If you’ve attended a WordCamp in the northeastern United States anytime in the past few years, you may very well have caught a presentation by Joe Casabona. You’ll recognize him by both his dapper attire (often completing his look with a fedora hat) and his vast knowledge of WordPress.
Joe is friendly, outgoing and has a gift for helping others learn more about WordPress. If you can’t make it to one of his WordCamp presentations, you can take a course at his WP in One Month venture or check out his How I Built It podcast.
I sat down with Joe to discuss his inspiration for teaching, misconceptions about WordPress, his experiences at the recent WordCamp US and more:
Q: You’re a regular speaker at WordCamps. What drives you to get out there and share your knowledge?
Joe Casabona: Basically, there are 3 reasons I speak at WordCamps:
First, WordCamp is one of the best ways to reach the community and teach in general outside of a classroom.
Second, the community has done so much for me and my career, and I think this is the best way for me to give back. I don’t make a lot of time to write free plugins or commit to core (though I’d like to), so speaking at WordCamps are a great non-coding way for me to contribute.
Third (and finally!) it’s a fantastic way to meet people in the community. I’m an extrovert all the way so I don’t mind talking to new people. But me speaking gives me an automatic common ground with the folks who came to my talk. It’s a great way to form real connections.
Q: One of my favorite talks you gave has to be “Have Empathy when Teaching WordPress“. Do you feel that empathy is a quality missing in the WordPress community?
JC: Thank you! I think empathy is something that’s missing from a lot of areas; it’s not a patently a WordPress community issue. It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I use it and think it’s easy, therefore it’s easy.” The main take away from my talk is that you can empathize with your students: remember what it’s like when you first learned something.
Q: As someone who teaches WordPress to others, what advice would you give to freelancers who are tasked with teaching their own clients?
JC: I think there’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re a freelancer teaching your clients. The first is that they are nervous and it’s your job to put them at (ease) when showing them how to use the system. Words like, “just” and “obviously” seem harmless but if it wasn’t obvious to your client, they are going to think they aren’t smart enough to use WordPress.
The other is the empathy we just talked about. Imagine sitting down in an airplane’s cockpit and the pilot telling you it’s easy. How would you feel? Using WordPress for the first time could feel a lot like that.
Q: In your experience, what is the most common misconception people have about WordPress before they really learn what it’s all about?
JC: Well, the more common answer is the WordPress is “just a blog.” But since that misconception is widely covered, I like to talk about this one: that WordPress is easy to use. Ease of Use is a common selling point for WordPress, but as I just mentioned, it’s not easy to a first time user.
There’s a fractured experience between .Org and .Com. With .Org, it’s even more fractured with different themes, plugins, and hosting environments. It’s more than just a blog, but it’s also more than one common experience. I think that’s an important thing to make clear to new users.
Q: You have a set of online courses called “WP in One Month”. What was your inspiration for setting up the courses and what can folks expect to learn?
JC: I love teaching; I used to teach at The University of Scranton, but recently moved. I started WP in One Month as a way for me to continue teaching. It’s evolved a bit; first I was doing live, in-person classes. Then I moved to webinars. Ultimately I moved to online courses because it allows me to cover more ground at a better pace. I like to think of those courses as the next level of learning, after WP101 – so WP 301. You know how to use WordPress; I’m going to show you how to make things with WordPress. I’m going to show you how to make money using WordPress.
Q: How was your experience at WordCamp US? Anything in particular stand out to you?
JC: WordCamp US feels like a high school reunion to me. I get to see people I don’t see that often in real life, catch up and connect. I always regret missing the talks (I went to 3 this year, which is up from last year), but the hallway track is where the real magic is. I got to meet new people, and plan some exciting things for 2017. I’m an extrovert, and the constant talking, gallivanting, and stream of people gives me energy. That was the real fun of it for me.
Q: Besides speaking at numerous WordCamps and running WP in One Month, what else are you up to these days with regards to WordPress?
JC: My full time job is with Crowd Favorite, one of the larger agencies in Enterprise WordPress development. There I get to flex my coding muscles. In my free time, besides WP in One Month I host a podcast called How I Built It. It’s 30 minutes per episode, and each one is a short, focused interview on how my guest built their product. I had some nice success with it for Season 1, which just wrapped up. I’m excited to start up Season 2 in mid-January.
Our thanks to Joe for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat!