WordCamp US: Honky-tonking around Nashville, which is way better than described

The WordCamp US logo which is a US highway sign shape with the words Word Camp at the top and a large U and S beneath that Also the dates of the event, December 1st through 3rd 2017

I was so excited when I landed at Nashville International Airport, which is mysteriously shortened to BNA for some reason. That initial excitement actually grew way more intense over the next few days as I got to explore this city for the first time. As cool as Music City itself is, the real reason I was more elated when I left than when I arrived was the community, really the family, of WordPress that assembled for WordCamp US 2017

Food and Fun

First night

I barely had been on the ground 10 minutes on Wednesday night when the first direct messages came in to ask where I was and where we were going to meet up that evening. This kicked off 4 days of non-stop DMs coordinating whens and wheres and whos. One of the things I had not truly anticipated at WCUS was just how many people I had connected with over the last year were in attendance. I honestly think I knew 1/5th+ of all the participants before I set foot in the venue.
We met up in what turned out to be the most frequented 4 block area in Nashville with around 30 bars, almost all with multiple live bands playing simultaneously on multiple floors. After a quick up and down the street jaunt where I ran into half a dozen WP folks on the street, I get an invite to go check out Flying Saucer Draught Emporium with some of the European contingent that has also gotten in a day early. Very glad I did since this was a little off the normal downtown bar circuit and right behind historic Union Station, one of the many old buildings with gorgeous architecture in the state capitol.

Volunteer/Speaker party

Thursday night kicked off the official fun time activities for the camp with the Speaker/Sponsor/Volunteer dinner. No secret this is one of my favorite parties of any camp since it is a great chance to see a lot of folks I already know and meet new people who are likely going to be too busy for the next couple days to really have the chance to casually chat with except in passing. Again, the sheer size of this event and the number of people I knew there overwhelmed me. At any given camp I might know 5-10 people already. Here I knew dozens. It was such an enrapturing experience. They even had great vegan snacks, clearly labeled! Amazing job and big praise to the organizing team. The open bar part was pretty good too.

WCKaraoke part 1

Of course we went singing afterwards. A bunch of us rolled to WannaB’s on Broadway! Getting to sing where so many stars have sung made this a pretty amazing time. There are pics of all sorts of country stars on that stage.

Day 1

It would not be a WordCamp without coffee. To get to the coffe we had to pass the sponsor area and happiness lounge area. Biggest issue with this is seeing so many friends for the first time at the camp on the way that it takes a while to actually make it to the coffee station. Good problem to have!

As with every lunch at WordCamp US we had awesome BBQ with a live jazz band serenading us.
I didn’t have the meat but was happy about the mixed veggies, salad, potatoes, baked beans and delicious ACME Feed and Seed Texas Ketchup which WooCommerce had given out at their booth.

Friday Night

Friday night kicked off with a team dinner with my Pantheon colleagues over at Love Peace & Pho. Big props to Tessa for scouting this location, which had amazing pho and spring rolls. It was a solid base to start the night.
Next we rolled on to a PHP meetup and the Post Status/Go Daddy party, both at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium where I was on Wednesday. There were other things I got into as well…

Day 2

Coffee never tastes better than when you are very tired and have a long day ahead. Even though I had it the previous day, the coffee was amazing on day 2.
Lunch was a near clone of day 1, but with polenta cakes instead of beans. Still awesome with that Texas Ketchup sauce. The best part of lunch was getting to sit with some new friends and hear all about their podcast, “Everybody Hates Self-Publishing”! So many good times.

After Party

Some of us went back to ACME Feed and Seed for a quick dinner after the State of the Word, which was pretty nice. It was super loud with a live band, but after a full day fo talking to everyone I was beat, so just sitting and chewing my food and not having to talk while still hanging out with my cohorts was pretty dang great.

