Hi, I’m James Farmer, CEO of WPMU DEV. Ask Me Anything! Plus, Free Webinar and Live Q&A

Join our CEO James Farmer today for a free webinar, live Q&A and AMA about figuring out the feasibility of your internet business.

Not sure if your business idea is niche enough? Or if you’re expert enough to pull it off? Put your questions to James and get straight up, honest advice.

The webinar will kick off at 6pm EST, with a live Q&A at 6.30pm EST. Until then – and after then – you can ask James anything right here about business, just leave your comment below.

To join the webinar and Q&A, head to our Google+ event page.

WPMU DEV CEO James Farmer.
WPMU DEV CEO James Farmer.

Meet James Farmer

If you regularly read our blog James needs no introduction.

He recently “celebrated” 10 years as one of the earliest WordPress entrepreneurs, growing WPMU DEV from a one-man backyard, garden shed operation to what it is today, the largest online premium plugin provider for WordPress, with a distributed team of 50 staff around the world.

He also founded Edublogs, the world’s largest educational blogging network.

If you need to recap or want to find out more about James can read up on stuff he’s done here and here.

The webinar titled, Niche Enough? Expert Enough? New Enough? Figuring Out the Feasibility of Your Internet Business, will be followed by a live Q&A, allowing you to put your questions to James for 100% honest advice in plain English.

Our first AMA with Project and Quality Assurance Manager Jack Kitterhing was a success and attracted a great response from readers. Readers threw some tough questions at him, which he certainly didn’t shy away from!

Join Our Webinar, Q&A and AMA

Anyone is welcome to ask a question in the comments below from until September 1 to 10.59am US EST. This post will be open for comments for 24 hours, giving readers in all time zones the opportunity to put a question to James.

The webinar will start at 6pm US EST. To watch, head to our Google+ page for the event. The Q&A will begin immediately after the webinar, during which James will answers questions live.

Both the webinar and Q&A will be available to watch here in this post afterwards.

We’re looking forward to your business questions and some great discussion!

UPDATE

You can watch the video of the webinar and Q&A below:

30 Responses

  • friend of Bill. W.

    hi Mr. Farmer.
    first CONGRATS on EduBlogs, WPMUDEV etc.
    i truly love and appreciate what you have created !!!

    my first question of many :-)
    UpFront ;
    when ? when ? when ?
    how long shall we wait in agony ? lol
    if my rotten brains serves me well i remember you mentioning on a post somewhere that you personally wanted to get UpFront going on EduBlogs.
    which kinda leads me to another burning question i always had in the back of my mind.

    where is “CoursePress”, “Events+” etc. etc. and all the other great plugins that wpmudev makes ?
    please allow me to elaborate.
    i only have a free EduBlogs site for the sole purpose to see how “ProSites”, and few other wpmudev plugins are used “in the real world”.
    there are tons of themes but few plugins.
    surely teachers can make great use of “CoursePress”, “Events+” etc. etc.

    i am aware that one plugin conflict in a sub site can bring down an entire multisite,
    so is it this network stability or simply no demand for such plugins the reasons that wpmudevs own plugins are not used ?
    i ask very honestly and sincerely to get confidence how or if such robust/premium plugins could or should be used in a multisite.
    i frequent the forums regularly and have seen and reported many bugs and conflicts.
    is it just not technically safe or realistic yet given the nature of wordpress to litter a multisite with premium/robust plugins and better/safer to just avoid them in your opinion ?

    look forward to the webinar later and your kind thoughts and feedback !!!
    again CONGRATS keep up the great work !!!
    MUCH APPRECIATED !!!

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Thanks amused!

      Upfront 1.0 should be ready by the end of the year, the first release has taught us soooooo much and it’s already getting better all the time, but by the end of this year and throughout next you’ll see a much more mature and complete product.

      And we will, along with other tools, be adding stuff to Edublogs for sure.

      In terms of using plugins in Multisite, you absolutely need to be incredibly careful, you can easily crash your site or open it up to exploits etc. Which is where we come in :)

      But seriously, if you are not 100% sure of the quality of a plugin (by which I mean it doesn’t come from a really solid source, like us, woo, elegant, gravity etc.) and you aren’t a coder or have a good coding friend, I’d just avoid using them (unless you are desperate, in which case make lots of snapshots!)

