building formal applications. So we were like I mean. The histories, we were in top, top 10 results for mobile applications in Poland But guess what? We are building WordPress websites and, you know, so, this changed. But my, take is was it ever around about WordPress or WordPress was always a tool that was allowing to build stuff quickly, because I don’t have…

Noel: I think it was about WordPress. At some point, I think there was like that, that phase where everything that was WordPress was cool. And I don’t wanna say like, it was like a very long phase or whatever, but I think there was like this, this nice kind of growth phase around 2000 12, 13, 14, you know, where you could kind of build anything and it, would sell, I’d say, like, I, don’t wanna make it sound that crazy, but like, it, you know, like, I, think clients were coming to you also for like, Hey, just we’ve heard about this cool thing, WordPress, we wanna build on WordPress. You know, and like, that’s just the outcome they want. Because it’s, it’s the platform, it’s tool. And they weren’t necessarily, you know, building towards something else. And, you know, the bundle was easier back then because you, you would build a website, you throw on some SEO you maybe have some custom forms and things like that. But then, you know, beyond like, you know, a few tracking codes and all that, it wasn’t there, you know, maybe someone was hooking into their CRM, you know, like if you’re lucky or they’re just like using Gravity forms to send an email into the CRM. Like, who knows? You know, like a bit more of a shortcut. But yeah. I’d say there was probably a, like a, a small timeframe, you know, like WordPress is coming up to 20 years next year, so, Yeah, it was definitely a minority of its time in which I, think, you know, WordPress was the hype and you know, like it was just the grass was always greener kind of scenario.

Maciej: All right. And do you have this feeling right now, for example, about Webflow where people want wanting to build a website on Webflow, want to do this 50% because it’s Webflow you shiny thing, let’s say?

Noel: Yeah, I mean, I, think that’s always around, right? Like, it’s be it like Midjourney or, you know, Stable Diffusion or, you know, GPT-3 or Figma, you know, like disrupting Sketch, let’s say. You know, I, you can look at like rank math, I think on like the WordPress side that has what is it, what is it called? What’s the SEO plugin called on?

Maciej: It’s called Rank Math

Noel: Is it called Rank? Yeah. Yeah, Rank Math. So you have something like Rank Math that has like, you know, grown like very aggressively compared to Yoast, you know, and maybe some of that is marketing or product marketing where, you know, some people have just switched from Yoast to Rank Math because why not? You know, like, let, let’s try out. So I think there’s always a hype factor with things. And, and you know, Gartner calls it like the, the hype cycle for a reason. You know, people dive into it, you know, being more, you know, impressed by its potential than the actual, actual execution. And, then, you know, that’s where you then have that what’s the , what’s the next phase after the hype cycle called? It’s like the, where you, you, come to realize, oh no, this is way harder than when you thought . And that’s like the whole bucket of personalization.

Maciej: Alright, I, have this graph, this picture from the book Crossing the Chasm and, you know, there’s the chasm with new product. Okay?

Maciej: You jumped this and then you, you are on the top of the wave and then this is the best moment to start building something new. As long as you’re on top of the wave un until it’s starting to phase out or, you know yeah, get slower.

Noel: Yeah. Yeah. So the question is, do you ride the wave to the end and then paddle all the way back out? Or do you say, Hey, I’ve had a good wave so far, I’m gonna stop here and then go back to the lineup. You know, like what’s the, what’s the decision model look like there?

Maciej: I, hear I hear proper surfing wording from you .

Noel: No, no, no. I enjoy being in water. It doesn’t mean I’m

Maciej: Alright. Right. Okay.

Noel: My friends are better than me.

Maciej: Oh, so you, so you do surf a little, right?

Noel: A little bit, yeah. Yeah.

Maciej: Ah, yeah. Yeah. I, I, I seen through your . All right. Yeah. But you know, on, on, on the other note, you know you know, we, we talked a little bit about those phases and, and cycles, and I cannot ask you about, you know, your point of what’s your point of point of view about where we are right now, because we are recording this in the middle of December, 2022. In the midst of economic downturn. I recession, you know, a tech companies link of people. And if I understand correctly, you, joined human Mind slightly after last, last, last crisis. After, after 2008 and, so on. So do you see any similarities between those, you know, periods of time we are right now and what was back then? You know.

Noel: I mean, like, without getting into like the, the kind of global economic situation, because I, feel like the contagion of that is probably more widespread than what, you know, the, what the housing crisis did back then. So I’m, you know, if anything. I’m more worried about the, the, like humanity the state of humanity and where that’s going. You know, especially in a lot of countries where that I’m surrounded by, you know, in, in Asia where like, These things can, you know, change quite drastically. But yeah, I like nobody’s the, I think the, interesting thing about, you know, times like this is everybody’s an expert kind of, you know, if you like turn on Gartner or you turn on Forrester or all

the industry experts from like our space or then you, you know, you turn on like, or you read like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times

Maciej: Or open Twitter

Noel: Yeah, or open Twitter. Everybody’s an expert, right? And I, think the only thing that’s constant in times like this is absolute change, like chaos in, some kind of way. So I think, you know, if, you take, I think it was Edgar Alan poet that said it, you know, one of his books, you know, believe half of is it believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. And you know, I think that’s especially true, you know? Yeah. I think it’s absolutely true in times like this, you know, stay close to. the things you enjoy building, stay, stay close to the market, stay close to your clients and, and trust your gut. You know, like, I, like, that’s what I’m doing. You know, I, think that it’s great opportunity. I think, you know, companies that, you know, raised a lot of capital are, being humbled by what’s happening now. And, you know, they’re, they’re losing valuations and you know, like no one person is, to blame, right? But everybody kind of stacked on top of each other and, you know, drove these insane valuations. We all took part in it, you know, in some way or another, be it with, you know, our vote towards the stock market and purchasing and then selling or whatever that is. We, we all participated to a certain degree. But yeah. I think, you know, this is, this is a, a great time where, change. And, and then some of the more stable things like open source hopefully, you know, are able to, stay top of mind or even have like a bit of resurgence as, you know, a move towards stability. Because some of these, you know, larger or more, you know, venture backed companies may experience situations where, you know, they, they drastically reduce support. They, they don’t, they don’t deliver on the roadmap. They’re gonna say, you know, in terms of innovation and it all kind of slows down. And then the client’s like, did I make the right choice here? You know, should I move to something else that’s a bit more stable? You know, WordPress celebrating it’s 20th year next year is, is an incredible milestone. You know, many MarTech companies are nowhere close to that. So, yeah, I, I think, you know, it’s, Yeah. Trust, you know, trust in yourself, you know, in, times like this, in what you see. And, you know, work with your friends, work with your crew, your tribe, whatever you wanna call it. And ship.

Maciej: All right. Yeah, ship a keyword. Word . Yeah. Yeah. And speaking of shipping tell us a little bit more about Altis, you know, how it started, what, what, what, what is the product and why it happened?

Noel: Yeah, good question. So we started, when we, when we left VIP we left. So because we wanted to be able to provide more in terms of like the infrastructure and, and the hosting and to…

Maciej: what was it, the barrier?

