A Conversation with Seth Goldstein
Seth is a WordPress designer and digital marketer who has been active in the WordPress community in the Philadelphia for more than a decade.
Podcast 1: DigitalMarketingDive.com
Podcast 2: EntrepreneursEnigma.com
Twitter | @GoldsteinMedia
Twitter | @SethGoldstein
Topher: Hey everyone! My name is Topher.
Cate: And my name is Cate.
Topher: And this is Hallway Chats. We’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsor Nexcess, a Liquid Web brand. Be sure to check out their new product, WP Quickstart. Web Quickstart is a fast and affordable way to build membership sites on WordPress with packages beginning at just $49. Visit Nexcess.net to get started.
Our guest today is Seth Goldstein. Welcome.
Cate: Hey Seth.
Seth: Thanks for real.
Cate: We’re really excited to have you on. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself?
Seth: Well, I’ve been using WordPress—this is a WordPress podcast so we’ll start with that—since 2010. Before that, I was trying to do things old school with HTML, and I was like this, “There’s got to be a better way.” And then I discovered WordPress, self-taught myself how to do that. And it’s been WordPress ever since. I mean, I discovered the community, I think, around 2011, first WordCamp soon after that.
But before all this, I was a journalist. I went to University of Delaware and went to J School there. Did that for six years, major burnout from that job just because the nature of the job it’s a lot of long hours, lots of meetings, lots of accident scenes. Leave that one alone. But this a lot of stuff. Then left that, then opened up Goldstein Media because I’ve been doing web design on the side since – what is it? 1998, I think what decade it was. It’s 1998 before the millennium. So last century. We guys are old.
Anyhow, I’ve been doing it 20 years since then. But then from 2013 onward, I’ve been really diving into WordPress, following people on WordPress. I met Topher. I think I met you at WordCamp US, the first one in Philly, which is local for me because I’m just north of Philly. We met there. And Cate you were there too, weren’t you? That was fun.
Topher: You are muted, Cate.
Cate: I am muted. So, yes, I was there. We had both girls with us.
Seth: Oh, yeah.
Cate: It was a family affair for us.
Seth: That was an exhausting event and I was only a volunteer. I did photography for the first two WordCamp US in Philly.
Topher: That’s cool.
Seth: My feet hurts so bad after that.
Cate: There is a lot of walking for sure.
Seth: A lot of walking and conference centers are not known for their plush carpets. I think there was stuff around on it. So yeah.
Cate: Over the years, I’ve definitely developed conference shoes and not conference shoes.
Seth: Oh, that’s a good idea.
Cate: It’s funny how when you travel a lot to conferences, you start to really curate what’s worth taking and what’s not worth taking, and what serves-
Seth: The shoes are a must.
Cate: Shoes are a must.
Topher: Is the weight in your bag worth it?
Cate: Yeah. So that’s really cool. I love that you went from journalism into WordPress. I think that’s a really natural move for a lot of people. I’m a huge journalists fan. And if I thought I could get a job in it, that would have been my degree in college. I went the general English route. And the questions from my dad about what does one do with that-
Seth: I was also a history major as well.
Seth: What do I do with that except teach?
Cate: Yeah. But I think that being a journalist coming into WordPress, it gives you a special insight into it. I mean, in theory, blogging is a form of journalism. But I think as a trained journalist, if you look at things differently that is really beneficial particularly in marketing when it comes… I was actually just thinking about this this morning. Just funny. But when it comes to marketing for your clients or even just working in marketing, being a journalist, being a good communicator at the forefront can carry you very far.
Seth: Ironically, what I wanted to do with the journalism degree is a kind of history that went to journalism as well. I wanted to do journalism so it could show that I could write. I wanted to get into marketing originally. Ironically, that’s what I’m doing now. And I was like, I didn’t want to do business school because I didn’t want to do accounting and the math and all that stuff. So I was like, “Journalism shows I can write.” Turned out I fell in love with it, the whole Woodward and Bernstein aspect of it, putting a politician’s feet to the fire. It was a very much of a romance of journalism that I love. I did newspaper journalism, so it was like the old school journalism. Now I’m doing podcasting. So I never quite leave the journalism angle.
