Approachable WordPress

Chris Lema


In 2008, I joined the WooThemes Theme Club

It was early in the premium theme game for the WordPress ecosystem, but I had already been using WordPress for a couple of years and was getting tired of manipulating Kubric all day long.

So when the guy in London, the one in Cape Town, and the Norwegian decided to start up a little company called WooThemes, I was interested.

To be clear, I had no idea there was a “community” and I had been doing everything on my own, including:

  • Coding directly on the server
  • Changing core files
  • Directly changing theme files

Yes, I was a horrible hack and didn’t know anyone and no one knew me. And while I didn’t understand the whole unlimited use of these themes on as many sites as I wanted, I knew I was in the presence of rock stars.

In 2011, I branded my Mac Book

Skip forward a few years and people were going to WordCamps and I had started doing the same. And the thing I noticed was that people were putting stickers on their laptops like they were sponsors painted on Indy cars.

Since I’d deployed tons of WooThemes-based sites by then, I sent these guys a question about stickers. But they didn’t have any. So I asked them to send me their artwork, so I could create my own. They didn’t know me from Adam (by this time their business had taken off, and they had all sorts of customers – and clearly only 1 asking for stickers). But they replied with the artwork, and you can see what I did with it, below.


Since then, I’ve written about WooCommerce

Over the past 18 months, my interactions with WooThemes have mostly been in the realm of writing some posts about WooCommerce. Some twenty-five posts later, you can say that my interest and fondness for WooThemes hasn’t diminished.

I met a few of them for 2 minutes at Pressnomics in 2012, which is to say that I was introduced to them when they were already halfway into their evening partying one night and I’m positive none of them would remember it.

Hear Me Here

Now let me be really, seriously honest with you. Because you have to hear this in order to understand that big smile in the photo (I’m in the back, on the right).

  • I do not build products in the WordPress ecosystem.
  • I do not sell almost any services in the WordPress ecosystem.
  • Until a little over a year ago, I had never written about WordPress.
  • Until this past year, I’d only presented at 3 WordCamps.

This is not the resume of an important person in the WordPress ecosystem. Even the fact that I’m a memorable presenter (even if I don’t actually do technical education or even deep WordPress topic presentations) isn’t something to hold on to or boast about.

I’m not saying I suck. I’m just saying this passion of mine to help empower people to succeed in the WordPress ecosystem isn’t sitting on top of serious accomplishments like building a WordPress company with over 500,000 customers.

We can both agree on that reality.

This is what’s truly amazing – Approachable WordPress

For the past few days I’ve been hanging out in Cape Town – the very same city where WooThemes has an office. I’m here because they invited me to come out here. I’m here to present at the WordCamp on Thursday.

The hospitality shown to me has been incredible. Amazing. Ridiculous in it’s extravagance. All by the great folks at WooThemes.

But that’s not what has me smiling in that picture.

No, what has me smiling is a truth bigger than WooThemes. What has me smiling is something I need you to hear – for you.

Ready for it? Here it is. I tried to find the right words for it, and to keep it short, and the phrase I came up with was “approachable WordPress.” Here’s what it means.

Approachable WordPress (noun) – The reality that the relative ease of learning WordPress is matched by the relative ease of meeting, connecting, and enjoying time with the amazing thought leaders and successful entrepreneurs in the WordPress community.

That’s it. I’ve said it before and will say it again. In 20 years of working in the high tech sector, I’ve never experienced this dynamic that feels unique to WordPress, in the ability for just about anyone to approach and connect with any of its superstars.

I spent an evening on a boat sailing around Cape Town with the rock stars from WooThemes. It was great news for me. But the great news for you is that you can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be WooThemes – it can be anyone you want.

Want to talk to the guy behind WordPress 101 – hit me up, I’ll introduce you.

Want to talk to the guy behind the Matt Report – hit me up, I’ll introduce you.

Want to talk to the dudes that are the baddest podcasters in town – hit me up, I’ll introduce you.

Who do you want to meet?

Here’s the amazing thing – you don’t even need my intro. Ping them directly on Twitter and watch – they’ll reply.

That’s Approachable WordPress.


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  1. Yes! This is one of the things I love most about WordPress: Not just that there’s a large and vibrant community, but that it’s actually relatively flat! (i.e. Approachable WordPress)

    There are people who you might consider “superstars” because they’ve done something pretty noticeable, but by and large they still consider themselves to be just another member of the community. They’re more than happy to sit down with you and shoot the breeze over a beer, give you advice, chat about whatever projects either of you are working on, or invite you to watch a sports game.

    Sure, we have our moments, like any community, but overall it’s a fantastic community to be a part of.