Noel: So VIP had a, few barriers at the time, and we were able to you know, acquire new customers because they weren’t able to fulfill, you know, certain features. And, we were at the time and we were also just, you know, pretty young and, you know, quite happy to do very customized setups that weren’t like productized. And, you know, we just learned a lot doing that. And, you know, we have a number of clients still from that day that, you know, are hosted by us, which, you know, they’re, running pretty complex, you know, setups in, you know, many countries. And like, that’s, that’s great. But yeah, that’s where it was born. You know, I, I’d say we were always on the upper end of sort of bespoke customized hosting. So almost like if you take the top tier host today and what is. And then what is like that final option of like, ah, screw it, we’re just gonna host it ourselves. I’d say we’re in between that, spectrum where, you know, we’re very high end in that kind of customized category. So to think about it differently, we’re between like the top tier host on, on the market in terms of like a productized host. You know, if you’re talking about like a WP Engine or a Pantheon or a VIP and then a client saying, Hey, we’re just gonna do this ourselves. Because these other companies are really large, they have lots of processes, they’ve really productized it, you know, they have a lot more boundaries, I’d say around, you know, how they wanna do things. And we’re quite open to do things in a new way or to, to push the boundaries. And do, you know, some kind of custom setup where, you know, we’re just interacting with different technologies or you know, You know, being very accepting of, you know, a very different way of, doing things. So we have that ability to, you know, to, to be at that level, let’s say. But when we were doing that, we, started growing and, you know, acquiring more customers. And at the time it was just called Human Made Platform which is a bit of a weird name, right? Like a human made platform. You know, like on, on the agency side, you’re like scaling humans. And on the product side you’re scaling machines and we’re like a human, a made machine scaling thing like, so doesn’t, it doesn’t really like make sense. So, you know, it’s, maybe it’s a bit dystopian or something like that. , it’s like the kind of company you’d see in like the movie Gattaca or Blade Runner, but yeah Human Made Platform, essentially. This, you know, maybe not the best name and, you know, we wanted to productize it. We were also seeing in a market how digital experience was, was growing and yeah, we, decided to, to move forward with Altis DXP at the time you know, having a pretty loose, let’s say definition of DXP. DXP defined by Gartner and Forrester is very much like an integrated all-in-one suite or platform, you know, provided by Adobe, provided by Life Rate provided by EpiServer which is now Optimizly. All these kind of different companies have all-in-ones and obviously we’re not, you know, We’re not restrictive in that regard. Like we want to integrate with different providers, different vendors if you have a different CDP if you have if you’re using HubSpot as a CRM, if you’re using all these different mailing tools.

Noel: If you’re using, you are using Zapier to hack around on stuff, whatever it is, like, you know, we’re, we’re obviously very open to that, but DXP in, in that sense, you know, we try to do, I, I think too much and, you know, that comes down to, you know, me also in terms of like where I steered the ship. But I think we try to do too much between Cloud plus the DX software. And that’s why, you know, now we have Altis Cloud as one and Altis Accelerate as the, the kind of separate plugin that we’re, you know, trying to drive to.

Maciej: All right. But did it start like piece of software that allowed you to build websites faster? Was this the beginning of Altis or did you thought maybe we are lacking in the market a tool that this, that, that does this, this, and this. It would be cool to build it and let’s, let’s do this.

Noel: Yeah. The Human Made Platform at the time, and then Altis by extension two we wanted this, we wanted it to be very much a framework. So, you know, driving a lot of modularity and then driving a lot of extensibility. So providing a lot of foundational pieces like our analytics be it our experience blocks whatever those may be. And then also expose them in a kind of framework way, right? It’s almost like saying like, Hey, here’s, here’s all the API endpoints. You can build whatever application you want on top. And in that model, what we’re saying is, here is our platform. Our framework comes with, you know, everything’s ready running on AWS. We’ve had, we have it all optimized. We have the software layer that we maintain too. But you, you know, as a platform owner inside of a very large company, take that and mold it to become the thing you want. And then you essentially almost like resell it internally, right? Because you might be CTO of a very large company and then say. Hey, this is large company platform, web platform whenever you want to use it, you know, come to the IT department, we’ll spin up a, site or whatever. And then everything runs within those boundaries and the, platform that they’ve customized out of. So it’s not being, you know, exposed to the Altis platform, you know, in terms of like a branded, kind of very unique user experience. And that’s, that’s where we started. So if, you know, yes, we wanted to create like, I’d say a a, a starting point for enterprise and really like, you know, pretty like large enterprise to essentially have everything they need to build their own web platform using all, you know, the, the, the tools and everything we provide. So that high starting point is something that we provided. But you know, as we split out now, we’re very much doing that on the cloud side. Sort of cloud side is, you know, it still represents that to a certain extent, but is very much in the hosting territory now. And then on the Accelerate side, like it’s very, very different because we provided a lot of these features and functionality before. In that framework way, saying, Hey, you know, here’s your API endpoint. Here’s the basic thing, mold it to your needs. And you know, now with Accelerate, we’re obviously, you know, trying to be much more of a consumer product. We’re we’re having to make those decisions and say, this is the user experience we’re gonna pursue. Or, this one, right, where you’re, trying to build features that have an end-to-end flow that is funneled and created by us. And, and not something that platform owner from an enterprise company dictates and says, oh yeah, we’re gonna piece this together like this, and then that’s the experience I’m gonna give my users. But instead with Altis Accelerate, you know, the experience is the same for all users. So that’s where we’re, you know, trying. , figure out what is the, you know, the best experience for AB testing blocks, for personalizing blocks for having global blocks all at a you know, SMB plus level. So, you know, going down market from enterprise into SME into SMB and creating something that, you know, fits the WordPress narrative in, terms of it’s intuitive, it’s easy to use you know, the five minute install and then you’re good, you know? So that’s, that’s what we’re trying to pursue. So

Maciej: So the question is, is Altis built on WordPress or WordPress compatible or standalone piece of software that you integrate later with refer to whatever website technology you’re using?

Noel: Yeah, good question. Altis Cloud is obviously, you know, WordPress hosting and completely that, and Accelerate is a you know, it is SaaS backed as in like, we’re running our own analytics engine, we’re running, you know, a bunch of stuff on a backend, which is running on our servers. But ultimately, yeah, it’s WordPress software, you know, like you, you have it inside of your WordPress admin where we’re, we’re not interested right now to develop on other platforms. I’d say because WordPress has a unique experience, especially with, you know, the evolution of the block editor, and we want to be able to bring some of these technologies that are exciting in MarTech that are occurring in other places, be, you know, AB testing, personalization integrating with CDPs or whatever that may be to WordPress itself. You know, I think, you know, this is one of the, the largest challenges that WordPress has is staying relevant to all the hype and innovation that’s happening in the market. And some of that is, you know, absolutely guilty of the hype cycle. You know, maybe some of these companies are not delivering. But in a lot of other cases, yes, there’s just exciting technologies happening and, you know, we’re still talking about WordPress, about, you know, having it’s, you know, potentially like it’s Rest API, it has this and it has that. Instead of saying, yes, it’s headless, yes, it integrates with next, you know, and having all these kind of dedicated pages, you know, you can, you know, and I’m referring to, you know, something like sanity, you know, where like the product marketing is, really solid compared to, you know, the product marketing of, of WordPress. So yeah, some of it is also just helping WordPress anchor outside of its own kind of bubble or sphere and, and, and becoming more relevant than associated with these emerging technologies.

Maciej: Yeah. So this is interesting for me to ask, is human made more service business services business? Or are you transitioning more into product, product based company? What’s the major component?

Noel: Yeah, major components, soul services you know, that’s our bread and butter. Butter. That’s where we learn. I still sell services from time to time even if it’s less now. But yeah, I mean it’s, it’s, absolutely that. I think somewhere down the line will always have a bit of everything because we’re, we’re, we’re trying to, you know, bring WordPress on this journey towards like these, these broader outcomes that customers are looking for. And you’re not gonna find all your answers from one place, you know, from a product or from, from your services or whatever that may be. And in that regard, you, you know, you try to have a, a bit of a portfolio going into, yes. You know, like , this, new cycle. Let’s say, you know, you used the word cycle before. I think, you know, the, cycle that’s coming up, like, it’s exciting. I think we wanna be positioned, you know? Sure. Some of it’s our bread butter in terms of the agency work. We have cloud, we’re, you know, growing cloud that’s great. And then you have Accelerate, which is like, you know, let’s say like the highest risk piece in a, in a portfolio which is also exciting. And, and that way we, you know, we’re able to participate at all the different levels while still remaining Human Made.