From there we journeyed to Adventure Science Center which is basically a museum where you can touch all the things and there is also a planetarium. One of my favorite things in the world was there, a realistic rollercoaster simulator that spun you around 360% left and right. I got to experience this with Josh Pollock who dubbed it “an insanity machine” and I don’t think he was far off. My heart was racing and I felt like I had been on the nuttiest coaster ever built. The planetarium was amazing and I actually would love to visit another one soon. Nothing like seeing stars, even projected one, fill up the sky. There was also WCKaraoke happening at the party!

WCKaraoke Part 2

But of course, we went and started singing as a community after the after party and many of us ended up at Ms. Kelli’s, which is down an interesting ally with several other bars. I got in just at the right time and got to sing pretty quick. Such a good time. This marked the 1 year anniversary of WCKaraoke as a hashtag and with the site WCKaraoke.rocks. I have had the chance to sing dozens of times with my community since then. I have never been more grateful for anything in my whole life. As long as people love the song then nothing else matters. Love.

Day 3 (Contributor Day)

Coffee and some light breakfast snack-y foods were made available for contrib day. We had a lot to get done and these provisions made sure we had energy to get it done.
The highlight of maybe the whole camp and my whole year happened at this day for lunch. Now, not to say anything negative about the catering service’s boxed lunch. My quinoa salad was perfectly fine. But my real lunch was delivered by the amazing and thoughtful John Eckman. Hot Chicken is the official food of Nashville and I endlessly heard about it. Not being a meat eater I looked for alternatives and found The Southern V. This is a funky little shack that is only open weird hours on the weekend. John went (in his words) “past all the abandoned, boarded up houses to a tiny side street deep into south Nashville to a tin side street with a nail salon. Behind that nail salon is a little shack with a line around the building” to get us some of their Hot Chik’n platter and cookies. I doubt I can accurately explain how much this meant to me. Even now writing about I am getting a bit emotional about how awesome that was. Thanks John, I am forever grateful for you!


Opening Remarks

Beginner’s Guide to Contributions
Josepha Haden

If you know me at all, you might know that I am in love with the WordPress community. WPLife! Josepha is one of the people that inspired that love and the first person at a WordCamp who showed me first hand what a kind word and a patient ear can do in an oh too weary world. Since I joined the WP Marketing team, she has constantly been a source of wisdom and support. I am honestly not sure I would be writing this blog if I had not met her. Getting to hear her talk was a real treat, as she said in 30 minutes the most valuable lessons of being a contributor and delivered them in a very entertaining way. If you are a contributor, note: you should be, you need to see this one once up on WordPress.tv!

Raw Notes:
How to contribute
What makes it difficult,
get stuck along the way
because we skip steps
1. Ask what you can do –
think about your skills and what you enjoy doing
2. Take time to get your bearings
Learn what makes that project that project, licensing, how the community feels, etc
Go to make.wordpress.org
3. Attend meetings/scrubs/blog discussions
Get involved by talking to other people
4. Assign yourself something, a little task
this seems hard but give it a try
5. Repeat until you are leading things!
This is that easy
no it is not easy
15 year old project been moving along for a while
hard for beginner contributors
How to help as a long-term contributors
1. You might be someone’s first contact with the community
2. It’s hard to find thins in the manual at first
3. Reframe “lurkers”
Engaging stage is when someone is first downloading software we assume it is when people are ready to engage but it is too early
Don’t ask if someone is lurking, that’s creepy
4. Make exceptions clear and be consistent
patching, even if it is not code, it is a patch
5. Enable small wins
This is the leading phase, not everyone gets there
we are all leaders by inspiring people
get people past the “i’m jus watching’ phase
there is a lot of discussion around how many steps
These are the 5 phases she thinks exist
If you are going to your first contributor day, or not planning yet, there are places you can go to make this easy for you.
Testers needed for Gutenberg, up in the community room
Also, the get involved table – they can hep you get started
could use people just checking for typos
You Can help
Q1 What if none of this makes sense, how do you get started?
You are likely in phase 1 still Connecting, go talk to people at the tables and others
Q2 How do we choose code samples
Open Source! It makes sense to talk to the team specific to what you are trying to do

Standalone Contributor Days: help make WordPress with your Community!
Francesca Marano

Oh man, I love hearing Francesca presenting! She has a quiet excitement behind her words that just make you pay attention. Hearing such an amazing story of going from 3 people from Italy at WCEU in 2015 to over 100 in 2017 was staggering. It is not that they had more people from a country, it was that the community in that country exploded. She was key to that success and her story is one that should inspire us all, no matter where we are in the world, to embrace community. It is so important and so rewarding.