Cate: And it’s funny because I think that WordPress has reached a spot where there’s even more opportunities for journalism. One of the first couples that I ever met in one of my first WordPress WordCamp sessions attending in 2015… So my first WordCamp was in 2014. But really kind of we started 2015 with a long list of camps to attend. And I met a couple who were in their 60s who were reviving their small town newspaper using WordPress.
Seth: Oh, wow.
Cate: And I thought, “How brilliant!” Because as you know, the newspaper is such the heart of the community. And as they start to die off, the community really tends to scatter. There’s just no way to spread the news. And the idea that you can use WordPress to revitalize that aspect of a community really made me think about the other ways that you can use WordPress to revitalize these small communities. For me, that’s always been kind of a driving factor in why I’m in WordPress, why I’m active there. So I love that you kind of came into it similarly. Like journalism was also your entry into WordPress.
Seth: And I love it. I do like writing. Ironically, I’m a better reporter than I am a writer. I mean, I love Grammarly for a reason.
Cate: We all have our things that we’re better at. And it’s more about recognizing it and working with it than trying to force yourself to be good at something that you’re just not enjoying or just not qualified.
Cate: Not qualified, but you know, it’s just doesn’t fit you.
Seth: Absolutely, yeah.
Cate: So you’re using WordPress for marketing now? Like, that’s your primary thing?
Seth: What I do now is I do a lot of websites for mid-size, the bigger companies, some small businesses. I have a team and we just build out their websites, we help them with their SEO, their digital marketing strategy, we’ll teach them how to use social media appropriately, we won’t do it for them because that’s a whole nother beast. We’ll do email marketing for them as well. And I do love newsletter glue that just kind of slide right on in and slides later in the WordPress and works.
Cate: Yeah, they’ve come up with some really nice tools to make that whole side of things a lot more user-friendly. That’s great, too, because then we can get a lot more quality content out into the community without having to put quite so much effort into it, which is really… because we all are putting effort into a lot of different places. If some aspect of our job can be a little bit easier, or the user experience for the client can be a little bit easier, that’s only going to make WordPress that much stronger.
Seth: Absolutely. I totally agree. It’s all about not making easier, but simplifying things so they can get done quicker. Yeah, yeah.
Cate: Yeah. Yeah, the fewer steps we have to go through, the legitimately better it is for everybody.
Cate: So you have a team. What size is your team?
Seth: Well, it’s myself and my designer, and my wife is the books when she has time because I’m a right-brain guy. But myself and a designer. And then I have a lot more freelancers. If I need following up on stuff I know who to call. I can go and say, “Hey, I have more stuff. Can you pick up this site? Can you help me build this site out? Can you help me build that site out?” WordPress is easy for that.
Cate: Right. It’s such a great aspect of the community. There’s a lot of people who want to be working on their own, but enjoy that relationship with an agency where they don’t necessarily have to deal with the client-side of it but they can just do, again, the thing that they’re good at, and leave you or your wife to deal with the things that they don’t want to mess with.
Seth: Especially the financial stuff. It’s like you do what you’re good at and you hire for the rest.
Cate: Yeah, exactly. I love that the community has grown to a spot where you don’t have to be… because you’ve got to know coming from ’98 with web development. Topher started in ’95. So he’s older than you are, which is great. But when you started you had to be good at everything.
Seth: Everything. It was a wild west.
Cate: Right. So much so really. And now you don’t have to. Now you can just focus on what you enjoy, what your strengths are, and let other people be strong in their areas.
Topher: One of the things I struggled most with when I was freelancing is having to do everything. And I don’t mean just tech stuff, but like invoicing—becoming a business owner.
Seth: People don’t realize that. They think, “I’ll just build these websites and the money will come in.” But you do stuff to get the money in.
Cate: Or even if the money comes in, you still have to do something with it after that. I know so many freelancers who don’t save for taxes or don’t even think to save for taxes. I mean, everybody’s been hit by that at some point. There’s a lot more. It’s like getting a kitten. Kittens are adorable, but they come with so much responsibility and stuff.
