September 4, 2015

This week we are catching up on the latest with our projects, discussing what books we’ve been reading lately that we recommend, and answer listener questions from our mailbag.

This episode was sponsored by WP Ninjas, the creators of Ninja Demo and the highly popular Ninja Forms plugin.

ninja-forms

 

The WP Ninjas team has been busy and is very near to releasing a major update to Ninja Forms.  NinjaForms v 3.0 is coming out very soon and the team talks about what you can expect in this new version in this Sneak Peak article.

  • Brad’s Updates
    • Unfortunately I’ve been sick for the last week or so, thus the slight delay in our release schedule for the podcast
    • Converted GlotPress to a plugin (continuation of Nacin’s work)
    • Quietly rolled out WP Offload S3 on Aug 17.  It’s been a successful early part of the launch, with a handful of sales each day
    • Big Snow Tiny Conf dates set: The conference will be January 25-28 in Sugarbush, VT.
  • Pippin’s Updates
    • Software Licensing update for upgrade paths
    • EDD Zapier update
  • Books
  • Listener Questions
    • Phoning home by Jeroen Schmit
    • Documentation from Hans-Helge Buerger
    • WP Conferences from Kevin
    • Plugin naming from Max Sperando
      • Brad: Don’t use someone else’s trademark in your name
      • Brad: Do make it simple and easy to spell and say out loud
      • Pippin: Pay attention to what your name abbreviates as
      • Pippin: Know the rules for where you are hosting it
    • How to promote / sell / distribute plugins from Max Wilde

If you’re enjoying the show we sure would appreciate a Review in iTunes.  Thanks!

Transcript
INTRO: Welcome to Apply Filters, the podcast all about WordPress development. Now here’s your hosts, Pippin Williamson and Brad Touesnard.

BRAD: Welcome to Episode 47. Today, Pippin and I discuss what we’ve been up to, recent books we’ve read, and dig into our mailbag to answer listener questions. But first–

PIPPIN: This episode, and every other episode, is sponsored by the wonderful guys at WPNinjas.com. They are the creators of Ninja Forms, Ninja Demo, and several other plugins.

Let me give a quick shout out to a blog post that they wrote just about two weeks ago. They’re getting ready to release Ninja Forms 3.0. It’s an in-progress release, and it’s looking really, really good. They’ve given a teaser. They have hired a design agency to completely go through and help them rebuild their UI and improve it and make things really awesome. If you are a Ninja Forms user, you’re interested in it, or just curious, go check out their blog post, as well as all of the other stuff for the upcoming Ninja Forms 3.0.

BRAD: Are there any screen shots in that blog post? Did I see screenshots?

PIPPIN: You know, there’s not a screenshot in the blog post, but I did find one somewhere. I’m not sure if it was the newsletter that they sent out or they posted it to Twitter, but I’ve definitely seen one that showed a preview. I’ll have to see if I can dig it up.

BRAD: Yeah, I’m not sure where it was, but I’m pretty sure I saw one too, and it looked pretty neat.

PIPPIN: Yeah.

BRAD: I don’t know if it was, necessarily. It might just have been a mockup, not necessarily a screenshot.

PIPPIN: Sure.

BRAD: Yeah. Anyway, it looks like they’re doing some cool work.

PIPPIN: I like the idea of them acknowledging that there’s a lot of value in bringing a professional on who is a professional interface designer to look at it. I know that a lot of us in the WordPress world–myself, you, and many other people that we know–are very much hands on. We’re going to do it ourselves. A lot of us have managed to do pretty good with that, but you can really step it up by bringing somebody else in who is truly an expert in the area, and so I’m really excited to see just how much that plugin improves when they do that.

BRAD: Yeah. I’ve always planned to redo our website, get a professional designer to redo our website. I feel like I will in the future, but we’re, like, three years in or two years in, so it never seems to be the right time, you know.

PIPPIN: Yep.

BRAD: But you’ve done that recently, right?

PIPPIN: We didn’t. Our professional designer came from our team. They’re really, really great. I think Andrew and Sean are both magnificent designers, but we didn’t bring in an external consultant.

BRAD: Right, but I mean that’s kind of his thing. He’s a really great designer.

PIPPIN: Yeah, absolutely. You are right that we did completely rebuild the site. We rebuilt PippinsPlugins.com. Affiliate WP was the same site that it’s always been. Then, we’re in the process of rebuilding Easy Digital Downloads. We’ve been rolling out, like, page-by-page updates for it.

BRAD: Crazy.

PIPPIN: We’ve got a few more coming up soon.

BRAD: You’ve seen the benefits, reaped the benefits of that redesign.

PIPPIN: For Pippins Plugins, absolutely. That redesign alone was pretty important in terms of boosting sales, boosting conversions, and had a huge impact, actually. Roughly, it boosted things by about 30%, at least.

BRAD: Man, that’s amazing.

