Getting rich quick with WordPress, or not

The Gem

As a follow-on from my WordPress/Drupal Page Builder post, I bought a license for Beaver Builder for WordPress.

I am exploring the concept of a hyper-local news, community, market site with WordPress, Beaver Builder and a Beaver Builder child theme.  I am doing the development on my home lab server, and using sshfs to access the Ubuntu server web folder share.

I wish I had time to write up more, and I plan to be doing something along these lines in a book project, but for now, I want to simply take some notes of some highlights along the way.

I setup WordPress, on Apache2, PHP7, on Ubuntu 16.04 and used sshfs to do remote shares.

I actually played around with Beaver Builder, more than I document below. It’s a great tool, and if you are in the market for a visual web-design and visual page builder for WordPress, with more flexibility around custom themes, than I recommend it.

However, for myself, I realized I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied with Beaver Builder or Divi or the Page Builder experience. It felt like Microsoft Frontpage or Adobe Dreamweaver, it felt shallow.

Don’t get me wrong, for many projects, and many clients, possibly the great majority of the 40% of the worlds total websites, that happen to run WordPress, a Page Builder like Beaver Builder would be awesome. But for me, it felt like the same dynamic as my Page Builder Dark Magic Locked Forever post.

I should also say, I am really sure, I could of made a production grade, release ready, relatively competitive website with Beaver Builder and WordPress and Woocommerce in about a week. This would of included custom CSS, maybe some templates, a logo, banner, content and store. The whole deal. Problem is, anybody else, or maybe 3 billion people, could do the same.

I’ve been told by a tech educator that the tech choice is 1% of the business, and its other factors. I wonder what Google or Facebook or Tesla would say to that. This is a nice idea, and we all like myths and might say that in public. But internally invest massively in R&D and patents and IP.

The 1% tech choice, then becomes the secret sauce, the key ingredient. It’s not like you can just say, I won’t worry about that 1%, I’ve got 99% to work with. Let’s build the next big thing on WordPress or Drupal.

I saw a presentation at Badcamp, maybe three years ago, where Jay Batson, former co-founder of Acquia, the kind of Accenture of Drupal, had just left Acquia with a golden parachute, and was with Y Combinator and was preaching Drupal for startups. The room was full, and there where people there who agreed with him.

Personally, I think its mostly fantasy. I know of, and these are basically user generated i.e. spam, sites over loaded with ads.

There is, which is Drupal, but its really the marketing site for The Weather Channel, cable TV. It’s not really a pure web startup. Weather Underground is way better.

It might be true, like Pinterest which is based on Django, you could build an amazing startup with Drupal or WordPress, but it would be so heavily modified that it would be basically a fork. By this stage, why not use a framework like Rails or Elixir?

Compare this with Bleecher Report, which is Ruby/Elixir and a Javascript app UI.  Or any number of tech startups or SAAS. They are flat out not WordPress sites. Sure they may have blogs in WordPress, or unusually like Pinterest, numerous Drupal blogs.

On a personal level,  after almost 20 years doing websites, yes, I started in 1997, WordPress and Drupal feel really tired, the PHP Web CMS feels like the past, even if they are rock solid and super slick. You can see with the WordPress REST API in core, the WP CLI and the Calypso ReactJS UX for WordPress, the people behind it know this too.

As a web developer and hopeful tech entrepreneur, WordPress and Drupal also feels like and extremely crowded space. If I see another premium WordPress theme for sale I will literally scream profanity out loud like Al Swearengen. If I find another WordPress lead generation, get rich quick scheme I will implode.

Back to the Beaver Builder experience, in short I got a refund. I wasn’t satisfied. I am not a web designer. I stopped being that in 1998.

Beaver Builder, Divi, Carbon all felt easy today, and much, much harder tomorrow. So, I got refunds and backed out of the R&D.

I will continue to use WordPress and Drupal, but will be using them for a much narrower focus. I have plans for custom modules, themes and plugins around my new business project which I will be starting today.

Oh, and one more thing about the promise of WordPress. A WordPress site will not make you rich. A website in general will not make you rich. It’s not a money making machine that you turn on and it money pours in. Most people who claim this are actually selling what they are selling.

