A Question and Answer with the Developer Advocate at WooCommerce.com

Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
A Question and Answer with the Developer Advocate at WooCommerce.com
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Allen’s goal is is to make sure that all Woo builders, whether it’s extensions or site, has a great developer experience. He is there for questions, guidance and advice.

In this podcast Allen was invited for a live question and answer and the result was a wealth of information.

Listen to hear Allen answer these questions:

  • What do you think is the most underused function of WooCommerce that you think people should utilize more and that you think can improve someone’s store?
  • What are you thoughts on headless WooCommerce?
  • How are feature priorities set internally?
  • What are your favorite Woo resources for beginner users and developers?
  • How can someone get started if they want to contribute to the WooCommerce open source project and what is being done to increase community involvement in core development for WooCommerce?
  • Does the frequency of smaller, monthly updates, help or hinder keeping up with the documentation?
  • Do you feel pressure and responsibility with millions of store depending on your code? Does this keep you awake at night?
  • What are the plans for comprehensive development documentation targeted as someone who has WooCommerce plugins to update with the latest technologies, but can’t use create thing scripts.
  • How can plugin developers reach to to agencies to starting building them as fans of their product?
  • What’s in the roadmap for the next 12 months. Maybe Allen can give us a glimpse of Woo in 2022?
  • What are your reflections in the space as a result of 2020?

Connect with Allen

Best place to find Allen is on WooCommerce Slack

Bob: Hey, BobWP here and we are back with Do The Woo Episode 110. Today's show is a conversation I had with Allen Smith, who is the Developer Advocate for WooCommerce.com. And Allen had a lot to talk about because we basically put him on the seat and did a Q&A with him or what you might call, ask me anything. So tune in because this is some good information on documentation at WooCommerce and all the things they're doing for developer advocacy over on WooCommerce.com.

And before we get into that, I'd like to thank our community sponsor PayPal and their commerce solution, which includes a lot. So if you really want to dive into having them take care of your payments, just head on over there. Whether you're suggesting this for your clients or doing it for yourself, advantage is that your customers can pay how they want whether you sell online, heck, even in person. So you can accept more payment types available only with PayPal, including Venmo and their buy now pay later options. Do check out PayPal's commerce solution over at PayPal/business/solutions.

And a quick shout out to one of our pod friends, this is Wayflyer. Wayflyer is helping a Woo DTC merchants improve their cash flow to accelerate growth through revenue based financing, which is really an interesting approach and you should check it out. They're the only trusted funding partner on the Woo marketplace and are featured in the grow your business collection. So you can sign up free by going to wayflyer.com and time to jump into the conversation.

Hey, everyone. All right, we are here, we are live, it is the WooCommerce builder community events. And we're going to dive right into this. This is going to be a great one because we are just going to rattle Allen's brain with questions is what our goal is today. So before I even get into that, I want to just have Allen let everyone know that doesn't know Alan, in a nutshell, what he does over at WooCommerce.

Allen: So, yes, my name is Allen, I'm a Developer Advocate for WooCommerce at Automattic. I'm the only developer advocate, I should say, at Automattic for WooCommerce. My goal is just to make sure that the developer experience is delightful and efficient for anybody who is building with WooCommerce, who's extending WooCommerce as an extension developer, and anybody who's even just building stores for merchants. That's my goal is just making sure that everybody has a great experience as a developer.

Bob: Cool. All right. Well, I haven't seen any comments so if you're out there in the world of whatever, you can say hello, tell us where you're from. But how this is going to roll out, if you're actually listening right now, is we're going to ask questions to Allen. I put out on the meetup page his expertise, questions about developer resources, documentation, tooling, current Woo engineering priorities, where you might go to get help with the fill in the blank.

And yes, just all I ask is be cool, be nice. Hi, Alicia, from Santa Barbara, all right. Yes, we're just going to go with it. But I thought how we'd roll this off while everybody is drumming up those questions is I'm going to put up a couple three questions that were actually asked beforehand, and I think it's interesting what's coming through. And we're going to go ahead and put this one up. So Lindsey asked, What do you think is the most underused function of WooCommerce that you think people should utilize more and that you think can improve someone's store? I thought that was interesting. So, just from your experience and perspective, what do you think?

