Rob Cairns talks to Marcus Burnette about this community project WP World.
- What is WP World?
- Features of WP World.
- Features coming in the future.
Rob Cairns here and today I’m joined by and honored to be joined by my good friend Mr. Marcus Burnette at WP World. How are you today, Marcus?
I am doing great Rob. Thanks for having me.
On ohh such a pleasure. Been meeting to bug you for a while and get you on here about this. Really unique projects you started called WP World and what was this like a weekend project or where did this? Coming from.
Yes and no. Is the answer to that. So I originally started I guess, I guess this project, but it wasn’t this project when I started it, it was something I I put together, I want to say last summer, so mid 2022. I got. I got an itch to kind of see if I could figure out a little bit more on how to use the Google Maps API and so. Kind of mulling my my brain for what I could possibly put together that that would allow me to to tinker with the Google Maps API a bit and so I just, you know, I’m a WordPress guy. I threw up a WordPress site and said, you know what, I’ll have a a, a custom post type that’s, I don’t know person. Or something. And then I’ll give it some. I’ll get, you know, give it some fields for coordinates and then I’ll work out the the API portion of of putting those people on a map. I played around with it a little bit, just really trying to figure out what I can and can’t do. You know, how do you change the markers to look different on a Google map? What are the different styles that you can make you know so you can make it look like different kinds of maps and stuff and then I shelved it. It was that was probably the weekend project right? There was. Let me just take a weekend and see what I can do with Google Maps API. And then I I shelved it. And you know, sometimes I get lazy and I just leave. Leave a site sitting somewhere and like I’ll play with that later. Or hey, if I want to come back to that because I need a piece of that for for some project I’m working on, then I want to be able to go back and grab some of the code for that or whatever, so left it and then. So earlier this year, well, so let me track back a little bit further. The reason I I ultimately ended up deciding to to continue on with you know that those beginnings, the Google Maps piece and and turn it into something real instead of just. You know, a goofy thing to play around with was we went through a couple of years here in Florida with with some hurricanes that came through and and there are a lot of WordPress folks, WordPress friends that I have here in in Florida all across the state. And we were spending some time figuring out, you know, who’s here. Who’s in the path of the Hurricanes that are coming through? How can I make sure that we, you know, check up on each other and stuff like that? And So what I ended up doing was taking that weekend project of playing with the API, with the Google Maps API and saying, well, why don’t I? Map out and this at this time was just for myself. Why don’t I map out where my WordPress friends are here in kind of Central Florida and and and extended Florida area and then I can, you know, toss all those pens on a map because I, you know did this little weekend project where I mapped people so. Let me do that and that way the next time a hurricane rolls through, I’ll, you know, I’ll know who’s in the path of the hurricane. I can see out here. My friends in Tampa or in Miami. Wherever the Hurricanes coming through, I can go back and check in on them. And so I started doing that and I put a I put a handful of people in the in the site at that point, I cleaned it up to call it pressers because I wanted this to be, you know, like my map of WordPress friends. And I thought, I’m, I’m spending a lot of time putting people in myself. If I clean this up a tiny bit, I think I can just open it up and let people add themselves to the map. So I did that. I clean it up a little bit. Earlier this year, I made it. You know, I gave it a domain, the WP dot world and I shared it with some folks just sort of. You know, behind the scenes I didn’t make it a big public thing. I just said, you know, hey, here’s the thing that I’m working on. Would you add yourself to the map or whatever and and that way we can kind of keep track of each other. And that was that was really where the the piece where. So right now if you go to the WP world and you add yourself on your, you know profile page, you can see the folks that are. And that was that was kind of the beginnings of that was, hey, this map isn’t just for me. I really want this map to be for anybody who signs up to see who’s, you know, around them and their general vicinity. And so I built that piece and adding that piece I think triggered something in my mind to say, well, why don’t I just make this public, you know, share it on Twitter, share it on LinkedIn. And let everyone sign up and that way everyone can kind of see who’s in their in their general area. And so that was kind of how the WP world got started. It was, it was sort of a weekend project last year and then earlier this year, I kind of cleaned it up and turned it into a way for for folks to see who’s in their area.