Topher: What was funny is I knew that was coming. I did a ton of reading before I went freelance. I read all the books, and everybody’s like, “You’re going to have to become a business owner now.” It’s like, “Okay, cool. Let’s do that.” I just didn’t like it. So it’s not like it really bit me. But it’s not for everyone.
Seth: It definitely isn’t. And that’s the thing. I found that the business development side of things, my designer, she is really fantastic at what she does. So she’s on the design side of things, helps to make the sites look great and stellar. I mean, when I first started Goldstein Media 13 years ago, I wanted to do everything. Like this had to be my idea, my this, my that. Now I’m like, “You know what? Let’s just make the client happy. Let’s show some good work, let’s show some good work. Let’s deliver to the client.” And then like look away and develop the website. So what’s close to me is the way I’m saying Goldstein Media developed it because Goldstein Media developed it.
Cate: I do think there’s some value in having done the different aspects of the jobs-
Topher: Oh, sure.
Cate: …particularly before you’re handing them off to somebody else. If nothing else, you get to experience the pain points that they’re going to be facing. It’s a lot easier to be compassionate and understanding when I hit a struggle. Because I remember I did this with my first WordCamp when I was organizing. I had the time and I didn’t want to delegate something I didn’t understand. So as much as I could, I did as much as I could and realized that “Yeah, that’s why you have a team.” But I still think there’s a lot of important learning lessons to be learned there.
Seth: I think you need to at least try it first. At least go through the motions with the designer first so you can understand how they work and figure out how they want to work and how best they work.
Cate: And you don’t know if you’re going to like something until you try it. I mean, you did journalism as an initial step into marketing, but then found that there were aspects of it you really loved. And I think that we can all surprise ourselves that way, sometimes.
Seth: It’s actually kind of funny that what got me hooked in journalism, I went to University of Delaware where our current President went. So I worked for The Review, which is a student-run paper, and I had to call his office or something. He was then Senator Biden. And he got on the phone and talk to me. He heard that I was a University of Delaware student, from his alma mater, and asking questions. He was walking by his press secretary, so he’s on the phone, and she said something like, “The Review,” and he’s like, “Let me talk to him.” And I got hooked. I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m talking to…” Then he was a senator.” Now I have talked to the president of the United States.
Cate: The president, right.
Seth: It’s like, yeah, regardless of what you think, he’s a nice dude.
Topher: That’s cool.
Cate: Go ahead, please.
Seth: No, that’s how I got hooked. And I was marketing in the hallway and I was like, “Maybe this is a little more fun.”
Cate: Well, I think it’s important for all of us to remember, as we gain more experience in the community to be as accessible as we can be to new people coming in. I remember one of my first WordCamps, I sat down with, you know, three really experienced people over lunch, and they just made me feel so included.
Particularly as someone who is not overly technical, really just doesn’t enjoy the technical side of WordPress, it can be a real struggle to find where I fit. And they just made me feel included. And that’s something that I’ve kept in my mind. Because you never know. Everybody brings so much richness to the community. You don’t want to exclude them, you want to give them an opportunity to find their fit and to find their encouraging moments like that.
Seth: Yeah. I try and tell people. I mean, I know so many designers that have no idea how rich this community is. Like my designer, I’ve been telling her, like, “We have to go to a WordCamp Philly when it comes out. I’m going to drag you to that because I mean, SEO community is very welcoming and inclusive for the most part too.” But [unintelligible 00:14:30] is not as inclusive. It’s expensive, again, to do these conferences and stuff. Whereas WordCamps, 10 bucks; WordFest, free, which is nice. I think they should charge a little bit. But I’ve now seen how much work goes into one of these things. But it’s an inclusive community. People can join and just to be part of the community and they’ll have to not be code [monkey?].
Cate: And it’s getting only easier which I think is fantastic. I like to think of it as, you know, you used the word “rich” earlier. It’s like rich like brownies. We all add this depth and chewiness to the community with our individual response.
Seth: Now I want a brownie.
Cate: I know, right?
Seth: Thanks, Cate. Now I want a brownie.
Topher: And then you have to ask yourself, are you the raisins or the nuts?
Seth: I don’t like nuts brownies.
Cate: Put raisins in brownies.
