WordCamp LA 2018: A flawless Jenga game and a mariachi band

wordcamp LAX over a drawing of downtown LA skyline

Once more I returned to La La Land, a city I have mixed feelings about. There is lot of really cool stuff there. Some of the finest restaurants and most imaginative bars on earth. They also have a rich cultural history and just the loveliest backdrop of mountains and ocean landscapes maybe anywhere in these united states. Unfortunately this is all covered in a layer of smog and the most infuriating traffic in North America, which makes the people, well, let’s leave it as ‘affected by the bad parts’. These are the main reasons I moved away all those years ago. But I was very glad to be back for a brief stay because seeing my WordPress friends would make it all worth it as I got to go to WordCamp Los Angeles 2018

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

After spending almost as much time in a Lyft to get from my hotel to the restaurant as I did on the plane from SFO to Burbank, I finally arrived at Blue Cow Kitchen and Bar. It was awesome to be greeted by so many friendly familiar and soon to be familiar faces. If you know me at all you know I love hugs, so having so many people coming up and just giving them out freely is a happy time. There were plenty of appetizers and drink tickets on hand as well. Afterward some of us wanted to get our pinball and Street Fighter at EightyTwo a “A 21+ classic arcade and bar located in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles”. It was a wonderful first night.


There is a Starbucks on the ground floor of the Cal State LA Student Union but we got tolerable coffee from catering services instead. Snacks were not rolled out until the afternoon, so we were all ravenous when they wheeled out their lunch options. Going to say it loud and proud, this organizing team made sure dietary restrictions were honored and respected and still gave me awesome schwag. I know some camps prioritize the latter at all costs, but it is great when a balance for accessibility is achieved. Good work!


I know I am going to get to a point with this community effort where it is going to be so hum-drum that people got together to experience finely crafted plant based foods that it will not merit a mention. But for now, I am celebrating every victory and omnivore who says “wow, I had I had no idea you could do that veggies” after finishing an amazing meal. In the LA area, Pasadena specifically, there is a magical place called My Vegan that makes inexpensive and mind boggling good Thai and American foods that we could gather at for a fine meal before the after party. Plant power!

After Party

We once again returned to the Blue Cow and I got treated really well by the staff. It is the little things that matter in customer service and the speed and skill of their mixologists combined with those little things made sure we had a good time. We also had face painting, giant Connect Four and giant Jenga. I partnered with the video game and board game superstar legend Devin from BlueHost and we did not lose, instead hitting a draw as we more than doubled the size of the Jenga tower. It was something a lot of people never saw before and made quite the spectacle.

The location proved hard to find for Lyft, so we made our way on foot afterward to The Exchange where we had even fancier things and got to know one another better. This late night community building does have a cost and I knew the late night meant a tired morning, but honestly, I would not trade those conversations for anything. Not just this time, but every time. You are welcome to join us.


More of the same coffee, but we got the leftover snacks, mostly granola, snack bars and pretzels, first thing in the morning, so breakfast was sweet. It also meant we were not as ravenous when they rolled out a clone of the previous day’s lunch menu. Consistent and satisfying, I do want to applaud their catering team.

Some of us went back to My Vegan again before heading out


My session

Let’s learn Git. No more excuses.

This went well. I have given this enough times now that I am starting to see and understand patterns in questions and reactions from the audience. I am giving this a few more times this year and now I want to rewrite it with these fresh learnings making it more focus on the concept and strip out a lot fo the code examples. I’d love feedback on this if you have seen the talk or want to go through my slides for my Git talk. Feedback welcome! Thanks to all how came out.

7 Little Tricks In Your WordPress Settings You Might Be Missing
Gee Nonterah

We were all beginners at one point. And if you were like me you mashed every button there was to see what it did and to better understand the menu options. Some people are not like this and are actually scared of mashing buttons on things for fear of breaking something. Very fortunate for all of us there are wonderful folks like Gee who patiently explain these basics. I snuck in because, believe it or not, I have never actually methodically ever thought about the WP Admin screen settings and how new people would interpret them. While the session was great, I think the real value was the Q&A section, which gave newcomers the chance to ask any question around this area of interest and we all learned together.

