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I'm David Bisset - Freelancer & WordCamp Organizer - Ask Me Anything

11 days ago

Born and raised in South Florida, I started coding when i was in Elementary school on an Apple IIe with Apple BASIC and I haven't looked back since. When I moved to ASP.net to PHP, it didn't me long to find myself using Movable Type as my first CMS. But after tackling enough client projects, I moved to WordPress around version 1.5 and haven't looked back since. Along with WordPress in general, I have a particular love for BuddyPress and have been using that since it's pre-beta days.

I also helped start WordCamp Miami, one of the longest running WordCamps. I've been involved with every WCMIA which has been going on for almost 10 years non-stop (we're just about the longest in terms of consecutive years). We've been honored to either start trends (like Learn JavaScript Deeply tracks or certain swag) or help make existing trends more popular (BuddyCamps, Kids Camps, etc.) We are also among the largest in North America with recent attendance topping 850. I am an official mentor of other WordCamps and also have been helping run my local WordPress meetups for a number of years. Not to mention other meetups/events I help out with.

I've done work with numerous startups and businesses. I currently work at Awesome Motive where i'm involved in building great WordPress plugins, particularly Envira Gallery. I love it there.

Aside from technology, I'm 40, have been married 15+ years, and have three beautiful daughters (thankfully my wife's DNA mostly prevailed).

I love pizza, Star Trek, MST3K, and if you see me at a WordPress event bug me for some swag because heaven knows i am still trying to get rid of all of it from past WordCamps.

Ask me anything!

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32 votes   Flag
Nemanja Aleksic

Thanks for being on our AMA, David!

1) Name one thing you tried to accomplish for WordCamp Miami, but never did.
2) Picard, Sisko, Janeway or Kirk?

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David Bisset

1. Making WCMIA more fresh and exciting in terms of formats I think. We've been "stuck" in the same track formats for a while even though we have brought in the Learn JavaScript Deeply track. It's hard to make moderate to drastic changes when you have a large attendee total - lots of people are used to the way we do things and don't like change. Luckily our 10th anniversary is coming up which is going to give us an excuse to do more interesting things hopefully.

2. Hard choice. Picard - because i think i'm starting to go bald. Sisko - Like him, I'm a father. Janeway - i'm into science and discovering lots of neat things that get me and my crew/family into trouble. Kirk - well, not a ladies man but i look good in yellow. And you left out Archer? Oh the shame. I think i'm more like Harry Mudd if anyone here gets that reference.

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Nemanja Aleksic

Never pegged you for a space pimp :)

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David Bisset

Now that you mention it, forget Harry Mudd. Oh what stories they had in the 1960s.

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David Bisset

Almost forgot: i want to get a WordCamp where the shirts are modeled after 60s Star Trek. Organizers in command yellow, speakers in science blue and volunteers are the "red shirts".

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Jodie Riccelli

Morning David!

I'm curious if there is one activity or element during WordCamp Miami that seems to get the best response from attendees. In other words, what do you feel attendees find to be the most engaging part?

Also, the trivia game was amazing this year! I loved that!

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David Bisset

Thanks for your question Jodie!

Based on 8 years of feedback, the top things attendees seem to like are simple: (1) solid, informative talks (2) provide enough networking opportunities and (3) throw a nice piece of unique or cool swag/t-shirt to take home. Usually our ice cream or BBQ is up there as well. Fill their minds and stomachs is the lesson learned.

We are still getting feedback from this past year, but the trivia contest at the after party and closing remarks was well received and i'll be that comes back.

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Clifton Griffin

1) How do you ace being so unpopular?
2) What do you think the biggest change in the WordPress ecosystem will be in the next 5 years?

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David Bisset

Thanks for your questions Clifton. I think.

1. It takes hard work and dedication. This (think of me as waving my hands around right now) doesn't just happen.
2. I'm sure there's better people who can comment on that, since i don't see any huge changes coming in terms of technology. I think if you were thrown forward in time 5 years I think you would still be able to recognize WordPress itself. Maybe WHO is using it and WHY would be bigger changes. Are new developers going to want to use it, for example? Is the next generation going to embrace it as much as the current one? I think perhaps the biggest change will be WHY and we'll see WordPress being used as a blog as the minority category of usage.

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Matt Mullenweg

What are the characteristics of the best WordCamp talks you see? What do you wish more people would do?

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David Bisset

1. My favorite technical talks are easy to describe - show me step by step how that plugin or function works. Give me the slides or the sample code to go home that night and re-create it. Sometimes I enjoy the talks and the speaker but many throw their slides up online as an afterthought. I like it when there are Github examples or step-by-steps involved.

2. My favorite non-technical talks are ones that either expose a speaker's deep personal emotions to the benefit of the audience (John James Jacoby or Cory Miller do this well) or fill me with awesome facts about WordPress and the community (like your annual State of the Word...).

I wish more people would stop admitting they do talks or slides last minute right before a conference. I guess that's a brag but as an attendee give me the illusion that you invested quality time into your presentation (with a few exceptions), no matter how great of a public speaker you are. Attendees notice, even subconsciously, how much effort and preparation you've put into a talk... again, even if you ARE a good public speaker.

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Joe Casabona

Amen to this last point. Rushing to do slides in the last half hour before your talk doesn't make a good talk, and it's a disservice to the attendees. I really feel if you speak at a WordCamp, it's a contribution to the open source community and you should treat it with care.

That's also why I advocate for using the same talk at multiple WordCamps. The content might be the same (or delivered slightly differently/added to, etc) but it's not a talk that you worked on last minute, and it gives people at that specific camp the opportunity to ask you questions.

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David Bisset

I care more about the bragging then someone actually DOING it at last minute. I guess if you HAD to do it last minute, don't mention it because it doesn't give people a chance to not be impressed!

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David Bisset

I care more about the bragging then someone actually DOING it at last minute. I guess if you HAD to do it last minute, don't mention it because it doesn't give people a chance to not be impressed!

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Matt Mullenweg

What's your favorite hook? Favorite filter?

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Matt Mullenweg

You got married at 25 -- how did you know it was right, what did you have to learn in the early days, and what has been key for success?

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David Bisset

Thanks for this question, as i ponder the other questions.

I honestly can't describe how i "knew", as I suppose many people who start off with relationships most likely always like to believe or claim they "just knew". For starters, she shared alot of the same moral and practical ideals I did. I also knew enough about myself to know what kind of person I personally needed. Someone intelligent (she was a programmer when I met her), strong-willed, and someone that could make me a better person. Also helped that she was and still is easy on the eyes.

What I had to learn early on - and what's been key for being happily married 15 years without the use of blackmail - is that you need to set aside time for communication, especially at times that aren't particularly the best for you. Sounds so simple when it's put into words. I was so used to working on a "schedule" with work and my life - i initially thought I could work my married life like that. Sounds silly, but I was young. And stupid. Today i'm older. And still learning.

They key to marriage - make sure you're communicating and being a part of each other's lives. Have fun, and be fun when around your marriage mate. Helps you get through the bad times.

BTW, if i heaven forbid pass away unexpectedly - someone forward the above to her. She'll get a kick out of it.

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Sanjeev Mishra

How much time do you spend daily on Envira Gallery or Awesome Motive work? And what is your work hour?

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David Bisset

When it's all said and done, I work a normal work week. I'm usually a 8-5 kinda guy but work at other hours when i see fit. :-)

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Pippin Williamson

What are a few characteristics you believe contribute to a plugin being commercially successful?

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David Bisset

Based on my limited experience:

1. Support -> knowing i have someone able to help me troubleshoot an issue for me or a potential client. I don't need to be hand-holded (although those people of course exist) but someone who initially responds in a reasonable time, someone who really is interested, wants to help, and isn't in a rush to close the support ticket.

2. Branding -> if i can randomly ask someone at a conference or WordCamp about what top plugins come to mind when i mention a category, i figure it's a win if any positive examples come to mind for anyone. So I guess with "Branding" comes "Good Reputation". That doesn't mean they're perfect - everyone makes mistakes.

3. Trust => Anything that adds to trust from customers using your plugin... that could be anything from a solid UX/UI experience, the security of the plugin's code, or even how often the plugin is updated (plugin that haven't been touched in a while, depending on the plugin, might remove some trust for some).

It's funny that "features" didn't appear in the top 3 when i thought of things. I think you and I (especially you) have been around the block long enough to know that JUST adding and adding features doesn't guarantee commercial success. Or even if there's an appearance of success (think of a theme in ThemeForest... go on, i'll wait....) it's not a long-term or a real success.When I think of plugin companies in the WordPress space today, they all have high marks in the three areas above. Hope that answered the question clearly enough. :-)

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Pippin Williamson

Answered it perfectly :)

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Vladimir Prelovac

Hey David

Thanks for your time today. One of the big questions for newcomers in the WordPress community is how do they get found, how do they create those crucial first connections? I remember you had a post couple of years back on how do you get noticed in the WordPress community.

So if I am a new company that has a cool new plugin or theme, what are some of the things I can do to increase my chances of success?