Allen: Let me think about what would be the most underused function in WooCommerce. I think it varies depending on the type of store owner, the type of merchant that you talk to and the industry that they work in. I know that there are a lot of people who are not quite ready, not quite comfortable switching to WooCommerce blocks. I know that, that's something that we would love for everybody to start using, but it's also a chicken or egg situation too because it's up to us to implement a lot of that functionality to help those plugins be compatible with the other plugins that these merchants rely on. So I think there's work on both sides to be done, but that might be something that I feel people are a little bit hesitant to adopt. And I think that if they could, that would open up so many doors because of the Gutenberg project, because it makes it such a smooth experience, I feel using blocks as opposed to using the old legacy editor with short codes and things like that.

Bob: Cool. Yes, that makes sense because, yes, I always wondered that. When I got that through I was trying to think even from talking to people, if I could think of a underused feature, and yes, with WordPress there was always ones because they were hidden, so I found little gems here and there that people, I didn't even know that was there. But I think that's one of the things, sometimes in any plugin, it's finding those little things that are hidden and you're thinking, wow, I did not know this could do that, and you bang your head against the wall because it was there the whole time and you just spent two hours googling it.

Allen: Right. One thing that's really interesting too, and I don't know if a lot of merchants know this or a lot of builders know this, but if you are using WooCommerce in conjunction with some of these supporting plugins, like WooCommerce Admin or WooCommerce Blocks, if you go and you install the actual feature plugin version of those supporting packages, they include a lot of newer features that are behind feature flags, you can toggle those on and off and you won't necessarily get that functionality if you're just using the version that's bundled with WooCommerce Core.

So that's a fun thing to try out if you want to try out new features and things like that. So, for instance, in the feature plugin version of WooCommerce Admin right now we have this new navigation feature that you can toggle on and off and it's super cool.

Bob: Yes, all right. Okay, let's see here. Let's go over and get a little more. Okay, here we go. We got another question here. What are your thoughts on headless WooCommerce? I knew that one would come, somebody would. Joseph, you sneaked in and you asked that one. So what do you think?

Allen: I think it's super cool. I think anything in headless CMS in general I think is going to be super cool. I don't know if I'm supposed to say this or not, but I love static site generators, the whole idea of, I know that there's this big controversy between Jamstack and WordPress, and I don't think that it has to be a competition necessarily because I think that we can integrate things together. And I think that headless CMS, headless WooCommerce is a part of that letting people interact with this platform through API and then handle the front end however they want to, in whatever way works best for them. I think that, that's great.

Bob: Yes. What I think about is, and I had somebody asked me the other day and this was somebody that was just getting into development and they said, "What is headless?" And I think it's a term we throwing out there and it's getting more and more understood, but at a point that there's some people that are entering it that are still like, sounds very daunting.

Well there was one question, I'm going to pull this up. Somebody had asked this and I thought it was another very interesting question, just had asked me somewhere when I said, I'm going to have Allen on. How are feature priorities set internally, by request, etc?

Allen: So it depends. And I don't really have a straightforward answer for how they're set because they're set in different ways in different parts of the company. To give y'all some context a little bit, I work in a part of Automattic that is focused on the Woo platform itself, so I'm a member of a team focused on the developer experience. And so we interact with other teams to make sure that they have what they need in terms of tooling and things like that, and my job specifically is to work with external developers to make sure that they have those things as well.

When we set priorities, there's a number of different ways that we do that, we have an ideas board, which you can access at ideas.WooCommerce.com, some teams pull ideas from that, other teams don't view it as frequently as other teams. I know that, that is one area that they do pull feature requests from. Oftentimes in the WooCommerce core repository if a developer opens a feature request as an issue on GitHub, they'll be redirected over to the ideas board so that other developers can weigh in and discuss features and vote on them. We do use that to a certain extent to set priorities and pick features that we might like to implement and include in our roadmap.

The other thing that comes into play, because we are a private for profit company, Automattic, we do have business priorities that affect our engineering priorities and so oftentimes we'll have to redirect our effort over to certain platform work, in the case of my division, certain platform work that doesn't necessarily let us give these important features the attention and time that we would like to. And so it's probably not a straightforward answer but we set priorities from a number of sources and inputs, and it just shifts a little bit over time.

