Back in August, I had a long conversation with Till Krüss (edited down to <60 minutes here) about his path into WordPress, Laravel, and performance. It’s about time we published it as an episode of Post Status Draft!
Till is the developer and owner of Object Cache Pro, “a business class Redis object cache backend for WordPress.” OCP offers a unique and highly successful model for partnerships between a WordPress plugin product business and two valuable niche markets: hosting companies (B2B) for $1950/month and anyone running WordPress sites at scale (D2C) for $95/month. Nexcess is the latest host to adopt OCP, which they announced earlier this week.
Performance optimization in general — and caching in particular — are possibly the oldest and most persistent hard problems for people running WordPress and similar applications at scale. Historically, performance has been a problem passed to the hosting industry by WordPress developers and users of too many plugins — or too many plugins that use too many server resources, especially as measured in database queries.
Till’s particular niche is not for everyone, but some of his ideas and achievements are very portable. For one thing, what plugin owner has not felt the pain of an extraordinarily busy support forum? Till is up to (wait for it…) 10 minutes a day on support — which he aims to decrease to five minutes. How? End-to-end unit testing to ensure the highest code quality. It’s an idea that needs to become a reality and a habit in the third-party WordPress product ecosystem, Till believes — and I think he’s right about that.
Test Everything, End-to-End
A large part of the challenges people have with WordPress in the wild have to do with plugins that have not been built and tested to perform at scale. There’s likely a lot of opportunity in aligning people on performance as a key, common interest. What people are these? Product, agency, and hosting companies in the WordPress space. And, as Till’s example shows, a small WordPress company, or company of one that wants to stay that way, still can thrive today.
Quality Product = Nearly No Support Needs
Traditionally, plugin owners have struggled with burdensome customer support, and having to resort to support as a customer is always an unwanted burden. Neither party wants to relate primarily through the support desk! So … why not just eliminate it or diminish support needs as much as possible? It’s a win for everyone, and resources go into product development, another win-win.
Pricing and Value
Object Cache Pro’s sales and distribution through hosting partnerships leave support obligations with the hosting partner and their own customers. The value to hosts is how they can bundle OCP, a high-value product, at a low cost to their customers’ hosting plans. This leaves OCP focused on product development, quality assurance, and lower support/maintenance costs — which is in everyone’s interest.
Object Cache Pro’s Direct-to-Consumer pricing has no SaaS component. It does come with support, but customers are expected to install and maintain OCP themselves without an additional white-glove support plan. The value proposition: It just works and delivers incredible performance gains that have a quantifiable dollar value on high-traffic sites.
Should we continue this conversation?
If you’re interested in a follow-up conversation with Till or have questions about the things we covered in this one, please get in touch. Let us know if you’d like to hear a follow-up episode about the risks that come with the opportunities of a small open-source company with a high-value product. For one thing, there are the pirates and the sharks — anyone who might steal, buy, or recreate a GPL product and kill or dilute its profitability. How do you cope with that? 🤔
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🔗 Mentioned in the show:
- Till Krüss‘s Object Cache Pro is a (closed-source) commercial product that grew out of and is developed alongside Redis Object Cache. (100k+ installs on WordPress.org, numerous forks and stars on GitHub.) Redis Object Cache is a fork of an unmaintained precursor Erick Hitter and Eric Mann launched in 2014.
- Relay looks like it will be a successor to OCP as it’s capable of speeds up to 100 times faster than Redis. It’s a PHP extension developed in C that is both a Redis client and a shared in-memory cache.” There is a free Community version.
- Felipe Elia recently wrote a great explainer on WordPress, Object Cache, and Redis.
- Do the_Woo recently recorded a very insightful open discussion on the Future of Hosting (and WordPress plugin business opportunities) where Till, Carl Alexander, and Zach Stepek traded insights and stories from their work with enterprise-class WordPress and WooCommerce.
- Scaling WordPress (Post Status Draft #51) remains one of our all-time most listened-to podcast episodes, from 2016. Brian Krogsgard and Joe Hoyle take a pretty comprehensive look at WordPress performance and caching, including Redis.
- Jon Christopher is trying a unique business strategy with his OrganizeWP plugin that suggests cooperative ways to win outside centralized markets.
- Kevin Ohashi‘s WP Performance Tester plugin will test your server’s raw capacity and show you how it compares to the current industry average established by Kevin’s testing at WP Hosting Benchmarks.
- Mark Jacquith‘s Cache Buddy (2015) “[m]inimizes the situations in which logged-in users appear logged-in to WordPress, which increases the cacheability of your site.”
- Shaun Kester‘s Latency Tracker (2008) was a helpful diagnostic when pre-“Managed WordPress” hosts were struggling to keep up with the booming use (and abuse) of self-hosted WordPress and other PHP/MySQL-based publishing platforms. It’s super old but still works, minus the Flash-based charts.
- Paul Jarvis talks about his book, Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business, with Brian Clark at Unemployable.
- The WordPress Core Performance Team is dedicated to monitoring, enhancing, and promoting performance in WordPress core and its surrounding ecosystem. They build and manage the Performance Lab plugin, a collection of performance-related “feature projects” for WordPress core.
🐦 You can follow Post Status and our guests on Twitter:
- Till Krüss (Founder, Rhubarb Group)
- Dan Knauss (Editor, Post Status)
- Olivia Bisset (Intern, Post Status)
The Post Status Draft podcast is geared toward WordPress professionals, with interviews, news, and deep analysis. 📝
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Till Krüss: [00:00:00] I forked it and now it grew to like, I don’t know, a hundred thousand users probably a lot more because most people just use the upstream object cash drop and not the full plugin. I know that, um, Cloud Linux is using now Spin up, WP Blue Host. A lot of big hosts are using it.
Dan Knauss: I’m here with Till..
Till Krüss: Krüss.
