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Marc Benzakein is the Marketing Lead for MainWP, a coach, and one of the nicest people you’ll meet in the WordPress community. I love this from his website: “You have the power to write your own story!” And that’s exactly what he’s been doing, not only writing his own story, but helping others do that, too.
|Wie lautet Ihre Berufsbezeichnung?||Marketing Lead|
|Wie lautet Ihr Firmenname?||MainWP|
|Was machen Sie mit WordPress?||Marketing, Coaching|
|Beschreiben Sie die WordPress-Community in wenigen Worten.||A welcoming group of people anxious to help others succeed as much as they themselves wish to succeed.|
[00:00:00] Speaker A: Welcome to WPCoffeeTalk with your podcast Barista, Michelle Frechette. Special thanks to our sponsors, WS Form and Beaver Builder. If you’re interested in joining WPCoffeeTalk as a guest or a sponsor, please visit our site wpcoffeetalk.com and now on with the show.
Welcome to the next episode of WPCoffeeTalk. I’m Michelle Frechette, your podcast Barista, serving up the press stories from around the world. And today. Oh, I never asked you how to pronounce your name, so I hope I’m not going to slaughter your name. But today my guest is Marc Benzakein. He’s the marketing lead at MainWP. And please tell me I said your name somewhat correctly.
[00:00:40] Speaker B: Well, you said Marc exactly 100% correctly.
[00:00:45] Speaker A: Pronounce your last name. For me.
[00:00:47] Speaker B: It’s Smith.
[00:00:48] Speaker A: No, Smith.
[00:00:50] Speaker B: Yeah.
It’s actually benzocaine, so it sounds like benzocaine.
[00:00:55] Speaker A: Okay.
[00:00:56] Speaker B: Yeah. But I usually, I will remember that I get benzocaine and Benzokine a lot. And then I remember growing up, my dad is a university professor, and there was another professor who lived up the street from us, grew up around him. He just called us Benzicin and he did it throughout our life. And he was the only one. So if I ever heard that, well.
[00:01:23] Speaker A: Trust me, with the last name Frechette, it gets slaughtered all the time. And in the upcoming release for this might already be out by or might not be out by that point. But the 6.4 release for WordPress, I am on the marketing and communications team and I was reading proofing down through the announcement that’s going to go out, and now I don’t know which jazz artist, it just says jazz artist on what we have so far. But anyway, my name, I’m on the team and my name was misspelled, so I had to correct my own name. So I get it. So I apologize for mispronouncing your name. I was close.
[00:02:03] Speaker B: Don’t even worry about me. You and I have known each other for a bit. You know me as Marc. I know you’re Michelle.
[00:02:13] Speaker A: Exactly.
[00:02:13] Speaker B: I assume Frechette is a French last name, isn’t?
[00:02:17] Speaker A: Yep. Yeah.
[00:02:18] Speaker B: So my dad was a French professor. So when I look at, oh, there, you see Frechette. So I was just trying to think about how do you mispronounce that? But I guess people could say Frichet. Frichette.
[00:02:31] Speaker A: Well, they put an N in it. They just add an N and they constantly pronounce it Frenchette, even though there’s no, N. Really, I took a class in college. I was a religion and philosophy major back then. I took a class in college with a man who taught Greek and an Old Testament and I was in his Old Testament class. And the first day he’s doing roll call, we’re all just kind of chatting, waiting with each other and he’s calling last names of people like raise their hand here or whatever. And the guy next to me goes, I think he’s calling you. He was calling for Friquetti. Yeah, it’s French, not Italian, but anyway.
[00:03:10] Speaker B: Yeah, well, for those.
[00:03:15] Speaker A: I was going to say. So for those people who aren’t familiar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
[00:03:22] Speaker B: Well, my name is Marc Benzakein and I am working.
I wear two hats. I do marketing for main WP and then I also represent site district, which is a small managed WordPress host.
And then I do a little bit of life coaching.
And I’ve been in WordPress for 13 years now. Prior to this, until last year, I was one of the team members that had and ran Serverpress, which was a local development platform.
And we did that for quite a while, really enjoyed that. And then I took a couple of months out of WordPress and then came back. Because you all go back home, right?
[00:04:17] Speaker A: That’s right.
Well, we have a lot of things to dig into in the middle part where we just do some open conversation because I got a lot of questions, I got a lot of things I want to talk about with you because, well, we’ll get to there later, but let me go through some of our introductory questions. First, tell us about your mug and what are you drinking?
[00:04:36] Speaker B: My mug. I’m a big fan of supporting local business.
I come to a cowork where I do work. That way I can keep my work and home life separate generally. And it’s a cowork called the Daily Desk and it is a place I discovered because I had my office at the house. And I said to Gina, I said, I want to put a whiteboard up here so that I can whiteboard things out. And she’s like, we are not going to have a whiteboard in our house.
[00:05:21] Speaker A: I’ve never met her, but I love her already.
[00:05:24] Speaker B: Yeah, she just looked at me and she’s like, we are not having a whiteboard in our house. And I’m like, you know, I really need to find a co working place because that day I looked. And the other thing is I’ve been working from home since 1997, essentially.
[00:05:43] Speaker A: Okay, yeah.
