The Future of WordPress Hosting: Navigating the Maze with Patrick Gallagher

Episode 91 October 05, 2023 01:04:13
The Future of WordPress Hosting: Navigating the Maze with Patrick Gallagher
The Agency Hour
The Future of WordPress Hosting: Navigating the Maze with Patrick Gallagher

Oct 05 2023 | 01:04:13

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Hosted By

Troy Dean Johnny Flash

Show Notes

This week, on "The Agency Hour" podcast, we're thrilled to welcome Patrick Gallagher, the Co-founder and CEO of GridPane, as we delve into the future of WordPress hosting and the challenges faced by web design and digital agency owners. From Patrick's journey in the agency space to the problem with conventional hosting plans, we uncover valuable insights into building dedicated hosting environments, leveraging AI, and more. Join us for a candid conversation about why you don't owe your clients good hosting and how transparency is key to scaling your agency.

 

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: The people that have done this the best, hands down. And it's a lot of ways this is the way that the most successful agencies that I see, regardless of whether they're doing highly productized services, they know exactly who they serve. They know what keeps them awake at night. They know the pain in the ass of the very specific thing that they can finish the sentence when the person starts. And when you have that dialed in, then marketing and sales and all of the other things just become very, very easy. [00:00:30] Speaker B: Welcome to the Agency Hour podcast, where we help web design and digital agency owners create abundance for themselves, their teams, and their communities. It's true, it's not just a slogan. That's the whole reason we do what we do. That and for all the money and fame, of course. This week we're joined by co founder and CEO of Gridpane, Patrick Gallagher, all the way from Michigan in the middle of America. In this episode, we explore the future of WordPress, if there is one, which we believe there is. The problem with most hosting plans, how transparency has helped Gridpane scale, and why you do not owe it to your clients to provide good hosting for no money. We also discuss offering hosting as the ultimate downsell, how to build a dedicated hosting environment, plus a whole lot more. I'm Troy Dean, stay with us. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please welcome to the Agency Hour podcast, the one and only Patrick Gallagher from Grid Pain. Hello, my friend, how are you? [00:01:28] Speaker A: I'm fantastic, Troy, how are you? [00:01:31] Speaker B: I'm excellent. All the better for you. Joining us here on the Agency Hour podcast all the way from where are you based again? [00:01:36] Speaker A: You are in I'm in Michigan. [00:01:39] Speaker B: Michigan. [00:01:39] Speaker A: Michigan, wow. And so I'm right here in the middle. That narrows it down. [00:01:46] Speaker B: Right. [00:01:46] Speaker A: And near the hospital. [00:01:47] Speaker B: You guys are coming out of Summer now, coming into your fall, is that right? [00:01:53] Speaker A: Yeah, actually today you can tell it's starting to get dark, like earlier and earlier, which pisses me off to no end. [00:02:02] Speaker B: I thought you were a vampire. I thought you liked the dark. [00:02:06] Speaker A: No, I just discovered really in the last couple of years that it's like it's not that I mind winters, it's that I mind the gray. Like, just no sun for four months. It tends to drive me up the wall. But yeah, this morning it was like 45 degrees, which is not very warm. [00:02:24] Speaker B: Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit. Yeah, that's cold. Now, for those that don't know, we're here on the Agency, our podcast, we're talking to the CEO of a hosting company. That's what everyone thinks. They're like, oh God, why are we talking to CEO of a hosting company? What could I possibly learn from hearing about someone come on the Agency Hour and spruk their WordPress hosting business? Right? I just want to give a little bit of context. Patrick and I have hung out at live events before we've had many, many conversations. And the reason you are here is because you have, I believe, a great insight into the WordPress ecosystem and what makes it tick and what makes agencies, successful agencies, different from other agencies. And you've built something really unique here at gridpain, which I do want to talk about, but before we unpack that, just give people a bit of an idea of where you came from and how you got into this space in the first place. What's your background? [00:03:20] Speaker A: Yeah, so I actually ran my own agency for the better part of 13 years, doing almost exclusively development on WordPress. And so at the time, I called it a marketing and technology consultancy because there were certain instances where we would go fairly far down the rabbit hole of doing advanced networking inside of people's offices, things like that. But invariably there was always a website component, build, maintenance, marketing, kind of build out with that. And so I ran that for a really long time. And in that time, I used certainly every shitty host on the face of the planet, but also some really good ones. And after the second time canceling an account with WP engine, I realized, to hell with it, I need to solve this problem for myself and for my customers. And so I had no ambitions of building a hosting company. I set out to build a tool that I needed for my agency. And so about a year into that process, and about $100,000 of our money invested in that, my wife said, you don't really get excited about your clients anymore. All you do is you talk about that thing that you're building. And I'm like, yeah, and she's like, maybe do something about that, shut your trap. I went with the former, and I largely fired all of my clients. I literally still to this day, I think I have three. And the only reason I have those three is because they just don't need anything, and I'm really just hosting their sites for them. And so we launched grid pain publicly in February of 2018, and we've been head down largely bootstrapped for the first four plus years, just investing our own resources in it and reinvesting from our top investors, which is our customers. And now we've got this thing that has helped over 10,000 freelancers developers agencies all around the globe, and we power over 100,000 sites now. It's something significantly higher than that. It's a little bit difficult to keep track of because we don't really keep a lot of stats on what people are doing with their boxes. But yeah, over half a million sites have been brought into the world and testing and training, and roughly 100,000 of them still exist. [00:06:00] Speaker B: What was the problem that you were trying to solve when you canceled the WP engine account again and hit a brick wall and realized there was nothing on the market that could provide it. [00:06:09] Speaker A: Yeah. So in their case, their support was a very slow Google search. That's how it felt to me. It was basically something that I had searched for 30 minutes prior and discovered that probably wasn't going to work on their platform. Because WP Engine like all of the sort of traditional players, all the sort of normal walled, garden managed WordPress hosts, they don't let you actually have access to the underlying servers that are there. And so my background is computer science. As I said, I'm used to rolling up my sleeves and being able to mess around with the hardware. What I really wanted was they had a pretty slick dashboard that made it very easy for my project manager, for example, to be able