Dan Knauss: …and we’re going to be talking about Object Cache Pro, which Till launched at the end of 2019. It’s a business class Redis Object Cache backend for WordPress that’s used by GoDaddy, Pagely Nexus Cloud Ways, and Convesio. The free, open-source version, Redis Object Cache is available at wordpress.org on the plugin repo.
It makes WordPress much, much faster. Till’s also building [00:01:00] Relay Redis client that’s two orders of magnitude (100x) faster, and there are Laravel, WordPress, and Magento integrations for it. Till’s a company of one and has a really unique view of how he wants to do business in the WordPress space. We’ll spend some time talking about that, how Till got into WordPress in the first place as a very self-taught developer.
And we’ll talk about performance and testing in the WordPress plugin ecosystem. Why there needs to be more of it and why this matters to WordPress’s Growth and competitiveness. Before we get into that, let me tell you about one of our great sponsors, Pressable. Founded in 2010. Pressable is a world class managed WordPress hosting provider built on the same data network as wordpress.com and WordPress VIP.
Their state of the [00:02:00] art platform empowers agencies, freelancers, e-commerce businesses, IT professionals, and WordPress developers. To build, launch, and maintain amazing WordPress websites quickly, easily, and affordably with industry leading performance 24/7 expert support, a hundred percent uptime guarantee, and seamless integrations through commerce and Jetpack.
Pressable provides the tools you need to manage your WordPress websites and grow your business all in one place. They’ve also got a really cool demo system now. It’s called My Pressable Playground, and you can create sites back in there. Edit the settings for each. Look at the security tools performance, other site management tools, and check out the Pressable API. For more advanced users, there’s a robust REST API that you can develop applications on. It’s all pretty open there and get a full view of everything. Just click the big “try for free” [00:03:00] button and give Pressable a try.
So your main vocation, these, these days is, uh, am I right that what you’re spending most of your time on is, is Object Cash Pro?
Till Krüss: Yeah. It’s a 50 50 split, more or less between object, cash, Pro and relay. Right. Which hasn’t really, you know,
Dan Knauss: been too public. Relay that’s, um, how much is, is that coming back into WordPress?
That’s a kind of a larger PHP project.
Till Krüss: Yeah. Without, you know, diving off the deep end here, essentially, I spoke with a bunch of people. The result was Object Cash Pro. And once I released this, you know, enterprise grade object cashing solution hosting companies came to me and be like, Hey, we want even more performance.
And then the last two years, me and Michael, um, mostly him, but the [00:04:00] last two years we spent building Relay because it’s the, it’s a nice addition. And to answer your question about, Back to WordPress is like, yes. However, we are expanding into the, The extension works with laville magenta, with all PHP frameworks, messes.
It’s not only restricted to WordPress, but I assume this is gonna be the right dominant market. The first couple of years object. Cing is a very WordPress specific term. You see it here and there in other frameworks, but often it’s just called caching. They just say, Hey, we just throw something into the cash and.
Then they differentiate between page caching and all the other things. In WordPress, it’s a specific term called object caching, but really it’s, it’s a, yeah, it’s a WordPress specific thing.
Dan Knauss: So what, what, how would you define object caching? I have kind of a metaphor, simplification for it in my, in my mind.
But what’s, what’s a semi-technical. Deeper technical understanding of, of what we’re doing [00:05:00] with object caching in, in WordPress,
Till Krüss: how I define it. There’s some really good articles written out there. I think someone just posted something a few days ago. I dunno if I can pull this up right now. Um, Interesting Filipe ira.
Yes. He just posted something. . We should put his initial notes. He has nice illustrations and he explains it. Um, essentially object hashing is you, you know, database might MariaDB all the S SQL queries that typically quite slow at scale, the more low you put on it. If you have a thousand people asking questions at the send them, it can be a bit much so at word pr Let’s.
You want to fetch the most recent comments and it gives you 20 comments instead of always asking your database server for it, you throw it into the object cash. I’m doing air quotes here, which can be backed by many different service or architectures. In my case with object [00:06:00] cash Pros, cuz I think it’s a really neat piece of software home and.
Instead of, you know, the next couple of visitors, they don’t have to ask the database. You don’t have to wait your time to first buy. It doesn’t increase. You can just throw it into Redis and retrieve it really, really quickly. And Redis doesn’t really break a sweat. If you have a thousand people asking questions, it’s fine.
Maybe at a hundred thousand, a million, then you know, it starts to consume some resources. But it’s just a really, really fast key value store. And. Ultimately object cashing helps you reduce the load on your database, which in most cases, I wanna say unless you have these, you know, 250 plugin, web percent stalls.
Yeah. Big chunk of your response time is always taking up by talking to the database, right? Mm-hmm. ,
Dan Knauss: I, I haven’t seen a lot of 250 plugin my press installs. You run into those very often.
Till Krüss: Uh, I don’t, I not directly, but [00:07:00] you know, working. The guys at Page Lee and some other hosting companies I see. Really horrendous What setups that it’s, it feels abusive, what they’re doing.
It’s just, it’s, it’s cruel what, what they’re doing with the service.
Dan Knauss: Right? Yeah. I I’m sure there’s, there’s plenty of, We’ve probably touched a few of those here and here and there. Everyone’s experience, um, just keep adding to it. Mm-hmm. . But the, the thing with Adri cash, um, That’s really valuable is it doesn’t matter whether those queries come from the back end or whether you’re in the Yeah.
Unit or not. And that’s traditionally been people are working, um, doing a lot of writing inside their content management. And then if you have multiple users back there, there’s really nothing that traditional cash would. Offer you. I remember there was this old plugin, um, I used for a long time. Mark Jake with, had written that, um, did try to do some smart things to cash some on the back end, [00:08:00] um, when you had multiple users going, but.
