WordCamp Minneapolis: Hashtag confusion and so many familiar faces

WordCamp Minneapolis logo 2017, a big M that looks like a bridge

WordCamp Minneapolis: Hashtag confusion and so many familiar faces

I make no secret that Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities in the world. In fact, other than my beloved San Francisco, it is the only place that even comes close to feeling like home anymore. This could be from the simple midwestern pleasantness, or the left leaning co-op believing local esthetics replete with vegan options and bike lanes all around, or the fact that I know so many people here. Likely it is a mixture of all those factors and more. It made it very enjoyable to return to the larger of the twin cities for WordCamp Minneapolis.

Food and Fun

TCDrupal

One of the amazing synchronicities I have experienced recently, the fact that the Twin Cities Drupal Happy Hour was taking place the first full evening I was in town. It was an absolute treat to reconnect with some of my Drupal family, many of whom I had not seen since Chicago or Baltimore. I was especially glad to see Tim Erickson, who is the direct inspiration for my ‘improv for developers’ talk and I was super glad to tell him my experiences delivering it in Paris. Really could not have done it without his input and support. I rarely drink beer but had a really solid american stout at Wild Mind Ales. It was an ideal way to pre-game for the rest of my weekend!

Speaker Dinner:

I left my Drupal kinfolk to go hang out with the #WPLife family at the Speaker/ Sponsor dinner to officially kick off WordCamp. We gathered at the Modern Tribe office which just so happens to share a patio with Norseman Distillery. Norseman provided us with some pretty amazing punches and made their entire amazing spirit menu available for purchase. I found their local grain based vodka mighty smooth, smoother than Tito’s though not nearly as available at your local market. I was even interviewed by podcaster and fellow speaker Rebekah Smith. Made a few new friends and got to play giant Jenga with some old friends while munching on some pretty good BBQ rice and beans. Chicken, pork, cornbread and mayo based slaw was also served. Sorry to say I didn’t write down where it was from. If I find out I will update this post. We didn’t stay out too late as Friday morning was starting early and this is a very busy camp, so we said our goodnights before it went too late.

Day 1:

Friday morning brought some pretty good conference coffee and tea with a selection of granola/snack bars. I was very glad to get some caffeine before the floor opened to the attendees, as there were a lot of them and it was an exceptionally busy morning at the booth.
Lunch was a taco buffet from Taco Cat and the line stretched out for a mile it seemed. At first I was very nervous I was going to go hungry and need to find food elsewhere. I was more than relieved when the lines died down rather quickly and there was a lot of food left. I ate way too many chips and amazing salsas and grilled veggie tacos. There was enough left over that we had surplus to pick at all afternoon, with all hot foods kept at proper temp with sterno.

Coffee Social

Day one concluded with a coffee social what had us playing board games and relaxing on a cloudy Minneapolis evening. There were donuts that spelled out WordCamp Minneapolis St. Paul. There was also crazy good cold brew coffee and infused teas from Quixotic Coffee. Given that day 2 of the event was going to be extra long and capped with an after party, the organizers made the very wise decision to have an earlier and more mellow event on the first day of the camp.

It turns out that the camp took place a block from one of the more veg friendly restaurants in the twin cities, Hard Times Cafe a really, divey place with no meat, no booze but sells tobacco. If you are in the area, check it out and get the THT (Tempeh, lettuce and tomato). The coffee is pretty awesome as well.

Day 2:

Day two started out with even more coffee and granola bars, but we also had left over donuts for extra energy!
Lunch was again tacos, but this time from Qdoba. The quality was on par with the previous day as were the leftovers. Missing was the mile long line as they catering folks set up early and we had at it as quick as sessions let out. Great job by the organizing team. It is rare I have been better supplied with sustenance at a WordCamp.