to go and spin up a site. Okay? And so she was great at sales. She was great at customer service. She was great with people. She knew WordPress. But if I said, hey, I need you to go stand up an Ubuntu 22 Four server in Dallas, she wasn't going to be able to handle that. WP Engine checked a lot of those boxes, but they never just like Kinsta, just like Flywheel, just like all of the big traditional players. They don't let you see or access or do anything with the underlying resources. And so a lot of people that come into the Grid pain world, it's not even that they necessarily are super pissed about the value for money argument, but a lot of times that's a big driver in it. It's that WP Engine won't tell them what is actually there. They'll tell them that they're out of resources, and they'll say, you need to upgrade and go to the next plan. You need to bump up and go to the next plan. Well, once they actually start to realize how tiny that server is that's behind the scenes and how much they're paying above the retail cost of that, and then when they also see that all of the software that's doing the management is actually just fully automated software, like what we've built at Gridpane. They start to realize that maybe this game isn't quite cracked up to what WP Engine certainly wants you to think it is. That it's somehow magically. Their systems just do all of this management stuff for you, and it's like, yeah, it's fully automated open source software and that's nothing less, nothing more. [00:08:30] Speaker B: And part of the challenge with we were a W Pengent user for a long time. We now host our websites on Gridpane. So full transparency one of the reasons that we made that shift, because we got to a point where we had nine or ten websites on WP Engine and we wanted to write. And these are just internal sites, right? I stopped doing client work back in 2017. So these were just internal projects, right? My wife's got a podcast blog. I've got a blog, like four visits a month from my mom. So we want to roll out another site. And we had to upgrade on WP Engine to, like, the 30 site plan, which was like an additional $150 a month or something. I'm like, I just want to add one fucking site, right? I don't want another 20 sites. Now, I don't know whether they've changed that model or not, but I know this has been a sticking point, and I'm fortunate or cursed, depending on which way you look at it. To have seen inside thousands of freelance and agency businesses over the last ten years through the coaching work that we do here at Agency Mavericks, there's a little plug for you. And one of the big complaints and criticisms that we hear is hosting. If you get in bed with a company like Kinster flywall WP Engine where you're locked into those kind of brackets, right? You then add another site because you've bought another client yay you for growing your agency, we're now going to penalize you by charging you another $150 a month to upgrade to the next bracket of sites, right? So you've now got 29 blank slots in my plan that I'm not using, that I'm paying for because I'm basically being penalized for growing my business. And also to migrate to Go, well, I don't want to do that anymore. I want to go to another host, is just so fucking painful in the mind of the freelancer or the agency that I'm just going to pay the lazy tax and stay where I am. Or worse, you end up with ten clients at WP Engine, and then you start hosting sites over at Flywheel because you only want to pay the $35 for another site. And so now, all of a sudden, you've got 72 clients spread across five hosts, right? And you hate your life because you're trying to manage all the logins in Airtable and you're paying Airtable $300 a month for their fucking enterprise plan, and the whole thing is a nightmare. However, I will say this. The challenge I found with something like Gridpane is and just because I'm a numpty, is you do have access to the box. So you provision your own server. It's kind of management software built as a nice dashboard on top of the underlying boxes, which you can access from wherever you want to spin up a service. Can you kind of talk us through how it's different, not pricing wise, but how the user experience is different and the value prop is different from the Kinster Flywell WP engines, the ones that we're used to. [00:11:39] Speaker A: Yeah. So what most people don't really realize is that almost all of the managed hosts on the face of the planet, every one of the big players that you just named, they aren't actually technically the host. And what I mean by that is that if you're at Pagely, for example, Pagely runs on AWS, which is Amazon Web services, okay? And so amazon web services has 35 different data centers all around the globe. If you're hosted with Page lead, which at one point was literally my. [00:12:18] Speaker B: It. [00:12:18] Speaker A: Was their breadcrumbs that I was following to build what it is that I built at Gridpane because they were the tip of the spear in managed WordPress then GoDaddy bought them and now everybody of any import at that company know done their earn outs and gotten out. And so who knows how long it will remain to be any good. But if you're at WP engine, you're at either AWS or google compute platform. If you're at Kinsta, you're at google compute platform. For a long time back in the day, if you were on WP engine, you were on a company called linode, which is now owned by akamai. So behind the scenes of all of these hosting companies, including yours, no matter what it is, you're most likely at one of these large, what are known as infrastructure as a service providers, okay? And so a bunch of people in your world probably host on cloudways. Some of them may or may not know that DigitalOcean bought cloudways. And now if you're on cloudways, and it feels like you're getting shoehorned out of being able to use anything other than DigitalOcean, it's because DigitalOcean paid $350,000,000 for that company, and it's not really cloudways anymore. It's some weird amalgamation of DigitalOcean's making. And so what we do is uniquely to anybody in the entire ecosystem, is that we have a very high end managed solution where we're doing 24/7 support, averaging single digit minutes, handling anything you can throw at it, but we let you own that piece of the relationship direct with the infrastructure provider. And so one of the best examples of how this plays out is one of the guys that moved to us right before COVID a little bit before COVID he had just recently moved 500 sites from liquid web to flywheel. And then flywheel got bought by WP engine while nearly having a heart attack and crashing his car. He's freaking out. This is an unacceptable scenario for him. Everything that he thinks is going to happen actually happened. His account manager changed, his account manager changed again. These kinds of things stack up. So one of the first calls that we were ever on, I'm giving him a demo, and I'm showing him, hey, okay, now you have a server, and it's up and running at DigitalOcean. And he goes, okay, that's all great, that's all fine and good, but what happens when WP engine just comes and buys your shit? And I said, well, certainly that could happen. But look, ken, whose server is that that you just spun up? That's your server. That's a relationship that you own with a publicly traded company that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, you know how long those servers are going to run? Probably a really long time. And so that level of transparency is, I think, absolutely is a definite huge part of the success that we've had with gridpain. It also comes with the downside that people are