Uh, if, if you’re caching, well, it’s not, Is it caching queries? Um,
Till Krüss: yeah, , it’s unclear. Um, it’s not a query. Cash query caching would be select user one from, you know, WP Onco users that would be specifically cashing this result. And some MyQ Marie BI was actually do this internally. If the same query happens, then they just send a cash response.
It’s more that WordPress says, Hey, I wanna. Look up this one user and then WordPress function itself. Check, Do I already have this in cash? Instead of cashing the query, it just cashes the object. Hence object cashing. But to speak to what you said earlier, they’re just there. Yes. The advantage of object cashing, I always, I’m so involved in it, so I forget how to properly explain it.
Maybe in the, Explain to me like I’m five, the big advantages. It’s easy to install a plugin like WP Rocket or. , [00:09:00] I don’t know what the go-to standard is nowadays to get some browser cashing going. So if you have anonymous traffic, if you have the Google crawler going to your website, that you serve these static pre-generated HDML files.
So you don’t have even talk to anything, you just, the server just has to redefine and send it back, which is really, really fast, like milliseconds. However, the moment you’re logged in, if you have a community. Buddy boss, or if you have something here, shopping cart with wms, you’re not an anonymous visitor anymore.
And then every request when you wanna browse to the next category in wms, for example, you always have to talk to my sequel. And now if you do a flash sale with a thousand people at the same time on you site, You always will hit the object cash and it’s just nice that it’s whether you’re in the back end, whether you are logged in, used on the front end with a shopping guard or you know, just commented, object cashing will reduce the response times of the page load times [00:10:00] for all of these requests.
Not only anonymous traffic. It’s really good to have both, to have a page cash and an object cash because you know, a fast back end, maybe even the page generation. when you run your, Hey, warm up my page cash would be faster because it doesn’t have to hammer your my SQL server. Um, but yeah, that’s, that’s the, the essence, it, it cashes all requests or all it cashes.
That’s not true. It cashes many parts that affect all requests.
Dan Knauss: Right. Yeah. I noticed the big difference, uh, when we started using it, uh, with Pagely, and I think in some other context I have, um, yeah. Cause that’s traditionally been the, the big problem with, with WordPress, if you’re trying to use it as a community site or you, you’ve got a forum or, uh, Yeah, some of a social site and a lot of people are logged in, so there’s very little that.
That page cashing would do anything for. So, um, [00:11:00] In my recollection, that was the major problem hosts had. There were more and more WordPress sites and others of its generation. They’re all PHP in my sequel. Um, and so you would have someone just getting hammered with a lot of concurrent visitors. Maybe they don’t.
Maybe the page doesn’t. Has like 50, a hundred queries. It’s reasonable, but there’s like 300 people doing that all at once. Or you have someone who has like the 250 plugins and it’s like a hundreds of queries to load the, the front page. And it took a close look at that at one point with, uh, with another guy on the WordPress community.
And um, you would see like one, even if it was one out of a hundred queries that just went. It just never came back. , and you wouldn’t get a full page load. Um, was that, is that still a [00:12:00] scaling issue that every host has to deal with? Um, or is that becoming a thing of the past? With, with stuff like object
Till Krüss: cashing, having an object, Cash.
And what press helps, um, because it’s not really designed. To run a community to run these highly dynamic sites. We’re making dm, we’re making it work. I think the buddy boss guys talked to me recently and they said that just a load of feed of any given user, like you logged in, lot of feed. It’s 300 my queries or SQL queries.
Most people I think, use Marie db. I can’t speak too much about what the challenges of hosting companies are. Um, I do see. Here and there, The stories and scaling the database over seems often an issue. I don’t know what it’s like in shared hosting. This is not my expertise, but yeah. Um, it’s a, it’s a hard [00:13:00] challenge to, to scale WordPress.
That’s, And it’s my business now, it’s, it’s hard to scale and we have better tools, we have more powerful service. It’s working, but it’s, it’s definitely pushing the edge of what it’s meant to be doing initially. .
Dan Knauss: And is that how you got into this? Just because, well, you had a kind of history with WordPress and, and Lael, um, does it naturally, Does the nature of working with a WordPress for long lend itself to.
Man, I gotta deal with some performance issues. Um, but what was your way into that? Becoming a
Till Krüss: main focus? Yeah, I was working as a freelancer and I was working on this really large Ttra community, um, as a women run company, which was kind of funny as like, I think when I left there was 50 women and me, and it was a fantastic work environment.
I could say and. [00:14:00] The, It was like online learning, online courses. We didn’t really have any tools when we started. I think I know 10 years ago, eight years ago, there was no good tools out there and at some point we started using Access Ally to connect with part and was just always a performance nightmare and I wanted to use an object answer.
I ran into the same problem that now people run into and come to me essentially, or to other people like Pan. And they’ve got a reddish caching plug in as well. That’s, the data was just a sudden there so much load, page load signs were low and each page had, you know, three, 400 comments and just to load them, it was just not feasible to always ask the SQL Server and.
Saw what’s out there and it was kind of a bit dire, the situation. So I forked one of, I do not remember who it was. There was a popular Redis plugin, but Eric man, Eric man, I think way back in the day, released something where it was just unmaintained. I forked it, and now it grew to like, [00:15:00] I know a hundred thousand users probably a lot more because most people just use the upstream object cash drop and not the full plugin.
I know that, um, Cloud Linux is using now Spin up, WP Blue Host. A lot of big hosts are using it, so the 100,000 users might be with Misleading, and I just scratched my own itch. I needed a good Redis plugin and it just kept on growing. That’s how I kind of, you know, got into this and got started with it. I, I needed faster page load times.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s a, not that un uncommon of a, of a story, but you, what’s unique is to, to build a product as, as successful as, um, as Object Cash Pro, I imagine. Um, how many, how many hosting partners are you working with now with that? Because it’s a, there’s the free plugin, but then there’s the, um, the, there’s the, [00:16:00] I guess the.