[00:05:47] Speaker B: When we went through COVID and all that, it was not really a big deal to work from home, and most of us already know the work from home culture, but I did realize that I wanted that separation. And the thing that I like about working in a cowork is you’ve got all the water cooler and none of the politics. Right? Yeah. So you get to meet people, you get to network, and you have all these creatives and all these people from all around everywhere, and you bond with these people, and you form these friendships and things like that, and you don’t have the politics of, oh, well, they’re not doing their job, or I’m having to cover for all the stuff that goes along with the negative stuff that goes along with going into an office. And so this is a very nice facility here. I’m very lucky that we live in this small town of Fairfield, California, which know kind of in the Napa Valley, San Francisco Bay Area. We’re a little bit north of east or a little bit west of Sacramento, and I thought I’d be lucky to find any kind of co working space. And this is actually a world class co working space. We have meeting in. I’m sitting in a podcast room right now.
[00:07:01] Speaker A: Nice.
[00:07:01] Speaker B: That they have. There’s a massage chair. They just got a sauna in here. There’s a gym.
All the things, the kitchen, they keep it loaded with snacks, which is not necessarily a good thing.
And then they have a coffee machine that’ll make every kind of coffee, and it grinds it fresh and everything that’s on the daily desk. Yeah, it is a place. It is my home away from home, and I definitely recommend it if you happen to be in the area. I actually have been thinking about starting a WordPress meet up here because we have a great big, huge training room, and I get all of that included with my thing.
[00:07:44] Speaker A: Oh, that’s fantastic.
[00:07:45] Speaker B: With my monthly bill.
[00:07:48] Speaker A: That’s awesome. What’s in your cup?
[00:07:50] Speaker B: My cup is a cup of coffee.
[00:07:53] Speaker A: How do you take it?
[00:07:54] Speaker B: Straight black coffee.
[00:07:55] Speaker A: Straight black coffee. Well, my mug today is. I think anybody that knows me well knows that I’m a big Wonder Woman fan. So I’ve got my sparkly Wonder Woman. This one was from Terry Tudditch. She sent me that for my birthday several years ago. And today is coffee with, what is it called? Coconut cream.
[00:08:14] Speaker B: Okay.
[00:08:15] Speaker A: Yeah, that’s what I’ve got.
[00:08:17] Speaker B: So Gina would like you too, because she’s a Wonder Woman fan as she is. I keep telling her she needs to dress up as Wonder Woman for Halloween, but she looks like her, too, so it actually would be that hard to pull it out.
[00:08:33] Speaker A: That’s awesome. I love it.
On one of my other chairs, I have a cape that goes across the back of your chair. It’s a chair cape. That’s a Wonder Woman cape. That was again. Oh, that’s cool also. So, yeah, I should put on the back of my scooter maybe for word camp us next.
[00:08:47] Speaker B: That would be awesome. That would be.
Could Turbo. What you should do is do the scooter and then plug a fan into it so when you’re driving it around, the fan goes up.
[00:09:02] Speaker A: So many ideas. So many ideas.
So you said about 13 years ago, how did you get started in WordPress?
[00:09:09] Speaker B: That’s a very long story. I’ll try to give you the condensed. Yeah, the condensed version, essentially.
I had been in technology pretty much my whole friend. I was living in Wisconsin. I had a friend in California who’s going through a divorce, and I was talking to him, and I said, what is it you’d like to do with your know, what do you want to do next? He says, you know, I go to these motorcycle swap meets and they sell Harley parts. I’ll buy them and then know, clean them up, and I’ll sell them on eBay and I’ll make some money. He says, I’d like to turn that into, like, a legitimate business. And I’m like, okay, how would we go about doing that? And he said, well, if you go to dealerships, they generally have a back room full of obsolete parts, parts that they’ve taken off of motorcycles, like tanks and fenders and seats and things like that and all these things. And they’ve got a pile of them because they’ve done custom work, and they’ll just sell it to you in a lot for X amount of dollars. You go and you make an offer, and I’m like, okay, let’s try that. I knew nothing about motorcycles at the time. I was fascinated with them. And I used to ride one years ago, but I was not like a big Harley guy, other than I thought they were cool. And I was in Wisconsin, so, of course, Harley Davidson is based in Wisconsin. And so I said, you know what? We have an empty house up here. Why don’t you come up here if you can deal with the cold of.
And, and we started this business out of the house, and we were liquidating on eBay, and it worked really well until eBay changed their fees. And I got to thinking about, said, you know, there’s got to be a way that I can leverage business off of my competitors. I’m like, what if I set up some affiliate and this was back before eBay, I mean, before Google changed their algorithm so duplicate content wasn’t an issue.
[00:11:06] Speaker A: And all that stuff, right?
[00:11:07] Speaker B: I forget what they called a penguin or something like that. Anyway, so I was like, okay, well, I could build a site out myself that reads in an eBay fee based on keywords and something like that, but there has to be something out there that I could just do this.
I came into WordPress because I found this plugin at the time called PHPBait Pro, which is a plugin for WordPress. And so it was $49 for this plugin.
I then was like, okay, well, I thought WordPress was just blogging, just like everybody who gets into WordPress, thanks.
And I had a server, I had a rack that I had built because I’m always tinkering and all that stuff. I had a rack and a server. And within a couple of hours I had figured WordPress out. I had the plugin running. And then another hour later I had this full Harley site that was reading in using my affiliate code from eBay. And I’m like, we don’t have to clean up parts. We don’t have to store inventory, we don’t have to catalog the stuff because we had parts that would date back to the 40s, World War II era and trying to find what machine it would fit. And I mean, these parts would sell for a lot of money, but they were for a very specific purpose. So they’d sit on the shelf for a long know, that kind of stuff. And so I put up this affiliate site and literally within a week we were making more money off of my eBay affiliate that I had created with WordPress that I’m like, I’m going to do more sites. So I did a photography site that was my next site was like camera and then jewelry and then watches and then all these things that I see your cat’s tail.