constantly asking me, like, what if I don't know anything about servers? What do I do? And it's like, well great, just don't ever touch them. Literally at least once or twice a week, I say just click the buttons and follow along, and then never log in. You don't need to do that stuff. You can do that stuff. You can go through 2000 pages of documentation and just go completely batshit on whatever you want to do, or just spin up some sites and get back to work. [00:15:40] Speaker B: That's what I don't know anything about servers, and my brain doesn't work that way. And I just went in and clicked the DigitalOcean button because it was the first one, and then spun up a server and then added some sites. I haven't logged into DigitalOcean. I don't even know where the emails go. I don't care if anything happens to gridpane, I could go to DigitalOcean and go, okay, well, we've got these servers, we've got some websites on them, we'd lose the grid pain interface and stuff. But they're my servers on DigitalOcean, right. And they cost me pennies. [00:16:09] Speaker A: You know exactly what your costs are going to be. [00:16:12] Speaker B: Yeah, you know exactly I don't have to log into DigitalOcean and configure. So gridpane is essentially a software company that allows you to integrate, know, spin up a box on vulture, linode, amazon LightSail UpCloud, and then install WordPress on that box. Right. And it has some other stuff built in which we can talk about. But essentially you're not really the host, are you? Like, the host is DigitalOcean or vulture or linode or wherever I choose to provision the server. [00:16:51] Speaker A: Yeah, well, some people get concerned about that in terms of like, well, how do we get support? And it's like, well, the reason that you found out about grid pain is because we have world class support. And so on the regular, we get about 1000 trouble tickets a week, I'd say. And again, we're averaging generally single digit minutes to respond to those things. But yeah, we are a software as a service that basically makes it possible for you to, at the very minimum, just host your own sites and save a lot of money and have good performance and have a lot of flexibility all the way up to what I really want for the world, which is we want to have large scale agencies or even just super ambitious solopreneurs that are couch surfing right now. We want people to go and build interesting hosting companies or interesting productized services on top of the back of our stuff. And it's what I needed as an agency. I decided I wanted to build a hosting service for my clients. And it was like, the more that I invested in that and made it right for me. The more that I realized that I wasn't unique and that there were more people out in the world who potentially don't like the idea that it's like all the margin is going to go to Kinsta, but all the wet work has to be done by the agency. When your clients sites are messed up or they go down, they're not calling Kinsta, they're calling you. And so you might as well make the it's. If I'm sure you guys have people, like in the admin bar. You've seen Kyle Van Dusen's group? He posted something. He posted, like a survey not too long ago, and it was like, aside from payroll, what's your largest cost center in your business? And almost everybody said, hosting. [00:18:46] Speaker B: Hosting. [00:18:47] Speaker A: And I'm thinking like, yeah, okay, maybe that's the highest line item, but how are you not also going, that's the best fucking money that I spend in my business? Because there's almost nothing else that you can there's literally nothing else that you can do where it's like, I can literally show you how to spend a dollar and charge $100. And if you're not doing that in your business, then that's right. [00:19:13] Speaker B: Just passing on the cost of I have this conversation almost daily. Almost daily. I'm hosting my clients websites and we roll that into their care plan. How much is it costing you to host a website? $35 on Kinstar. What do you charge for a care plan? $39 a month. You're charging $4 a month to send them a fucking invoice? Guess what? You're losing money. I hope they never email you because the moment they do, you're already losing money. And I think it's a freelancers. And small agencies have this mindset that they owe it to their clients to provide good hosting. No, you do not. You do not owe it to your client. You owe it to your client to deliver on your promise. You don't owe it to your client to provide good hosting. Hey, go and host at Bluehost if you don't care about your business. Sorry. Bluehost. And I'll build you a website and I'll put it wherever you want. But if you want my advice, then you should host it here. And it's going to cost this much, right? Yeah, I want to talk sorry, go on, go ahead. [00:20:15] Speaker A: I was just going to say, you touched on what has been a hot button sort of thing for me lately, which is this idea of what I would call hosting and what I would call my agent or my care plans if I was doing agency work. Because I think that this is an area in which I think that people really get it twisted. They go to sell the care plan way too late. They go to present the idea that they're going to host their thing too late, and they don't make it a requirement that it's going to be hosted in my world, they go, oh, well, the client wants to host on GoDaddy. Tough shit. Literally, I would not take a client that does not let me have 100% control of these things. And it's not optional. It's not optional. Making it optional is literally just a horrific disservice to you and to them at some future date, because something's going to get hacked, and it's going to take you four times longer to get in and unfuck the mess at GoDaddy than if you just had it working right the whole time in your own world. And that doesn't need to be on grid paint. It can be on Kinstein. It can be on wherever. But you made a good point. Like, if you're literally paying $25 and then charging $50 for your care plan, it's like, no, you want to work with people who, when you tell them, oh, it's a minimum of $100 a month for basic maintenance, the basic bottom care plan, that's it. And if they balk at that, then maybe they're not the right customer. [00:21:47] Speaker B: That's right. In fact, you're doing them a disservice by letting them host the website that you spend time and effort building. If they're hosting it on a shitty host, you're doing them a disservice right. By letting them do that. It's just not optional. And this was one of the things that I mean, back in before you existed, back in 2012, I did a presentation at Word 2013. I did a presentation at WordCamp Melbourne called 101 Ways to Elevate Yourself and Demand Higher Fees. And one of the slides was just host on WP Engine because at the time, they were like the premium host in the market. And then I had all these other things that you could do, like make sure your website's clients are secure and let them know that you've done that, or just host at WP Engine because WP Engine were the first host that had all those kind of features baked in. And friends don't let friends host their sites on Bluehost. I'm sorry, Bluehost, but you kind of made your bed, so you got to line it. Talk to me. I have a lot of people in my world who are agencies and course creators, right? If I wanted to build a dedicated host for course creators to come in and host their courses and built, like, a dedicated LearnDash kind of hosting environment thing, right, and kind of sold that as a was or a SaaS or whatever you want to call it, a lass or whatever, right. What would I need to build on top of the grid pain interface