Raw Notes:
log in
in side, find and click
adjust site title
adjust the tagline
you can tweak these
I help you walk more rubbery
not just another WordPress site
They is this necessary?
We want to look professional.
can have the nicest design
uncheck the box that says Anyone Can Register
You can change your date format and select YOUR time zone
Under settings, go into “Writing”
change default post category
you got 10-15 seconds to help someone find something or they are gone
Under Settings, go into “Reading”
latest posts vs static strategy
You can select what your permalinks look like
helps with search engine optimization (SEO)

The Dating Game: Understanding Price Anchoring
Nathan Allotey

The first talk I ever gave at any camp was about pricing, so this topic holds a bit of a special place in my heart. I met Nathan the night before at the Speaker Dinner and based on how awesome he seemed I had to go see how he approached this topic. Well friends, this was one of the most entertaining and well researched talks I can recall recently. This is going to be a ‘most watched’ talk after it gets to WordPress.tv. For a taste of one of the many things that made this talk awesome: He once build a landing page with value anchoring options to get a date. Real story. Real results.

Raw Notes:
Learned as a freelancer
Envato job got access to all tutorials and he learned a lot quickly
got MBA at University of Texas
now he shares what he knows
The Dating Game, been around for a while
host and contestant on one side
Is the show about dating? Mystery? Couples? What is it about?
Shares his client on-boarding process
email – email them back – background research – in person meeting is possible or remote – research – proposal
client would negotiate
client would accept and the scope creep
client would decline
he was spending too much time with the client in the process and not closing
Came across Cognitive Bias
individuals create their
Your brains take shortcuts to process complex decisions
MIT students survey Web only $59 or web and print for $125
68% 32%
web only print only 125 both 125
15% 0% 84%
price anchoring
common cog bias, rely on the first piece of information
only gauge people have for pricing is what they paid in the past
expensive compared to what?
I see price anchoring
anchoring appears in romantic comedies
all these movies introduce choice and perception
a date doctor/consultant
whole movie was about positioning
spoiler alert, it is so old it comes on TNT
Hitch meets a lady and his moves don’t work
he had been hurt
got serious once choice was introduced
his character was forced to act
introducing choice to your pricing, helps clients make a decision in your favor
The Steve Jobs Way
$999 dropped to $499 on the day it was introduced
gave a higher price to anchor and then lowered the price
Did that meeting even happen?
a dream in a dream in a dream
put ideas in people’s minds
price inception, is that a thing?
Carola, Camry, Lexus
A lot of websites that show 3 prices
contact us = a lot of zeros
free or premium
does it really work?
Nathan Logic: “If this principle works then it should work if I try it on something obscure”
back to the dating game
LA trip
true story
built a landing page for
it would be great to see and hang out with Rihanna
we can go to Ryan Gosling’s wedding
or get something to eat
Sunday go to church
position questions so your answer is yes in reply
and it worked
Price anchoring works and we see it all the time
how can we apply it to our business?
basic, plus and advanced level if you are offering service
basic solves the core problem
pricing to make some $
1x || 1.5x to 2.5x || 3x to 5x
what to make advanced?
think about what your clients request you don’t offer but end up doing anyway
offering WP tutorials for every version
you can white label it
anchoring the prices
month to month or annual
anchoring services, backups, etc
if you are interfacing with clients, anchor those services
original design files
preference testing
difference between customer service and customer assumption
Always user price anchoring when giving prie
use services which focus on increased value
make sure it is profitable to do so
define project scope in your contract based on the selected

How to start testing an existing WordPress plugin with PHPUnit
Behod Saidov

I will admit it. I don’t unit test. I have never once ran PHPUnit in my life other than a demo of it once. But then again I don’t really write plugins or deal with PHP all that often directly. However, unit testing is critical if you do actually write code and I intellectually know that. I went to this talk basically to understand the tooling and look for places where I should be testing if I do start writing more PHP and build a plugin. I mean build a real one and not just an example plugin. Grateful for a straightforward talk with a lot of easy for me to follow code examples.