    • Exactly, I really enjoyed meeting Chris and Brian yesterday and they are both really nice and approachable guys! And just as much as I enjoyed meeting everyone (including you) at WCEU, it’s important that everyone feels a part of the community! Something that really stood out for me at WCEU was when Nacin and Ptah just came up to me and starting chatting – these are 2 of my peers in the community and they took time to say hi, as well as Sara Rosso taking time after her talk to just hang out. That’s what the WordPress community is about!

  2. This was a point that was really reinforced for me at PressNomics. I met so many awesome people, many of whom I would consider superstars. Even got to smoke a cigar with some 😉

    Also, Approachable WordPress sounds like it would be a good name for a conference or meetup.

  3. Nice sticker! Now if only they would give up some of those stuffed Woo Ninjas…

    Those that know me know I love Woo as well. Not just because I’m an approved modifier (disclaimer? lol) but they are a great bunch of folks doing great things.

    I’m not a superstar or rockstar by any means but having spoken at a few :p WordCamps I try be as approachable as possible. In fact I love when people ask questions because I’m full of opinions but sometimes need the right framing or question asked to get it out.

    I can think of very few regular attendee/speakers that aren’t approachable. It’s definitely a big plus to this community. As large as it is, there’s still a small friendly feeling.

  4. It’s awesome to have you in Cape Town with us Chris! Pity I couldn’t join you guys on the yacht last night, but I’m stoked that you’re loving Cape Town so much (but who wouldn’t?).

    I love that the WordPress community is so open and approachable – it’s fantastic being a part of something like this and without that quality we probably wouldn’t have been able to get you and Brian down to speak at WordCamp Cape Town :)

  5. Thanks you just made me feel a little better about presenting tomorrow… first time as a presenter so I’m more than a little nervous :)

  6. Great post Chris! I’m glad you’re having a great time in Cape Town with the team!

  7. I was wondering what the topic of your blog post was going to be after yesterday’s excursions and some great conversations. You have a wonderful way with words and a great understanding of our unique, exciting and ‘approachable’ WordPress community we find ourselves in, and often take for granted.

    Our distributed team is great testament to the relative ease of meeting and connecting with talented individuals. WP makes the world a smaller place.

  8. One of my favourite things about the WordPress community is not just how approachable it is, but how *diverse* it is.

    There are communities within communities in WordPress. We have designers, developers, bloggers, students, parents, entrepreneurs, managers, artists, writers. The ebb and flow from meetups and WordCamps to drinks at a pub, talking to people building businesses or hobby sites, from different careers and different places.

    It’s fantastic. :)

  9. Lovely post name Chris. It just sums it all up so nicely.

    It was great spending time with you and Brian. I hope the trip just gets better every day!

  10. This is the first post I’ve read on this site. It couldn’t have been a better first read. My reason for saying that is that it hits home. Probably my favorite WP dev is Pippin. I probably don’t even need to say the last name because he is probably that well know in the WordPress community. He is also “approachable WordPress”. Having never met or talked to him I sent him a tweet, he replied not once, but several times. I didn’t expect that, but he did. The same has happened with Carl from GF. Great post Chris, I’ll be back to read more for sure!

  11. I had never really realized this about the WordPress community until I attended WordCamp Europe…and everyone was so friendly! Super-friendly. Ridiculously warm and nice, as you said above. It reinforced how amazing it is to be part of the WP community. We’re lucky, because as you said, it’s not necessarily that way in other parts of the hi-tech world.

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  • People don’t fully grasp how strategic Chris is. I love that about him and count on it all the time.

    Karim Marucchi
  • Chris often breaks paradigms and has me rethinking the way I approach my business.

    Jeff Zinn
  • Chris always gives me something to think about – a new lens through which to examine my business.

    Lucy Beer
  • Chris’s advice has helped me to make better decisions about my business, and manage my clients better.

    Natalie MacLees
  • Chris has been a source of wisdom and insight in business and product strategy, startups, entrepreneurship, and more.

    Austin Gunter
  • Chris is one of those rare people who can take a difficult subject and make it easy to learn and remember.

    Dave Jesch
  • Chris has a heart of gold and is willing to reach out and help. He has helped me in several ways both in WordPress coding and consulting with me on my business. He has been a blessing in my life and look forward to a long friendship with him.

    Gregg Franklin
  • Chris Lema always drops knowledge bombs that makes me think about how I can evolve my WordPress-powered business. Even more valuable is that he does it in a way that makes drastic change seem achievable.

    Chris Ford
  • Whether it's product strategy or a question about which plugin to use, I know Chris will get me an answer faster than anyone else.

    Steve Zehngut
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    Alex Vasquez