Maciej: And what, what is the risk component in, in their, is it losing the investment of time and, you know, energy for lost opportunities or reputation? You know, what’s at stake?

Noel: Mm. I, don’t, I don’t think it’s reputation. I’d probably strike down now pretty quickly just because I, think if, you know, if you fail and you know, you’re, able to make retros or you’re able to talk about it openly, and you’re able to admit to those mistakes and, you know, talk about how you’re, how you’ll change in the future. Like, I, think that’s, that’s great. So I, you know, I think anything you do, if you do it the right way, it’s reputation building, even if you fail. Yeah, I, think that’s where that is. So the, risk is lost time for, you know, what you do and then lost investment in terms of, you know, you know, looking forward to revenue of a given product over time. And, you know, obviously with product stuff, it, it, it takes longer for, that to come in. But yeah, that being said I’d say, what was my train of thought there? You’re gonna have to do a little cut there.

Maciej: Yeah, my question was what’s to lose, you know, because you mentioned that the cloud is the most, the riskiest part of this and, you know,

Noel: That’s what accelerator was

Maciej: So my mistake accelerate.

Noel: Yeah, no worries.

Maciej: So, so is it like the product is too loose? I mean, it, this is, this is the business, you know, reality, , you invest and sometimes you lose the investment, the product doesn’t fit and, and so on. So is it, is it the product that can, can be lost or is there anything else? No. How do you think about this? Because you, you are always, I’m asking about this because this is interest, this is again, interesting. You’re a services company, building your own product, learning along the way. And you did this from the very beginning since you joined the human made , you know, together you did this from the first start. So, I would like to know how, how are you thinking about this risk versus, for example, people starting their own businesses around the product, like startups, you know, doing you know, now it is the time where you can build stuff. The easiest, I mean, the fastest ever possible, right? So much no-code, you, take a business idea and using all of the shortcuts that there are, that there are to build something MVP. You can, you can do this and, and with emerging AI, you know, generative stuff, this is even more possible. And I compare this to building stuff that you are building with products. And this is not so easy as with no-code tools. So this is where I’m coming from asking you about the risk of running those two two products.

Noel: Yeah, that makes sense. It’s like I’m very comfortable with risk just as from a personality point of view. And, you know, maybe that’s why I always, I’m the one kinda behind some of the product stuff that Human made or the majority. And yeah, that’s, something we’re very comfortable. I think, you know, ultimately we’re, very close to clients. We’re very close to the product, we’re very close to the WordPress ecosystem, and because of that, we, you know, we have a, view into these things that allow us to say, Hey, we should go build Accelerate or, you know, we should, you know, continue to build this feature, that feature fault, this cloud, or, you know, on the agency side to productize certain processes or, you know, to productize the topic of the funnel or to engage in different processes. So, you know, I think the lines, are blurred across the the entire business, but you know, there absolutely is a. higher risk profile for something that is not validated and something that does not have product market fit. But yeah, I like the, the biggest risk is time and money. Then the largest risks, the larger risks around the entire business is that let’s say WordPress just becomes less popular or, you know, consulting hours become more commoditized or, you know, you know, you, you’re talking about AI before, like, you know, do some of these services get offset? Like, who knows? You know, can, does, does no code, low code actually become, you know, something that actually displaces 50% of our co consulting business? You know, who knows? Ultimately you keep an open mind to these things and you always try to adapt. I think, you know, you can always look at past industries to a certain extent. So if you look. The photographer of business back in the day when everybody was shooting with film and then all of a sudden digital came around and disrupted the entire market. And you had a lot of analog professional film photographers saying, this is horrible. They’re taking away our business and everything. But then you could tell the ones which were adapting, they moved over to digital, they started using Lightroom, they start improving their processes and, their workflows. And then they, you know, they, they start working on their marketing more because there’s just more competition and they, they adapted to the market environment. So I think the, there, there’s risk in the entire portfolio. But yeah, like this, this is such a, these next couple years are so big in terms of change that you have to keep an open mind across the entire portfolio and not just one, you know, risk asset or whatever.

Maciej: Okay. All right. And when you’re building artist products do you have dedicated team or is it you know, because again, from what I’m observing, when, the idea for the product pops up, pops out when there are people on the bench, most of the time, let, let’s utilize all of those people who, are waiting for the next project. And then those projects never never materialized because this is not the way to build the product. And if you want to build a product, the, this is like the, wisdom is you have to set up the whole team with net over that team. And this is dedicated team. And do you have similar thoughts on this?

Noel: Yeah, so Cloud basically runs as its own micro business within Human Made, I mean, not even that micro anymore, but you know, like it’s its own. It’s its own business, own management own reporting lines. Keep in mind that with cloud, you know, we’re talking about enterprise we have SLAs we have uptime agreements. Like these are all extremely important to us. We wanna be able to support our customers to, to the best of our abilities. And that’s not just about like, is the server up? Is it down? But you know, how, you know, how performant is the stuff they’re doing with WordPress. Really? Can we help out anywhere? You know, we’ve, you know, we’ve deflected a 8 billion, you know, page request, DDoS attack you know I think it was roughly a year ago now, which is insane. You know, and you, you actually need

Maciej: Was it a single attack?

Noel: Yes

Maciej: Wow

Noel: Yeah. It was a single attack. And you know, like you have to be in a position with something like Cloud to be able to manage those kind of situations. You know, man, cloud is obviously like a. Some of the riskiest stuff you can do because you’re, you’re, you know, you’re, holding the person’s, you know, the company’s site in your hands and running it. It’s very different to, you know, running beta software on a single desktop somewhere and, and playing around with it. You know, like that’s, that’s a very different experience to, you know, we’re hosting multiple Fortune 500 brands on our ecosystem, and it just needs to be multiple fallbacks. And, you know, you talked about reputation before, like that’s where, you know, you can take a, pretty large reputational hit or at the same time, you know, grow your reputation like we did, you know, with this DDoS attack. And, and you know, being able to deflect that. So yeah, to, to answer your question, like dedicated team on cloud and then Accelerate. , much more startupy. You know, we’re like, you know, we, the, the team range is there from two to four depending on what we’re building, how, you know, how we’re moving and all that. But that’s very much like the startupy kind of focus. And you know, as you correctly point out, you’re not just taking people off the, the bench to just come ran work randomly on this stuff. Like you’re, you know, we have, you know, the engineers working on this are dedicated product people that work on the Alta side. So you know, if we do have, you know, people that have time for other things, you know, there may be more other internal projects which are. You could kind of consider their own projects sort of products, you know, it’d be it like our own, like website, be it our handbook or whatever that may be. Sort of certainly work there you know, for people that are working on the service side of the business. But you know, completely correct that the people that are working on cloud and accelerate need to be in the flow, the state of mind. And you know, having an understanding of like what the vision is and where that’s going and, and being one with that to be able to drive that forward.

Maciej: All right. Makes sense. And I wonder those are the products you are inside workers coming, like workers ecosystem you know, 100%. And with WordPress, there comes community. And I wonder what’s your take with either, I know, contributing community staff, events, you know, how are you looking at the community? This is, for WordPress, but for other technologies. This is not so present. So, you know community comes with good and bad, right. You know, things. So I wonder what’s your, what’s your take on the community?