Raw Notes:
(came in late, hallway track sucked me in)
Every team has slack channels
All of these things need a lot of hands
There is a job for everyone
Contributor day
Everyone is welcome
you don’t need to be a coder
anything you do will help make things better
WordPress Summer of Love
WCSaville in 2015 wanted to organize themselves in Italy
Made a slack instance
it.wordpress.org – started that back up
had been dormant for a while
Decided to do own contributor day and WordCamp
Find a room with WiFi
Organize food and coffee
That was first WC in Italy in 3 years
100 first year
150 next years
support forums were outside it.wp.org
now all chats get answers – it works great
Polyglots – went from not big group to over 1200 now
global translation day – they organize it
Full circle!
3 people from Italy in 2013
100 in 2017
Go to a cake shop and make things happen 🙂
It doen’t need to be perfect
Forget about it
-not an experienced dev
-haven’t contributed before
-we need a lot of money
-how will we fill a full day?
These things will be solved if you start, contributing is addictive

Lessons Learned Trying to Commercialize a Major Open Source Project
Andrew Roberts

The man behind the most widely used editor in the whole wold, TinyMCE, shared his knowledge built from years of experience with us about the right way and for sure the wrong ways to approach open source commercially. My favorite part was why making money from support is not sustainable. On the surface making money from support kind of makes sense, but if your product is going to keep evolving, it should be easier to use over time and more reliable, so support is going to be needed less and less. It is far better to sell premium features that they can’t replicate without sinking major time to do it themselves. As he said “some people will pay money to save time, you can sell to these people”. It was an honor to get to introduce him.

Raw Notes:
Explained TinyMCE
wide adoption, built into a lot of things
in 1999 established EditLive
Based in Sweden
Lesson #1
Free is not a business model
Entrepreneurs should not try to monetize open source … ever
Coffee example for brick and mortar store
need many things to lead to sale
in commercial software, lot that goes into that
builders, coders, tests, etc
Proprietary value that saves time in exchange for money
there are 2 types of people in world
some people will spend any amount of time to save money and others spend money to save time, that philosophical difference that makes the business model
Where is proprietary value?
Support is not a good area, as improve, less and less need for support and value goes down
Spotify 27% conversion rate
Evernote 4.1% conversion rates
Open source is way under that
0.21% overall ??
typical OSS
No Powered By
No email addresses
no in app messaging
no conversations
but you should try
Email lists, price lists, free trial buttons,
don’t want to push people intro free stream immediately, but don’t interfere with it
99.9% of projects are not VC fundable
need $100M potential revenue typically
What is the business of your dreams?
Life is too short
Rev goals in 10 years?
High touch vs low touch relationships
subscriptions vs one off
customer dependency comfort
exit goals
Minimum viable team for the Looooonnnng haul
sales, marketing, design, dev, etc
can have whales
or lots of smaller customers, many mixes of this
net promoter score
promoters, detractors, passive
politely is inverse with what you paid
free can be the worst users
Measure how many people love you, great way to start the day
emerging ways to make things sustainable
open collective

Financial Forecasting for WordPress Businesses
Christie Chirinos

Real business talk from an awesome human being. I have had the pleasure of knowing Christie for about a year or so as the other half of management for Caldera Labs, the amazing team behind Caldera Forms. I didn’t know going in that she had an MBA. She brought that sill set to this talk and blew our minds with some fancy business formulas. The best moment, maybe of all of WordCamp Q&A happened when a person asked “What if I don’t have time to get an MBA, what can I do?” and Christie replied with “You can start here, with this talk. Let’s chat”. This got a round of applause. If you are a business owner, this is the best forecasting talk I’ve ever seen and you need to see it too one they post to wordpress.tv.