for my clients? I mean, I would just give them WordPress access. [00:23:09] Speaker A: How would that yeah, so so I deal with this almost exclusively now. I'm either dealing with in terms of my day to day sales conversations and sort of the consulting that we provide to our clients to help them get unlocked and find that next place of I know I sort of want to go in this direction. A lot of it is creating, like you described, effectively a productized version of a website, okay? And I had not heard laughs before, but I actually kind of like that learning man management as a service, but certainly Waas is popular. And the way that I look at it, all of the tooling that we've built makes it very easy for people to do this at just bonkers scale. And I think the thing that people get wrong in this context is they get way down the rabbit hole of thinking about all of the little pieces of the puzzle that they're going to bolt on inside of the WordPress install. It's not enough that it has LearnDash. It needs to have gamey press, and it needs to have this, and it needs to have this, and it needs to have and then you got 68 plugins installed and it's a complete nightmare shit show. And that's not a good thing, okay? And so for anybody that's considering this, again, no matter where you want to do it, narrow down what it is that you want to provide people, okay? And then the other big thing that I see people doing wrong in this context again, I can wave a magic wand for you and show you. Here's a white label dashboard, and here's all the API calls that you need. This is exactly how we built that checkout. Or here's how you can take Zapier and Nest together the checkout from over there to make the thing happen. What people are generally getting wrong in this regard is they need to think of this not so much as even just take WordPress out of the equation. This is software as a service, okay? And I want people to think about it in that context because then you'll start reading the right books, you'll start watching the right YouTube videos, you'll start paying attention to the right blogs, because you won't be thinking about agency WordPress development world. You'll be thinking about things like, I need to have an amazing onboarding experience, and if I don't have an amazing onboarding experience, then I know that my SaaS isn't going to convert as well. From trials to paids to recurring to expansion. If I could have one bit of impact throughout the rest of the year, it would be to get people to realize that they need to think of themselves if they want to go down this rabbit hole, which I highly recommend that every agency at least consider, because what this solves at minimum? There's probably some agency owners right now that are thinking like, I don't have the time, I don't have the bandwidth. I don't know as I want to build this thing. Understand that what we're describing, this is what it is that you can sell to the person who can't afford your shit. This is literally the thing that you can sell to the person that says $5,000 for a website. $15,000 for a website. Holy shit. I got, like, maybe $300 a month. Boom. We'll take $300 a month. And so that's how I look at it, is this is your ultimate worst case scenario, this is your ultimate downsell, is, oh, you know what? It doesn't seem like we're a great fit. I've got this. No. And so if you want, give that a try, here's a free account, test it for the next couple of weeks, and then again, maybe six months from now, they do have $15,000 for a. [00:26:53] Speaker B: Website, and it's stickier like it's sticky revenue. We're kind of deep in the high level rabbit hole, which is a whole other value prop. But one of the things that I like about that is that similar value prop, you can sell it as a managed service, or you can sell it as a software. Right now, if you're selling it as a software and they don't want you to manage it anymore, that's fine. But you can still pick up $300 a month out of the software part of it, right? So it's stickier. If I'm hosting 150 clients on a learning management as a service, then you support me in terms of something's gone happen with one of my clients sites and I need help, you support me, and then I support the clients. Right? [00:27:41] Speaker A: That's generally how we want to structure things. We do have conversations ongoing right now with people that they want us to handle 100% of everything. Yeah, if you want to pay us significantly more money to handle front end support, that's fine. But I would argue that even if you have gobs of money to hand me right now, I would not let anybody external to my company handle customer support for at least front facing client customer support for at least the first three to six months. And arguably further than that, because you want to find where the friction is. You want to find where the documentation sucks shit, and you don't want me to be making those decisions because hopefully you deeply understand your client in a way that I never will. Because otherwise, if you don't, then why aren't they just using Wix? This is another thing that I think a lot of people get wrong in this context, is they go, well, I'm going to build websites for home services companies. And you go, okay, what does that mean? And they go, Well, I'm going to do tree trimming, and I'm going to do gutters, and I'm going to do hardscapes, and I'm going to do landscapes, and I'm going to do pools, and I'm going to do hospice care. And it's like, okay, I guess you could. But I can tell you this. If I'm a gutter guard guy and I come to your website and you're talking about landscapes and hardscapes and tree trimming and 15 other things, you're not talking. To me, and that's all the time and leeway that I need to get a little bit distracted by my kids or a little bit distracted by TikTok, and then I'm not paying attention to your shit anymore. And so the people that have done this the best, hands down, and it's a lot of ways, this is the way that the most successful agencies that I see, regardless of whether they're doing highly productized services, they know exactly who they serve. They know what keeps them awake at night. They know the pain in the ass of the very specific thing that they can finish the sentence when the person starts. And when you have that dialed in, then marketing and sales and all of the other things just become very easy because they troy actually knows what the fuck my problem is. He understands my thing. [00:29:59] Speaker B: And the thing is, customers don't care how the sausage is made, right? They just want the outcome. They just want the result. They just want, like, hey, I'm paying you. I want value for money. I want more value than I'm giving you in terms of money. So make this investment pay off. And I don't really care how the sausage is made. [00:30:16] Speaker A: Yeah, they definitely don't. I mean, they just want sausage. [00:30:20] Speaker B: Correct. [00:30:21] Speaker A: Let them eat cake. That's what they want. [00:30:24] Speaker B: Exactly. Hey, if the idea of building a dedicated hosting environment for a particular niche so if you're in the dental niche or if you're in the HIPAA compliance, or if you're in the influencer or the course credit or whatever if you're super excited about building a productized hosting environment and a hosting platform for your community, and you want to use something like Grid Pain to drive it, but you're tapped out because of bandwidth, because you're doing too much development or SEO campaigns for clients, maybe you want to hit up E two M. They are the sponsor of our podcast. Full transparency. They also sponsor our event MAVCON, which is coming up in a few