Noel: Yeah, I mean, community’s integral to what WordPress is. Like we, you know, like even back in the day when I, you know, first came out to Warsaw or whatever, like, you know, I was just doing the rounds and going to a lot of first time war camps, you know, be it Warsaw, Bratislava be it what was the Prague was one of the first ones I like. That was the first war camp they had. And like, tho those moments are timeless, you know, in many ways. And I’m not talking about contributing or anything, it’s just like the, the aspect of being in, in it together and, you know, sharing that same overarching kind of baseline of open source is cool. Open source is good for our web. And then having completely different interests within that. You know, like I might be on the enterprise side, you might be on a plugin side. You might not even work in WordPress, but you’re just like showing up and contributing to language translations or whatever that may be. And I think that momentum is, is quite amazing you know, across WordPress as a whole and the diversity that we have in. Viewpoints, diversity of where the revenue is coming from. And you know, like WooCommerce is a great example of something that just broke off and became its own thing. And that’s very amazing. But for, us as a business, you know, like we’ve, we’ve definitely contributed sometimes more and sometimes less. I’d say we’re in a less phase now, and we we’re trying to figure out how to, you know, come back to a point where, you know, we’re, meeting Matt’s, you know, standard of five for the future. I think it’s five for the future. And, you know, being at, at that level where we’re yeah, contributing in such a way that we’re, you know, just having an impact on the open source project in a more sizable way. You know, like we, I think we drove in a, we drove through in a very big way with like the rest API and you know, like Joe and Ryan working on that. You know, that was, that was insane I think because, you know, back then it was like connecting, you know, 37 of the web to, you know, a potential 63% of the web. And, you know, that’s a great project. But, you know, I think in some ways we also have to find what we’re looking for to contribute to we definitely have individual people in the company that would like to contribute more of their time to, to open source and WordPress. And I think we know, we also wanna look to towards ways to make making that happen. But it’s, you know, a great balance between, you know, time, money, resources yeah, it’s all the easiest thing to just, you know, turn on and off.


Maciej: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m asking about this because when there was on WordComp Europe this June, and there was Matt on the scene and the questions were asked, I, felt that. Because, you know, we are building WordPress for a couple of years now, but I have never been involved in the community. And only last year after the, you know you know, countries opened their borders, you were allowed to travel again. WordCamps were started again. So I’m making up for all of those last years, let’s say. And the community aspect is new for me. And, you know, I’m, like a sponge now, you know, absorbing all of this a human factor a human aspect of, of a community in inside workplace, and. I felt that there was a big, not a tension, but but let’s call it a tension between you know, community math. And what I’m trying to say is that it’s not easy to build a product which is built by the community, you know, itself. I’m not talking about the plugins that are commercial, commercially developed or products around WordPress, but the, the WordPress core you know, and all of those people that are committing their own time and effort. And then there is the vision of the product. And it’s like with a corporation or a startup or you have to have a clear vision for the product, which is WordPress. And then there’s the community who does the majority of the work development maintainance. I see a challenge here because the, there has to be clear vision dictated by us as little people as possible. Whereas the execution is on the totally other spectrum where there are, there is so many people committing fragments of their work, like a couple of hours here, there. But if you multiply those that the effort by the number of people, it’s totally different spectrum because those are not you know, full-time employees. There are of course, but the community are volunteers. So I see like , you know, it’s a very fine balance between what should be built, what people want to build, and, making it whole coherent, you know, develop like roadmap and development and keeping everyone on board for this. So I see the here a huge challenge, which I wasn’t aware of until I traveled, you know, for, you know, joined those WorldCamps.

Noel: I know what you mean. So we, we have, you know, Matt as a leader and, you know, and, I think in this kind of the ecosystem where we’re in, you know, his title is often the same as other ecosystems where you’re a BDFL, you know, to benevolent dictator for life. And that’s like the, the role you have absolutely have to play. You know, like I think, you know, Matt has done, you know, a really good job of being in that role because it is extremely difficult. But at the same time, I also recognize that. The use cases of WordPress have just blown up way beyond blogging over the years. You know, and that means that something like, you know, WooCommerce can go off and then have like a dedicated focus. But, you know, I think there’s still a big part of WordPress. It’s almost like, I’d say, I’d say take, take everything that’s still branded as WordPress and it needs to become its own brand, you know, and it needs to be like, broken down into its own piece. So Enterprise is a good example of, you know, something for us that’s challenging because, Like, I have no problem with the product. Like I, you know, like, sure it has its shortcomings. We want to build these things or these things on a roadmap or whatever, but I think WordPress is a product is great. Like the challenge I have is at the enterprise level is that, you know, the WordPress Foundation doesn’t market it. It doesn’t have a dedicated, you know, chief marketing officer or chief growth officer or whatever that comes from, like the B2B enterprise space and then says, Hey, we’re gonna have, we’re really gonna drive this like, enterprise piece, or we are really gonna drive like this SMB place this piece or whatever. And we don’t have those things in place. So I, my, you know, my challenge is less about the kind of code fragments that are coming in. And it’s more about, you know, how does, how does attention. get maintained in a time like this where, you know, we’ve had an unparalleled amount of money invested in MarTech in 2022. And obviously like that’s, you know, going through a change now. And that’s the opportunity we talked about before, you know, to chaos and to change and, you know, maybe you, you know, room for something like we’re pressed to grow again, but we also need to position ourselves to be there. Now what I won’t say is that I, like, I don’t think that’s Matt’s job to go do. You know, like I think Matt’s doing like a great job with Tumblr. And you know, he’s showing that, hey look, there’s this thing called WordPress over here and I’m gonna go outside of WordPress almost and go do this very an ambitious thing called Tumblr social blogging and, you know, changed the, the way that those kind of social platforms run from trying to be, you know, ad revenue driven to being subscription driven, but then also fully powered by WordPress. And now competing against, you know, Twitter and, and being in that whole saga, you know, doing the whole like two blue check marks stuff and everything. Like I think, you know, Matt is fully engulfed in that world. And I, you know, he, he did he did a podcast with the, the editor of the Verge I forget his name. But like, that was just like a week ago or so, and you know, Matt said he’s, this is, this is the most humble he’s ever been a humbled he’s ever been, you know, doing this kind of work before. So you can tell that like his whole attention is there. But I think that, you know, many of us need to find. Our similar callings within that space and you know, take enterprise WordPress for example. None of us agencies as one agency can do it alone. But I think, you know, if we band together and create, you know, an alliance like the Mac Alliance exists, you know, we can create something that tries to take WordPress on this journey, you know, outside of its own bubble and into that, you know, other world where other people are participating, right. Where the exciting stuff is, and that is, I think the, you know, like how I kind of flip that on its head and I realize, you know, I’m not answering the contributor fragment thing at all, but like, I think there’s just lower hanging fruit or larger waves to ride that people aren’t even seeing, you know, like it’svtoo insular in, some, in many ways. You know, like you, you can talk about WordPress all day, but if, if you don’t take this thing and put on the train tracks and actually shoot it off in this own, into this whole other direction, you’re not gonnabe, be around in 10 years.

