Here we are with a new episode of our series of interviews with WordPress plugin developers, where we hear their stories, how they’re planning to take everything one step further and, of course, what are their thoughts on the WordPress ecosystem. Today, we’re talking with Eric Tracz, founder and CEO at PeepSo.com.
Currently, he lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is in charge with PeepSo, a suite of social networking plugins for WordPress, which allows users to create their own social network. It’s presented as an excellent alternative to all global networks, being able to bring together people, based on specific topics, themes or even location. Yeah, it can connect users in the same neighborhood!
Eric works on PeepSo since 2014, when he started developing plugins, while previously, we worked at iJoomla.com, as a Lead Technical Support Engineer and Project Manager. The funny part is that his educational background doesn’t recommend him at all for such jobs since he has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and also started a Master’s Degree in Culture.
How big is your team?
The core team of PeepSo has now eight people. There are two co-founders: me, in charge of project management, and Matt, who is the tech lead. We’re also joined by four programmers, a tester, and a DevOps guy.
How did you start with WordPress? Why WordPress?
Our team has always been involved in Open Source web software. Involved heavily, that is! Our origins are in the Mambo & Joomla world, as 10 years ago we started with CloudAccess, followed by JomSocial.
As you have probably guessed, WordPress was the next step and we’re really thinking it’s “the next big thing” for us.
Can you please describe who’s your user/customer? Who’s using your plugin(s)?
Basically, our clients come from different environments. They have all sorts of backgrounds and have their roots in communities revolving around a wide array of topics. For example, I’ve come across users associated with fitness, travel, gardening, travel, various causes or even local communities.
Surprisingly, PeepSo also helped create some adult communities, where people can freely express themselves, in complete privacy.
How do you monetize?
Keeping it short, there are four free plugins, these being the Core Foundation of PeepSo. However, the rest of our suite relies on paid yearly plans, for the rest of the plugins which allow clients to implement separate feature sets, like Friends, Groups, Chat and so on. If you like it, users buy just the pieces they need for creating their own social network, so this is why we often refer to this as “build your own pizza“. It’s like picking your own toppings! For more details, you can check out our offer here: https://PeepSo.com/addons.
However, this isn’t only about us. Our purpose is to empower all communities currently running PeepSo. Right now, we’re seriously focusing on developing integrations that will help community admins generate some revenue on their own.
To be more specific, the first thing that comes into my mind is classified ads. We’ve created a PeepSo – PMP integration plugin which can be used for creating communities based on a membership, so if you want to be a part of them, you need to pay.
Can you share a few numbers in terms of active users/downloads or website monthly traffic?
There are somewhere around 1,700 sites using PeepSo and the additional plugins right now. Also, our website attracts about 500 unique visitors daily. As for the total amount of download, I can’t tell an exact number, since it depends on the plugin we’re talking about.
How do you acquire visitors/users/customers?
Most of them find out about us from different blogs or Reddit. Also, the WordPress plugin directory and social networks, mostly Facebook, also send us a lot of customers. Our promotion strategy relies a lot on word of mouth, which is very important to us.
What are your current struggles? How are you planning on overcoming them?
Reaching out to people who don’t know you actually exist can be pretty challenging and this is exactly what we’re trying to do now. Currently, we’re putting together a plan in motion regarding marketing and raising awareness among a lot of potential clients.
What would you say are your bigger strengths?
After taking a quick look through our own community, you can observe that our users have a great overall attitude. Sure, sometimes things don’t go exactly according to our plan, but people like to help each other out, as well as we do. We’re talking about that sense of an actual community, this is what gathers people around PeepSo!
All the members of our team are very dedicated and look forward to building amazing software. Also, there are a few values we believe in, like selling a stable, feature-rich software, as well as providing epic customer support, which nowadays is extremely important. We want to help as much as we can!
Finally, there’s one aspect we shouldn’t forget about: PeepSo is a plug and play plugin. You just install it and is simply works, without the need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how it works, like you might do with other solutions available out there.
Can you share a tough moment in the course of your business? What were the takeaways from it?
Like in most cases, the beginnings were hard times, since we didn’t have that much of an experience with WordPress. Therefore, the hardest moment was the learning curve of the entire thing, since it took a while to make the transition from Joomla to WordPress, since they’re completely different things!
What are your plans for 2017?
One of the biggest announcements we’re planning to make is more on the organizational front. Merav Knafo, who can be considered the best boss anybody can wish for, is planning to retire from the software world, so myself and Matt Jaworski will eventually take over the project completely and both of us will own 50 percent of PeepSo.
Otherwise, we’re planning to add new plugins to our suite, as well as redesign the shop, in order to make the entire process of deciding upon the features a client needs way easier. It’s going to be a pretty busy year, as you can see!
What are some of the tools you’re using in the development process?
We rely on GitHub repositories for each plugin, alongside GitHub Issues + Waffle.io, for project management, as a scrum board. Specifically, each of the tasks goes through the same stages. These include a double peer review, as well as manual and automated tests. Finally, each sprint results in a new minor or major versions are released.
As for how we’re differentiating, it’s the fact that unlike other developers, who use a local MAMP stack, Matt works directly on his own development server, instead of using localhost. And it’s a pretty good deal, since his box is just $10 per month for a shared hosting plan, being great for making sure all our plugins run smoothly, no matter if they’re on a low spec environment.
Also, one thing we’re very proud of is the automated testing. We own a dedicated rig, with Windows and Selenium Webdriver, so each piece of PeepSo is covered with automated testing, not to mention that we have a full-time automation engineer just for creating, maintaining and running the tests.
If you ask me, a successful automation run is the final green light for a release, while a red flag comes in even if just one thing doesn’t go through. Generally speaking, 98% result of automation is acceptable, but we still check manually all the failed tests. Finally, we release only if the testing, alongside automated and manual testing, if necessary, is at 100%!
A tool that helps us a lot is Query Monitor. This plugin allows us to identify faulty databases, which are either slow, double or plain unnecessary. Thanks to this trick, we managed to cut database load one-third through the last 4 releases.
What do you think about the WordPress ecosystem in general? Where do you think the opportunity lies for the next years?
Oh, well, WordPress is great! After all, there’s no wonder it has almost 70% of the market share. This happens for a reason! As for the opportunities, they are huge, since it’s an enormous market, which if explored properly, can reveal some pretty interesting stuff, which can be exploited.
We, at PeepSo, believe that there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to mobile devices. As a matter of fact, we’re monitoring solutions like WPMobilePack, AppPresser and many others, waiting for a good moment to invest some time into coming up with a way of integrating PeepSo into them. Besides this, we’re looking forward to exploring the official WP REST API, which, as soon as it becomes mainstream, will allow native mobile apps to interact with websites based on the WordPress platform in completely new ways and this could be a real game changer!
What would you recommend to anybody that it looking to start their own WP business?
Just hold on tight, since it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Seriously now, if I’m allowed to give a piece of advice, stick to getting the best developers if you decide to work with them, do not cut corners and listen to them! After all, these guys are experts, knowing what they’re doing. And hey, this is why you’re paying them some important amounts of money!