WordCamp Baltimore: All about that B2B – Bay Area to the B’more

I love Baltimore. Every time I visit I find a new reason to like it even more. It was here that I first gave my improv talk. It was here that I got to take part in the largest to date DrupalKaraoke event. And it is here that I returned for WordCamp Baltimore 2017, WCBalt

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

As per the normal custom, got to participate in the Speaker/Sponsor dinner and hanging out. We gathered at Spark, a coworking space inside of Power Plant Live, the entertainment complex tha feels a bit like a little tiny Las Vegas, sans gambling. We had pizza and refreshments. Some of us journeyed a few doors down afterward to extend the eventing’s activities but we didn’t stay out too late, as the one and Sal Ferrarello was set to once again host the pre WCBalt breakfast early the next morning. I tried to get up for this, but I didn’t make it.

Can’t find a tweet with a pic, but it was in the same place as last year, so here is a tweet from then:

Day 1

The coffee at WCBalt reminds me of what you would find at a church function, meaning it is made in small batches in old fashion electric percolators. Snacks were plentiful and flowing throughout the whole event, with rotating selections of chips, candy, soda and such. I was never wanting for snacks.
Lunch on the first day was absolutely outstanding, with hearty vegan options of beans and rice, mixed steamed veggies and fried plantains. I ate way too many of that latter, as they were sorta like a fried banana candy.

After Party (Networking Social)

WCBalt joined the growing list of camps that are attempting to stem the tide of people not making it back out for the after party by turning the event into a networking social immediately following the last session of day one. I have mixed feeling about this to be honest. I am very much in favor of the inclusion it brings. No matter who you are or the circumstances, if you made it to the venue, this is an accessible function. There is no alcohol but there were some pretty spectacular appetizers. They ordered from Dooby’s which got all the locals excited. They had tremendously great vegan Kimbap, a sort of Korean sushi and veggie pot stickers, as well as pork buns, spinach artichoke dip, cookies and some fantastic looking donuts. It was great to connect with so many people but what felt like all too soon, the crowd thinned and we had to find elsewhere to go.

Dinner

Since the after party ended so soon and there were only (the very tasty) appetizers, some of us wanted to go grab a proper meal before we found later night fun together. One of the greatest side effects of my dietary choice is it helps narrow down the crazy wide array of options a larger city tosses at you when you google search for ‘Restaurants near (an address)’. I stumbled across the menu for Of Love and Regret and was excited to try this out. An amazing beer list, fine spirits and creative cuisine in a very stylish old building across from Natty Boh Tower. Bette than any of that though was the company of my fellow WC folks. While plugins and continuous integration strategies are great subjects, getting to hang out and talk about more human things is part of what keeps me going out on the road. So many new connections and friends made along the way.

WCKaraoke

My top Karaoke bars are:
1 – Bow Bow Lounge (Cinatown in San Francisco)
2 – Otter’s Saloon (Minneapolis, MN)
3 – Walt’s Inn (Baltimore, MD)
A small group of us made it out to Walt’s Inn to celebrate a great first day at camp. Walt’s has ridiculously cheap drink specials and a heavy hand when pouring. The only downside, which I do not remember them enforcing last year, is a 2 drink minimum before you can sign up for singing. Fortunately, if one person signs up you can get any number of people to back you up. We rocked B’more with a stirring rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Freddy and the boys would have been proud.

Day 2

Coffee and tea were again available and pretty alright.
Lunch however was a bit of a letdown, especially in light of the previous day’s bounty of awesome, filling options. They ordered Dominos and the only vegan option were 2 side salads we would have to split between all the dietary restriction folks that are Gluten, Dairy or Animal Product adverse. I have learned on the road to carry backup food and was OK, but if you are reading this and are organizing an event where you plan to order pizza please, please, please either get it from somewhere that offers vegan cheese or gat a few pies with no cheese and extra veggies. Most pizza dough is vegan and so is the sauce. Not the healthiest meal but a filling one and no dairy involved.