Seth: Yeah, no nuts, no brownies. No nuts, no raisins.
Cate: Raisins in brownies.
Seth: They are pretty good actually.
Cate: I guess. Anyway, moving on. You mentioned WordFest, Seth, and we were glad to have you join as a volunteer. I love the fact that some of our other volunteer spots didn’t really fit. So you just came to us and asked what else you could do. And it’s been great having you included in the conversations and the work that we’re doing? What drove that? What made you want to be involved with WordFest?
Seth: Well, the thing was that WordFest was crazy. The first one was only in January of this year. I think you guys are slightly nuts are doing two of them in the year. I mean, WordCamps are once a year and they’re what? 12 hours max?
Seth: And this is 24-hour multiple con… Okay, sure. So I figured, let me see how I can help these nutter butters out here. And then also, I was like, I wanted to volunteer. Last time in this time I’ve been micro sponsor. So I was happy to do that. I’m like, “I’m going to pay for this ticket because they should be charging at least 10 bucks for this ticket just to make sure people show up. People do show up in excess.
I mean, like the numbers I heard last time were incredible. I was just like, “I want to do something.” I said, “Look at the volunteer spots. I was like, “Oh, well, I could moderate this. I could moderate that.” With my little eight-year-old, he wanted a clump of four hours spots. I’m like, “I can’t do that.” So I said, “Hey…” I was talking to Michelle. It’s Michelle, right? It’s Michelle, yeah.
I was talking to Michelle and she’s like, “We’re thinking about doing a digital swag bag.” Do you want to take that on?” I’m like, “Okay. I don’t know how I have to do this. I have never tried this before.” I Googled that a little bit, went down some rabbit holes. And we now have a swag bag. It was not totally impressive. It’s a title page and a page of codes and eBook links and stuff like that. But I think it’s pretty neat for the first edition of the swag bag.
Cate: Yeah, you’ve worked really hard on that. Like you said, particularly for our first one, it’s a great start. And it’s something we can only build on. And your experience joining us pretty much where all of us have had, we’re like, “Sure, we’ll help. We’ve never done this before but we’ll figure it out as we go.”
Seth: Yeah. I mean, especially swag bag, I’m like, “How hard could this be?”
Topher: We never ask that question.
Seth: The first thing was figuring out what is a digital swag bag. Second thing was getting sponsors to give me stuff for this swag bag. Third thing was let’s make something better than just an 8 by 10 piece of paper. Like make it a little pretty. Thank you, Canva.
Cate: Right, exactly. When you add in the digital element to something like that, it certainly adds a new layer of challenge, you know, when normally you could actually pack it into a bag and have physical things you can touch. When you turn it digital, you have to… you know. And I think that’s kind of another sentiment for the whole conference. A physical conference, you can really kind of get excited about how do you get people excited about a digital experience?
Seth: Yeah, you guys do a good job of that because I mean, it’s definitely exciting.
Cate: I’m glad. We try. It’s hard to tell sometimes because we’re a small group. And again, when you’re on the internet, you can’t tell if you just screaming into a void or not. But I do love we get a ton of community feedback, which has been huge. Really doing this twice in a year, particularly the end of a pandemic and all the other things going on, it has been-
Seth: It’s viscious.
Cate: Yeah. But at the same time, wonderful because the community really has rallied around it. A lot of enthusiasm for the first one. And then when we announced the second one, we had people clamoring on board to help out. And it really-
Seth: I think you guys all are nuts because I mean-
Cate: They know most of us know that we are in fact nuts.
Seth: Oh, my gosh. I saw this and I literally thought the other one happened last year. And then I was in one of the calls and Dan, our fearless leader said, “This is the second one in this year. The first one was in January.” I’m like, “Was it January? Oh, my God, you guys are nuts.” And it turned out great. It’s going to be fantastic.
Cate: Yeah, it’s looking like it’s going to be really great. We’re excited.
Seth: You’ll sleep the whole weekend. Absolutely.
Cate: It’s true. It’s going to be like all of the push in the planning for the last four months and then Saturday it’s just over. And it’s kind of like, oh.
Seth: Then you start to snore.
Topher: But try not to snore on microphone.