Raw Notes:
slides online
Understanding a financial forecast
is an economist best guess of what happens in the future
How much you bringing in
Those that fail to plan, plan to fail
this helps you plan for budgeting and hiring
you can work on it forever
SWOT ANALYSIS, very real
qualitative vs quantitative
qual is not metric
customer research
market research
Delphi method
when there is no internal data, external and qual analysis is very important
quant is metric driven
time series –
-rule of thumb (based on past performance)
– smoothing, simple moving average, extrapolation
simple moving because it moves over time
3 month average rolling, constantly moving
can do this for any time period
and causal – factors between
exponential moving average
google it
if you google for code you can google this
more fine tuned for sale predictions
decomposition, account for
trend, seasonality, cyclicality
growing or not growing, black Friday, WP release cycle
linear regression
WC return based on how many people you talk to, independent variable, uncertainty
Y = a +bX + u
can get however complex you want
how do we answer the questions
ID problem
ID variables
Check to see what happened
build a 3 year forecast in 1 minute


Running Your Service Business on WordPress
David Laietta

Sometimes technical difficulties make presentations go awry. I didn’t take many notes during this talk as I was distracted by this and some other issues to deal with. David still did an amazing job in his talk and that is what I really wanted to say here. Any talk that explains how to properly use sets of tools is good in my opinion. Dev tool talks are pretty common. Business tools are not a common subject though. The Q&A was very good and I was sad, as the emcee to have to cut off the awesome question time. If you have questions about how to evaluate business tools, hit David up. He is super awesome and also runs WordCamp Orlando

Raw Notes:
issues with slides, also missed a lot of this due to other things…
Tools talk
business tools
basically anything that makes it easier to communicate
Using WP as a client portal
have everything in one place so clients can make use of data if they choose
trello for support tickets

How to teach clients to effectively use WordPress
Sarah Benoit

I had not met or heard Sarah before this talk, so I had no idea what to expect. I was blown away by the straightforward approach and content. If you are at all working with clients, no matter what you are doing, this is an informative talk with tons of best practices for making their life, and your life, easier and more manageable. She validated something I think we all fundamentally know to be true, which is a little extra work up front can mean way less work overall. She is a great speaker, this is for sure one not to miss over on WordPress.tv.

Raw Notes:
Setting Realistic Expectations
common client misconceptions
creating client programs
First thing, we need to do better is listen
Every client is different
some clients love WP some hate it
she loves WP and she created training programs to help other solve it too
wide technical range of clients
what aspects do they want to maintain on their own
Prepare clients for the journey
Based on what you heard,
how much time will their learning curve require
that elements or features will NOT be under their control, like Updates….
how often do they need to do maintenance and what does that entail
clarify everything
Common misconceptions
lack of reality
“need a loving reality check”
Don’t be surprised, be patient
Clients get confused
How do WP, Themes, plugins work
why does content editor look exactly like the frontend
what elements can be controlled
can’t use vertical photo for horizontal banner
got to break these things down
clients don’t get this stuff
How to create a client training program
not an add on or up-sell, just part of what they are buying every time
outline login info all of it!
images specs (especially for the homepage)
recommended frequency of updates and maintenance
list of active plugins and what they do
name of the active theme and link to the theme website
Always include list of video trainings
how to vids for everything you can think of
saves a ton of time!
in person training, people want them even if they are not going to remember anything
Simple training tools
conference call/desktop sharing record options
Docs live their they are use to having it
GDrive is they use GDrive, Dropbox if they use Dropbox
go where they live
Client access checklist
Clients should be able to access their own
domain account
WP backend
GA tracking
Training video and docs
Plugins and themes to do edits, backups and updates
Pricing yourself
Who will handle trainings?
What are you charging for?
are meetings free?
Estimate time required for full training
vids/docs can take 1 hour, can take 8+
in person 1-3 hours
they should pay for it
Creating a website in a way where clients feel strongly about it gets referrals

5 Simple Steps to Better WordPress Performance for Non-Developers
Philip John

I love performance talks. Mostly they say similar things, which is good. Good practices are repeatable and verifiable, so hearing them repeated validates them to me. This was super beginner but still super important that it is all said since we were, or are or will be, all beginners someday. Thankful to Philip for telling us this stuff. Get good hosting people!