Top shelf, high, high end premium version, that that’s, is that mostly gonna be of use to a hosting market?
Till Krüss: Um, yeah. And individual, like the small medium businesses that, you know, if you run an eCommerce side, and we have many customers like that. Mm-hmm. , they have eCommerce sites, they make $50,000 a month in revenue and they run their own either infrastructure, have a tiny engineering team.
Two, three guys run their own infrastructure because often when you have these large scale sites, it’s tricky to find a hosting company that will serve that. Right. And I recommend Pagely personally because they seem to be able to just scale out. Um, What was the question again? ,
Dan Knauss: I’m thinking Yeah. Whether I That was hosting buttons.
Yeah. Answered it. Yeah. If so, there are larger, So, so the, the client market for object cash bros is not just hosts, but businesses that are large [00:17:00] enough where they’re monthly revenue, they can quantify exactly what performance is costing them. Yes. So if you are shaving. Off $10,000 worth of bandwidth. You know, it’s, it, you, you can be that precise about it.
That that’s, um, yeah. You know, this is a measurable quantity and your, your value is, um, auto, it sells itself, I suppose. Right. Is that, is that kind of how you
Till Krüss: approach? Yeah, and because I believe in open source, there’s always the free version that gives you a lot of benefits already. Um, there’s been these studies from Amazon, Walmart, Etsy.
Google where every 10th of a second a hundred milliseconds page load delays cost you. I think 1% conversion rate. Companies who worry about those numbers, they should be using Object, cash Pro. Yeah. Or if you just want the best of the best.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, there’s that side of it too. That’s it. It’s probably fairly quantifiable what you’re losing in customers.
[00:18:00] Um, and just you’re paying for less efficient, You’re paying to lose customers if you, if you can’t, can’t serve, um, pages efficiently at scale. So, All right. Um, Do you want to talk more about your, your background and, and history, or do you like to, you know, I imagine there’s some things farther back that maybe suggest some things about you and, and why you shaped your business this way, because, We’ve talked about that before, and you know, this isn’t, this isn’t something you want to grow into, uh, a massive company where you become a manager of, of a support desk , or you, you know, that’s under you.
You’ve got people, you’ve got engineers and, and support people. Um, this is something you wanted to remain hands on and, um, in a particular way so, Are there things in your experience and you know, the rest of life that made you aware of that, [00:19:00] um, about yourself? Because, you know, the standard stereotypical model is let’s like on, let’s make this thing as big as we can.
Like Yeah. Cava
Till Krüss: dozen,
Um, yeah. I.
I’m neuro atypical and I, whatever. I touched a knife I wanted to do, figured out myself. I mean, I, I really enjoy learning from other people and I constantly ask other people about things and advice, but. Just seeing the standard model of you start a business, you get some funding, then you rent an offer, and I just, I can’t be asked to, to do that.
I, I wanna do things my way. That works for me, meaning working from home, I. In my underwear. Kind of, that’s the, the picture you, you can visualize there. I, it works for me to be quiet by myself to focus time. If I want to take three [00:20:00] days off, I will and not be forced into this nine to five productivity model because it doesn’t serve my, I don’t wanna say best interest.
I’ve never really articulated this. Um, it doesn’t work for me. It’s, I work long, hard hours, sometimes months in a row and sometimes I just take time off and all I wanna do is mo lawn and go for work. That flexibility, I think, really allowed me to.
maybe make the best product I could possibly make. And I just essentially, I just wanted to do things my way. Even with the pricing model, of course, looking at all the other WordPress plugins, this pricing model, I think hasn’t changed in the last 10 years. Five years. I don’t know what the first paid plugin was except for, was it, um, Kareem with crowd favorite?
He had this one plug and I was, I dunno, [00:21:00] $500 a month or like some crazy amount, the, where you could migrate between sites with this one outlier. Everybody does the same pricing with, you know, a couple of dollars a month, maybe less than a hundred a year, and you get your unlimited license to me didn’t work.
I wanted to keep it small. I wanted to have a hundred customers that pay me a hundred dollars a month. That would be my full-time work and support a hundred companies individually. That was the initial intention support a hundred companies because I can’t, that wouldn’t, wouldn’t be too far out of my capabilities and it wouldn’t completely drown me in work.
And so that’s how I really priced ocp. This is, this is what I wanted and. What I’m seeing now is that I can serve the WebPress industry much more by working with hosting companies, and I’m talking with a lot more than, uh, listed on my website officially, who already, you know, signed up. There’s a few bigger announcements coming now with Word Cam BS that I don’t think I can talk about or would be, It’s not my [00:22:00] place to her to share these things.
Um, but yeah, I just, I wanted to. I wanna do this, do things my way. That was, it was really important to me, and I’m really glad I did because I’m also seeing that I don’t think I’m a good employer. Um, unlike people. What’s his face? Joshua? Joshua Trouble? Yes. I think he was a really, it’s, he seemed, Maybe you can leave some notes here.
If, if anybody’s working for him. He seems like a really good boss and, I’d like to be like him, but I’m not, or at least not at this point. And may, maybe I’ll get there and I want to grow and scale. What, what I would like is I would like someone to come in, be the CT cto, as ceo, take over the company, and I’m down with whether this is raising money or.
Getting, you know, with all the acquisitions, I think it makes sense for a established, skilled team to come in and grow this. But as long as I’m [00:23:00] not on my own, but have a very small team, which I have right now, I don’t, I don’t wanna just grow and grow and grow. That’s not my, I wanna create a good product.