In liu of a lunch tweet here is Mr. Trash Wheel

Sessions

Opening remarks

Keynote

The Future: Why Open Matters
Aaron Campbell

I had just seen the first version of this talk back at WordCamp Sacramento a few weeks before and was actually pretty excited to hear the next evolution. I love this central premise in this talk, that we have only gotten here in our technological advancement arc by openly sharing information. This has always been true. From the earliest roots of language, to Newton and Calculus, to the internet, which is the greatest information sharing system ever devised. We are at a place now where some people do not agree we should be sharing and open with information. We face a new kind of existential threat where the very same openness that helped create some of the monster tech platforms might not help further our freely shared knowledge base. It is in this light that he made a ‘call to arms’ for us to own our own data and make sure a free and open internet continues to exist. No easy answers here, but an important conversation that needs to be had.

Raw notes:
History teachers
not a fan of history
but important for this talk to go back in time
1994 super important year
changed all our lives
how we shared informations
but before that 1990
SNES changed Aaron’s life
such a giant leap from qbasic gorillas
but that game and DOS taught him to code/modify the source code
before internet, books from bookstore
open code he did not write, just modify
standing on the shoulders of giants, from 1100’s is that saying
Newton 1675 paraphrased
sharing information has evolved
technology has improved knowledge base you can access
books were a huge jump
stores of information
then computers
then internet – single most effective information sharing tool in history
closed systems are not necessarily bad, just potential hazard
risks are OK sometimes, but looking from history
sharing is what advances us
now we are risking private hands of big advances and not share
divorcing net neutrality
trying to treat all data the same
should be easier than it is
handling all data the same weight is a lot easier
but morally and ethically this is not so easy
not illegal stuff, just bad info
“If I was in control I would wipe out this bad info from the internet”
small groups that hold minority opinion are sometimes right
majority rule and suppressing voices and info
then who decides what is true?
Internet is where people go to learn things
historically, putting that in the hands of a limited set of people has issues
only way to overcome those mistakes is to distribute all into to all people
then people can decide
must allow things we don’t care for, it is possible we are wrong
love that people can prove him wrong
most be allowed to have progress
What happens to the internet in the future
can we make info free to create a next isaac newton?
Steps we need to take make sure it stays around
1) use open alternatives. Don’t give single companies closed monopolies.
2) Spread the word about this idea. Inform and inspire people to keep it open and accessible
3) Vote and make your voice heard, but please be informed
4) Vote with your money, support businesses that support the open web!

Write Better Javascript
Ethan Butler

I am not even going to pretend I absorbed all this. It was a very quick paced delivery and jammed full of awesome knowledge. Part of this is my just lack of personally using JS day to day. Without a direct application only so much is going to seep through. I think it is vital to understanding the future of the internet to undertand it though and I hate not trying at least. I did glean some knowledge and didn’t know JS can directly do Map/Reduce. This is a terrific talk to watch if you are thinking about building JS and want to do it right!

Raw notes:
Javascript is the future
(I came in late I assume he said that)
Browserify
“Writing webpack direct is like inviting demon into your home”
recapping modularity
write doce i
you need a bundler
JS makes it hard to express your ideas
transpiliation to the rescue?
Future specs!
Languages move faster than browser tech
real language features
babel is the go to, really only game in town for transpilers
(I got distracted and missed more)
Object notation
He deconstructed an object for us
Object destructuring is a newer thing
Object assign – data method on the object primative to merge objects
Promises are if you expect a return at a future unspecified time
resolve or reject
used is Ajax a lot
async/await is a more powerful alternative
we can use transpiliers to leverage new features without worry about browser
final problem for today
hard to debug
Functional programming
avoids mutable data
program is just an evaluation of user input
same input gets the same output, every time
Bugs happen because of side effects
pure functions a + b + c example
Data – arrays of objects for the most part
array.map – iterate over the values and transform it
array.sort (not a new thing) compare values pos, neg or 0, to sort posts for instance
array.includes – see if includes a string, so a search, can use for strings or anything really
array.some – true if callback is partial match of term
array.every – true if every value matches term
array.reduce – flatten values to a single value,

Making Your Code Easy To Extend
Sal Ferrarello

Sal is a great guy but also a terrific code writer. If you look at his github repos they are well commented and have clear readme files (which is vital to any project). This talk was not about that aspect but the cleaner the code the easier it is to build off of bu other later. If you are contributing code at all this is a must see.