[00:12:51] Speaker A: Yeah.
[00:12:52] Speaker B: Anyway, he’s waving at me.
I had all these sites that I had built and I was able to do that for about a year or so and it was going really well. And I was like, this is the easiest money I’ve ever made. And I’ve done some things where I made some easy money in the past and this was even easier.
And then all of a sudden, Google changed their algorithms. And the minute they changed their algorithms, our traffic dwindled because I wasn’t going and creating content. I wasn’t doing anything.
But out of that I realized that WordPress was far more than just a blogging platform. And so I thought, you know what, I can go into the website building business. And so coincidentally, Greg Franklin, who was one of my partners at Server Press, but Greg and I go way back to 1987.
Greg and I are the longest partnership in WordPress.
We have been best friends, we have been partners, we have been through wars together as you’re going to over a period of 30 some years. And I hadn’t talked to Greg in a little while and I called him up and I said, hey, I’m doing WordPress. He says, that’s weird. I’m doing WordPress too. Maybe we should do it together. Hey, okay. Well, it turned out he was far more advanced in WordPress than I was because I was just using it for this one very specific thing. He had gotten into theme building or theme customization and getting into the code and all of that stuff. And I’m like, install a plugin, configure. Boom, that was like me, right? And he’s also more artistic than I am, so I’m not really a great know. We started talking every single day and we get in these. At the time it was Google Hangouts or whatever it was, I don’t even remember where we’d share screen and he’d show me and he was kind of like showing me some of the things and how WordPress worked and all that. And Greg is like a fantastic teacher. I mean, he loves to teach people, he loves to help people and all of, so that’s how I got into WordPress and it was just kind of know, I don’t know if this is typical of everybody, but it was kind of this backdoor kind of way of getting into WordPress.
I needed it to scratch an itch and it scratched the itch that I had and I discovered there was more to it.
[00:15:37] Speaker A: Yeah, I think a lot of us have very similar stories to that where it’s like we needed a solution, we found the solution and then we found a career and a community and friends and it’s kind of like, yeah, it’s just unlike anything else I’ve ever been a part of. For sure.
[00:15:53] Speaker B: Yeah.
[00:15:54] Speaker A: When you think about websites in general, sites you’ve seen, sites you’ve built, what do you think is something that we as web builders, developers, designers don’t focus enough attention on that would make our sites better for our end users?
[00:16:10] Speaker B: That’s a good question. And I know that this is a very generic answer and I’m also the world’s biggest offender when it comes to this.
But just ux, I think developers in particular, engineers in particular, they think in terms of functionality, but they don’t think in terms of intuitive kind of. Where do you go from here? Where do you go from here? Where do you go from here?
And to people like me who like to tinker, that doesn’t bother me.
But Gina, my girlfriend, she is not super technology driven. She uses it as a tool and nothing else. And so I watch her struggle with things. She’s in the medical profession and I watch her get on these medical systems that have these terrible, terrible user interfaces, or things are buried 50 and I have to go in and figure out where it is.
And for just about everything, she’ll pull out a sheet of paper and she’ll write down like ten steps in order to get to one thing that she wants to do to chart a patient or something like that.
I think that’s the biggest thing. And I know it’s, like I said, a generic answer, but if you can’t make it easy, it doesn’t matter how fast your website is, it doesn’t matter how secure your website is.
[00:17:50] Speaker A: Or how pretty it is. Yeah.
[00:17:52] Speaker B: Or how pretty it is.
I don’t care about pretty. I care about functionality. Right.
I always say to people, to me, the ideal web page is text. It’s just nothing but text with links, and you just click on what you want. I don’t need all the pictures, I don’t need all the pretty buttons, but I know that that’s just me.
[00:18:12] Speaker A: Right?
[00:18:12] Speaker B: I recognize that.
I like to tinker. I don’t mind if it takes me an extra five minutes to figure something out, but I know that other people in general, I know that people just like, I want to get on. I want to get to where.
[00:18:26] Speaker A: Yep. I have often said that one of the ugliest websites and yet the easiest to navigate and the best UX for me is Amazon. It’s not a pretty website. You don’t go there. I’m like, wow, this is gorgeous. But the function on it, I can find whatever I need because, boom, it’s right there.
[00:18:44] Speaker B: Yeah.
And the antithesis of that is Craigslist, which is a big old mess, but people use it because they get good deals. So there’s a.
[00:18:54] Speaker A: Exactly, exactly, yeah, for sure, yeah. Craigslist isn’t a pretty website either, but the function works, right? It just works.
[00:19:02] Speaker B: Yeah, it’s functional, it’s a text. And I look at it and go, this works. For me?
[00:19:06] Speaker A: Yeah, exactly.
What’s something that you wish you had known earlier in your wordpress journey that would have made things so much simpler once you actually knew what it was? You’re like, god, I just wish I’d known about this way earlier than I did.
[00:19:23] Speaker B: It’s not a thing per se. It’s not a function per se. It really is just the community. I did not realize how thriving and this was once again, back in 2010 eleven, somewhere in there. And I had been just kind of tooling along with WordPress with Greg, and Greg was the one who said, hey, Wordcamp San Diego is coming up this year. You should fly out here and I’ll buy you the know, I’ll buy you the ticket to get in WordPress. Well, I’m thinking it’s a conference. I don’t like conferences.