  • New Recruit

    How do you balance being a meanie to people in the WordPress community with being a good employer?

    What is the strategy behind saying and doing things that make WPMUDev and the people associated with it look bad?

    Are you going to attend WordCamp US?

    Why do you threaten so many people with legal action at the first sign of criticism outside of WPMU Dev?

    Would you be a guest on WordPress Weekly?

    Will you threaten me with lawyers because of the questions I asked?

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Hi Jeffro :)

      I answered this in the webinar, a bit, but I’ll go inline here:

      > How do you balance being a meanie to people in the WordPress community with being a good employer?

      I’m delighted that some people think we’re a good employer :) In terms of being a meanie, I think it’s fair to say that I get more meanness heading my way than I give out, and I think I’ve confessed and explained what I’ve given out… I’m not proud of it, but I think that some of it is explainable and I’m sorry for the rest.

      > What is the strategy behind saying and doing things that make WPMUDev and the people associated with it look bad?

      Hopefully this is in the past, in case you (or others haven’t read it) I think this explains this better than I can here: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/10-years-as-a-wordpress-entrepreneur/

      > Are you going to attend WordCamp US?

      I’m ‘persona non grata’ Jeffro, I can’t be seen at these kind of events ;) In all seriousness, having been effectively barred from all WordCamps downunder (despite running the first one in the southern hemisphere) and considering the amount of direct and indirect abuse I’ve received from the community I’m not really that keen on hanging out.

      > Why do you threaten so many people with legal action at the first sign of criticism outside of WPMU Dev?

      I don’t, in the community I’ve only ever threatened you and wp candy, as per that post… as to why I did that, I felt like it was the only recourse I had.

      In fact, I’ve only received threatening letters from the WP community (never sent), from Yoast and Video User Manuals, so I’m up on that front!

      > Would you be a guest on WordPress Weekly?

      Yes, although I’m not feel *especially* keen on going over all this stuff again, I’ve had more than enough #wpdrama :)

      > Will you threaten me with lawyers because of the questions I asked?

      Nope!

  • friend of Bill. W.

    why the stupid silly sarcasm here Jeffro ?
    a great opportunity is being offered here for users at all levels to ask someone very accomplished in the WP community questions together with the Webinar.
    why try to start a conflict ?
    if you have nothing constructive and sincere to ask or add please afford others the opportunity by not hijacking the comments with such behaviour.
    its just immature and not constructive.
    kind regards.

  • New Recruit

    Hello James,

    First – So you know. I tired to log in repeatedly in order to “join the discussion”, and changed my password twice, but to no avail. I had to create a NEW account.

    My question. Can’t WP programmers and theme/plugin retailers get their acts together and properly inform buyers about their products?

    I have a niche website I am “trying” to create with WP, I have a several sites I made with Dreamweaver. I can not disclose my niche idea, as only a couple of people are doing it, and no one is doing it well, and it is a multi-million person market. It requires several WP plugins, the primary one being a business finder/membership type plugin. I have studied on the plugins for days each time before I try one. I have tried three plugins, and fixin’ (Texan here) to try a fourth. I laid off for about a month, because my frustration level had reached MAX.

    I am fairly new to WP but no longer a total newbie, and I am good at HTML and Dreamweaver. That said, I have found trying to find and use WP plugins very painful.

    To start, it took a while to figure out what companies were doing what, who were the programmers and who were the retailers, and who did both, :) no one says who and what they are. I have never seen such an industry that has no concept of advertising, of saying who and what they are, what they are selling, and what the benefit is to the consumer. Everything kind of starts in the middle of the story and has no end. LOL Being new to WP I have discovered that everyone speaks as if ALL people have been doing WP for years. :)

    Additionally many companies do not have a trial version, test version, video tutorial, or offer a refund. I have already purchased several programs (plugins) that will NOT work for my project, as I did not fully understand what I was buying, or did not really know if it would work as I wanted until I tried it. I have spend untold hours learning programs, setting them up, and then quitting and moving on to the next one. One big laugh, I did not fully understand the difference between a theme and plugin and bought one theme, builder type to use with another theme, membership type, before I figured it out. LOL LOL Seemed logical to me to use a builder theme to style the membership theme. :)

    WP program sellers can’t even do emails properly. I have a laptop, and I get so many emails, via several email accounts, I run through deleting emails rapidly. Everyone has big-huge headers, so I never see what they have to say as I click “delete”, because their ego takes up the whole screen. LOL Basic Advertising 101 the “large” signature (logo) belongs at the bottom. The text/ad belongs at the top, never more true than with modern email ads.