Bob: Yes. There's one question here that, well, I thought this isn't so much maybe you're ... Well, it is because of your resource, and let's go with this a couple different ways. What are your favorite resources for beginners? So let's go on both sides of things, let's go with developers, beginner developers, and then let's go with just WooCommerce in general. And I think maybe I know your answer to this but I thought I might ask this because maybe there's some other little ones drifting out there somewhere, but what do you think?

Allen: So for developers, you say we start with developers, is that right or who do we start with?

Bob: Yes, let's start with developers. Yes, let's start with that.

Allen: Okay. So we have the WooCommerce developer portal, which you can access if you go to developer.WooCommerce.com, and this is just an aggregation of different sources of, excuse me, different resources. So we have tools, guides, all sorts of different resources up there. In fact, we just published a new extension builders guide, I think, on Monday morning is when it went live. Yes, this is great, Bob has it up here.

So this is probably my recommended go to resource as a first step. If you're just getting started with WooCommerce development, with WordPress development, I would also highly recommend checking out the plugin developer handbook, I think is what it's called, and that's on wordpress.org. They walk through a lot of the high level concepts in terms of how extension, excuse me, how plugin develop works in the WordPress ecosystem, and WooCommerce extensions are just a specialized subset of WordPress plugins. And so if you can grasp those core concepts of building a WordPress plugin, building a WooCommerce extension will come pretty naturally, because it relies on the same core concepts in terms of using hooks like actions and filters to inject behavior at different parts of the application, the request cycle, and just operating in that space. So those are the two resources I would recommend is the developer portal on WooCommerce.com, and then also the wordpress.org plugin developer handbook.

Bob: Okay. How about on the user side, is there ... I know that WooCommerce has a great blog, and I actually had a meetup once on basic user stuff out there, and I found very little, I mean, a lot of scattered stuff, you can Google it and it's on different blogs, anything that stands out to you WooCommerce wise and beyond?

Allen: Yes, for users, I know that we have the WooCommerce doc site and it is pretty comprehensive. That's what we have a lot of our happiness engineers direct support request to because we have pages on different topics, including a lot of the extensions that in our marketplace. So I think that, that site is a good resource for people. The plugin forum on wordpress.org is another great place for people to go if they have specific questions about things, it may be that somebody has asked a question in that support forum before. I tend to use Stack Overflow quite a bit, and I find, I don't know, six or seven times out of 10, I can find a pretty good answer or at least point myself in the right direction of something I'm trying to do in WooCommerce by going to one of those three resources.

Bob: Yes, that makes sense. One of the ones I sometimes recommend, for real basics is WP 101, they have some real ... I mean if a user just needs to grasp that initial, what's back here? They get lost in it. They're short, there's not a ton of them, and you go through it and you get a little bit more, yes, just a little bit direction on it. And then I think you can dive into a lot of the other stuff like you mentioned. Well, Zach wrote a little novel here. So let's see what we got here. How can someone get started if they want to contribute to the WooCommerce open source project, and what is being done to increase community involvement in core development for WooCommerce? Boy, that's a loaded question. Two part there, all right.

Allen: So we're working on it. I don't think that we have a great system in place right now to encourage core contributions, but it is something that we recognize that we want to do. We have contributing guides in various repositories, which I think, to speak to this a little bit, I think that's part of the problem is that we have so many different repositories where people can contribute, and a lot of times, there are different ways to contribute depending on the project you want to contribute to. So somebody who wants to add something to say the blocks project may have to do different steps from somebody who wants to contribute to WooCommerce Admin or WooCommerce core, and I think that, that's a bit of a challenge.

If you are interested in getting started as a contributor, one thing we do here is we label all of our issues as we go through and we triage them, and we have a label that is good first issue. So if you're interested in getting started with it, take a look at those issues in those repositories. I think it's type goodfirst issue, something like that and what we've done in the past couple months as we started to standardize the way that we're labeling all of these repositories. So small steps toward getting engineering kind of aligned in terms of practices. And so if you look at the labels across these repositories, you should be able to find some issues that might be worth tackling. One thing that I would really like to see if people want to help us improve our documentation, a lot of our core code reference is generated from doc strings that are in our PHP files and our Your JavaScript files. And if we can improve that over time, that'll just automatically make our documentation better. So that's one great way to get started as a contributor in any of these projects, it's just to help us document them a little bit better.

Bob: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Alrighty. This is another one. Let's see. Okay. Come on people. We want those questions. This is another one that I pulled actually from Twitter the other day, somebody said they weren't going to be able to make it. And let's see here who, where we go here. Okay. So th does the frequency as smaller, monthly updates, help or hinder keeping up with the documentation?