And I thought, well, that seems fair. He buys me a ticket to a conference. I buy the airline ticket. Of course, the airline ticket was $350. I didn’t realize the ticket to the word camp was like, $25 at the time. So he definitely got the better end of the deal on that. But that was when I discovered the community. And I had always been a big believer in the idea of community. I just had never found a community where I felt like people can build each other up and people can build themselves up by building other people up and by giving of themselves. And so Wordcamp San Diego really was my introduction to the community. And I wish was I had been in WordPress for about a year, so it wasn’t like way down the road. But I will tell you that I wish I had discovered it right off the bat, because there are so many amazing people, not just smart, but generous. Right.
And it was this environment that was created that made me want to contribute immediately, even though I didn’t feel I had anything to contribute. And then, lo and behold, you discover through just normal evolution or whatever, you become a contributor.
You get a little comfortable, you get a little bit outside of your comfort zone, and you become a contributor before you know it, and you become an inspiration to people and things like that. And suddenly, before you know it, you’re one of those people that people come to, and it’s like, that’s the coolest thing in the world.
[00:21:41] Speaker A: It really is. Absolutely. I agree for sure. When you think back over those word camp experiences, is there like a pivotal moment? You can talk about something where you either met somebody or learned something that was just this great big aha moment. And can you tell us about what that was?
[00:21:58] Speaker B: I would have to say it was, once again, Wordcamp, San Diego. That first Wordcamp, two things happened. First, I met Steve Carnum, who was the person who created desktop server, and Greg was dealing with an issue on a website that he needed help with. And Steve sat down and helped Greg figure it out. And that was one area where I thought, oh, my goodness, this is so cool that you have this really incredibly gifted person who normally would charge hundreds of dollars per hour for his consulting time.
And he sat down and just gave of his time freely. And that was eye opening.
I met some really great people at that thing. I mean, the pivotal moment, I don’t know, it was one moment, it was just, I met some really great people. I met Brandon Dove and Jeff Zinn. I met Steve Zingett. I met all these people that I still am friends with after all these know, Steve and I have gone to basketball games together. It has nothing to do with.
And it’s just super cool to meet some of these people that are just brilliant in their own way and so giving and willing to help grow and grow people.
That was like a really eye opening moment. That was when I realized that WordPress was more than just a piece of software.
[00:23:46] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely.
I have friends from outside WordPress that are now inside WordPress because I kind of drag them in with me. Like, you got to figure you got to meet these people kind of thing.
My daughter traveled to Wordcamp Europe with me this year, kind of as my travel assistant. You met her.
She met so many people in WordPress that she flew down to Wordcamp us, got a ticket to Wordcamp us just so she could see those people again. And now she has a WordPress website for her business, which of course, her mother built for.
[00:24:20] Speaker B: That’s got to start somewhere.
[00:24:22] Speaker A: Exactly. So technically she’s a WordPress or not. Guess what is it that you do at MaiNWP? Tell us a little bit about your work there and what MaiNWP is.
[00:24:33] Speaker B: So MaiNWP is a managed WordPress dashboard. So you can manage multiple wordpress sites from one dashboard. And there’s a really big focus on two things that I really like about it. Well, three things, okay. One, customer service, which is always for me, I’m not going to put my name or get involved with anything that doesn’t put customers first.
So customer service is a really big deal. But as far as functionality goes, as far as I know, it’s the only 100% plugin. It’s not a SaaS, it’s just a subscription model to get your updates and all that. So you control all the data. Okay. So that makes it very private, very secure. It’s not on the cloud. It’s not anything like that. Excuse me, I have a little frog in my throat.
[00:25:24] Speaker A: That’s okay.
[00:25:24] Speaker B: Maybe if I. I’m going to drink some water out of my.
[00:25:28] Speaker A: The daily dash water.
There you go.
[00:25:33] Speaker B: So I apologize for that.
[00:25:34] Speaker A: No worries.
[00:25:35] Speaker B: I don’t know what’s going on.
What I really like about it is that it is secure and that you own everything. I think that from a business standpoint, SaaS models are great, but I think that most of us are getting a little bit of the SaaS fatigue. Right. Everything is a SaaS, and everything is a monthly fee or everything is.
And you don’t pay it, and you lose whatever you had because it’s being stored somewhere else or whatever, or you have to go through the brain damage of making backups or all of this stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, SaaS brings a lot of conveniences, but I think for something like this, where you get to control everything, and basically, you’ve got this dashboard that you have access to. We have some customers that have 300 sites that they manage, or 350 sites, and it’s just very cool. And I met the main WP guys, Dennis and Chris, way back in 2015 at work Camp Orlando. We both had sponsorship tables right next to each other. They were just getting going. We were just kind of getting known within the thing, and we formed a friendship, and it was really.
So, in answer to your question, I’m handling the marketing efforts. I’ve just been getting my feet wet. I’ve been doing that for about a month, and so learning about what the marketing efforts that they’ve done in the past and what’s worked and what hasn’t. Looking at the data, getting to know our partners, because we have several premium plugins that we have with the main WP platform, and so getting to know the partners that either have built these premium plugins or plugins that we’ve built for them or whatever.
So it’s really been a getting to know you kind of period, while at the same time getting out there and putting out the main WP name and all of that.
[00:27:45] Speaker A: It definitely helps when you’re part of the community already, because you know what people are looking for, you know how to interact with them. I think that working in marketing from being already in the community makes it just so much easier, which is what I do at Stellar WP. So people know me, I know them. I’ve been in the business, I know what I look for. I’m able to kind of speak the language that makes it a little bit easier, I think, for sure.