Raw Notes:
make sure it works
you will have a safety net
refactoring becomes easy
when bugs show up, tests can be written to ensure that these issues are exposed
faster debugging and prevent future errors
can provide documentation for code as well
what do you need to start testing
UNIX based OS, hard with windows, don’t even try
PHPUnit testing lib
WP test suite
wp-cli (optional)
multiple ways to set this up
can take time to set this up
Maybe use VVV
scaffolding your test suite
wp-cli lets you do this quickly and in best way
demo inside vvv
what does it add
.phpcs.xml.dist – code sniffer rules
phpunit.xml.dist – testsuites is key to it all
searches for files that start with test- and ends with .php
search the WP test suite and runs the bash script
wo_test_dir and wo_core_dir
shows location of tests and core
downloads the required WP version, installs test suite
no need to run in vvv
important to do this on travis pipeline or the like
what is a test?
test are public methods that prefix with test
alternatively, you can use the @test anon
assertions are methods
used to assert an actual value matches an expected value
PHPUnit comes with a lot of assertion methods, some examples assertFals, AssertEquals, AssertNull
$this->assertEquals(4, $calculator->(2, 2))
integration for WP
WP methods
integration tests
write to a file
open a DB connection
do something over a network
DEMO, let’s write some tests for our plugin
factories let you generate things inside your code
it is hard to start
you need to motivate yourself
it can seem pointless at first
in the long term, you will see obvious benefits
see how catching mistakes and problems

Close Your Eyes: Helping See Value in Accessibility
Joe A Simpson Jr

This is one of the most important topics we are talking about and it should be something every single project, at every stage, should be prioritizing. Accessibility as an afterthought means it will never get done right. Doing basic checking is literally built into Chrome now thanks to Lighthouse so there is no excuse not to test and implement before you go live. But before we even get there, we should have aimed for best practices from the concept phase. Lighthouse is awesome but so is spell check. Running it after you launch and if you have misspelled half the words in a doc means you have done it very wrong. Not trying to make you feel bad, because I do feel bad myself about missing so many simple things like high contract and bad alt-text over the years, but I am constantly striving for better and really do believe we all should be. Thanks to talks like this one, I am advocating for this in all our work. Let’s include everyone.

literally close your eyes
he moved around
describe where he is
impossible for us based on him not making noise
lot of stats we hear about disability
today we are talking about it from a designer standpoint
are we designing for 1/5 less of our potential audience
ignoring 20% of users
wants to turn us into advocates
“There are no constraints on th human mind. No walls along the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except the ones we accept”
I always use the carpool lane as a solo driver
worth the risk
this is what we do for our designs a lot when not thinking a11y
maybe compliance lawsuits for ADA
eHarmony, Disney, US Dept of Education
this is the scared straight section
Web COntent A11y guidelines
WCAG 1999
updated to 2.0 in 2008, 2.1 2016
if you take federal funds, need to meet Section 508
almost the same as WCAG now
“We really like the brand colors we used. They are much more lively than darker ones” – not compliant though
simulating color blindness example
content is easier to see and hear when:
color is not used as the only way of conveying info or IDing an object
foregrounds and background color should contrast
WebAIM color contrast checker
“We have a very limited audience for this site and the design caters to them”
they didn’t want to make a mobile site
Headings, lists, tables and other structures in the content are marked-up properly
semantic content structure tells the screenreader how the page is laid out
don’t use Headers out of order, created screenreader confusion
YOASTSEO is great tool for readability as well
avoid ‘click here’ or ‘read more’ or ‘download’
these are meaningless
meaningful link text that described the content being linked to
underlying links is so simple but very important
bold for more impact
don’t put too much information
img tag already says it is am image
can be empty alt text if caption already suffices and a link
colorblind graphs
all same squiggly lines
use change shapes for each line
they present what we want to present to our clients
WP Accessible-ready” themes
an optional stage of theme review process that looks for certain things
keyboard nav
skip links
AIOA compliant
search by feature on wp.org
only 123 A11y ready themes on wp.org
wp Accessibility plugin
contact form 7

Gutenberg Q & A Panel
Lara Schenk,
Leo Postovoit,
Roy Sivan,
Matt Cromwell

Like all panels, we get to talk about something broadly but not as deeply we I would like. The team did a great job and special shout out to Matt Cromwell for moderating like a pro. While we may be split on good vs bad of The Gutes, we are having the conversation in a civilized fashion that I think is ultimately really, really healthy and will help us as things evolve. Unlike so many deep code changes that affect us invisibly, this conversation is very visible, but this is not the first of such conversations. The better we get at it, the better we will all be.

