Episode 379

Google Doc Style Collaboration for WordPress via Multicollab with Multidots CEO Anil Gupta

In this episode of LMScast, we have our chief guest Anil Gupta from multidots.com, the CEO and Co-Founder of this WordPress development agency. Here he will talk about one of his groundbreaking products Multicollab which is a Google docs style commenting and collaboration tool. Besides, he will also guide us on how to start and scale a WordPress development agency.

What is Multicollab?

A Multicollab is a WordPress tool that allows providing Google-style editorial comments and suggestions inside your WordPress site. It has brought all the features and interface of Google docs right inside your WordPress dashboard so that your team can efficiently perform editorial responsibilities without leaving your site.

Use of Multicollab

Multicollab is used before publishing the content. It empowers all the publisher and editorial team tasks so that you can complete WordPress tasks without leaving your site for a second. 

This WordPress development tool can be used with text-based and non-text-based blocks. While creating this tool, Anil Gupta mainly focused on adding email notifications and a WordPress dashboard. Therefore, anyone can reply to the comments without logging into WordPress, and a dashboard can ease task management.

Ways to Start a WordPress Development Agency

A great WordPress web agency is always bornt to satisfy clients’ requirements. Multicollab is bornt because of that reason. So, to start your WordPress development company, you must focus on the client’s requirements. Besides, your vision will be innovative. So, focus on your client’s needs and start your WordPress web agency.

Expand Your WordPress Development Company

The most effective way of expanding the WordPress agency is through proper communication and collaboration. Besides, you can utilize asynchronous communication in your business. 

Open branches in multiple countries and divide their working time so that your company remains active and works 24 hours without a pause. By utilizing this technique, you will get the best result from your team.

So, this is how you can start and expand the best WordPress development company.

At LifterLMS.com, you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Thank you for joining us!

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch and scale, a high-value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end, I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LM cast. I’m joined by a special guest and friend. His name is Anil Gupta. He’s from Multidots. That’s over at multidots.com, which is a WordPress development agency. He’s also got a sweet new tool called Multicollab. That’s what we’re really going to get into today. That’s over at multicollab.com. It’s google doc style editorial commenting for WordPress. Welcome back on the show. Anil, I think you might have been here before, but or maybe that’s your first one? I’ve just run into a lot of WordPress. But anyways, welcome.

Anil Gupta: Thank you Chris. Yeah, this is first time on the podcast. But you’re right that we met multiple different times, at different WordCamps. And yeah, I’m very excited to be here. And we’re excited to talk about, you know, the collaboration and editorial commenting and all of that, for the WordPress.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Before we get into Multicollab, I’ve always been impressed by your agency Multidots. Can you just give us the high level about like, what Multidots is and how it stands out in the space and kind of the story there?

Anil Gupta: Of course. So we are celebrating our 13th anniversary, end of this month. So it is we are like 13 years old. And with Multidots, we are focusing a lot of custom enterprise-level migrations and customizations for the WordPress for large media and publishing companies. And so we work with news and media companies, and help them migrate over to WordPress if they’re using their proprietary CMS or like, not an open source CMS like Sitecore or Django. So that’s our core expertise. We are right now. 90+ team, you know, we are distributed in three different continents, Asia, Europe, and North America. And we have two offices, one in India and one here in Austin, Texas. When I say the offices, we actually like you know, I mean, nobody cares about that real office anymore. But we still have a physical place, you know, where we sometimes like to get connect, meet and connect and get some work done.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, let’s talk about Multicollab. So first of the high level, like how do you describe it? What’s the elevator pitch?

Anil Gupta: Hmm. I would say Multicollab is the same commenting, you know commenting and collaboration tool that we use inside Google Docs, when we write the Google Doc, we kind of you know, mention different users have comments replies, and we enable suggestions more than we can see who is doing what. So we’re trying to bring the same interface and features inside WordPress. So instead of traveling between Google Docs, and WordPress back end, we are trying to with Multicollab, we are trying to bring the same experience and features and toolset inside WordPress.