Raw notes:
(missed first 10 minutes)
MU Plugins -best kept secret in WP
Best place to put code as pugins and not worry about client deleting them
the code expects it
Add actions – do_action – await for a thing to happen
not returning a value
takes control and then give chance to do own thing
he likes bootstrap to acheive effects
wrote a email stop plugin stop-emails
used do_action
takes focus and says log email to a file
using DIR .
solves a problem for a plugin request without actually modifying the plugin
by exposing that do_action and tiny bit of code
template
esc_html( $btn_text ) .
fe-raptor-button.php
using include
templates/btn.php

SASS isn’t Scary
Beth Soderberg

Last year at WCBalt 2016 I met Beth and heard her amazing talk I Learned to Code Through WordPress and So Can You
. I have sent this talk to a good number of people who are getting started or want to get started. Clear an straightforward, I really appreciated her approach. I was excited to see this same style applied to a talk about something I really didn’t fully understand, Sass. Just like JS, I don’t touch it all the time, so my limited functional understanding is limited. The lightbulb turned on for sure and I can’t imagine someone approaching a larger project without this approach. For sure one to see when it hits WordPress.TV

Raw notes:
Beginner, welcome, you do need to know a little CSS
Selectors
properties
values
that is it for CSS
A preprocessor is a anguage that compiles to another language
all kinda the same, syntax is a little different but converging on a set standard of ideas
Preprocessors bring programatic methodology to CSS
DRY: don’t Reprat Yourself
Reusable libraries – pulling from a standard set of code
ability to define abstract values, let the computer built to do the math
CSSS preprocessors are NOT CSS
CSS don’t have to follow the rules of the CSS specification rules
Benefits
Modularity – don’t get lost by stuffing everything in one file
programmability + automation + modularity = scalability
Potential challenges
Fear of change
old way fels inefficient even for small projects
Set Up is sometimes hard, uses Ruby and is unfamiliar to most
Issues are normal, you are not alone
Debugging is harder with SASS since there are so many partials
“Why is this not telling me where this is coming from?” – Beth’s least favorite part about SASS
Bloat – easy to write crappy code in SASS just like CSS, just way more code created
Still want the thing you are compiling to to be as small as possible, avoid bloat
Maintainability – can be an issue for legacy especially – inherited sites are much harder
once compiled to one file can at least make it approachable though
Why SASS over LESS?
Work team preference
Overall in the WP community – lot of resources and blogs about this and WP
Accessibility written books/resources
Less is still a thing though –
Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets
Sass is a extention of CSS
Really helps you use Compass
Sass has 2 extentions
.sass and .scss
Basics:
Learn SASS slowly but also learn CSS first
Nesting
Benefits
avoids duplicating selectors
reflects markup structure
uses indentation to indicate heirarchy
should eb limited to 4-5 levels
less typing
Nesting Properties with Shared Namespaces
in simple examples not that impressive, but in production real world saves a lot of time and effort
can reference the parent selector
Variables
invoking varaibles
good uses
colors
font stacks
image paths
margin
widths
font sizes
Mixins
Allows defining a group of styles once for use throughout a style sheet
should be used for common patterns independent of HTML markup
80% of mixins have less than 5 declarations
Mixin Libraries
write your most common mixins once and reuse accross projects
write your own
Compass
Bourbon
Sass CSS3 Mixins
Breakpoint and more!
Operators – letting the machine do the math
Partials
and underscore-prefixed Sass file is prtial
Don’t generate CSS files directly

Conquering Continuous Integration and Deployment
Tessa Kriesel

I am a huge fan of Tessa and her relentless work for Girl Develop IT, which is a great organization teaching women to code. I am also a real fan of the content of this talk since I also discuss and deliver these worts of enablements and trainings at our shared employer Pantheon. No matter how deeply you understand something like CI, seeing the crowd react to this information is always enlightening.