I mean, a super star coach selling coaching lessons on how to be a coach via website ebooks and webinars. Or, a WordPress page builder tool (DIVI and Beaver Builder are not doing this, but others do) that sells a WordPress page builder tool for selling.

Making more money than you spend makes you rich, and websites can be a tool. But believe it or not, plenty of people make money without websites. For instance, look at Renaissance Technology. If you don’t know who these people are, your really should look them up.

This is classic Ponzi scheme stuff. Its the reason I left permaculture. The system itself mostly doesn’t work commercially, and the business model is based on permaculture students selling the permaculture practice to new students.

I know you can make money as a farmer and use permaculture ideas etc. Just like you can make money and use a WordPress site. But it’s the 99% that makes the business not just the 1% tech choices.

A big BUY NOW button, wont make people buy a rubbish product, you can trick people, mis-lead people sure, and part of this might be adding a button.

A fellow traveller of WordPress get rich quick, is the dreaded acronym SEO.

Never has so much BS been written and said about a word.

Sure you need a well structured website, with complies to the basics of technical website structure. But, that’s not enough, and plenty of wonky websites are very successful.

Along with technical SEO, the website structure, is content marketing, i.e. editorial and content.

Do you have words and images and other interesting engaging and interactive content on your website that will attract and keep and convert readers into paying customers?

Finally, and most importantly, do you actually have a product to sell, that a customer will want?

Internet Death

I recently listened to a webinar by an SEO company out of Nevada, where the inevitable question was asked, I do all this SEO stuff and nothing works, I don’t get traffic, I don’t get business. The SEO company then spoke about getting paid advertising, or trying new things. They dodged the question imho.

Personally, I think that the real answer is, you are screwed. Your business is screwed, you will go under, get ready.

Doing SEO and doing advertising may well be just accelerating this fact.

I actually think this is more of a systemic thing than we like to admit.

I call it Internet Death. All across the world, thanks to Amazon, book stores are gone, and now its expanding into entire shopping malls, dead malls.

Soon it will be taxi drivers, and truck drivers. Soon it will be domestic workers replaced by robots. Soon journalists will be replaced by robots. Sorry, its Internet Death, and a WordPress SEO effort with Facebook ads and Google Adwords is not going to be enough.

Interestingly enough, the only thing that stopped some of the first “disruptive” innovations, i.e. file sharing of audio and video was legal action by media companies.

Interestingly enough again, some of the exact same people behind the illegal file sharing, yes, its theft folks, are behind companies that are somehow glorious and untouchable and leading the “disruption” today.

The Gem
The Gem


Set-Up Editor

Download, the excellent cross-platform text editor/almost IDE.

Creating a custom Beaver Builder Child Theme

Copy and customize the Beaver Build Child theme

On linux this is cp -ar bb-theme-child sonoma-speaks-bb-theme-child

change the screenshot.png and the styles.css, from the docs

Theme Name: Sonoma Speaks Beaver Builder Child Theme
Theme URI:
Version: 1.0
Description: A custom theme for Sonoma Speaks
Author: Nicholas Roberts,
Author URI:
template: bb-theme

/* Add your custom styles here… */

now Activate your custom theme in the WordPress dashboard

Sonoma Speaks Theme Activated
Sonoma Speaks Theme Activated

Add a Custom Beaver Builder Preset

I want to try to leverage the Beaver Builder preset system and make a Preset

Possibly in the future I will want to create a second Preset for a sub-site or a different version, say the Christmas holidays, or the Fall or the Spring

