I am Jason Tucker, a WordPress web developer, and IT Director. I work for Whittier Area Community Church as their IT Director and I’m the founder and host of WPwatercooler a WordPress podcast that I started back in September of 2012 (It’s almost 9 years old!).
I live in Whittier California with my wife Jen and our daughter along with 2 dogs. I started using computers back when I was 9 years old (I’m 43 now) when I was 12, I got my first PC a 286/12. In my early 30s, I switch to using Macs and haven’t looked back.
The Journey Began
I was hand-coding websites using HTML and PHP using a bunch of PHP frameworks and templating systems. It sucked and I got into using B2 and at the time Mambo to work out some ideas as to how to build websites easier.
I moved my personal website from LiveJournal over to WordPress and used the LiveJournal import tool to import my posts into WordPress. From there I began using it. When I got married in 2004 I used Mambo to build our website and ended up ditching it in favor of WordPress.
The Need for WPwatercooler
What’s nice about WPwatercooler is that I wasn’t trying to make money off of it so my thought process was different. I wanted to make the best WordPress podcast I could and this was almost 9 years ago when there were very few podcasts out there.
The idea was to bring people together each week to discuss WordPress and how we were using it. Talk about the issues that were happening with it and the ways in which we solved these challenges.
In episode 1 we talked about Woocommerce, InfiniteWP, and pricing models for these products. Episode 2 led us to talk about the Twenty Twelve WordPress theme, WordPress 3.5 Beta 1, and the updates to the Media Library.
The start of WPwatercooler involved our local WordPress meetup OC WordPress that Steve Zehngut ran out of his office in Huntington Beach, CA. I enjoyed the chemistry we all had in that group and invited Steve Zehngut, Sé Reed, Chris Lema, and Dave Jesch to join me to be regulars on the show.
We had many early recurring guests with Jon Brown, Lucy Beer, Suzette Franck, Jeff Hester, Andrew Behla, and Verious Smith. We’ve had over 300 different people on the shows and projects over the last almost decade producing them.
What makes WPwatercooler different from other WordPress podcasts is that we have longevity, at this point, we have in-jokes for the people that have been watching or listening to the entire time the payoff of many of these is that we have throwbacks all the time.
As for the newer podcast listener or viewer they can find some great friends that enjoy one another’s company and enjoy making fun of one another. Chris Lema said early on with the show that “WPwatercooler is a WordPress show where education is an accidental byproduct” and indeed it is.
Besides all this, my biggest challenge is wrangling the cats that we need to have on the show. At this point, we have had so many folks on the show that digging into the archive and bringing people back onto the show has made it easier.
The other thing new to the show is sponsors. Over the last year, we’ve added 2 ad spots on WPwatercooler allowing awesome sponsors to join us on the show in the form of a spoken ad read by yours truly. It’s been fun running these ads and learning about the tools, plugins, and services that approach me to sponsor the show.
The money made from these ads helps pay for transcription, higher quality recording equipment & services, and better ways of promoting the show episodes. I don’t do this to make money, I do this because I love the community and the software around it.
I think if we were trying to do this solely for the money I’d approach these shows differently and the quality would suffer.
I don’t own an agency or even work for one. My job in WordPress is to provide a place for people to come together around the virtual watercooler and swap stories and answer the question that many vendor-based podcasts just can’t do. At my day job, I use WordPress for the church website and for many other internal sites that I manage.
As for WPwatercooler, I’m not beholden to one product or service so we speak our minds quite a bit on our shows. If you hear it from us it’s because we are sharing from experience not with any monetarily gain associated with it.
It’s hard to be critical but when you have customers being critical about the decisions you are making for them and their project they know the stuff you are using has been tested and proven. If we don’t like a service, software, or resource we tell our listeners. Not all products are created equally (as Steve would say).
Sometimes the cheapest tool is good for the project you are doing, sometimes spending more will give you more features and will give you a better experience overall. Sugarcoating just doesn’t work for us.
We also aren’t critical for the sake of drama, no WPDrama here it’s all about what works for us, our customers, and our community. People want to hear what others are using and we jump around as much as needed between products to find what works best for us and our budgets.
One thing I did early on is not to do any affiliate links. I want people to know that I don’t have a vested interest in getting clicks from my viewers. It’s a dumb business decision money wise but it’s a great way of showing that the only skin in the game we have is our accountability to our listeners.
We use the best tools for the job, not which tool is going to make me a few bucks in affiliate link money. I’m just glad I’m not having to sell “internet pillows and beds” on the show to make ends meet.
Myself with my Brilliant Team
What’s unique about my team is none of us work for one another (and it shows!) so we come from all different walks of life, backgrounds, and stages in our careers.
Steve Zehngut is an agency owner and web developer that made awesome Flash games for his customers in his past life. Now he makes sites for huge companies and builds complex solutions for them. Steve is a great public speaker and shares his wisdom with anyone he can. Every team needs an elder statesmen (lol)
Sé Reed is a Small Business consultant, advocate, web developer, and speaker. She’s the CEO, Founder, and Principal over at Kerredyn Collaborative and is also the Chair of Marketing for the National Association of Women Business Owners, Orange County. She has a huge heart for small businesses and has worked with the SBDC Los Angeles for years. She brings the hard-hitting questions.
Jason Cosper is the Senior Performance Engineer over at Liquid Web has worked for many of the top web hosts and brings a lot of experience and expertise to the topics we discuss on the show. The dude’s tall, way tall (I’m 6’3, he towers over me) and he would do anything for his friends and loved ones. He’s crazy smart at making WordPress performant and he is well connected in the communities he serves in.
Advice for Business Owners
Starting a podcast is easy, keeping your podcast going is very hard. Many factors come to play with keeping your podcast going all of these are play from motivation, doubt, analyzing statistics, and second-guessing yourself.