Maciej: Yeah, especially like your take on, their enterprise. I’m obviously, you’re coming from this word, but this is something I also noticed that there is enterprise is not visible.I mean, enterprise tech is not visible on the WordPress. And it might be the case that this is, you know, there is no not a dedicated, there is no dedicated position to make sure WordPress is visible for enterprise customers, but maybe there is not so many of them that this needs to be done.Because some of them will know about WordPress from different you know, points of view or positions and, and so on. And so maybe this is not worth the effort. But at the same time, I see this as a challenge we face as well with our clients who wants to be convinced WordPress is the way to go. So they come to us, for example, and they want to be convinced they are making the right choice and you know how to do this right? So there is not so much promise visible that the WordPress is the tool for the enterprise as well, where other companies and providing enterprise software are banging, you know, this message. Like, take our closed software and pay the license piece and so on. Because this is made for enterprise, which I, you know.I won’t call names, but where you take when, when you take enterprise software most of the time you can be certain this will look ugly and you know, this, this, this, this is number one, you can be sure of this will be ugly or, or clunky because this is enterprise. So What I’m trying to say is that I, I see this as well, but maybe it’s not worth the effort from the perspective of the product itself, because there is not so many of the enterprise users and no one is paying any fees. So if we’re going to invest this, there will be 500 companies wanting to do this. So maybe this is not the word. The effort.

Noel: Yeah. So I’d say to counter that, like we used the word enterprise very loosely to mean like really, really big companies. And obviously MarTech in many ways over the last couple years has become a lot more the marketized. And you know, a lot of companies, big or small are using the same stuff. So like to me it’s almost like SMB plus, you know you know, if companies, companies making, you know, 10 million or more, 20 million or more, like, I think every already falls in this realm of, Hey, we need to do a better job of product marketing. and speaking about WordPress in ways that matches the language that the, that clients or potential clients are experiencing from other vendors. You know, so we don’t say rest API, we say headless, right? Like we, we don’t talk about you know, like plugins, we talk about integrations or, or whatever. Like there’s, there’s a lot of like product marketing. I think that can, can go a very long way. And also, you know, be dedicated in, in terms of having lots of different landing pages and, and speak to how WordPress not only plays nice with all these different other solutions that are out there and that people are u and that companies not only enterprise, but also smaller ones are using and want to, to have the confidence. Quite quickly that WordPress is able to tick a lot of those boxes when, you know, they’replaying RFP, RFI or whatever to figure out what their next platform is going to be. So I, you know I think if you take pure enterprise of WordPress, I, that’s probably like a billion dollar market. I’d say like a, just kind of thinking off the top of my mind when I try to add up like agencies, hosts and all that kind of stuff, you can’t forget that companies like Accenture and Cognizant and all that are also, you know, delivering WordPress publicist, SAP, I’m not even sure if publicist SAP is, but like the other two are. And then when you go to like SMB Plus or something like that, like that, that market could easily be like 3 billion, 4 billion. Who knows? Like, it’s not a small chunk. It’s, I’d say like the, put it this way, the SMB plus market is of worthy, is worthy enough of having its own product marketing that WooCommerce is, I’d say. That’s how I’d look at these things. It, it’s, yeah, that’s, I think that’s what it needs to become like WordPress is just too big to be everything.

Maciej: Okay. But it is already everything.

Noel: But it’s, I know, but it’s, but we can’t sell it because you’re going into client meetings and you’re have, and this is what you’re talking about, you’re having to sell every time you have to sell WordPress, and then you have to sell yourself in these meetings. And like, that’s tough. Like, you want to be able to go in, like an Adobe partner goes in, or like a CyCorp partner goes in because someone’s already bought in and they’re like, yeah, yeah. We’ll get that stuff. You’re, you’re just the agency that’s gonna deliver it and you’re done. You know, like, that’s, that’s amazing. But we need the content and we need the, the reputation in the market. We need industry analysts to recognize WordPress as a whole, not just WordPress VIP or whatever, and to, to have respect for a larger visible enterprise or let’s say SMB plus SME plus ecosystem, that speaks the right language, you know, speaks the, the language of B2B.

Maciej: I guess if, if someone would say, okay, you are selling this as an enterprise solution, why I can have the same thing for 3 99 amount of you know, plan somewhere else or whatever. I’m not talking about the fruit. You’ve heard all that . Yeah exactly. So how I am, how do I compare to the, you know, the same software on a different plan. So yeah. That a challenge. And actually when you, you are talking about this, it’s, you know, the. that the level of difficulty rises, exponent exponentially with the bigger clients. So with the bigger execution, it’s, it’s much more complex, you know, not linearly, but exponentially to, to build, but also to sell the platform and yourself. So I guess maybe this is good after all, that there is no wording about enterprise because this is a job of the agency to lay out the, you know, the, the, the solution benefits of, of WordPress for this particular use case. Whereas in the market with smaller solutions, this is easier problem solver, smaller, simpler, and, and, and so on. So maybe this is the difficulty level that is preventing from explaining everything to everyone on the same page of, you know, of workers solution.

Noel: Yeah I know what you’re saying. I think, yeah, I’d say like, how do you, how do you make that SMB, SME plus, or just like B2B, let’s just say B2B much easier. How do you make WordPress, B2B marketing that easy for businesses to understand? Because Adobe is, you know, like taking an extremely complex piece of software, which has, to my knowledge, like, or my experience at least, like very high, like backend fees and, you know, just a lot of cost associated to getting up and running. But somehow that’s being sold and marketed in a very, let’s say, easy way at that C level where, you know, they’re talking about the UX, they’re talking about personalization, they’re talking about, you know customer journey orchestration and all these things their tool can do. We should be able to take the power of WordPress, simplify it. Repackage it in a way that it matches the, the exciting things that other companies are seeing when they interact with vendors. So a good example is WordPress has the rest API. It’s capable of doing headless in multiple ways, either in like a hybrid way where you’re still using a part of the theme or completely headless where you’re just like straight into like next react, whatever it is.

Noel: Or you’re just building completely other stuff. And something like Contentful, you know, proprietary solution, which like to mind, you know, like ear early days, like Contentful, like, was the same or worse to, to WordPress in my opinion, and did a great job at, you know, marketing the headless thing. And to, to me like that means that WordPress needs its own product marketing line for B2B as opposed to just B2C.

Maciej: Yeah I’m seeing this as well with, with the right wording. I’m observing this from web free perspective, where, you know, browsing websites of projects, to my knowledge, and at least my experience, most of them are on WebFlow. That’s why I was referring to WebFlow area, because the marketing is hitting the right the, the right note with right people and so on. Especially for web free where the decentralization is no big piece of the narrative. Being centralized in a preparatory software is very, very peculiar, you know? Technology decision. Yeah. And I wanted to ask you as well, because you are working, you know, you, you are nomad basically. You, you, you work here, here and there. Wherever is hot. And is the whole company 100% remote?

Yes. Like everybody has the ability to go completely remote. We have, like, we still have an office in Matlock. We used to have an office in Australia. Where else do we, I’m not sure if we had offices elsewhere. I’m sure it’s evading me, but yeah, we only have Matlock now in the UK. And just a few people drop in from time to time. But like, yeah, we’re a hundred percent remote.

Maciej: And aren’t you tempted to get back to the office? I know you not, but maybe you are. Not for sure not in the uk because the temperature is not matching your profile. Yeah. your temperature profile.

Noel: Yeah. Doesn’t match my profile.

Maciej: Yeah. But you know, I’m asking about this because again, with the. Let’s say changing the mood after the pandemics. With the remote work organizations were forced to allow remote were not that they wanted, but they were forced, you know, and now we are observing, you know, back to the office movement our hybrid work or enforced hybrid work and so on. People calling, you know, fully remote environments, unworkable or total not efficient environments. What’s on what, what’s your take? I mean, we, for example, we ar now 100% remote. We are distributed, we changed our patterns of hiring people. We were always hybrid, but we were planning to go fully remote and distribute it. You know, pandemics helped us make the decision faster. Yeah. Yeah. But we are not looking back. We, we are downsizing the office and so on. So we are going to move it, to push it more and more with our decision. But, you know, we, you are there much longer. And what’s your take on this?

Noel: I mean, yeah, remote working is like a massive can of worms, but ultimately, like I at this level, I think it’s almost like a human right. I’d you know, especially if you have family, children, other obligations, whatever that is, like, if you have the ability, if you work in this kind of field, like I think it’s just the only way forward. Because, you know, what’s the point of having someone sit in traffic for two hours, three hours a day or commute or whatever. It’s, it’s a real struggle. I think to, as a manager to, to, to stand to that and say, yes, please come into the office. You know, and you hear all the, the, the horror stories on, you know, Reddit’s like subreddit anti work or whatever, where, you know, a lot of people are just like, yeah, my boss is like, you know, forcing me to come back to the office. I’m just giving him my resignation. You know, like people have money saved up, then they’re ready to just go and, you know, take a break. So like, I, I think it’s cool that people. and you know, at least in some economies, have that choice to be able to say, Hey, screw you. Like I’m not gonna go, come back to the office and just, you know, look for work when it’s kind of convenient again. Or they, they, they don’t feel the pressure to have to have another job like lined up immediately. So, you know, I think that’s, that’s nice that there is that pushback from the people if you will. Speaking more personally for myself, like I, I really enjoy being around other people physically especially if we in flow for something, you know, where we’re disagreeing a lot or we’re trying to come up with like, ideas ourselves and, and trying to, you know, like let’s say build product or startup or whatever. But I, you know, like what I try to do there is, is is be on the terms of the other people, you know. So like last year, you know, a few of us met up in South Africa. We’ve met up in Thailand before, we’ve met up in Bulgaria, before we’ve met up in Germany before. I mean, I can just rattle off like plenty of countries, but ultimately, you know, some of us just put in the effort to kind of be in the same place at the same time. And like that helps tremendously. And yeah, then we still have the, the benefit of being in, you know, quite a cool place and, but yeah, I’ve like. I, we have no regrets as an organization, you know, like doing remote, like we, the like even the, the question of like, let’s say trusting employees to do the work or whatever that is, like that, that doesn’t come into question. Like it’s, there’s, there’s, there’s none of that kind of fear, let’s say.

Maciej: Hmm. But there is none of this fear because you weren’t burned along the way, or you have some kind of, you know, procedures or it’s, you know, you can catch it at this stage of the recruitment process because, you know you can either trust everyone or don’t trust anyone. You, there are those kinds of people where no matter what, they will not trust you because of whatever reasons, you know, that is the personality of a given individual. I’m asking, because then this is also sometimes hard to make sure everyone are aligned. I’m not saying of social speaking, but do you have any sort of do you have any sort of hacks or not hacks for more procedures to make sure everyone is efficient and working on the right thing ?

Noel: I think you can come up with like a lot of procedures, processes, hacks, whatever. I think, you know, the, the, the starting point for us that was our values. And you know, what we believe in and one of the, the values we have is start with trust, but work hard to keep it. I hope I didn’t butcher it. Yeah, I hope I didn’t butcher like the words. But that is the essence of it. So someone comes in, they’re starting to work remote you know, if you haven’t met them. You know, it’s like some humans can be like, I don’t trust that person, haven’t met them, haven’t had beers with them, or, you know, something like, some other kinda weird statement like that. Like we, we don’t accept that like, you know, you should start from a position of trust with new employees, but then it’s also on the new employee to communicate, you know, frequently. Be it, it async across time zones, be it you know, showing up for the meetings. You know, we’re not forcing anybody to turn on the camera, but obviously like, you know, having that kind of presence replying to things in a timely manner. Like all these things already, you know, are really doing a lot for you, I think in terms of, you know, showing that you’re know, a part of the organization and you’re trying to, you know, achieve the, the same outcomes as everyone else and you’re trying to contribute to that. So I think it’s more easily noticed. I, you know, if you just kind of fall by the wayside or, you know, don’t put it in the effort to try and communicate with your teammates and trying to be part of that day-to-day flow. Like it’s, and, and then at that point, you know, you just have to normal processes that kick in. So I don’t, I don’t think it’s anything world chattering, you know, in terms of like the individual processes that we have. But I think our values and the, the system we have there inform a lot of how we think at a much higher level and that that’s all public, right? Like we, I think we have the license under Creative Commons even the handbook.

Maciej: I will have a look. You know, I’m asking this as well because the, you know, I’m again, among the no layoff stuff and so on. There were a lot of companies that were, for example, forcing people to get back to the office. But for example, they were I immediately delaying this because there were no office space because they were hiring you know, during the pandemic. And they were free times as big, but the office didn’t grow as much. So it’s on a rotation basis. So Lego is one of the examples that grew so much during the pandemic, hired so many people that they cannot accommodate them in the office at the same time wanting people to visit the office. So this is something interesting since they hired so many people, they are, you know, growing suddenly they want everyone go back to the office and what do you think could be the reason? Because they are stating that the efficiency like efficiency levels are not there. Like people are not efficient enough, you know, the results aren’t coming. So is it, I don’t want you to judge particular company, but I, this is not a simple trend.

Noel: I think, I think it’s just weird. Like I, I don’t think I’ve seen a single one of those reports, or sorry, comments actually show any statistics, you know. Like, can actually come out, because we, we all do, like all, all the companies are more than like 20, 30 people probably do like engagement surveys at this point and are doing all these kind of other things and, and probably monitoring performance to some kind of extent. You know, like what’s your profitability or, you know, how much are you contributing to the bottom line or whatever. Like, I’m assuming like, you know, these companies that are saying these things before the pandemic had that information and would be happy. Write a report on how they did this and that, and it increased whatever thing by 12.31%. I’d love to see that report for these kind of statements. So I think the onus is on the managers or, you know, the leadership teams that are saying or making these claims that efficiency is down to show that information and then have open conversations about that as opposed to just shooting down remote as the culprit, you know, as the thing that’s responsible for it that I don’t think is productive. My my gut feeling is it’s more of a reactionary approach and just kind of making stuff up like I , like, unless I’m proven otherwise, like I think that’s what it is.

Maciej: All right. And changing gears a little bit, change, changing gears a little bit. What can we expect from. WordPress in, in, you know, what, what’s your feeling? You know, I’m, not saying what WordPress is promising next year, right? But what, what would you say we should expect from, from this space? And I this space means WordPress, but also other competitors, comp competing platforms, you know, from, from this ecosystem of website tools. What should we expect?

Noel: Do you mean website tools or Yeah, like DX more broadly.

Maciej: I would focus on WordPress and likes of WordPress. Not, not the, not, not, not broader.

Noel: Yeah. I think it was the. I think it was like the CEO of, or the founder of Netscape, like way back in the day. He said, I think all value is created by bundling or unbundling software.

Maciej: You can only bun to earn, man, you can only bundle or unbundle.

