WordCamp Denver: A very full schedule and a few surprises

WordCamp Denver logo which spells out "WCDEN" in multiple colored letters

WordCamp Denver: A very full schedule and a few surprises

For the second time in 2 weeks I made my way back to the mile high city but this time spent most of my time there in a much different part than I had in the past. Previous adventures had lead me to the downtown area, close to the 16th street mall but this time I found myself in the Southern neighborhoods, close to the beautiful University of Denver campus. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip that found me going directly from the airport to the speaker dinner and from my session to lunch and then the airport, so not a lot of time to explore the awesome trails and get in a little nature this go round. But overall this was a great experience and I did learn a bit at WordCamp Denver 2017.

Speaker Dinner:

My flight got delayed about 2 hours, which normally isn’t a huge deal, but this trip I had not left myself much leeway for such a thing. As a result I arrived at the speaker dinner direct from the conspiracy filled Denver International Airport with bags in tow but was met with a very warm and wonderful reception by the camp organizers. They even had the kitchen accomodate me with some non-dairy cheese and mushroom pizza. Tip of the hat to Ernie’s Bar & Pizza for a really good spread. It was fun to see so many familiar faces and get to connect with a few new ones. The exhaustion of the road soon hit me and I left to check in for my 75th night at a Marriott property.

Day 1

Getting to the venue was a breeze as the team had signs out very early and took the extra step of chalking WP logos on the ground so people could find their way even easier. This was a great accessibility move as it made getting to and from the parking lot a much less intimidating feat.

The coffee was particularly good in my opinion, even though I didn’t have much. I don’t know if it is a Denver thing or not, but every coffee service I have experienced there puts out little tiny lemon slices for your tea. Forgoing the team and just having some fresh lemon juice in my hot water kept me hydrated and refreshed most of the day.
Lunch was preprepared sandwiches, chips, a couple salad options and cookies. The vegan quinoa salad was my favorite part of the meal. The University of Denver campus is very well maintained and we took advantage of the summer sun to dine on the quad as many a student has done over the years there.

After Party

The after party was advertised as a taco party, which I normally love. The menu though didn’t seem super veg friendly and combined with the later start time for the party it seemed a good idea to find alternative dining. I was very glad to be joined by some other plant based food fans at the highly rated Thai Pot Cafe.

The after party was at Cochino Taco. We got to enjoy the patio and a pretty well stocked bar, using copper tokens instead of paper drink tickets, which I really appreciated. As most folks who know me know, a vodka soda ‘tall’ is my drink of choice and I almost always just go with whatever they have for well. The house well vodka at this joint was Reyka from Iceland. It was a pleasant surprise and the bartenders were very proud of the quality in all they made. If you are ever in that part of Denver, go give them some business.
It was a great time catching up with folks about their day at camp and swapping stories and plans around contributing. I was glad to see one of the participants from the previous week’s WP-CLI workshop and got to talk about the pull requests he had made at the previous week’s camp. It is exhilarating to watch folks go from user to contributor and to be part of their journey. Share what you know with folks and let’s make the world better together.

Karaoke

A few of us actually made it out to sing some #WCKaraoke after such a long day. We went to Sobo151 and got there just as the Bronco’s preseason game was wrapping up and they were warming up the karaoke equipment. Not the largest event ever but happy to report we saw a 33% increase in attendance over the previous year’s festivities and had one person sing for the first time ever. Very much a great part of any WordCamp.

Sessions

Opening remarks:

Most of the time I don’t write any comments on opening remarks, but this camp had one of the best pre-keynote warm ups I have seen. It started with Gordon Seirup getting our attention with an anecdote about his original misunderstanding of the nature of WordCamps. He did a fantastic job of warming us up. At one point he had us introduce ourselves to folks around us. It was a very nice welcome, especially with so many folks experiencing their first WordCamp. It set a very nice tone for the rest of the event.

Keynote

The Future of WordPress
Zack Katz

I was very glad to hear that they got Zack to speak at this camp. I had not heard him speak before but reading up on him a bit before the camp he seemed like someone with a lot of experience and knowledge around this space, hopefully meaning he would have a solid opinion on our future. He started with a crash history of of WP and I had never heard anyone articulate this forking of B2 and the reasoning behind it so clearly. It gave me a new perspective on the origin. This definitely colored the rest of the presentation as he painted a world where Gutenberg and Customizer are giving the admin a lot more flexibility in the near future. If you have been wondering where the project is going, this is a must see talk.

Raw notes:
Gravity View, Small team, 5 people all over the world
WP makes it happen
History of WP
His WP story
Future of WP and You
A fun surprise
In 2003 Ma.tt was a college student
lot of photos
B2 – was cool, allowe to be upated
B2 maintainer dissapeared and it stop being updated
Matt could either wait for the dev to come back or he could take b2 and make it his own
Mike Little thought one or 2 people might be interested 🙂
Zack started in 2007 making GravityViews
worked at Fast Signs
learned how to do web design, PHP and mySQL
best tool was his phone
he cold called and got clients
was building static pages
and clients wanted to change content themselves
they wanted a way to manage their content, CMS
Then clients wanted custom functionality
the custom code he built became Gravityviews
he has 38 plugins on wp.org
Future of WP
Matt is pushing us back to be the best in publishing
Gutenberg: from text to blocks
blocks are consistent interface for all the elements of your site
everything is a block now
Gutenberg demo
feels normal and cool
It is the future of content editing
The Customizer is how to change view
Not much at the moment, but future is how to interact with your site
Edit existing content with customizer soon
Really cool live preview demo
Customizer Change set have multiple people and multiple changes scheduled at once
this is 4.9 core!
Implications: page building is in core now
for Page builders need to either embrace customizer or do their own thing
get involved now with Gutenberg, this is the future
and there is a lot more
The four freedoms of Open Source
the contract of using WP
1) the freedom to run the program in any way you want
2) you can study code and change it
3) share it
4) modify and fork with a diffrent name