In the functions.php file of my custom theme I add this block, as guided by the docs

function sonomaspeaks_custom_presets()
FLCustomizer::add_preset('default-sonomaspeaks', array(
'name' => 'Sonoma Speaks',
'skin' => 'default',
'settings' => array(
'fl-body-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-accent' => '#95bf48',
'fl-accent-hover' => '#95bf48',
'fl-heading-text-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-topbar-bg-color' => '#3e4147',
'fl-topbar-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-topbar-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-topbar-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-header-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-header-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-header-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-header-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-nav-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-nav-link-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-nav-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-widgets-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-footer-widgets-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-footer-widgets-link-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-widgets-hover-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-bg-color' => '#282a2e',
'fl-footer-text-color' => '#a6a6a6',
'fl-footer-link-color' => '#95bf48',
'fl-footer-hover-color' => '#95bf48'
add_action( 'after_setup_theme', 'sonomaspeaks_custom_presets', 11 );

now I have a preset listed in the Customizer which I can force values with code

Sonoma Speaks Presets
Sonoma Speaks Presets

I want now to be able to see easily what each of the colors are and so in I install pigments

apm install pigments
Installing pigments to /home/devekko/.atom/packages ✓

after restarting hex now has colored backgrounds making CSS much easier Pigment Pigment

lets also install Color Picker

apm install color-picker

now we can right click, choose Color Picker and change colors visually

Customize via the WordPress Customizer

Color Picker
Color Picker

Ultimately & sshfs didn’t work, processes grew to 2+GB and crashed my laptop. So, used VNC to remote into the dev VM.

Self hosting the Drupal web content management system with Aegir

Serious Drupal hosting SaaS such as Pantheon starts at 25$USD per site, Acquia is something like 100$+ per site.

With the FLOSS Aegir Hosting System this cost per site can be greatly reduced. Of course total cost of ownership may still be high, when technical ability and Linux admin time are factored in.

Let’s self-hosted Aegir on an LXD/LXC container and migrate off an OVH VPS using Aegir’s built-in Remote Import feature.

I’ve worked with Ansible for Aegir in the past and there are a few Ansible roles and example playbooks on github.

As far as I can tell, none are official, so, I’ll use the Debian packages on Ubuntu Trusty 14.04 with Php5 from the official docs.

Php7 on Xenial is reportedly twice as fast and is supported, but I had errors and had no time to work through the issues.

UPDATE: I did actually get Aegir 3.9 with PHP7 on Ubuntu 16.04, but not without issues, I would say there are still issues



vi /etc/hosts aegir-server localhost aegir-server aegir-server
::1 aegir-server ip6-localhost ip6-loopback

lets do an update and upgrade

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

I also add the server to Debops inventory. I want unattended upgrades of Ubuntu security releases and firewall via ferm etc.

install Postfix, choose Internet site

sudo apt install postfix


add the Debian official repositories

echo "deb stable main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/aegir-stable.list


add the archive key to the servers keyring

wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add - sudo apt-get update


install the Aegir 3 package

sudo apt install aegir3


the installation proceeds and you need to manually enter a mysql password (make it secure, record it in an encrypted password manager and avoid special characters)

verify URL of hostmaster frontend

re-enter mysql password

Aegir is installed and offers a login link, change username and password and email.

More parts to follow

Hello new world

It’s almost 2017 and I feel like this is a new world.

We are launching a new business and tech will be one of our business lines (along with farm and sustainability).

I love free libre open source software (FLOSS) and have done some activism in this area, I also use it daily and I wanted to record the very, very many explorations I make in this space.

I have been inspired in this by sites like DailyDrip, TuxDiary and PacketPushers.

They do a great job publishing quality information and I learn a lot from them. I want to do the same. They are independent, self-publishers and this is why I love the internet.

I feel compelled, probably unwisely, to comment on the recent US general election. I am not a citizen and can’t vote, but I predicted a Trump victory, and was surprised by how close the presidential election was and also the wide sweep of wins in nearly every political office i.e. governorships, both chambers etc.

I imagine we will see 8 years of Trump and possibly a long term change in the political system and possibly a GOP ascendancy.

This will have an effect on our lives and our businesses and institutions. I’ll be doing research and unpacking this as the year unfolds.

On a technical level, I have become extremely interested in the Rails inspired Elixir / Phoenix web application framework.

I am working  a Phoenix website and an Elixir / Phoenix utility library now. For development purposes, Elixir and Phoenix are my main focus. But I have ideas integrating WordPress / Drupal into some of these projects.

Another area I want to develop is a consultancy business around project management and development of new products. Also big data analysis and systems integration.

I am open to contracts now, contact me at [email protected]