After Party

We were hosted at the the offices of Rocket55 for our after party. We had a very good selection of local beers and some yummy boxed wines to wash down falaffel and kabob wraps. Dessert was cinnamon pita strips with a frosting dipping sauce and chocolate syrup. I would never think to put cinnamon and sugar on pita before but ya know what, it works. I watched a valiant Super Mario Brothers attempt and played chutes and ladders, a game that teaches kids the random unfairness of the universe and takes much longer than it should for the most part.

WCKaraoke:

One of my favorite places in the world is Otter’s Saloon and we went there on a very too crowded but oh so fun night to sing together some WCKaraoke. I am always amazed by the talent and heart of our community. #WPLife is pretty sweet and put the icing on the cake of this camp.

Sessions

Day 1 Panel: Staying Sane In Tech

Rob Walling, Cory Miller, Ed Finkler, Sherry Walling

This camp took an interesting approach to Keynotes and had opening panels each day, focused on a couple different topics. The first day dealt with mental health. I only got to see about the first 20 minutes of this as I had a few other duties to attend, but what I saw was awesome. We need more open discussions about mental health and the real challenges we face in this industry. The more we can discuss this the better off and less isolated we will all be. Cory Miller once again shared his Iceberg method, which I first saw back at Raleigh, and I heard many folks talk about that throughout the rest of the event. Thanks to all our panelists for helping the community have this conversation.

WP-CLI – Save Time by Managing WordPress from the Command Line
Shawn Hooper

Oh boy I was excited to finally see this presentation live and to see the modern up to date version. Shawn is a crazy good presenter and I found every moment riveting. If you are a camp organizer reading this, invite this man to drop knowledge on your camp.

Minds BLOWN in the front row. One person had such a meaningful ‘ah-ha’ moment he actually shouted about it, to his embarrassment. But we were all feeling the same way with him in our awe of this tool, so it was a good shared experience.
Here are some of the things I learned in this ever evolving session and things I will for sure be incorporating in my talk:
explaination of the paramaters (what I have been calling flags) notation meanings
wp core verify-checksums (Check if core is hacked)
wp plugin search “any string” (searched the repo for keywords)
wp cap list (shows full list of capabilities list for a role)
wp cap role add/remove
wp cache flush
Do this demo in this order to blow more minds:
1 db export backup.sql
2 db site delete : show site gone
3 db import backup.sql
WOW
search-replace “Hello world” 🙂 🙂 🙂 (better deo than broken site IMHO)
Serialized arrays? Simple; it skips them, does not look.
search-replace “hello” “goodbye” –export=changed.sql – only changed in the exported DB
wp server (runs the dang WP included built-in php server!)
wp doctor (woah, didn’t know this was a thing, fixes some basic stuff reliably)
wp any-ipsum generate-posts

Cowboy Coding – Best Practices
Gary Kovar

I went into this session just to see what the heck he was going to saw and because Gary completely committed to the bit by wearing a cowboy hat the entire camp. You might know that working where I work I have a very strong bias against ‘just doing it on live’ and I had a fear that this would be a talk about not needing Dev or Test servers. I was quickly relieved when he explained that you really should not be doing this but there are times when you just can not avoid it. When you do hit these rare exceptions, you really have to go very slow and make sure on that site there is never going to be a reason to straight up cowboy code ever again. In fact, you could make the argument that if you are just going to direct change code or config on a live site it takes a lot of extra work and know how to do it right. Such as you must learn bash and learn it deeply to be abel to command line in. You must learn Vim, since you are likely going to be dropped into it on any random linux server. You must know tools like the wp-cli to be effective and make site wide changes. You have to know JS for doing any work on a modern website without blowing it up. I left feeling like every developer on earth should watch this walk. If you can avoid it, avoid it, otherwise go slow and get that site in version control ASAP.