    I don’t even really understand what you company is, and I have been receiving your emails for close to a year. I believe you sell a variety of plugins for I guess a bunch of different things. What is that word, niche?? Or Groupings?

    I can not even begin to tell you how frustrated I am with WP program sellers. It is not just the cost, even with the free plugins, it is the many hours of learning a program, asking questions in the forums, figuring it all out, setting it up, and finally discovering it just will not do what I need. While I am not very good at CSS and barely understand PHP, I do have a strong background in HTML, so with my frustration so high, I can not begin to image how difficult it must be for true novices wanting to go beyond a basic WP site and add plugins.

    Thank you for time. It is good of you of listen. Best of luck with your reader input and webinar.

    Thanks
    Marilyn*

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Thanks Marilyn & sorry about the account issues, we’ll look into that.

      I think that’s a *really* interesting story and sums up the experience of a lot of users out there, thanks for sharing, it should definitely inform anybody who owns a WP business as well as us!

      And to answer your question… I think it’s coming. The market is maturing, companies are getting better, hopefully we’re one of those doing that.

      I strongly suspect that in the next few years, ‘true novices’ will have a lot better chance of going beyond a basic WP site… that’s if squarespace or similar haven’t eaten us first (genuine possibility).

      Thanks again!

      • New Recruit

        Thanks for your reply.

        From reading posts, it sounds like you had a successful webinar, that is great! Sorry I was not able to listen in tonight.

        I believe I have only installed one of your plugins, and since I have scraped my website 3 times, it is just sitting idle until I find the right theme/plugin for my site. :)

        Again, thanks for allowing the input. I sincerely said things that I hope give you a consumer’s perspective. I have commented on other sites, politely, and mostly where I actually had some issues.

        I don’t use SqSp, don’t know much about it, and don’t care to learn. I’ve heard of it for years, and even seen TV ads, but they say nothing that interests me, again, poor advertising.

        Marilyn*

  • r
    New Recruit

    Hi James,

    Big fan of yours and the whole WPMU dev team. You’ve created an incredible resource. Thanks.

    Question: Any timeline of Pro Sites update, will there be a la carte levels in addition to hierarchical ones?
    Requests: -Would like to see a multisite compatible front end posting plugin from WPMU to let user blog and read and manage comments without knowledge of the backend. Upfront posting? Also would like Upfront following of users and topics across a network. Reader is backend based.
    -Looking for an idea of cost per user when growing a multisite network from 100’s to 1000’s and beyond, to see how much you need to earn to break even. Cost per user (bandwidth)(diskspace) 100 users, 1000, 10K, 100K, etc.
    Article idea: How the really big sites are managed. Using the wordpress dashboard seems to be impractical very quickly as the number of sites increases. I’ve read the blogs, but even the tools referenced require a lot of manual interaction. Thanks again.

    • friend of Bill. W.

      “Looking for an idea of cost per user when growing a multisite network”.
      would also love to get Mr. Farmer’s experience and insight on this as well.
      each sub site may utilise different amounts and types of resources (media, site visits, etc.) so i guess it may not be an exact science.

      on a somewhat similar topic,
      the following line struck me;
      “And then there was Edublogs, which was doing what it always had done (not make any money),”
      – taken from post :
      https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/10-years-as-a-wordpress-entrepreneur/
      would be interesting to hear the reasons why ?
      over generous pricing ? cost of development, hosting etc. ?

      • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

        Hi again amused… another good question :)

        So, think about it, pro sites on edublogs is a *terrible* business idea… teachers have not a lot of cash and not much inclination to spend it on teaching tools (even though so many do!) and extracting petty cash or payments from schools is really really hard.