PIPPIN: Which was pretty awesome.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: Now, some of that is kind of hard to measure because: Was it because of how content was reorganized? Is it because it’s prettier? One of those things is very hard to measure and find one thing that made it. But, as a whole, it was very successful.

BRAD: Nice.

PIPPIN: Yeah. So, Brad, what have you been up to in the last–I think it’s been–about three weeks since we recorded last time.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: We got delayed a little bit.

BRAD: Yeah, well, I was sick, so that’s really why we’re recording a bit late. But, you know, life happens. Sickness comes and goes.

But, yeah, in those three weeks, I also worked on GlotPress, converting it to a plugin, to a WordPress plugin. GlotPress is the app that WordPress uses to do its translations, WordPress and several other products under the WordPress umbrella. I think all of them use it, don’t they: bbPress?

PIPPIN: I think so.

BRAD: Pretty much all the plugins use it too, right? Well, I shouldn’t say that. I know your plugin uses a third party service.

PIPPIN: Yeah, we use one called TransEffects.

BRAD: Right, yeah, but I know Yoast, I’m pretty sure Yoast uses GlotPress. Anyway, it’s a standalone app right now, and we just think it would be a lot better if it were just a WordPress plugin because right now it requires BackPress. I think we talked about this all in a previous episode.

PIPPIN: Yes, we did. Cool. You say you converted it. Are you done converting it, or is this just we made some more progress on it?

BRAD: It was surprising. I continued the work Andrew Nacin had done. He created a branch of the main GlotPress trunk code, edited a bunch of files, and just kind of got it to a place that wasn’t quite ready to be a plugin yet. Then I just changed a little bit of stuff, and some other members of our team pitched in. We’ve been kind of massaging it into a plugin.

Right now, you can install it, and it runs fine. It installs the database. It pretty much runs. There’s a few bugs here and there that we’re fixing now, but it’s pretty much ready to kind of go forward from here. It wasn’t really that hard, actually.

PIPPIN: Pretty cool.

BRAD: That being said, I guess Nacin did do a lot of the work. We also quietly rolled out the pro version of WP Offload S3 a few weeks ago on August 17th. I say quietly because we didn’t really announce it to our email list or on Twitter or anything. The only people that really knew about it was people that were using the free plugin. In the sidebar of the free plugin, they started to see that the pro version was available. It’s been good, though. We’ve been getting five or six sales a day since then.

PIPPIN: That’s awesome.

BRAD: We’re pretty pleased, considering. The reason we did it that way is because it’s late August. People are on vacation and stuff, so blasting out an email–

PIPPIN: You’re going to save your marketing push for here in a month or so.

BRAD: Yeah. Everyone is one vacation, so there are less people to retweet and share on Twitter and forward emails or whatever.

PIPPIN: Yep, it’s probably smart.

BRAD: Yeah, well, I hope so. I’ve got the Big Snow Tiny Conf website updated, so we set dates. For those who don’t know, Big Snow Tiny Conf is just a little conference that Brian Casel and I run in Sugarbush, Vermont, every year. This year it’ll be January 25th to the 28th. Just check out BigSnowTinyConf.com.

PIPPIN: Awesome.

BRAD: Yeah. What about you, Pippin?

PIPPIN: Hopefully I’m going to make it up there for one of these.

BRAD: Yeah, man. We’d love to have you.

PIPPIN: It’d be fun. Probably not going to happen this year.

BRAD: Dah!!

PIPPIN: I know! I know! Hopefully next year, though. The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy. I rolled out two major updates. One of those actually just went out today. We pushed out an update for the software licensing extension for Easy Digital Downloads that introduces, along with just some general maintenance stuff, a big new feature that we’ve been wanting to introduce for awhile, which is allowing site admins to create upgrade paths for license keys.

Let’s say that you sell a product, and you sell a single site version, a multisite version, and an unlimited version. Well, what if somebody purchases the single site and then realizes they later on want to upgrade to a multisite version? That’s what this feature allows you to do. It allows them to keep their same license key and to then prorate the purchase, add additional discounts to the purchase, things like that. It allows you to update, let’s say, maybe if you sell a single product and you also sell a bundle, and you want to allow someone to upgrade from the product to the bundle, then you can do that as well.

This was an update that it’s been requested ever since day one. It’s probably the single most requested feature we’ve ever had. We finally got it built, it’s done, and it’s live. That was a huge relief to have that and, so far, it’s been pretty well received.

It’s really an important feature that business owners can offer to customers. If you’ve ever sold software or sold anything that has different tiers on what people can purchase, you’re probably familiar with the customer that emails you and says, “Hey. I’d like to upgrade. Can I do this?” If you don’t have an upgrade system, then your response is either, “No,” or, “Here’s a discount code that you can use to purchase again,” which is kind of a lousy solution.