[00:28:10] Speaker B: That’s one thing. Oh, go ahead.
[00:28:12] Speaker A: I was going to say congratulations on your new position is what I was going to say. That’s pretty cool.
[00:28:16] Speaker B: Well, thank you. Yeah, but just a little public service announcement. One of the ways that people are successful in WordPress is that they develop their personal brand as well as whatever company they represent as a result of having a personal brand.
It does make it easier. Now, MaiNWP is kind of a workflow tool, so it falls within what I’ve already had experience marketing, which is really a nice fit for me.
But yeah, establishing that personal brand, I would say to know, get that going because know people know what you’re.
So when you represent a company, you bring a certain level of reputation, a certain level of credibility and all these things with you because people know who you are. MichelLe, if you were to, for instance, leave stellar and go work at, I’m not going to say anything, but like the worst possible company you could, right?
[00:29:18] Speaker A: Y Z Company.
[00:29:22] Speaker B: But if you were to go and work there, people would at least look at that company because they know you, but you would probably never go work there because you wouldn’t want to lend your reputation for that.
[00:29:33] Speaker A: Exactly.
It’s a two edged sword for sure.
Right now. One of the things that, it’s funny that you and I have been in the same circles for so long, and I don’t think we actually had met each other face to face till this year.
And the earliest face to face, if you will, similar to what we are right now was during the Adarim Summit earlier this year that we were both hanging out in the same networking space. And we were just kind of talking. And I was just at that week soft launching WPSpeakers.com and we were talking a little bit. I think I had mentioned during that time too, about my experiences that I’d had at Wordcamp Phoenix, which was that I gave a talk on underrepresentation and how we need to make more room at the know, all those kind of like platitudes that we say make more room at the table, but how the table is imaginary so it can be as big as we need to and how we need to be more inclusive in our space. And I talked about Blackpress and how Blackpress is a safe space for the black people in the WordPress community, et cetera. And how after I gave that talk, three different people came up to me, they asked if there was a safe space like Blackpress for the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ Plus. I don’t want to leave out the plus community in WordPress, and there is safe spaces like that in tech, but there wasn’t anything that I was able to discover in WordPress specifically. And at Wordcamp Phoenix, after party sitting with people from the LGBTQ plus community, we came up with LGBTQ press and LGBTQPress.com, which is still a work in progress because it’s all voluntary and I am a straight person, but I am absolutely an ally, which I think most people know that about me. And you said, hey, I’m an ally, too. How can I help? And now I feel like you and I are the godparents in that group.
[00:31:35] Speaker B: Yeah, well, yeah, it’s strange for me to be because I’ve been in technology my whole life, and I remember when I was the young guy in technology, and I still haven’t quite accepted the fact that I may be one of the old guys in technology, but the reality is, if you look at the calendar and you look at the year I was born and you do a little bit of math and you do an average, I’m probably at that end of the spectrum.
And so, yeah, I can see why you would feel that way. As far as allyship goes, I’m still learning. I have two kids. I mean, I have eight kids, but I have two kids who identify as queer, one of which has gone kind of through this discovery of they, them, him, she, the gender identification, and then the other has just kind of gone through the sexual preference sort of experience.
And for me, it’s been a tremendous learning experience. And I would say once again, one of the things that equipped me to be able to deal with that, even though I’ve always thought of myself as open minded and accepting and all of that stuff, was a couple of experiences that I had in the WordPress community that made me more sensitive. And I put my foot in my mouth a couple of times, and I was so grateful to people who were members of the community for not publicly shaming me, but pulling me aside and saying, hey, you may not have realized this because I know you’re a good person, and I know that you probably didn’t mean it. And I know that you can be a little sarcastic and you think things are funny that probably some people don’t. But I want you to know how this affected me.
And one experience was at work camp us in Philadelphia the first year.
And that experience to this day is something that I keep in my mind as I will never be able to relate and understand what it is that people of this community are going through. But it’s not my job to understand and relate, okay? It is my job to refer to them. And if they tell me that I’m being this way and they tell me, even if my immediate reaction is, well, I didn’t mean anything by it, the reality is it impacted someone in a negative way because I was insensitive to it.
[00:34:21] Speaker A: Yeah.
[00:34:22] Speaker B: And they’re members of that community, so they’re experts on that particular subject. I am not an expert. I am a neophyte. I’m learning, I’m of a generation where it was very simple, it was very binary. It was not just binary, but it was connected. There’s sexual preference and there’s gender. It was all wrapped up under one. Right, you’re a guy. Marriage is between a man and a woman. I did grow up in a fairly conservative environment.
As a result, I’ve become very passionate, and I like to say I’m passionate about human rights. So it’s all inclusive.
I think one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand, and this is where it gets all tied up is, well, what about me? I’m a white representing male. Right? Okay. And I’m straight. Okay. So I am, quote unquote part of the problem. Right. Well, that hurts to hear that. I will tell you it hurts to say to hear that because I’m like, yeah, but what about, I mean, my gut reaction is to always say, what about me? But the reality is until all of these marginalized communities that we’re talking about get the same treatment that me as a white presenting male get, then I’m going to pay attention to that. It’s no different than a customer contacting you because they’re having an issue. Am I going to go to all the other customers who aren’t having issues and saying, oh, well, you’re part of this too. Here, let me address all of you or whatever, or am I going to address the problem? That’s how we’re supposed to be wired is we look at a problem and we address that.
[00:36:13] Speaker A: Right?