Chris Badgett: I think that’s so brilliant. Anybody who’s been running an online business has likely use Google Docs and Spreadsheets and everything. And once you start building a team and needing to collaborate on documents and commenting and you get used to that, as a team, one of the interesting things with course creators and people building online education portals or remote schools, the ones that I see that are the most successful, are almost always never a solo act of just one person. There’s, like a team, it might be a small team might be a big team. But there’s a lot of collaboration going on. So I’m just super excited about this for the online learning community. Because these are not simple sites. You know, maybe there’s an expert and then there’s like a marketing copywriter coming in and somebody else who weighs in on decisions and things like that. How did the need emerge? Like what did you see? Tell us more about the desire to be like I think there’s a product here.

Anil Gupta: Yeah, so The idea came out as one of our client, they’re very large enterprise. And they have, I think, more than 300 or 400 authors. So they asked us, like, hey, we were looking for a tool inside WordPress where, you know, all our authors can collaborate with each other. And then we asked that question like, what do you mean by collaboration, and then they say like, they should be able to leave comments to each other, they should be able to mention each other. And then some of the authors with write permissions should be able to see the content and approve some of those changes. So before those changes, get published, you know, we want that accept and reject workflow, and should be able to collaborate with each other. And then we like, okay, so all of those features that you are asking for, it’s already existing Google Doc, right? So, so we were kind of trying to save some time and money for them. And we would want it to kind of, you know, present all the different options. And while we were troubleshooting and having that discussion and understanding the requirement, we kind of, you know, learnt many interesting things from them. And one of them was like, Yeah, you know, you’re right, that Google doc offers those some of those features. But in that, in with using the Google Doc, you know, you have to do multiple different trips between the document. And we have been building a lot of custom blocks and custom plugins for them. And those blocks and plugins have dynamic content. So then Google Doc is actually if you look at the WordPress back end, and if you look at the Google Doc, right, so what is back and is not a straight one page, like Canva, right? It has a lot of dynamic elements that kind of, you know, goes on and off in the post or blog that we write or page that we recreate with WordPress, and not having, I mean, using Google Doc, actually eliminates like, you know, all those cool features, that custom features or custom blocks, we are not able to leverage that because Google Doc is plain document, you write the content and copy and paste. So that’s where we, we saw the first opportunity. And like a big business case, we’re like, okay, now we understand and also the comment and all of that leaves on Google server, right? So a lot of that communication they want, they want to keep all that conversation data within the WordPress because when they install the WordPress, the beauty of the WordPress is they own you know that everything is within their server, and the content when it goes on a Google Doc, then if it lives on Google server, so it’s like fragmented, you know, your content is half of your content is here. But most of the conversation that happened during that collaboration stage that lives there, and we don’t have the traces of that inside the WordPress. So we kind of spotted two or three opportunities from them. And then there was a stage where we were looking for plugins, and we didn’t find a solution in WordPress, where we can leave inline comment, you know, within the Gutenberg or within the WordPress editor, we see are we able to do have that collaboration workflow. And that’s when we decided to build this plugin, and we talked to the client was like, alright, we’ll build this feature. But Multidots will be will launch this as a separate product, but we will give you a license of this and will not charge you for this feature. So that’s how the product came in. You know, we already had our first client. And we started to work on that when the prototype was ready. We deliver it to them, we kind of continues to get the feedback. So fortunately, yeah, the first user of this product was a large enterprise with more than 300 authors.

Chris Badgett: Wow. Wow.

Anil Gupta: So that was a playground.

Chris Badgett: That sounds familiar. My product story kind of comes out of the agency need with a big client as well. Those are often the best places for products to be born. And I’ve worked with a lot of external writers and things. And every time. For example, there’s this wonderful woman, her name is Jean, she helps write some of our case studies. And I’m like, we’re out in the Google Doc. And we’re working on the Google Doc. And I know this is going to be a post on the site. But it’s those collaboration tools. Like we can’t, we can’t do it over here. We have to do it out there. But that’s a really awesome problem to solve. And, you know, I think I haven’t heard Matt Mullenweg once say that he writes in Google Docs, or whatever. But it’s like, there’s so much like WordPress is the content management system, we should be able to manage the collaboration around the content in their dislike at home for WordPress.