Day 2 Panel: The Importance of Open Source

Aaron D. Campbell, Karim Marucchi, Lynn Winter, Mike Demo, Rian M. Kinney

Going to be honest here, I didn’t see this. But the conversations that spilled out of it were pretty great and on a subject that matters a lot to me, not just professionally. If we don’t actively keep the conversation going on the challenges and benefits of FOSS, there is a danger of it receding. Really though, I am only including this panel here so I can show the following tweet in context:

Configuration Management: WordPress Configuration in Code
Tessa Kriesel

Basically, stop overwriting your dang DB when pushing things to production. This used to be the only way to leverage a dev or stage server in a professional workflow, but the state of the art has advanced in the last few years. The best practice is to version control your configuration by moving DB config into code and pushing it forward. WP-CFM is a pretty solid plugin that does this for your WordPress sites. Don’t keep overwriting the DB, push the config via code FTW!

Lightning Talks

I absolutely love lightning talks. I was delighted to learnt hat there were multiple lightning talk tracks at this event giving me a chance to see almost double the normal number of talks. On a certain level, yes there is very limited time for these, 15 minutes total per talk, including Q&A. This gives the presenters a laser focus though and they get to their central point immediately. As you will see here, sometimes this does not equate to less overal material covered, just a faster delivery, which is awesome if you like drinking from a firehose.

Is your data dirty?

Jenna Totz

Not dirty as in adult X-rated. Dirty as in causes ecological damage. It is super important to consider carbon footprint! Every tweet you send gives off .02 grams of carbon. Each email produces 4 grams. Every search generates 8 grams into the atmosphere. I never really thought about each online action I take having that kind of direct impact and it was a bit startling. Especially since I use Google to find almost every page I land on, even if I know the URL. I will be reconsidering how I use search moving ahead.
There are several organizations that focus on helping people understand their carbon footprint from online use, such as the Green Web Foundation and tools like Ecograder.com from Mightybytes. Efficiency of web use directly is better energy policy.

Surviving a Crisis of Confidence
Nathan Ingram

Please take a minute to answer these 10 questions:
1. Are you ever worried people may find out you’re not really as capable as they think you are?
2. Do you sometimes feel pressure to know the answer to any professional question someone might ask you?
3. Is it hard for you to accept compliments about your work or accomplishments?
4. Do you secretly compare your abilities to those around you and feel like they’re better than you?
5. Do you ever feel like the reason things went well is because you were just in the right place at the right time or knew the right people?
6. Do you ever think that if you can do it, anybody can?
7. Do you agonize over even the smallest flaws in your work?
8. Do you become defensive when you are given constructive criticism because it makes you feel inept?
9. When you have success, do you privately feel like you’ve fooled them again?
10. Do you ever feel like you really have no clue what you’re doing and you’re afraid people will find out?

If you answered yes to any 3, there is a good chance that you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. This is very real.
He used a very interesting escalator analogy.
We focus on the people ahead of us, forget there are poeple behind us
“Here is a secret, the people ahead of you have the SAME CRISIS of confidence that you have.”
We compare reality to other’s personas, especially at live events. Everyone puts your best foot forward at events, so don’t think ayone has issues.
Tips on how to escape it:
Remember: Nobody knows everything!
You know things that others do not and vice versa.
1. Be realistic
2. Be perceptive, everyone is good at something
3. Be Helpful We are all in this together! Reach out to those around you on the escalator. Become a prson who is good to know. helping others builds confidence. be humble!
https://nathaningram.com/wcmsp for all the slides and the full length presentation

Becoming a Community Builder: A WordPress Story
Raquel Landefeld

Sometimes you meet people in the community and it seems like they have been there forever. That they are in a position that you could never be in because you started too late and are not one of the ‘first movers’. I know I have felt that way many times in both the WP and Drupal spaces. I am very glad to have sessions like this one where Raquel discusses her path from ‘just someone’s wife’ to being the thought leader and community builder she is today. The short version is ‘be nice to everyone’ and ‘be sincere’ with what you are trying to do. This is a great one to show anyone new to the community.