[00:36:14] Speaker B: But for some reason, when it comes to these social issues and these human rights things, we suddenly do the what about me? Crap.
And it actually makes me angry and I’m like, well, what can I do more?
And I can use my position as a white presenting male who has white privilege and has all of these things. And I know that this is getting into politics and it’s really easy for me to go down this road, but it doesn’t take much. Right. And I know I’m not supposed to talk about these things, but I can use the powers that I have, whether they’re fair or unfair, to stand up and be an ally in any way that I possibly can. But I’m always going to go to them and I’m going to say, what do you need from me? Not. This is what I think you need.
[00:37:03] Speaker A: Right?
[00:37:04] Speaker B: Yeah, that’s what I think. We run into. We run into a problem there. I’m sorry.
[00:37:09] Speaker A: No, that’s okay. The way I think about allyship, and I’ve been thinking about this, a know I do a lot of work with, underrepresented in tech. I talked with Ali Nimmins a lot about these things, is that to be an ally is to open the door, but not to walk through it and go, hey, I’m here. It’s to open the door and continue to hold it for other people to walk through it so they can be.
[00:37:33] Speaker B: And I had a conversation. So Gina’s daughter is also gay. And hopefully I won’t get in trouble for saying that. I doubt I will, but she’s very open about it. And her daughter was dating this black girl, and so she was marginalized on many levels. Right.
She’s black, she’s female, and she’s lesbian. Right. And we had many, many conversations. They lived with us. And I got to know her really well, and we’re still very close. And one of the things that she said to me when I was saying to. It’s. I actually said to. Said, you know, I need you to educate me on some of this stuff. And she looked at me and she says, you don’t understand, Marc. She says, sometimes we’re just tired.
We’re tired of trying to educate. We’re tired of trying to be heard. We’re just tired. If you want to figure something out, look it up. That’s what Google is for.
And I thought, read a book.
Yeah. My immediate reaction to that was, wow, so you don’t want me to learn this?
But then I thought about it, and I could see in her eyes, if you actually have these conversations with people and you see how fatigued they are, they don’t have the mental bandwidth to try to set us straight. So sometimes when they go on Twitter or whatever it is called these days, right, but when they go on and you see this public lamb basting of somebody, it’s because that’s all the mental energy they have.
[00:39:25] Speaker A: Left, right.
[00:39:28] Speaker B: And it’s one of those things where you just approach it with grace and. Yeah, it makes you feel like crap, but it kind of should. Right?
[00:39:37] Speaker A: Absolutely.
[00:39:40] Speaker B: And so.
[00:39:43] Speaker A: Yeah.
[00:39:44] Speaker B: So anyway, yeah, seeing people face to face and seeing how it impacts them, that’s when you realize, look, I’m not an expert on this. I will never be an expert on this because I can only empathize to a certain degree, which is you’re a human being. I can empathize to the point where you’re human. But you might like onions. I don’t like onions.
I will never understand why someone likes onions.
[00:40:15] Speaker A: Right.
[00:40:17] Speaker B: But I can accept that they like onions.
[00:40:19] Speaker A: Absolutely.
And you can even serve them onions sometimes.
[00:40:25] Speaker B: I do that all the time.
[00:40:26] Speaker A: Yeah, exactly.
[00:40:27] Speaker B: I serve onions to the people.
[00:40:29] Speaker A: I can be at the same table for sure. Well, let me move out of politics, which it’s not political.
[00:40:35] Speaker B: I am really sorry to have gone.
[00:40:36] Speaker A: Down that actually, I don’t think of human rights as political, so I think it’s all good. But I was just making fun because you said it. So I was just thinking about that. Anyway. Yeah, I want to move into the rapid fire questions.
[00:40:51] Speaker B: Okay.
[00:40:51] Speaker A: Hit you quick and hopefully you have answers for all these. We’ll see. So the first question is, what are two or three must have plugins that you would recommend to somebody building their own website?
[00:41:03] Speaker B: Well, I would definitely say if you’re building three or more websites, I’d definitely say MaywP, of course, just because it’s really.
I don’t spend a lot of time really doing a lot of WordPress work anymore.
I have always been kind of a fan of just like having your own SMTP mailer rather than using the built in WordPress mail. I don’t necessarily have a specific SMT. A good form plugin is always an important thing, and I’m not going to plug anyone. I have one that I prefer to use, but same.
Most form plugins are actually pretty decent. They have the drag and drop. You can set them up and they’re fairly intuitive, and you can get a form going in five minutes or less.
And there was one more thing that I was going to say, and now I forgot what it was.
[00:42:09] Speaker A: Good SEO.
[00:42:11] Speaker B: Security SEO. Yeah.
I’m a big believer, and this is coming from the position of. I also work with a web hosting company. I think security should be handled at the web hosting level.
It’s not that I don’t think that some of these security plugins do an okay job, but a lot of times, by the time they find a problem, your site is infected. So you kind of want to do security at the server level.
And while I do recognize that you can have as many, if they’re well written plugins, you can have as many as you want on a WordPress site and that’s fine. I’m still about efficiency. If this is something you’re going to put on every WordPress site, if you can do it at the server level, do it at the server level.
[00:43:07] Speaker A: Yeah, makes sense.
[00:43:09] Speaker B: Yeah.
But there was one other thing that I thought so form plugin.
I don’t remember what the last thing was.
[00:43:18] Speaker A: No worries, there was a third one.
[00:43:21] Speaker B: I’ll probably wake up tonight like in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.