Anil Gupta: Alright, so that’s one thing. Yeah. So one thing I noticed when it comes to publishing the workflow of the publishing until now is that where you kind of start your first draft on a Google Doc, you know, that and you draft the content in Google Doc, you collaborate there, you know, and you edit it, co-edit it, collaborated, and then at the end, when the article is, then you copy it, and paste it. So WordPress has not been, I mean, been utilized as much as it should be, to kind of providing this creation to publishing interface, you know, it was more like you create, collaborate, go edit everything outside WordPress, and you just copy and paste and hit the publish button. And that’s where we saw this opportunity, where, you know, bringing this entire experience within the WordPress, then you don’t have to leave the WordPress, you draft, edit it. Now, right now, we don’t have the co-edit feature, but the phase three or the Guttenberg where we are hoping that the editing will, will be introduced and launch. And once we have that, then you draft, edit, co-edit, collaborate, and publish all of these steps within the WordPress.

Chris Badgett: You know, so beautiful about this is it seems like writing is this like creative, free form thing, but you just like totally structured it right there. Like there’s actually a process here it goes through this phase and this phase. And by CO edit, you mean like people literally typing in the same area from different places? That’s what you mean?

Anil Gupta: That’s right.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. Yeah, that’s super cool. I, the first time I saw that feature, I can kind of remember it in Google Docs when I was collaborating. This is when I had an agency with a client. And you know, we were collaborating on a document in real time, while screen sharing with the client, I’m like, this thing is amazing to empower people to come together and be able to create, you know, a message or capture ideas and stuff like that. How does it work post publish? Like, is it really for leading up to the first publish? Or can it be used after publishing a piece of content? Out of draft mode?

Anil Gupta: Right. So right now, the way we see, you know, Multicollab is being utilized is more on the before publishing. So before publishing all sorts of collaboration that you need to kind of get that content published. Once it’s published, and if you’re not editing it, then on the front end, there are no features that we are offering right now. And I don’t think so that, you know, with Multicollab, I will be right featured because our goal is to kind of empower the publishers and editorial team during the process of publishing. So, once the article is published, unless like if they are late and moving that article from published to draft and then they can collaborate again, but at this moment, it is only on the draft stage.

Chris Badgett: That makes sense, is there you mentioned, I mean, the whole world has changed in WordPress in terms of blocks and everything. And like, which, as long as there’s a text area, or like, what is it? Like there’s so many different types of blocks, like, you know, there’s the bullets, there’s the paragraph, the numbered lists and everything like which kind of blocks can this be used with?

Anil Gupta: So, yeah, that was the biggest challenge, actually to come to make this Multicollab compatible for all these different types of blocks. And so our first version that we launched, that was supporting only text-based blocks, so you can comment and collaborate on paragraph text headings like anything we know which is text-based. But then, just like last year, my team did solve this problem. And now Multicollab also supports nontext blocks like media blocks, so you can come in on audio, video photos, and a lot of other complex blocks. So, again, I probably think about thousands of different types of blocks. So we haven’t tested like all the different, even the custom blocks. But our first goal is to make multicolor compatible for all native blocks that WordPress comes with. And that includes text and nontext, both blocks. So my understanding is that so far, all the native blocks, you can collaborate on that. But if there are custom blocks built by, like, you know, third-party developers or like, you know, another developer, then that is something that we haven’t tested yet. But my understanding is, it should work, you know, because our, the functionality, the way we help build is inside Gutenberg, anything, which is text or media, you should be able to comment.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s talk a little bit more about workflow. From my experience working in collab collaboration on content, there’s kind of two ways to kind of pick up where you left off. One is your inbox, you’re like, like, this morning, I was in something and I had like, 15 emails from this, something I was collaborating on with somebody. And then the other way is like, in the interface itself, can you tell us how like what people can expect to like, so that they can be you have the challenge of making the complex, simple, which you’ve done, but how do you make the magic happen, so that people can pick up where they left off or go where they need to be.