Raw notes:
First let’s look at what daily things we routinely do
She lays out a list of daily dos
Automating tings in your life
Invest the time in automation
can be hard to fit it in
walks through automating updates
look at slack to show off visual regression tests
explains Backstop
pics comparing 2 versions of a site
build steps
setup containers
install dependencies
running automated testing
behat (behavioral testing)
containers are awesome
Github is where all the code lives

Sketches: The Universal Language
Joshua Wold

Joshua was last of the Would brothers I had not met. All working at the top notch XWP, they further the state of the art of WP in their own ways. Joshua is much more design minded and brought those sensibilities and skills to his session and to the WordPress Core Team. Anyone who has seen my site can likely attest to my lack of design skills and I feel very lacking in my visual communication abilities. One of my mental blocks has always been my self consciousness around nonexistent drawing skill, always worrying it is not good enough. I was very encouraged by Joshua to not care at all about this i the early stages of sketching. He showed how with some very simple lines and shapes and a few basic notations you can turn a page long written description, that might take hours to interpret, into

Raw notes:
How should a portal be set up
how to communicate with the client on what they want
and how the designers are thinking about it
He did a sketch to try to understand what the client was trying to say
the whole conversation changed for the better
cleared up confusion
Once the client saw the issue more clearly, was able to move forward much better
a quick sketch in 10 minutes changed everything
the tech doesn’t really matter, he used an ipad
most people are visual thinkers
hard to put into words what a website looks like, easier to sketch
they are building a house
miscommunicated on paper, once saw in person, visually saw what was issue
if you have a pen and a napkin you can sketch
simple lines and shapes and arrows are all you really need
just draw something and share it
does not have to be pretty just to get idea across
Gutenberg example (see his handout)
Ticket management…hard to recall what ticket messages mean
if you can sketch wire frames an attach to ticket
gets anyone no matter what their native language is to get on same page in seconds
stay in the ugly lines as long as you can,
once you move beyond that it can takes hours to make any changes
He has been able to contribute to core by adding sketches to help everyone communicate
simle really is better, just standardize a few simpe elements like clickable buttons
Sketching: paper and pen really is the best way to go for initial phase
next best is ipad pro, + Paper 53, then Balsamiq for squiggly lines (tells people you are not done.
Prototyping: Adobe XD, Illustrator, INvision
Sharing CloudUp, Quicktime, Tapes for Mac
It is more important to get on same page with clients than to dwell on tech or pretty sketches

My session

Everything louder than everything else! Navigating stakeholder needs through better discovery

I have only given this talk one other time, at MIT, and was very happy to give it again! The talk is basically me cramming all I know about the discovery phase of a project or sales process into 35 minutes of slides with a lot of references to Motorhead along the way. I love sharing tools that I have gathered over time by earning it the hard way. It was great to see so many people nodding along and asking questions as they were trying to apply these “best practices” to their situation. Thank you too all who had such kind words afterwards in person and on social media.
During the Q & A, both times I have given this talk, there indirectly arose the matter of ‘what is the goal of a website’. I think I am going to write a talk on that next.

Closing and cleanup

Wrapping Up

After a great camp it is always a little sad to pack up and part company with folks. I got to spend a rare personal evening meeting up with an old friend who lives in the city and seeing yet another new-to-me vibrant part of the old town. Every time I visit I find new surprises and reasons I like it a little more. Plan your visit today!
I am not sure when I will be back to Baltimore. I certainly hope I will again before too long. For sure I plan to return next year for WCBalt 2018!

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