Allen: I don't know if it has an impact on the documentation itself. We were chatting about this earlier this week, and it's one of those things where it's we see the gap in documentation is a larger project. Basically. It's a chunk that we need to To just tackle it. I don't think it's necessarily something that has come about as a result of shifting to monthly releases, which I'm trying to think of when we switched. It was probably about a year ago that we switched to monthly releases. Yeah. I don't know. We haven't really mentioned to see what the effect is, come to think of it, but. I have not noticed a difference in the amount of documentation.

Bob: Yes. So nobody is frantically scrambling because when they asked me that I thought the way I could think of, okay, we got to go change this little part, we got a good change this little part, but maybe the fact that it is just little parts help a lot more than saying, okay, now we got to totally rewrite this whole thing because of constant major updates and stuff. So, interesting. Cool. All right. Well come on people. I know Diego, come on, I know you would have something to ask, something is burning inside of you. Let me go back here and see. We had another, let's see, okay, this is one that I asked somebody and I thought this was a pretty good one. And then maybe this as is not a developer but a developer advocate, do you feel pressure and responsibility with millions of store depending on your code, does this keep you awake at night?

Allen: Yes. So this is something that I feel a big connection to because of the nature of the WooCommerce platform, right. I feel like WooCommerce is the platform that you use if you are a small business owner just trying to get started, it's the roll your own version of an Ecommerce solution. And so knowing that these people are just regular moms and pops, that's the expression we have here in the States, moms and pop stores are depending on WooCommerce, that does keep me awake at night, and we do feel that pressure and responsibility because we do have big companies who use WooCommerce and they are very important as well. But when you when you think about affecting somebody's bottom line because their store can't function basically, their livelihood is at stake, that's something that we see a great responsibility for.

Bob: Yes. I mean, I used to be awake just handling three or four clients sometimes at night and stuff and I can imagine just the overall encompassing. I woke up this morning and I had something I thought would work a certain way with WooCommerce worked a different way. It was through the payments and stuff, it was actually prorating and it's one of those things when, the minute I opened my iPad this morning at about five o'clock AM, I saw my first thing and I started freaking out about it. And it was like, oh my God, I totally thought of this wrong. And I do want to add, just for everybody knows as I'm waiting ... We got another question here. But that I just recently, yesterday, switched over from regular Stripe to Woo payments.

Allen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bob: Everybody thinks, okay, you're biased Bob and you're going to say ... But okay, I'm going to honestly say, I've been doing this stuff for 10 years and I've dealt with payment gateways, and I would say that onboarding was about the least painless I've ever experienced in my entire web life of payment gateways. I mean, yes, essentially I went through, I don't know, was it five, six steps, it was done. And I thought, that almost seemed too easy.

So then I went in and made a purchase just because I wanted to see, and sure enough, it went through because I had several other things coming through, I knew, so I want to make sure it was working. And it was like, I had to do a double take because I'm so used to the process of going and copying the API, and bringing this over here and doing this. And I was just like, man, did I dream this or something? I don't know, it was really slick. So if anybody out there that is watching this now or going to think about clients doing this, I would rest assure that this is ... I know that it's just in the US now, so there is limitations, but yes, I would say your clients are going to have a lot more of a wonderful experience if they need to do this or want to add it at some point. But anyway, I just thought I would throw that in because that was my recent experience.

So Diego says he doesn't have specific technical questions. Well, we don't want technical do we. No, I'm just kidding. But let's go with this first one. Okay, so let's go through here. He's going through stuff and I'm going to just ... So he says, WooCommerce took the tons of JavaScript out last year? Yes, JS has always been a side thing in WordPress. Elements like React, MBM, Webpack, etc. And he goes on, now they seem to have become the thing to use and I noticed that most developers either have basic knowledge about them or none at all. So now he leads up with what he calls a quirky question. I like quirky. So the question is, what are the plans for comprehensive development documentation targeted at someone who has WC plugins to update with the latest technologies but can't use create thing scripts?

Allen: Yes, that's a great question, right, because it's super easy to just throw a script at somebody and say, hey, if you run this, you can start afresh. But a lot of these developers have years and years worth of code that they have put effort into and they don't want to start fresh. They want to start from scratch because it just doesn't make sense. How do we port that code to this new way of working?