I wanna have happy customers and not have depression because I’m burning the candle at both. . Yeah. Do
Dan Knauss: do you think that, that to me doesn’t, man, I, I, I resonate with that a lot. I, I feel that a lot. I, I feel like there’s a lot of, well, maybe not a lot, but proportionally, but that there’s a, there’s a culture in, in WordPress among developers and, and others that is kind of the smallest, beautiful Yeah.
Approach. And have you found other, like others? Kind of supporting, validating that or other people you think have done
Till Krüss: that except that all the smallest beautiful gets bought up. . Yeah, they do. But then because we have these, oh, what do you call them? [00:24:00] Conglomerates now, like with the cloud waste acquisition today, um, by digital ocean.
There are these giant, I dunno, visually speaking skyscrapers, you know, there’s a bunch of them, but there are so many CRAs in the pavement in between that where smallest, beautiful can grow and you have like beautiful little happy, healthy flowers. I don’t know what the, where the analogy is going. Um, There’s space to grow.
There’s always issues in between where you have small companies that can solve a problem that there’s so many that exist in workers and create a really good solution, and then they will grow and maybe they’ll be bought up and integrated in the big sky scrapers. Maybe not that, that it doesn’t really matter.
There’s always space for small, whether it’s a startup or just a small business or your, your site project to, to flourish. I.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, I was thinking of John Christopher, who’s you, you probably saw some of that in post [00:25:00] Slack and his give attention because it’s an unusual, um, approach with organized wp. Um, yeah, he goes way back with, He’s very intentional about it.
I think that’s actually a project that has a previous plugin behind it goes back 10 years or so. So even when he was doing search WP and from what I was reading and hearing, A large part of it sounds, sounds like you, where part of the thinking is not just a technical or revenue oriented planning, but how is this something that fits into my life where my relationship with my customers is meaningful?
Um, and that kind of connects with what I’m hearing from you about like yeah, you don’t want the, the stress. Over promising and delivering cuz your own scale has gotten out. Like, that’s, that’s what I’ve found most painful and personally a barrier in, um, [00:26:00] freelancing. You know, if, if you’re doing you, it doesn’t, it wasn’t, it’s not something that quality can maintain at, at scale and to the extent you put relationships and maybe in your own community, into your clients, um, that really matters.
Like you, uh, you feel. Like you’re letting people down if, if you can’t, so, and I don’t, I think they’re at a point of scale. No one cares anymore. Right. They don’t care. A big conglomerate, like you’re not a successful
Till Krüss: number. The customer service, this is always what I think about, and I’m sure I’ve shared this once or twice before where I don’t wanna interact with.
Customers or people like this. I have my friends and I have my personal world where I wanna interact with humans, but on the internet there’s too many sketchy people out there. So to me, one big goal was to keep customer service as minimal. And what’s the opposite of hostile? Um, peaceful . As [00:27:00] nourishing as possible to me being an open source maintainer for, I dunno, 18.
18 years maybe. Mm-hmm. started with like half a mint back in the day, if anybody remembers that. Yeah, I do. Only the old people and Sean Inman, Iam, I dunno what his name is, but, um, you know, this analytics software, being an open source maintainer for so long, I, I saw the progression. Maybe I’m so jaded now.
Maybe the internet has changed and there’s more people now I’m not. But back in the day, it was really pleasant to interact with users of my software that I wanted to write and publish for free. And over the years I just saw that it’s more, not more and more, but the percentage of shitty and hostile and interactions.
I don’t know if I can curse on this podcast here. Um, I think just the F word probably, maybe I’ll refrain from using it became. It’s more [00:28:00] unpleasant to me. And with object aspro, I wanted to have the same thing where I, I make a software, people pay me for the service every month to use the best of the best, but they didn’t talk to me.
That was my, my goal. And instead of keeping them away and not responding to customer service requests, I wanted to create software that is so stupid, reliable that they don’t have to talk to me and bring back everything I learned from my many years in the Laville community. Bring this back. Test driven development, reliability as a, as.
The number one core value of, of the software, not performance, not all the fancy belts and whistles and, and cool designs, not reliability, just you install it and you don’t have to think about it because it just works. If there’s an error, it recovers by itself. That was the intention because I don’t wanna do customer service as my, my, my life, and.
Again, I could scale and hire people, but I know why have a whole customer service team, What if the [00:29:00] software just works? And right now it’s slowly changing over the last, let’s say, I think it’s almost three years now in ste, in November, um, two and a half years, let’s say the majority of my days is I work, I do whatever I want, I can, I can drive my businesses forward, whether it’s the sales and marketing or whether it’s software and I.
Have been doing five minutes of customer service so far, and now it’s slowly getting to like 10 minutes a day, which is still delightful to me, but it’s 10 minutes now. I’m not stoked about it, so I’m working on making all these questions that over and over ask, and in the customer service chat or emails I integrate into the software, so I wanna bring it down to five minutes by just making it more intuitive, more reliable, and more.
Explan explanatory. Explanatory. Kind of like the apple iPhone where you, it just works for the most part, right?
Dan Knauss: Some, I, I can, I can hear people, I, I can read minds of [00:30:00] like, you know, you, you’re talking on the one hand of like putting yourself out of business almost. But on the other hand, I can also imagine a lot of WordPress plug-in developers and, and far beyond that.
10 minutes. 10 minutes a day. One guy on support. That’s, that’s like paradise . Yeah. Cause the, the, the, for years and years and, and ongoing, the, the, probably the single most common, um, uh, complaint and, and it’s more than a complaint. It’s a life. It’s a quality of life. Mm-hmm. issue when you listen to developers and product owners with.
With a support desk and it’s, it’s where the highest frustrations are and where they end up spending its money, time, and, and your mind.
Till Krüss: Mm-hmm. . So, and to me it’s, my personally till this thing here, it’s my happiness, my, [00:31:00] my contentment, and how I feel about life. Doing a lot of customer service is not part of that.