weeks out in the East Coast of the US. E two M are a white label development agency that can take care of all of your WordPress development needs and your WordPress care plan tasks. And they can also take care of your kind of basic SEO for clients, freeing you up to do more of the things that you should be doing as an agency owner. And what I believe you should be doing as an agency owner is figuring out how to make better products and better solutions for your clients and how to do better marketing. And maybe you just don't have time to do that because you're too busy tapping away on the keyboard, pushing pixels around the screen or updating plugins. So E two Msolutions.com, if you go to E two Msolutions comagencymaverics, you can hook up with those guys. You'll get a substantial discount for the first month. Take them for a spin. We have a bunch of clients who are using E two M and who have now seen the light because these guys develop amazing they do amazing work. They project manage the projects for you. They have 180 staff based out of India and they are led by Manish, who is an absolute legend and who is coming out to our event and is just a great part of our community. So check out E two M to free up your bandwidth so that you can think about how you can make better products and solutions for your clients and how you can do better marketing. I want to talk a little so two conversations I want to have. One, the future of WordPress and two AI. Let's do AI first because I think it'd be more fun. [00:32:30] Speaker A: Sure. [00:32:32] Speaker B: How do you see AI changing the agency landscape? And what is Gridpain doing? How are you? Leveraging? AI. [00:32:38] Speaker A: Yeah, so I spend at least an hour every day trying new open source models, trying everything that came out that day, as much of it as I can. Obviously you can't keep up with it. You can't keep up with it. We have not yet deployed anything at scale that I would like to. And the reason is that the types of benefits that I think that it can have for a company like mine is in having a really high end, fine tuned model that literally can take our 2000 pages of documentation and contextualize it into useful customer support. Instantaneously getting people unstuck. That's one thing that definitely will be happening with Grid pain. And I think if it doesn't happen with every hosting company, they're high, there's too much opportunity there. But there's a lot of things that are really interesting in AI that nobody's doing yet that I think are going to have even larger potential upsides for our company and for our clients. And a good example of this is there was a bit of research, I think it was published November of last year and it's still just almost unknown. This guy. Basically, instead of having mid journey or an image like a stable diffusion type image model instead of having that, take a prompt and then draw a picture of a cat on a Pogo stick or whatever the hell it is, he actually fed it images and said make these images smaller in size but not lose quality. And so the AI model actually started compressing images and he was able to get image compression that exceeded anything that exists in the wild. The JPEG standards, the WebP standards. Now, the thing that was interesting about it was the hallucinations that it would have you'd have an image that was almost perfectly flawless of the Hollywood sign and all of the valley. But then if you zoomed way in, there would be buildings that had actually made up where it was just like that's, sort of what that looked like. So I guess that's what that looks like. And so the image was smaller, but it was not identical. Or you'd have something and there would be like a little heart emoji and the heart emoji would have a drop shadow and the original image didn't have a drop shadow and so it was these little tiny details that it would hallucinate. And of course there's some purists that would go, well, I've got a photography client, that can't happen. And then there's me that just thinks, I don't give a shit if the heart emoji has a little drop shadow on it, that's fine, that's completely irrelevant. Save another 100K off of the page load. And so these are the kinds of things that I tinker around with. I personally don't love it for any content that I would create for myself because I'm fairly opinionated and I like to write and I'm clearly totally fine with running my job. But taking a customer service person who knows the right technical answer but maybe they answered kind of kurt or they tend to just be very gruff or brief and just here's the KB taking that answer and then feeding it into chat GPT and saying, hey, can you make this sound like a Walmart greeter? I think there's a lot of value in those kinds of things. You don't need to automate, you don't need to go and build some elaborate bit of software. You can literally just tell your people to just go and if you're not certain about a response that you're going to send out, just have Chat GPT dress it up for you. [00:36:34] Speaker B: A yep, I agree with you. We're experimenting a lot with AI and I'm trying to get something out of a writing tool that I would I mean, we use chat GPT to augment our YouTube video scripts, right? So I come up with a concept, I come up with an idea, I'll go, hey, look, this is what I want to talk about. Here's my opinion. Spend a lot of time prompting it, and then it will kind of so one of the things I'll say is, like, give me a 500 word metaphor on why value based pricing is better than an hourly rate. And then it will just kind of give me a whole bunch of shit. And I'll go, oh, that's interesting. That's interesting. I would never have come up with that. That's interesting. Most of it's kind of horseshit and I'm like you, I'm kind of opinionated. So I will write most of it myself, but I'll use it for inspiration. Yeah, I am very excited about the possibility of and something that we are starting to roll out is having chat bots trained with our documentation and then deploying those chat bots into internal Slack channels so that the team can go, hey, I'm kind of stuck here. What's the company position on this? Because we're essentially an opinionated coaching company, right? So we coach agencies, but we're very opinionated. Like, we tell people, you shouldn't do this, and here's why. You should do this and here's why. So we're not like a bland kind of coaching company that says, well, we're not teaching first principles, right? We're teaching very opinionated frameworks and a very opinionated way of growing an agency because we know it works. And so we want the team to be able to go, here's our opinion on this and here's why. So that anyone in the company can answer a customer question. Once we've deployed that in Slack and we've got it well trained, we'll eventually siphon off a part of that knowledge base and make it public on our website so people can come and basically kind of self help get. The vending machine DIY version of the opinions that we advocate and that we teach. Hopefully give them some value and encourage them to book a call. I'm really excited about that, but I cannot get Chat GPT to be as opinionated as me. It just won't for a whole bunch of reasons. It's probably a good thing that it's not there yet, but I'm looking forward to the day the robots become more opinionated than me because then I think it's interesting. [00:38:53] Speaker A: Yeah, I use it a lot for I think again, a lot of the things that people are using it for is just like, oh, I'm crushing it on all these SEO articles. And it's like, yeah, I don't know if that's actually going to be true. I think at the end of the day, I think it's going