Noel: Yeah, exactly. Like I think that that was the, the, the statement he made. And, and I, and I love that because like, I think there’s a lot of truth to that. And with WordPress in like at, at its beginning you saw a lot of bundling everything under one house content, templating users then the plug-ins started rolling out. And those plug-ins were you know, like WordPress native plugins. So you had like mail poet or whatever, you know, and that whole cool team for newsletters gravity forms for forms. But over time, you know, we’ve, we’ve seen a lot of those individual things just become you know, billion dollar businesses or whatever of like, MailChimp, Typeform, you know, MailChimp was sold recently. I think Typeform was sold to Adobe six, seven years ago, whatever. But like in all those categories, you have, you have so many tools now. So I think MarTech as a whole is, is going through this whole unbundling where the, the, the key is, you know, how, how well do you play nice with the other tools and how well do you specialize and, and do well at your own tool. And so, like, that’s not the, you know, you, you, you limited the scope for me and, and when you asked the question, but I just went outside that scope. Because I think it’s a, it’s an important, important influencer in terms of what will happen within WordPress. So to me, like WordPress is going through, you know, a large unbundling where, you know, instead of having WordPress native solutions, you may have. A plugin that integrates to a SaaS platform that it’s his own business. And you might have a lot of those kind of setups at the same time. You might also start. Unbundling, you know, certain parts of the experience. You might have a separate mobile app. You might have different apps for digital signage or email or whatever that may be. Like, a lot of that stuff just ran outta WordPress like, you know, 10 years ago. And nowadays like that is just happening in, in, in very different places. So I, you know, like for the next year, I don’t expect much, you know, I think, you know, like Matt’s, you know, just given his state of the word. You know, I think the, the roadmap pieces are, you know, phase three for, for Gutenberg or the block editor. So we’re talking about the whole colla collaborative kind of multiplayer setup. You know, like in more distant future you’re talking about like native multilingual inside of WordPress and, you know, all these kind of cool things. But what he’s speaking to otherwise, which I think is quite interesting, is, you know, block themes, patterns, and essentially almost like this, like, nobody wants to say it, I think, but you know, I, I think at some point there’ll be an unbundling of content from presentation. So it’s almost like breaking WordPress into two, where the content you have becomes part of a very good content repo tool. And you know, if you look at where content repositories have come from, like they’ve come from like document asset management, so like DAM systems, right? Which were like little folder icons and everything. Really, really gross stuff, right? Like there was DAMv1, which was exactly that. There was DAM v2, which was like, you know, the last couple years now we have DAM you know, in terms of like the, the kind of like block centric kind of content that’s around. But you know, none of that is all too exciting to me. I think because I think there’s still room for a, almost like a DAM V4, like a new kind of content approach or content content management approach, content repository, whatever like you wanna call it, where you’re really just almost building content up like you would. A style book, you know, like Storybook on Reactor, something like that, where you’re building up content from like the, you know, the, a atomic level into its elements, into compound objects with, you know, different responsiveness or different looks for different experiences or whatever, or channels. And then some of that, or a lot of that is, is packaged in such a way that it makes sense to marketers and content creators and people who are running campaigns or are just trying to run across multiple platforms. So I think that that separation is almost like, like, I think that’s inevitable anyway at the SME plus level. But if it becomes smooth enough from a content, like from an experience, user experience perspective, to actually live at that much lower level for you know, smaller users obviously not individual users. I think that still has to come as one. And a solution like this, you could imagine maybe runs invisibly for users like that because they’re just on the page editor and that’s all they do. Or, you know, like you have that option to extend and to look behind the, the, the hood or look behind the curtain, sorry. Look under the hood. Look behind the curtains. And, you know, really start dissecting your content in a way that makes sense for your organization. So I think like that’s the, the greatest kind of unbundling opportunity that may present itself. And I think we need to build one that is open source and becomes a, a de facto standard. Because I think from a design, or let’s, let’s take a step back. You, you look at customer data platforms like CDPs they’re becoming extremely popular now. So something like Salesforce or HubSpot you may know, have those solutions, but you may actually store your customer data in a separate CDP like segment or m particle or rudder stack and those, that’s then your single source of truth for all customer data across all your different platforms. Because first party data is becoming so important, what is that same single source of truth for your content globally across your entire organization? And like that, that is the thing I think is, is very interesting. And, you know, maybe there’s challenges around that because design is more complicated than, you know, a first name, last name. But even then I think, you know, you can look at like, you know, Figma or Sketch where they’re using like these auto layout tools, which all basical work off of Flex Box, and that is like, you know, you have standards evolving to a certain extent in terms of what the visuals can look like. So I think that’s probably like the greatest opportunity, but that’s not one year away. I think that’s you know, a couple years away. So I think in the meantime, the, the, the onboarding and, and user experience of WordPress itself is, you know, still paramount, like being able to bring people into the block editor and making feel empowered. But at the same time, you know, everything we talked about before, being that product marketing outside of like the software itself. The software is good. Like we, we don’t need to change that much there. I think, you know, I think a lot of that’s come a long way. So if anything, you know, become better at what we are known. Which is content, and then, you know, start playing extremely nice with the rest of the ecosystem so that people can create those composable, DXPs, you know, or those best of breed stacks.

Maciej: This is very interesting take and when I’m listening to this I have a feeling that, again, you are talking from the enterprise perspective. This, this content that there is this content repository and there is the presentation layer. You knowthe use case is the huge organization with, you know, tons of content, different markets, and…

Noel: How big, how big of a company. What’syour minimum standard? What’s your guess? How big does a quantum company to be in revenue or people?

Maciej: I guess this not comes from this perspective, but rather the market. Because this, this dictates, I mean, either markets or many markets operating many languages, translation and, and management of this or product perspective or so the offer. So what, what is the amount of content the company pro provides? So I guess there has to be, there have to be like…that’s a hard, hard guess. I wouldn’t like to shoot from the people . But there has to, I mean, like from thinking about this, there has to be a content team. in order for the organization probably to justify the, you know or be able to generate this amount of content that would cause the cost travels managing it. So I, I’m very vague, but intentionally

Noel: No, no, I find it very interesting because we, we, you know, you look at like, a lot of small companies were smaller, let’s say like SME like plus like at the 50 million plus level even, like have a CRM team, you know, and that, that just runs the CRM all day long. And obviously like, that’s very important because CRMs are your revenue generating tool. So I completely respect that. So you could argue that, you know, potentially, you know, CDP to CRM is not as, is much more important than content repository or con global content management is to web presentation, mobile presentation and all that. But I’d say in terms like just a user base whatever, Whatever segment it has in terms of users whatever sanity has in terms of users automatically, already fall into that, that scope. I still like, I still think this needs to happen and my take is that, like I said, like I said before, I think it, it, it will be made invisible for smaller users. You know, like it’s almost like saying, Hey, build your content, you know, inside the page editor like you do now. But if you want to really like go to the next step, you know, like open advanced or something like that, and, you know, you could almost imagine like two software bundles being two software pieces being bundled together to look like one. And I think that’s where, you know, something like WordPress could be successful. But the reason I bring it up is cause I think other companies will, will try to make a play for this and then we’ll try. sort of hijack a lot of Open Source CMSs business by becoming that underlying content tool and then building natural connectors or integrations for content across the board. So something that says, Hey, we’re free for small sites, come try us out. All that kind of stuff. Kind of like Segment is now we use Segment, like we’re a small business, you know, but we use Segment because as, as soon as you have like five, six tools, you’re like, this makes sense. But I think that will be a place where proprietary, like a proprietary content management tool we’ll try to make a play for a lot of your user base in terms of going after like that, you know, 30% that, that 40% of the web that is WordPress or whatever. Whereas some company will say, Hey, let’s go after that whole content repository. Piece for SME plus or whatever. And I think that can be very disruptive, be to WordPress because obviously that not only minimizes its footprint but then may potentially also take away some of its open source dominance. And that’s something that don’t think should happen. I think I think we should work very hard in, in, in MarTech as a community. We should work very hard towards promoting open source CDPs so single source of truth for customers and then open source, whatever you call this content tool in the future, your single source of truth for content. I think if you have those two as open source solutions that where a, a company or an enterprise or whatever is in, in full control of their content and their customer that’s, then it doesn’t matter what they integrate with in the future. Cause you can take pieces away. You can put things in, but then you’re always in, in control of your content and customers. And I think that’s very powerful.