We do have a few resources in place but Diego is right, the documentation that we have in place or the guidance around migrating, what we might call legacy extensions, traditional, excuse me, WooCommerce extensions, we don't have great guidance for porting those. We do have a blog post that came out a couple of months ago, I want to say maybe October or November, you can find it on the developer.WooCommerce.com, there was a blog post about adding React to a legacy PHP extensions. Yes, so they do have to do the work manually right now, yes.

And these are just manual steps. So we don't have a great middleware option, you might call it, a migration path. And part of that has to do with the fact that historically, there have been multiple development, we call them pathways, different ways to develop WooCommerce extensions, and so that makes it difficult to have a one size fits all scripted way of transforming old extensions to the new way of working. But that's interesting though to ... I'm trying to think. I could ask around actually if we have ... Let me take a note here in my notebook. I think that if we could explore something like that to automate the process of updating, I think that would be really neat because we haven't considered that, I think.

So yes, and I see the next comment here too. So we have all of these tools that historically have not been a huge part, as he points out, not been a huge part of WordPress development. So you have Webpack, and you have React is this whole other ball of wax that we have, and all these new technologies, and right now the best option we have is to point people to the official documentation for those projects to get a better foundational knowledge of how they work. So it's tricky. I do think that we could flesh things out a little bit better, but again, it's tricky because there has not been a singular starting point for a lot of developers because everybody has developed in a different way over the years.

Bob: Yes. Until we get the next question, I'm going to throw something at you that's a little bit different, and this is something I had asked somebody recently, I think, on a podcast, I had asked as actually somebody that runs an agency. And you work with a lot of developers, what do you think ... think of the product developers, the ones that want to reach out to agencies, and basically have them swoon over their product, and I get this as well, I mean, people that just create products, I understand they want to get it out there and they want people to use them, talk about them, whatever, but, of course, that isn't always the best way to do it. What do you recommend to developers that are doing products, and this may be from just your own experience as well, to reach out to these agencies, is there some secret sauce or is it just over time it's going to work, because I think they get very desperate especially when they've launched something?

Allen: Right. Yes. There are a couple of different things that developers can try. So we do have the WooCommerce marketplace, which I think a lot of developers do know about. It's a process for getting listed in there and I think agencies do pull from there. So that's one way to get additional exposure, additional adoption that helps your extension gain traction and things like that. That being said, we do have specific requirements, there are certain extension types that the marketplace doesn't allow, for one reason or another, just simply because of some of our internal business needs and priorities and things.

One thing we do recommend to people is getting listed in the WordPress plugin directory, so that's another way that these extension developers can get some additional exposure. What I have recommended sometimes, is I've helped people connect in our WooCommerce community chat, our slack chat that we have, that's one option. It gets tricky because you don't, as a developer, necessarily want to come across as spammy or just promoting your own solution. But a lot of times, what I found is in our weekly office hours that we hold on slack, it's specifically for developers but what we end up having is we have people who are building stores, had a lot of agency people come in looking for solutions or merchants come in looking for solutions that can be solved with a plugin that already exists. So that's a great opportunity for people to spot these opportunities to say, hey, I wrote a plugin that does this thing that you're asking how you can implement yourself. And so, oftentimes, that's one way to get a foot in the door with agencies or even just directly with merchants who need that solution.

Bob: Right. And that's what I've told a lot, exactly the same thing, get in and get to know these people, don't sell them, get in and get in on conversations, and by osmosis, people start to get to know you better. So you'll know when that approach is right rather than just coming in. I've seen that a lot in Slack, somebody comes in, hey, I just launched this, and they put it in six channels, and yes, it just doesn't quite go over really well. So Ronald has a nice, big question for you here. What's in the roadmap for the next 12 months? Maybe Allen can give us a glimpse of Woo in 2022. Wow, can you go that far ahead.

Allen: So I can't go quite 2022. Let me think here. So let pull this up on my end just so that I'm looking at accurate stuff here. So, again, I work in the, we'll call it the platform group basically, so we are focused on just making sure that WooCommerce is a trusted platform that ... Something big for us is we're taking steps to eliminate that anxiety, I guess I could call it anxiety, if you've ever been a merchant or even just a site implementer that trepidation you feel before you click that update button, it's like, is this going to break anything when I click it? That's something that we've been putting a lot of effort into is just removing that fear.