to be more and more and more important that you are. I think it would be better that you're an opinionated asshole and a whole bunch of people don't like you because at least no one will go, well, Chat GPT didn't say all that shit. That guy said that stuff. I think it's actually one of the things that I see there's obviously like Content Marketing 101 is like, well, if you don't want to have to make all the content yourself, go and curate the content. And so you see the same shit being shared in the same Facebook groups over and over and over again. It's like, hey, guess what this news is? It's like you cross posted that in five different spots. Not only is that going to become utterly worthless, but any thin content that doesn't come from a place of like, oh, she's a mom of three kids and she's done this and this is why her opinion matters. This is why, yeah, the answer is twelve, but here's why that matters, and I don't see it getting anywhere close to that anytime soon. Which is fine, I'm totally fine with. There's a lot of scenarios where it's like, I would be totally fine with the robots making the decisions, like the mistakes that human beings make all the time, every single day, behind the wheel of their car. I hope that the AI can't get there fast enough, in my opinion. But everybody that's truly concerned about losing their job, it's like you're kind of telling on yourself. Yeah, that's right. Exactly. [00:40:41] Speaker B: So here's my approach to that. I'll say this with this disclaimer, right? No one in our company is at risk of losing their job, so I'm just going to say that right now, okay? So anyone listening to this, if you happen to listen to this podcast and you work out, don't panic. No one is at risk of losing their job. But I can tell you this. The people that I will pay the most attention to on our team are the people that come to me and go, I've figured out a way to get AI to do 60% of my work. How can I be most valuable to you right now? Because I have some time on my hands, right? [00:41:16] Speaker A: Yes, exactly. [00:41:17] Speaker B: They're the people I want to have conversations with. If you're spending 8 hours a day smashing the fucking keyboard because you think that's valuable, right? Dude, the most valuable thing you can do is think. And so get like I'm encouraging all of I'm giving our team full license and full permission to go and find robots to put yourself out of a job, disrupt your own role with robots, and then come to me and go, what should we do next? Great. Let's sit and think about how we can make better products and do better marketing and serve our clients better than ever. Because the robots are doing the vacuuming, right? [00:41:54] Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. Well, and you bring up a great point again. I'm on this at least an hour every single day, but the people that are still gaga and losing their shit about it a year later, they're like, oh, have you seen this? Have you seen this? Have you seen this? And it's like, yeah. I keep my finger on as many of these different pulses as possible. But what I really want to do is I want to go talk to the brilliant people that I know that are on my team, that are connected to my team, that I'm going to do business with. I want to go talk to really smart people, because that's where some useful shit is going to shoot out of our heads. Totally. Nothing really valuable. Okay. Yeah. You need a nursery rhyme for your four year old that incorporates these five names of their favorite stuffed animals. Brilliant. That's exactly what that shit is for. But if you're going to go solve a serious problem or you're going to go and try and compete with a billion dollar company, you need to be talking to brilliant people, not brilliant collections of what everybody said on the Internet in 2021. That's right. [00:43:03] Speaker B: Exactly. Hey, I could spend the rest of my life talking about AI, dude. It's really exciting. I actually feel like I mean, I just turned 50 last week, right? And I feel like this is the most exciting thing that's happened since the Internet. I'm going to say this now. I will mark my life going, I grew up with the rotary dial telephone, right? Then there was touch tone telephones, then there was the pager, then there was the mobile phone. Then the Internet happened. And the Internet changed everything in my life. It's like pre 1990 419 95. We had no Internet. Then I had a 7.7K dial up modem and everything changed, right? AI is the next for me, is the next line in the sand. We will remember my kids will grow up my kids are six and three now. They will grow up thinking AI is just a normal part of life, right? They won't remember my nephew and my niece who are in their early 20s. They don't remember life before the Internet, right? They've always had it. I'm like a kid in a candy store. I'm so excited about this because what I see now is the potential. The potential is for small business owners to create things that they've never been able to create before. For example, there's a tool called Opus, which is still in beta. It could be a couple of years before it's in production. But essentially, you describe what you want in terms of a movie scene and it produces it for you. It shoots like Max, who's a videographer here our creative director. He said the other day, it's only a matter of time before we tell Final Cut or DA Vinci what we want. And it just produces it and edits it. And the color grade is perfect and the audio is perfect, right? I mean, that gives small businesses the opportunity to produce amazing promotional material where previously they would have had to have $100,000 budget to produce that stuff. And it's already happened in the voiceover world. I'm a voiceover artist from way back. It's already happened in that world. It's already happened in the music business, right? AI is already producing songs that people can't tell the difference between the AI and the real version. Spotify's business model is completely fucked because their biggest cost is publishing, paying the songwriters the royalties. The only way that company gets wildly profitable and delivers for its shareholders is that the robots write and record and produce the music. Which will happen based on our algorithm, right? I'll be tuning into Spotify going, oh, my God, this is a great new record from Deathcab for Cutie. And it won't be. It'll be the robots. And then the humans will go on tour and as a cover band will play that album live around the world and tour and be the rock stars. And there is no royalties and no publishing involved because that's the biggest expense in that whole thing, right? Uber biggest expense. The drivers and the electricity at the fuel, right? So, driverless, electric, cars, that's the future. So if you're looking at the future, going, my job is at risk. Then you're right, you've outed yourself. Your job is to figure out how to replace yourself with robots so that you can do something more valuable. [00:46:20] Speaker A: Yes, 100%. Yeah. It's interesting, when I went to college in 1998, I went for computer science with a minor in psychology. And the reason why is because I was obsessed with AI and I wanted to go and figure out how to build a brain, so I had to figure out how the brain works. So that's why I took psychology and then I was going to take computer science. And it's funny, I was just thinking about this recently. So do you remember when Ken Jennings and then the other guy played against Deep Blue on Jeopardy? This was about that long. [00:46:57] Speaker B: I know of it, but no, I don't remember it, but I know of it. [00:47:01] Speaker A: Yeah. So this is literally I'm pretty