I’m really glad to have it out. For anybody that’s using it who does have software that gets upgraded, it should be a pretty good asset to the business, especially if you sell software that people want to upgrade to because the easier you make it for someone to do that, the more likely they are to upgrade.

Then the other thing that we did, which we just finished up today, was a big update for our Zapier integration for Easy Digital Downloads. Zapier, for anybody who is not aware of, is a service that allows you to connect one service to another or one application to another. Let’s say that you run an Easy Digital Downloads store, and you want to send customer data–any time somebody makes a purchase–to InfusionSoft. Well, unless you have an actual, direct integration between EDD and InfusionSoft, there’s not a way to do it unless you use Zapier.

Zapier would allow you. It basically says, “Okay. EDD, send the information. Now, I’m going to send it off to somebody else and then do things with it.”

You can integrate so many different services. Just an example, you can take order data and drop it into a Google doc spreadsheet. You could use the order information to send a new email if you wanted, send a welcome email, or a follow-up email. You could add customers to a CRM. You could add customers to a newsletter list. You can do all sorts of things. Zapier is very, very cool, a very powerful service.

BRAD: Yeah. One thing we do, we use it for is connecting Discuss with Slack. Slack doesn’t have a Discuss integration and vice versa, so we use Zapier in between. Discuss pushes to Zapier, and then Zapier pushes it to Slack.

PIPPIN: Yeah, it’s great. We use it for something kind of similar where we have a big bundle that we sell on the site of a lot of main extensions. Any time it purchases, because it’s a very high value purchase, we want to go in and review the purchase: one, because it’s a little bit more susceptible to fraud, but also maybe it’s just something that we want to reach out to the customer because they’ve just dished out a pretty good payment. And so any time that item sells, we send a notification to our Slack room.

There are lots of other things that you can do, tons and tons of options. Anyway, the update that we pushed out today was one that gave you a little bit more flexibility when creating the Zaps in Zapier. We added in a couple more notification options. Previously, we supported, like, you could say any time there’s a new order created, any time I refund an order, or any time a new customer is created. Those were the main options available.

Now, we’ve gone in and integrated it with the software licensing extension to say, okay, any time a license key is created, send a notification. Any time a license key expires, a license key is disabled, or a license key is remotely activated or deactivated, you can do all those things. One quick example that’s kind of fun: Let’s say that you sell software, and you want to keep an eye or you want to set up, like, a MailChimp campaign that sends follow-up emails after somebody’s license has expired to encourage them to come back. Any time a license expires, you automatically send that customer to MailChimp, put them on a list, and that then sets them up with the automation campaign.

Then, over the course of the next 30 days, if they don’t renew, you send them a couple of emails that say, “Hey, did you know that in the latest version there’s this?” or, “whether you could do this?” or maybe, “Here’s this.” By the final email, if they still haven’t renewed, maybe say, “Okay. If you want to renew, here’s a renewal, plus take 10% additional off of your purchase.” That’s something that we’re kind of setting up with it. Things like that are perfect use cases for Zapier.

BRAD: For sure.

PIPPIN: It’s very cool.

BRAD: I have a question about EDD.

PIPPIN: Sure.

BRAD: Say I buy one of your bundles, and then I see a coupon a couple days later. I’m like, aah, I totally wanted that 20% off. I send you an email saying as much. How do you process those with EDD?

PIPPIN: Yeah, right. At the moment, it’s kind of hackish. But, at the moment, you adjust the order total. You put a note in. You process a partial refund. There’s no official API for it.

BRAD: Right, okay. Is there any way to add that coupon to the order?

PIPPIN: No. We just…. There’s not. But hopefully in version 2.5 or 2.6, we’re building out that whole UI and API to do that to do exactly what you just described.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: Because it’s actually a very common need.

BRAD: Right. Yeah, it is. I just actually built a little thing for WooCommerce for our internal use because we do so many of those, right?

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: For people that come to us after the fact, after they’ve ordered, with a coupon code that they’d like a partial refund for. WooCommerce does partial refunds, and I’m pretty sure EDD does as well, right?

PIPPIN: We have a kind of half-ass solution for it, and that’s part of what’s coming in our next release.

BRAD: I see. What I built was a little widget or panel, I guess. What do you call those things? A metabox in WordPress. It’s just that one field that says, “Add coupon.” You can add the coupon to the order, but it’ll also populate the partial refund fields to the correct amounts for that coupon.

PIPPIN: Oh, nice.

BRAD: Then you just have to hit another button.

PIPPIN: That’s great.

BRAD: Yeah, it’s a nice little addition or a little less annoying for our support. Yeah.

PIPPIN: Yeah, anything you can do to make the support job easier is definitely a win.

BRAD: Yeah, exactly. Let’s talk about books. What have you read recently?

PIPPIN: Well, I think we mentioned this before. I don’t typically read very many books that are related to our industry. I tend to focus in — I really like science fiction, and then I also really like brewing books, so I learn about the brewing process, the science behind it and things like that.