So focusing on backwards compatibility, ensuring that any update is not going to have breaking changes. That was one of the reasons we've done away with semantic versioning over the past few months, I guess it was just this month, come to think of it or last month, so that we can communicate those changes in a more explicit way and tell developers and merchants how to prep for them.

What else are we doing? Let's see here. To the best of my knowledge, you're going to keep seeing monthly releases from us over the next year, that's not something we're going to change. We have built up systems that seem to be working really well for us, which I'm excited about. The team that I'm on has been working a ton on testing utilities that we're using internally, and I think a lot of these we've already open-sourced and shared with the community but there's additional stuff coming as well. There is an API package that I believe this might be open source. I think it is. Yes, it's listed on NPM. So it's an API package that people can use to help ... you can build test fixtures with it, and you can also use it to interact with the WooCommerce REST API, that's a node package that we're working on.

Let's see here. We're working on, again, these come back to just the platform itself, working on scalability, something that a lot of people have asked for over the years, improving variation filtering, little platform limitations are things that we've really been focusing on lately. So just making the platform itself just better and more robust for the things that merchants need.

And something I'm excited about, we're rolling out a developer satisfaction scoring system. So some developers probably already know this, we've sent out a survey asking about their experience as a developer with WooCommerce but we're going to be measuring that satisfaction over the next year and then in the foreseeable future, to make sure that we're just getting better at what we do, what we offer.

Bob: All right. Well, hopefully that gave you some food for thought there, Ronald. So let's see. Waiting to see if we get some other question here. One of the things I was thinking about was, I recently did a podcast on the dreaded 2020, and I think we all want to put it behind us, but how it affect what you do at WooCommerce? I mean, obviously, we know the growth, we know a lot of challenges, I mean, some agent developers had more work than they could ever imagine. Others struggled, some became new developers because they just need to do because of the situation. Looking back at it, when did you start at WooCommerce, was it the beginning of last year?

Allen: Yes, it was mid year, I started in June.

Bob: Mid year. Okay, so if you started right in the midst of all this, so you have nothing to compare it to. But at the same time, how much was everything, I want to say focused, but everything layered out from how everybody was dealing with things, customers, new projects, stuff like that?

Allen: I mean, I'm trying to think. There's a great deal of friction, I think, that happened or maybe I can say tension because merchants are demanding these platforms, because it's like the paradigm is shifting basically overnight. And so on one hand that's great because you have all these new users who are trying out the platform for the first time, they're kicking the tires, and they're providing all this super valuable feedback about things that we want to fix. But at the same time, if we've had these other priorities that we were working on, we would have to recalibrate things. And I think they did that to a certain extent to accommodate for just the sheer number of new users who were coming to the platform and the feedback that they were giving us.

So, I think that maybe the piece that I mentioned earlier about scalability, I think that's probably a result of more people transitioning, not just to WooCommerce, but to Ecommerce in general. So you have the smaller mom and pop stores and you have lots more of them, I think, as a result of the pandemic, but then you also have some of these bigger companies who need systems that scale, who are looking for the right Ecommerce solution as well. And so I think that, excuse me, a lot of those pieces have come out of the shift that happened last year where we see just a huge explosion of growth in Ecommerce.

Bob: Mm-hmm (affirmative) I know that I had put that question to Chris Lemma in a podcast. And we talked a little bit about the stress of for developers because one thing is, a lot of new ones were coming in with big ideas, small budgets, because of one reason or another, and others were tight deadlines. It's not like now it's okay, I want to build a store, let's spend three months doing this, I need to get online right now. And that was another added stress.

Allen: And it multiplies too if you think about agencies, right. So just about every developer I talked to last year that was their chief complaint, and they wouldn't even call it a complaint but they were saying, "We have so much new business we can't keep up with it basically." And they were looking for just efficiencies in our platform that would make it easier for them.

So to cite an example, there was a developer who contacted me and they were using a plugin, I don't know if it's a Woo plugin or if it was a third party plugin, but because of a limitation in something, they were having to patch that plugin manually with a solution that they had come up with, which is not a big deal if you're only working with one store, but they were working with tons of stores and they had to patch it every time they wanted to update those stores. And so just something small like that can be a huge time suck basically if you multiply it out, if it scales out. So it's interesting to see these limitations play out in that way when so many more people are using the platform all at once.