sure I was just thinking about this a couple of days ago. I think I literally wrote a paper in high school about well, I certainly wrote a paper in high school about Gary Kasparov losing to a computer in chess, and that was the first time that a grandmaster had ever been beaten by a mean. I'm dating myself, obviously, in terms of age, but it's interesting to see that it was like I was so early. AI then was a complete and total joke. One thing that's sort of interesting with that is that I was thinking about the fact that it's like, yeah, everything that we have now is very interesting, except Chat GPT would lose its face on Jeopardy because it's not that fast. And so it's interesting thinking about the technology that they built, the massive rooms full of supercomputers that they built to compete on. Like, Chat GPT can write you a sonnet, but it might not actually know that Migsfield was an airport in Know, which is actually one of the questions that the IBM computer got with you. I'm with you in the sense, also, that I certainly see this as a kind of defining pinnacle moment of we will sort of judge our lives as it was before that happened and then it was after that happened, and it's that big of a deal. And so I think that it can't be dismissed. It's not going to take your jobs, it's not going to eat the world. I'm genuinely not concerned about that. I think it's far more likely that we just melt the polar ice caps and we kill ourselves than the robots are going to come and decide to kill us all. [00:48:53] Speaker B: The sun will swallow the Earth before the robots kill us. [00:48:56] Speaker A: Yeah, there's a ton of research that shows that it's like the higher the intelligence you have within a given body of people, the lower the crime, the less violent crime happens. So it's like, we're going to somehow have this amazing AGI that's the smartest thing that exists in the entire universe. But it's actually going to be wrong at things that are fundamentally just they happen naturally. Like the more advanced and intelligence across all kinds of species. They tend to communicate better. It's just going to fuck those parts up though. It's going to be the smartest thing ever, but it's just going to be a homicidal maniac. Those things are not really correlated. [00:49:40] Speaker B: But anyway, before I let you go and I am conscious of everyone's time because dude, I could sit here for weeks talking to you about this stuff. But before we go, we do need to talk a little bit about WordPress. You were at WordPress at WordCamp US recently and I'm just going to be transparent here. I'm a WordPress nerd from way back, right? But I'm discovering things like we're using high level for all of our marketing automation, our sales automation. We're using high level for our landing pages and our opt in forms and all that kind of stuff because it's like super fast. There are no fucking plugins to update. I don't have to worry about backups or security or any of that kind of stuff. We're still using WordPress for our mothership website and our blog. Although I got to say I've got a personal blog on WordPress that I'm considering moving to another platform just as an experiment. The platform is framer.com. I discovered it recently. I discovered it through Reloom, which is basically a kind of design AI design platform that plugs nicely into figma. And then I discovered framer. I kind of feel like WordPress is lacking direction. I feel like it doesn't kind of know what it is. I feel like it's trying to be everything to a lot of different people. And you're in this space more than I am. Where do you see the future of WordPress and what is the direction and where's the direction coming from? [00:51:08] Speaker A: So this is a tricky one. I think that Matt Mulenweg has an incredibly difficult do not. I literally Tweeted at him today because he's getting blown up about yeah, they replicated the plugins and themes catalog onto WordPress.com. [00:51:33] Speaker B: Okay? [00:51:33] Speaker A: So every page, every URL that's on for all the plugins and themes is now also on. And so if you search for Wordfence plugin, you might get the WordPress.com result ahead of the regular Wordpress.org. And of course immediately the pitchforks came out and there's plenty of lava to throw at them in this regard. But then you've got one guy, I mean he is literally the benevolent dictator of 44% of the internet. That benevolent dictator phrase that's been thrown around for a number of years. That became hyper clear to me at WordCamp US last year in San Diego. And it was that we announced that they had invested in my company. We announced the strategic partnership. And then I watched him at his State of the Word, his keynote. There basically have one side of the room shit on the other side of the room, back and forth in the Q and A. Basically it was like someone and this is just my interpretation of things and obviously some of these things can get people very riled up. But you've got this person that's saying, hey, why isn't translations going faster? And then translations is saying why isn't accessibility better and faster? And you have this one guy who has to kind of sit in the middle of all of that tension and with flawless public PR training say you're right, you're valid and we're working really hard, but these are big problems. In some ways, I think the biggest challenge is that he doesn't want to hurt anybody's feelings and so he can't necessarily really drive the product ahead in a way that shopify just has to do one thing and they have to do one thing really well. And I just think that for as long as he has to not piss anyone off or at least as long as he tries to do that to make it the biggest tent possible, I think that we are going to lag in innovation again. It's like you look at what people are talking about at the Word camp talks, you look at what people are talking about in social media, they're not really talking about the deep underlying technologies, they're not really talking about how do we use AI to have WordPress websites automatically get unfucked? Because we've got the logs and we could like there's 50 different ideas that I think we could be executing on if we just wanted to do these things. But unfortunately we've got 44% of the internet that they feel responsible for and so they're like super hardcore about not having backwards breaking compatibility changes because maybe 6 million websites will go down. I'm of the mindset, will we even notice if those 6 million websites that haven't been updated in five years, will the owners of those websites even notice that their own website went down? I don't know. I think that I would be doing different things in his shoes. But again, I wouldn't want his job for anything, for any sum of money because he is tasked with this massive growing and gnarly ecosystem. Gnarly good, but also gnarly like nontrivially complicated. So, where do I think it's all going to go? I think that mainstream, what I would call sort of vanilla direct to consumer WordPress, I do not think is going to really rock the boat for any time, any reasonable amount for the next three to five years. I think what you will see is you will see hyper specialization of teams and companies working together to go way down specific rabbit holes, to solve things like security, to solve things like performance. And those things will not arrive in core because they will be highly opinionated and because they will actually be a forcing effect that some people just can't stomach. I mean, we're literally living through that right now with our own company. We've got this security plugin that we've helped this independent security researcher