Anil Gupta: So there are a few features that we have introduced, which I believe will help with these requirements. So one is email notification, so for every time and every time somebody mentions you in the comment, or tags you in the comment, you get an email notification. So that’s where you don’t have to stay logged in into the WordPress back end all the time, you know, if someone mentions you are assigned a comment to you, you’ll get an email notification, and then you can easily jump back into the conversation. So and that’s also pretty standard in Google, you know, I think one of them, the best part of the Google Doc is those mentions and notifications. So we have integrated that in Multicollab, and that works perfectly fine. Apart from that we are planning to have a dashboard, where if you log in into the WordPress back end, you can see different tasks assigned to you. So different comments assigned to you, different suggestions, so you know, which requires you to review and approve or reject. So we are creating a little, you know, those task dashboards. You don’t have to go into like hundreds of different posts where you are being mentioned or being tagged or assigned. So you can easily just like a to-do list, you know, where you can kind of find the tasks where you need to pay attention to. So those are some of the features that we think, you know, we are trying to build into the Multicollab, where you can easily pick up the conversation. And yeah, so I think those are the those are some of areas where I think you can achieve that workflow.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So go check out Multicollab. That’s Multicollab.com. That’s really cool. I can’t wait to get play with this on my next collaborative project. I want to ask you some more questions about Multidots. What’s it like in the enterprise space, like if there’s a you know, if there’s a WordPress professional out there that’s listening to this, and maybe they’re doing a lot of small business work or, you know, personal sites for people or kind of smaller clients? How do you describe what it’s like to run an enterprise agency? How’s it different and you’re a WordPress VIP, which is awesome. So like, what makes the magic happen doing WordPress enterprise work for the aspiring WordPress professional out there?

Anil Gupta: Sure. So when we look at the WordPress, the foundation and the core of the WordPress is the same WordPress that is being utilized by a high school kid you know for his or her hobby blog. And it’s the same core WordPress, that is also being utilized by these big enterprises like PepsiCo or Askmedia or News Corp, the way, so the foundation is the same, you know, so it’s the same foundation they both are using. But the way the workplace is different for the enterprises, that’s where, you know, these, some of these requirements comes into the picture, for example, security, data security. So enterprise will be more concerned about how we are handling the security in the WordPress, so we pay a lot of attention to make sure that all the plugins that we recommend, you know, so it has a highest level of code audit, and things like that. So it’s not something that we can just go and install any plug in, you know, we have to be very, very mindful about that. So, plugin recommendations is one thing where, you know, you need to be very, very mindful. Second is codebase, that you have. And whenever I said the code, the performance also matters, because here we are talking about millions of people visiting our website, and something is not working, you know, it can affect very badly as a business to this enterprises. So that’s another area where we also spend a lot of time and energy to make sure the code is secure, and optimized for the best performance. And third is, I think, you know, it’s more like less is more approach. So we try to when we build a website for enterprise, we try to build less features and less plugins and less code, you know, because then it is more optimized. And we can see it, we can control it. And we know how the workflow works. So that’s what we try to do like to see how we can kind of optimize the WordPress for best performance and productivity. So elimination is also one of the I mean, sometimes you feel like the big enterprise probably needs lots of plugins and features, but that’s not true, actually, we try to see to make a decision that instead of using 15, plugins, how can we actually build essential features in one plugin, because it’s plugin, some of these enterprise probably, they might be just 10% off that plug in the 80% of the features, and the code is not going to be utilized, but then it will create a burden on the code. So one of the important thing that we as an enterprise look at as how we can eliminate, you know, unnecessary code, unnecessary feature and keep it lean, thin and minimal. So that it gives the best performance and it’s stable and scalable. So those are the I think the main areas when it comes to making a decision and about what goes into an enterprise WordPress. So that’s from the WordPress perspective. From the agency perspective, I think it’s a big responsibility. So when we work with enterprises, it’s, we need to have a lot of patience, because that is a long vendor onboarding process, there is a lot of audits that, you know, they want to make sure that our financials are good, you know, they want to make sure that our infrastructure will support their needs. So those are also something where, yeah, as an agency owner, you need to pay attention to Yeah, so and great team, you know, you really need to have a really smart and talented team in order to work with the with the enterprise, because there might be a lot of technical and non technical challenges. And so we also pay a lot of emphases on non technical aspects of services. So code deployment is all something that, you know, is important, but we also pay a lot of focus on customer services. So we create video tutorials to even how to login into WordPress, you know, because some of these enterprises they never use WordPress. So we need to be very, very mindful about creating all that documentation and educational trainings and materials, which they can utilize. So we provide training workshop to our clients team on how to use Gutenberg how to use WordPress, how to use how to edit a page So like those basic level stuff, plus even some advanced workflow management. So training, and education is also something that, you know, goes as a part of our deliverable to a lot of these enterprise clients.