Isn’t that always? The way how these projects start, we we find the need that we’ve got in your case learning the Google API and I always say the best way to learn something is do a project that you’re not under time constraint and then we morph it into something else, right? Isn’t that like, so typical? And I’ve done that with custom fields. I’ve done that with pods over the years. I’ve done that with the multitude of things where you just find that need you have internally and then it it blows up and before you know it, you’re down to 100 hour rabbit holes.
Yeah, and. And The funny thing is, is that at that time, it was really just I I don’t get a lot of chances in in the position that I’m in now the role that I’m in to do a lot of design and development work. And so it was really just kind of a weekend itch to get back in and and code something and I. Really, I guess subconsciously didn’t even think about it consciously beforehand that there’s there’s really a nice overlap between Google Maps, you know, mapping mapping folks on the map. And the community work that I do. And so I I didn’t even really think about it at the time. I really just wanted to play with some code. But as you know, as those things kind of merged towards the end of last year, beginning of this year, it sort of became like a a merging of the the development curious side of me and the Community. Glad that you know I’m so heavily invested in the community side of things with WordPress that it just makes sense to have something like that.
Yeah. And besides, the Maps API, can we talk about what you’re running under the hood like? Are you running any custom code for this project or is it all an assortment of plugins and API’s?
Yeah, it’s. It’s actually a a, a mash of kind of a lot of things. One of. So at its core it’s WordPress with elementor. Those are the the main pieces and then ACF for for a lot of the custom field stuff. And then there’s a lot of custom code that’s generating short codes for where I want to place things, and also connecting to APIs. There’s a word. Well, I just renamed it from a word camp section to an event section, but that’s where all the. Word camps are, and I have a lot of stuff that’s pulling in content from word camp. Central for some of the word, word, camp info, and then from each of the word camps themselves, from their sites. Pull and speaker info and organizer info and that kind of thing. And so there’s a lot of API stuff there. One of the benefits that I’ve had in being able to kind of build this up fairly quickly over the course of this year is really the the boom of AI stuff. You know, since the beginning of this year, obviously. AI goes back further, but really the the popularity and the accessibility of it to the general public starting at the beginning of this year, a lot of the custom code pieces were things I could have written, but I wrote in 110th of the amount of time leveraging ChatGPT mostly. To say you know, here’s what I have in it on. I mean, it’s trained on all sorts of stuff. It’s trained on WordPress and Google Maps API for sure. So having those two things kind of in my in my back pocket, being able to have ChatGPT generate like you know, here’s here’s the content. Here’s the post type that I have and the fields that I have and I want these to be mapped on a Google map with a custom marker. Go and and let it write the code for me and again it’s code I could have written. I reviewed every bit of code that came out of that because you have to with these AI softwares at the moment and so you know every line has been combed over to make sure it’s doing what it I need it to do and I’ve tweaked things along the way. But really things that would have. For me, you know 3-4 hours to code I did in, you know, half an hour with the help of AI coding assistant.
And and here’s where and I know you’re big into AI, and that’s where AI isn’t costing somebody work is you still need somebody to manage the AI and review what AI’s doing so you know not to. Not to turn this into an AI conversation, but I think we need to get off this at AI is gonna cause. Cost jobs. It’s just gonna shift the way we do our business and. That’s the more important thing.