        Unlike, for example, dentists :)

        However, schools / unis / districts are a completely different thing… Pro has never made any money (maybe just covering the costs of hosting edublogs.org alone) but http://campuspress.com (formerly edublogs campus) has been going gangbusters, with a great team and a great product.

        Another good post for the future!

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Thanks r!

      Yeh, Pro sites is under active development and we’re looking to add new stuff all the time… funnily enough the *original* (8 years ago!) version had a la carte rather than levels. Have to be honest with you I don’t have a timeline for that kind of thing though :/ Sorry!

      “Would like to see a multisite compatible front end posting plugin from WPMU to let user blog and read and manage comments without knowledge of the backend. Upfront posting? ”

      Coming :)

      “Looking for an idea of cost per user when growing a multisite network from 100’s to 1000’s and beyond, to see how much you need to earn to break even. Cost per user (bandwidth)(diskspace) 100 users, 1000, 10K, 100K, etc.”

      I don’t think bandwidth is an issue, I think it’s about whether you have a good paying niche.

      Awesome article idea, we’ll look into it, you’ve probably already read the below but for readers who haven’t:

      https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ultimate-guide-multisite/
      https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/web-hosting-design-business-wordpress-multisite/

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Hi James!

    I really love being a member here, primarily for the “killer feature” your service provides: awesome and super-helpful support. I’m amazed at what your staff has been able to do, and I am super thankful for all the help I’ve gotten the past few months. It’s worth membership alone JUST for the support…seriously!!

    As for the plugins here…I try and use them as often as possible, but mainly because I know there’s great support behind them, and there’s always that mentality of “well I’m paying for it, I may as well use it.” But I often find myself searching for alternatives. Mostly because quite a few of the plugins here are missing a really important feature for all the websites that *I* work on, and something I feel is super-important for web development going forward: front-end support.

    A lot of plugins obviously don’t need it. But for any plugin that potentially involves other people (that are NOT admins) using it — such as MarketPress, most of the Community plugins, etc. — I feel like I can’t use them, because I’m trying to create a front-end only environment. I just feel like as soon as you open the backend to others, it cheapens the site a bit… (And it’s also a ton of work to keep stuff in the backend off-limits, or looking presentable).

    So how important is bringing front-end support to these plugins to you? And which, if any, have front-end support coming soon?

    As for Upfront…I’m dying to get started using it, and might think of using it in a multisite network I have planned. But I don’t like the idea of tearing apart one of the starter themes in order to build a new custom design, and would rather build from scratch. I know there’s an Upfront Builder coming at some point….any possible ETA for that?

    Thanks again for such a great service and truly exceptional support!!!

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Thanks Anton!

      People come for the plugins, they stay for the support :) Although I might nick that first paragraph as a testimonial to help us get them for the support too!

      So, front-end plugins (basically compatibility with Upfront)… absolutely, we’re working on it now. It’s *incredibly* hard! But we will get there!, and it’ll definitely be with marketpress, membership, pop up etc.

      And Upfront is, of course, heavily tied into that.

      We’ll see 1.0 by the end of the year, and it will *definitely* have the builder with it, I’m actually keen to push it out earlier too.

      I absolutely hear what you are saying re: front end stuff, that’s the way to go.

      • The Incredible Code Injector

        Feel free to use as a testimonial! Your support staff is awesome, and a reason I’ll keep coming back.

        Good to hear more front-end support is coming!! I suppooooooooose I can wait until the end of the year (*sigh*), but glad to hear you’re aiming to push it out earlier (though I’d rather it worked well than be rushed).

        Upfront 1.0 sounds like it will be AMAZING — can’t wait to use it!!

  • Hey James,

    I think it can be difficult for many people to be an entrepreneur because you need to be okay with the possibility of failing before you can succeed in certain instances.

    With that in mind and looking back over your years as an entrepreneur, generally speaking, do you have any regrets in terms of ideas you wish you did more of or maybe even ideas you wish you bypassed altogether?

    What do you do if one of your ideas doesn’t pan out or you think of things you could have done better after the fact? Do you have some kind of action plan you implement for the future or something similar?

    Do you have any advice for people out there who might be scared to fail or maybe even those who have already felt they have had failures?

    Thanks for the opportunity for letting everyone ask you questions! This is a really cool idea.