When we started WPwatercooler we didn’t set off to change the world or to make money. What we set out to have a place to talk shop weekly as a supplement to our monthly WordPress meetups. Speak the truth in what we do and share the knowledge we have with our listeners and viewers. WPwatercooler isn’t my first podcast, it’s the longest-running, but isn’t my first.
Moreover, focus on the one you have a love for. With podcasts, you need to look at the things you can talk about at length that can show you have some passion and deep understanding about it.
I recently sunsetted a podcast that we did for years because I found that I didn’t have the love for the subject matter as much as my co-host did. I wasn’t the right co-host for this type of show and found that my focus was on other things. It’s good to know what you want and what you like. We have a few other shows that I’m no longer producing, it’s ok to keep what fits and reinvent yourself if needed.
Find what you like and you won’t run out of ideas. Also ask your friends, family, coworkers, listeners, viewers about subjects they would like to hear and keep a list and start marking them off as you go along.
WordPress & Beyond
We launched a Discord server for fans of the network to come and discuss things relating to WordPress. Just like with anything it’s slow-moving at first and you have to give it some time to make it happen.
For WordPress, I always thought that they would bring back the blogroll at some point, it looks like there are plenty of plugins that do that but it would be funny. I think that WordPress will have a very well-established block system that people will rely on heavily.
More and more we’re getting to the point that you don’t have to code if you don’t want to. It sure makes it easier if you do though.
I think you also need to take into consideration that the only thing that really loses out if WordPress loses domination in the market is companies that have built everything on top of WordPress and haven’t diversified any.
Companies like Automattic and their child companies are 100% built on WordPress but many Agencies and Plugin shops work with other technologies too. Years ago we were building menus for restaurant websites using Flash, everyone ditched flash for something that works well on mobile, those flash agencies moved to use other technologies.
Be agile if you want to keep afloat and don’t be scared to follow some trends, you never know where it’s going to take you.
My Love for the WordPress Community
I attend and work with WordCamps in a myriad of ways. I was on the team that helped put on OC WordCamp here in Orange County California. I was the one that ran our live stream and recordings to submit to WordPress.TV.
WPwatercooler also acted as an embedded media outlet covering various WordCamps and streaming live from them. We’ve also done interviews with WordPress folks at WordCamps for the series we did called “Hallway Track” which started out as Se Reed and I being asked if we would interview people officially for WordCamp San Francisco Hallways Interviews, later that camp became WordCamp US.
Meetups are huge for growth in this community. Covid really took the wind out of my sails for WordPress meetups since they all ended up going virtual. At the time I was already doing 2 WordPress shows a week, it just felt like more of the same honestly.
Outside of Covid, WordPress meetups are very important to the ecosystem.
Show up, ask questions, answer questions, ask if the facilitators need help, and pitch in as much or as little as you can, it’s really up to you. You can also hone your craft at public speaking or do what I did and become the person that lives streams all the meetups you can.
I have a normal non-WordPress 9-5 job where I’m an IT Director for a church, which keeps me quite busy. Living in multiple worlds I find that I have lots of friends in both communities. I’d imagine the best friends I have are the ones that are or have been on the show as regulars.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I’m not a big reader but I love audiobook books. Any book I can get in audio format is awesome for me. As for honing my skills, I’ve been podcasting since the beginning of podcasting so I have that part figured out already. There is plenty to learn on the business side of things and also keeping up to date on WordPress itself.
- I typically look at the WordPress release notes when each version releases
- I read WP Tavern
- The only WordPress podcast I listen to is WP Briefing
- If I had time I’d listen to one of Matt Medeiros 100 different WordPress shows and projects
- And obviously, WPwatercooler and Dev-Branch both are 2 shows I listen to weekly (multiple times)
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
I’ve been looking for an analog hobby and woodworking has been on my mind for a long while. Like with most hobbies they get quite expensive and with the cost of wood on the rise and equipment being costly I’m taking my time at it.
Currently, I’m in the phase where if you don’t have the best tool for the job should I do a half-assed job for the sake of learning something? It’s been tough but you don’t learn a skill until you start doing it.
Woodworking isn’t anything like building stuff in WordPress, there is no undo when you mess up something and it’s quite apparent when you use the wrong tool to do a task and it comes out subpar. It’s annoying but I keep telling myself if I buy enough tools I’ll get the job done. lol!
My wife and I run an Instagram account called Created Imperfectly (Instagram | Facebook | Web) where we showcase our home renovation project(s). It’s been fun sharing and learning from others as we share the status of a project.
What I learned from my WPwatercooler shows is if you don’t put yourself out there and share things with folks you’ll never learn from them. I ask and our followers provide some insight, it’s awesome learning from them and them learning from us.
If you tell people you are installing new electrical in your house and all the experts come out of the woodwork sharing their ideas, it’s awesome! You post a few photos of your plants and people start sharing their techniques and stuff. It’s been a run ride and many of my WordPress peeps are in the same boat as me so it’s been fun having that crossover.
With our new home and with 2 adult children in the world hopefully at our own house making memories and being with one another. Our last kid (15) in the house is stuck with us for a few more years!
I don’t travel much but we go camping all the time at KOA (Kampgrounds of America.) It’s a great stress reliever being disconnected or as connected as you want to. It’s “glamping” at its finest or you can rough it too. KOA is great, I highly recommend A+A+A+A+ will buy again.
I have 2 dogs, Lincoln who is a Schnauzer, and Twinkle (in the red scarf) a Yorkshire Terrier.
Twinkle & Lincoln
I Reward Myself by
- Spending time with family
- Volunteering at the church I work at
- Donating time, skills, and money to charity
- Taking a day off to unwind
- Fixing stuff around the house, it’s a chore and a reward all in one!