Yeah, absolutely. And then again, this is, you know, this is a side project of mine and that’s that’s one of the things that I actually appreciate most about GoDaddy is there encouragement of you having you know side projects and and your own entrepreneurial efforts and wanting to you know. Run small businesses because that’s what we’re focused on. Serving is, is folks that are running small businesses. In my case, specifically in the WordPress space. But this isn’t. So this isn’t, you know, a GoDaddy project. This isn’t my project so I have limited time nights and weekends to work on this and having something like ChatGPT to help, you know, write some of that stuff a lot faster than than I would have written. It allows me to get, you know, get further faster. And I wouldn’t have been able to hire someone else. It would have been my time, the. That that was being used to write all that code so I didn’t. I didn’t take a job away from anyone. I just made my job easier. You know, as the solo person running the WP World Site, I just made it so that I could write some.
Of this stuff faster and that’s nice and weekends around running a family too.
Yeah, there’s, there’s always the balance. There I can’t just. I can’t just disappear once once work time is over. I can’t just disappear to do my own projects is the balance of, you know, family life and stuff too. So.
You and I’ve noticed you’ve gone down the sponsorship route with this project, which is really good and it seems you’ve got an amazing abundance group of sponsors that have jumped in and said, hey, we want to support you, Marcus. That’s like awesome.
Yeah, definitely. And and I super appreciate all of the sponsors that have that have stepped up to help make this site happen, you know, and again, that’s besides just the time there’s, you know, the resources that go into to having a website like this and you know having to up those resources as traffic increases and stuff and so. You know, I appreciate all the sponsors that have stepped up and said, hey, we really we really support this project. We think it’s great and you know, funny enough, it’s actually word camp us just happened in National Harbor and it was sort of the first camp where we’ve gotten together since I’ve built this project. And I had a lot of both sponsors. And the attendees come up and say, hey, are you, you know, are you the guy that built the WP world really like that site? Really love being able to connect with folks and. I I love hearing that. I mean, that’s the that’s the main goal here is for you know, everyday WordPress folks to be able to jump in and see who’s around them connect with people around them, be able to see whether they’re areas, you know, maybe populated enough to support a meet up and be able to start meet up groups back up. Or or even for organizers of word camps to jump in and say, you know, here’s here’s the folks in our area, we can definitely pull off having a work camp. Here, and that’s ultimately what I want the site to be is just the resource for WordPress folks, and the word camp organizers and meet up organizers just to. Be able to hop in there and get all the information they need to to collide. With each other.
You know that that is really, really, really key and I think it’s gonna become a resource cause I know. Like I know. Like for example in Toronto, who’s in the Toronto area? Like who the players are in the Toronto area. But then I start looking at like one person I talked to. Now I’ll call him out quite a bit is James Derulo. And I didn’t realize James was in the area, which isn’t that far from me and you know. I know kind of who’s in the Upstate New York area a little bit. Cause Michelle, for she’s in upstate New York. Michele’s in Rochester. So. But then I kind of start looking. And then there’s and. Then there’s more people in that area that even I don’t know. But I know who they are. Right. So I think that’s really, really important.
Yeah, James, James is actually one of the ones that came up to me at word camp US and was talking about the site and turns out he he hopped on the site and he saw another person, another word. Pressler, in the Kingston area and found out that their kids actually go to school together. And so they were able to kind of start a conversation. With each other, connect with each other over the fact that they that their kids are even in school together. They didn’t even know each other were. In the same city, working in the WordPress space.
Yeah. So what, what do you want to add to the site or are you done?