Dan Knauss: Yeah. Uh, to be honest, both sides of that transaction don’t really want to be in there. It’s not, um, it’s not where we wanna spend our time.
Till Krüss: Yeah. And if it’s five minutes a day, I can put in the energy. I can be quite nice and helpful. But if it would be 2030, if it’s an hour, and like this is what I gotta do if I wake up and.
Have a coffee and new customer. So it’s just, I don’t wanna do it. I would probably sell the business to Digital Ocean and, and move on. It’s, that’s not the life that I wanna live. Right. Yeah.
Dan Knauss: What, what allowed you to, to know that about yourself earlier on? So that just seems unusual. What, what takes you down that, that path of knowing your limitations and know?
What you want when it’s the opposite of what everything else says, like go and grow. This is a form of growth, but it’s not the [00:32:00] stereotype, the one we always think about of bigger, more people, more tickets that come with our support tickets. Mm-hmm. .
Till Krüss: What? Think. Think what’s? I think, I think the Ansys iowaska, psychedelic substances.
What do you call them? plant medicines, if you wanna say. I think that’s the answer. It could also be just I, because I’m near atypical, I have to do things my way. Maybe that’s it. But I definitely, as a human, I value introspection and self inquiry. It’s top of my list of things that I like to do in life and with myself and what drives me and what I find interesting in myself and understanding how do I.
How to still function and how do other people work, which is a lot more challenging sometimes because there’s someone that can be so irrational and self inquiry and [00:33:00] psychedelics allows me to. Or has allowed me to just be more self-aware than I was five years ago, 10 years ago, and just increase that. If that’s a quantifiable number, which I don’t, maybe it isn’t, get to know myself more of like what makes me happy, what makes me, what helps me be content, or what nourishes me, What drains me, and being self-aware I am, I’m a huge fan of that, that self inquiry.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, there’s no, if you don’t leave any room for it, it’s, it’s gone. And that time is gone. I, I feel you on that. Um, yeah. The last five years have probably, for almost everyone, have been possibly the toughest, um, in our lives. I, I think that’s probably not that unique. And a big part of it for me is, um, along with, with remote relationships and remote.
and social isolation happening at the same [00:34:00] time that there’s, um, it’s been a complicated, um, situation to keep enough of your own head space and relationships and, and things like that, um, that are, that are closer to home. That, you know, traditionally we find our identity and grounding and meaning and, um, Yeah, it’s just gotten so much harder.
And it sounds like you’ve kind of gone the, the opposite, opposite direction. Pretty successfully with, with that, ironically, by, as, as other people scale up and develop all these inefficiencies, here’s this guy with this, with this product that solves that problem to some extent, remaining this kind of calm.
Center of the wheel , it’s like I’m imagining the, the nun, everything else spinning around and you’re trying to [00:35:00] do as few, uh, as little, as little movement within the center of that as as possible. Um, seems like a smart, desirable way to work. To me, um, it
Till Krüss: wasn’t,
Dan Knauss: Yeah. Have you changed, has anything changed in, in your practices, in, in models or is this pretty confirmed at, at this point, this is how you want to do it?
You’re, it sounds like you’re entertaining some idea of business partners. You know, as long as you have a, a role that allows, allows you to, to have the, the space and, and activity that you want.
Till Krüss: I think it’s, um, it’s a good question. I dunno if I have an answered this. Um, I,
because it’s such a loud voice on the outside, everybody does the same thing. This is how you speak, this is how you [00:36:00] behave. This, there’s so much conformity and we all wanna do this. As you know, talking apes. Because this, It’s such a reinforcement. I think it’s called something cultural head. Gem. Gem. Gem.
Yeah. That’s the word. Yeah. This is my ESL coming out here. Where it’s over and over reinforced that it’s good to be efficient. As a German, this is, I relate to this a lot, but um, it’s, efficiency is important. Work is important. First question is, what do you do? Like everything is so work centric that it’s.
Sometimes hard to put aside. So I still entertained the thought of like, Hmm, can I do this my way again, , Can I do this in a way that works for me? Can I be efficient or can I support growth my way? It’s hard to just shut it out because it’s so dominant in all of, at least the societies that I live in and [00:37:00] the circuits that I live in where money and success.
What are you doing within like that, the values are just so reinforced externally. That to me to again, find, I’m gonna quote Joshua Strayer again here. Like, what do I actually wanna do with my life? Um, not that he’s the first question you ever asked me that, but how do, what do I want? And, and, and forgetting my inner.
Sometimes happens, and maybe those are the moments that I think about growth and investment. Yeah. And, and scaling out. Um,
I definitely see to, to switch gears here as well, I definitely see being, working with hosting companies the last couple of years, maybe the last years last year more and. I can make a bigger impact in the workforce community if I would have proper backing and, and, [00:38:00] uh, better team. And seeing now working on this particular product for the last close to three years or three years, probably with the development cycle, I’m really good at product.
I’m good at figuring out with people need. In my five minutes of customer service, I get enough information figuring out what they need. Being technical enough to bridge the gap and, and creating quality products. That’s kind of the, the pride or that’s what I’m proud of or take pride in. And I, in an idea world, I’d love to focus on that and not think about receipts and my.
Accounting balances and all these other things. I try to outsource these things, but there’s so much more to a business, so much more including customer service. Just focusing on product would be, I think, a very idea idyllic state for me to be in, of just, I get to just [00:39:00] create and make the world a better place.
At the same time, less resource usage, faster, low times, less electricity being used and. Less headaches for people like the, the emotional impact of people worrying about the WordPress websites. That to me is a un quantifiable number that I really like to get higher. Um, why worry about your software? Like, let’s worry about the relationships that we have or the what we want maybe, um, our ourselves and like these, the things that actually matter.