Bob: Right. And Alicia had said, "It was amazing. There was a lot of silver to mine in those linings if you knew where to look." Which is true and I'm not sure if it was Alicia, because she was on the podcast recently, but we were talking about how it pushed maybe what would have taken years and years, in a matter of one year, and one of that is just the buying habits online because people were not forced but there was more of a comfort level to buy online because they didn't want to go out and shop in person, they didn't want to go in malls, things are closed and stuff. So then that might have happened over time to these people, but suddenly, we're all forced into it.

And I'm guessing that most people aren't thinking, I've spent the last six months buying stuff online at Amazon or wherever, boy, I can't wait to get around, and walk in those crowded malls, and drive to the traffic, and have a great time going in store after store trying to find exactly what I want, like nobody ever said. So you really wonder, it's probably made a huge shift, I mean, on the other side of things, consumer wise, that we're just not going back to and I know there's a lot of other things too, but that's got to be a big one.

Allen: I think so. And I think it goes a long way to help with just general democratization of commerce. And I know that's our mission is just democratizing commerce, but if you think about people who have been in this game for years, Ecommerce with WooCommerce, how much better they may have been positioned when last year happened, basically, to claim some of that market share that they couldn't have otherwise done because they didn't have the capital to have a brick and mortar store or some of the other things that these bigger retailers did.

Bob: Yes, exactly. All right. I think you're doing so well at WooCommerce that just nobody has many questions. I think that's the point. You have a developer chat where they can come in once a week on Slack, what I'm curious about when you do something like that, has that, and I don't want you to have to say, no, it didn't, but has that gone the direction you wanted it to? Because you just open it like, hey, we're here and come in and ask questions, and it maybe rolls into what you might normally see on Slack but maybe they feel more eyes are on it.

Allen: I hadn't thought about it from that angle but, yes, I'm trying to think, it hasn't necessarily done what we originally thought that it would, but it has also done things that we didn't anticipate doing, which is, for me, it's great. Originally, the goal was to have developers increasing, we call it multi-directional conversation, right. So it's not just us talking to developers and developers giving us feedback, but it's developers talking to each other, sharing solutions. And we do have that to a certain extent and it's so awesome to see.

In the one we had this week, somebody came and asked for ... I'm trying to think of how they were trying to do this. They wanted to filter a list of products based on a percentage of discount. So they wanted a merchant or, excuse me, a customer to come in and click a button, it would show them a view of all of the products that were 50% off, we'll say. But because of the way that the database and the REST API are set up in WooCommerce, the best that I could offer was where you could hit the REST API, and you could pull all of the products that are listed as on sale, and then you can use the sale price and the regular price to calculate it. And it could work in some convoluted way, but then we had another developer who came in and said, "You know what, we had the similar problem a few months back, and so we have this solution, it's prepackaged."

And so, I don't know if it was a plugin that they were selling, I think he linked to somewhere in the plugin forum, there was maybe a code snippet or something like that, but it's neat to see people helping each other in that way, which has been really nice.

The other side to it is that I keep a log of all the conversations that I'm a part of in Developer Office Hours, and then internally I have a monthly digest that I share with engineering leads and things like that. And so it gets those conversations in front of those people without them having to dig for them, and so it's a really nice way for them to find out what people in the community are talking about, what they're asking about, and I think that, that has been a big help.

Bob: Yes. Well, somebody just shared this over in WooCommerce group on Facebook, so we'll see if a few more people pop in or if everybody's so buried in working on their stores themselves that they just ignore us totally. But you never know, it's a spur of the moment occasion. So, I'm curious, and I'm not just going to be filling time here, but have you done anything on clubhouse yet? I'm wondering if you personally, have you even dealt with that new platform clubhouse? I'm just curious.

Allen: I haven't, tell me more about it though.

Bob: Yes. It's just where people, how can you say in a nutshell, you start chats, you just automatically start a chat and you can invite people up to the stage and have a conversation. So, you're constantly getting people to, for example, you could say, okay, I'm going to get on clubhouse and I'm going to talk about something we're doing with documentation. And everybody that follows you would be notified about that, because you'd have this room, and they could pop in and they could listen or you can invite them up, they can raise their hands, and you can invite them up to talk with you. So it's very sporadic, even though things are scheduled, but you're notified. It's interesting. Twitter is trying to do it with beta in Spaces I think it's called right now. But it's different.