Yeah. No, I I don’t know if I’ll ever be done. You know, that’s the nature of of sites in general. But you know, I’ve I’ve continued to sort of work through in phases. The things that I want the site to be. First and foremost, I want the site to be a way for WordPress folks to connect with each other. So. That’s where it started. It started with pressers, as I called them in the sites, to be able to sign themselves up for free. You just, you know, fill out a form thanks to shout out to Mark Westgard, the WS form for generously donating WS form for a number of different forms across the site. We fill the form and it creates the WordPress. Preserve profile for you and you can see who’s around you and share a bit about yourself so people can connect with you on LinkedIn and and and Twitter ex whatever you want to call it. And you know, just kind of foster that collaboration with each other. And then from there, I wanted it to be a resource for word camp and meet up organizers. So I’ve built out an event section where I’ve listed all of the word, word camps from last year and this year. And any of the ones that are already slated for for 2024. And I’m just continuing to try and find more things that I can add to those pages to provide resources for both organizers and attendees of the word camps and summaries. There’s weather on there. So if you’re trying to figure out what you need to pack for a word camp, there’s, you know, a little weather widget for for that area for those days and stuff and then. So the the more recent one is a business directory that I added and I’m hoping that I can continue to grow the business directory and that’s really anybody who considers themselves a business in the WordPress space, whether that’s an agency or a plugin or theme developer. I have a couple of nonprofits. Businesses up there as well. I just want to build that out and and what I’m hoping there is that one businesses are able to get a little bit of visibility for anybody who’s looking for WordPress business to work with, but also to try and create some opportunities for people to find work. I know that. The last couple of years have been kind of up and down with people being laid off and needing to find work and all of that, and so I’m hoping to to really find a way to connect businesses with WordPress folks that are looking for employment to try and see if I can help people find jobs working in in the WordPress space and. No, and I’m trying to build up that business directory. There are a couple of dozen businesses already in the directory, but you know, the more that are in there, the more valuable the site will be for everyone. So continuing on there and then I’ve got a long list of other things that are. Sort of in the back of my mind is things that I might add might want to add sort of. Trying to figure out which pieces to add and and which pieces to move on from.
Yeah, whatever. Whatever.
That’s what I like about this project so much. First of all, I agree with you. Shout out to Mark. The only thing he’s got to figure out is. How we can work a WS forms plugin to generate pizza to end up in Toronto? That’s another story. I I can’t let that one go, but that’s you know. You’ll figure it. Out he’s working on it but it. He truly it’s probably the easiest forms plug in to use on the web. It’s the one I use. And you know, just blame Mark and I are good friends and sort you. So like we we all get it right? So and what I like about this project more than anything is it’s one of these projects that you know we’ve had trials in our community over the years and projects like this bring our community together. They don’t pull it apart and I think. That’s really important and it’s it’s more important with all these goal, these core work camps. So we’re talking Asia, US and. Trump and more people are tending to go across the Atlantic for word camps, and we’re coming here for word camps. I mean, I think, wasn’t Bob done there from Porto and wasn’t Andrew Palmer there? And several other people from Europe that I know.
For your, so just to name a couple and I think what we’re starting to see is. Because of things like air travel and because of things like zoom calls and because of things like you and I doing a podcast remotely, we’re starting to share our community. Become closer and this just kind of this website just kind of helps that initiative. A little bit.
Yeah. And that’s that’s again, that’s the main goal and and some of the things that you know I’ve kind of gone back and forth, you were asking about what I wanted to add, I’ve had. I’ve had individuals come up, you know, they’re not part of a business. They don’t run their own business. They’ve asked, you know, how. And how can I support the site? And you know, I’ve tried to figure out how do I how do I find a way for for just the individual who wants to help support the site be able to support the site, but I really want all of those WordPress, you know, the presser stuff to just always remain free. And that’s why I appreciate the sponsors and the businesses that sign up because it allows me to keep that. Free for for the community to be able to to hop up there and and find out who’s in there. Yeah. Or, you know, I’ve had had folks tell me that, you know, I was visiting, you know, I was visiting some family in another in another state here in the US, and I was able to hop on the word on the the WP worlds. And there’s a proximity search there. They could type in the city that they’re visiting and they could see the WordPress folks that are within 50 miles of that city or however. You know you can change the. Since and be able to reach out and say, hey, you know, I’m going to be in, I’m going to be in your neck of the woods. You know, a couple of weeks you want to get together and have have lunch or grab a coffee or whatever and and be able to foster those in person connections too. Like you said, we’ve it’s become so easy for us to to, to record these podcasts. Totally or have zoom calls or, you know, chat with each other online. But those in person connections are so important and so being able to kind of foster that by letting people. You know, maybe I’m. I’m not in my hometown, but I’m going to be in somebody else’s hometown and maybe I can reach out and see if they’d want to get together and and grab a bite to eat or something. And and I love that that opportunity is. There and much more easily available. Usually people just reach out on on social and say hey, I’m going to be in whatever city. Is anybody around and hope for the best? You don’t know the way that you know the the timeline algorithms are set. That was one of. My one of my notices that I that I saw at where camp US was it was it was constant. Hey, I’m going out to wherever in an hour. Anybody want to join me and I’d see it six hours later because of the way that the Twitter algorithm works. So like well. Yeah, yeah, there goes that opportunity. I would have gone. I would have gone to dinner with them if I’d have known that. So we would have known that in time. So you know throwing that out there to the social networks and hoping for the best isn’t always isn’t always the greatest way to get to get folks so. Being able to provide a way for for people to see, you know, who’s going to be around.
