A mentor, a coach, a true WordPress evangelist, a teacher, a motivational speaker, the driving force behind the WordPress Community, an avid blogger, a selfless and trustworthy friend, an outright influencer, and a passionate individual who loves what he does to the core; he is none other than Chris Lema, the CTO of Crowd Favorite.
In his own words: “People want answers but they want answers from someone they can trust.”
This is a true reflection of what he does the best. He is ever ready to help out and share his candid opinions regarding any issue facing WordPress development and community.
With more than 20 years of experience, he has developed a reputation for himself. After a routine beginning—not different from other bloggers—he switched to writing tutorials about WordPress and at the same, concentrated on helping out others with their WordPress-related issues by giving out simple yet useful answers on different WordPress forums.
We, at Cloudways, are extremely honored to have Chris Lema, one of the most influential and loved personalities within the WordPress community on board. We thank Chris for his time. In this interview, he spoke his heart out as he elaborated upon his professional engagements on WordPress issues and its overall progress along with his other activities.
Cloudways: You are one of the most acclaimed bloggers in the WordPress industry today. How did you start and who was your inspiration?
Chris Lema: I’m not a natural blogger or writer. I’m a public speaker. So it took a bit time to translate that approach into the written realm, but blogging made things pretty easy because I could still tell my stories and still help, challenge, and inspire people. I started like most people did—I wrote a blog post about an opinion I had. It was read by 3 or 4 people. Then, I realized that most people had questions and wanted answers, so I started shifting my writing to be more helpful, instead of opinions and rants, and the result was that each day more and more people would read my posts.
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Cloudways: I have read somewhere that you are an admirer of legend blogger and business strategist Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan). Tell me about three things that you have learnt from him?
Chris Lema: I was a student enrolled in his Blogging Master Class—because I wasn’t sure if I was doing anything right. I wasn’t sure what I was missing. So, I paid for the course to validate what I knew and to learn new things. The biggest lesson I learned from Chris was one I wasn’t expecting. His challenge to me was to put more “me” in my posts. It took several months to figure that out, but as I did, the results bore out what he had suggested. People want answers, but they want answers from someone they can trust—which is why more “me” in my articles was useful.
Cloudways: WordPress has experienced a phenomenal growth within the CMS industry. What do you think about the WordPress community and its growth in the past two years?
Chris Lema: The growth over the last two years has been fantastic. Custom Post Types in WordPress 3.0 were a big deal that enabled WordPress to easily do much more than before for more people. As a result, we’ve seen even more growth in areas I had hoped for, but wasn’t sure would happen, like building apps on top of WordPress.
Cloudways: Do you think that WordCamps are one of the great reasons that WordPress is getting the right exposure in regional communities? What more can be done to grow the community?
Chris Lema: WordCamps are fantastic. I truly love them for what they do which is to bring new people into a community of people that use this CMS. Most people only go to one WordCamp a year, their local one. So it’s a great thing. What we’re starting to see is the creation of additional events that support others in the ecosystem beyond the new WordPress developer or user. I think those are great as well as these serve a different need. In the end, my guess is that both will impact the community’s adoption of WordPress.
Cloudways: What are some places, blogs, and online communities you would recommend to our readers that you think are the best places to get help about WordPress dev and design issues?
Chris Lema: If your readers want to get help, especially if they’re just getting started, they should head over to WP Beginner where my friend, Syed and his team publish great stuff. Stack Exchange for more technical stuff also works. And of course, there’s our Advanced WordPress Facebook group too!
Cloudways: At Cloudways, we think that blogging is the key element of our marketing strategy. What do you think about daily blogging? And, how do you crank up a daily post while maintaining a quality within?
Chris Lema: I think blogging is an essential component to build a brand, therefore it lines up well with your marketing strategy. 🙂 I write daily because I always wake up with words to share. In the end, my strategy for finding and addressing issues each day is based on being amidst people who have questions to ask and want their answers. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, on my Clarity calls or in real life, people have questions and want help. I try to address those needs and since there’s no end to that particular need, there’s no end to the topics or material available.
Cloudways: As we are in managed hosting business, what are some key factors that would attract you to buy any of our plans? What characteristics you need to look for in a reliable WordPress hosting service must have?
Chris Lema: These days, I think staging sites, Git integration, and automatic backups are all table stakes for developers. That may not be the same case for end users looking for managed hosting where I think for them, they need backups but also advice like a curated set of approved plugins (which is more helpful than simply a list of disallowed plugins which most companies do).
I suggest that when people are evaluating hosting companies, they look at how long they’ve been around, how many customers they have, the level of support you get, and what kind of innovation you’re seeing (given how rapidly all things change, technically).
Cloudways: Each one of us loves to follow influencers on social media. Can you name some people (at least 10) whom you follow to get all the updates of the WordPress industry ins and outs? Who do you think are the movers and shakers here?
Chris Lema: Here are some of the people I follow:
- Syed Balkhi, Founder of WPBeginner (@syedbalkhi)
- Shawn Hesketh, Founder of WP101 (@leftlane)
- Andrew Norcross, Founder of Design Palette
- Zack Tollman, Lead Engineer at Wired (@tollmanz)
- Pippinsplugins, Founder of Easy Digital Downloads (@pippinsplugins)
- Chris Christoff, Founder of Jigoshop (@chriscct7)
- Ryan D. Sullivan, Founder of WP Site Care (@ryandonsullivan)
- Tom McFarlin, Founder of Pressware (@tommcfarlin)
- Scott Kingsley Clark, Senior Web Engineer at 10up (@scottkclark)
- Daniel Espinoza, WooCommerce Expert at Life with a Mission (@d_espi)
- Konstantin Obenland, Code Wrangler at Automattic (@obenland)
- Brian Krogsgard, Editor at Post Status (@Krogsgard)
- Rebecca Gill, Founder of Web Savvy Marketing (@rebeccagill)
- Justin Sainton, Founder of Zao (@JS_Zao)
- Travis Northcutt, Founder of The Bright Agency (@tnorthcutt)
- John James Jacoby, Alumni of 10up & Automattic (@JJJ)
- Chris Wiegman, Developer at iThemes (@ChrisWiegman)
- Brian Richards, Founder of WPSessions (@rzen)
- Curtis McHale, Founder of CurtisMcHale.ca (@curtismchale)
Cloudways: Thesis vs Genesis: Which framework do you like most and Why?
Cloudways: Tell me about something that you would love to do other than WordPress.
Chris Lema: That’s a great question and one I don’t get asked a lot. I might like to run a very large non-profit. Because most not-for-profit organizations are mission-oriented, I’m not sure which mission I would pursue (and therefore, I don’t know which one). But I find that they offer great challenges with constraints; limited financial resources, lots of staff, a desire to have an impact, etc. I think it would be an interesting and challenging opportunity. So far, no one has asked me to leave the corporate world to run one, so we’ll have to wait and see. 🙂
Cloudways: What do you think about Cloudways Managed Hosting Platform? (We have DigitalOcean, Amazon infrastructure and Google Compute Engine).
Chris Lema: I haven’t tried it yet, so I’d be speaking without enough context, but I’ve visited and reviewed the offerings several times (each time you publish another bit of useful content). From a glance, it looks interesting but I wonder about that $5 plan—from a sustainability perspective. 🙂
Muhammad Saad Khan is a Director of Product Marketing at Cloudways (by DigitalOcean), a Growth Hacker extraordinaire, and a force to be reckoned with on the table tennis court. He's spent a decade building innovative customer-led growth strategies that helped Cloudways grow from 0 to 89,000 customers & is a regular at WordCamp events worldwide.