But, this time I actually did. I read something completely different, which is not exactly in our industry, but it was very applicable. I read a book called You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day. Felicia Day is a Hollywood actor/gamer. She’s very well known in the gaming industry. She’s done a variety of shows.

Anyway, she wrote this kind of memoir about her life growing up and how she went from a very weird, socially awkward, home-schooled kid to an Internet star. It was a really great read. It was pretty short, but it had a lot of, I think, really good insight into people that build a business online, especially if you maybe come from a little bit more of a less standard background.

I actually had the same background that she did in terms of being home-schooled and had a lot of the similar experiences growing up, and then trying to build a business online. There was a lot of really insightful experiences that she could talk about there that I felt–

BRAD: Was it just a first person narrative like I, I, I?

PIPPIN: Yep. Yeah, it was all first person.

BRAD: And just telling her story, basically?

PIPPIN: Yep.

BRAD: Cool.

PIPPIN: Telling her story and going through different parts in her life, different hardships she experienced, and she’s also very much a, like, do-it-yourself kind of mentality, which I think a lot of us in this industry have where, before she found her success, she had written a film script that she really wanted to get produced, was going around to all the producers in Hollywood trying to get somebody to pay attention to it, and no one would do anything with it. And so, finally, she and a friend just said, “All right, let’s shoot it in our garage,” and they did it. Then a year later, two years later, they’re at millions and millions of subscribers, known all over the world. It was kind of that cool story of, while it doesn’t happen very often, but if you work hard and you have the determination to do it yourself, you absolutely can.

BRAD: Cool.

PIPPIN: It was very enjoyable.

BRAD: Nice.

PIPPIN: But it also touched one of the other things that I think was really important that really struck with me is not just how we got to the success, but also the horrible, depressing episodes that happen somewhere in the middle, like going through six months of severe depression because of the anxiety of having this, of having found that success and having millions of people waiting on you and expecting you to do things. I think that was very important for anybody who is running an online business that has found success.

BRAD: Nice. I’ll have to check that one out. I’ve recently finished Purple Cow by Seth Godin. I’ve heard lots of people talk about Purple Cow, but I hadn’t actually read it. It’s a pretty short, little book, and it’s just really about being remarkable. If you’re going to be in the product business, your product is your marketing. There are so many things out there now trying to get people’s attention. It’s not just like TV ads anymore, right? It’s not print journalism or print ads anymore. It’s like ads on the Internet.

There are just so many channels trying to get people’s attention now that the product itself has to be kind of spread, you know, market itself. That’s kind of the message of the book, and he gives examples of products that have done that well and stuff like that. It’s a pretty good book, and you hear about it a lot, right, if you listen to business podcasts or, you know, just business people talking. It’s often used. Someone will often say Purple Cow just in casual conversation now as well, so you’ve got to get the book if you want to know what they’re talking about, I guess.

PIPPIN: I guess that’s a sign of, you’ve done something right when you write a little book and now people are using your term in casual conversation.

BRAD: Yeah. That’s Seth Godin for you though, right? He’s got all kinds of stuff like that. He wrote a book called Tribes as well, which I think people use that in conversations now as well, although I don’t know.

PIPPIN: I think I’ve heard that before.

BRAD: Yeah. I think it’s like people usually use marketing list or mailing list, I think, more than anything right now, which is really kind of the tribe. Anyways, we should get to the mailbag.

PIPPIN: Yeah, so I think we have four different questions that we wanted to go through or maybe five, and so I guess we’ll go through these and hopefully answer them to the best of our abilities. There are a couple of these that we’ve touched on, aspects of the questions, in previous episodes, but we’ll go and read the whole question and then go from there.

BRAD: Right. I’ll read the first one because it’s kind of for you.

PIPPIN: Okay.

BRAD: Jeroen Schmit.

PIPPIN: Jeroen.

BRAD: Jeroen Schmit, do you know Jeroen?

PIPPIN: I’ve talked to him a few times.

BRAD: Okay. Good. He asks, “I’m running a plugin from the .org repository with commercial extensions available on my website. The website is running EDD with the software licenses extension. Because I’m running exactly the same software as the EDD website, my business model is also very similar. Therefore, I decided to look at how EDD presents as extensions inside the WordPress admin. It turns out that you are loading a feed of extensions from the EDD website and present the outcome on a page. Now, here’s my question. Doesn’t this fall under phoning home: something that is not permitted for plugins hosted in the .org repo?”

Yeah, Pippin. Doesn’t it?

PIPPIN: Right. Does it? This is a great question. First of all, the feed that we display, the extensions inside the .org or inside the plugins page, it’s an RS feed. Basically, we have an RSS feed on the website, and it’s listing the latest extensions. We simply pull in that RSS feed into your WordPress site and then display the results.