[00:43:25] Speaker A: That’s what it was for sure. So tell us about a mentor that you may have had in WordPress during your WordPress journey. Whether it was somebody that was officially a mentor or somebody that maybe took you under their wing or somebody that you kind of admired and tried to emulate.
[00:43:43] Speaker B: I would absolutely say Greg. Greg Franklin.
[00:43:47] Speaker A: I had a feeling.
[00:43:48] Speaker B: Yeah.
I joke about not just the fact that we’re the oldest relationship in WordPress or the oldest partnership, but he’s actually the oldest relationship I have. I mean, I’ve not been super lucky in personal relationships, but Greg has always been his. The level of loyalty and the level of his desire to help, and he will help anybody. He doesn’t just help me because I’m a friend and we go way back and we form this kind of brotherhood and all that. He will help anybody. He thrives on it.
And absolutely, it’s far and away.
Greg is 100% like it’s a no brainer. And that’s saying something considering how many great people there are in our community.
[00:44:48] Speaker A: True. That’s awesome.
[00:44:50] Speaker B: Well, I probably would not be where I am in WordPress if it wasn’t for Greg.
[00:44:55] Speaker A: I get that. That’s awesome. Maybe I’ll meet him sometime.
[00:44:59] Speaker B: I’m sure you will.
[00:45:00] Speaker A: Who is somebody in the WordPress community that you admire and why? You can’t say Greg.
[00:45:06] Speaker B: I know I can’t say Greg.
I admire a lot of people.
I admire Matt at Site District because he’s a level of engineer that I’ve never met before. Okay. And I’ve met a lot of really incredible engineers. I admire Dennis over at MaINWP because I look at the way that he treats the team he’s working with, the same team of people he started with.
These people have stuck and it’s because he treats them well. So I admire them.
The first person that really tripped my trigger when it came to the WordPress community, Brandon Dove. Brandon Dove was the first person that I saw actually offering help to somebody and giving. And once again, it was at that word camp San Diego. And I was like, this is just, you know, Brandon Dove and Jeff Zen, they’re really just super smart, giving, caring.
Then, you know, on a grander scale, I admire you for pushing the human rights thing, and I don’t know how you pull off all these groups and all these projects and WP speakers and this and that and the other thing and having a podcast and doing a podcast with Kathy and all this stuff that you do, and I’m like, it’s all fun.
I know. And it does make it easier because it’s fun, but I still don’t know how you do it.
[00:46:40] Speaker A: Thank you.
[00:46:41] Speaker B: So I admire you. And I’m not just kissing up. It’s like one of those things where it’s like she just keeps going and she keeps getting involved and doing things for people. And that’s really awesome.
[00:46:55] Speaker A: I have this huge FOMO I do.
[00:46:58] Speaker B: Is that what it is?
[00:46:59] Speaker A: It is.
Opportunities come and I’m like, yeah, sure, I’ll try that. But, yeah, we’ll see. And there’s an expiration, right? So I’m not getting younger. There’s an expiration, and I don’t know when that is. I could be around for five more years. I could be around for 20 more years. But I realized that I’m on the downward trend of my life. Right. So I’m over 50. I just turned 55. And there’s a limited time where I’ll still have the ability to be influential and make an impact. And so I want to make sure that I do as much as I can with the resources that I have.
[00:47:34] Speaker B: Yeah, no, you’re definitely a seize the day person. I mean, if anybody in the community is a seize the day person, it’s definitely you.
[00:47:41] Speaker A: Thank you.
I appreciate that. Thank you very much. What’s something that you still like to learn in WordPress but that you haven’t tackled yet?
[00:47:54] Speaker B: Not necessarily specifically WordPress? I’m still learning an awful lot about security and performance, and that’s one of the things that has become kind of at the forefront of a lot of what I do.
Security is something that I am learning about in both of the companies that I represent, and performance is a big deal.
I’d like to learn more about not just what to look for, but how it works. I always like learning the gears behind it. Like I said, I like to tinker and I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge of those mechanical parts that go into all of that. So I’d like to learn a little more about that.
[00:48:48] Speaker A: Very cool. What’s one of the biggest WordPress mistakes you’ve ever made? And what did you learn from it?
I know people either, like, they have something right at the top and they’re like, oh, I’m so embarrassed. And they’re, I, what would I count as a.
[00:49:03] Speaker B: So you know what? I hate to go back to what I was talking about earlier, but the biggest WordPress mistake that I made was when I put my foot in my mouth with somebody that was in a community that I had very little to do with.
And I made a joke that I thought was funny. It was funny to me and I did not realize how it is. So that was a big WordPress mistake to me. And it is something that has impacted the direction of how I think since I like that.
[00:49:38] Speaker A: YeaH, that’s good. And it’s self reflective, which I love about that answer, too. Very good. Let’s look at the reverse of that is, what is your proudest WordPress moment?
[00:49:50] Speaker B: I am very proud of the work we did with Serverpress.
I am proud of, there’s a lot of good things that came out of that. Probably one of the biggest, quote unquote, crowning achievements for me was when I got to speak at Wordcamp us, and I spoke about kind of my fitness journey within the WordPress community. The reason that that was so impactful or the reason that I really liked that is I had so many people come up to me afterwards. I’ve never had more things like quotes from my thing tweeted.
And I’ve had people come up to me and actually they see me and they give me a hug and they say that talk is what got me going down my fitness journey.
I actually had one person who’s very prominent who went there and he was in tears when he saw me.