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David Bisset

Back in the day, say maybe more than 5 years ago, you could probably make a name for yourself fairly quickly if you focused on a particular area or product type in the WordPress community. Outside of a few remaining niches, I think those days are gone. Which means that it takes the following in large amounts:

- Time... you could have the "cure for cancer" in the WordPress community but you still need to build your reputation. This takes time. Alot of people see the WordPress community from the outside and think "i'll get in here and in a few weeks/months i'll see my ROI". Forget it, not going to happen.

- Be Unique... This helps if you aren't promoting something many others already have. What makes you or your product unique? And prepare for the possibility that what you think is cool might not be what many people think is cool.

- Make Connections... Depending on your goals, you might need to network face-to-face at meetups and WordCamps/conferences. A big way alot miss out on is making connections while volunteering or helping with events or projects - I know alot of developers that make connections just because they help out with contributing to WordPress or other codebase. Don't ask for anything in return, at least initially. Assume that at some point you'll be asking or promoting something but make it a goal by the time you do that people trust or have some relationship with you.

Great thing about the WordPress community is that it treats other competitors in the same space pretty well. Learn to know when to be humble and reach out to those who can truly give you advice.

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Vladimir Prelovac

Great answer, thanks David.

ps. You just jumped in front of me on the leaderboard :) managewp.org/members

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Ahmad Awais

Hey, David!

I have a few questions:

1— How does an average work day routine look like?
2— How's it working at Awesome Motive :)
3— How do you manage time working remotely? Apart from client work and contributing to the open source WordPress community, I love to read and write about WordPress — a lot. I see you following up on news just as passionately. That's a good thing but sometimes I find it hard to pull off (which means daily involvement for more than 15 hours — which often leads to burnout) how do you avoid that?

Looking forward!






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David Bisset

1. Flip a coin to determine if i'm wearing pants. Then it's pretty much sitting at my computer doing remote work with lunch and hourly breaks. I drink plenty of fluids - if nothing else, helps me get out of my chair to pay back Mother Nature.
2. It's awesome. I know Syed is reading this so that sums it up!
3. I've learned to multi-task but many times it just seems like i'm on Twitter alot... but i schedule alot of posts and tweets. Sometimes my mini-breaks are just me reading Twitter for a few minutes or visiting a site I like. I use Twitter as my bookmark system that I happen to share. I don't really use much else in terms of Social Media.

Avoiding burnout - sometimes i take longer breaks during the day and make up for it at night when the house is quiet. I don't work on weekends unless I have to. I try to interact with human beings, even if that requires me to get lunch at a restaurant. I also watch over my kids, but taking to 7 year olds all day every day isn't COMPLETELY healthy when you need to interact with adults eventually. :-)

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Ahmad Awais

Great, thanks for your time :)

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David Bisset

Hey David, you look like you're about to take a break. Are you coming back to answer more questions?

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David Bisset

You're darned right I am! I have children to pick up from school and a new plunger to buy (don't ask).

Are we venturing into TMI (too much information)?

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David Bisset

Cool. See you in a few hours. Say hi to your wife for me.

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David Bisset

Uh, ok.

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Joe Casabona

What do you do when something (inevitably) goes wrong at a WordCamp (or any live event/conference)? Any fun stories you can share?

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David Bisset

WordCamp Miami is anal when it comes to planning. We make mistakes EVERY year but haven't had many BIG things happen, especially recently.

Worst thing: It's a 40 minute drive to the venue for me. I woke up but found out there was an accident or road block on I-95 and all other major roadways. I had to coordinate by phone as slowly made it down to Miami. Got there about 3 hours late, luckily we had excellent people there (and this was went WCMIA was only 300+).

This is why I know stay at a Hotel about 5-10 minutes from the venue now even though I live only 30-40 minutes away.

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Kyle Maurer

You've been crushing the WordCamp thing for years at an impressively high level. How the heck have you been able to consistently put so much into WC Miami without ever getting complacent or experiencing (outwardly observable) burnout?

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David Bisset

First off, thank you.

Second off, public only sees very little what goes on. I'm forced in a way to be a focus/mascot for WCMIA, but it takes ALOT of help from AMAZING organizers to put on every WordCamp Miami. We have been crushing it.

It helps to have new organizers and leads to keep things fresh - but we try to make SOMETHING (usually multiple SOMETHINGS) different EACH event to keep it interesting for attendees but for us as well. Learn JavaScript Deeply is a good example but we've had different speaker swag, party venues, contests, prizes, talk formats over the years. We are particularly excited for our 10th anniversary in 2018 where we hope to keep things interesting for us.

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