If you want a comparison, this would be identical to the way that the WordPress news widget works and the WordPress planet widget, the ones that are pulling in articles from a select list of websites – basically the exact same thing. It is technically not phoning home. In order to be considered phoning home, there are a couple of things that they’re not necessarily all required.

Here are a couple of examples of things that would be considered phoning home. If you activate the plugin, and you immediately send a request to your server that contains the URL that the plugin was activated or maybe the admin email or other information like that, and you send that back to your server and you collect it, that’s phoning home. Before the plugin can be used, if you require them to enter an email address, like let’s say you pop up and say, “Hey. In order to use my plugin, enter your email.” That is not entirely considered phoning home, but it’s disallowed under the same reasons.

The RSS feed is not phoning home because it is simply pulling information from the server, and it’s not giving anything back. There’s no log of where the request was made from. There’s no information collected. There’s nothing like that. It’s simply pulling the information from. Hopefully that kind of answers the question.

BRAD: Interesting. Let’s move on to the next question. Do you want to read this one?

PIPPIN: Yes. I will apologize ahead of time because I will absolutely butcher your name, but this is a question related to documentation from Hans-Helge Buerger. I believe it was a German name, and my German pronunciation is terrible. I apologize.

Anyway, this question is, “I’m currently working on my plugin, Dicentis Podcast, and one thing I see missing in a lot of popular plugins is good documentation. I personally think a good user guide and developer doc will help every product. I know you both have documentation online, but I would like to know what you think about documentation, in general, and what is the best way to publish one. Do you use a special theme or a plugin? Would documentation hosted on GitHub be a better solution in case others want to contribute?”

PIPPIN: All right, take it away, Brad.

BRAD: I think we already discussed augmentation a little bit on a previous episode, but I’ll just say that our documentation on DeliciousBrains.com is just a custom post type, and so it’s kind of a custom solution. We use SearchWP to power the search for the documentation, which provides much better results, and that’s about it. It’s fully integrated into our seam, so there are no seams to it. You don’t end up on a different site or anything like that when you go to our docs, so that’s the big advantage of doing it that way.

The disadvantage is that we have to maintain it, make sure that when WordPress updates that it doesn’t break. Or, when SearchWP updates, it doesn’t break, or whatever, you know. There are maintenance costs and time involved there, but very minimal, so we’re pretty happy with, I think, our doc solution. What about you, Pippin?

PIPPIN: Well, I have a couple things I’d like to add. First, I want to just re-express how important I think documentation is. I think it’s absolutely crucially important that you have good documentation. It’s one thing if you have a free plugin that you’re just giving away and letting people use. But, if you have a commercial plugin, you absolutely should have good documentation.

Good documentation isn’t just for the customers. It’s also for your support team, whether that is yourself or a team of other people you’ve hired. Documentation is so important for that. We think it’s important enough that we actually hired somebody full time who just writes documentation, which has been pretty great.

We host all of our docs on HelpScout. HelpScout is the ticket system that we use for our support, and they actually have an add-on application for documentation that directly integrates with the ticketing system. I really like it. It has some weird quirks and a few things that are not great about it, but, overall, it’s really good for a couple reasons. One, it directly integrates with the ticketing system, so linking to piece of documentation from a support ticket is really easy. We also get full statistics on it, and we get statistics that kind of relate it to our support request, which is kind of nice.

We used to use a custom post type along with SearchWP for our documentation. We ended up moving to HelpScout for a couple reasons. The first was simply that–kind of going off of what you said, Brad–you have to maintain it. If it’s on your website, you have to maintain it. That’s not just maintaining the documentation. That means you’re maintaining the theme templates. You’re maintaining the post type. You’re maintaining everything related to the display of that documentation. We just made the decision that, look, we need to write the documentation, not spend time building the system that displays the documentation, was kind of the biggest deciding factor for us.

There is another aspect to it that it’s not very often that it becomes a benefit, and sometimes it can be a negative, but I like it. Because we have our documentation on a separate website, if our sales site goes down, our docs are still live. On the flipside, if our ticketing system goes down, our docs are dead too.

BRAD: Yeah, exactly.

PIPPIN: There are pluses and minuses of it.

BRAD: One other part of the question was: Would documentation hosted on GitHub be a better solution in case others want to contribute? That’s a pretty good point. That would be a nice benefit. Maybe even if your documentation was a wiki instead, right? You used Media Wiki, the same software that powers Wikipedia.

PIPPIN: I do really like wikis. GitHub has their own wiki for documentation.

BRAD: Yeah. It’s pretty basic though. We do use it for some internal stuff. It’s pretty nice. You can use Markdown and stuff. One thing I hate about it though is that you can’t easily add images to the documentation.

PIPPIN: Yeah, that’s annoying.

BRAD: You have to upload them somewhere else, and then put the embed code or whatever.