So, You Want To Sell Online?
Zach Stepek

You have to make some big decisions to sell things online. Like what to sell. This is a deceptively hard decision. It boils down to why you are selling it: Passion or Profit? Not mutually exclusive, but mostly it is an either/or proposition for most people.
Once you have that sorted you need to find customers. Traditional marketing used to work, but now need more personal touch. Email marketing has slight bit of personal touch, but not enough. SEO is good overall but not a full marketing strategy, got to stand out. Pay Per Click used to be the gold mine, not now. Video is very powerful and getting cheaper to produce all the time. You want a Branded experience. Make sure your brand voice is evident in everything.

Embracing Page Builders
Tyler Golberg

Tyler made a really good case for page builders in the right situations. Yes, page speed might suffer and that is a serious drawback, but the convenience and time to delivery is the reason many poeple embrace them. Some people let their ego get in the way, meaning they feel it is cheating to use tools like Beaver Builder or the like. Sometimes these tools break and when it does, you are stuck in a world of short code hell. There are other considerable risks and less ability to customize specifics. But a slightly less tuned interface, if it is faster, is an OK trade off for him. I can’t say I disagree for a certain type of site.

Starting your first online business
AJ Morris

Tells the story of Liberty Jane Fashions
There is the version of their history on their site but the version that Aj tells is far more personal. It started as just a way for a mom to connect meaningfully with her daughter who had recently discovered the American Girl dolls. Her mother had shared a love of sewing with her and this was a meaningful for multiple generations, giving this a very emotional bond. At some point the clothing was noticed by other moms and a business was born. Every decision made after the first one to sell that first outfit was driven by the same passion to drive meaningful connections between mothers and daughters. The details of how it scaled were interesting but the underlying truth is you must be personally and passionately connected to your business if you have any hope of thriving.

What I learned raising 2 Million Dollars for Politicians–and How it Applies to the WordPress Community
Lindsey Miller

She started with the advice her first manager told her: “Preachers, pubs and politicians always pay up front!” Seems very sound advice to me. The rest of the talk was her sharing her experiences as a very successful fundraiser at a national level, based in Washington DC. It all comes down to personal connections. You must cultivate a genuine interest in people. Remember their names and details about their lives. Everyone loves this kind of acknowledgement. Ask questions and actually listen to their answers. You are trying to create connections. Only after you have made a real connection can you realistically make your case, asking them to do something, like give you money for a cause or invest in your business. Very solid advice that seems common sense, but was very well articulated.

My Session

Let’s learn Git. No more excuses
Man, I was hecka nervous about this. I read so many dang tutorials and docs in prep for this that at one point I lost perspective on how to structure it. Eventually I landed on going from first principals, meaning going forward with commits, backwards, then branching and ending up with working with repositories on machines that are not yours. I hesitate to use the term ‘remote’ after this talk because in fact everything is local to git. This is one of the harder concepts to a beginner and one of the things that makes Github/Git confusion so pronounced.
Here are the commands I covered:
git init
git status
git add
git commit
git log
git diff
git checkout
git revert
git reset
git branch
git merge
git remote
git push
git pull
git clone

Feel free to copy my slides for your own use.

I learned a TON doing this talk and am very grateful for all the feedback. I ended up going too fast a few times and after all my prep work to make all the demos animated gifs, I forgot to explain what people where seeing, instead explaining the theory behind the command while people where reading the slide. This failed. I now know better and next time will be way smoother.

Contributor day:
Well, there was one. But I felt rather ill, so I bailed right after it started. :/
Still:

Wrapping up

One of the best parts of this camp was seeing a ton of crossover from the Drupal community at this event. From the organizers who for sure are firmly footed in both communities, to the ‘first time attendees’ who I have known from Drupal for longer than I have been in WP space, it was delightful to see the family of PHP CMS coming together. Made for an extra special time.

I always feel at home in Minneapolis and this time confirmed that it really is my people. Midwest is the best, though the left coast is the most coast! I am not ready to move away from my SF any time soon, but glad there is somewhere that would not feel foreign if that day should come.
Super big thanks to Drew Adam and Tessa for making me feel extra at home in the the Pantheon Minneapolis offices while I was there.

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