Raw Notes:
Some basics anyone can do
very simple
1. Good Hosting
2. Minimal Quality Plugins
experiment, got ot WP.org and download the top 10 most downloaded plugins and install
your site will be slow.
Less in more
only what you need
3. caching
good hosts provide this
WPSupercache is great too
4. Use a CDN
Content Delivery is a great idea

  1. stay fresh!
    update, update, update

lots of other stuff more technical but these are basic tips that are easy to do

Q/A What does caching mean for a page constantly changing
– live info short TTL is good idea, it all boils down to need and caching strategy

WordPress of Things: Connecting your digital presence to your physical footprint
George Stephanis

I love gadgets. I especially love gadgets that you can control from the internet. George had a light up necklace that changed color based on a button on a WordPress site. Pretty cool, but the possibilities that unlocks are mind-blowing. As my colleague Steve Persch talked about back at Midcamp, this is really all about how to tie different systems together, because at the heart of it, that is what the internet is really all about anyhow. Fun talk and I am thinking about getting some of those microcontrollers now.

Raw Notes:
Full computer versus microcontriller
Computer is complex, Microcontroller is simpler
loops through and runs one thing at a time
hardware and IDE
not talking about hardware itself
talking about the ESP8266 + d1 mini
General purpose input output pins
analog/pwd vs digital
input can be controlled
output can not be controlled fully, but can mimic
project: Hugh Color Display
Display a color from
CODE! (too small to read)
walks through it
Temperature sensor
cheap to pull off
could do this for government or school super easy with some simple solar too
weather stations!

State of the Word

I didn’t take notes on the State of the Word. This is not to say it is not noteworthy. But if there is one session that is going to be written up and analyzed by the community it is going to be this one. Instead I decided to emulate the experience of watching this being live tweeted with the following selection of tweets.
My thoughts though: Amazing opening poem by Amanda Giles. I thought the demo was amazing! Super glad it was done by someone else, making the State of the Word feel more inclusive. Weston and Mel did an absolutely amazing job at explaining some of the features and changes made since the last state of the word. The mood in the room was interesting too. Gutenberg is a very interesting project but I think the Classic Editor plugin is going to the most downloaded plug-in in history soon.

Contributor Day

I had so many things to say about this that I gave it its own H1 tag.

Contribute to a project. I do not care which one it is, but I like WP and Drupal personally. But contribute to a project because that is how we make the world a better place. Because that is how we evolve. Because when you care, even a little bit, the rewards are straight up overwhelming.

No one works for WordPress. No one. WordPress is a pile of open source code and docs. That is all. Thousands of people have donated hours and hours of their lives to make those artifacts that we can all freely share and use and modify for our own needs. One of the places where we as volunteers get together and collaborate in person is Contributor Day at WordCamps. Not all WordCamps have one, but all should. WCUS is the biggest one in the US.

Here is a summary I wrote up for our slack channel about what we got done in my team, WP Marketing:

“We got a LOT of stuff done this weekend for WCUS Contributor Day.

One of the biggest changes we made was simplifying into one team again, removing the idea of the subgroups. As a result we merged all the Trello boards (except Marketing Meta for now) into a single board. This “new board” lives here.

We did a list scrub after the event.

Don’t worry; we did not delete a single card or anything.

However we moved a LOT of old cards into either Wish List (for things no one has ever touched after card creation) and into the new Backlog/Stalled Projects list.