launch out into the world and there's people that are very pissed off that we've taken such a strong stance that it's like, no, this is objectively the right way to do it. You've got a bunch of people that want to say, hey, everybody's entitled to their own opinion and we're more of the mindset of like, yeah, it helps if you have data though, bring your opinion. We'll bring our opinions and data and then we'll suss some stuff out. And unfortunately, I think that, again, the best thing about WordPress is sort of the worst thing about WordPress, the barrier to entry is zero. [00:56:55] Speaker B: That's right. And I think that anyone can sign up. That's right. My observation is that WordPress Matt's tried to kind of straddle the WordPress.com and the wordpress.org horse right for a long time. And I just wish that he would go and make WordPress.com a super profitable commercial enterprise and do amazing things over there and let the open source community sort out what's [email protected]. There have been stories in the past where automatic have spent $100,000 buying a domain name just to have it redirected away from a theme company who weren't GPL compliant and have kicked sponsors out of Word camps because they're not GPO compliant. It's like, for fuck's sake. The challenge is, if you're going to take that stance on Wordpress.org, then you have to be actively involved in leading the [email protected]. I don't think it's wise to step in and take the moral high ground on a couple of those issues and then just kind of leave the project with no leadership. And I think that's been a real challenge over the years. And I think you're right. I think any [email protected] is going to come from smaller teams, plugins, theme companies, service providers, people that build niche solutions on top of WordPress. If you're sitting around waiting for it to come from the top, I don't. [00:58:11] Speaker A: Think it's going to mean and again, I think you're exactly right, that in a lot of ways one logical pathway forward is you make just a direct to consumer. Do your block editor, do your full site editing, compete with Wix, compete with Shopify, make the most generic stepped on thing you possibly can. That's great, but let leapfrog way past you. Let the developer community say, you know what, we're fine with a whole bunch of really old sites not having forwards compatibility now with this functionality because we're not going to be able to take advantage of there are so many technologies that people in WordPress don't even realize how hamstrung we are as relates to if you're using a slightly different type of open source software that does nearly the exact same thing, you can see things that are just literally things that are like multiple orders of magnitude faster, more efficient. You're. Melting the ice caps less. There are baked in design decisions that they made perfect sense 20 years ago when Matt was building the project, when he was knocking it together out of B two, that's all fine, but the idea that it's like, no, we're still going to live on those very foundations 20 years later, that doesn't work. [00:59:42] Speaker B: That doesn't make any sense. Exactly. [00:59:44] Speaker A: And I just think that ultimately, I don't believe it's going to go away. I think you can't have something that's 44% of the internet and not and then somehow lose. But certainly we see stalled growth, we have enough data and we have enough customers in enough countries to see stalled growth in sophisticated markets. Like, if you're in the United States, you're in Australia, you're in Europe, you've heard about WordPress, you've been to that puppet show, you've seen the strings. And unfortunately, it's a combination of the fact that it's not groundbreaking software and maybe your agency owner doesn't really know what they're doing, that a whole bunch of people think that WordPress isn't actually as powerful as it can be. Because it's like, well, I'm on my third agency now, and my site doesn't rank and my pages run like shit and my stuff's constantly going down because I'm hosted on EIG. And a lot of the bad stuff that has nothing to do with WordPress rubs off on WordPress. Thankfully, you've got hyper developing economies in Latin America and APAC where people are just now really becoming internet civilians, that businesses are getting modernized in these regions, and that's where I see the bulk of growth in WordPress. And that's why I think it's really cool that they have actually finally leaned in. And there was post COVID, there was the first WordCamp Asia. And if I was Matt, I would be pouring a lot of dollars and a lot of effort into developing regions because that's where your next however many percent is going to come capture. I mean, the thing about it is, if you want to capture the imagination and the interest of kick ass developers here in the United States, for example, right now you need to be doing something in the blockchain or you need to be doing something with AI because a shithot developer that works at Stanford isn't thinking, you know what? I'd like to sort of work in PHP, but I'd like to work on PHP. That isn't really even valid. PHP. I want to work on arguably antiquated PHP. Yeah, okay, great, your blockchain, that's interesting. But no, I'm going to work on the loop. I'm sorry, that's just not what's happening. [01:02:08] Speaker B: That's right, exactly. Man, I could do this for days. And we will again, we'll get you back for another episode at some point because we could wax lyrical about all sorts of topics. Hey, where can people I want to thank you for your time and your generosity coming to hang out with us here on the agency Hour, where can people reach out and say, hello, and thank you for this and get in touch. [01:02:32] Speaker A: Yeah, so, Gridpain.com, go scroll down to the bottom of the page. You don't even need to sign up and get an account. Join our Facebook group. That is where there's tons more value. That's where all of our biggest power users, that's where they hang out. That's where we congregate. That's where I share my random musings if you want more of those. And you can literally tag us there and ask questions and learn new shit about WordPress, so that's probably the best bet. I'm trying to get good at Twitter. [01:03:02] Speaker B: But I just love it. [01:03:02] Speaker A: I don't have the bandwidth for another social network at this. [01:03:08] Speaker B: Point. [01:03:09] Speaker A: Yeah, I don't even know what to call. [01:03:14] Speaker B: Well, yeah, so join the Facebook group. Go and hang out at self managed WordPress is the Facebook group. Go hang out there and tag Patrick in a post and start the conversation there. Get involved and go and check out Gridpane. We don't have an affiliate link, so just go check it out, Gridpain.com. And thank you once again for spending time with us here on the Agency Hour podcast. Appreciate you, brother, and look forward to hanging out again soon. [01:03:33] Speaker A: Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Troy. This was a blast. I'll come back anytime. [01:03:39] Speaker B: Thanks for listening to the Agency Hour podcast. And a massive thanks to Patrick for joining us. I always love catching up with you and nerding out with you about all things tech and marketing and hosting and WordPress. Okay, folks, don't forget to subscribe and please share this with anyone who you think may need to hear it. It really helps us spread the message and get this podcast into the ears that it needs to be in. I'm Troy Dean, and remember, friends, don't let friends use cheap hosting. [01:04:09] Speaker A: Out. Bye.

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