What I Wish I’d Known About Freelancing
Nathan Ingram

The very first time I heard Nathan speak it was at WordCamp Denver 2016, where he gave a talk that remains to this day one of my favorite talks. It was a treat to get to hear a new talk from him that was jammed full of amazing advice to the freelancer and really anyone that has to manage their own time, which I think is everyone. There was one quote that I am going to remember and recite as I am thinking through priorities: “People are more important than projects!” I know this is true but as someone on the road a lot and with a fair amount to get done, sometimes I forget this. It was great to be reminded of this and to hear that I am not alone in this struggle.

Raw notes:
You don’t have to know everything, no one does!
Become a person who is good to know!
Stay out of debt
Checklist manifesto
Put everything in a list in order and that means you can streamline
and when you onboard people, you have process you can pass on
difference between owning job and building business
Focus on process, not heroics
There are seasons in freelance work, don’t waste the slow times
We stay in a cycle of stress, must make best use of time and dont freak out
business will come back
The ‘someday list’ when slow times come, you can do that list!
being busy is not a badge of honor
Don’t forget what matters in life,
lost opportunities for family and friends don’t come back
midset shift that it is good to be too busy to have leisure, a status symbol
People are more import than projects!

After the Post: SEO, Images, and Meta Descriptions
Mendel Kurland

There was some technical difficulties in this session room as Mendel got underway and he had to deliver without his slides. Fortunately for all of us Mendel is a tremendous storyteller and a natural entertainer, so he handled the projector outage with grace and charm. He told us an intense at time story of being scared in bear country and avoiding crocodiles before having a nice relaxing time by a lake. Afterwards he broke down the story into some component parts and explained the layout of a story arc. This is very much along the same lines as the story spine I teach in my session and was glad to hear a variant perspective that still conveyed the same underlying value around the importance of storytelling.

Raw notes:
Technical SEO go to Yoast
instead we are going to be talking about telling your story with your content
3 things
1) being descriptive and interesting
Writing for humans, conversational and eas to read, some
basics of story anatomy
Tells a story and then explained the story arc
also is an article part
intro to a topic H1, H2, H3
2) Enjoyable and illustrative
shows progress form boring Lorum Ipsum -> Bacon Ipsum – pic -> animated gif
more info
more interesting to look at better for SEO
generate this stuff
3) making things sharable
click to sweet, share icons
basic plugins
write your own meta, just gives you control, not SEO tip

Creating & Telling Your Brand Story
Pamela Herrmann

Every camp lives on a spectrum of all technical and all business side. This camp is more focused on SEO and business side of things than technical skills. This meant, much to my approval, that there was time for multiple talks on storytelling and I was glad to hear Pamela lay out her thoughts on the subject. She focused on a character driven story approach which I had not encountered before and felt like it came from a much more literary view of things rather than a theatrical one, which I am more accustom. I walked away with a new perspective, which I believe makes this a very succesful session.

Raw notes:
Story
brain science
reptillian brain, conundrum
want to talk to middle brain
cast a net, just under the boat – leading with science for IVF vs how changes family
instead think of fly fisherman
highly targeted
Garret White Wake Up Warrior
knows who he is fishing for
how to create a brand story
Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey
3 element to her Hollywood
1- the character, the desire and the obstacle to the future
Rose from Titanic example
ordinary world- what makes them relatable (reliable?)
fabricating your first customer profiles
Rose is pressured into marriage, high society, free thinker, etc
Translate into brand story
Weight Watchers – because it works
2- the desire
Chuck from Castaway
goal is to escape the island alive get back home
Design arounf 4 goals
Win
Escape
Stop
and Retrieve
Dollar shave club example –
the desire of the customer is
quality, save money, delivered to door
shave time and shave money
Focus on the result // the plotline
connect the dots, create the glue
3- the obstacle
Ray from Field of Dreams
Plowing under field – now his home and livelyhood is in danger
AirBnB
overcoming objections from both sides of transaction
No fail template
story spine! 🙂

My Session

Workshop: Let’s learn Git. No more excuses.

I got to teach Git as part of the three hour Sunday workshop day. I love teaching Git. The first time I taught this workshop I was a bit nervous, but this time I felt way more solid in the updated materials and anticipated some of the questions better. It was a complete thrill to take one student, who had issues even installing git on their machine, all the way from git init to submitting a successful pull request. Not bad for 3 hours on a Sunday morning. They left feeling very confident they could use this tool and planned to teach it to their significant other. Everyone gave me some great feedback and I learned a few new things along the way. I got one question I had no idea how to answer, so we just replicated the issue on my machine and solved it together, which felt amazing. I am hoping this workshop gets accepted at more camps in the future so I can keep spreading the love.

Wrapping up

Given this was a one day camp, I spent a little more time in the ‘hallway track’ having some great and meaningful conversations with community folks. It meant I saw fewer sessions and meant I didn’t have any time to hang out at the Happiness Bar, one of my favorite things this community makes happen.
I left Denver pretty tired, as I found little time to myself and no time to see mush of the natural beauty that is hidden all throughout the urban landscape. Still, I walked away very happy with the trip and am already looking forward to next year when I can return for WordCamp Denver 2018!

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