The qualification for the move into those lists was a card had no new comments or evidence of ongoing effort for the last 90 days.

If a card was moved in error, let’s move it back. If a card needs revamped as we move forward to better serve our new collective vision of being the copy and marketing strategy resource armada of the whole WP community, then let’s make that happen! Again, nothing was deleted.

So, the numbers as they stand at the moment for cards per list:

To Do = 3 cards
In Progress = 10 cards (all actively being worked in last 90 days)
Need Approval = 4 cards
Done! = 23 cards (WOOT!!!! This is an incredible number! Thank you)
Wish List = 17 cards
Backlog/Stalled Projects = 18 cards
That is a lot of cards, and for the first time since we moved to Trello, they are all transparently in one board for us to contemplate and act on.

Also, we have added a new board, just for onboarding new folks! it is called First Time Here, and it is located here.

This is specifically designed as a tutorial/testing area for people new to the team. Once you get Trello access, this will serve as a guide for how the boards work in general and give a ‘safe space’ to experiment as they are ramping up.

We acknowledge that these rather large moves were not well communicated before Sunday. Sorry to anyone who’s email box got flooded by card movement announcements. Moving ahead, now that we are consolidated it is going to be much easier to communicate and appreciate all the support we have gotten as we enter the next phase of making this community awesome with our combined skills.

Thank you for making WordPress. Let’s make it ever better by providing marketing copy and resources to our fellow WordPressers.

Few things I have done have made me happier than being able to post that.

Let’s make the world better together. Let’s make.wordpress.org

Want to hear exactly what we did at contrib day? Here is a video of the end of day wrap up reporting:


The camp officially kicked off for me with the volunteer orientation tour, where we learned the ins and outs of the building and camp layout. I was very excited to volunteer this year!

Oh my goodness I had so much fun volunteering at this event. I love being involved and meeting new people and there are few better ways to do this than volunteering.

On Friday I got to work a shift at the “Get Involved” community table. Getting to invite people to participate in the community was a thrill for me. And I got to hand out stickers, which is kind of a big deal in the WP community. Stickers are everything. Only half joking.

Friday I also got to be at the Help Desk for a long afternoon shift. I did miss out on some amazing sessions as a result, but honestly, that is what WordPress.TV is all about. I can watch sessions whenever, getting to directly help my fellow camp goers is a bit more time constrained. We reunited several people with their lost possessions and pointed the way to the right room over 90% of the time. Sorry to the few people I sent to the wrong room on the first try. Still, counting the whole thing as a win.

Saturday morning though was the biggest honor I think you can have as a volunteer, and that is introducing the speakers! I was working in room 101, also known as the Fiddle room. Of course I took notes during all these talks but honestly I would have seen some of these anyhow. I got to make announcements about the party and promote the heck out of WCKaraoke! It was amazing.

If you are thinking about going to a camp, volunteer, even if it is your first year. Some jobs are as simple as standing by a door and telling people which way to walk. Might not sound important, but it makes everyone’s day beter and we get a bette event from every tiny little bit of such things. And it feels so dang good!

Wrapping Up

This was my thirty fourth (34th) event in 2017. I wrote a post for each one and at at the time of this writing was a little sad that this will be the last ‘regular’ post of my year and also greatly relieved I get a few weeks off from churning out these self mandated public notes. I learned so much this year and can barely believe I get the opportunity to participate in as many events. I am likely going to write a megapost wrap up for the end of the year.

It is hard to encapsulate here the feelings I have about WordCamp US. In my exhausted, sleep deprived state I find myself overly emotional and it is hard to reflect without getting overwhelmed by it all. If I tried to express how it made me feel I would have to make a laundry list that would envelop every possible mix of brain chemicals that map to emotions. But if I had to sum it up in one oversimplified word, I would say it was amazing.

Thanks for everything. I am grateful and humbled to be able to be part of this world.

2 thoughts on “WordCamp US: Honky-tonking around Nashville, which is way better than described”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.