Cate: Fortunately, all of my jobs are in the backside of the event and so I can fall asleep if I need to and snore.
Topher: That’d be a cool Zoom feature. So touch snores and auto mute.
Seth: Automate the snorer. Face tracking snore tracking?
Seth: All right. That’s good. Hey, there’s an idea for someone who’s entrepreneur. Exactly.
Cate: Exactly. Or habits like come on when somebody starts snoring so you tell who fell asleep in the middle of the meeting?
Seth: “Joe, wake up.”
Cate: So Seth, you live in the Philadelphia area?
Seth: Yes, just north in Doylestown.
Cate: That’s really cool. Are you from that area?
Seth: Born and raised in Bucks County, which is the next county out from Philadelphia county. Born and raised, love Philadelphia, love the community. It was kind of that ultimate fight against Philadelphia, New York. Like we think Philadelphia is better than New York. New York think Philadelphia is just, eh, whatever. Swat them away. But I love Philadelphia, I love the community. I love the WordPress community around here. It’s a big one around here. It’s a big one in Bucks County even as live as web developers that do WordPress so I can just walk in the street get some help if I need it.
Cate: That’s really fantastic.
Topher: So I have a quick question for you then in regards to that. Did you have anything to do with starting the meetup?
Seth: No, I didn’t. There’s two of them actually. One is actually helped run through Automattic that helps fund it. One is fully WP. And then there’s ‘Burbs WP, which Liam runs. I think that self-funded by them. They do it all themselves.
Topher: Okay. I recently had a young man just out of college wants to know about starting a meetup in his city, there isn’t one. He’s really struggling to find other WordPress. I said, “You just make one. You should show up someplace, hang up a sign and say, “WordPress meetup,” and see who comes. But he’s like, “I don’t know anyone in my city who’s a WordPress or so. I don’t know how to contact them.
Seth: They should reach up Automattic. Automattic would help them off. I mean, that’s the thing. Automattic sponsors a lot of these meetups and get things set up. If there’s no none in that city, I’m sure they really want to get someone there running one.
Topher: We’re headed down that road. We’ll see where it goes. But I’ve never… I shouldn’t say that. I was involved in starting the one in our city but there were three of us. And the other two guys knew some other people already. So like out of the box.
Seth: They came with people?
Topher: Yeah, we had some.
Seth: I tried to set one in Bucks County, but there’s one up in Lehigh Valley, which is just north and there’s one in Philadelphia, and there’s one to the west. So I was ready to set up Bucks County one. But it when you have three within an hour of each other, you don’t need another one.
Cate: We’re similar. Ours is still fairly small but we have people who come from an hour or so away to get home. It’s a tricky thing. You know, meetups are great, and being part of the community is really great. But as you know, I mean, when we started ours here in town, our kids were 8 and 10. You have an eight-year-old. As much as you want to be a part of the community, it’s hard to balance that family time as well.
Cate: And we’ve been able to do a lot of what we do because the girls wanted to be involved. And so they got involved as volunteers at WordCamps, and they’re on t-shirts. We’ve let them choose their own path, but it is a struggle. It’s a real struggle to balance having to work with wanting to be a part of this community with also your other family and friends commitments. Go ahead.
Seth: No, I was going to say my eight-year-old he has a website, he’s had his domain name before he was born. He doesn’t know how to use WordPress. I tried teaching him. It was a little frustrating because he was like, “I know everything.” And I’m like, “You know nothing about WordPress yet. You need to learn young padawan.” That kind of thing.
Cate: My first WordCamp as an attendee was the girl’s first WordCamp as attendees. They wanted to go into Chicago with us, which is about three hours from our house. And they were 12 and 14 at the time. We homeschooled, so I had control over what they were learning. So we handed them Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s WordPress book. They had to have some reason to go so they had to have some understanding of WordPress, if they wanted to go. And in two weeks, they’d use her book to set up their own blogs.
Seth: That’s awesome.
Cate: They’ve both done different things with them over the last six, seven years that they’ve had them more than others. We’ve always put some things in place that they have to do, like kind of have to introduce themselves to it if they’re going to be part of the community. But what they do with it from there is entirely up to them. And sometimes they’re really excited and sometimes they just leave it alone. And letting them find their own path really has been the best option for them.