Maciej: Yeah. Interesting, and I’m also thinking about this unbundling because this place nicely, or not nicely, but I’m observing this with those no-code or low-code tools. Yesterday I saw you know, obviously chat GPT. It’s a huge thing. It it, you know, the enthusiasm a little bit fade that, you know it’s pretty. But for example, yesterday I saw a video where there was a platform. that, you know, a guy basically generated a hundred pages for SEO like easy SEO pages for a massive, you know, massive website based on air, air table. Webflow inputs integrated this with GPT via it’s pretty hilarious.

Noel: I like it.

Maciej: Yeah. So basically you put the names of the restaurant, so you asked for the prompt for the SEO for chat, GPT, you integrate this with the guys software that was for tool and with ZAPIER. So it was very easy to populate the content and it was done via a couple of existing platforms and what’s amazing is the composability we have right now. So it’s, you know, Web3 has this has this you know, promise of composability you know being trustless and so on permissionless here, you can have part of it with your, with the Martex stack that’s out there and all of the API’s integrations and you can leverage immensely. You know, the, you know, what, what you can achieve. And I’m not saying building quickly, but, you know, building stuff that wouldn’t be able to be built in a reasonable time otherwise. So this is, this, this, this is amazing. And I’m saying about, I’m referring to this because I see, for example, what you are saying about unbundling WordPress that could be or can be or will be possible with those tools. Taking a, a piece of, of WordPress process, you know, build process or functionality and encapsulating this and selling has a, you know, either plugin or a piece of software or taking into WordPress, something that will, that had to be built from scratch otherwise. So this is, this is very interesting, which think also from the perspective of bigger, not huge, but bigger organization than us mentioned.

Noel: I’m with you, the way I look at it, I think I’m saying this is the third time, like, the software is good, it works, it’s great. Like it’s really, really good. And all the other software that’s out there amazing too. And in many ways, we’re only limit, we’re only limited by our imagination In a lot of these kind of marketing growth efforts nowadays, if you’re a really, a smart person and you just, you know, constantly try to think outside the box with how you’re gonna do something, You’re invariably gonna start playing with, you know, stuff like GPT3 and Zapier and some other kind of automation and throw it all together to create absolutely hilarious stuff. And yeah, I mean, I like, that’s, it’s very limit, like unlimited, limitless, whatever you wanna call it interms of vision, you know, so I, you know, I rarely see people taking WordPress to its absolute extreme, let’s say breaking it or something like that. Like that’s the feature functionality stuff is, all very good for a CMS. I like I’m very impressed by all. Sure. Can we improve Gutenberg order, a block editor in his current state? Yes, absolutely is. But is it like, you know, a very impressive piece of work that is open source and, you know, has. Already acquired a lot of users. Yeah. Like it’s, very impressive. But what you do with it is, is is ultimately up to you. You know? And I think that comes back to my comment also about, you know, what do we expect from the foundation? Or someone like Matt, you know, like, it’s not a, you know, like he’s done a lot. The foundation has done a lot. The contributors across the entire globe have done a ton for WordPress already. But there’s a lot I think that’s rests on our shoulders to take that, you know, that code and then bring it outside the WordPress bubble in ways that are meaningful and exciting in other contexts. Like the, the one you just described that was like poof, you know, like really good idea.

Maciej: Absolutely. And I have still one more question. What I was observing recently, you know, in Poland like recent five years there, this was booming software development sector. It still is, but you know, there is a ton of organizations, companies, you know, dev shops that are, you know, between 20 to a thousand people, you know organizations and so many new started. And then, you know, why would you need in a country, you know, hundreds of software companies. And then the process of consolidation started do for, for those rugby and race shops, you know, Python shops and so on. So my question is, do you think it’ll happen also for WordPress agencies, like consolidation of WordPress agencies or it’s your take is not, is go, not gonna happen. It’s not needed. There, there are no forces that would know need to do this, be bigger instead of many, many small agencies.

Noel: I think we’ve already seen a lot of consolidation in the agency space and the WordPress space. Like a lot of products have been acquired, like on a product side. Like if you look at like CED and stuff, like, you know, acquired tons of plug-ins and sold them..

Maciej: Yeah. But this is product. On the agency, same thing.

Noel: Agency seen the same thing.You’ve, you’ve seen a lot of, like, we’ve, you know, we’ve acquired one agency at least in our, in our time. I think it’s just a very natural course, you know, like and you know, even if you look at, you know, you know, you’re, you’re giving Poland as an example, you know, I think 20 years ago, you know, Poland was kind of emerging as, you know, a shared services business, you know, for a lot of like big European, you know, corporate companies, and that went through a, you know, a sort of consolidation too, because it didn’t, they didn’t just all start off as shared services, right? Like, you know, Citigroup had its HR in, in Warsaw, or its payroll and, and, and Warsaw a Unilever might have had like their accounting out there, and at some point let’s consolidate everything.

Maciej: Yeah, there’s a don’t ton of, yeah.

Noel: I think that’s just like mature, that’s just the maturity of an industry, right? Like it’s something starts off. You naturally try to become more efficient as like the honeymoon phase has kind of gone and the hype has died down and you know, like the music, I don’t wanna say has stopped, you know, but like, it’s a much harder business and Yeah you can’t just expect to get, you know, business for free anymore. Yeah. And that’s, and there were this cycle

Maciej: yeah cycle again

Noel:. Yeah cycle, let’s bring up the, the word cycle. Yeah. I mean, cycle’s like a great place for, you know, these things to happen. You know, even like when I travel, like for, me, when, when Covid started happening, like that was my kind of green light to, to go travel more. Because to me like that just means that everything’s a lot cheaper in, in certain countries. And you know, because tourism now sort of hotel prices are down and all the flights are down all that kinda stuff. And, you know, traveling around you just see like a, a massive shift, especially in hospitality where you know, like, and I’m making this up, but you know, like 50% of restaurants that you’re used to seeing are just closed down and all of a sudden there’s 50% new restaurants that have opened up. And, you know, digital companies are not immune to, you know, like things like the pandemic either because companies, you know, they may have clients that are, you know, in that, in the, in sectors that are heavily affected by this. Or now, you know, with just the, the larger kind of global economics issues, these companies might also be affected with that. And we’re seeing like, layoffs you know, across the board. But yeah, I mean, this is, this is the natural thing that happens. I think, you know, where you either have a, you have a consolidation, a shaking out of, you know, players just lots of change, you know, like, I think that’s the only guaranteed thing when, when the market is doing this, that some people just kind of fall off at the top or the bottom. You know, just get shaken out. So yeah, from there, bull . So if they go broke, they need to be acquired, you know, or go bankrupt. So, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of, I think, deal hunting and, and things like that for people that are, you know, still cashflow positive and you know, very, and can carry a high conviction in terms of that space.

Maciej: All right. Yeah. Thank, thank you very much for your take on this. And also thank you very much for the conversation. I loved it

Noel: More than welcome. Me too.

Maciej: Yeah, thank you then

Noel: Sounds good. I’m looking forward to the next time

Maciej: Exactly next. Yeah, We can, we can do a summary of 2023 next time, for example.

Noel: Yes. Let’s, see what, what things I said happened or didn’t happen, and then .

Maciej: Alright.

Noel: We, we can beat, we can beat the shit out of the bad ideas.

Maciej: Done deal then. We can set up the date and time one year from now.

Noel: xactly.

Maciej: Thank you very much.

Noel: You’re more than welcome. Thank you.

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By Łukasz Kaczmarek

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