Raw notes:
why are you excited about Gutenberg
Lara – content with a designer in mind
Leo – the future coming together
roy – react coming into core, huge deal
what concerns you
roy – data, cool array? Not how it is saved to the DB
will make it hard to power a ot of other things without structured data
Leo – a lot of sites I have built will break on content alone
unless we train people right, we might lose a lot mindshare
Gutenberg Ramp
Lara – node models will take up all HD space
Likes writing JS, but how CSS works in Gutes, removed seperation of concerns
can be an ok place if standards are good, but bad practices are likely to sneak in
What about page builders? It scares me
Leo: Gutenberg Ramp
the future is more wide open, think beyond the page builder and base use cases for WP
reach out to the pagebuilder team and ask about Gutes
Roy: difference between Gutes and page builder
Gutes is content, page builder for layouts and around content
right now they are different
Pagebuilder is on the hook to work with Gutes, not you
Question: Worried about content and page structure
how will we interact with that data
Roy: Structured data, (question asker using ACF)
ACF is going to support Gutes, just released that version
has not played with it yet
data of Gutenberg – backwards compatibility is the crutch
you can force it to use structured data by hijacking the DB
Airstream use case
Gutes is agnostic to CMS< this is a failing of WP core
Lara: display in the editor to move around and configure

How To Give A WordPress Presentation
Jansen Henschel

Every so often you see a talk that is so enjoyable you wish it was on as a prime time special rather than in a room at a camp. Likewise you sometimes see talks that make you want to seriously level up your game as a presenter. Now, I have written and delivered many talks, even one about how to give talks, and know a thing or two. But this talk and the pure honesty of this young professional made me rethink a couple fundamentals I have been making assumptions about until now. My next talk will be better because I saw this.

My only gripe about this session at all, is not anything about Jansen or his subject matter, but it is with the audiences at his talks. When Q&A rolls around, there are questions that pop up that if you asked any other speaker, you would likely get a talking to about your professionalism. Rather than asking about his actual subject, and I think since Jansen is a youngster (almost 13 as he said at one point), people impose their youth experience and ask about his favorite subjects in school, video games he likes, what he wants to be when he grows up and other prattle. I honestly have considered asking those questions of other speakers since, but see my comment about professionalism a few sentences back. I hope that people are hearing and seeing past the novelty of a ‘kid giving a talk’ and actually hearing him. I feel that the majority of people did. Jansen dropped so many true wisdom bombs on us that I can’t wait until I get to see him present again. Hopefully soon.