Seth: He’ll get there if he wants. But right now he’s very much into video editing, and he wants to do podcasting because he knows I do it. So he’s like, “I want to do a podcast with you, daddy.” I’m like, they’re a little young but if there’s a podcasting camp and you want to do that, that’s fine. I think video editing is a little bit more interactive for you, the way your brain works.” But he does like to talk. So bad.
Topher: You can make some pretty good money video editing too. I regularly people on Twitter saying, “Hey, I hate video editing. Who wants to do my work?”
Seth: Exactly, exactly.
Cate: Well, and podcasting is only getting easier. You don’t need the big equipment like you used to, you don’t necessarily even have to have a soundproof room. All of the traditional kind of ideas of… we come out of a radio background. And so you don’t really need to have a radio studio in order to be a podcaster.
Seth: No. Honestly, this is not NPR. As much as this is like the NPR podcast, you don’t need to be Terry Gross. It is not Terry Gross. It’s not all things considered. Now you can tell I’m a NPR nerd, but this is more Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!.
Topher: It really is.
Seth: It’s a [unintelligible 00:27:27] pants, have fun. People enjoy the realness of the podcast versus it too scripted. I mean, some of the scripted ones… Like I listened to Thinking is Cool with Kinsey Grant. I love it. It’s totally scripted. I can’t listen to all of them, because it just gets tiring on the ears. It’s like, “No, this is so much NPR.” There’s so much scripted podcasting. I love that show. It’s just I need conversation in my ears.
Cate: Right. Remembering that everybody learns differently and enjoys differently, which I know is what you’re saying here, there’s definitely a place for scripted versus non-scripted. If NPR was all just Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! about we get old too.
Seth: Yeah, that’d be exhausting.
Cate: Right. Exactly. And so we’re also NPR nerds so that helps a lot.
Topher: And Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! nerds.
Cate: And Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! nerds.
Seth: It’s so much fun. And they’re based out Chicago, I think actually.
Cate: Yeah, they are.
Topher: They are.
Cate: You know, it’s great that podcasting is becoming more accessible because I think it’s easier for people… I’m a writer so writing is easy for me. But there are so many people that have great ideas that find writing to be a challenge for a number of reasons. And with podcasting, you can get the same kind of content out there but without some of the barriers. I personally am really grateful for that. I never thought I’d be in the podcasting side of things. But now that we have one, we only have more ideas for others.
Seth: Oh, good. I have two.
Cate: And we’re contemplating… so we’re about to… our family all lives together, even though the girls are 19 and 21. She is 21.
Cate: I know. In the next six months, at least we’ll be splitting up and we’ve been debating doing a family podcast-
Seth: Oh, that’d be fun.
Cate: …as a way where we can just kind of sit and connect with one another.
Seth: People would listen to that. People would listen to that.
Cate: My mom is very excited. She lives in Texas. So she’s about 18 hours away from us.
Seth: Oh, jeez, yeah.
Cate: She requested that it be video so that she can also see us. But those kinds of things are important to have real people out there talking about things. It’s important to have scripted things too. It’s important to have good quality information that’s researched and being presented well. But it’s also good to just have conversations.
Topher: All right. Well, I think we’re going to wrap it up.
Cate: Is it brownie time now?
Topher: Is it brownie time?
Seth: Is it brownie time? It’s always brownie time somewhere? Absolutely. This has been so much fun, guys. I really enjoyed it.
Topher: Yeah, it’s been really fun. Thank you so much for coming.
Cate: It’s been great because I’ve met you in a couple of different ways over the last six months. I mean, previously, but really in the last six years. I was really excited to see that you had signed up to be on the podcast. You put up with us. We were going through the transition time-
Seth: Oh, yeah.
Cate: But I was really looking forward to getting to sit down and just chat for a while.
Seth: It’s fun.
Cate: It is.
Topher: All right, then, I’m going to wrap it up here. This has an episode of Hallway Chats, a part of the HeroPress Network. Your hosts were Cate and Topher DeRosia. We’d like to thank Sofia DeRosia for the music and Nexcess for hosting our network.