    Cheers,

    Jenni

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Hey Jenni,

      I tried (probably failed, lol) in the webinar to address this but I’ll try here too, more succinctly and with fewer ums and ahs.

      So in terms of regrets, not really, it’s all experience and you can’t do what you didn’t know you could do etc. I’ve definitely missed opportunities, not had the courage of my convictions and gone after things for the wrong reasons. Hopefully I’ve learned from that and won’t do it again.

      But fear… fear is good! Fear tells you when you have an issue, and if you can separate the ‘personal’ fear (i.e. your won issues) from actual bona fide reasonable fears (not enough money, have to pay the mortgage, how will I compete against squarespace, I don’t know how to code etc.) then that’s gonna really help you out.

      Having failures is great, how else would we learn! Just as long as we do learn :)

        • Syntax Hero

          Hi @James Farmer

          The biggest issue at the moment is end users are pretty much restricted to a few plugins such as WT3 and a few CDN plugins that are provided already by CDN’s themselves. unfortunately most are heavily bloated with lots of extra features that arent worth the code that they are written in. For example the current client I am working on uses Level3 and its an origin push environment, getting the data there from the app servers isnt an issue we can simply rsync it over with a delete origin option. The problem comes when trying to update the tables in a huge multisite, the main site has around 1.5 million clients and each can have a virtual classroom running in the WP multisite. So running a MySQL query on a cron job that gets fired after the rsync is finished gets quite intensive even with several High end Dedicated MySQL servers all with huge ram capacity and ssd drives to update all the blog tables with the new file location, plus regenerating thumbnails. WP seems to make it difficult to offload resources to external sources especially if not using an origin mirror where there is no content actually stored in the local app server. What would be cool is a plugin that simply allows a push style (FTP or API) upload to a cdn that would simply update the media library on completion of transfer and then store the thumbnails locally. Origin Mirror is easy to implement but kind of defeats the Idea of offloading the content when you are keeping a local copy. Its a niche style plugin I admit but there are more and more companies/ clients using video now and Origin Push is becoming more and more popular especially now that https is being considered a ranking factor by google and any decent CDN provider has https access to stored media. etc.

          Just some random thoughts, keep up the awesome work.

    • friend of Bill. W.

      a possible managed solution ?
      http://wpengine.com/blog/unlimited-storage-with-wp-engines-proprietary-largefs/
      supposedly integrates seamlessly with their 1 click multisite instal as well.
      i believe the default time for local storage is 10 days, then everything gets pushed to s3 (cloud front -CDN if desired), but your can specify what you require.
      this delay i think is convenient because that means you can also utilise “WP Smush Pro” etc.
      just a suggestion.

  • New Recruit

    Hello James,
    Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
    Actually, I have several questions. I ran a one-man plugins shop and currently I’m using my personal name as the brand since the shop is a section of my blog. At the moment, I sell two plugins by using the fremium model through uploading a lite version on WordPress.org. One of them are selling very well even though without any marketing efforts from my side.

    So my questions are:
    – What are you advice for expanding my one-man plugins shop?
    – What is better, selling one plugin and focus on it or sell multi plugins for a specific niche?
    – How WPMUdev decide which plugin idea will start developing next?
    – Any tips on plugins marketing would be great.

    Best Regards.

    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

      Hi Waseem!

      Great questions, I’ll go inline:

      – What are you advice for expanding my one-man plugins shop?

      Depends a lot on the plugin, feel free to post a link.

      – What is better, selling one plugin and focus on it or sell multi plugins for a specific niche?

      I’d go for the niche, absolutely, but you;re better off doing one thing really well than lots of things averagely.

      – How WPMUdev decide which plugin idea will start developing next?

      So I put on a blindfold and get some darts…. ;)

      Really though this is a very important question for us, right now we’re all about improving our current plugins and adding some awesome new services and extensions, and bringing Upfront to 1.0.

      Really, we look at what our members, and potential members, want… it’s just a case of figuring out how best we can help people.

      – Any tips on plugins marketing would be great.

      Keep an eye on the blog the next webinar (and accompanying post) will be all about marketing, and could all be applied to marketing plugins… in the short term work on wp.org, make sure it’s described and tagged well and provide the best and quickest possible support and help in the forums for your users.

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