Chris Badgett: Thanks for sharing all that. I really appreciate that. That’s a lot of words of wisdom there. I know you you folks focus a lot on migrations to into WordPress from these other you mentioned Sitecore. And there’s many others out there. Help us understand the market. Like, what, what causes people to end up choosing to go to WordPress when they’ve been on these proprietary systems? Or, you know, the enterprise level? What brings people to WordPress? Or do you go find them and convince them? Are theythey’ve already in their mind, they’ve chosen like, oh, okay, we’re ready for WordPress, or both?

Anil Gupta: Actually, is both, but majority of the clients that we work with, we have seen that they are 90% sold on WordPress. So it’s just that 10% push, you know, that’s where we kind of help them navigate some of those, those questions and the confusions that they have. But in answer to your question about what draws them to WordPress, I think the biggest factor that we have seen is the cost of ownership, I have seen the other non open source, CMS and in the license based CMS, the amount of money that they charge, whereas is, you know, over the period of time, so, the cost of ownership, I we have seen that is is is very attractive for enterprises, when they switch to WordPress, and the second biggest reason that we have seen people are more interested to migrate to WordPress or want to migrate to WordPress is ease of use. So, they will tell us when we kind of doing a discovery workshop, where they will ask that question like, Alright, tell us how you edit this page. This is like homepage or like whatever page right? Tell us how do you what are the steps that involves, if you have to edit something on the page, and we have seen the amount, like the amount of time it takes the frustrations and complexity for even for the technical user, you know, and so, so that that is something where we have seen that, it, it’s so hard and difficult for them to just edit something in their CMS. And then when we show them when we give them a demo with our workflow, like we will, we’ll show them like, Hey, this is how the WordPress work you go and that click on add a page and post. And you can select all these blocks, you know, this is how you can kind of work this is how you can collaborate. And so they so that’s one part where they’re like, Wow, we didn’t know that it’s it’s that easy to edit something on the page. So yeah, a lot of WordPress users, we take it for granted. But actually, that’s one of the big superpowers of WordPress, which is easy to add it and easy to use the back-end interface

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Can you give us some words of wisdom and you have a large company and in USA and in India? You know as the world moves on is so global in terms of people collaborating around services and products and projects. What are your What are how do you I’ve seen you over a long period of time like work across the entire world? What are some tips you have I heard you say earlier before we hit record that you like the East Coast United States timezone how maybe start there and then get take us into other tips you have for international collaboration.

Anil Gupta: So that part of like team communication and collaboration, we are still I would say we are still in the experiment phase. So we haven’t find one right process or tool. But what we have done is I think, you know, in, especially when everyone is distributed, we are emphasizing more on written communication is one thing that we have seen. It’s super actually helpful and works a lot.

Chris Badgett: So slipping away from the meetings.