Raw Notes:
3 main points
1 – be prepared
organize your presentation
what are the things you want stuck in their head when they leave
what sticks out to people ae the highlight
if at a loss
start with main points
take away from the presentations 3 – 5 points
critical that the audience knows what will talk about
there are 4 types of people
knowing how to use email to excel Google docs
some have not mastered their own phones yet
on beginner day a few
corporations and non-profits like universities
if for the beginner crowd
not enough knowledge to
may be not the best coders even though great at design
classic design
may not be as knowledgeable
UX or UI better though maybe
intermediate person
have a website, but not much traffic going to it
what is next stage
business and marketing
plan for them they know what they are doing
looking for specific solutions to their problems
coding and marketing are pros
looking for more clients
not everyone fits into these groups perfectly.
general idea
Last year was about beginner, design and intermediate wordpresser
learned but maybe forgot
if people have take out their slides
lot of drawing in
also avoid having your slides be an exact copy of your presentations
slides should support of what you are talking about
or image expressing the idea
you can’t plan for everything
slides mess up with projectors
do not trust anything WiFi
give them one forever contact
you never know when someone will watch
you never know why they will watch
a forever contact info you
don’t attach it to your business
businesses come and go
give people all your information
people come to conferences for the experience of the presentation
make your presentation seen and heard
something funny or interesting to set your apart
people a there for information
2 – Even your nervousness wont keep you from giving a great presentations
Don’t be nervous does not work, cause you will get nervous
days leading up to the event
mac and cheese
mom said we are all supporting you
thought it was just him mom
then someone in community said same thing and he started to believe it
I want to be disappointed
they want to see a good presentation
you might think you will fail but that is just your nervousness
anti nervousness measures
read it aloud
to yourself out loud
notice all the things wrong
time dress rehearsals to adjust to time slot
introduce yourself to establish a connection and build confidence
don’t let other noises derail you
speak loudly
to be heard
do a sound check to establish
if writing a joke into it, leave a pause
don’t talk over their reactions
you might be talking too fast or being fidgety
pauses help people catch up
don’t speed through your slides
when asked a question, repeat the question
recordings can’t hear the audience as well as you can
loot at the audience
even your nervousness won’t keep you from giving a great presentation
point 3
tell your personal story
you might think you don’t have enough to say but why are you here?
why do this stuff?
the hard parts are the compelling subjects
some people don’t want to admit they got stuck on something ‘simple’ in retrospect
but everyone goes through it
hard to code at first, but went to forums
figured it out
hard lessons around setting boundaries at beginning
WordPress or any community constantly needs new blood
often he is the only kid in the room
never think that you are alone and no one wants your knowledge
bonus section
write down all your thoughts
just write down all ideas
get everything down
write down main points, what you learned
number them
if you have a funny or vague
if people seem confuse they stay confused
people remember stories
when people get stuck, your ideas can fly out
use or lose them but just write them
if stuck, do something you don’t really like but is a chore
free your mind when the body is working
brings up new ideas
even if you can’t think up something new at least you did something productive
“Dealing with difficult teammates” sample talk
1. main point
1. supporting fact
2. supporting fact
3. supporting fact
2. main point
1. supporting fact
2. supporting fact
3. supporting fact
3. main point
1. supporting fact
2. supporting fact
3. supporting fact
what do you want people to remember
be clear about your work
understand your coworkers
don’t be afraid to ask for common decencies
basic overarching story and main points
the real conclusion

Gutenberg & Custom Applications – How do effectively build apps powered by Gutenberg
Roy Sivan

Roy gives talks that make you stop and go “oh, that is what is possible with these technologies I have heard about.” The opposite of this is talks that focus on the new tech itself without applying it in the real world on large scale production sites yet. He highlighted his work with Airstream on a current project using his version of what you could call “Gutenberg customized fields” I think. Actually he calls it Gutenberg Object Plugin and you can install and use it yourself. He also did all his demo work on Pantheon and gave people access to his work in a fun and engaging manner. This is going to be an interesting conversation once it gets to WordPress.tv and I am looking forward to citing that link in future conversations.

Raw Notes:
Users don’t care if react is there or not
2014 at WCLAX
WP as an application framework
RestAPI was in it’s infancy
no one remembers
today, the same talk with Gutenberg in place of the WR-API
explanation of Gutes
will come when it’s ready and that will be OK
start rant
love and hate come in
Well structured JSON looks like objects
code example
use that data everywhere
democratize how we use the data
iterate through your posts
same category
data looks structured NO
comments in code is structure
but isn’t that an array of data?
needs to be backwards compatible
greatest thing and worst thing about WP
Gutenberg Object Plugin
built after WC San Diego
hijacked ‘save command’
puts into own custom table in MySQL

get data, put data and array of any blocks
case study Airstream
retro look company
building anew site
latlong is digital agency did work
contracted with Roy
WP and Woo
Headless React
Gutenberg & Woocommerce
most of the time they are not friends, like Tom and Jerry
no WooCommerce templates
all react
tweak for Woo disallowed Gutenberg
you just have to turn it on in a deep deep buried undocumented function
Power of react
He built a custom upstream
on Pantheon

Wrapping Up

I spent a lot of times in cars in LA and thanks to the talented driving skills of Roy, I got from one location to another without having to be completely at Lyft’s mercy. There is no ‘there’ in LA, since everything is spread out so much. It did feel like I went many places but looking back, no more than a normal trip. There were a lot of highs and a few ‘meh moments throughout it but I overall really enjoyed my time in the City of Angels this time around. I have no plans to return to live in LA ever again, but as long as WordPress folks are around, I will have reason to return. Already looking forward to WordCamp LA 2019.

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