And I thought, this is what this is about. And so that’s probably, yeah, it’s a little bit about me, but it really was so much just like recognizing that I’ve been fortunate enough to have, even if it’s just a small amount of influence, to be able to inspire somebody to live a better life.
[00:51:17] Speaker A: I love that.
[00:51:19] Speaker B: That’s wonderful. Probably.
[00:51:21] Speaker A: Yeah, that would make me proud too, for sure. Absolutely. Good for you. If you weren’t in tech, so not working with Web and Webtech and all of those kinds of things. What’s another career that you might like to attempt?
[00:51:35] Speaker B: When I was younger. You’re going to laugh. I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau.
[00:51:39] Speaker A: Oh, that’s so cool, though.
[00:51:41] Speaker B: I wanted to be an underwater photographer. I wanted to just this idea that two thirds of the world is covered in water and we probably know more about space than we know about what’s in our oceans. And that whole unexplored, like right here in our own backyard thing always just fascinated me. So that probably would have been.
[00:52:08] Speaker A: And for our younger audience. Google him. You need to Google Jacques Cousteau.
[00:52:13] Speaker B: Jacques Cousteau. Yes. Yes.
[00:52:15] Speaker A: Fantastic. Did you know that John DenveR’s song Calypso is about Jacques Cousteau?
[00:52:22] Speaker B: I did not know that.
[00:52:24] Speaker A: Now you’ll have to Google that and listen to that, too. Yeah, good job.
[00:52:26] Speaker B: I will have to listen to that. I don’t know that song. My mom listened to John Denver when I was growing up, but I was same.
I’m going to get killed for this, but I’m not a big country fan. I know that he really.
[00:52:40] Speaker A: No, it was 70s music because Cousteau’s vote was called the Calypso. So there you go.
[00:52:46] Speaker B: That’s true. I do remember that.
[00:52:49] Speaker A: I know little trivia things just floating around in my head.
[00:52:52] Speaker B: I thought it was about WordPress clips, though, but I guess that was too early for that.
[00:52:56] Speaker A: Too early? Too early.
Nice connection. What’s something on your bucket list?
[00:53:04] Speaker B: I had a great answer for this earlier and now I forgot what it was on my bucket list. I would like to. With one of my kids who’s really into hiking.
I would like to do. Is it the Inca trail? Is that what it is? That goes to Machu Picchu in Peru. I’ve been to Machu Picchu, but I took the train and I would love to do that with him.
He just turned 18 and I just think it would be kind of like the coolest thing. But that is something that is on my bucket list.
And then the other bucket list thing is I actually kind of would like to learn to play the bass guitar.
[00:53:53] Speaker A: Oh, cool. I love that. Yeah, that’s cool. Very nice.
Show us or tell us about something, a hidden talent that you have that the WordPress community might not know about.
[00:54:08] Speaker B: I can’t show you, but I haven’t done it in years. There’s two things that I really like. I like woodworking and I like working on cars. Oh, cool.
Years ago, I helped a friend restore and I’m talking. We stripped it down to the chassis and built it back up. A 1934 Ford Pickup.
I like those things that you actually have a visual thing you can touch and feel.
[00:54:42] Speaker A: Yeah.
[00:54:43] Speaker B: And it’s a thing of beauty. It’s something that was the result of someone’s imagination, and I got to put my hands on that and actually do something with it and make it work.
[00:55:00] Speaker A: That’s awesome.
[00:55:01] Speaker B: I don’t know that that’s necessarily a talent, but it’s defiNitely.
[00:55:05] Speaker A: Yeah, it is.
[00:55:06] Speaker B: Yeah.
[00:55:07] Speaker A: If you ever restore a Mercedes, you’d have to call it the Mercedes Benzicane.
[00:55:12] Speaker B: Yeah.
I’ve never heard that one before, of.
[00:55:18] Speaker A: Course, but it was the first time I ever said it.
[00:55:22] Speaker B: No, actually, that was one of the things that we joked about was, like, when I was of the childbearing age, and of course I was never a childbearing person, but that was kind of a joke, was if we have a girl, we’re going to name her Mercedes. So she sounds a little pretentious, I guess.
[00:55:44] Speaker A: It’s funny, though. I like it.
[00:55:46] Speaker B: Yeah, it is funny.
[00:55:47] Speaker A: How do people find you if they have questions, they want to connect with you. How do people do that online?
[00:55:53] Speaker B: I am on Twitter at MarcBenzak. And that’s M-A-R-C-B-E-N-Z-A-K. I’m on LinkedIn, Marc Benzakein. I actually have a website which is not complete, which is where I talk about some of the life coaching stuff that I do. And that’s MarcBenzakein.com.
And what am I missing? Facebook. You can find me on Facebook. You can find me at MaiNWP. You can find me at Site District. You can find me wandering around the WordPress community. You can find me.
[00:56:24] Speaker A: You’re not hiding.
[00:56:25] Speaker B: I’m all over. Yeah, I’m not in hiding. I have times where I want to hide, but I’m not in hiding.
[00:56:33] Speaker A: So if you’re listening to this episode and you want to connect with Marc, go to WPCoffeeTalk.com, find Marc’s episode, and all of these links will be in the show notes along with the transcript of today’s episode. Marc, thank you so much for taking the time out of your to join me. It was nice to get to know you even better. And I look forward to continuing our friendship after we are no longer recording this episode.
Thanks for being here.
[00:56:56] Speaker B: Thank you so much.
[00:56:58] Speaker A: My pleasure. We’ll see everybody on the next episode of WP Coffee Talk.