Anil Gupta: True. Yeah. So that’s one thing that we are right now internally working where we are finding more ways to collaborate. asynchronously, I mean, this is not something that new, you know, I think a lot of companies, product and agencies in WordPress ecosystem, and even outside ecosystem they are all experimenting with async communication. And it is actually quite effective. And the way we have seen that, where what we tried to do is, you know, ask that question every time like, do I really need a meeting, or I can just create, draft a document or create a shot, like a loom video, you know, or screencast, or something like that, where you can just provide the instructions. So, I actually love it, you know, so instead of working from one place where everyone is kind of like always expected to respond in real-time, we have seen that our team and myself, we have been much more effective when we all kind of work around the clock. So we see this a huge benefit that our team is distributed and are in a different timezone. Because now we can work around the clock. So if I have a presentation here, right, we can work 24 hours, you know, I mean, we can I can expect that I can give instruction, when I go to bed, I can just create a little video and share with my team like, hey, at this big presentation tomorrow, you know, a proposal, I need to present it to the client, or whatever that task is right. And then I’ll tell them like, these are the areas where I need your help, you know, this is the presentation, and when I will get up in the morning, the presentation will be ready. So we kind of work around the clock. And same thing, if they, my team have something where they need my input. So they will just drop a note, we’ll go to bed, I’ll review and work on the daytime here. And we’ll we’ll pass it to my team in Germany, they will review it. So basically, we kind of work around the clock. And that actually gives us a great advantage where we can deliver something to the client in a much, much better speed. Because we have three different teams in three different continents, and they all are working in a different time zone. Does it make sense?

Chris Badgett : Yes, that makes complete sense. And it’s really the love that and that’s the, you know, you it’s Which story do you want to tell, like in the sense that, oh, I have to wait for this time zone to wake up or am I going to figure out a way to like run my company so that we’re always just moving forward around the world, like, both are possible. And in the spirit of collaboration and Multicollab, and asynchronous communication, that’s the whole point. Like it can really unlock incredible productivity and momentum. And also take some pressure off people to, you know, where bottlenecks are removed, if I can collaborate around a piece of content just asynchronously without having to have a Zoom meeting about it, or a phone call, or an in-person meeting. It’s empowering. And it’s, it’s productivity-enhancing? So go ahead.

Anil Gupta: Yeah, and it gives you more flexibility to design your routine as well. Because, yeah, in the morning, you know, I have few hours blocked in my calendar, where I take team meetings, but then from my 10am until 2pm, you know, I have that time that I can work with my team here or clients here, and then 2pm to 4pm. Eastern Time, those are the time where that’s where I’ll go and we’ll look into all our like Tasks, Emails and Basecamp tickets, that my team need a response from me so then I can just respond to them and when they get up, they will have all those responses not something that I because they’re sleeping and it’s not something even if I like pick up a Basecamp task or email there is there is no any motivation for me to respond right now. Because I know they are sleeping, but you know, I have I can put it so I can have more flexibility to design my routine that how when I want to respond email when I want to take meetings and when I want to do more like real time conversation. So yeah, that also gives not only to me, but I have seen that other leadership team members in multiple arts, they also feel the same day where they feel like oh, wow, I mean, this distributed and multi-national, you know, timezone, you know, they get that freedom where they can kind of block different time for the different tasks, because not everyone is working at the same time where you randomly someone will ping me at two o’clock, like, hey, I need this right now, you know, so that, that I think I can I can design I have the flexibility to design my routine that way.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, that’s Anil Gupta, he’s from Multidots. And in the spirit of WordPress, which is this content management system. Anil and his team have created a content collaboration management system here, which is super cool. It really pushes the game forward. Go check them out at multidots.com and multicollab.com. Any final words for the people or anywhere else they can connect with you?

Anil Gupta: So yeah, I’m available on Twitter. My last name GuptaAnil. So that’s how we can you know, we can connect and yeah, pretty much. I like to visit different WordCamp. So you can also find me in any word camps, the future, what can be us. I’m planning to attend that if I had a chance, but yeah, it’s really good to be here and connect with you, Chris.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thanks, Neil. I will see you at WordCamp US, hopefully, and then. Yeah, we’ll have to do this again sometime down the road. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story and Multicollab with us today. Thank you.

Anil Gupta: You’re welcome. Thanks, Chris.

Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMS cast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. And I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning. Keep taking action, and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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