PIPPIN: I don’t know of any solution–whether it’s HelpScout docs, custom post type, GitHub, or whatever documentation platform you choose–is always going to be better or worse than another. I think it really depends on what you feel is necessary, what you like, what you have available to you. To kind of answer the question a little bit better related to hosting docs in GitHub, I do love the idea of other people contributing to the docs. But, I think that that is actually very rarely going to happen unless you have very developer oriented docs. Maybe host your developer docs on GitHub.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: But I wouldn’t worry so much about hosting the customer docs on GitHub.

BRAD: If you think about the codex, the WordPress codex, right?

PIPPIN: Mm-hmm.

BRAD: If there’s anything in there out of day, you’re reviewing it, and you’re a developer, you might just update it just on a whim so that the next time you come by, you don’t have to see the out-of-date information. Yeah, I think it works really well in that situation for a project. It would probably work well for EDD, actually.

PIPPIN: We considered putting our dev docs there.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: We ultimately just decided that we wanted to have them all in one place, and so we didn’t.

BRAD: Yeah. Gotcha. Cool.

PIPPIN: Cool. Should we go to the next one?

BRAD: Let’s go to the next one. What’s this one? Conferences: Kevin asks, “Can you suggest some WordPress related conferences that you would recommend for the remaining of 2015, especially any in California or Vegas?”

Well, Pippin, do you want to handle this?

PIPPIN: Sure. First of all, any time you want to look for a WordPress conference, one of the first conferences you’re going to look for is WordCamp just because they’re the most prevalent. They’re all over the world. They happen almost every single weekend. I would start by going to just WordCamp.org. Then there is a little widget on the home page that says, “Upcoming WordCamps.” There’s also a schedule up in the main menu where you can go and see all the WordCamps around the world that are happening.

There is a WordCamp Vegas. It is happening September 19 and 20, so that’s coming up really soon. I don’t know if they’re sold out, if they still have tickets available or not, but that would definitely be one to look for. There are dozens of WordCamps coming up in 2015 still. They’re all over the country, all over the world. Since he’s in the U.S., Los Angeles is September 26, 27. Then there’s WordCamp Tampa, Rhode Island, Omaha, Raleigh, Ann Arbor, New York City, tons of others, and there’s a bunch of international ones as well. I would start there.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: What about other ones that he could go to?

BRAD: Well, there’s Prestige. But, as far as I know, there’s not currently another Prestige scheduled yet. But, they do seem to happen every few months now, so I would get yourself on their email list at PrestigeConf.com. You never know. They might end up in L.A. or in Vegas, maybe.

PressNomics is coming up in Phoenix March 3rd to the 4th, and that’s mostly a business related conference, but it’s the business of WordPress. Is Prestige the business of WordPress as well? I believe it is.

PIPPIN: Yes, it is.

BRAD: Yes, it is. Okay. That one, I think, is sold out because it just sold out today, September 1st.

PIPPIN: But there’s probably going to be some tickets released later on for PressNomics.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: At least there might be small groups.

BRAD: The other place you should look is MeetUp.com.

PIPPIN: Oh, yeah, definitely.

BRAD: Because, there are loads of WordPress meet-up groups that meet usually monthly, so you could check those out. They’re not really conferences so much, but still the same idea meeting people, chatting about WordPress.

PIPPIN: I think they’re a great way — if you have a local WordCamp in your area and it’s not at the right time of year for you or you’re not able to go, go to the local meet-up group. It’s usually a lot of the same people. Usually the meet-ups are organized or at least partially organized by the same people that organize the WordCamps, so it can definitely be a great way to get started.

BRAD: There you go.

PIPPIN: All right. Let’s move on to Max Sperando had a question about naming plugins. He says, “WordPress plugin naming dos and don’ts. I’m currently working on a plugin for a payment processor for EDD, as well as general WordPress. I’m using the freemium route with a lite version and a pro version. I’m apprehensive about naming the plugin incorrectly, as I don’t want my marketing efforts to suffer, and I don’t want to have copycats release a similar plugin and steal my juice.”

BRAD: Juice.

PIPPIN: Brad, do you want to start with this?

BRAD: Juice, indeed. I just want to say that I’m looking at our Google Doc here, and Google does not recognize plugin as a word, as a single word.

PIPPIN: That’s unfortunate.

BRAD: It’s suggesting “plug” and “in.”

PIPPIN: Awesome. iOS always corrects it for me too to either “plug-in” or “plug and in” or something like that.

BRAD: Gees, we’ve got to do something about that. It’s a pretty common word.

PIPPIN: Come on. You can do better.

BRAD: Yeah, exactly. Naming products isn’t easy. Let me tell you that.

PIPPIN: Hold on. Let’s preface this before you answer, real quick, because you’ve actually been in a case where you had to defend a name, correct?

BRAD: Uh–

PIPPIN: Or you defended a trademark.