So I have to ask you a question. Have you found a way to handle the the digital nomads we have in the community on WP World?
Yeah, not not well yet. My my ultimate goal and it’s going to take a little bit of logistics backpedaling, I think because of the way I’ve set some of this stuff up is. To allow WordPress folks to kind of log in and update their own information. Right now there’s another, you know, another form on the presser profiles where people can request an update, and then I’ll review those and manually make the updates and. At scale, that’s that’s not going to work right now. It’s still right now it’s still manageable, but I really love and that it really changes it a little bit from a directory site to a social, another social media site essentially. And so you know, I have to figure out what. What that entails and and you know, sort of the repercussions of that before I fully step into that space, but I’d like for people to be able to log in and kind of update their their own accounts then folks like is it Alex Sandiford, who’s traveling, traveling all the time, can can log in and update.
His location, wherever he happens to be so.
Things like there.
Are some things to think through there and the digital nomad piece is is one of them.
Yeah. Yeah, guys like him, guys like Cameron Jones, a little bit. Cameron’s been kind of traveling all over. Even though he’s from Australia, we know Cameron quite well. If you’ve watched this week in WordPress, another guy that comes to mind is Adam McLaughlin. He’s a fellow Kenny. In from like an hour and a half down the road from me, we’re actually grabbing lunch. I think at the end of the month. I can’t wait. He’s from Woodstock ON and he’s a digital nomad with his family and he homeschools his kids. So he’s like all over the place he can be. He’s been in Europe, he’s been all over so. How they that’s has kind of wondering is how guys like that well and ladies, there’s a few lady digital moments. There too, so it’s it’s.
Yeah, that’s that’s one. And then, uh, who was it? It was, uh, Taco from Yost at. Back in Athens had that he had talked to me about how it might be cool if, like, when when the flagship word camps are happening, or really any of them, but mostly for the for the big ones, US, Asia and Europe. If for like those dates, anybody who’s marked themselves as attending those camps, the pins.
And kind of congregate around the around the campsite and you could see, you know, just how many people from the community are gathering all in one spot for that for that week. And I thought that was a cool idea too, so that maybe something that. Working to it at some point. So yeah, there’s definitely some moving pins and I gotta figure out how to get the moving. Pins moving.
Yeah, it’s back to the Google API work cause the big thing with the Maps API is Google’s changed that a lot in the last couple of years and changed how it functions a little bit. So there’s some work to be done there. No question. Marcus, thanks for doing this. Like this is like an incredible endeavor for the. Community and it’s much appreciated. Somebody wants to talk to you about WP World. How’s the best way to reach out to you?
Yeah, you can. I’m probably most easily found on Twitter slash X, j @marcusdburnette or there’s some contact info on the WP world too, so just go into the WP dot world and we’ll get you there as well.
Yeah. Thanks for joining me. Marcus, have yourself a wonderful day. And so for in Central Florida, actually not South Florida.
Yeah. Thanks so much. I appreciate you having.