So with software is making the lives a bit easier and less annoying. Um, I’d love to do that. Back to your question of like, has anything changed? Just more and more discovering, running all of this myself and then outsourcing some engineering parts or the, you know, accounting, bookkeeping. Obviously it would be fun to just do product itself.
Um, it’s not [00:40:00] my reality at the moment, but I would entertain it if it’s, if it’s done right. And I’ve heard this a few times, whether this is the Pagely acquisition or WP Media, the WP Rocket guys, there seems to be companies out there that are still have a lot of financial backing, but they’re not,
I, I don’t know how to say this. They’re not cutthroat capitalists. Right machines. Good.
Dan Knauss: disadvantage maybe, but worth life. Worth living.
Till Krüss: Yeah. Like the, the one group one or one group. Mm-hmm. one.com hosting. And in Scandinavia, they just seem to, maybe it’s a Scandinavian model. Again, just more focus on Yeah, we all work, we all pick pride in that maybe or identify with what we do for, for, for work.
But not at the extreme expense of our personal lives.
Dan Knauss: Yeah. [00:41:00] I, I think who’s gonna argue with that? and feel good, feel like they really mean it. But yeah, that is a, it does seem more and more like that’s a, a culture and the spirit and ethos that’s, that’s been diminished over time. Mm-hmm. in open source and Yeah.
It needs, it needs advocates in
Till Krüss: it’s, Yeah,
Dan Knauss: it’s a, it’s good to have voices for that, but there’s also some really practical things to it. Some of what you were saying, I, I know you, um, if you wanna drive down headaches and inefficiencies and stuff that doesn’t work and poor quality products, testing is probably your main answer to that.
For practically speaking, what can WordPress do to. take, take a lot of trouble off of, off of, um, individual shoulders and off, you know, off the project, I [00:42:00] suppose too. Is that, is that accurate that the, the role of testing and standards, um, are an area that we’re, we
Till Krüss: haven’t, um, yeah. Really matured in? I think so, and I’m still , I still dislike it, um, but I do it because it’s, I wanna push a big release on a Friday afternoon and go camping for the weekend without having to worry about it.
And I’ve done this a few times now, like I try to release on a Friday afternoon and push big releases to, I don’t know what, it’s like 400,000 sites now. Um, Test driven development, whether this is, yeah, whether this is test driven development, meaning first you write your tests and then you write the software, or if you do it after the fact and you spend the extra, you know, 30% I think it is on, on average.
What happens when you flush the cash by cli? Does it actually empty your red estate? Just having sanity checks in place? It’s a very technical topic. Testing in general, there’s, what’s his name? Um, Chris Hard, The grumpy programmer, who is just his whole life seems to be an advocate for testing, um, in, in many, many different communities.
Not exclusive to php, just test your software. And to me, that allows me to be confident in what I. To trust my own software cuz I’m very flawed and make mistakes all the time. But my tests will tell me when I do and just have peace of mind over the weekend where I [00:44:00] can, I don’t have to stress out about pushing out a release that might break other people’s sites.
And this has been a very frequent occurrence. And WordPress, anybody from, I’m not gonna say any names, but I’m sure we all write the stories that as a release and sudden. I don’t know. Millions of websites are slower because there’s no tests, so there’s no quality. Qa, What’s it called? Quality assurance.
Quality qa. Qa, Yeah. There’s no teams. And whether this is manual or I think it should be automated because why spend human hours trying to do this? Just take the time to write these test. It’s. It helps me. And then also to this extent of like customers have, I think more trust in the software. When there’s releases and there’s no, Oh, buck fix is, Buck fix is buck fixes and many small.
You can see the the evolution of my free plugin, the Reddest object Cash. Sometimes when I do a big release, they do six [00:45:00] releases and 24 hours. It’s so many people using it and something breaks for someone. And this is what I wanted to do different with Object Cash Pro. It’s written from the ground up and it’s test driven.
Like there is no, it’s not, not quite a hundred percent quote coverage at this point, but it’s a very, It’s thoroughly tested. Yeah.
Dan Knauss: Right. And what’s the barrier to that? Becoming more of the. in WordPress are, are you involved in the on the core test team at all? I know you do. Uhfor the new
Till Krüss: performance team.
No, I’m not. I see that there is a lot of tests in WordPress core, like it’s well tested. I think the, not the theme market, but the plugin market itself seems are probably a pain to test the plugin. Industry plugin. Severe is, testing is not a common thing. I, I don’t see it very much. No few people seem to even talk about it.
I don’t wanna be an [00:46:00] advocate for it. I have other things to do. Maybe I should do a presentation at some point at a conference just to like see the, So the seats, what do you call? Put the seats in the ground. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, uh, it’s really good. I don’t know if there’s anything in the way except for awareness and then actually taking the time to do it.
It, it, it’s time consuming. It’s expensive. If it’s 30% of the time that you write code, that if it’s an hour, I don’t know what 30% is, 20 minutes, 80 minutes, something like that. A third, let’s say, of that time coding. , you would then spend writing tests. It’s not fun. I, I don’t, You can make it kind of fun with like a decent test.
We, a nice tooling, but it’s still, you, you, you’re doing this. However, for me, now down the road, seeing that I have three years of. Software in one place. I don’t wanna test all these pieces that have written a year ago. They work, they can just stay [00:47:00] as they are, and if they break, I will know down the road and they can actually move a bit faster.
Now, in the future of like whether this is adding new features or changing how timeouts work. The last release I pushed yesterday was adding connection retries and the few things broke and I, I just know I don’t have. Abuse . I don’t have to abuse my customers and they test it on their life production sites.
My tests will reveal these issues first, which I, I think it’s the more customer friendly approach to not let your customers test your software. And, um, I listen to the Accidental Tech podcast the other day where Apple kind of dust is at scale. They just throw it out. Developers do the QA for them. I think that was the comment.
I can’t speak to that, but it reminds me of this talking about this.