BRAD: I kind of — yeah. That was a tricky one.

PIPPIN: Okay.

BRAD: Yeah. What happened is someone forked my plugin on GitHub, the free version on GitHub, and then replaced it with the pro version.

PIPPIN: That’s right.

BRAD: And we’re still promoting it as WP Migrate DB, which I own the trademark for.

PIPPIN: Right. That would kind of go again in the idea of where Max asked. He doesn’t want somebody to have a copycat and then release a plugin and steal his thunder.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: Anyway, sorry to interrupt.

BRAD: I mean that’s why you want a trademark to prevent so that you have recourse against copycats using your name, right?

PIPPIN: Certainly.

BRAD: That’s why you want it. But in terms of naming the plugin, you don’t want to use someone else’s trademark is the first thing you don’t want to do. A good example of this is the plugin we just released, we had to rename because, the free version, I had named it Amazon S3 and Cloudfront, which is the exact name, trademarks, of Amazon’s Amazon Web services products. I couldn’t launch a product with that name and then defend it, right? And I probably would have attracted negative attention from Amazon and maybe a legal letter from their legal department, so I had to rename it to something that completely does not have Amazon’s trademarks or WordPress’s trademarks in it. That’s the first don’t.

Then, I would say just choose something simple that’s easy to spell and easy to pronounce and say out loud because you’re going to be talking about it. When you’re at a conference or something, you don’t want to be stumbling over the words, and you don’t want other people, when they’re trying to talk about it, stumbling over the words, and you don’t want people misspelling it, especially when they’re trying to search for it. That’s why it needs to be easy to spell.

PIPPIN: Yep. I couldn’t agree more.

BRAD: Yep. Do you have a couple of dos and don’ts, Pippin?

PIPPIN: I do. One of them kind of goes along with what you just said about making it simple and easy to spell. That is, pay attention to what your name abbreviates as for a couple reasons.

Number one: You’re probably going to abbreviate your name to use as your prefixes for functions or class names, maybe your option names, your database, something like that. There are certain abbreviations that you just don’t necessarily want to have happen. Sometimes abbreviations sound bad or they don’t sound as good as you want them to.

I have a perfect example of that. Easy Digital Downloads abbreviates to EDD, which a lot of people immediately go to things like EDD, like the well known erectile dysfunction abbreviation, which is awesome. Whoops. Didn’t think about that well enough. Pay attention. Think about what it abbreviates to.

Another is: Make sure that you know the rules for where you’re hosting the plugin. For example, if you’re hosting at WordPress.org, we actually have rules based on what we will allow you to name your plugin. When we’re managing a whole bunch of plugins, if we have somebody who submitted plugin and it has a name that someone else feels violates a trademark or is hurting their branding or whatever, we have to work with those people to work it out. We have rules about what we will not allow in the repository, and these actually are just recently updated.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. You are no longer allowed to use a trademark name in a plugin name on the repository. It’s not 100%, but these are kind of the guidelines to go by. For example, we no longer allow people to submit “WooCommerce MailChimp Integration”. Both WooCommerce and MailChimp are trademark names. We might, however, allow someone to do “Newsletter Integration through MailChimp for WooCommerce,” a much longer name, but that kind of idea.

You need to make sure that you know what the rules are for where you’re hosting it, whether that’s WordPress.org, that’s CodeCanyon, it’s your own website. Pay attention to what those are. See what they are. If you’re hosting it on your own website, then maybe just go back to the previous things about avoiding trademarks, make it simple, make it easy to spell out, and know what you’re abbreviating.

BRAD: I will mention one more thing about trademarks that I ran into. That is, if the name of the product or, specifically, if the name that you’re trying to trademark describes what it is doing, what the software does. For example, in this case it would be software.

In my case, it was migrating the database. That’s what the software does, but it’s also in the name. That’s a problem. I can’t remember exactly–

PIPPIN: It’s usually a problem for getting it trademarked.

BRAD: Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

PIPPIN: Ah, yeah.

BRAD: You have to declare that — I can’t remember exactly. See, this is why I’m not a lawyer. I remember there was a problem because of that, that the thing described it. And so, with our new product, I tried to describe it less.

PIPPIN: Right. We ran into that trying to trademark Easy Digital Downloads.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: Because it describes the action, or it describes the event.

BRAD: Do you remember why it was a problem, like what the problem was exactly?

PIPPIN: I think, basically, it’s because it becomes too generic.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: We can’t say “Easy Digital Downloads” as a trademarked product name because then you have other people that will say this software makes “easy digital downloads” simple.

BRAD: Right.

PIPPIN: Whoops. Yeah, so another thing, when you’re thinking about naming your plugin, is make sure that if it’s something that you do want to consider trademarking in the future, make sure you can trademark it.

BRAD: Yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty important.

PIPPIN: Okay. Shall we move on to our last question?

BRAD: Yeah, sure.