Sometimes I get some notifications, but sometimes you get them and it's like, drop that. Alicia said, "It's podcast on steroids but it's sporadic kind of thing." And I believe it disappears after you're done so it's not archived either. So it can be very, yes, fire by the pants type of thing.

Allen: That's very cool.

Bob: Yes. And it'll be interesting to see how it goes. I think Facebook is going to try to do it, I think it was Facebook, I know Twitter's got a beta, so everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. So it's just another thing for us to do, as if we don't have enough things to do. But it'll be fun to see how it goes out.

Allen: This is fascinating. I appreciate you telling you about this because this is something we're looking at doing. In the past, we've held this monthly, we call it a community chat on Slack, and for anybody who is here today or who's listening today, who's attended these, you may know that a lot of it has turned into just a digest of things that have shipped over the past month and we want to rework that so it has a little bit more value basically to developers. And so we want to have more focused conversations around specific WooCommerce topics, but this sounds like it might be a great platform for that.

Bob: Yes. And the only setback I see is it's only available for iPhone, it's not for I Android, and you've got to do it on your phone. So there is limitations right now, I'm sure they're getting all sorts of money, but as Diego said, he doesn't even eat apples, so he doesn't have an iPhone. But it is, I think, yes, it's another option out there. And it'll be interesting to see where it goes. I've been involved with a few of them and I've yet to start a chat myself as if I need to be chatting more. But I'm sure I'll do it sometime and I may just be be talking to myself, but hey, I do that a lot during the day anyway so it really would be no different for me. So anyway [inaudible 00:48:16]. All right. Maybe sometime we should just move over a community chat onto this sometime, just sporadically and say, hey, everybody, come over and we're going to carry it over there or something. I mean, I shouldn't hijack it but I'm always looking for ideas.

Allen: That would be fantastic. I'll see if I can find an engineer who wants to volunteer and we can come over and we can just crash things.

Bob: Okay. Well, we have one last question here. Here we go. So let's go ahead and do this. Let's go ahead. So a couple questions. One, Allen, are you the one who approves plugins being sold via WooCommerce marketplace? Why are there a few plugins that seem to do the same thing in the WooCommerce marketplace?

Allen: Yes. Okay, so answer to question number one, no, unfortunately not. I'm not the person who approves it. We have a dedicated team who's over our marketplace effort completely, and so they have certain criteria for what they accept. There are technical criteria in terms of things that your code has to adhere to, certain standards code sniffing things, and then there's also certain types of extensions that they won't accept just by nature of the type of extension that they are. Excuse me, anybody who wants to sign up as a vendor, we have a signup form, I think it's woocommerce.com/vendorsignup, you can sign up and talk to one of our business development people about selling your extension.

So question number two, why are there a few plugins that seem to do the same thing in the WooCommerce marketplace? I think this is by design, I'd have to do a little bit more research to verify but I think that, that's the idea is that, in the marketplace, it's okay for there to be competing functionality because then that helps all of us get better, helps us improve our extensions through competition.

Bob: All right. Well, so Zach says you need to join the leveling up over on clubhouse, he's doing a follow up on his actually event he's going to be doing here so they'll be talking about code so I may go in sometimes and just listen, even though I probably won't understand half what he's saying, I'll listen Because his goal in life is to teach me some code I think so that's a big goal.

All right. Well, I think that's it, we are winding down. We're going to go ahead. Let's see, Diego says, "If you apply for a product on the marketplace and they say no, try again a bit later because, hey, maybe it just works." So it's try, try again. So Allen, this has been cool, we did the hour. We had a lot of conversation, a lot of different stuff, went off on some tangents but had fun. So anyway, yes, I'm assuming probably the best way for people to have a conversation with you or connect with you is on the WooCommerce Slack, is that correct?

Allen: That's right. Yes, you can find me on the WooCommerce Slack, my handle is Allen Smith. You can also email me if email works better for you, I'm allen.smith@automattic.com. But I'm always happy to chat with people and help you find the answers if I can.

Bob: All right, excellent. Well, I think we'll call it a day here. So again, thanks, Allen, it's been great.

Allen: Yes. Thanks, Bob. Thanks for having me.

Bob: You bet. And thank you everybody. See you around.