Dan Knauss: Yeah, very much so. Yeah. Do you, do you think that that, um, WordPress is, you could say relative [00:48:00] isolation or under participation in the larger PHP world is part of the story too, that if, if there was more overlap and more. Mm.
Relationships in, into, into things like Elle or a Million Possible Directions with, with PHP and is more, more directly involved with it. That, that, that would help, uh, that would enhance some things like, like stand uh, standards around testing and and so on. Um, we just kind of, our ecosystem and people do their own thing cause it’s, they’re not.
They’re not, um, their peers are in a, in a different place than, say, someone working in, in a, a PHP framework somewhere
Till Krüss: else. Yeah. I think there’s, I mean, there’s a lot of smart developers on WordPress as well that’s maybe [00:49:00] cross to, to the other. Ecosystems over outside of WordPress and they include testing, whether this is Google engineers being hired or whatever it is.
There is, there is good tooling out there. I don’t think we’re too isolated. We definitely judge and look down upon, um, understandably so. Maybe that’s just because of the lack of testing, but I, I don’t even know how to solve this. To me it’s a problem and maybe it would be enforcing tests for plugins with more than, I don’t know, a thousand users on the repository.
Because you can measure OB objectively. You can quantify the code coverage, whether let’s say it’s 80% what, whatever’s a reasonable or 50%. , I dunno if you can have the main path. I, I, I don’t know the, the details of this, but you could also enforce it such as like, Hey, you’ve got now 12 months to test your software, and then it gets a little check mark.
Hey, [00:50:00] this plugin has a test suite. I would need to build one for my free plugin. Now , But it, it might be a good, good idea and to include in that there’s been a. Talk in deep What Core Performance? Performance Core, I don’t know. They just changed the name, The performance team. Mm-hmm. , Um, to have, whether there’s this badges that.
When you have a clean, what percent stall you install a plugin. How do the, my queries, like what’s the impact of this plugin? How is performance being handled? And I dunno how much you can automate these tests, but maybe we need more reviewers that there is more high quality code a. On the wordpress.org, at least for the ones that have, um, you know, a hundred thousand, a million users that you know that these are actually properly tested for performance degradations or recessions, um, regressions.
Sorry, so many recessions going on at the moment, and for [00:51:00] performance regressions or just for testing, I think that would be a decent approach. I don’t know if this is feasible. Someone, what’s her? Epstein, she something. Half Elf is on a Twitter profile. I don’t, Yeah. You know what I’m talking about. Yes. Um.
She, I think, runs the plugin team and I don’t know what of the, what is possible and it’s of course it’s a big burden. Again, on that you, we push on open source developers and maybe there needs to be fun. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but testing would definitely improve the overall trust in WordPress, that you can upgrade a plugin without things going slow or breaking.
I think it would be a good approach and. I would say it’s certainly part of the secret sauce for Object Cash Pro and its success. It just, you can trust that it’s reliable. Yeah. And business is first. Well,
Dan Knauss: as an alternative to putting it on on.org, there’s always the possibility I’ve wondered about this, like why the, I’m not aware of this happening, but [00:52:00] in a maturing market and ecosystem that I think we do have, there’s the possibility of industry.
cooperation and self-regulation to some extent, where you, those larger plugin, um, companies could on their own, see the, see that value and decide on a standard amongst themselves some common tooling or, or practice or something like that and do their part to kind of police that end of the, the market or set an example that, that sounds like.
Very strong policing, but I mean you’re, you know, pleasing bugs. Um,
Till Krüss: oh, we already have guidelines for the plugins, what you can and can’t do. Yeah, it’s very clear and they all make sense. Maybe adding performance and test coverage to that could be at least a discussion. I’m sure it has been. I will talk to Felix at work, us about this on the country today.
Dan Knauss: Good. That’s, uh, yeah, that’s definitely a, a [00:53:00] progressive direction to, to move in. Um, where, where do you see, um, opportunities and, you know, for, for you and, and just WordPress in general, where are they, where are the opportunities and I guess the, the risks and, and threats. People would often seem to have more of those in mind, but, um, how those two relative quantities is they’re, Which is more on your mind and, and what are you, what are you seeing down the road?
Till Krüss: probably with everybody. I’m more, I think more about the risks. Yeah. And threat than the opportunities. The monkey brand. Mm-hmm. , I don’t know if an answer to, if I have an answer to this, I, some of them are a bit concerned of like, how long is WordPress around? , but it doesn’t, it’s not slowing. Maybe this is just like you said, the talking apr, [00:54:00] I, it’s not slowing down.
There’s acquisitions everywhere. I don’t see it dying out for whatever reason. All the replacements like it’s.
I guess, yeah, I don’t know. I, I, I don’t, I don’t think I have an answer to that question. Sorry.
Dan Knauss: That’s fine. It’s a big, big, wide open one. Um, I, I think a lot of, a lot of things you, you’ve touched on, I wish I, you know, we, we hear more, and I, I hope resonates with, uh, a lot of people. We don’t often connect the human social embeddedness of our lives with the.
We’re doing or not openly or we don’t share that and, you know, why else are you doing what you do? Um, some people are pretty open about it, but, um, I would, I would like to hope that there’s, there’s opportunity in this space for people who wanna work that way, who are wanna work like you [00:55:00] do, and that this is, this is a good model that however big everything else may get.
There’s those cracks, like you said, between. The sidewalk where there’s room for a relatively low stress. Good, good work. Um, and
Till Krüss: I’m glad you found that. If there’s any more questions, if, if you like listening to this, if you enjoy the, the, this conversation, the stories, if there’s anything the listeners want to hear more about or any questions, I’m always happy.
You can hit me up on Slack, on post status, Slack for of course, WordPress, Slack email. You know, or send questions to Dan and we can do, uh, if there’s the demand for it. Uh, episode two on this.