PIPPIN: Great.

BRAD: This one is from Max Wilde. He says, “I am a WP theme and plugin developer who recently finished two plugins for a colleague that I would like to promote and hopefully sell. Loved the last episode about business models. Interested to hear your stories regarding how you started selling your first plugins. Also, any tips for taking a plugin you use on your own projects and make it distributable either with WordPress.org or somewhere like CodeCanyon.”

PIPPIN: I think this is a perfect example of the situation that a lot of us found ourselves in before we got into selling commercial plugins, and that’s, you build a plugin for yourself or you build a plugin for someone else, and then you end up wanting to distribute that. Now, I know that we’ve answered; we’ve kind of told some of our stories about how we first got started with selling plugins, so we might skip over that a little bit. You can find it in some of the pervious episodes, especially the business model episodes. I think we’ve had three or four of those.

But, I would definitely like to address where he asked for any tips on taking a plugin you use on your own projects and making it distributable. I’ll just answer for myself. This is exactly how I got started with selling commercial plugins. I had a couple of plugins that I’d built for clients, and then those turned into commercial plugins. Then I had plugins that I built for myself. Those turned into commercial plugins.

I think these kinds of projects are really, really great candidates for getting you started in commercial. Not even necessarily. It doesn’t have to be commercial. It could also be free. Just release, basically, plugins that are publicly released.

I think they’re great for that because building it for yourself or building it for a client allows you to focus on very specific features. You get a focus on the needs and says I need or my customer needs X, Y, and Z. We’re going to build those, and we’re going to build those exact features.

When you build a plugin for public release, you don’t have that freedom, typically at least, because you’re building it and trying to keep in mind, well, they might want to do it this way, but someone else is going to want to do it this way. You have to make things a lot more generalized, a lot more flexible.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: If you start by building your own, you get to build that foundation first and then expand it later.

BRAD: Yeah. A good example is settings, right?

PIPPIN: Oh, yeah.

BRAD: If you’re just building it for yourself, you can probably stick your settings in the code and that would be fine, right? But if you’re building it for other people to use, that’s not exactly a great user experience, right?

PIPPIN: Right.

BRAD: To have to go into the code and edit the code to get things to change.

PIPPIN: I think an example of that setting is if you have anything that sends emails. If you’ve written it for yourself, you’re just going to hard code that email directly into the code.

BRAD: Yep.

PIPPIN: But you’re going to have to have a setting for it when you release it publicly. Brad, did any of your plugins start as personal projects or ones that you did for a client?

BRAD: Well, the Amazon one was kind of. Yeah, I mean that was one that we did, but it was one I had forked already, so it was already kind of ready for public consumption.

PIPPIN: Okay.

BRAD: I cheated a little bit there. I can’t really think of one. Usually, I just throw code out there.

PIPPIN: You can just throw code out and it becomes gold.

BRAD: No. No. No, I just throw code out there, and it lands on deaf ears or, you know, blind eyes, and no one uses it. But, yeah, I don’t typically because it is a lot of work to repackage things and make it into a distributable package, right?

PIPPIN: Absolutely.

BRAD: I don’t really do that a lot. More often I put sample code up of stuff that I’ve done, like if I’ve written a class that I’m proud of or something. I’ll write a blog post about it, and I’ll post the class in that blog post. That’s more typical of the kind of stuff I’ve done in the past. Yeah.

PIPPIN: For anybody who doesn’t know, a good example, for myself at least, of where I had a plugin that was a personal project that turned into something that was distributed and turned into a business was Easy Digital Downloads. It started as a little tiny plugin that I built for my own website to sell another plugin. It stayed that way for over a year. I just kept it like that. Then, over the course of that year, and another six months or so, slowly expanded it out to have additional features and make it work for other people. I think it’s a great way to get started, especially if it’s kind of some of your first projects or plugins.

BRAD: Yeah, absolutely. There’s no doubt. If it’s something you find useful, that’s a good way to get started, but just beware. It seems so easy, right? You’ve developed it. You feel like you’ve done the bulk of the work, right?

PIPPIN: Yeah, you’ve done, like, 10%.

BRAD: Yeah, maybe a little bit more than that, but not much. It’s a lot of work to get a plugin from your own personal use out there into the world and publicly consumable.

PIPPIN: Definitely.

BRAD: Yeah.

PIPPIN: Anything else to add before we wrap up?

BRAD: No, I think that’s it.

PIPPIN: Keep sending your questions in. I know that we don’t always respond to them right away. Sometimes it takes us a few months, but we’ll definitely keep doing our mailbag episodes every couple of months, so keep sending in your questions.

BRAD: Yeah, and I guess also keep submitting reviews on iTunes. The more reviews we get on there, the more it promotes the podcast and more people find out about it, so we really appreciate those.

PIPPIN: Absolutely. Well, thanks for chiming in, everybody. Catch you next time.